Breath easy, Syracuse lacrosse fans. For the second time in less than a week, the Syracuse Orange have survived a tight finish, this time sneaking past the Virginia Cavaliers by a score of 14-13 in their first road contest of the season. It was a big time win in a tough atmosphere for a largely inexperienced Syracuse team. In the process, the Orange moved to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in ACC play.
The Orange were lead offensively by a pair of five point games from Dylan Donahue and Tim Barber. Meanwhile, Derek DeJoe and Sergio Salcido each had four points, while Nick Mariano added a hat trick. Defensively, Brandon Mullins had a strong game causing three turnovers and picking up four ground balls. Goalie Warren Hill had his second straight career day, making a career high 13 saves.
Derek DeJoe opened up the score book on the night for Syracuse early when he took advantage of a short stick matchup, dodged towards goal and put one over the shoulder of Virginia goalie Matt Barrett. After an Orange penalty and an exchange of a few possessions, Syracuse used great ball movement around the Virginia defense that culminated in a lefty rocket from Dylan Donahue at the 7:11 mark of the first quarter. That was quickly followed by DeJoe's second of the quarter, which he deposited following some great hustle by Jordan Evans to cause a ground ball and a Virginia turnover. That put SU up 3-0 about nine minutes into the game.
However, Virginia scored five of the next six goals to take a 5-4 lead. The last five minutes of the first quarter and the first 10 minutes of the second quarter saw Syracuse lack any offensive rhythm, due primarily to the fact that they couldn't hold possession despite Ben Williams holding his usual edge at the face-off X. However, the Orange were able to regain their composure and close the half relatively well. After Virginia took their first lead of the game at 5-4, Syracuse closed the half on a 4-2 run to re-take the lead at halftime, 8-7.
Syracuse did three main things that defined their first half: (1) turned the ball over, (2) committed penalties, and (3) shot the ball well. At the half, the Orange had committed eight turnovers and and astonishing six penalties, all of which amounted to an uphill battle for maintaing possession. Thank goodness for the third thing, which was their first half shooting. Syracuse took only 15 shots in the first half, but they scored eight goals, which amounts to a fantastic shooting percentage of 53 percent. The Orange's first half sharp shooting not only kept them in the game, it had them in the lead at the half.
After Dylan Donahue and Virginia's AJ Fish traded goals to start the third quarter, Syracuse really opened things up for the first time. The Orange went on a 4-0 run which they finished off with Nick Mariano's goal with 14:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. This gave SU a 13-8 lead, the largest margin at any point in the game. That run saw two goals by Sergio Salcido and another by Derek DeJoe in addition to Mariano's.
But you didn't really think that Syracuse was going to coast to the finish line with a five goal lead, did you? After all, this is Syracuse-Virginia, one of the most closely contested rivalry series in the history of college lacrosse. Virginia wasn't about to surrender on their own home field like that.
The Cavaliers bounced right back with a 4-0 scoring run of their own, bringing the score to 13-12 with a little over eight minutes remaining in the game.
However, after Warren Hill made a big save with a little over seven minutes to go to keep the Orange up by one, Syracuse came down and scored the eventual game winner on a crazy scramble in front of cage.
It started with an ill-advised Derek DeJoe shot that Matt Barrett saved, but DeJoe was able to cause a turnover immediately on the clearance attempt, which Nick Mariano picked up and deposited into the net.
James Pannell added one more for Virginia to make it 14-13 with 38.6 seconds left, but that would be it for the scoring. Virginia had a violation on the ensuing face-off, and Syracuse was able to run the clock out without even having to use their final timeout, earning their first ACC win of the season.
The Orange will return to the field next Saturday, March 12th, when they face the St. John's Red Storm at 4 pm in the Carrier Dome. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN 3.