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Sunday will be the toughest opponent and game to date for the Syracuse University lacrosse team as they get deeper into the 2015 season. Cornell should round into a better team than No. 11-ranked Army once they get the kinks worked out and some more full field practice, but right now Army is clearly the toughest opponent the Orange have faced thus far.

Army really has three main strengths: their overall defense; John Glesener (the team’s best offensive player by far); and there specialist positions, faceoff and goalie. Army always has one of the top ranked defenses in the country and this year is no different. Their goalie, Sam Somers, is one of the best in the country and they have two really good SSDM. This Army team reminds me a lot of last years Bryant team, though I don’t think there faceoff specialist is as good as Massa nor do they have the depth offensively Bryant had last year with several senior starters. I expect Army to mix in some defenses and to play some zone much like Bryant last year.

Army has more depth of scoring than they usually do this year, but its unclear how they will do against a legit top 10 defense as the schedule so far hasn’t exactly been murderer’s row.

Here a few things I will be looking for:

How good is Army? It’s clear they are a talented team but looking at the first three games it’s hard to determine how good. They opened with UMass, a team that they have struggled with recently and put up an impressive 12-7 win that really wasn’t that close. UMass, however, was annihilated last week by UNC, which put up more than 20 goals, so it’s hard to put much stock in that win. Army’s other two wins were against VMI and Jacksonville, both games Army put up more than 20 goals and allowed less than five. Again. it’s hard to get a real feel as both VMI and Jacksonville are bad teams, VMI especially.

Matchups to watch:

Glesener vs. Mullins: Brandon Mullins shut down Glesener completely two years ago when he was a freshman and it should be a great matchup again. Army seems to have more depth of scoring than they usually do but everything still starts and ends with Glesener. If Mullins limits him can the rest of the Army players step up? Glesener is a volume shooter so he will certainly try to get his no matter the matchup but Mullins appears to be in mid season form allready and having already had success against Glesener you have to give him a very slight edge in this matchup. ‘

Williams vs. Army at the X: Army has a very good faceoff specialist in Alex Daly but Ben Williams has matched up with him previously, when he was at Holy Cross and went 11-18. I think Syracuse would take a repeat of those numbers. Army does have a young freshman specialist, John Ragno, who has shined in limited draws so far this year. It will be interesting to see if either coach goes to the backup if the main X starter is struggling.

Syracuse offense vs Army D: In playing Cornell, Syracuse faced a legit top 10 opponent that was still trying to shake the cobwebs. Playing against a good defense and offense with multiple high end scorers was a great test for the Orange. On the flip side, the Black Knights have yet to be tested or see an offense anywhere near the scope of Syracuse. Can Army match up with this veteran group for 60 minutes or will it get ground down? Army’s senior goalie Sam Somers has been through the wars and will not be intimidated playing the Orange. It will be key for Syracuse to test Somers early and often. Letting Somers get into a groove and trying to make a push late (like we saw against Bryant last year) is a recipe for disaster against a goalie like Somers.

Some final thoughts:

The daunting task of Syracuse’s schedule rears its ugly head again this game. After coming off an impressive win against Cornell there is no letdown with a great Army team coming into the Dome. The decision to only schedule 12 games this season by Coach Desko and the staff has given SU a full week to prepare for Army, and the pressure is on for the decision to show early results. With Army expected to play a lot of zone defense the Orange offense will need to show a marked improvement from the zone offense we saw against Bryant last year in the playoffs, where Syracuse looked confused and showed an inability to shoot from the outside.

With this year’s offense already showing to be one of the best in the nation the question still remains: can Syracuse show the ability to score from outside if a team packs it in with a zone? Many of Syracuse’s top offensive players – Randy Staats, Kevin Rice, Dylan Donahue, Nicky Galasso – are great players in close but have struggled at times when forced to shoot from the outside. Can Syracuse find away to get good looks in close despite the zone? Can players like Henry Schoomaker and Hakeem Lecky shoot with accuracy from the outside? Could Derek Dejoe or Tim Barber make an impact with their ability to shoot from the outside? If Syracuse is trailing late or in a tight game late into the fourth quarter, how will this team respond? A lot of questions for the Syracuse offense should be answered this weekend.

Prediction:

Based on Army’s schedule to date it’s hard to get a great feel for the game. Going by prior Army-Syracuse matchups I would expect a close game that has the potential to be a very close game. The key for Syracuse will be to get to Somers early and keep Army on its toes by carrying a small 1-2 goal lead, where Syracuse can put pressure on the Army offense for most of the day and gradually extend the margin. Syracuse needs to avoid a repeat of last year’s Bryant game, where they trailed for most of the game and Bryant was able to slow things to a crawl. Army can play slow or uptempo depending on the opponent, but in this type of game it’s clear they would prefer to slow things down as much as possible. In the end I think the 0verall fire power of the Syracuse offense and the depth Syracuse has across the board on both offense and defense will be too much for Army. I like the Orange 12-8.

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