Syracuse preps for Bryant’s Massa at X, attack-minded Poli

first_imgSyracuse’s seniors have been in this position before, burdened with expectations. During their first season with the Orange, Brian Megill and JoJo Marasco were part of one of SU’s all-time talented teams.Syracuse headed into May the same way they did this season — a favorite to win it all. Like this year’s, 2010’s first-round game should have been formality, a cakewalk against an inferior foe.But in 2010, Army came into the Carrier Dome and stunned the Orange. One of the great teams in SU history couldn’t make it past the first weekend of the postseason.“They’ll use that as reminders for the rest of the group,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said.The Orange begins its quest for an 12th national championship on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome against Bryant (8-10). It will be a test in top-seeded SU’s mental makeup. A sub-.500 opponent is easy to overlook, but Syracuse (13-3) has seen what can happen without strong mental fortitude. Some slip-ups at the faceoff X and gaffes in transition defense could open the door for a Bulldog upset.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“They’re on a run,” Megill said. “They started 0-7, now they’re 8-10. … They’re doing a really good job. They’re going to come in with a lot of momentum going their way, a lot of confidence.”BU’s best chance at upsetting the Orange comes at the faceoff X, where, until recently, the Orange struggled mightily. SU is still by no means a faceoff powerhouse, but when it wins even close to half of the draws, it’s efficient offense can handle the rest.Bryant midfielder Kevin Massa has taken all but three faceoffs this season for the Bulldogs, winning an astonishing 71.3 percent (293-of-411) as BU has taken 178 more possessions than its opponents this season.It’s another stiff challenge for Syracuse midfielder Chris Daddio, who’s gotten the start at the X in each of the last three games after being replaced by Cal Paduda in the lineup.The Orange didn’t see much of Bryant or Massa during the regular season, but Daddio watched the faceoff man early in the season on TV.“I’ve seen his numbers and I know that we’ll have a long week of looking at it,” Daddio said.BU’s long-stick midfielder Mason Poli poses another potentially nightmarish matchup. SU’s transition defense struggled against Villanova in the Big East championship, conceding a pair of goals to defender Chris Piccirilli.Poli holds the rare distinction of being a scoring threat as a long pole. He scored 14 goals and added eight assists in 17 games this season, making him the Bulldogs’ seventh-leading scorer. He also has 33 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers.“They got a really good pole that likes to run transition and put the ball in the back of the net,” Marasco said, “so we got to focus on those guys.”Marasco is certain that he will draw Poli on the defensive end. On the second line, Poli will likely stick on either Hakeem Lecky or Henry Schoonmaker. Either way, there’s a formula in place.“Whoever has the long-stick middie, just bury him,” Lecky said, “and whoever has the short-stick, just take it to the net.”For SU’s seniors, things could end the same way they began — with an upset loss in the NCAA tournament’s opening game. As the first senior class without a final-four appearance since the Class of 1979, it’s a glaring hole in their legacy.Desko doesn’t talk much about that Army game, but he doesn’t have to. With four senior captains who still have a postseason statement to make, they often beat him to the punch. Desko approaches huddles and Megill, Marasco, or any of the Orange’s other captains are taking the words right out of his mouth.They understand how much these next few weeks weigh on them, and it starts with not overlooking the Bulldogs.“They want to go out having a shot at the national title,” Desko said. “And this is it.” Comments Published on May 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Related Stories Out of the blue: Pressler leads Bryant into NCAA tournament matchup with Syracuse after rebuilding in wake of Duke rape scandalGetting to know Bryantlast_img

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