Orange defense bounces back with 6-2 win over Army

No. 18 Syracuse employed a stringent defense and explosive first-half offense to defeat Army, 6-2.

Call it a goalkeeper’s duel, defensive effort or grind-it-out performance. The Syracuse men’s lacrosse team only cares about one thing — a win.

No. 18 Syracuse bounced back from a disastrous double-overtime loss to Albany on Feb. 17 with a 6-2 defensive-minded win against Army on Sunday at the Carrier Dome.

The game, in which both teams combine for 66 shots and 37 shots on goal, saw a completely different defensive effort from goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell and the Syracuse backline.

“I thought we did a really good job off the ball,” Wardwell said. “We definitely did a better job than last week. The communication was great, and we started to really gel as a defensive unit.”

Dylan Donahue paced the Orange (1-1) with a goal and an assist. Derek Maltz, Scott Loy, Billy Ward, Luke Cometti and Derek DeJoe each added a goal for Syracuse.

Getting plenty of people involved in the attack was important for Syracuse, which dropped its first season opener since 1996 last week.

Army’s defense responded, forcing 21 ground balls and 13 turnovers as sophomore goalkeeper Sam Somers made an eye-popping 18 saves in his first complete-game effort of the year.

“Our scout team give the defense a great look all week,” Somers said. “I was happy with how our defense played; they made the saves a lot easier to make.”

But the game was won on defense, where the Orange forced 24 ground balls and 12 turnovers to go along with Wardwell’s 11 saves. The Orange defenders wanted to prove that last week’s 16-15 scoreline was an exception.

A full week to prepare and three games’ worth of film on the Black Knights (2-2) didn’t hurt, either.

“This past week, we had coaches coming in and showing us film,” said Syracuse defender Brian Megill, who caused four turnovers. “They did a great job getting us ready, putting in that extra time, and it really paid off in getting the defense together. We really started gelling as a team.”

Ward helped the Orange to a 1-0 lead after the first quarter, scoring after charging straight up the middle with the Army defense pulled behind the net. But the Syracuse offense erupted in the second quarter after Loy slammed home a pass from Kevin Rice with 11:42 to play, and Cometti added a goal on a play started behind the net by JoJo Marasco with 10:09 to play.

Tyler Kamide brought the Black Knights within 3-1 at the 8:15 mark of the quarter, but the Orange finished on a 2-1 scoring streak for the rest of the quarter to take a 5-2 halftime lead.

Donahue went to work on the mini-run for Syracuse, first dishing an assist to Maltz with 7:06 left in the half and then adding an unassisted goal with 4:12 remaining.

“I think we came out of the gate a little bit less nervous this game as opposed to last game,” Maltz said. “We had time to prepare, and we knew what they were doing.”

DeJoe scored the only goal of the second half, taking a pass from Matt Walters and sending the ball home from 15 yards out on a low shot for his first goal of the season. The second-half shutout by the Orange stopped the nation’s longest active scoring streak. Army’s Garrett Thul previously held the streak, scoring in 42 straight games.

“We had a couple of clearing situations that led to a bit of a break for us,” SU head coach John Desko said. “The opportunities were there more.

“I think after last week, we were very disappointed,” Desko added. “The guys wanted to come out and play today. We prepped well for who we had today, and they were excited to play.”

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