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Syracuse men’s lacrosse lets big first half lead slip away in 16-15 overtime loss to Cornell

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In the first game between the Upstate rivals in three years, the Orange came away with a crushing overtime defeat that puts them on the brink of postseason elimination.

2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - First Round

For about a half of lacrosse inside the Carrier Dome on Monday night, the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team looked like they were on their way to turning in their best performance of the season.

That feeling evaporated as the night wore on, and the home team Orange let a big early lead slip away against the Cornell Big Red, as they fell in overtime, 16-15.

After jumping out to big leads in the first half of 4-0, 6-1 and 10-4, SU led 11-6 at halftime. It was a tale of two halves, however, as the Big Red owned the second half, outscoring ‘Cuse 10-4 after the break.

It was a truly crushing loss for the Orange, even by this season’s standards.

Late in the fourth quarter of a game the Big Red had stormed back to tie at 14 all, a Brendan Curry wing dodge helped initiate some quick ball movement that ended with Tucker Dordevic finding twine on a snipe from distance. That score gave the Orange the lead with 1:45 left to play, but after a Cornell timeout, the Big Red tied the game on a bad, premature slide across the crease by Nick Caccamo that left Michael Long wide open on the far side of the goal for a slam dunk finish to tie the game with 23 seconds left.

The Orange would not see the ball again. Cornell won the overtime face-off and, after a timeout, found Hugh Kelleher open with room to set his feet and fire the game-winner past Bobby Gavin.

For the Syracuse defense, “wide open with time and room” became a theme for the Cornell shooters on this night. Bad decisions in the slide game and poor off ball defense led to far too many open looks for the Big Red, and nothing was more head-scratching than the number of times CU leading goal scorer John Piatelli found himself wide open for chances. Piatelli is a great goal scorer, but the Orange defense made it easy for him to get to his six goals by forgetting he existed most of the night.

Offensively, the first half was a dream for SU. They scored 11 goals and showed off their depth more than they had all season with nine players scoring those goals, many of which were of the spectacular variety.

In the second half, Cornell largely switched to a zone defense for which the Orange came up short on answers. They mostly struggled versus the zone to find the same good looks they did in the first half, only scoring four goals in the second 30 minutes.

Brendan Curry led the way with five points on four goals and an assist, including a pair of long-range snipes from up top against the Cornell zone. Tucker Dordevic started slowly but ended up with a hat trick, while Jackson Birtwistle turned some heads with a pair of beautiful first quarter goals. Six other players scored for the nine total goal scorers.

In many ways, this game was a microcosm of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Syracuse’s season. They’ve had a few ups, and a lot of downs. There have been some positive signs about this team and, more importantly, the future of this team; and then there have been many more head-in-hands moments that have reminded us that this team just isn’t ready for the kind of success we all want them to have. They will get there, I believe that. But just not yet.

Syracuse will be back in action this weekend when they head down to Chapel Hill for their final road trip of the season in what is literally a must-win game if they are going to qualify for the NCAA tournament. They play the No. 15 North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, April 16 at 4 PM on ESPN U.