Syracuse outlasts Bryant, moves on to quarterfinals

SU capitalized on its few offensive possessions to roll past tournament newcomer Bryant at the Carrier Dome.

Chris Daddio knew his offense wasn’t going to have many chances to put the ball in the back of the net during the Orange’s first-round NCAA Tournament game against Bryant.

Facing the nation’s top faceoff specialist in the Bulldogs’ Kevin Massa can do that.

“That’s probably one of the best faceoff guys I’ve ever seen,” Daddio said. “I’ve never seen a guy get the ball in his stick quite like that. When you try to push the ball, this kid gets it in the back of his stick every time.”

Photo: Andrew Renneisen
Long-stick midfielder Matt Harris defending Bulldog face-off specialist Kevin Massa in SU's NCAA match-up against Bryant.

Sophomore Kevin Rice had two goals and two assists, and redshirt freshman Dylan Donahue scored a hat trick to help lead the No. 1-seeded Syracuse men’s lacrosse team past the upstart Bulldogs, 12-7 and advance to the quarterfinals of the championship tournament.

“We harped on not turning the ball over, even in practice, just to set the tone for what we had to do today,” Rice said. “We knew we might get into a situation with limited possessions, and we’d have to make the most of those limited opportunities.”

Massa won 22-of-23 from the center circle to become the NCAA’s single-season record holder for faceoffs won. The sophomore entered the game winning 71 percent of his faceoff attempts, snatching 293 of 411. He also holds a single-season NCAA record 231 ground balls.

The Orange’s lone faceoff win came after Desko pulled starting specialist Daddio in favor of long-stick midfielder Matt Harris. The pickup helped push the offense forward enough to score the first goal of the game after Luke Cometti scored an unassisted blast around the corner of the crease with 7:29 remaining in the first quarter.

Cometti added two goals and an assist for the Orange (14-3), while JoJo Marasco and Billy Ward each tallied a goal and an assist.

Rice helped the Orange take control with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter, grabbing a shot from Cometti and blasting a shot into the crease from the far left wing. That helped Syracuse mount a 4-1 run in the period before Colin Dunster notched his third goal of the game for Bryant (8-11) to pull within two at 9-7 going into the final period.

The Orange would close out the game with a 3-0 late on goals by Donahue, Ward and a trick-shot goal by Ryan Barber with 2:17 to play.

“I just think the whole defense played well, put a little pressure on them, forced some turnovers and made them make mistakes,” Syracuse coach John Desko said. “It’s a team coming into the Carrier Dome for the first time, so you’ve got to expect a couple of turnovers.”

Syracuse faced Bryant for the first time in any competition, and the first time Bryant played in the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship.  A large contingent of Bulldog fans made up the 2,826 in attendance to see the historic matchup.

Peter McMahon scored three goals for Bryant, and Shane Morrell had a goal and an assist for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs started the game on a 4-0 run, beginning with Dunster’s goal in the first 10 seconds. Dunster would add his second only 29 seconds later, and McMahon and Morrell each scored once before Desko called a timeout.

“We were disappointed to start the game,” Desko said. “We kind of forgot what we were supposed to do when we were down, and as a result they had some goals. We finally settled down, and played great defense after that first run.”

The Orange outshot the Bulldogs, 30-28 as goaltender Dominic Lamolinara made eight saves to notch his eleventh win of the year and keep Bryant from coming back.

After committing one of the team’s three faceoff violations on his first attempt, Daddio re-entered the game to help Syracuse attempt to slow down the indomitable Massa.

A week removed from winning the Big East tournament, the Orange found themselves in an emotional game with a motivated opponent. But as the focus shifts toward Ivy League tournament champion Yale, whom the Orange play in College Park, Md. on Saturday at 3 p.m., the team was all business in the locker room.

“I think we came out a little too emotional,” midfielder Harris said. “The coach calls a timeout, and we make those adjustments. We’ve been doing a good job of that so far.”

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