Unexpected veteran presence Evan Molloy steadies Syracuse depleted defense

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first_img Published on February 22, 2017 at 7:13 pm Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+ What now constitutes as “experienced” on Syracuse’s defense is less than a year spent as a starter.Evan Molloy, a backup 10 months ago, now barks orders from the net as a grizzled guru. Injuries and graduation have forced the redshirt senior into the leadership position on a defense with a former fourth man, a fresh-faced sophomore and transitioning long-stick midfielder. Molloy has an approach manicured over years of goaltending: Be really, really loud.“I make my voice really deep,” Molloy said, speaking normally. “It doesn’t sound like this. I’m yelling at people. It’s intense.”Syracuse’s current defense — Tyson Bomberry, Marcus Cunningham and Scott Firman — combined for one start at their positions entering the year. But it’s the group Syracuse must roll with after preseason All-American defender Nick Mellen, who started all but one game last season, needed season-ending surgery.Albany exposed Syracuse’s new defensive line last Saturday like Siena never could with skip passes and quick rotations. Now, No. 6 Syracuse (2-0) needs Molloy to be the antidote for inexperience by preparing and directing teammates for when Army (2-1) visits the Carrier Dome on Saturday at noon.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“(Molloy) is very local, which helps our defense play well as a unit,” SU head coach John Desko said. “He’s like a quarterback out there. Communication is important. … He’s been the strength of our defense.”The coach now heaping high praise passed on starting Molloy last season but reversed his decision after eight games. Immediately, Desko noticed, defensive communication improved. The fluidity of slides, second slides and recovers increased. Syracuse’s clearing improved from 88 percent to 93. “He really turned some things around for us,” Desko said.Molloy transitioned into the larger role midseason, leaning on senior stalwarts Jay McDermott and Brandon Mullins. This season, roles reversed.“I love playing for Evan,” redshirt sophomore Cunningham said. “He bails you out all the time and he’s very vocal. …. Even though usually we are in a good spot, he’s always reminding you where you need to be.”Molloy, though, cannot communicate what he does not see. But therein lies his strength as a goaltender, he said. Because Jamie Molloy, his father, introduced him to lacrosse in Manhasset, New York, at age 5, Molloy said he often recognizes offensive sets and angles.He compares it to playing football and walking to the line of scrimmage. You can’t exactly explain how you know the defense will blitz, but you yell to alert your teammates anyway. The confidence to direct as Molloy did last season as a career backup comes from Jamie. His father holds the career saves record at SU and still says, according to Molloy, that he could play wide receiver in the NFL. Projecting unfailing confidence has been passed down and now signifies one of Molloy’s strongest traits.“It’s just my IQ,” Molloy said of his strength in net. “I’ve been playing the game since I was 5. … I’m just a good leader inherently. I’m in the net and (defenders) hear my voice, their ears perk up. ‘He’s telling me something I got to do.’ Then they realize someone’s wide open in the crease.”The vocal and fundamental soundness reminds ESPN lacrosse analyst Mark Dixon of other great Syracuse goalies, such as John Galloway and Jay Pfeifer. The 6-foot, 176-pound redshirt senior’s frame, read-and-react style and steadying influence fit the archetype.The Orange needs a calming presence now more than ever. The experience has already hurt Syracuse two games into the season with struggles against Albany. When SU faced a 6-1 hole against the Great Danes, Desko shifted lineups by rotating Austin Fusco and Andrew Helmer at long-stick midfielder and even subbed off Cunningham for true freshman Nick DiPietro in long spurts. The defense clamped down and didn’t allow a goal in the next 30:38 en route to a 10-9 win. But Desko credited Molloy and his four second-half saves to cool a scalding offense and play SU back into the game.The result didn’t surprised teammates. And Molloy even less. But they know it’s only the beginning of the defense’s transition. Impromptu adjustments require time to normalize and, until then, Molloy will push Syracuse forward with direction from behind.“I have the best view because (defenders) are all focused on their men,” Molloy said. “Their back might be turned, but I’m in the net. I can see everything.” Commentslast_img

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