The Syracuse Orange used a 5-1 run in the fourth quarter Saturday to defeat the Denver Pioneers, 9-8, in come-from-behind fashion in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia. Derek Maltz scored the game-winner off a rebound from a shot by Luke Cometti with 20 seconds remaining to help the top-seeded Orange (16-3) advance to the National Champions Game where No. 7-seeded Duke awaits. SU will be vying for its 12th National Championship in program history.
The Orange, who pulled off their 10th one-goal victory, trailed 7-4 heading into the final 15 minutes, however, like SU has done so many times this season it rallied in the closing moments.
The player behind the comeback was (who else?) senior midfielder JoJo Marasco, who dished out a pair of assists and scored a goal in the fourth quarter. Marasco's last assist came on a tally by Cometti, who scored on a slashing, quick-hitting, game-tying goal with 59 seconds to go.
Cometti's goal was a part of a three-goal run in the final 2 minutes, 35 seconds. The Pioneers (14-5) had a last-gasp chance to tie the game, but Syracuse's defense held tough in the closing seconds and the Orange moved on to the title game, a place SU hasn't been since 2009.
Marasco finished the game with two goals and three assists, while Cometti tallied a hat trick. Maltz added two goals, while Dylan Donahue and Scott Loy each scored a goal.
Denver, which ended the season 14-5, jumped out to a 3-0 advantage and led 5-2 at halftime thanks to an amazing first-half performance from goaltender Ryan LaPlante, who had 13 saves.
But sticking to his usual rotation, at the beginning of the second half Denver head coach Bill Tierney replaced LaPlante with Jame Faus. The decision may have cost the Pioneers a trip to the finals, as Faus made just four saves and allowed seven goals in the final 30 minutes.
Day 1 of the 2013 Lacrosse Final Four was fantastic, as earlier the Cornell Big Red nearly pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in college lacrosse history.
Trailing 14-7 to Duke entering the fourth quarter, the Big Red seemed dead but somehow came alive thanks to the NCAA's newest leading point getter, Rob Pannell. The senior scored two goals and dished out two assists to help Cornell close within a goal, 15-14. The rally fell just short after the Blue Devils scored with 49 seconds to go.
This will be the first time Syracuse and Duke will meet in the NCAA finals. The Blue Devils were last there in 2010 when they won the program's only National Championship. The Orange will be playing for the national crown for the 17th time in program history.
Monday's Memorial Day showdown will begin at 1 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.