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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Orange drop overtime heartbreaker to Duke, 14-13

That one hurt.

Duke v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

A game of runs and swings swung against the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team on the final play of the game on Sunday in the JMA Dome, where freshman Charles Balsamo scored on an alley dodge in overtime to give the Duke Blue Devils a 14-13 win in a classic ACC slugfest.

The loss is SU’s third in a row and drops them to 3-3 on the season and 0-2 in ACC play.

Will Mark had one of the best games you will ever see a goalie have, making an unbelievable 27 saves to help keep his team in the game as he and his defense were under pressure all evening long. In the end, it was a ball that sailed over his right shoulder off the stick of Balsamo that sent the Orange deeper into their losing skid.

The biggest culprit in this game of runs for SU was a third quarter swoon that saw the Blue Devils score six straight goals to take the game from a 10-6 Orange lead to a 12-10 Duke lead. ‘Cuse recovered with a 3-1 fourth quarter, including two goals to tie it up in the final three minutes, to send the game to overtime.

In the extra frame, Mark made a pair of saves on Duke’s opening possession to give the ball to his offense with a chance to win it. But it wasn’t the strongest possession, ending with a Jackson Birtwistle bouncer off a right alley dodge that was gobbled up by Duke goalie William Helm. The Blue Devils came right down and scored easily on the ensuing possession.

In this game of momentum swings, the big story for SU continues to be the face-off situation and how it’s putting the Orange in a very difficult spot to win lacrosse games.

With Duke’s Jake Naso completely dominating ‘Cuse’s Johnny Richiusa and Jack Fine, for the most part, to the tune of a 21-9 advantage on restarts, the Orange were behind the eight ball all game long.

As a result of the face-offs, Duke completely dominated the ground ball game, 40-24, and more than doubled them up on total shots (I don’t have the exact number, but it was something like low 60s to around 30).

When you’re getting killed on ball possession statistics like that, you’re in an untenable situation when it comes to beating good lacrosse teams. Sure, you can hold them off like ‘Cuse did for two and a half quarters in this game (with a lot of help from the pipe; something like 12-13 Duke shots rung the bell in this one), but eventually, that possession disadvantage will catch up to you unless you don’t make any mistakes.

But when you do make mistakes, as any young team is bound to do, like turning the ball over or taking a bad shot, you’re done for. When you look at it like that, it’s kind of amazing the Orange sent this game to overtime and kept it close at all.

Cole Kirst (4G, 1A) had his best game in a Syracuse uniform to lead the offense with five points. Jackson Birtwistle (3G) had a hat trick, and Alex Simmons (2G, 1A), Owen Hiltz (1G, 2A), and Joey Spallina (1G, 2A) all finished with three points. Finn Thomson (1G, 1A) added two points, including the man-up goal that sent the game to overtime.

Defensively, the Orange made a change by moving Saam Olexo down to close defense and switching him with Nick Caccamo at LSM. It could be an interesting move if they stick with it. I thought the energy was much better defensively in this game, and the defense had a better showing overall. They really need the help to take some pressure off them possession-wise. Wouldn’t that be nice.

The Orange will be back in action next weekend for their rivalry clash with the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays on a day when the program will honor Mike Powell by retiring his No. 22 jersey. The game is set for Saturday, March 11 at 4 PM on ACC Network Extra.