Syracuse MLAX looks to reclaim Upstate belt

"We want to win. We are thinking about our season and trying to get into the playoffs. It's more about understanding who they are, what they do and try to get out of here with a W." -- Syracuse men's lacrosse head coach John Desko on his team's showdown against No. 2 Cornell Wednesday night.

Matchup to focus in on: Brian Megill vs. Rob Pannell

Megill was thrown to the wolves a few years back and given the monumental task of guarding Pannell after then senior John Lade went out with an injury.

"I'm a different player now," he said. "Back then, I was a little immature. When I was a sophomore, I didn't have that much experience playing against a top guy. I was kind-of shell-shocked because I had been hurt and didn't really know that I was going to go up against him going into the game."

This time around, the senior not only has an additional two years of maturation under his belt, he is way ahead of the curve in terms of preparation. The defenseman has done his homework, studying tape and Pannell's tendencies.

"[Brian] pretty much has to go mistake free," Orange head coach John Desko said in regards to Megill's anticipated matchup.

Just contain Pannell: The redshirt senior has recorded at least one goal and assist in each of the Big Red's 11 games and as Desko points out, he has become even deadlier with the improvement of his weak hand.

"Pannell has beaten every defenseman he has gone against this year," Desko said. "I've seen him over the years really develop his left hand. He is shooting the ball left handed, passing with his left -- he is probably the best player in the country. We've got to know where he is and slide to him."

Adds Megill, "He is one of the best players I have played against," Megill said. "When you play against a player like Rob, you're not going to shut him down; you just have to limit his points."

Syracuse will look to take a chapter out of its playbook when it faced Princeton last Saturday on the road. The Orange contained -- contained being the key word -- the Tigers All-American Tom Schreiber to just one goal and three assists. I believe this same tactic will be applied to Pannell.

High flying offense part II: The Orange defense will meet another offense that has a knack for scoring. Cornell averages 14.64 goals per game to the Orange's 12.67. Pannell's supporting cast is a good one that includes: Steve Mock (37 goals, 5 assists), Connor Buczek (17 goals, 13 assists), Max Van Bourgondien (19 goals, 6 assists), Matt Donovan (14 goals, 6 assists) and Connor English (11 goals, 6 assists).

Slide with meaning: When I sat down last weekend and watched the game, I paused and dissected a few offensive and defensive sets of both Syracuse and Princeton. Knowing that the Tigers defense was young, I watched them and how they reacted to a stout Orange offense. Princeton made one glaring error: sliding to a non-threat. It will be interesting to see both team's pick and choose its battles on the defensive end.

By the numbers: 43 percent

Syracuse's opponents are clicking on all four cylinders when it comes to man-up opportunities. Pegging this game as physical is an understatement, especially in a rivalry game of this magnitude.

"Whenever we play each other," Megill said, "there is always hard-hitting, grind-it-out play. Last year, a couple guys got injured."

As big as this game is, the Orange have to play smart and not allow its emotions get the best of them. If there is one squad that Syracuse doesn't want to fall behind to, it's Cornell. As my former collegiate coach would say, "Play hard, but play smart." Syracuse will need to do this on Wednesday.

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