BALTIMORE-In a game that harkened the exciting tradition of the Virginia-Syracuse rivalry, the Cavaliers rode out of Baltimore with a 14-13 overtime victory. What started as a goalie duel gave way to the familiar back-and-forth, up-and-down, occasionally chaotic skirmish. Both teams dipped deep into their rosters, legging it out and getting seventeen names on the scorer’s sheet. As the frenetic pace played out in the second half and overtime, fans were gripped by some truly wide-open, fun lacrosse.
“It was great to be in a game like this again,” Syracuse coach John Desko said after the game. “Two teams that want to get after each other and want to play…I bet that was a great game to watch.”
Virginia head coach echoed that sentiment in his opening comment after the game. “It was a very exciting lacrosse game,” Starsia said. “A lot of the characteristic that made this game distinguishable over the years” were on the field today.
This game looked like a battle of the freshman goalies from the start. Both Adam Ghitelman of Virginia and John Galloway of Syracuse made same tough saves on shots coming off the crease and from the outside.
“I think two young goalies played well on both ends of the field,” Starsia said.
Facing 20 shots in the first quarter, the only three goals were actually let in. However, with all of the great saves these keepers made, rebounds plagued them. Of the eight goals scored in the first half, more than half came off of opportunistic play created by rebounds and loose balls.
“I guess that’s why both coaches recruited these goaltenders,” Desko jokingly reiterated.
Syracuse drew first blood in this great rivalry. As pass across the middle was broken up, but Mike Leveille stayed with it, grabbed the loose ball, shot, but was stuffed by Ghitelman. But Kenny Nims tracked the rebound, grabbing it and quickly winging it into the cage for the 1-0 SU lead.
That lead was built to 2-0 when Greg Niewieroski did what he does best, sat on the crease and finished a feed from Nims. But UVa got on the board shortly thereafter, when Max Pomper grabbed a loose ball and fired a jump shot past Galloway. After a few more rushes and a few more tough saves, the first quarter ended with the Orange up 2-1.
UVa began to dominate possessions in the second quarter, mostly due to the five minutes of penalties Syracuse accumulated, almost all rather violent offenses. Brian Carroll tied the game for UVa on a turn and shoot man-up goal. But Syracuse answered in a great bit of transition play. Galloway cleared to Abbott, who ran a nice clear and got the ball to Dan Hardy. Hardy got a step on his man and tried to push the post. Ghitelman got a piece of his shot, but Mike Leveille grabbed the rebound and stormed up the wing, circling in front and scoring.
In the slew of Syracuse penalties, Galloway was called for a delay of game, sending last year’s keeper Pete Coluccini into the game. But the Orange successfully killed the penalty, and Galloway quickly returned. UVa got right back at it, Back-to-back goals gave them their first lead at 4-3. Shamel Bratton found his brother, Rhamel Bratton for a score off the crease. Then Dan Gladding came around, got a step on his defender Kyle Guadagnolo, and stuffed a shot into the top corner.
But with 32 seconds left, Syracuse was able to tie it up. Leveille carried the ball from X. As the defense shifted its focus to him, he simply throw across his body to the open man in the middle, Brendan Loftus. Loftus flung about a 14-yard bouncer that beat Ghitelman, ending the half at four all.
Syracuse looked to come out quickly in the third with back-to-back goals just 13 seconds apart. First, Matt Abbott, after playing an entire defensive series and then clearing, settled into the offense, got the ball back, and tried to post up his man. After rolling left and right, he earned about a yard cushion, and just laced a 16-yard underhand shot into the top corner. Abbott looked like a great throwback player in a great throwback game, running seamlessly from end to end, and having confidence on both sides of the ball. Then another throwback player, Steven Brooks came down the wing and ripped a shot on the run into the corner.
But UVa’s offense woke up in the third, particularly Danny Glading. Of the five goals UVa would score that quarter, Glading had a hand in four of them. First, sitting behind the cage, Glading hit a cutting Jack Riley for the score. Syracuse added another when Leveille finished a feed from Hardy on the man-up.
Then Glading really came alive. Starting with the ball at XX, he drove around the crease, circling high enough to skip a low shot as he fell to the ground. Then, he did the same thing, only wrapping around the other side of the cage, sticking the shot again. The two goals were just 22 seconds apart.
“Once we went down two goals,” Glading said,, “we knew we had to pick it up on offense.”
The Orange got the lead back when an opportunistic Greg Niewieroski grabbed the loose ball from a miss feed of Leveille to Jovan Miller, and quickly flicked it in.
UVa would get two more to take the lead heading back into the forth. On the man-up, Glading worked the ball from the wing up to Garrett Billings, who saw a shooting lane and fired about a 15-yard bouncer. Then Ben Rubeor, who saw limited playing time today, carried across the face of the goal, his man covered him softly, and he took the space and ripped a shot.
