Matt Lane’s 3-game skid ends against one of the nation’s top defenses
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
It took Matt Lane three games. Three games of high and wide shots. Three games of finding the net only once. Three games of struggling to find his place.
His lack of production prompted head coach John Desko to seek replacements. In the middle of his scoreless game against Army, Lane moved to the second midfield line. He rarely saw playing time late in the game. The following week of practice, Lane worked with the coaching staff to improve his dodges and shot selection.
Against Virginia, a division rival, Lane ended his skid.
The midfielder scored five points on a hat trick and a pair of assists. His 6-foot-6, 222-pound frame and powerful shot hadn’t challenged smaller defenders. For No. 6 Syracuse (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast), a player who rode the bench because he struggled finally capitalized on a short-stick defender — something he hadn’t done through three games. His four goals rank seventh on the team.
In SU’s first three games, Lane tried dodging but couldn’t create enough separation. In practice, he adjusted. Lane wanted to get to the goalie harder and draw more slides from the defense. He normally relied on his right hand. By using his left, he could create extra space.
“I feel like I’m mainly open when I go to my left,” Lane said. “I didn’t used to have a lot of confidence in my left and my right’s closer to my left than it used to be.”
Lane is dodging more north to south, which frees up his hands. Then he fires. If a defender slides to block off Lane’s path to the goal, he doesn’t try to force the shot.
“If I draw someone then I’ll move the ball before the slide comes,” Lane said.
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
Alongside All-American Sergio Salcido and SU’s goals leader, Brendan Bomberry, Lane gets paired with the third defensive midfielder, who uses a shorter stick, unlike the long-stick midfielder or longpoles on close defense. This allows Lane to use his body more, decreasing the likelihood of a turnover.
Lane’s height and strength make for a deadly combination when he dodges. His shots usually run high and come with more force than his teammates. Even when he winds up from the 30-yard line, goalies struggle to stop the hard shot.
“Matt’s going to get in his groove,” long-stick midfielder Austin Fusco said. “He’s gonna create some good matchups later on in the season and start sticking his shots.”
Against then-No. 9 Virginia on March 5, Lane broke out of his slump. His shot that kept missing high and wide finally hit nylon. And, late in the fourth quarter with Syracuse down one, Lane dodged. He couldn’t create space much the way he had in the previous games. But this time, he planted his foot, spun around and fired at the goal. The ball slid right under the stick of Will Railey and into the net.
If defenses let him roam free, he can use his hard shot from far out. He also can use his body as a distraction. On the last play of the game, when Salcido scored the game-winning goal, Salcido dodged around the big midfielder and created enough space to take an open shot. Lane set the pick that allowed Salcido to go one-on-one with the Virginia defender.
“Although he might not get the goal or the assist,” senior defenseman Scott Firman said, “he creates offense because their defense is sliding around. That ends usually in mistakes by the defense.”
Lane isn’t the main scoring option. There are four other offensive players with more experience than him. The rest of the season, Lane plans to focus on dodging, developing his left hand and creating enough space to get off his shot.
“He’s got an incredible shot,” Salcido said. “We just need him to use it.”
Published on March 6, 2017 at 11:38 pm