|JoJo shows why he earned #22|
I had the pleasure of taking in the Virginia-Syracuse lacrosse game in the Carrier Dome on Friday night. I hadn't been in the Dome for lacrosse since 2011, so it was nice to get back into the swing of things. And what a better game to see than longtime rivals Virginia and Syracuse? While it's no secret that Syracuse lacrosse is "down" this year, especially after losing that first game against Albany, you always carry a little bit of hope with you that Syracuse could find a way to win.
And I admit it: I wasn't giving Syracuse a chance in Hell to beat Virginia on Friday night. Couple that pregame sentiment with a couple costly early game penalties against Syracuse that resulted in man-up goals for Virginia, and the 2-0 deficit may as well have been 200-0. But then, much to my delight, Syracuse settled in and rattled off four goals in the first, and ended the quarter with a 4-3 lead.
The second quarter sped by, but Syracuse surrendered three goals to Virginia without scoring themselves to trail 6-4 at the half. At that point, you really didn't know where this game was going; it was a relatively low-scoring event for these two teams, with a lot of running back and forth down the field with turnovers and good goal play. It was mostly a fast-paced game, save for a curious stall warning on Syracuse at one point.
In the third quarter, Syracuse did to Virginia what Virginia did to Syracuse in the second: rattling off three goals while holding the opponent scoreless. The Orange had all the momentum in the third quarter, and I had a Panda Paws waffle cone, so all was good in the world.
And so, Syracuse went into the fourth quarter with a 1-goal lead, up 7-6. With the way the momentum had swung, and the excitement of the crowd, I think we all began to think that Syracuse not only could win this game, but they would. A couple of Virginia goals and a Syracuse goal knotted things at 8-8, and the last several minutes of regulation proceeded as if a national championship was on the line. Truly, it had that kind of atmosphere. Both teams had ample opportunities to cash in on possessions and put the ball in the goal, but neither could get the job done. Off to Overtime!
I'm pretty sure the entire crowd of 5,388 was standing the entire overtime period. Once Syracuse controlled possession, Coach Desko called timeout to draw up a play. We watched as it transpired, and Kevin Rice caught the feed from Dylan Donahue for the clinching goal -- #OrangeGoal! The Syracuse players mobbed each other on the field, as if they had just won the national championship. Even the players felt the atmosphere!
It all made for one of the most exciting lacrosse games I had seen in a while. Which, for me, was a great way to get back into watching lacrosse in person again.
For the Orange, only three of the team's nine goals were assisted. In all, eight different players scored goals for Syracuse, with only JoJo Morasco with two. Bobby Wardwell spent the entire game in the net for Syracuse, with nine saves and eight goals allowed. This game was certainly not without flaws for Syracuse. Of note, they really struggled on face-offs, losing that battle 16-5. The Orange also had trouble picking up ground balls, with Virginia having that edge 33-23. While this game did not see many penalties (seven total), it was Virginia who capitalized on the man-up opportunities (2-4) while Syracuse wasted their chances (0-3).
A win like this can, and should, give a team like Syracuse some serious confidence and momentum to go out there and play at a high level. This win improves Syracuse to 2-1 on the year, with a lot of lacrosse still to be played. Don't write off the Orange just yet; they're just getting started!