Villanova vs. Syracuse
May 3, 2012
The Game Story:
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Bobby Eilers (Simsbury, Conn.) netted a career-high four goals and the third-seeded Syracuse men’s lacrosse team (8-7) outscored No. 2 seed Villanova 9-2 in the second half to run away with a 15-6 win against the Wildcats (8-7) in the BIG EAST Semifinals on Thursday night at Villanova Stadium. SU advances to the championship game of the inaugural conference tournament, and will faceoff with St. John’s on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

Leading 6-4 at halftime, the teams went back and forth throughout the third quarter before the Orange exploded for the game’s final six goals. SU goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell (Clifton Park, N.Y.) kept the Wildcats quiet in the final 30 minutes, and tied a career-high with 12 saves.

Syracuse held a dominating 41-22 edge in ground balls for the contest, led by a career-high eight by Ricky Buhr (Manhasset, N.Y.) Buhr also led the Orange at the faceoff X, going 11-of-20 as SU combined to win 13-of-25 draws.

The Orange jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two goals from Eilers, the first coming four minutes into the contest on a shot that beat VU goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez (eight saves) five-hole, and the second when he received a pass from Tommy Palasek (Rocky Point, N.Y.) behind the net before Eilers buried it with 4:07 left in the quarter. Villanova would answer late in the first as Kevin Cunningham beat Wardwell with 38 seconds remaining.

Syracuse brought its lead back to two just 1:26 into the second quarter as Billy Ward (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) found Luke Cometti (Syracuse, N.Y.), who then cut to the cage for the score. After Kevin O’Neil made it 3-2 with a man-up tally, Tim Desko (Syracuse N.Y.) took a feed from Matt Harris (Buffalo Grove, N.Y.), and quickly spun around to beat Gutierrez for the score and a 4-2 Orange advantage with 11:43 left in the first half.

Derek Maltz (Ashburn, Va.) extended the Syracuse lead to three at 5-2 when converted on a behind-the-back shot past Gutierrez off a dish from Desko with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, forcing the Wildcats to call timeout.

Villanova quickly narrowed the deficit to one with two goals following the timeout. Nick Doherty put his speed on display when he sprinted around the net to lose the Orange defender and snuck a shot past Wardwell before Eric Garner did the same less than one minute later and found Will Casertano for the score to make 5-4 SU.

With Syracuse on the man-up with 10 seconds left in the second quarter, Palasek hit Matt Walters (Villanova, Pa.) with a pass, who then beat Gutierrez for his third goal of the season to bring the Orange lead back up to two at halftime.

Syracuse made it a three-goal game again as Eilers completed the hat trick in the opening minute of the second half with a bullet from 10 yards out after taking a feed from Desko. After Hakeem Lecky (Nantucket, Mass.) gave SU an 8-4 lead when he sped towards the cage for the score, Cunningham brought the SU lead back to three with a fast-break goal 51 seconds later.

The teams continued to trade goals during the third as Walters and Scott Loy (Toledo, Ohio) sandwiched a tally from Jake Rice to give the Orange a 10-6 advantage through 45 minutes of play.

Two quick fourth-quarter goals from Eilers and Loy gave the Orange a commanding 12-6 lead with 10:39 remaining in regulation as the Orange scored the game’s final six goals to secure a spot in the conference championship.