Men's Lacrosse

When No. 6 Syracuse needed stops, Evan Molloy stymied St. John’s comeback attempts

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Evan Molloy made several stops down the stretch to pick up No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday.

NEW YORK — As Syracuse’s offense fell into its worst state of the season and SU’s early lead dissipated with every St. John’s possession in frigid temperatures, the Orange’s staple in net provided much-needed relief. Only two SU goals in the second and third quarters placed an extra reliance on Evan Molloy in goal.

When St. John’s won back-to-back faceoffs, fired back-to-back shots or set a series of screens, Molloy was there. When SJU reeled off a few long possessions or recovered a rebound in front of the goal, Molloy was there to make big stops. On Saturday, in a 9-8 victory over St. John’s, Molloy rescued a fledgling SU defense that’s struggled to stop even impotent offenses.

Molloy entered Saturday with a 50 percent save percentage, right in the middle of the NCAA leaderboard. But the saves he does have this season — those down the stretch against then-No. 9 Virginia last Saturday and a handful this week — have enabled the Orange to stick around and either stage a comeback or avoid a near upset. The 2016 ACC Tournament MVP spearheaded the Syracuse defense Saturday afternoon in the No. 6 Orange’s (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) win over SJU (1-5) at DaSilva Memorial Field in Queens.

“In the fourth quarter I stepped up a little bit,” Molloy said, “and made the saves I had to.”

The Red Storm entered Saturday 63rd among 69 NCAA teams in scoring offense (7.4 goals per game). Though SJU fell down 5-0 early and committed 15 turnovers, the Red Storm hung around with Syracuse from quarters two through four, outscoring SU 7-4 over that stretch.

Temperatures hovered in the 20s, with 19 mile-per-hour winds and a real-feel of about 12 degrees. Nick Mariano, Brendan Bomberry and Brad Voigt scored two goals apiece to lead Syracuse to victory one week before its annual showdown at No. 7 Johns Hopkins, a game during which SU will likely need a third straight valiant effort from Molloy.

The redshirt senior is 11-3 as starting goalie since he earned the starting job only midway through last season. On Saturday, he picked up a ground ball, caused a turnover and saved nine shots. St. John’s tallied 37 total shots, none better than its last score.

With 53 seconds on the clock, SJU pulled the game within one score. A pair of players shielded Molloy’s vision and the shot came low and away on the right-handed Molloy, who had to twist his stick to his left. The ball sizzled to the low pipe. For the fourth consecutive game, SU and its opponent traded goals and stayed near-even up until the buzzer sounded.

“There’s not a lot you can do with a shot like that,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said.

Molloy’s nine total saves is two fewer than St. John’s and three off his season high (Virginia, 12), but nearly each of his saves Saturday came on an open shot from fewer than 12 yards out. SJU’s screens in front of the goal, fast style of play and attack-centered offense did not relent.

In the first half, Molloy made a save but gave up the rebound. An SJU player recovered before a swooping Marcus Cunningham and Scott Firman took the ball. One ran into the other amid a scrum. As the ball popped out, Molloy already headed out of the goal to start the clear. An SJU attack picked up the loose ball and let off a quick shot. Molloy laid out to make the save.

“He’s a good quarterback, barking out the defense,” Desko said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He sees the ball well. He’s been playing well all year long.”

In Syracuse’s only loss of 2017, a 14-13 stunner against Army two weeks ago, Molloy allowed all 14 goals. One of which came as the game-winner from a right-hander going to his weak side. The same happened on Saturday. To get on the board and end SU’s 5-0 streak, a righty darted left and fired a ball past Molloy’s stick.

In the second quarter, during which St. John’s tallied 17 shots and three goals, Molloy turned the ball over. Later, he threw a weak outlet pass that led to a turnover and score.

“There are times when we have lapses,” Molloy said. “I’m definitely guilty as well.”

But when No. 6 Syracuse needed stops, Evan Molloy blocked St. John’s comeback attempts. SU avoided an upset against a team it hasn’t lost to in 11 tries since the series began in 1990, and that’s largely credit to Molloy’s play in the cage. He saved three shots in the final minutes to stymie St. John’s last-second rally.

“The goalie’s the hardest position in what the weather can issue,” said senior attack Jordan Evans, who had one goal and one assist. “Standing there in the cold and trying to make quick movements and quick saves? It’s a difficult task. He made some great saves when we needed it.”

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