One of the beauties of college lacrosse is that the top teams play each other… again… and again.
No. 2 Syracuse is facing a ranked opponent for the fifth game in a row. SU won three of the first four—the only loss coming in double-overtime against Notre Dame. Meanwhile, No. 4 North Carolina is in the middle of a similar stretch that started with a loss against Maryland, but was followed by wins over Duke and Virginia.
So here we are. The Orange and the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill for the first time in 22 years. Stars will be all over the field. (Quick injury update: Syracuse head coach John Desko said Randy Staats is likely to play on Saturday.) Nearly every matchup on the field is a fascinating one to watch.
The UNC attack is loaded. Jimmy Bitter, Joey Sankey and Luke Goldstock. The two-man game from behind the net with Bitter and Sankey could give Syracuse problems all day since the Orange hasn’t quite seen a unit like this. And when Sankey and Bitter can find space and get their eyes looking for teammates, they’re nearly unstoppable. Bitter is fifth in Division I with 2.67 assists per game while Sankey is sixth with 2.5. Syracuse’s defensive trio of Brandon Mullins, Jay McDermott and Sean Young will have its hands full.
In the midfield, you have to look at SU’s Nicky Galasso who is making his return to Chapel Hill. He transferred from UNC to Syracuse after his sophomore year and is fully healthy for the first time since 2011, when he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Freshman of the Year. He’s recorded six goals in the past two games and has the ability to take over a game when defense’s focus too much on the Orange’s attack.
On the flip side, it’s UNC’s Chad Tutton who has that same ability. Tutton is third on the Tar Heels in goals and just like if UNC doesn’t account for Galasso, if Syracuse over-commits to Sankey, Bitter and Goldstock, it could be Tutton who is the benefactor. The matchup in the midfield is sure to be a fascinating one.
Last year, these two teams played a double-overtime classic in the Carrier Dome. Based on the matchups, another great game could be in store on Saturday.