Men's Lacrosse

No. 6 Syracuse men’s lacrosse cruises to season-opening victory over Siena, 19-6

Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer

The resounding defeat cut short any hope Siena had to finally break through, and this year appeared to be the Saints’ best-ever opportunity. But SU cruised to a blowout win.

Chalk it up to whatever rationale you want — players, preparation, program prestige — but the conclusion remains the same: Syracuse doesn’t lose its season-opener. Especially against Siena.

The 101-year-old program spent the week before practicing in the Ensley Athletic Center with its exact field dimensions replicated from the Carrier Dome, while its 16-year-old central New York counterpart trained outside or in smaller gyms.

“Between the groundballs and the clearing stats, you can tell the Ensley Center has been huge for us,” head coach John Desko said. “… That’s a big difference. Siena was on a full field a lot less than we were.”

There’s also precedent: Syracuse has never trailed Siena ever.

On Saturday, the juggernaut thumped the teenager for the fourth straight year. No. 6 Syracuse (1-0) re-upped on its annual beatdown of Siena (0-1), 19-6. The Orange has only lost its season-opener twice this millennium. The resounding defeat ruined what appeared to be Siena’s best-ever opportunity.

The Saints returned eight of its top nine scorers and Syracuse trotted out a brand-new defensive line with sophomore All-American Nick Mellen out with a shoulder injury. The new rotation of Tyson Bomberry, Marcus Cunningham and Scott Firman “disappointed” Desko early with early rotations and missing marks. The group eventually regained its footing and allowed three goals in the final 49:18, but in the first quarter Siena inched within 4-3. The level of Saints’ supporters animated cheers was at odds with a one-goal, first-quarter game.

At 4:35 in the first frame, sophomore attack Brad Voigt rifled top-right past Siena goalkeeper Aaron Lewis to make it 4-2, SU. The ending history suggested tugged. “Gold on the Ceiling” by The Black Keys played from the Carrier Dome speakers.

“I ain’t blind / Just a matter of time / Before you steal it”

The Saints resisted, scoring 17 seconds later, but consider the final scores in each of the Orange’s three previous Siena season-openers: 18-5, 21-7 and 19-7. In each quarter of each game, Syracuse never had fewer face-off wins or extra-man opportunities. The volume advantages in chances ensures Syracuse has every opportunity to distance itself from the Saints. It happened again Saturday.

The Orange bested Siena in shots (54-26), groundballs (50-20), faceoffs (20-9), turnovers (8-15) and man-up opportunities (2-1).

“They didn’t change their defense too much from a year ago,” Desko said. “We saw some early zone defense and the guys were prepared for it. We scored a couple of relatively easy ones. That made it difficult for them to jump back and forth between man and zone.”

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Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer

Syracuse cashed in nine unanswered over the next 27 minutes. In total, No. 22 Jordan Evans had a career-high eight points, attack Nick Mariano had a career-best seven, and junior transfer Brendan Bomberry had four, including one steal-and-behind-the-back score. Reserve attack Stephen Rehfuss had a hat trick in the last 5:57 alone.

Siena’s goalkeeper Lewis had been in attendance for three thrashings at the Orange’s sticks. His team had never finished closer than 12 goals. He already had eight goals poured past him with nearly three-fourths of the game to go. He deflected a potential save into the air when Bomberry snatched it away for the highlight-reel goal.

Early in the second quarter, Syracuse up 7-3, Mariano fumbled the ball out beyond the offensive endline. Lewis ran from his net and lined up the senior attack just as he turned up field. Lewis leveled his right shoulder into Mariano’s back right shoulder and knocked him to the ground. Mariano popped up to jaw with Lewis, the first of the game’s six roughness-related flags.

“Just a neighborhood game,” Mariano said. “Just got to keep going. … But I was fired up.”

On the man-up, the Orange worked the ball around quickly until midfielder Sergio Salcido found Mariano standing at about the 25-yard line. The senior attack flitted a bullet past Lewis’ replacement.

Mariano turned to his left, nodded his head and pointed in the direction of Lewis on the sideline. Mariano said at the postgame press conference he didn’t intend it to be at Lewis, but Evans grinned next to him. At the time, white-and-orange clad fans and players cheered the loudest they had all day. Lewis shook his head. The finger-point to the sideline seemed like a reminder.

Just a reminder who held the upper hand.

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