Big City Classic showdown set for Saturday

The Konica Minolta Big City Classic has showcased some of the best collegiate lacrosse talent in the country. On Saturday, No. 1 Notre Dame (10-2, 4-1) and No. 7 Syracuse (10-3, 4-1) will square for the first time this season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Inside, I highlight the keys to the game that I feel are important.

Rest and relaxation: Syracuse completed its fifth game in 15 days just last weekend when it wrapped up a 9-8 win against Georgetown. The Orange had the following Sunday and Monday off, implemented the game plan on Tuesday and has had light practices and film sessions since then.

"I think we've had a couple days off basically where we haven't done a lot," Syracuse head coach John Desko said on Tuesday. "We've got to get back in the swing of things, too. We're just going to monitor our guys. I think the two days off has done us a lot of good, and the excitement of playing against Notre Dame in that venue is what it's all about."

Desko continued, "It's been great for everybody. It's been great for us coaches to get a little caught up. It got some rest for the players."

No pressure for Syracuse: A win for either team helps out tremendously when it comes to the BIG EAST and NCAA tournament, however, a lot of the pressure, I think, is on the top ranked team in the country. Notre Dame has the bigger bullseye on its back. What team wouldn't be hyped to have an opportunity to potentially take down No. 1? Syracuse knows it can compete against some of the best and even grind out come-from-behind games.

Let's be honest, too, after that 15-16 double overtime loss against Albany back in the beginning of the season, the Syracuse faithful may have sold its Orange stock and admitted to themselves that this may just be a down year. Wrong. If anything, the premature L was an early wakeup call, a way to get refocused and get back on track. Syracuse, since then, has built its resume with wins against top-tier teams in Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Cornell, but has also had some minor setbacks in its games against Hobart and Villanova.

Matchups? What matchups?: Notre Dame's defense is one of the tops in the country and comes into Saturday's contest ranked No. 8 in scoring defense, giving up 7.92 goals a game. You will hear the phrase, "team system" a lot when referring to head coach Kevin Corrigan's team. The Irish is a team through-and-through and the thought of individual matchups really doesn't cross the team's mind. The in-close defensive unit of senior goalie, John Kemp; junior, Brian Buglione; junior, Stephen O'Hara; and senior, Matt Miller take pride in their communication, slides and help defense.

Chemistry on the first line midfield: With junior, Scott Loy, back from his leg injury, the first midfield line of him, senior, Jojo Marasco and senior, Luke Cometti offers a wide range of potent offensive options.

Jojo Marasco: Undoubtedly, the quarterback of this Syracuse team, the senior is versatile, playing both the attack and midfield positions this season. He has started all 13 games for the Orange and racked up 16 goals and 30 assists. Marasco has the uncanny ability to look like he is dodging and going to the cage, but at the last minute, finds one of his teammates for the score.

Luke Cometti: In every home postgame press conference I have sat in on this season, the opposing head coach has always raved about how well this Syracuse team moves off the ball. Aside from junior attack Derek Maltz, Cometti does it with ease.

Scott Loy: The junior has an incredible range when it comes to getting his shot off and finding the back of the net. The Ohio native is dangerous anywhere on the field.

*Interesting note: When it comes to practice drills, Desko keeps the respective lines together to ensure communication and chemistry.

Syracuse's offense versus Notre Dame's defense: The Orange has accumulated 80 points in 13 games this season and will have to play solid lacrosse from the first whistle if it wants to walk away with a win against the Irish. It begins at the X, a place where Syracuse has had its ups and downs. If the Orange is able to convert on the faceoff it will translate in its offense. The team will need to play smart and take high percentage shots. Syracuse has to move Kemp and get in his head early in the ballgame.

No fair-weather fans here: Syracuse and Notre Dame fans travel well, that's no secret. Considering this is a weekend game, alums near and far away will make the trek to MetLife Stadium to cheer on their alma mater. My guess is Orange will slightly (and I mean slightly) outnumber Irish fans because of the location of the game.

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