Rice’s overtime goal helps Orange topple No. 6 Virginia

No. 16 Syracuse rallied past No. 6 Virginia in a back-and-forth game Friday night, 9-8.

Kevin Rice dreamed of playing in the Syracuse-Virginia men’s lacrosse rivalry since he played backyard lacrosse in his Skaneateles home.

The sophomore attackman cemented his spot in the rivalry Friday night.

Rice made use of only two shots, driving home the game-winning goal with one minute left in overtime as the Orange nipped the No. 6 Cavaliers, 9-8 in front of 5,388 fans at the Carrier Dome.

“It was everything I’ve worked for,” an emotional Rice said after the game. “I’ve been watching Syracuse-Virginia my entire life, growing up a half hour away from here. To be a part of a game like that was really special to me.”

Rice took a pass from teammate Dylan Donahue, who was positioned behind the net and drew the defense toward him. After Rice caught the ball at the top of the Big East logo on the left-hand side, he swung his stick through and drilled a shot just inside the far post to give the Orange (2-1) a big win over their future ACC rival Virginia (4-1).

“If I had to pick a spot on the field to shoot from, it would be right there,” Rice said. “That’s definitely my sweet spot. So Dylan drew the defender, and I knew that was as good of a shot as I was going to get.”

JoJo Marasco scored two goals for Syracuse, and Donahue added a goal to go along with the game-winning assist. Luke Cometti, Derek Maltz, Matt Harris, Matt Pratt and Henry Schoonmaker also scored for the Orange.

“It definitely showed that we have eight different guys who can score for us, and eight different guys we trust with the ball,” said Marasco, who tallied the 100th point of his Syracuse career. “But anyone can put the ball in the back of the net, and that’s huge for us.”

The Cavaliers jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mark Cockerton and Rob Emery. But the Orange defense went to work with three of its 10 first-half ground balls, allowing the offense scored four straight goals before Cockerton’s second score gave Syracuse a 4-3 lead after the first quarter.

Virginia shifted to a zone defense to slow down the game, causing Syracuse to struggle to find its form in the second quarter. During the stretch, the Cavaliers outscored the Orange 3-0 on goals from Emery, Ryan Tucker and Owen Van Arsdale. Going into halftime, Syracuse trailed 6-4.

“We went into the locker room, and I was pretty frustrated,” senior defender Brian Megill said. “But we went to the zone defense, and made them frustrated, and then just stayed patient on offense.”

Matt Harris scored his first goal of the season barely two minutes into the half to bring Syracuse back into the game, and Marasco tied the game on a 20-yard skip shot that took one hop past Virginia goaltender Dan Marino.

Donahue scored his goal on the Orange’s final possession of the third quarter, a last gasp effort that found the mark with 12 seconds remaining.

“It shows you really need to finish your opportunities,” Syracuse coach John Desko said. “We came out (in the second half) and were a little more patient. It’s good to have a game like this.”

Bobby Wardwell made nine saves in goal for the Orange, including a crucial stop as Virginia took 2:30 off the clock in the first overtime before the Cavaliers’ first shot. The sophomore goalkeeper led a defense that forced 15 turnovers and 23 ground balls.

“I thought the defense was terrific today,” Desko said. “Bobby got comfortable, and came up with some big saves down the stretch for us. I thought that was huge for us.”

Wardwell quickly shrugged off the early struggles, and Virginia never led after halftime.

“You’ve got to have a short memory if you play goalie,” he said. “The defense really bailed me out tonight.”

“We just couldn’t get it done today,” Virginia’s Cockerton said. “We couldn’t get any momentum going, especially in that second half.”

Virginia previously won eight of the last 10 matchups against Syracuse, and still holds a 15-14 advantage in the all-time series. But Friday’s result was the fifth time in the past seven games the game was decided by one goal.

“It was just another Syracuse-Virginia lacrosse game,” Desko said, “coming down to overtime.” 

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