The last time Army defeated Syracuse was back in 1983, the first year of what became a 22 season streak of consecutive appearances in the Final Four for SU. The Orange has defeated the Black Knights 10 straight times since ’83. With SU’s Final Four run coming to an end in 2005, West Point was hoping to put a stop to their losses at the Carrier Dome Saturday.
It was opening day for both squads in Central New York. The Orange is 68-18 all-time in season starters, including a 9-4 victory over Army last year. With all three legendary Powell brothers, Casey, Ryan and Mikey in attendance, Syracuse was hoping to begin anew and leave the bitter taste of 2005 behind. They did, winning 14-10 and led by a late 5-1 charge with 11 minutes remaining.
Army got out to a quick start, however. Freshman Kevin LoRusso received the pass from X and found Ryan Chase right of SU keeper Peter Coluccini. Chase took the redshirt freshman by surprise and netted #16 Army’s first goal of the season just 1:21 into the contest.
Over a minute later the lead would grow to two. Senior Middie Brian Crockett got caught hanging his stick. Army took advantage, checking the ball out of Crockett’s pocket, leading to an eventual goal by freshman Sean Reppard.
Crockett, who spent the fall semester abroad in Madrid, had a difficult first game back. He let loose five shots with no results. Crockett picked up a goose egg in assists as well.
As for the two early goals, the Orange was not rattled at all.
“I’ve never seen a shutout in lacrosse,” said senior captain Brett Bucktooth. “I don’t think anybody lost confidence in our goalie. He’s a good goalie. He’s here for a reason.”
The Orange, ranked #4 by Lax.com, did take a hit with five minutes gone in the first, as Stephen Brooks, widely regarded as the fastest player on the club, took a hard hit behind the net. Brooks’ shot from goalie Adam Fullerton’s left sailed high, and Brooks took a hit, falling onto the back part of the cage.
Brooks walked off the field under his own power, but limping on his left leg. Head Coach John Desko put the junior middie back in later, but pulled him when he had difficulty making cuts and quick moves.
SU struggled early on against the 3-3 zone of Army. In particular, the Orange had difficulty crossing the goal line extended with a clean look at the net.
With 7:59 to go in the first, sophomore Mike LeVeille found a hole in the zone. The All-American, moving from X, wrapped around to the goalie’s right. LeVeille got off a low shot past the legs of Fullerton to cut the Black Knight lead to one.
Forty-four seconds later Virginia transfer Joe Yevoli began at X rolling out to the right of Fullerton. Yevoli moved to the football turf’s 20-yard line and sent the ball cross-net to freshman Matt Abbott. Abbott relayed the pass in for the score.
Abbott is probably the one of the least highly-touted of the offensive freshman class, which includes three of the nation’s top four recruits.
“I don’t know about a chip on my shoulder,” Abbott said after notching two goals in his debut. “I’m just happy I got a chance to play and got a chance to contribute to the win.”
Those other freshman are Pat Perritt from Holtsville, New York, Kenny Nims from Watertown, New York, and Dan Hardy from Tully, New York. Both Hardy, who is donning the famed #22, and Nims tallied goals for SU. Hardy launched his goal behind Fullerton to give SU a 3-2 lead with under two to play in the first. Nims filed an empty netter with time winding down in the 4th. Perritt was held scoreless, but did send a frozen rope off the cross bar with his first collegiate shot.
One question for Army coming into the game was how John Walker would do without his offensive partner in crime, Jim Wagner, who graduated in the spring. The two were a huge tag-team last season, and some wondered how Walker would do without his teammate.
The Tewaarton Award candidate silenced his doubters early and often. He notched his first goal at the 11:52 mark in the 2nd quarter. He struck again right in front of Coluccini with 3:37 left in the half. Quick ball movement by the Cadets found Walker with a clear shooting lane 10 yards in front of the cage.
With his team down 6-5 at the half, Walker struck again, this time on the assist. Streaking down the field to the left of Coluccini, Walker crossed the ball to sophomore attack Matt Scheel. Scheel wrapped his shot around his defender and past a falling SU keeper.
