MLAX : SU struggles to find offensive rhythm against zone defenses

first_img Comments John Desko had been expecting to see zone defense since the first game of the season.Syracuse got its first glimpse of it in a 13-7 opening-day win against Denver. After SU exploded for six quick goals in the first 10 minutes of play, the Pioneers switched to a zone defense to slow the pace of the game. The strategy did just that, as the Orange scored just once during the next 25-plus minutes.Five games later, Syracuse’s opponents haven’t changed in their approach to slow down the No. 1 Orange’s attack. Every team except No. 2 Virginia has at least attempted to play a zone defense against SU (6-0). Some of them, like Johns Hopkins on Saturday, have deliberately stalled on offense to keep the ball out of Syracuse’s possession.And for the most part, that strategy has been successful in limiting SU’s transition scoring and allowing opponents to hang around.‘You’ve got to work harder for (zones) to get your shots off,’ Desko said. ‘In a few games this year, we’ve been pretty quick to come down, dodge and score. And zones don’t allow you to do that.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe zone defense in lacrosse works much like it does in basketball. Offenses have more success against them with quick passing and off-ball movement as opposed to trying to dodge through it.Syracuse’s opponents have used a 3-3 scheme with their defenders in the back line and defensive midfielders in the front line against the Orange this year. And it has led to multiple scares for SU despite its unblemished record.Denver never mustered enough offense to threaten Syracuse in that first game but was only outscored 7-5 after switching to zone in the second quarter. After trailing 7-0 in the first quarter on Feb. 27, Army managed to pull within one score late in the fourth quarter with its methodical, deliberate pace.And it was impatience on offense that nearly cost SU that game.‘We needed to take high-percentage shots, and we weren’t taking them,’ sophomore JoJo Marasco said after that win. ‘We were rushing the ball a little too much.’Georgetown and Johns Hopkins both forced overtime against the Orange recently with a steady dose of man-to-man and zone defenses, in addition to some stalling on offense.‘Hopefully, toward the end of the season, if we get in tight games, we’re prepared and we have the composure because we’ve been there before,’ SU defender John Lade said.Despite the somewhat unorthodox defensive look from opponents, Desko seems to be relatively pleased with his offense’s performance against zones this year.Even after scoring just five goals in the double-overtime win against Johns Hopkins on March 19, the head coach said he thought the offense played well. That low score, he said, was more a result of Blue Jays goaltender Pierce Bassett’s performance in net.But while Desko has been happy with the offense, the zones have affected the normally high-powered Syracuse attack. Teams try to limit SU’s trademark transition game, which has become a staple of the program with these defensive schemes.‘It never looks good when they’re running the other way with numbers,’ Johns Hopkins faceoff specialist Matt Dolente said Saturday.And opponents have not seen much of that unsettled scoring from the Orange. The zone allows them to limit those chances with defenders who can get set up quickly in their positions. They don’t have to worry about finding their particular man on a fast-break opportunity.All of it has led to Syracuse’s 11.33 goals per game this year. If that holds steady throughout the season, it would be the lowest mark for the Orange since 1982, a year before SU won its first national championship.Said Desko: ‘I can see why teams are using them against us.’[email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 22, 2011 at 12:00 pmlast_img

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