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Syracuse is coming off a 20-10 win last weekend against then-No. 2 Virginia, the largest margin of victory over the Cavaliers in program history. Seven different players scored multiple goals, including four players who scored three. The class of 2020’s No. 2 recruit, Owen Hiltz, made his first collegiate start and scored five points in attack Griffin Cook’s usual spot.
The Orange return to the Carrier Dome this weekend to play their first of two straight games against an unranked opponent before a stretch of seven consecutive games against teams in Inside Lacrosse’s top 20.
Saturday is also the first time in a year that fans will be in the Carrier Dome. SU will allow 900 student fans as a “pilot” run for the Vermont-Syracuse men’s lacrosse game.
Here’s everything you need to know about Vermont ahead of its matchup with Syracuse:
Saturday will be the first time that Syracuse has faced Vermont in a regular season game, though the two teams often scrimmage each other in the preseason.
The Vermont report
Vermont is 1-1 this season after losing its season opener to Bryant, 15-12. The Catamounts also blew out conference opponent UMass Lowell 21-7 on Wednesday. Vermont has finished second in the conference the past two years, although it only played four total games — and no conference games — in the 2020 season.
The Catamounts’ biggest loss this season is third-team All-American goaltender Nick Washuta, who graduated in May and opted to sign with the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse instead of coming back for a fifth season. His replacement, Ryan Cornell, saw significant playing time last season. Cornell’s .537 save percentage leads America East, and he’s third in the conference in terms of saves per game (11).
How Syracuse beats the Catamounts
Vermont is the only team Syracuse will face this season that has yet to receive a vote in IL’s media poll, and it’s one of two teams to not be featured in the top 20 through three weeks. After playing two top-10 opponents back-to-back, Syracuse will likely be able to go deep into its bench against Vermont.
Syracuse head coach John Desko said in a press conference this week that the team watched film from past scrimmages and planned to watch the Catamounts’ game this weekend. With the defensive adjustments against UVA, compared to its season opener against Army, the defense will have little problem guarding a team that averages 16.5 goals a game.
Stat to know: .844
Vermont has cleared 38 of its 45 clears this season, a higher percentage than both of Syracuse’s two previous opponents. Syracuse gave up multiple goals in transition to Army in the season-opener and let the Black Knights clear on 23 of their 25 attempts. Against Virginia, Syracuse gave up just two goals in transition, both coming off of faceoffs.
Improvements on the ride between the first two weeks of the season could help the Orange hold one of the better clearing teams in the country to fewer goals than expected.
Player to watch: Michael McCormack, attack
Michael McCormack is Vermont’s only graduate transfer and one of two graduate students on the roster. The lefty attack comes from D-III Middlebury College, where he scored 58 points in two years with the Panthers. He was named first-team all-conference and received MVP honors his senior year in 2020. McCormack is now Vermont’s top scorer, with eight goals, and is second in points. Six of those goals came against UMass Lowell. Vermont’s attack relies on McCormack’s experience, and he’ll likely spend more time in front of the cage than anyone else.
Also of note, McCormack is Massachusetts’ all-time high school points scorer, with 611 throughout his career and 191 his senior year, a single season state record. He’ll match up against a Syracuse defense that features Mitch Wykoff, Grant Murphy and Nick DiPietro, in addition to Brett Kennedy, a close defender turned long-stick midfielder. Wykoff held then-No. 2 UVA’s top scorer Matt Moore to just one assist last week.