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Duke vs. Syracuse: Three things to watch

Top-seeded Orange have won six of nine meetings, but seventh-seeded Blue Devils currently riding two-game winning streak in this series

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

8:00 AM EDT, May 27, 2013

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Syracuse owns a 6-3 advantage in this series, but the teams have split the past four meetings since 2009. Duke has won the past two contests – both occurring last season, including a 12-9 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The seventh-seeded Blue Devils (15-5) have averaged 13.3 goals in the postseason, including 16 in a two-goal win against Cornell in Saturday’s semifinal. Sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Turri recorded a career-best 16 saves in that victory over the Big Red.

The top-seeded Orange (16-3) has relied on a strong defense in the tournament, allowing an average of just seven goals thus far. Senior midfielder Luke Cometti leads the offense with seven goals in the postseason.

Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Monday.

1) Duke’s offensive depth. The Blue Devils have been headlined by junior attackman Jordan Wolf (53 goals and 26 assists), but the offense is more than just a one-man band. The other five starters have each registered 15 goals and 30 points, and three more players have posted at least 10 goals and 20 points each. Syracuse coach John Desko said the defense, which will have its hands full dealing with Duke’s multi-varied offense, would benefit if the offense can execute and keep the ball out of the Blue Devils’ hands. “Obviously our defense is going to have to play good team defense, and our goalie is going to have to play well,” he said, referring to junior Dominic Lamolinara, an Arnold native and St. Mary’s graduate. “Our offense is going to have to be ready to go.  They press out quite a bit, they play with a lot of pressure, and you've got to kind of go out there with a mindset you've got to be able to run by your man if we're going to be able to score goals on offense.”

2) Syracuse’s JoJo Marasco. It is becoming clear why the committee behind the Tewaaraton Award tabbed Marasco as one of five finalists. The senior midfielder leads the team in scoring in the tournament with 10 points on four goals and six assists and has been especially potent in the fourth quarter when he has produced one goal and four assists in the one-goal decisions over Yale and fourth-seeded Denver. Marasco will certainly get a fair amount of attention from Duke, but coach John Danowski said there is a temptation to forget about Marasco’s teammates. “Marasco has fabulous numbers, especially at the midfield,” Danowski said. “Guys know when to time their cuts off him, and they have a great synergy together. They’re dynamic when he has the ball. But you’ve got to defend the whole team. If you spend too much time ball-watching or spend too much time paying attention to one person … you’ve got to stay true to your fundamentals. So defensively, we have to fundamentally solid and athletic and make some saves.”

3) Duke’s Brendan Fowler. The Blue Devils have a decided advantage on faceoffs with Fowler, a junior who has won 64.1 percent (319-of-498) of his draws this season and passed Bryant sophomore Kevin Massa for the most faceoff wins in a single season with his 16-of-31 performance in the team’s 16-14 win against Cornell in Saturday’s semifinal. Then again, the Orange were expected to fare badly against Denver senior Chase Carraro, but they won 9-of-21 draws with freshman Cal Paduda going 7-of-17 and junior Chris Daddio taking 2-of-4. Desko said Syracuse has no intentions of going meekly against Duke. “We’re going to give it a go,” he said. “It’s been a battle for us all year long, and I keep wondering when we’re going to see somebody that isn’t better than 50 percent. Everybody we play is like 60 percent or 58 percent. Somebody has got to be less than 50 percent out there. But we’ll battle, we’ll make some change-ups. I thought Cal Paduda did a nice job [Saturday] when he got some opportunities, tying it up and stopping the fast break and our wings really played well especially going down the stretch. We created some turnovers and were able to get the ball back at the end of the game. So we’re just going to get ready to go out and compete.”