SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The rolling Syracuse Orange looked to extend their win streak to three in a row against Brown in the Carrier Dome Saturday. Both goalies played solid games, but Syracuse’s young offense was able to get hot at the right times, producing the one goal difference that gave Syracuse the win in this one, 9-8.
Brown jumped out to an early lead, when senior Chazz Woodson got a pass from junior Grant Derkac, took a hard step around his defender, and shot right over Syracuse senior goalie Jay Pfeifer’s shoulder before a full minute had even ticked off the clock. Syracuse tried to match it when junior Brian Crockett caught a pass in heavy traffic and tried a nifty little no-look flip that flew over the goal. Brown added another goal to their lead when senior Chris Mucciolo ran at the cage and scored while being pushed in the crease.
Orange senior Jarett Park showed his impressive wheels, speeding past almost everyone on the field to ground balls or to open space, but he wasn’t always able to find a good pass or a good move to make once he got his full head of steam going. Pfeifer showed signs early that this could be another big game (he set a career record for saves in the previous game against Hobart with 21), making a good save on a shot to his off-hip side by Derkac. Pfeifer was strong in goal, though he had issues sometimes with lose rebounds causing chaos around the crease. Brown keeper, junior Nick Gentilesco, was not going to back down either. He stopped a big shot from Orange sophomore Steven Brooks with little difficulty.
Junior Greg Rommel got Syracuse on the board when he caught a pass on the wing, drove towards the center of the field, took a jump step and bounced a shot over his defender and under a falling Gentilesco. The score was then quickly tied during a Brown man-down for a 30 second holding penalty charged to senior Dan Spinosa. Orange junior Brett Bucktooth got the ball at the point, recognized no one picked him up, and ripped a low burner between the two top defenders that skipped right under Gentilesco, ending the first quarter in a 2-2 tie.
The second quarter opened with Brown at a major disadvantage. Sophomore Alex Buckley was charged with a three-minute illegal equipment penalty. His stick was too pinched, the ball stayed stuck between the sidewalls. Syracuse capitalized on the no releasable penalty with three goals. Freshman Mike Leveille caught a pass from Brooks on the goal line extended and tucked a shot around the post and in. Bucktooth got another man-up goal, this time with Leveille assisting. Bucktooth got the ball up top again and fired another dropped stick shot, this time going low to high and beating Gentilesco. Rommel ended the scoring barrage when Brown again didn’t cover top shooters. Rommel got a pass from Bucktooth and ripped a side arm shot that stuck the off-stick side top corner. Brown survived the end of the penalty when Bucktooth missed a feed to freshman Greg Niewieroski on crease, killing the last ten seconds.
Once his team got back to full strength, Gentilesco become more confident in goal, making some good saves off the outside shooting from Syracuse. He made a good stuff on an inside shot from Leveille, and another on a ripper from Rommel. Pfeifer kept pace though, making a big save on a shot from Brown sophomore Dave Madeira, then out letting to senior Jake Plunket. Plunket carried all the way down the field, and when he wasn’t picked up he ripped an underhand high-low shot to the off-stick side top corner that beat Gentilesco and gave the Orange a four-goal lead. Pfeifer held strong again when Madeira almost walked into the crease and was stoned on a point blank shot. But Brown would not be denied before the end of the half. Junior Kyle Wailes got an assist from Chazz Woodson and beat Pfeifer to the top corner.
Halftime was a particularly special event when Syracuse legend of both football and lacrosse, the great #44 Jim Brown, was honored. A video montage of interviews and photos of his lacrosse career was played on the video board, and SU athletic director Daryl Gross escorted Jim Brown to midfield where he was given a special stick from the team. Two new scholarships were announced as a tribute to his career. The Jim Brown Endowed Football Scholarship, and The Jim Brown Endowed Lacrosse Scholarship, both established anonymously, will annually be given to a player on each respective team. Some consider Brown the best lacrosse player to ever play.
The Bears started the second half even quicker than the first, scoring in the first 12 seconds when senior Kirk Teatom won the faceoff, rushed the ball down field, made a few hard dodges, and beat Pfeifer on a bounce shot. Pfeifer regained his stoic composure soon after when he made an impressive save on a Brown fast break. Woodson got a pass right on crease but couldn’t get it past Pfeifer. Then Woodson was able to grab a groundball that dribbled by Syracuse defenders, leaving him with a one-on-one with Pfeifer, but Pfeifer read it the whole way and stuffed Woodson again.
