Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

Former Hopkins midfielder touches on Virginia's win vs. Syracuse, a team that has fallen short of expectations and a non-Top 10 team to watch

March 07, 2012|By Edward Lee

No one can accuse ESPN analyst Mark Dixon of being limited strictly to the men’s game as he will call Wednesday night’s women’s contest between Towson and No. 20 Johns Hopkins, which will air Wednesday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter via his account @dixonlacrosse, will contribute to the network’s coverage of No. 11 Syracuse at No. 2 Johns Hopkins March 17, but he shared his thoughts on the college lacrosse season thus far.

What’s the significance of No. 1 Virginia’s 14-10 victory over [No. 11] Syracuse on Sunday?

I think you saw a Virginia team that was challenged by a Syracuse team that was not going to back down. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Syracuse. Virginia got up in the game, 3-1, and then Syracuse went on a run to make it 6-3. But that’s where you saw Virginia’s leadership take over. All week long, we in the media talked about the star power that Virginia had versus the lack of star power for Syracuse. And the stars shined in Charlottesville on Sunday. [Senior attackman] Steele Stanwich has three points with two nifty assists, [redshirt senior midfielder] Colin Briggs – who Inside Lacrosse has coined “Big Time Briggs” because he loves the primetime and bright lights – had three goals and one assist. I think a star in the making is [sophomore midfielder] Rob Emery who had two goals. And you also saw Virginia make adjustments. Syracuse was running by Virginia, particularly in the second quarter, getting some unassisted goals. [Redshirt senior attackman Tim] Desko and [sophomore attackman] Derek Maltz are terrific shooters. Maltz reminds me a lot of [former Maryland attackman] Grant Catalino, and [Cavaliers senior goalie] Rob Fortunato was really struggling. So what did they do? They went to that zone, and they really limited the quality of shots that Syracuse was getting. In the second half, Virginia was able to win faceoffs, win groundballs. Virginia just won that game all over the place. They won all of the hustle plays. They were 42-21 on groundballs, they dominated on faceoffs [20-of-28]. [Sophomore Chris] Daddio for Syracuse had done a great job, winning 64 percent prior to Sunday’s game. So it was just a total team effort, and that’s what we’re seeing out of Virginia since 2011. They’ve always had the talent, but now they have the leadership to match the talent that dots their roster.

So would it be fair to say that Syracuse is better than what many people initially thought?

I think people were unfair to teams like Syracuse, Maryland, Notre Dame. Obviously, when you lose leadership and senior talent, there’s going to be some adjustment. But Syracuse is Syracuse for a reason. I think Syracuse is better defensively. I think [junior defenseman] Brian Megill is very good, I think [sophomore defenseman] Matt Harris is very good. Their goaltender situation though – no team has won a national championship with two goalies since Princeton [in 1998], and those Princeton teams were pretty special when you consider the offensive and defensive talent that they possessed. So I think they need to solve their goalie situation. I think Syracuse needs midfielders. [Junior] JoJo Marasco is a good player, but is he a marquee guy? I’m not sold. When you look at a guy like [redshirt freshman] Hakeem Lecky, [you see] lightning-bolt quickness, and he scored a goal on Sunday, but he disappears for stretches. [Senior] Bobby Eilers is a player who needs to step up. I had Virginia by three in that game and they won the game by four. I was impressed with Syracuse’s grittiness and their ability to hang with Virginia, but this is a re-loading year for Syracuse. We always talk about Duke being that team that struggles in February and March. Syracuse can fit that bill, too. They might not show up in the win-loss column, but always by May, Syracuse is a much better team than they were in mid-March, and I think this Syracuse team will fit that bill.

What has been the biggest surprise thus far?

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