Syracuse’s man-up unit is having its best season in the last 35 years

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first_imgUPDATED: April 26, 2016 at 7:35 a.m. Syracuse’s man-up attack makes defensive midfielder Scott Firman’s head spin. As the offense whips the ball around the field, Firman has the tough task of keeping one eye on the ball and trying to anticipate what the next move will be.“It’s in and out of each stick,” Firman said. “… It makes it hard (to defend), moving (the ball) that quick.”Fortunately for Firman, the only time he faces SU’s man-up is in practice when the score doesn’t matter and everything is relatively inconsequential. Unfortunately for Syracuse’s opponents, the Orange has managed a 53.3 percent success rate with an extra man in games that do count, good for third-best in the country.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt’s the highest percentage in team history, dating back to 1981 when SU’s oldest man-up statistics are available, beating out the 51.8 percent man-up attack from 1989 — Gary Gait’s junior season and a national championship year for SU.No. 4 seed Syracuse (8-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) will face top-seeded North Carolina (8-5, 3-1) at 6 p.m. on Friday in the first round of the ACC tournament in Kennesaw, Georgia, pitting its efficient man-up unit against UNC’s fifth-ranked man-down defense.“It’s been really effective, obviously, as you see by the stats,” SU attack Tim Barber said of the Orange’s man-up. “But I think just movement and trusting the guy next to you if he’s open give him the ball he’s going to finish the ball.”In 30 attempts with an extra man, the squad has scored 16 times. While SU only ranks 18th in the country for man-up goals, the success rate sits behind only Marist and Stony Brook at 60.9 and 54.9 percent, respectively.Each of the team’s top two point producers in Dylan Donahue and Nick Mariano lead the team with five man-up goals. They consistently cut backdoor without the ball as teammates cycle the ball around the perimeter to be open for feeds around the crease.With the Orange’s balanced offense, opposing defenses can’t just key in on one player.“They’ve got some good shooters,” Binghamton head coach Scott Nelson said. “They’re good players. They’re well coached. All the usual stuff.”The coaching came into play during SU’s first man-up chance against Binghamton on Wednesday. Syracuse head coach John Desko called timeout 46 seconds into the minute-long penalty, noticing that the Bearcats were shutting off Donahue and that his team was playing quickly when it didn’t need to.The result was a point-blank shot from Mariano that was saved on an open chance to the right of the crease, but Mariano later scored on an almost identical play on the team’s next man-up chance“I saw the openings,” Desko said. “… We just had to figure out what they were doing, explain to the guys how they were playing the defense and we had a bunch of a good opportunities on it and I think it helped us going forward with the other penalties.”Three of Syracuse’s last four opponents are in the top five for man-down defense percentage, including Hobart and Cornell, which are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. North Carolina was No. 2 before SU went 2-for-2 against it.Re-watching the win over the Tar Heels left Firman with one thought: “It must suck playing against them in games. The movement is so fast and there’s no way that that team scouts and can replicate that.”The only team to stymie the Orange was Cornell, which held SU goalless on four attempts in a 10-9 overtime comeback win. Syracuse mustered five shots on the first two attempts in the second and third quarters. But on its two chances in the fourth, the Orange got just one shot off each time as Jordan Evans turned the ball over the first time and Donahue had a shot saved the second.“That that could have been the difference in the game,” Desko said. “If just one of those man-ups had gone (in) maybe it wouldn’t have gone into overtime.”The conference tournament starts on Friday and the NCAA tournament begins two weeks after that. With them comes the real challenge for what could ultimately be the most efficient man-up season for Syracuse lacrosse.In SU’s first two seasons in the ACC, the Orange man-up has been almost 12.5 percent less successful in conference and NCAA tournament games than all of its other games combined.“They have very slick and good shooters,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said after the first meeting between the teams. “You look across the board at talent. They’re athletic and can shoot the ball so I think all six of (the players on the man-up), they put themselves in good opportunities.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on April 26, 2016 at 1:02 am Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettuslast_img

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