MLAX : Orange defense working to build chemistry, jell early in season

first_imgWithout three key pieces from Syracuse’s vaunted defense last year, the new-look unit got off to a slow start during fall practice. The players needed time to jell into one unit and over time they did.Against Hofstra in the team’s first scrimmage, they got off to a slow start again, struggling to communicate through the Pride’s screens inside. But the inexperienced defense worked to fix the problem and turned in a solid performance on Sunday.‘We played well, but we have to understand that offense is going to get better as the season goes on, so we have to get better, too, and still work as a team,’ SU defenseman Joe Fazio said. ‘It’s a new group of guys.’The new group supporting starting goaltender Matt Lerman must replace four starters, including two All-Americans, from a defense that was arguably the best in the nation the last two years. Close defensemen John Lade and Tom Guadagnolo are gone along with defensive midfielder Joel White. They combined to stifle opponents time and time again throughout their careers.Only Brian Megill returns from the standout unit, making the defense an unknown heading into the season. Though the stars of the past will be hard to replace, the cast of current players, including Fazio and David Hamlin, are hungry to prove themselves as worthy replacements.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textTheir first chance came Sunday in scrimmages against Hofstra and Le Moyne. Overall, the unit came away optimistic about its play, holding both teams to five goals in two victories for the Orange.Still, SU head coach John Desko and his players realize the defense has a long way to go this season.‘We’re making some mistakes. They’re to be expected this time of year,’ Desko said. ‘We need to improve, but I’m fairly happy with what we saw. But we’ve got to get better and get rid of some of our mistakes.’The mistakes often came as a result of miscommunication on the field. Though Hamlin said it has improved greatly since fall practice, the players are still developing that on-field chemistry that made the past Syracuse defenses great.Hamlin said last year’s defensive players were best friends on and off the field, and he could see that come into play on game day. It’s something the current group is striving to build this season.And this year’s unit is continuing another tradition its predecessors started last season.As the defensemen try to stick together and communicate on the field, they aim to form ‘the forest,’ to frustrate opposing offenses.‘That was just all the defensemen getting their sticks up and knocking down the passes, so you can’t throw through the forest, we like to say,’ Hamlin said. ‘So that’s just a tradition that we’re trying to hold onto.’That concept contributed to a defense that became the face of Syracuse lacrosse the last two seasons. The Orange ranked first in the nation in scoring defense in 2010 and third last season. SU also set a school record for man-down defense efficiency in 2011.Assistant coach Lelan Rogers said the cohesiveness of that group made it special. Those players trusted each other out on the field and communicated at all times. And now Hamlin, Fazio and the rest of the newcomers are trying to develop the same chemistry.‘The communication and just the jelling of the defense are critical,’ Rogers said. ‘And that’s what we’re going through right now. In the fall we did the same thing. We’re trying to mix and match and find the right guys who work well together.’With the past as a model of success, the 2012 SU defense is looking to find the right combination quickly to continue the tradition.And Fazio feels he and his teammates are well on their way to accomplishing that goal. He already describes the defense as a tight-knit group that is only going to grow closer every week.And like the defense did against Hofstra on Sunday, he expects the unit to adjust and improve with every game.‘As time goes on, we’re only going to get better, only going to become closer,’ Fazio said. ‘The guys that we saw in the past, we’ve always looked up to. … They were all together as one, and we’re trying to recreate what they had.’[email protected] Comments Published on February 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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