Syracuse LAX advances to Big East Final with win over Villanova

Syracuse LAX advances to Big East Final with win over Villanova

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team outscored Villanova, 9-2, in the second half to run away with a 15-6 win against the Wildcats in the BIG EAST semifinals on Thursday, May 3 at Villanova Stadium.
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Bobby Eilers netted a career-high four goals and the third-seeded Syracuse men’s lacrosse team (8-7) outscored No. 2 seed Villanova, 9-2, in the second half to run away with a 15-6 win against the Wildcats (8-7) in the BIG EAST semifinals on Thursday, May 3 at Villanova Stadium. SU advances to the championship game of the inaugural conference tournament, and will face off with St. John’s on Saturday, May 5 at 12 p.m. on ESPNU.

“We’ve been stressing playing 60 minutes of lacrosse and this year we have kind of played a good first half or a good second half,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko. “I thought we got 60 minutes of (good) lacrosse, which was our goal. It’s a big win for us, obviously. Now we have a chance to go on to play St. John’s for the BIG EAST Championship.”

Leading 6-4 at halftime, Syracuse and Villanova went back and forth throughout the third quarter before the Orange exploded for the game’s final six goals. SU goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell kept the Wildcats quiet in the final 30 minutes, and tied a career high with 12 saves in the contest.

Syracuse held a dominating 41-22 edge in ground balls for the game, led by a career-high eight by Ricky Buhr. Buhr also led the Orange at the faceoff X, going 11-for-20 as SU won 13 of the game's 25 draws overall. 

The Orange jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two goals from Eilers, the first coming four minutes into the contest on a shot that beat VU goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez five-hole, and the second when he buried a shot with 4:07 left in the quarter. Villanova answered late in the first as Kevin Cunningham beat Wardwell with 38 seconds remaining.

Syracuse extended its lead back to two just 1:26 into the second quarter as Billy Ward found Luke Cometti, who cut to the cage for the score. After Kevin O’Neil made it 3-2 with a man-up tally, Tim Desko took a feed from Matt Harris, and quickly spun around to beat Gutierrez for a 4-2 Orange advantage with 11:43 left in the first half.

Derek Maltz extended the Syracuse lead to three at 5-2 when converted on a behind-the-back shot off a dish from Desko with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half, forcing the Wildcats to call timeout.

After the timeout, the Wildcats quickly narrowed the magin to one with a pair of goals. Nick Doherty sprinted around the net to lose his defender and snuck a shot past Wardwell. Eric Garner did the same less than one minute later and found Will Casertano for the score to make it 5-4 SU.

With Syracuse on the man-up and 10 seconds left in the second quarter, Tommy Palasek hit Matt Walters with a pass, who then beat Gutierrez for his third goal of the season to bring the Orange lead back up to two, 6-4, at halftime.

Syracuse made it a three-goal game again as Eilers completed the hat trick in the opening minute of the second half with a bullet from 10 yards out after taking a feed from Desko. After Hakeem Lecky gave SU an 8-4 lead, Cunningham trimmed the SU margin to three with a fast-break goal 51 seconds later.

The teams continued to trade goals during the third as Walters and Scott Loy sandwiched goals around a Jake Rice tally to give the Orange a 10-6 advantage through 45 minutes of play.

Two quick fourth-quarter goals from Eilers and Loy gave the Orange a commanding 12-6 lead with 10:39 remaining in regulation, and Syracuse  tacked on three more goals in the last quarter to secure a spot in the conference championship.

Palasek tied Eilers for game-high scoring honors, netting four points (1g, 3a). Maltz and Desko finished with one goal and two assists each.

Rice and Cunningham led the Wildcats with two points apiece. Rice notched two goals, while Cunningham contributed one goal and one assist. Gutierrez finished with eight saves for Villanova in the loss.

Game Notes: Eilers's four-goal game marked the fifth time in the past six games he's scored at least two goals … Desko and Ward each tied their career bests with two assists ... Lecky, Walters and Loy all set new career highs with two goals apiece … JoJo Marasco’s fourth-quarter assist extended his point scoring streak to 23 games … Syracuse improved to 3-0 all-time in road games against the Wildcats ... St. John’s, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, upset top-seeded Notre Dame in the first semifinal, 8-7.

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