When the whistle blew to end the first period of last year's NCAA National Championship game, the Syracuse Orange (No. 4, 9-3, 2-3 ACC) led the Duke Blue Devils (No. 2, 12-2, 4-1 ACC), 4-0. At that point, it seemed as though Syracuse would roll to its sixteenth national championship.
But then, the Blue Devils woke up.
Over the next three quarters, Duke won 18 of 25 faceoffs and outscored Syracuse 16-6 en route to a 16-10 championship victory.
While heartbreaking for Syracuse, a crack at revenge would come rather quickly. As new members of the ACC, the Orange booked an in-conference date with Duke for March 23rd earlier this year. But that didn't go so well either. In that game, Syracuse was tripled up, 21-7, and it seemed as though the Orange was so bad that it could potentially miss the NCAA tournament.
But then, something interesting happened. This time, the Orange woke up.
Since that game, Syracuse has won five games in a row, including two conference wins against Notre Dame and North Carolina, enough to send the team into the four-team ACC tournament that begins this Friday in Chester, Pennsylvania.
In true poetic fashion, as the fourth seed, Syracuse will play the first seed in the semi-final round, the No. 2 Blue Devils. Here are five things to watch for:
Unblemished since March
As previously mentioned, Syracuse's last loss was against Duke on March 23rd and since then, Syracuse has won five straight.
Like Syracuse, Duke hasn't lost since March either. The Blue Devils' last loss was against Loyola College on March 9th. In that game, the Greyhounds doubled up the Blue Devils, 14-7. But since then, Duke has won eight games in a row.
With the two win streaks, Friday's game will feature two teams coming after each other with a lot of momentum on their side.
The Fowler Effect
A 61 faceoff-win percentage makes Brendan Fowler the 12th best faceoff man in the entire country. To put that in perspective, Syracuse's Chris Daddio's 50 faceoff-win percentage puts him at 40th.
But there's good news for Syracuse. Over the five-game win streak, Daddio has put up Fowler-like numbers. In that stretch, his 72 wins in 124 tries are good for 58 percent. In addition, in Syracuse's game against Notre Dame, Daddio outmatched Liam O' Connor 11-7 at the X. O'Connor's No. 11 faceoff-win percentage rank is one better than Fowler, who Daddio will have to be better than Friday for Syracuse to have a chance.
The Wolf of Raleigh
Recently named All-ACC Syracuse defenseman Brandon Mullins will have his work cut out for him with Duke's Jordan Wolf. Wolf, along with also being named with All-ACC honors, has scored 46 goals this season, good for 2nd place in the entire country. In addition, Wolf is used to scoring against Syracuse. Five of Wolf's goals came in Duke's matchup with Syracuse earlier this year. As of late, he's kept the fire burning. Over his last three games (Rutgers, Virginia and Notre Dame) he has 13 goals and five assists.
Wolf's partner in crime, Josh Dionne, has scored 35 goals this season. Both players have recorded more goals than Syracuse's highest goal scorer, Dylan Donahue (28)
Staats Can Snipe
Though Wolf and Dionne may have more goals, Randy Staats is better than both of them in shot percentage. In 48 attempts this season, Randy Staats has found twine 23 times, good for 48 percent. Wolf and Dionne fall just under that mark at 46 percent.
In the last six seasons of NCAA Division I lacrosse, the national title has gone to either Duke or Syracuse four times.
Duke brought home the championship in 2010 and 2013 and Syracuse won the title in 2008 and 2009 in back-to-back fashion. Both teams hope that a win Friday could be the start of a similar campaign.
Discuss the matchup in our lacrosse forum HERE.