“We were exciting about having [Rubeor] out there,” Starsia said. “He probably played more than I expected.”
The fourth quarter had the 19,165 in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium on the edge of their seats. Again, Syracuse came out aggressively. Kenny Nims scored a goal that personified opportunistic. Brooks ripped a cannon that Ghitelman tracked, but the ball had enough on it that it bounced in his stick. Nims, sitting right on the crease, just snagged it from Ghitelman and flicked it in for the tie, 9-9. After Galloway made a great save, he aggressively threaded a clearing pass to Brooks, who carried, protected his stick, and finally finding a little room in the box, ripped a shot past Ghitelman. The Orange capped off the three-goal run when Brooks, working point on a man-up, threaded a beautiful pass down to Nims sitting on the crease, who threw a few fakes and finished.
But UVa would turn the tide, outscoring Syracuse 4-2 in the last nine minutes. Shamel Bratton was on the finishing end this time, as Billings, sitting at X, threw a pass topside. With time and room, Bratton just cranked back and stuck the corner. Then, eight seconds later, off the faceoff, long-sticker Ken Clausen got the ground ball, and with no one picking him up, just charged down the heart of the defense and scored.
Syracuse grabbed the 12-11 lead when Brooks hit Loftus standing by his lonesome about three steps into the box in the middle of the field. Catching the pass, Loftus lined-up and scored off a bounce shot.
But UVa got right back at it. As Rubeor carried up the wing, he cleared space behind him. Billings simply stepped up into void, Rubeor threw down, and Billings finished. Then, after making a big stop on defense, Will Barrow carried down on the clear. After he was barely picked up, he sensed the space and fired a jump shot that went right by Galloway. UVa now had the lead, 13-12.
Syracuse got the ball back with 2:32 left, and Desko called a timeout to set up his play. After working the ball around, using the second line middies no less, the Orange found very little room. Matt Abbott cranked a shot off of a defenders head, and SU was able to retain possession. Calling another timeout with 38 seconds left, Desko hoped to control the possession and set up the game-tying shot.
Getting the ball up top, Brooks began to drive, looking for a slide and pass. Seeing very few options, Brooks took a step inside the box and unleashed a cannon that beat Ghitelman with 28 seconds left.
“I had the opportunity, so I took the shot,” Brooks said after the game. “It found the corner. It was cool.”
While Virginia eventually garnered possession after the faceoff melee, very little came of it, and regulation ran out with the teams tied at 13.
Joel White picked up maybe the biggest ground ball of his young career, snaring possession for the Orange off of the opening faceoff. Sensing White might be in trouble, Desko called a timeout to set up his offense. On the ensuing possession, Brooks wanted to duplicate his success from the end of regulation, taking a few rippers on the run that just weren’t connecting. After a few shots, Hardy had the ball working behind. Trying to come around and use his body, Hardy muscled up but lost the ball in a play that could have been seen as a hold, could have been seen as a great defensive play, or could have been seen as Hardy trying to force the issue. Regardless, the Orange turned over the ball.
Barrow picked up the loose ball and stormed down field, bouncing off two checks and falling, yet never losing possession. After a Virginia timeout, Rubeor tried to feed across the crease, but Galloway broke up the pass. In absolute mayhem, Syracuse brook out, pushed the ball, and fed Niewieroski, but Ghitelman stuffed him. Ghitelman chased down the ball and then threw the outlet while getting laid out. Shamel Bratton carried down to the UVa box, and as the defense slunk towards him, he threw back across to a Carroll. Having a few yards, Carroll let one go from about 12 yards out, beating Galloway high and taking the win.
“At the end of the day,” Starsia said, “if the ball winds up in Brian’s hands from 15-yards, you like your chances.”
The Orange now prepare to face Georgetown in the Carrier Down, Sunday, March 9. Virginia takes on Virginia Military Academy on Wednesday, before participating in the first regular season televised lacrosse game, when they play in Princeton on March 8. The game will be aired on ESPN.
While the lost hurts, Desko seemed pleased with where his team was after this game.
“I think playing a game like this, you learn something about yourself,” Desko said. “I think you get better by playing in games like this…It speaks to [the team’s] character.”
As Desko did not get too down about the loss, Starsia did not get too high on the win. He was quite proud of his team’s play in beating a team like Syracuse, but he still thought his team had a lot of work left, even if they see the Orange again.
“We’ve beat them in the first game of the year,” Starsia said, “and they’ve beaten us in May, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.”
|Steven Brooks||(3, 2)|
|Kenny Nims||(3, 1)|
|Mike Leveille||(2, 1)|
|Brendan Loftus||(2, 0)|
|Greg Niewieroski||(2, 0)|
|Matt Abbott||(1, 0)|
|Dan Hardy||(0, 1)|
|John Galloway||15 (0.517)|