Syracuse, Denver coaches swap traditional styles of play, prepare to meet in final four

first_img Related Stories Syracuse seniors rejoice, reflect ahead of final fourQ&A with Syracuse legend Casey Powell Published on May 23, 2013 at 10:22 pm Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 PHILADELPHIA — John Desko and Bill Tierney’s chess matches have a certain ebb and flow. One team tries to get up and down the field, firing shots at a rapid pace. The other milks the clock and waits for the best opportunity to score.Desko’s teams are fond of the former — it’s how the legendary head coach has guided Syracuse to five national championships. Tierney’s stick to the latter — it’s what made him so successful at Princeton before heading to Denver.That’s usually how it goes — but not this year.“They do nothing the same as the teams of the past,” Tierney said. “That’s what’s so great about them, so unique about them. They’ve changed their outfit and it just shows what a great coach John Desko is.”The tactical matchup between Desko and Tierney will be the usual contrast of styles on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, but the roles will reverse. It’s Tierney’s No. 4-seeded Pioneers that boast one of the nation’s most lethal offenses. It’s Desko’s top-seeded Orange that features a clamp-down defense that has held opponents to single digits in six straight games.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd it’s a testament to Desko’s perhaps best-ever coaching job: Turning a team that usually runs up and down the field into one that controls the tempo and keeps a slower pace.“They’re one of the few teams you look at from front to back and there are no peaks and no valleys,” Tierney said.But the job Tierney’s done since arriving at UD rivals the one Desko has put together this season. Tierney took Denver from a middling program without much lacrosse history and turned it into one that is playing in its second final four since 2009 — which is also the last time SU appeared in the semifinal round.When Tierney first arrived at UD, he made a point to schedule Desko and Syracuse. The Pioneers usually got throttled.But along the way, Tierney has changed the way he coaches. No longer do his teams win the faceoff, hold the ball and shoot only when necessary.Now he’s taking a page out of Desko’s book, pushing the ball and running the offense at a cutthroat pace. No longer are blowout losses a usual occurrence.“I had more familiarity with Bill Tierney teams when they were in a Tiger uniform and it’s a different look,” Desko said. “It’s a different type of personnel than he’s had when he was at Princeton, and I’m just amazed at what a good job he’s done with a different university, different type players and how he’s changed the style of how they’re playing.”The Orange doesn’t need to do anything unusual to prepare for Denver. The high-speed style SU is used to occurs in practice more often than on game day this season, so Desko doesn’t need to change anything. The defense that has become arguably the best in the nation since the final weeks of the regular season goes up against an offense that can match DU’s speed every day during practice.“We never really have a settled practice,” Syracuse defender Brian Megill said. “When we scrimmage, we usually never blow the whistle, we get up and down.”The biggest change will be on Denver’s sideline. In each of the Pioneers’ first two NCAA tournament games, they faced a high-scoring Tewaaraton Trophy finalist. First, it was Albany attack Lyle Thompson, the nation’s leading scorer. Then it was North Carolina attack Marcus Holman, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring. The Orange features a Tewaaraton Award finalist of its own in midfielder JoJo Marasco, but he’s more a facilitator for SU’s deep offense than a go-to scorer.Marasco’s style of play is an unusual problem for Tierney to solve, and it’s led to Syracuse’s unusual style this season. No longer is there a Michael Powell or Gary Gait putting up 75 points — leave that to the Pioneers’ offense. It’s a different SU team than people are used to, but it has worked all the same.“You look at this group and you look at their scoring in some of their games,” Tierney said, “and some of their top players may not have a point in a game, but somebody else steps up. And that’s a credit to them.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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