Cometti, Marasco rally Orange by Rutgers

Seniors Luke Cometti and JoJo Marasco helped the Orange outscore Rutgers, 7-1 in the fourth quarter for a 12-11 victory.

For three and a half quarters, it looked like a classic trap game.

No. 7 Syracuse (9-2, 3-1 Big East) was being outhustled, outmanned and outscored by two-win Rutgers, days after dramatic wins at No. 9 Princeton and over No. 2 Cornell.

Faced with the possibility of a loss on senior day, JoJo Marasco and Luke Cometti went to work. And Derek Maltz’s third goal of the game with 10 seconds on the clock delivered another close victory for the Orange.

“Even though it was senior day, it’s more about the team,” Marasco said. “I just tried to find Luke, and he shot lights out."

Cometti scored four of his game-high six goals in the final period, and Marasco finished with a goal and five assists as the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team rallied by Rutgers (2-11, 0-5), 12-11 to keep its six-game home winning streak alive.

With thirty seconds remaining in the game, Marasco sprinted into a gaggle of Rutgers defenders with the game tied, 11-11. The senior and New York Lizards draftee put his head down and caused a late turnover that sent the momentum the other way.

Senior defender Brian Megill scooped up the ground ball, charged down the field and dished a fast-break pass to Maltz, who slotted the ball past Rutgers freshman goalie Kris Alleyne (12 saves) to help the Orange escape with the win.

“When it’s one of your last games in the Dome, we never thought of losing a game like this,” Marasco said. “To step up at the end and put a couple of big ones in at the end of the game, I think it’s huge for the team. I’m really proud of the guys.”

The heads-up turnover emphasized the role of Marasco on this year’s Syracuse team.

“He’s important every game,” Cometti said of Marasco. “He’s not only a threat to go to the cage, but anytime he can pass the ball. And when teams know that, that’s why guys were getting open and other guys were playing well.”

Dylan Donahue added a goal and an assist for Syracuse, while Derek DeJoe also scored for the Orange. Anthony Terranova led Rutgers with four goals and an assist, and Scott Klimchak added three goals.

The turnaround came on defense, where the Orange pressed in the final period to force eight of their 21 turnovers and turn the game around.

“We had to create those turnovers,” head coach John Desko said,  “or we were going to lose the game.”

Rutgers took a nearly insurmountable 10-5 lead after three periods, thanks in large part to Klimchak’s third-quarter hat trick. The Scarlet Knights scored their first goal less barely 28 seconds after halftime, and outscored the Orange, 5-2 on nine shots.

Despite the shaky defense, Desko stayed with starting goaltender Dominic Lamolinara over former starter Bobby Wardwell. Desko said he thought a lot about making the change, but felt good in keeping Lamolinara in the game.

“I don’t think anybody played great in the first three quarters,” he said. “It was just our mindset, and Rutgers had a lot of confidence taking the lead.”

Lamolinara (6-1) made his coach proud in the final period, when he grabbed two clutch saves and only allowed one goal to help the Orange complete the comeback.

Faceoff specialist Cal Paduda also gave Syracuse a spark in the center circle, coming in late to grab six of 18 faceoffs after starter Chris Daddio won only two of the first eight. Paduda forced the ball out to the Orange wingers, who shrugged off a poor first-half experience to take control with a game-high four faceoffs won in the fourth quarter.

“Coach Desko told me not to put it behind and don’t let it get out front,” Paduda said. “Our wings did a great job of not letting that happen.”

On the game’s final possession, a visibly exhausted Paduda trudged to the center circle knowing he had to keep Rutgers from scoring a last-minute equalizer in the final 10 seconds. But the freshman from Madison, Conn., gained just enough control of the ball, and Syracuse escaped with the win.

“In the end, we cut off some time and that was huge for us,” Paduda said. “It felt like two quarters.”

The Orange wrap up their home schedule Tuesday against local rival Hobart, then finish off the regular season on the road at Georgetown and against Notre Dame in the Big City Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. But the road to the Big East tournament is far from complete.

“There’s so much lacrosse left,” Desko said. “You start looking ahead. These (next two games) become almost must-wins.”

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