Men's Lacrosse

A week after winning on a buzzer-beating shot, Syracuse falls to Army, 14-13, in the same fashion

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

The Black Knights staved off multiple Syracuse comebacks to escape the Carrier Dome, historically unfriendly to Army, with a win.

Another halftime deficit, another series of fourth-quarter heroics, another chance for Syracuse to avoid an early-season upset. Goals from Jordan Evans and Nick Mariano, the veterans who combined for only two points last week, positioned the Orange to stage another comeback.

But Syracuse left stunned. Army’s fourth option delivered the knockout.

What would have been Army’s first choice, senior attack Cole Johnson, already notched a hat trick but was sidelined with an injury six minutes earlier. The second, Matthew Donovan, isolated himself behind the cage, drew a slide, but couldn’t find space. Nate Jones, the third, had no wiggle room. Two passes later, David Symmes caught the ball with five seconds left.

The attackman hadn’t gone left all game. On the final play he did, driving left on Andrew Helmer before rifling the game-winner from 10 yards out. With half a second on the clock, Army’s 6-foot-4 junior bullied his way to create space and end the seesaw battle, 14-13, in favor of the Black Knights.

“It was kind of organic how it all happened,” Army head coach Joe Alberici said. “Just came hard downhill, put one left-handed off hip. I don’t know that you could put it in a better spot.”

Army’s No. 7 scoring defense staved off Syracuse’s top-15 offense long enough to preserve a lead. A Ben Williams-less No. 6 Syracuse team didn’t have enough answers. Every time the Orange (2-1) pulled within one or two, its inexperience and injuries resurfaced as Army (3-1) reeled off a bounce-back run.

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

One year ago, it took a Tim Barber goal with under four minutes left for Syracuse to squeeze past Army. Though SU has won five straight February games against Army, and 21 of the last 25 meetings in the Carrier Dome era, West Point holds the upper hand in an all-time series dating back to 1921. This time, the Black Knights pulled through. For the first time since 2014, Syracuse is not 3-0.

The afternoon began with promise as SU struck first and stayed within four scores throughout, but never regained the lead over the last three quarters. Five ties, including two in the last 5:24, rekindled memories of Mariano’s game-winner last Saturday. That day, SU trailed 6-1 against then-No. 12 Albany and mounted a second-half comeback. That didn’t happen Saturday. The visitors held an 8-6 lead at the break and erupted at the horn’s final blast.

Facing its second straight halftime deficit, Syracuse came out of the tunnel more aggressive. Wings popped up as Mariano bumped to midfield from attack to captain a unit that forced several scrums and six second-half turnovers. Still, as Williams stood on the sideline clad in a blue SU polo and khakis, Army won the faceoff battle, won 31-of-24 ground balls, maintained position and outshot SU 47 -31 to snap a five-game losing streak in the Carrier Dome. Two-, three- and four-minute possessions squandered any moment Syracuse’s mini-runs built.

“Defensively, I thought we did pretty good in the first half,” SU head coach John Desko said. “In the second half, I thought a couple of their razor picks started to work. The things that we had prepared for all week long we had stopped in the first half, but weren’t able to get away with in the second half.”

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Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Every time Syracuse hit, Army responded swiftly. In the third, Mariano cut the Black Knights lead to one, but Army answered 17 seconds later. To start the fourth quarter, Stephen Rehfuss scored to bring SU again within a score. The Black Knights won the ensuing faceoff and, minutes later, Johnson scored his third goal of the day and sixth career against Syracuse.

With 5:24 to play, Jordan Evans knotted the game at 12. But Army won the next faceoff and Symmes, the hero, fired a shot to make it 13-12. Then SU tied it again. On the next possession, Mariano scored his third goal to even the score at 13 and re-instill hope for Syracuse. The Orange churned for the comeback it had found seven days ago. One that never appeared.

“The offense needs to control their half a little bit better,” said Evans, who had two goals and two assists. “Maybe not have to come from behind two times in a row. It’s putting a lot of stress on the defense. That’s not what we want to be doing.”

Not when preseason All-ACC defender Nick Mellen, the only underclassmen on the list, is out for the year. Not when the best faceoff specialist in the country isn’t on the field for the first time in his career. Not when offensive-minded midfielders Sergio Salcido and Jamie Trimboli are caught playing defense. Both times Army scored in transition.

“They were answering us,” Alberici said, “but I kind of looked at it as if we were answering them.”

With less than a second left, Symmes ended it with the game-winner.

“We’ll clearly be tested Saturday afternoon,” Alberici said this week.

Army passed with flying colors.

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