One of the most anticipated games of the regular season takes place Saturday as Virginia and Syracuse meet in the first game of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. The opening faceoff is set for noon and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Virginia is off to a quick start with an unblemished 3-0 record. The Orange opened with home wins over Villanova and Army and are 2-0. This is the first time both teams have come into this match-up undefeated in two years.
The third-ranked Cavaliers have the upper hand in the series recently winning the last four and five of the last six. Last season Virginia scored the game’s final four goals to rally for an 11-8 win before an NCAA regular-season record crowd of 20,180 in the inaugural Face-Off Classic.
The Cavaliers are averaging nearly 14 goals per game, while the Orange scored 21 in their opener and are averaging 14.5 goals per game. The potential for a high-flying affair is part of what excites so many.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that over the last 15 years in college lacrosse, Syracuse and Virginia have been two of the teams that have gotten up and down the field,” said Cavalier head coach Dom Starsia. “Both teams attack quickly and the offensive personnel has stood out.”
While Syracuse saw its run of final four appearances end last season, there are some remarkable similarities between the two teams this season.
“It is tremendously ironic,” Starsia said, “that we both have freshmen in the goal. Both have athletic defenses with some new guys being worked in, and a lot of talented players at the offensive end for both teams.”
Adam Ghitelman has started all three games for Virginia so far and allowed an average of 8.59 goals per game, while John Galloway is allowing an average of 6.0 goals in his two starts.
At the early stage of the season Starsia notes that both teams are a “work in progress” and may look very different later in the season.
“This game tends to be a little bit more of a players’ game,” he said, “because we don’t even know our own teamsnever mind the other teamsthat well.”
“I think it sets up as very much a typical Virginia/Syracuse game (and is likely to be) one of those ones where it takes 15 goals or more to win.”