Men's Lacrosse

No. 10 Syracuse marches from four-point halftime deficit to stun No. 9 Virginia at last second

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Sergio Salcido scored the game-winner with 15 seconds left.

On Sunday in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse found itself in almost the same game as the two weeks prior. The Orange allowed the first goal but stayed within striking distance in the first quarter only to have an abysmal second quarter put the team in a big halftime hole. Syracuse started the second half hot and clawed back by late in the fourth.

Against then-No. 12 Albany on Feb. 18, Syracuse overcame a five-goal first-half deficit to win with 1.6 seconds left. Against Army on Feb. 25, the Orange fell behind by as many as four and still found itself tied until the Black Knights scored with a second to go. Against Virginia on Sunday, after falling behind 8-4 at halftime, the comeback came furious as ever.

With 15 seconds to go, Sergio Salcido spun as his defender, senior Michael Howard, slipped and the righty SU midfielder broke a 13-13 tie when he five-holed UVA goalie Will Railey with a left-hand shot. Though the Orange has remained in every game until the literal final second, it was SU’s first lead in seven quarters.

“We’ve been playing that way,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said of the Orange’s first half struggles. “I don’t want to play that way. I want to get off to a better start.”

Salcido’s big shot delivered Syracuse a win in its third straight one-goal game. No. 10 Syracuse (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) once again put a poor first half behind it and defeated No. 9 Virginia (4-2, 0-1), 14-13, on Sunday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.

UVA built its lead behind junior goalkeeper Will Railey, starting because the team suspended All-American Matt Barrett indefinitely for a drug possession arrest in the preseason. Several saves left Desko walking down the sideline shaking his head. In the second quarter alone, Railey stonewalled five Syracuse shots as the Cavaliers’ No. 1-ranked offense built a four-goal lead.

“We didn’t shoot great,” Desko said. “We knew we were going to get fastbreaks, just like Virginia got fastbreaks and we didn’t capitalize on some of those. I’m a little disappointed in that.”

Syracuse responded with the first goal of the second half and then went on a four-goal, 2:33 run to bring the game back within one just before the end of the third quarter. The spurt itself and the main source — midfielder Matt Lane, who posted five points total after entering with two on the season — mirrored the Orange’s offensive production all season long. The most reliable answer is a new one.

In its last three games, Syracuse’s offense has scored 13 goals in the first half and 23 in the second. “The biggest area to address with Syracuse,” ESPN lacrosse analyst Mark Dixon said in January, “is offensive consistency. They need to do it every game.”

Virginia kept pressing with a formula proven to work against Syracuse. The Black Knights had won the groundball battle (31-24) and beat the Orange at the X (17-13) without stalwart faceoff man Ben Williams. Though Williams returned and appeared un-hobbled, the Cavaliers replicated the success with junior Jason Murphy leading Virginia’s strong-arming of Syracuse and Williams, 17 to 14, at the X. But the bulk of Virginia’s added chances came from the turf where UVA out-scooped SU on groundballs, 43-27. Desko called the team’s groundball fortunes “snake-bit.

“We’ve been preaching groundballs win games all year,” said attack Nate Solomon, who had five points. “… I guess we need to practice ’em more.”

Extra looks at an inexperienced, rotating back line produced dividends for Virginia just like Army and Albany. Syracuse altered the past two week’s strategy of starting close defender Marcus Cunningham and subbing in freshman Nick DiPietro after the first quarter and mixed the two more on Sunday. The two both jumpstarted transition goals with prolific clears, but struggled with slides at times.

As in Syracuse’s prior two games, the defensive letdowns in the first half shored up in the second and the scattershot offense roared back to give SU a chance in the fourth quarter. With 33.3 seconds to go, the Syracuse-Virginia series stood deadlocked. In that moment, each team had exactly 16 wins and 429 goals against one another.

The dramatics were a means to an end for Desko and his players. The team however begrudgingly has become accustomed to such high-pressure situations. Then, in the latest instance on Sunday, Salcido uncoiled and unknotted it all.

“We don’t want to be getting into these nail-biters coming down the stretch,” Salcido said. “We’d like to get a lead early and control the game. But you’ve got to adapt and overcome.”

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