Schoonmaker’s fourth-quarter tiebreaker helps Orange rally past Big Red

A back-and-forth battle between Central New York lacrosse powerhouses ended with an Orange victory in the Carrier Dome Wednesday night.

The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team only led for six minutes and 15 seconds in Wednesday night’s rivalry game against No. 2 Cornell (10-2).

But it was the only six minutes of the game that mattered.

Henry Schoonmaker scored his second goal more than midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Orange a 12-11 lead. No. 7 Syracuse (8-2) held on for a 13-12 victory, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Big Red, who won last year’s meeting in a 12-6 home rout.

“It was a great lacrosse game,” Syracuse coach John Desko said. “We were able to come from behind and win the game. It was a very big win for us, and it will probably be a very big win for us in May, too.”

Cornell nearly tied the game in the waning seconds, but Connor English’s shot with 22 seconds remaining caromed off the crossbar and SU midfielder Steve Ianzito picked it up to save the win.

“I thought I read it well,” goaltender Dominic Lamolinara said of the final shot. “I heard it hit something, so I figured it was the pipe. But I didn’t know where it went, so that was my big fear. I didn’t know if it bounced up front or behind. We were lucky it bounced back.”

Luke Cometti scored four goals to pace the Orange, including the game-tying goal by cleaning up Schoonmaker’s shot off the post with 7:13 remaining. JoJo Marasco added two goals and two assists for Syracuse, which also got a goal and two assists from Scott Loy and a goal and an assist from Kevin Rice.

The win in front of 3,862 evenly-split fans was the first road loss of the year for Cornell, and moved Syracuse to 62-35-1 all-time against its Upstate New York rivals.

“At first it was loud, and I thought it was the rain,” Syracuse defender Brian Megill said. “When you hear ‘one minute remaining,’ and the Dome erupts, a feeling erupts in your body. It’s great to be able to get the win and take it back to the Carrier Dome here.”

Cornell cruised to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter behind three assists by standout attackman Rob Pannell. But Loy scored with 8:20 remaining in the opening period on an pass by Marasco to get the Orange on the board to stop the bleeding. Despite a 20-6 shots advantage, the Big Red only led 6-4 after the first 15 minutes.

Part of that was thanks to Lamolinara (5-1), who finished the night with 12 saves on 24 shots on goal. The junior from Arnold, Md. also picked up three of Syracuse’s 23 ground balls, and caused two of nine forced turnovers as he consistently challenged Pannella and the Cornell attack by racing outside of the crease.

“A couple of guys picked up the blocks, so it wasn’t just me running around,” Lamolinara said. “But Rob Pannell was in my face off the save most of the time, so I’d try to fake it to one side and then just took off.”

Cometti and Billy Ward scored back-to-back goals less than four minutes apart to start the second quarter as the Orange tied the game at 6-6. But Connor Buczek finished the period on a 3-0 run to gave Cornell a 9-6 lead at halftime.

Lamolinara and Cornell goaltender AJ Fiore each made four saves to keep the game close in the opening half.

“Syracuse is a great team,” Pannell said. “That’s what happens in a game like this; you throw records aside.”

Syracuse alternated between a zone and man-to-man defense in the final three periods, and the constant rotation of defenses at times flummoxed the Big Red in adapting to a new vision.

“We haven’t done a lot of it this year, just at times,” Desko said of the zone. “Heck, Jim Boeheim’s been doing it all year, so we thought we might try it once or twice. It’s been effective for us, but any time you change, it makes the opposing team’s offense click less.”

The zone worked, holding Cornell to four goals on 20 shots after halftime. The new defense also gave confidence to Syracuse’s midfielder line of Marasco, Cometti and Loy to challenge up top.

“We struggled at times to control their midfielders. They were everything we thought they would be and more,” Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said. “Some balls just didn’t bounce our way tonight. We hit a lot of pipes.”

The fourth-longest rivalry in college lacrosse ended in another shootout. But the Orange will take confidence from the win, as they prepare for a Big East matchup with Rutgers on Saturday.

“From day one, we’ve come together as a group. I think we just complement each other so well. These guys know how to put the ball in the back of the net,” Marasco said. “Everything is just coming together.”

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