Another rally, another one-goal victory puts Syracuse in national championship
PHILADELPHIA -- For the second week in a row, Syracuse lacrosse looked like it might exit the Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship.
Not so fast.
In last weekend’s quarterfinals, the Orange trailed Yale 6-4, but scored three goals in the final 3:04 to pull out a 7-6 victory. On Saturday, Syracuse scored just two goals in the opening 30 minutes and appeared to be headed for summer break.
Eric Law’s goal with 11:13 to play in the third quarter gave Denver a 6-2 lead. Syracuse then found some offense.
With 8:17 to play, Scott Loy’s low screamer cut the lead to 7-6. Denver quickly responded with another goal to lead by two.
But a left-handed dart by JoJo Marasco made it 8-7 with 2:35 remaining. Luke Cometi’s third goal of the game, off an assist from Marasco, tied it at 8 just inside the 1-minute mark. After a big faceoff win, the Orange had the ball again. Syracuse head coach John Desko called timeout with 31 seconds left to make one final push and allow the 28,000 in the stands to catch its breath.
It was not exactly what the coach drew up, but the intended result was achieved.
With 19.2 seconds showing on the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard, Derek Maltz was in the right place at the right time. Denver goalie Jamie Faus made a big save, but the short rebound found Maltz’s stick and he took advantage. It was his 32nd goal of 2013 and second of the game.
“I think we worked all week on what if JoJo gets shut off, and Luke had a terrific game, so he took the ball hard to the cage,” Maltz said. “The ball trickled off the goalie’s chest and I was basically just in the right spot at the right time, and I’m just thankful that the ball went in the back of the net and we’re moving on to Monday.”
A number of strategies were discussed during the timeout. Getting everyone to relax was also its intention.
“Just getting in the huddle, the coaches calm us down,” said Marasco, who scored twice. “You know they’ve been here so many times and they know exactly what to say. Once that happens we kind of relax and, as a player, I think it starts with the leadership from guys like Steve Ianzito and Brian Megill.”
The past two weeks are not exactly what Desko had in mind. Unfortunately, nail-biters have been frequent in 2013.
“It’s our 10th one-goal game, and unfortunately I’m almost getting used to it, but we keep coming out on the right side of it,” Desko said. “I think these guys up here have done a terrific job, and to keep their composure and play the way we did at the end of the game.”
Denver used a pair of goalies in the game. Ryan LaPlante started, recording 13 saves in the first half and giving up two goals. Faus played the final 30 minutes.
“We had been playing the first- and second-half system the whole year, and we were going to stick with it no matter what,” LaPlante said. “That's just the way it goes, and Jamie did a fine job. It’s just sometimes the bounces don’t go your way.”
Denver head coach Bill Tierney stuck with a system that has worked all year for his Pioneers (14-5).
“Honestly, we were thrilled with the way [LaPlante] was playing, but this is what we’ve done, and a week ago people were asking me why Ryan was in for so long, all of 10 minutes,” Tierney said. “You’ve got two great young men, two guys that are fantastic goalies.”
Syracuse (16-3) meets Duke (15-5) in Monday’s championship game. The Orange seek a 12th NCAA title. Duke won NCAA gold in 2010. Might another down-to-the-wire affair be in order?
“These guys, when it’s time to step up, they do,” Marasco said. “I think just our patience on offense has been so key this year, and in these last two games we just had to really relax out there. We knew they were going to find the open shots, we just have to relax and hopefully one guy will pop out and take a great shot, and that’s what happened the past two games.”