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Syracuse 13 - UNC 7: SU Lacrosse Fights Through Third Quarter Scare

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I saw this game going very differently, but kudos to the Syracuse Orange for taking home a must-win game against the North Carolina Tar Heels to secure an ACC Tournament spot.

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I did not see this coming. The Syracuse Orange took down the North Carolina Tar Heels 13-7 in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, giving SU a marquee win for its tournament resume.

The Orange came into the game after a disheartening loss to the Cornell Big Red earlier in the week, but with its post-season hopes on the line, SU delivered.

Evan Molloy got the start in net for the third straight game, replacing the embattled Warren Hill. Molloy had some fantastic saves throughout the game, totaling nine with seven goals against, and he set the tempo early. After making a save with just over a minute into the game, Molloy sent the Orange into a fast-paced clear that led to a Tim Barber, in transition, goal (1-0 SU). Molloy was able to make another huge, point-blank stop on Luke Goldstock, but the Heels came back with a goal from midfielder Michael Tagliaferri who had four on the day (1-1). The Orange responded and less than a minute later it was Sergio Salcido dodging from the top right of the box (2-1 SU). Carolina did tie it up again with another score from Tagliaferri, but it would be the last tie of the game (2-2). With 3:51 remaining in the quarter, Salcido hit the net while on the run, sending the Orange on a 6-0 run leaving UNC scoreless for a 7:42 stretch (3-2 SU). Salcido had a huge day with three goals and two assists, tying a game high of five points alongside Dylan Donahue. SU got one more tally in the first quarter after Nick Mariano hit a laser from deep (4-2 SU).

The Orange looked uncharacteristically good on defense through the first quarter. The long-poles gave up barely any looks or passes on the inside while the slides were crisp.

SU looked to extend its 4-2 lead in the second quarter and it didn't take long. In an unsettled situation, with three defenders on the far-side of the field going after Kevin Donahue, Joe Gillis streaked down the near-side, unguarded, and grabbed the pass from Donahue to hit the easy goal (5-2 SU). Molloy was able to get a great stop on Chris Cloutier from about 8 yards off the crease and it simply felt like Syracuse's day. Gillis' goal was one of four in the second period as the Orange held UNC scoreless for the entire 15 minutes. With SU on the man-up following a holding call on Carolina, Tim Barber cut above the top of the crease, grabbed a pass from Donahue and buried the shot (6-2 SU). Just over three minutes later it was Mariano with a blast from ten yards out to keep the run going (7-2 SU). Dylan Donahue got his only goal on an EMO with a quick turn-and-shoot goal after a pass from Salcido (8-2 SU). Syracuse went 0-4 on the man-up against Cornell but finished 2-2 against UNC.

Syracuse went into the half with a very unexpected 8-2 lead. It was a combination of strong defensive stands and lengthy SU possessions where the Orange were able to capitalize that resulted in the lead. Through its first nine goals against Virginia last week, UNC had nine different goal scorers, but through the first half of Saturday's game Michael Tagliaferri was the only Tar Heel with a goal. At the faceoff X, Ben Williams took seven of 12 in the first half. Williams and Stephen Kelly really went at it, and it looked like a very even matchup. Williams finished with 16 wins out of 24 attempts. SU took 23 shots in the first half and it could have been even uglier midway through the game. A lot of credit should go to Brian Balkam who made seven saves in the first half and ten on the day.

The only quarter in which the Orange did not put up four goals was in the third. The Syracuse fan base certainly felt uneasy throughout the quarter as SU was outscored 4-1, and memories of late game collapses against Duke and Johns Hopkins easily came to the forefront. Luke Goldstock stopped the bleeding for UNC just over a minute into the half, grabbing a loose ball in front of the net and quickly sending it past Molloy (8-3 SU). Derek DeJoe took a two-step rip from the wing after some nice outside passing to get him open (9-3 SU). UNC went on to put away back-to-back-to-back goals to end the quarter leaving SU extremely nervous (9-6 SU).

Coming into the fourth, Syracuse had seen two six goal leads shrunk to just a three goal advantage. A fourth straight goal from Tagliaferri didn't make anyone feel better (9-8). With SU on the verge of another major collapse, the Orange got four straight goals to finish out the game. Attackman Jordan Evans kicked off the run with a transition goal following a failed Carolina clear (a clear which was kicked off after an Evans' turnover) (10-7 SU). Several minutes later Nick Weston hit one from deep for his third of the year (11-7 SU). As time ticked down, my stomach began to settle and two goals within a minute of each other from Nick Mariano and Evans sealed the deal (13-7 SU). Evans' second goal of the game was a beautiful behind the back score, but he did have three turnovers throughout the day though.

You have to hand it to this team. On the verge of being counted out, with a big time opponent coming into town, they responded with a decisive victory. The Orange will take on the Binghamton Bearcats at 7 PM in the Carrier Dome Wednesday for the final game before the ACC Tournament. With the win today, Syracuse has secured a spot in the ACCT, but its seeding is still very much up in the air.