Syracuse coach John Desko is employing the same mix-and-match approach he has used over the past few seasons, assigning senior crease attackman Derek Maltz and junior Randy Staats interchangeably at midfield and attack. Desko is also fielding a second midfield line that features three true attackmen — senior Billy Ward, junior Nicky Galasso and Staats/Maltz.
"It's really it's a matter of trying to get the best six on the field," he said. "We haven't been able to get in a flow because Randy missed time (with an injury] and Schoonie [Henry Schoonmaker] missed time."
Now that they are back — although Staats still appeared to be a step slower Saturday than he was earlier in the season — Desko can run a first pure midfield of Hakeem Lecky flanked by Schoonmaker and senior Scott Loy and complement them with a second line of attackmen who can invert piecemeal or as a unit and stay up top. The combination can cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses if the team gets wins enough faceoffs to keep the offense on the field.
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In an effort to offset the team's faceoff struggles, Desko has asked players such as Lecky, Schoonmaker and Ward to stay on the field and play defense in an effort to get some transition going the other way should the Orange gain possession via a save or turnover.
"It's better than having them stand on the sideline watching," Desko said.
It's why Ward agreed to switch from his natural position at attack, which he shared last season with Dylan Donahue, to a spot on the second midfield line where Desko said the senior is "the glue that holds it all together."
Hobart's Love out with 'funky injury'
Hobart coach Greg Raymond has had more to worry about than the normal first-year adjustments that accompany a coaching change.
"It's been as choppy a first season as I could have imagined," the former Princeton assistant and Johns Hopkins player said as his team began preparations for Saturday's Northeast Conference meeting with Sacred Heart in Geneva, N.Y. "It's been tough to find a flow, but we're getting through it. A lot of it, honestly, has been a worst-case scenario."
It began before the season started when veteran faceoff specialists Gryphin Kelly and Charles Sipe left the team for reasons unrelated to lacrosse. The big blow, though, occurred three games into the season when senior attackman Alex Love, who scored 45 goals last season via a wicked underhand lefty laser, departed with a muscle injury in the abdomen.
"A couple of ACLs, shoulders and hip flexors later, we're as inexperienced as any team I've ever been around," Raymond said.
Most of the adversity centered on the loss of Love, a player who "has the ability to make you look like a good coach," Raymond said. The coach said the injury has been difficult to pinpoint in terms of a definite diagnosis, but there is significant pain involved.
"It's a very funky injury," Raymond said. "Alex has that beautiful shooting motion and gets it out of his stick in such a hurry, and torque he uses to do so is affected. He is still in a decent amount of pain, and his recovery has been stagnant. He's finally making some progress, but now you're looking at a guy who hasn't played or conditioned in 41/2 weeks. People ask all the time if he will be back, and it is still a possibility. As good as he is, though, it doesn't mean he will be in good shape."
Denver's depth on display
The Denver offense is the brainchild of coordinator Matt Brown — and it has proved impressive with any number of personnel.
Denver used 13 offensive midfielders in its 17-9 victory against Georgetown last weekend. And not just because the score was lopsided. The third midfield made an appearance early in the third quarter when Denver led 10-6 — a good lead, but hardly a blowout.
Part of the constant rotating of players, coach Bill Tierney said afterward, is to try to keep the defense off balance.
"But the other part is, these kids work so hard," Tierney says. "If you just play 15 or 16 kids in a game, it gets discouraging even when you win. So we try our best to get into the 25s. … We try to give guys the opportunity if they earn it in practice and see if they can do it in a game.
"Of course, you have to win, too. It's a fine line. But a happy team is a good team."
Freshman Zach Miller (23 goals, nine assists) missed the game for a family matter but is fine and expected back soon, a school spokesperson said. Junior Carson Cannon also is expected back soon — possibly to face Villanova on Friday night — after he missed the game with a head injury.
Nine midfield combinations were on the field for Denver goals.
The Pioneers scored goals without Miller. They scored when another starting attackman, sophomore Jack Bobzien, left the game for roughly a quarter after a hit to the head by a Georgetown player (the player received a three-minute targeting penalty). They scored with junior Wes Berg (six goals, three assists) playing attack. They scored with Berg playing midfield. Bobzien was playing midfield during one of Denver's goals.
The second midfield — senior Harrison Archer, junior Sean Cannizzaro and freshman Max Planning — was in the game for four goals.