So many of the plays down the stretch of this game typified exactly why this season has gone the way its gone for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team, who were officially eliminated from postseason consideration on Saturday following their absolute gut-punch loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 14-13.
For the second game in a row, ‘Cuse had their hearts ripped out after taking a one-goal lead late in the fourth quarter, only to have that lead and the win taken away with a pair of later goals from their opponent. This time, no overtime required.
Jakob Phaup dominated face-offs all day but lost the last four of the game when winning just one more might have made the difference. And then, there was the play that exemplified the one-step-forward, one-step-back nature of this season.
Redshirt freshman defender Nick Caccamo made a great play by picking Jacob Kelly’s pass clean out of the air. He turned up field and quickly spotted Brendan Curry offering support over midfield. Perhaps a little too lackadaisically, he lofted a pass that was too high for Curry, who got a stick on it but wasn’t able to keep it in bounds. In a matter of seconds, the Orange had made a potentially game-winning play, and then turned it back over before ‘Cuse fans even had a chance to finish celebrating.
With 90 seconds to go, the Tar Heels re-took possession of the ball and turned it into two last-minute goals to send SU packing on both the game and their season. If you truly do have to learn how to win, then Syracuse is learning a lot of tough lessons this year.
The offense was inconsistent as it has been all season in this game, looking inept at times and on point at others. The Orange went on three separate runs that made up almost all their scoring in this game of 4-1, 4-1 and 4-0.
Defensively, the lack of communication on slides and rotations was as bad for much of this day as we’ve seen it all season, and was responsible for a large portion of UNC’s goals on the day. The net minders were an important difference in this game, as well. Carolina’s Collin Krieg had a huge day with 18 saves, while Bobby Gavin and Harrison Thompson combined to make just five.
For SU, Brendan Curry (3G, 2A), Tucker Dordevic (3G, 1A) and Jackson Birtwistle (3G) all recorded hat tricks, while Owen Seebold (2G, 1A) and Jacob Buttermore (1G, 1A) also had multi-point days. Jakob Phaup won 18-of-30 face-offs, but couldn’t answer the bell at the end.
UNC scores twice late to top ‘Cuse.— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) April 16, 2022
Two straight home games up next. pic.twitter.com/zluZRKMjJU
It was a tale of two quarters in the first half of this game. After scoring the opening goal on a nice shot from Jacob Buttermore just 45 seconds in, the Orange let in five in a row to end the quarter down 5-1 and looking completely out of it. A string of bad mistakes on defense and the clear game combined with some bad luck conspired to put SU at a deficit.
But the tides turned in the second, as the Orange defense tightened up and the offense found the net. Dordevic scored on a pair of beautiful jump shots, Owen Seebold beat a SSDM from X, and Brendan Curry scored on a nice catch and shoot right at the end of the half to complete a 4-1 quarter. Somewhat miraculously, SU found themselves down only 6-5 at the break despite a pretty poor half of lacrosse.
The third quarter continued the game of runs as the swiss cheese defense returned to give up a 4-0 run that put the Tar Heels up, 10-5. Once again, the Orange made a run by closing the quarter with three straight to make it 10-8 going to the fourth.
After trading goals early in the fourth, ‘Cuse scored four straight goals, aided by a two-minute unreleasable UNC penalty, to take the 13-12 lead with 2:16 to play on Curry’s laser-beam goal. But the Tar Heels had all the fortune in the final two minutes, and emerged with the win in the makeshift elimination game between the two ACC foes.
The Orange will be back in action next week, with nothing but pride on the line, as they host the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, April 23 at 4 PM on ESPN U.