When Duke and Syracuse last faced off, the Orange held on to win 13-11 in a game that is still fresh in the mind of Duke players.
The No. 8 Blue Devils (8-3) will look to avenge last year’s loss against No. 14 Syracuse (4-3) and win its sixth straight game Sunday at Met Life Stadium.
“They embarrassed us last year,” junior Jake Tripucka said. “They jumped at us, and we were down by [seven] goals. Syracuse obviously has tons of players, tons of athletes and top recruits. We’ve just got to be able to hang with them and do our stuff.”
One significant reason for the Orange’s victory was the stellar performance of their goalie from last year—senior John Galloway, who recorded 16 saves en route to his record-breaking 52nd victory.
This year, however, Galloway will be a force from the sideline for Duke, now an assistant coach under head coach John Danowski. The hiring of Galloway and his willingness to come to the rival Blue Devil program highlights the tremendous respect that is apparent between the two teams.
“Syracuse is an unbelievable opponent with a bunch of athletes, and we’ve got our hands full.” Tripucka said. “They’ve got players all over the place—goalies playing well, attacks playing well. Their defense has always been good.”
Both teams are facing similar trajectories this season, looking to bounce back from tough early losses. Duke has been set back by road losses to No. 5 Loyola, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 9 Maryland, while Syracuse has lost to No. 1 Johns Hopkins, No. 2 Virginia and No. 13 Villanova.
Both teams are also looking to solve some weaknesses heading into the latter part of the season.
The Blue Devils have recently struggled to finish games, giving up leads in the fourth quarter.
“The fourth quarter has not been a strength of ours the last several games,” Danowski said. “We put on the board that we are going to be aggressive in the fourth quarter, whether it’s offense, defense or between the lines.”
Both Danowski and Tripucka pointed to playing smart and with poise as critical elements to working out the fourth quarter woes.
“Offensively, we got to work on possessing the ball late in the game and not turning it over so quickly,” Danowski said. “Maybe it’s personnel driven and we’ve got to get the right personnel in who can hold the ball, but it could be scheme. So we’ll look at the film and try to figure it out.”
Danowski also said that Duke needs to improve their man-up unit and special teams in order to compete with a hungry Syracuse team.
The Blue Devils will look to draw on its strength and depth for offensive firepower, which comes from both their attackmen and midfielders when at its best. Seven Duke players have more than 10 points this season, led by sophomores Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne, and senior Robert Rotanz—each of whom has more than 25 points.
A recent bright spot for the Blue Devils has been their improvement in faceoffs, where they succeed 58.8 percent of the time compared to 45.6 percent for the Orange. Danowski said the team’s improvement in this area has marked its development throughout the season.
Although Syracuse does not benefit from the same depth and scoring prowess, the Orange still have considerable offensive threats in sophomore Derek Maltz, junior JoJo Marasco and seniors Tommy Palasek and Tim Desko.
Syracuse has struggled with shot selection and man-up units, not capitalizing on its chances on net. That could be key to the Blue Devils, who have had consistency problems between the pipes all season.
Junior Dan Wigrizer, however, now appears to have a hold on the job, having made crucial saves to hold off late comebacks. Against Brown, he notched four saves in the fourth quarter for a total of ten in the game as Duke held on to win by one.
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