Despite a slow start and a stingy Cornell defense, the No. 7/8 Syracuse Orange buckled down and used a strong second half performance to push past the the no. 11/12 Big Red on Tuesday night, 11-8.
Syracuse improved its record to 13-4 on the season, and now Louisville is all that stands between the Orange and a No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament next week. Cornell drops to 10-3 overall and will face recent SU opponents Princeton and Harvard to close out their regular season.
The first half went back and forth as Cornell pulled ahead time after time, while Syracuse would play catch-up for the entire half. Cornell drew first blood a little over a minute into the game when Sarah Phillips took an Amie Dickson feed, cut across the middle and fired one past goalie Asa Goldstock. The Orange started sloppy and had a number of dropped balls and missed passes in the first five minutes of the game despite having most of the possesion time at this point in the contest.
However, Syracuse would continue to attack, sending several shots at Cornell goalie Renee Poullott but came up empty. Cornell had several consecutive failed clear attempts and the Orange took advantage. Syracuse tied it up at the 22:46 mark when Devon Parker (who would wind up having a huge night) swung in from the left side of the goal, faked high and put it low past Poulott to get SU on the board 1-1.
Two minutes later, the Big Red took the lead again when Taylor Reed pumped a free position shot over Goldstock's right shoulder to give the Big Red a 2-1 advantage, but Syracuse would respond as the 1st half wound down towards the halfway point. Cornell's Catie Smith received a yellow card and the Orange made the most of it on the man-down situation 30 seconds later. At the 17:48 mark Natalie Wallon got a feed from Emily Hawryschuk in front of the goal and snuck it over Poullott's right shoulder.
It took the Big Red only 35 seconds to regain the lead. Once again, Reed had a free position opportunity and it was a literal repeat of her score a several minutes before. Cornell extended the lead a little over a minute later when Catherine Ellis received the feed from Dickson to make it a 4-2 game with 16:04 left in the half. Although the Orange continued to have problems solving the Cornell defense, Wallon came up big again at the 14:32 mark when she cut in, got the pass from Alie Jimerson and put it in the upper corner to cut the lead to 4-3.
For the next nine minutes, both teams' defenses locked it down and neither side could gain an advantage. Cornell had a 90 second shot clock violation at the 8:30 mark and came close to another one with 5:03 left when Phillips managed to find Kristy Gilbert in the middle. With six seconds left on the shot clock, Gilbert rifled it past Goldstock in the upper right corner and the Big Red again had a two goal lead at 5-3.
It was at this point that the game started to swing in the Orange's favor. Just 44 seconds later, Riley Donahue elected to pass on a free position attempt and found Parker standing just to the right of the net. Parker dumped it past Poullott and the Orange were back to a one goal game trailing 5-4.
This set up what was definitely the most entertaining goal of the game. With less than 10 seconds left, Neena Merola's shot on goal bounced off of Poullott's foot and the ball dribbled into off towards Donahue, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. In one quick motion, Donahue scooped it up and popped it past a surprised and unprepared Poullott (who was still facing in the direction of Merola) to tie the game at 5-5 with only six seconds left in the half.
The Orange made adjustments at the half and came out swinging. Just 50 seconds in, Donahue found Parker cutting in. Parker got the pass, bounced it in for her third goal of the game and Syracuse had its first lead of the evening at 6-5.
Syracuse regained the lead for good at the 22:25 mark when Mary Rahal found Jimerson next to the goal on the left side. Jimerson fired the ball into the upper right corner and the Orange were back on top 7-6. SU then opened the game up about four minutes later with a three goal run in a little over a minute to extend the lead to 10-6 with 16:58 left.
After Cornell scored on a free position goal about a minute later, the Orange finished Senior Night in a fitting fashion. Parker, a senior, picked up a ground ball behind the goal and passed it to fellow senior reserve midfielder Tori Wehner. Wehner rifled a shot past Poullott for her third goal of the season to give SU an 11-7 lead. They’d win 11-8.
Parker and Donahue would both wind up with 5 points (3 g/2 a and 2 g/3 a respectively). Jimerson had 2 goals and an assist, while Wallon netted a pair of goals. Rahal added a goal and an assist, Wehner had a goal and Hawryschuk had an assist.
The Tide Turns: Donahue's scoop shot right before the half definitely give the Orange a huge momentum boost going into the half. This and Parker's goal 50 seconds into the 2nd half started the ball rolling for Syracuse. Cornell never really recovered from that one/two punch.
Defense I: While it was a defensive brawl for much of the contest, I think Cornell was most effective in first 25 minutes of the game. SU had a hard time during that period to get a good shot off due to the Big Red plugging the lanes and getting good stick checks to cause turnovers.
The exact opposite happened in the 2nd half with Syracuse putting up a very stout defense and caused numerous problems with the Big Red attack. There were a number of times where Cornell turned the ball over due to effective stick checks by the Orange.
Defense II: Goalies. You can't mention defense without the goalies and oh boy did both Goldstock and Poullott put on a clinic Tuesday night. Goldstock gave up eight goals, but had 11 saves and added two caused turnovers to boot. Poullott came into the game as one of the nation's best and she proved that tonight with 11 goals given up but had an astounding 14 saves. Many of the saves on both ends were point blank shots that could have and probably should have been goals in other circumstances. In the end, the sheer number of shots by the Orange (34-24 in favor of the Cuse) were too much for the senior goalie to stop.
Offense, or how do you handle a Hydra?: Right now, SU has 10 different people who can step up and score goals, and that's not counting Nicole Levy, who is still out due to an injury in the Loyola game. Cornell did a good job containing Hawryschuk all night and she really couldn't get any shots off the entire game. Instead, Parker, Donahue, Jimerson and Wallon picked it up and had big nights instead. Take one player out of the equation and two or three more pop up and take over. If Syracuse can continue with their momentum, this offense will be a nightmare to stop in the postseason.
Draw controls: Morgan Widner struggled in this game (Coach Gary Gait mentioned her not feeling well in the post-game presser), but still managed to snag seven of the 11 SU draw controls (Cornell would get 10 total for the game). It looked like the Big Red opted to stick check her once she got it and it was pretty effective as she had 4 turnovers. It's nonetheless impressive that she only played for roughly half the game and still managed to get two-thirds of SU's draw controls.
Yellow Cards: Syracuse came into the game averaging two a game to Cornell's one and that's exactly what happened in this game. The Orange scored on their man-up opportunity while Cornell could not take advantage of either Syracuse yellow card (admittedly, one of these happened with about 20 seconds left in the game).
Other Accolades: Hawryschuk and Goldstock were named the ACC Offensive and Defensive Players of the week due to their performance against North Carolina. Goldstock also grabbed the Rookie and Player of the week awards from Inside Lacrosse. It's the second week in a row that a Syracuse player has been awarded as Hawryschuk had the rookie of the week award last week from Inside Lacrosse as well.