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Syracuse Men's Lacrosse: Orange Kept Their Cool Amidst the Panic

After arguably their worst first half of the entire season, the Syracuse men's lacrosse team came out and dominated the second half, securing their place in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. How did they do it? By keeping calm.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The nature of a single elimination tournament is that it causes you to live and die with every critical moment. You're on top of the world when your team makes a play, and you're in the depths of despair when they commit an error or the other team makes a play.

For fans of the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team, the first half of their 11-9 victory over the Albany Great Danes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament provided the perfect storm of doomsday fears.

We watched, bemused, as Ben Williams went 0-for-5 on face-offs in the first quarter.

We freaked out as Syracuse struggled to get shots off and went scoreless for over 22 minutes in the half.

We stared at the field (or television) in shock as Connor Fields stole the ball straight out of Evan Molloy's stick and proceeded to score on an open net to give Albany the 6-2 lead that they would carry into halftime, just as it appeared the Orange were about to build some momentum.

We lost our minds with worry about a season that had shown so much promise in the past month, with exciting victories over North Carolina (twice) and Duke, going up in smoke in a matter of two hours to upstate rival Albany on our home turf.

It elicited nightmarish flashbacks to the Army and Bryant first round defeats from 2010 and 2014, respectively. Was Syracuse about to suffer another devastating, shocking, premature season's end in the confines of the Carrier Dome?

Inside the Syracuse locker room, however, it was a different kind of story.

"You look at the scoreboard at halftime and realize this is it. You've got to do something here," redshirt junior midfielder Sergio Salcido said after the game. "And we all stepped up and made plays."

With 30 minutes remaining to save their season, the Syracuse Orange sat in their locker room and game planned just like they always do. There was no feeling of panic because they needed to overcome a four goal halftime deficit or their season would end. They knew exactly what they needed to do. They discussed it at the half, and they came out and executed their way into the quarterfinals.

"It was great that our guys came in at halftime and were able to turn it around, and, kind of, reverse the halves by winning some face-offs in the second half," said head coach John Desko. "I think we took 13 shots in the third quarter, and put the pressure back on them."

In fact, Syracuse took 18 shots in the third quarter, six more than they took in the entire first half. That is just one example of the ways in which the Orange came out and completely turned the tables on the Great Danes in the second half.

Perhaps the best embodiment of Syracuse's composed attitude was the face-off man Williams, who failed in his first five attempts at doing his job. He was struggling so much that plenty of fans were probably calling for him to be replaced by Cal Paduda after the first quarter. In the post-game press conference, Ben had this to say about his early-game performance:

"It's just five face-offs. I just take one at a time. I don't like how they keep track of face-offs on the scoreboard, anyway, so I never even looked up. Just one at a time and we chipped away back at it."

If fans could have heard that thought process going through his mind at the time, they probably would have wanted to hear some more urgency in his voice. However, after his puzzlingly slow start, Ben went on to win 12-19 face-offs the rest of the game.

Pressured by a fan base wracked by the postseason failings of the last six years, John Desko and the Syracuse Orange kept their heads, remained calm, and got the job done. It's great that they know how to do that, but we'd all really appreciate it if they didn't wait until the start of the third quarter to start playing well against Maryland...