Syracuse Prevails Despite Long Scoring Drought
Orange seniors make first final four with comeback against Yale
|JoJo Marasco fed Dylan Donahue on
the crease for the game-winner in Syracuse's 7-6 comeback win over
Yale on Saturday afternoon at Byrd Stadium in College Park,
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Syracuse's senior class is finally making a long-awaited trip to the final four.
A freshman's game-winner on Saturday made it happen.
Dylan Donahue scored with 13 seconds remaining as the top-seeded Orange slipped past Yale 7-6 in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals at Byrd Stadium.
Syracuse (15-3), which scored the final three goals after enduring a drought of more than 43 minutes, will face either Denver or North Carolina in next weekend's semifinals in Philadelphia.
The clincher was in many ways a vintage Syracuse play, a timely bit of passing from senior midfielder JoJo Marasco to set up a Donahue's close-in shot.
"DD just backed out and was right by the net," Marasco said of Donahue finding an opening in the Yale defense. "I tried to hit him with the pass and I saw him early. I trust him every time. The whole year, he put the ball in the back of the net and look what he did in a quarterfinal game. It was just huge for us."
No senior class at Syracuse since 1979 has gone an entire career without appearing in the NCAA semifinals, and no graduating group of Orange have left without a championship since 1999.
The former streak will survive a while longer, while Syracuse has a chance to extend the latter next weekend — something that seemed unlikely as Yale (12-5) gradually erased an early four-goal hole and seized a 6-4 lead.
There was little the Orange could muster in the middle of the game, ultimately going scoreless for 43:18 as the Bulldogs closed in on their first semifinal trip since 1990.
"I think we got a little too comfortable with things," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "They started changing their defense and started going from a zone defense to a man-to-man defense and started doing some different things. We got sloppy. Give them credit for the D they played, but we got sloppy."
Eventually, though, Syracuse asserted itself. Kevin Rice and Luke Cometti scored in a 44-second span, evening things with 2:20 to play.
It nearly didn't matter. Yale's Conrad Oberbeck uncorked a powerful shot with 1:21 left, only for Syracuse goalie Dominic Lamolinara to collect it and deny the Bulldogs' last high-quality look.
"I just found a loose end," Oberbeck said. "I really thought I canned it. Some breaks just don't go your way, but yeah, I thought it was going to go in."
It was a satisfying moment for Lamolinara, a junior who played in three games as a freshman at Maryland and was returning to Byrd to play for the first time. Yet the Orange, who played their ninth one-goal game of the season, still needed a go-ahead score.
After a timeout with 55 seconds remaining, they got it after working the clock and running a play in the final 30 seconds.
Marasco, Syracuse's sensational feeder who now has 38 assists, watched as Donahue gradually drifted away from a defender but remained fairly close to the crease.
"They were looking to slide to JoJo," Donahue said. "I could see all the guys wanted to go and my guy turned his head and he left me open for a while there. I was just waiting for JoJo. I think he saw me the whole time and was just waiting for the right time to pass it."
It was an unpleasant finish for Yale, which lost four weeks earlier at Byrd to Maryland on a goal with 13 seconds remaining. The feisty Bulldogs collected a second straight Ivy League title and their first victory in the NCAA tournament since 1992 despite facing deficits on a weekly basis.
"This is a tough pill to swallow," Yale coach Andy Shay said.
For its part, Syracuse as a program finds itself in the familiar position of extending its season to Memorial Day weekend.
For the Orange's roster, though, this will be a different experience. Yet like their accomplished predecessors, there is little question what Syracuse has in mind after surviving the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
"We can't be satisfied as a team," defenseman Brian Megill said. "We have one goal in mind right now, and it's that next game and we want to get to that championship."