SYRACUSE, N.Y. – It was a crowd that reminded Orange coach John Desko of 1990, when Paul and Gary Gait played their final season on the Hill. That was a year where the Carrier Dome averaged 12,000 a game in attendance. This day fans sprawled from goal to goal on both sides of the field; they flooded into the upper deck. There were 16,595 in total, but most left unhappy. The top ranked Orange fell to top ranked Virginia, 13-12, Friday night.
“Quite honestly, the final result doesn’t matter a great deal,” UVa coach Dom Starsia said after. “Both of these teams, their goals probably don’t change a great deal, whether you win or lose.”
The game pitted the nation’s two number one teams against each other. Syracuse sits atop the coach’s poll while Virginia leads the pack in the media ranks. It was also another in a long line of close Orange-Wahoo games. The last three have now been one goal games, including a double-OT affair in last season’s final four.
“The statistics for this game are so mind boggling,” Starsia said. “That’s just another one I think. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the vengeance part of this and it never entered into my mind at all. I heard a little buzz from the players about the end of the game in May.”
The win also gave UVa its third straight over SU at the Dome, something no other team has accomplished.
“This is the joy of it all,” Starsia said. “There have been so many great moments like that. I’m going to remember each and every one of these. Each one of these games has a life of its own. It’s really quite remarkable.”
What really made this meeting different was the crowd. It was a sea of blue and orange that ‘Cuse keeper John Galloway and Wahoo senior Danny Gladding were still struck by after the game.
“It was unbelievable, the amount of people that came out today,” Galloway, a Salt City native, said. “It was a big game and I never thought I’d see people in the upper deck, it’s a great experience to have. It was a playoff environment and we’re going to learn a lot from the game.”
“That’s the type of atmosphere you always hear about and always dream about,” Gladding said. “When you here older guys talk about playing in the Dome, they glorify it a lot. I don’t know how much exaggeration is put into their descriptions of playing here, but it totally fit.”
Starsia went as far as comparing that lore to another sport, saying that no matter what happens through much of the game, the deciding factor usually comes in the crunch.
“At practice on Wednesday coach compared the game to an NBA game, because it doesn’t matter who’s winning,” Gladding said. “All that matters is the last minute of the game. It doesn’t matter what happens…it always ends up being close. It’s kind of funny how it turned out that way.”
There was a tight first half. There was a quarter where each team dominated the scoring. There was running. There was transition offense. There was defense. There was great goalie play. There was one nearly three minute spurt in the second quarter where SU played defense – allowing not one goal and earning several thunderous applauses. Shamel Bratton took one shot that soared almost a cage too high, and the possession ended with a crease violation. Orange keeper John Galloway finished with 13 saves.
“I think I let the guys down a little bit in the first part of the first quarter by letting in those shots,” Galloway said. “I wanted to make a couple big stops for them in the second half. It was the first time I felt confident against a good Division I team and I’m excited to have that feeling.
But that feeling wasn’t something Galloway expected to have, especially after his 11 goal, nine save performance in the national semis last season.
“To be honest, I was real nervous,” the sophomore said. “It was the most nervous I’ve been in a while. I really showed it in the first quarter, especially after that first shot [a goal by Bratton]. After that quarter, I realized I needed to step it up or this team was going to run all over us. I just felt like I was seeing the ball really well against a good team."
Adam Ghitelman was equally as impressive on the Virginia side. The sophomore made 10 saves in his second outing against SU. Among those stops was a third quarter play when he stoned Kenny Nims after at least four doorstep fakes.
“That kind of play elevates the whole team,” Ghitelman said. “That’s kind of why you play the position of goalie. One play like that can get the team going to a whole new level. I don’t really think when those plays happen. I kind of just do what I can. Thank God I made the play.”
The biggest struggle for the Orange seemed to be turnovers, a stat Kenny Nims was thankful is not kept in college lacrosse. Especially down the stretch, Syracuse had pass after pass sail too far, just wide, or tick off a stick head.
“Regardless of what the number [of turnovers] was, the way we played was not acceptable or characteristic of our team,” Nims said. “Given that, we still had a chance to win the game. If we come out in practice this week and clean things up, we’re going to keep getting better every week as far as turnovers are concerned.” “We just didn’t take care of the ball like I think we can,” Coach Desko said. “We just had too many turnovers. Turnovers for our offense really hurt our team…We just need to play better for 60 minutes, especially at the offensive end of the field.”
UVa made its run in the third quarter. With both teams tied at four at the break, Viginia scored the first three goals of the second half in a two minute span. Gladding had two of those tallies. He finished with three goals, one more than his previous season total.
“He’s one of the best attackmen in the nation,” said SU defenseman John Lade. The sophomore had the task of covering Gladding. “I don’t want him to score on me, but he is the best. It might happen, but I just kept my head up high and kept playing and hopefully play harder the next time and learn from my mistakes.”
Bratton scored three of his four goals in the third quarter. It was a break-out performance for Shamel, who has dealt with high expectations since arriving in Charlottesville with his brother as the top two recruits in last year’s crop.
“You’ve got to step up when they put the poll on Brian [Carroll],” Bratton said. “He’s our big gun in the midfield. Someone’s got to step up and make plays offensively. They put a shorty on me. That’s what I had to do.”
Syracuse made an offensive run of its own in the fourth quarter, scoring the game’s last four goals. SU also had possession of the ball with 50 seconds left, but failed to convert.
Syracuse is next in action Saturday at future Big East foe Georgetown. Virginia travels to VMI Tuesday.
|Kenny Nims||(4, 0)|
|Josh Amidon||(1, 2)|
|Dan Hardy||(2, 1)|
|Scott Kahoe||(2, 0)|
|Joel White||(1, 0)|
|Chris Daniello||(0, 1)|
|Tim Desko||(1, 0)|
|Stephen Keogh||(1, 0)|
|John Galloway||13 (0.500)|