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Syracuse 12 - UNC 11 (OT): The Orange win on the back of Stephen Rehfuss’ late game push

The Syracuse Orange battled back from a 10-5 deficit to beat the North Carolina Tar Heels in overtime and secure its number one ranking for a second week.

2013 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championships - Semifinals - Syracuse v Denver Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Holy crap. Say whatever you want about this team, but don’t say they’re not entertaining!

This has been, by far, the most exciting Syracuse lacrosse season I’ve watched.

In the beginning, things were looking up. The Syracuse Orange got off to a hot 4-1 start with goals from Paolo Ciferri, Ryan Simmons and a pair of netters from Sergio Salcido. But that’s when things took a turn.

With 2:30 left in the first, Simmons scored the final goal of the 4-1 run, SU would not score until 10:30 in the third period. A bad second quarter?! Yes, I know, it’s been something they’ve dealt with all season long, but it didn’t stop there. Syracuse had just one goal through 27:47 of play leading to a 9-1 Carolina run.

Throughout the first three periods we saw the worst of the Syracuse defense. Poor slides from the midfield, bad crease defense, losing the one-on-one battles. For a unit that had so little hype coming into the year, especially with the loss of Nick Mellen, this defense has, up until this game been outstanding. Today, however, it seemed like they were a little groggy.

In goal, Evan Molloy had maybe his worst game of the year. He made six saves on the day but let in several bad goals including one of the deeper goals I’ve seen this year from William Perry.

For me, two goals stick in my mind regarding the defensive breadowns, and they were back-to-back Luke Goldstock tallys. The first goal came with Goldstock behind cage. The Orange had him hung up behind net while SU appeared to be in a zone. Goldstock took a step towards the right side of the net, getting the SU long-pole to bite and slide below gle. Goldstock then reversed and cut towards the left side of the net where Joe Gillis stood. Gillis appeared to be in the process of checking to see if there was a back door cut coming right as Goldstock cut up to the net. Either way Gillis didn’t get to him in time and Goldstock wrapped it around near-side low on Molloy. On the second, Austin Pifani picked up a groundball in the defensive zone and took it coast to coast where he found Goldstock just of the crease. Marcus Cunningham over-slid and Goldstock dipped underneath him for an easy opportunity on the crease. Things just weren’t clicking for this unit all day.

All that being said, the offense was not immune to its problems, the biggest of which was the inability to properly back up shots. First of all, if no one on your team is behind cage, don’t shoot it unless you know your going to put it on the net. Additionally, we saw this group have trouble playing pass and catch. SU finished the day with 41 shots, 23 of which were on net and two goals on three extra man opportunities.

With 5:26 to go in the third period, William Perry got a very deep shot to go on Molloy. I have to say at this point, I really thought that would be the dagger to stamp out any SU emotion. But as we’ve seen before from this team, they don’t quit. Following Perry’s goal, Syracuse was able to get back-to-back goals from Nate Solomon and Peter Dearth to give UNC a 10-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The fourth began with two massive hits from Syracuse long-poles, the second of which found Andrew Helmer destroying Luke Goldstock and putting him on the turf hard. Helmer has shown throughout the year that he is a very tough guy and has no problem dishing out some physical hits when he needs to. Neither hit was called but Syracuse did receive a delay of game penalty on the play. The Orange went man-down for thirty seconds and gave up a Tanner Cook goal as he sat on the top of the crease and got a pass from Luke Goldstock behind cage to make it 11-7 with 12:49 to go in the game.

The North Carolina Tar Heels would not score again in the game.

Two mintues later, Stephen Rehfuss caught his defensive shorty slipping on the turf as he faked him out. Rehfuss found Nick Mariano on the opposite crease for a nice goal to make it 11-8, UNC. Mariano had a somewhat slow game with just two goals on eight shots.

Under a minute later, it was Rehfuss again. He dodged from the alley, easily speeding past his short stick defender and going right to the goal to bring Syracuse within two goals.

At 4:57 to go in the game, guess who… Stephen Rehfuss dodging from behind the cage and coming up and around on a high arc getting a low-to-low shot to go past Brian Balkam to put Syracuse down 11-10.

With Syracuse down one goal, Paolo Ciferri went coast-to-coast driving straight to the net and going low on Balkam to tie the game at 11. No UNC defenseman stepped up to take him on, he just rolled right on through the zone. Balkam made one final, incredible kick save to prevent a Syracuse win in regulation and force the overtime.

To start the overtime period, Stephen Kelly violated on the faceoff giving SU the ball. With 3:06 to go and no shots having been taken, the Orange nearly lost the ball above the restraining line. Nate Solomon grabbed the ball, was pushed by Austin Pifani and then slammed in the back by Jack Lambert. The referees actually called Lambert for a push with possession, but upon second look it appeared that Solomon did not have the ball. Nevertheless, the ‘Cuse went on a 30 second man-up, and they took advantage.

Passing the ball around the top of the box, the Orange got it to Matt Lane in the near side, top corner. Lane reversed it back to Brendan Bomberry at the top of the box who hit Brad Voigt. Voigt took one step like he might take a shot and instead turned and hit Sergio Salcido. The senior wound up and took a rocket of a side arm shot from the wing, hitting nothing but nylon.

Syracuse, once again, won in overtime, beating the North Carolina Tar Heels 12-11.