#3 Syracuse Faces Tough Test Against #15 Virginia

Photo credit to Sam Maller and Syracuse.com

The third-ranked Orange travel for their first away game of the season as they take on 15th ranked Virginia Friday night at Klockner Stadium in each team’s ACC opener. This will be the 31st overall meeting between the two legendary teams, with Virginia holding the slight 16-15 edge in the series.

The Orange are coming off of a highly-contested 9-8 win over Army West Point last week inside the Carrier Dome to start 3-0 on the season. Midfielders Sergio Salcido and Derek DeJoe each had a pair of goals in the win, and are continuing to pick up some of the production that was lost with the departure of the entire first midfield unit from last season. DeJoe is tied with attackman Dylan Donahue with a team-high six goals on the year. Salcido is tied for third with fellow first liner Nick Mariano and attackman Jordan Evans with five goals. Donahue leads the team in assists with 10 and in points with 16. Mariano, Salcido, and Tim Barber are tied with seven points.

Barber has replaced senior transfer Nick Piroli on the starting attack after Piroli suffered an injury in practice. Piroli is still week-to-week. Barber moved back into his usual spot on the first midfield unit and was replaced by a rotation of freshmen Devin ShewellNate Solomon, and redshirt freshman Gale Thorpe. Expect to maybe see Bradley Voigt in the mix as well. I’ve been very impressed with the play of Shewell so far to start the season, and Solomon is developing nicely as well.

On the other side of the ball, freshman Nick Mellen leads the team in caused turnovers with seven, while preseason All-American Brandon Mullins has six. He’s the fourth Cuse defenseman to record at least 50 caused turnovers in team history. Mellen also leads non-FOGOs in ground balls with 14. He does have some work to do on off-ball defense as well. Ben Williams is still dominating on faceoffs, going 13-of-19 last week against Army, and recording a team-high 20 ground balls. Goaltender Warren Hill has played well in his first three starts, recording a 6.18 goals against average and a .541 save percentage.

On the other end, Virginia is 2-2 and are coming off of a 15-10 win against Penn on Sunday. Prior to that, they fell at home to High Point in overtime. Their other win was against another Philly team in Drexel, while they lost to Loyola in their season opener. Unlike last season, Virginia is very healthy coming into their ACC opener. James Pannell and Tanner Scales return from season-ending injuries, with Scales not playing at all in 2015. Pannell leads the team in assists with five and is tied with Zed Williams for the team lead in points with 10. Williams leads the team in goals with nine. AJ Fish is second on the team in points with nine.

Scales looks to be back to his old self, as he leads the team in caused turnovers with eight. Scales anchors a defensive unit alongside Logan Greco and Scott Hooper. Williams leads the team in ground balls with 19. Goaltender Matt Barrett has a 10.04 goals against average and a save percentage of .481.

Both teams face some questions coming into this game. For the Orange, what will their starting lineup at attack and midfield be? Matt Lane has been on the top midfield unit for the past two games with Barber moving to attack, but he’s been dealing with an injury for most of the week. He’s a game-time decision. Even if he is good to go, will Barber move back to the midfield and will we see Shewell or Solomon start at attack? Also, how will the Orange respond for their first game outdoors and on grass? They’ve practiced and played inside and on turf for the entire season, save for one or two practices this week on their outdoor turf field.

As for the Cavaliers, which team will show up? UVA is 2-0 against Philly teams, but are 0-2 against non-Philly teams. They haven’t looked good in the first half in their four games this season, so an early start will be important for the Wahoos, especially against a tough rival like the Orange. And with a rival like Syracuse coming in, will that spark up the entire team? Finally, how will they try to contain Ben Williams at the faceoff “x”? Remember, this is the team that injured Williams’s shoulder early in the fourth quarter last year. Cal Paduda better be ready to come in at any time during the game, even if it’s just to give Williams a rest.

Last year, the Orange defeated the Cavaliers 15-9. The last time the two teams played at Klockner, James Pannell scored seven goals in a 17-12 win for Virginia. Opening faceoff is set for 5:30 p.m., with the game being televised live on ESPNU.