“I think a couple of times I didn’t put the ball away,” said Woodson after the game. He put the blame of his not finishing on him, noting that overall he had a pretty good day. “I didn’t feel that frustrated,” he said.
The pace of play slowed some during the second half. Syracuse looked to hold more, though sloppy passes and poor catching created several unforced turnovers.
“We just decided to stall,” said Syracuse head coach, John Desko, after the game. “We got to get rid of these turnovers.”
“From week to week we get more comfortable, but now we got to cut these turnovers out,” said Rommel after the game. “When you say, 'Don’t think about turning the ball over,' you think about turning the ball over.”
Leveille got the SU lead back to four when he grabbed a low, bouncing pass and shot it over the shoulder of the defender coming to hit him, and under Gentilesco. Brown answered quickly on a great deception play where Woodson pretended to flip to another attackman behind the goal, but instead kept the ball and slid around the goal to get a shot off. He beat Pfeifer on a bouncer just as Pfeifer was realizing what was happening. Pfeifer stood up to a few more outside shots from Brown, and the third quarter ended without further scoring.
Gentilesco had some breakaway heroics of his own. Brooks broke up a clear in the Bears’ end, then got a pass over to Leveille who was stymied by Gentilesco. Brown cut the lead to one when Madeira got a pass on the wing from Derkac and drove in to score. But less than 90 seconds later the Orange had the lead back to three. First Crocket caught a pass in heavy traffic on the crease, dodged, and put a shot between Gentilesco’s knees. Then Brooks found Rommel on the wing, who took a hard step and head fake and fired a ball around the near pipe. Crockett tried for another when Park grabbed a grounder, made a quick pass over, but Crocket was leveled before he could get off a shot.
Brown looked to rally with about three minutes left. They almost got a goal during a melee in front of the crease where neither team could control a rebound that eventually went in for a goal that was ruled void because of a crease violation. But junior Will McGettigan netted one for real on a hard north-south drive finished with a bounce shot on the run.
Syracuse went into a complete keep away stall in the last two minutes, but eventually lost the ball when a lazy pass was deflected and rolled out of bounds with 53 seconds left. Woodson tried to strap on the hero cape when he got the ball behind the cage and made a fast move to wrap around and stuff the ball under Pfeifer low with 12 seconds left. But the Orange won the last face and were able to kill the last seconds of the game, giving them the victory, 9-8, their third in as many games.
Syracuse won the midfield war, taking 12 of 20 faceoffs. The goalies almost matched each other save for save, with Pfeifer ending with 12 and Gentilesco getting 11. Though Brown held the advantage in shots, 39 to 33, they just couldn’t tip the scoreboard.
Both teams seemed disappointed with the outcome. “A win is a win,” Rommel said, “but we felt we could have played better. We got into a funk in the second half.”
“There is no satisfaction in this,” Brown head coach Scott Nelson said.
“We came here to win,” added Gentilesco.
Coach Desko summed up the game well for his team. “We had to rely a little too much on Jay today,” he said. With a younger group there may have been a hang over from the big win at Hobart, so this game was still in the shadow of that.
“You don’t expect it, but at the same time you do,” said sophomore Steve Panarelli of Pfeifer’s impressive performance. “He is that kind of player.”
Pfeifer looked at his performance in his usual cool and cavalier fashion. “In the beginning of the year I was working on an internship and getting up at 7,” he said. “Now I am getting some good sleep, maybe I’m more focused now.”
Yale comes to Providence next weekend Saturday to play Brown at 2 p.m. Though Nelson was disappointed with the outcome of the game, he was proud of how his boys played.
“I think we proved these guys and some others,” Nelson said, “are some of the best guys in the country.”
Syracuse will take its newly found winning record to Baltimore next week, where they will hope to improve their winning streak to four in a row by beating Loyola. The game will be Saturday at 1 p.m. It will be aired on abc2ports and the newly created ESPNU.
“We got a week to prepare,” Desko said. “We need to do some stick skills, conditioning, and groundballs. We gotta get better from week to week.”
|Brett Bucktooth||(2, 1)|
|Mike Leveille||(2, 1)|
|Greg Rommel||(3, 0)|
|Steven Brooks||(0, 2)|
|Brian Crockett||(1, 1)|
|Jake Plunket||(1, 0)|
|Jay Pfeifer||12 (0.600)|