Walker finished the day with three goals and four assists.
The best of Walker’s assists came late in the third. The All-America first teamer fielded a ground ball and hit a leaping Mike Obringer in front of the goal. The senior dropped a shot over Coluccini’s shoulder to pull the score within one at 8-7.
While Walker has been a familiar name at West Point, Joe Yevoli is a new one on the SU hill.
The transfer from Virginia sat out 2005 with back issues, but showed no signs of such injuries Saturday. The honorable mention All-American recorded four points on two goals and two assists.
Yevoli’s biggest impact was his play down the stretch. With the score 8-8 and 11:39 to play in the game, Bucktooth moved right from X and found Yevoli directly in front of the net for a one-on-one shot. He put it passed the right leg of Fullerton, a suburban Syracuse native.
The transfer reciprocated a minute later. The score 9-9, Yevoli waited at X for something to open offensively. Bucktooth found separation, and Yevoli saw it. He gave up the ball to the captain and his five feet of separation from the nearest Cadet. Bucktooth let go a short range cannon to put SU up 10-9, a lead the Orange would not relinquish. Bucktooth had a good day himself with three goals and an assist.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game, so I kind of forgot what it was like,” Yevoli said. “Later in the game we let things come to us. When it came to us we capitalized on the opportunities.”
The two biggest question marks for the ‘Cuse entering this year seemed to be answered against Army.
Question one dealt with defense and the goal. Four year goalie Jay Pfiefer graduated in the spring, leaving a large void – filled by Coluccini Saturday. Desko was very impressed with his young keeper, who made nine saves, but also has high hopes for sophomore Jake Myers.
“(Coluccini) had some moments out there,” Desko said. “I thought he started out a little cold. The placement of their shots was very good, especially early in the game. He made some good save and they got a couple of goals I think he’ll get later in the year.”
As for Myers, Desko had hoped to get him into the game, but didn’t feel comfortable putting a cold goalie in a close game.
Prior to the five minute mark of the 4th quarter, SU’s greatest lead was just two. The Orange led by two four times, led by one seven times, was tied five times and trailed just once.
The defense helped out Coluccini big time too. At the end of 2005 the Orange gave up around 15 goals a game. Against Army the Orange surrendered 10 scores. It was more than Coluccini wanted, but less than in the past.
Credit some defensive success to aggressive play. The ‘Cuse picked up 37 ground balls – five more than the Knights. SU also cleared the ball well, converting on 22 of 24 clears, something that had concerned Desko prior to face-off.
The paramount defensive player for SU was All-American Steve Panarelli. The captain picked up three ground balls and made a crucial defensive play that led to an SU goal.
With nine minutes left in the game, Panarelli knocked the ball out of an Army player’s hanging stick. A scrum ensued over the groundball, and Panarelli, knowing he couldn’t get to it with a pole, kicked it to long-stick Evan Brady. Brady started a fast break, which ended with Hardy finding Bucktooth to make the score 11-9.
The second concern for SU before the season was who would take face-offs. Last year’s specialist Danny Brennan is out due to academic ineligibility. In his place were sophomore John Carrozza and junior Jon Jerome.
Both players did exceptionally well. Jerome took 20 face-offs, winning 12 for SU, while the Delaware transfer Carrozza won four of the six face-offs he saw.
For a team whose strength is its offense, the Orange struggled Saturday. SU netted 14 of 44 shots, but missed out on several easy opportunities. That is something SU will look to improve upon next Saturday at Virginia – the former home of Yevoli and fellow transfer Nate Kenney.
“It’s gonna be fun,” said Yevoli. “I get to go back to my old stomping grounds. I’m looking forward to it.”
|Joe Yevoli||(2, 2)|
|Brett Bucktooth||(3, 1)|
|Mike Leveille||(1, 2)|
|Matt Abbott||(2, 0)|
|Greg Rommel||(2, 0)|
|Dan Hardy||(1, 1)|
|Kenny Nims||(1, 0)|
|Nathan Kenney||(1, 0)|
|John Gallagher||(1, 0)|
|Peter Coluccini||9 (0.474)|