The Syracuse Orange fell to the Towson Tigers 10-7 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday. It was an underwhelming end to a fantastic season for this SU squad.
With the Syracuse loss, this is the first time since 2004 when the ACC will not be represented at Championship Weekend.
First, I have to give credit where credit is due. Towson’s defense was suffocating. The Tigers gave up one goal and one assist to the best midfield tandem in the country of Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano. In net, Matt Hoy stood on his head all day with 12 saves, many of which were absolutely spectacular. Offensively, Joe Seider killed it from deep with four goals.
Such a disappointing game from a team that’s been so much fun to watch. The issues were many for this team today but personally it looked like the Orange never really had their heads in the game. We saw mistake after mistake all day. But how about this, Towson had seven extra man opportunities and four more man-up minutes than the Orange. A couple of them were deserved, but I have to say the only people who had a worse game than Syracuse were the referees. That being said, SU didn’t help themselves going 0-4 on the extra man opportunities.
If you watched the game, you may have noticed that Mariano’s name was rarely mentioned. For the second time this year, and the second time in the last three games, the senior went scoreless. We knew all year long that if Mariano became invisible in a game, the Orange were going to have trouble, and today that happened.
At the faceoff X, Ben Williams went .500, taking 10 of 20 duels. However, Williams was bested in the first quarter as Alex Woodall took five of seven.
On a positive note, it looks like Syracuse has found its distributer for next season. Stephen Rehfuss picked up four assists and although he didn’t have a goal, I’ve been more and more impressed by him in every game this year.
The first half was all Towson with six goals in the first and two in the second. Evan Molloy, who had his best game of the year last week, faltered in the first 30 minutes. The senior had 12 saves on the day, but didn’t really play his best until the second half.
After going up 2-0, the teams went back to the faceoff X. Off of the draw, Luke Shwasnick absolutely demolished Alex Woodall putting a high crosscheck into Woodall’s head. Easily one of the worst hits I’ve seen all year. Woodall hit the deck hard with the whistles blowing while Schwasnick got up and pumped his fist. For the hit, Syracuse took a 2 minute non-releasable crosschecking to the head penalty. For me, this absolutely highlighted Syracuse’s mental state on the day.
It was an absolutely well deserved penalty the result of which was another Joe Seider goal from deep on the man-up to put Towson up 3-0.
Not long after, Syracuse picked up a pair of flags on a Towson clear after SU turned the ball over. The refs called a push and a slash giving the Tigers a 2-man advantage for 30 seconds. After the play was called dead, the Towson and Syracuse benches went at it a bit with Salcido right in the middle of the action. The benches were warned and play continued.
Towson once again capitalized on the extra-man situation with Seider sending a bounce shot past Molloy to go up 4-0. A little over a minute later it was Matt Wylly with another goal from a distance. Wylly’s goal was assisted by Ryan Drenner who distributed from behind cage. With 13 seconds in the quarter Seider hit his third goal of the game beating Joe Gillis, who got burned several times on Sunday, as he wrapped around the cage to give Towson the 6-0 lead.
All day the Tigers played its typical possession game, but it was most noticeable in the first period as Towson absolutely dominated the time of possession.
The Orange finally got their first goal of the game at 12:17 to go in the half with Jordan Evans elevating from goal line extended and finding Salcido just off the crease who sent it in on a backhanded shot for his only goal of the day. There’s been a lot of talk about how well Evans has been playing as of late, but today he certainly didn’t have it.
The second period continued with several questionable calls and no-calls from the referees until 4:53 to go in the half when Stephen Rehfuss found Ryan Simmons on the crease who batted it in to cut the Towson lead to 6-2. But Towson responded with another deep shot, this time off the crosse of Mike Lynch. About a minute later, guess who, Joe Seider with a goal from a distance that absolutely nailed the corner.
Coming out of halftime with an 8-2 Towson lead, Syracuse fans were left waiting for a comeback that didn’t arrive.
There were only two goals in the third period. On the first Rehfuss found Solomon on the crease for an easy goal and that was followed up three minutes later on a lefty goal from Wylly to put Towson up 9-3
Marcus Cunningham picked up a ridiculous crosschecking penalty with no time on the clock in the third, giving Towson a one minute man-up to start the fourth period. SU, however, was able to grab the rare shorthanded goal 44 seconds into the final quarter on a great in-transition passing set from Syracuse that finished with Brendan Bomberry scoring on the crease. Nevertheless, Tyler Konen gave Towson another score, coming up from the goal line and going low-to-low on Molloy. It would be the final Towson goal on the day.
Off of the ensuing faceoff, Ben Williams found Rehfuss who got it to Solomon for a beautiful behind the back goal, 10-5 Towson. 12 seconds later it was Bomberry to Solomon on the crease to cut the deficit to just four with 12:39 to go in the game.
Solomon got one more tally with 42 seconds remaining, but the Orange never got another offensive possession.
In sum, that sucked.
With that said, I’m sure the Syracuse.com commentators are blowing the site up with the #firedesko drum getting pounded. Ultimately, we knew this team’s weaknesses and for the most part they’ve been masked by strong individual performances all year long. Take last week for example, SU likely would have taken a loss in the first round if not for the play of Evan Molloy.
This team just wasn’t mentally there today.