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Top-ranked Virginia takes on top-ranked Syracuse Lacrosse: Previewing the Clash

What: No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers Lacrosse (4-0) vs. No. 1 Syracuse Orange (2-0)

Time: 6:00 p.m.
Date: Friday, March 4, 2011
Place: Carrier Dome

Last Meeting: March 7, 2010; Virginia 11, Syracuse 10
Last Time Out: Syracuse 11, No. 18 Army 9
Series: Virginia 14, Syracuse 12

No, it's not a typo, and math isn't a little fuzzy in lacrosse. Both of these teams come into this colossal match-up ranked No. 1 -- Virginia and Syracuse are tied in the USILA coaches poll and Syracuse is atop the Nike/Inside Lacrosse media poll. But by the end of today, only one team will be deserving of the top spot.

Virginia has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, including all six regular season games. But by no means has this rivalry been one-sided, as each of the last four games has been decided by one point, once in overtime and once in double-overtime. I don't want to talk about the 2008 2OT loss in the NCAA Semifinals en route to Syracuse's first of back-to-back titles.

The Orange's attack lacks Chris Daniello and Cody Jamieson, the team's two leading scorers from 2010, but by no means is it lacking experience. The Cuse will be led by senior Stephen Keogh, named to Inside Lacrosse's pre-season All American second team. Keogh has led the team in goals the past two years, including 31 last year.

Add to that an impressive midfield unit of Jovan MIller, Jeremy Thompson and Josh Amidon, all three of which were named pre-season All Americans. They combined for 71 points last season.

On defense, the Orange gave up the fewest goals per game last season, 7.4, and return senior captain Joel White, the team's primary long-stick midfielder. He led the team last year with 78 ground balls and 31 caused turnovers, and was the first defensive specialist to win the Lt. Donald C. MacLaughlin Jr. Award as the nation's most outstanding middie.

Finally, inside the pipes for the Cuse is senior John Galloway, who has the highest number of career wins among active players and is No. 4 all time with 46. In 2010, he led the nation with a 7.16 goals-against-average, contributing 144 saves and receiving the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award as the country's top goalie.

This is going to be a tough game for the Hoos, as this young defense has not been tested in the way it's about to get tested tonight. Add to this a face-off unit that seems to be a step behind the rest of the NCAA title-caliber team, winning just 46.3% of its face-offs (37th in the country, compared to 11th-ranked Syracuse's 66%), and Virginia will need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity in order to give the Cavalier defense a little room for error.

Luckily, the Virginia attack is possibly the best in the country, according to Justin over at College Crosse, the SB Nation Syracuse college lacrosse site.

Certainly, the Virginia offense has been prolific, as expected. Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet have combined for 40 points this year -- Stanwick ranks fourth in the country with 5.33 points per game, while Bocklet ranks seventh with 3.0 goals per game.

The first quarter will be a good indication of who might win this match, as the Orange have outscored their opponents 13-3 in the first 15 minutes this season. Still, as noted above, this game will likely go down to the final ticks, as has been the case in recent history.

Against No. 5 Stony Brook last week, Virginia led by two goals in the final 30 seconds, but with Stony Brook goals coming at 0:21 and 0:03, the Cavaliers found themselves needing a goal in OT to seal the deal, which Stanwick eventually brought.

Virginia cannot afford a final-minute breakdown against a team like Syracuse.

Adding to the challenge is that the game will be in the Carrier Dome. While Virginia has won the past three times there, the last game drew a crowd of 16,595. "Loud" and "electric" are just starting points for adequate modifiers there.

For the first time in the history of the sport, it's a battle of the No. 1s. It's a preview of what many expect -- or at least hope -- to be the 2011 Championship game on Memorial Day. It's live on ESPNU. If you've never watched a game of lacrosse in your life, this would be a fine one to start with.

Face-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. There's only enough room for one orange-and-blue to stay on top of the polls. Go Hoos!