Syracuse’s defense is near full health, something crucial for postseason run

first_img Published on April 24, 2018 at 10:05 pm Contact Charlie: csdistur@syr.edu | @charliedisturco For four games in a row, the normal voice that barked orders from the back of Syracuse’s defense wasn’t there. When broken plays or quick faceoff wins resulted in transition for an opposing team, it was quieter than normal. Players were slower with sliding and understanding the situations at hand.In that span, Syracuse was blown out twice, needed triple overtime to beat a now-sub-.500 Army team and nearly blew a lead against Virginia — only to be bailed out by Tucker Dordevic’s game winner.The voice absent from the back line was that of Tyson Bomberry, the junior defender and captain of the No. 12 Orange (7-5, 4-0 Atlantic Coast). Since his return on March 24 against Duke, the defense has improved significantly, limiting opposing teams to three fewer goals per game than when he was gone. Both teammates and coaches have pointed to his ability to communicate as the reason for the increased success. Syracuse’s defense returned to nearly full health this past week, which will be crucial for the ACC tournament and eventual NCAA tournament runs.“He talks very well with the group. You can see it in practice, hear it in practice every day and for him to be out, all of a sudden you get that lack of communication,” SU head coach John Desko said. “Guys are a little slower to make their slides or understand the situation whether it be an unsettled situation, a fast break or a man-down.”Syracuse’s defense has been ravaged by injury this season. Bomberry has missed four games and defender Marcus Cunningham left the Cornell game early before missing the North Carolina conference matchup. Long-stick midfielder Andrew Helmer missed a few weeks after being a key link in SU’s run in the 2017 NCAA tournament. His replacement, Jared Fernandez, who both Army and Virginia’s head coaches raved about, suffered a season-ending injury on the second-to-last faceoff against UVA.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLosing that many players who play consistent minutes disrupts chemistry, players said. While others have stepped up in big ways — like Brett Kennedy starting against Virginia in Bomberry’s place and picking up a pair of transition goals — there’s still a difference.Bomberry is second on the team with 11 caused turnovers, trailing fellow defender and preseason All-American Nick Mellen by four. Bomberry, who plays box lacrosse in Canada over the offseason, adds a threat in transition. He doesn’t have a goal — he assisted Stephen Rehfuss against Hobart — but he proved he could score with two goals last season.“He’s just an animal, he’s a freak,” Mellen said. “He’s like 225 (pounds), can somehow make his way up and down the field without the ball getting knocked out of his stick … He’s the last guy you want to run into full speed. He’s made of steel.”In Bomberry’s four-game absence, Kennedy stepped up at close defense. Kennedy had played long-stick midfielder the majority of his career before coming to Syracuse. After missing last year due to injury, he was awarded a medical redshirt. But this was the first real year he practiced at close defense.And there was something missing when he filled in for Bomberry. His voice wasn’t as loud.“(Communication) is just something (Bomberry’s) born with,” Mellen said. “So good at it. He knows the game so well. He’s a veteran, been there done that … He’s just such a huge part of our defense.”When Cunningham went down against Cornell, the following game featured similar chemistry problems. Nick DiPietro started in favor of the injured Cunningham against North Carolina. The Tar Heels, amid a six-game losing streak, led 12-9 with just more than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. A 4-0 Syracuse run propelled the Orange over UNC, but the defense struggled at times throughout the contest, multiple players said, in large part to Cunningham’s absence.“It’s weird because we’re in a middle- to late-season game,” Mellen said. “We’ve been playing with each other all year, and it’s a chemistry flow type thing. And when (Cunningham’s) not here, it screws up things a little bit.”As Syracuse gears up for the ACC tournament, which it will enter as the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive year, a healthy defense will be crucial. Cunningham returned to last week’s rotation against Navy, which leaves Fernandez as the lone Orange player who won’t be available against Virginia on Friday.And when Syracuse’s defense is healthy, especially since Bomberry’s return, it’s a deep and daunting rotation for opposing offenses.“We’ve met as a team and really started to figure out what we wanted to do,” Bomberry said. “… Our defense is pretty deep in long poles, all the guys step up and fill the role when someone goes down.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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