The Syracuse University lacrosse team lost by four goals at No. 1 Virginia three weeks ago but never seemed out of the game. It lost by four goals Saturday at No. 2 Johns Hopkins and never seemed to be in it.
Rahme’s article encapsulated the Orange’s display at Homewood Field in Baltimore. A program that has prided itself on playing fast and forcing opponents to get out of their comfort zone, the team looked average and content to play at the tempo that the Blue Jays set.
Junior defenseman Brian Megill, however, dismissed the notion that Syracuse (3-2) is no longer the confident bunch that went 60-8 in the previous four seasons and captured back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009.
“I think a lot of it is nerves and jitters,” he said. “We lost a lot of guys last year, a lot of experienced players. Other guys on the field really aren’t used to the big-game hype and a big crowd like that. It’s going to take some time, and I think a game like this is what we needed to get some experience.”
Coach John Desko acknowledged that the team’s youth and issues on faceoffs may force the coaches to change their usual strategy and emulate some of their opponents, who tend to slow down the pace and maintain long possessions against the Orange. That’s quite a concession from the Syracuse coach, but it appears to be a necessary one.
The Orange’s two losses already match the number of losses they accrued in each of the last four seasons. Megill said the players should learn from Saturday’s showing and play with more fire.
“I think the main focus is trying to get guys to play with heart,” he said. “Coach [Roy] Simmons [who guided the program to six NCAA titles between 1971 and 1988] brought up a good point yesterday to us before practice, that we were lacking passion and heart, and you could really see it coming out early. It seems like in the beginning of quarters, we’re coming out slow, we’re coming out not very energetic. We need to come out hot right from the get-go.”