When looking at both these teams it has been a tale of attempting to exceed expectations. Syracuse was only expected to finish 4th in the Atlantic with 33 points in the pre-season while Virginia was projected to finish last in the Coastal with 21 points. Neither side received any first-place votes for their division nor did they get any recognition when projecting the overall champion. The Orange find themselves ranked #3 and are off to their best start since 2016 with their 7-0-1 record while the Cavaliers have a 5-3 record including a nail-biter against Notre Dame where Virginia tied it up in the 89th minute and the Irish won it in the 90th.
The challenge coming into this one for Virginia is that they have played all but one game at home and their one road game was a trip to Audi Field in D.C where #9 Maryland embarrassed them 6-1. The positive comes in when looking at the Cavalier attack. This team has outscored opponents 20-11 and are averaging 2.5 goals per game. Kome Ubogu and Leo Afonso have combined for 9 of those 20 goals and were two players the Orange had to game plan for. This team also gets a lot of shots off and are outshooting opponents 17.1-7.6 shots per game.
These two teams are a bit conflicting considering the defense of the Orange is a major strong suit having only conceded two goals this season. Christian Curti has been labeled as the best player so far this season by Coach McIntyre and he alongside Abdi Salim and Buster Sjoberg have held down the backline. Russell Shealy has also established himself as one of the best keepers in the country in the early going. Offensively coming in this team is no slouch either as they average a similar 17.0 shots per game to Virginia. The Orange are fairly efficient on the attack as well considering they put nearly 42 percent of their shots on goal. The attack has been led by Levonte Johnson and Nathan Opoku who both have 3 goals and 4 assists with many of those assists feeding each other.
There are quite a few players to keep your eye on with two talented sides like Syracuse and Virginia. For Syracuse watch out Jeorgio Kocevski. He has added the goal scoring aspect to his game in the last week scoring against both Clemson and Colgate. For Virginia look for someone outside of Ubogu and Afonso to step up tonight. Daniel Mangarov and Philip Horton both have two goals this year while Mangarov has two assists.
A final note is to watch #10 Clemson and #1 Wake Forest. If Syracuse can handle business tonight, then it would not be a stretch to see the Orange jump to #2 considering the Pac-12 is just not as strong this year. Current #2 Washington has not had a difficult schedule thus far while Syracuse has beaten the defending national and defending ACC champions. A Clemson win over Wake Forest could propel Syracuse to #1 if all goes well.