KENNESAW, G.A.- No. 7 Syracuse faced No. 10 North Carolina in the ACC semi-final game on Friday night. The Orange, who stuck it to UNC two weeks ago winning 13-7, defeated the Heels again tonight, 10-7.
"Obviously a good win for us to beat Carolina twice in one year," Syracuse Coach John Desko said. "It was my biggest fear, having to play somebody that we had just beaten a little bit earlier in the season. I was very happy with the focus of our guys."
The Orange jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start, eventually gaining a five-goal lead at 6-1 in the second quarter. Carolina scored three unanswered goals to cut Syracuse’s lead to two at 6-4 before halftime. The Orange then held the Heels scoreless in the third to regain a solid lead going into the final quarter. North Carolina seemed to be making a comeback late in the game but fell short.
"Offense got some goals in the first half to put some pressure on them and it was great to see this great guy to get out there in his hometown and play well this evening," Desko said.
Desko is referring to Nate Solomon, the freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia. Solomon finished with a pair of goals for Syracuse, a career-high for the first-year. Derek DeJoe and Jordan Evans each scored a pair of goals for the Orange. Nick Mariano added one goal and three assists and Sergio Salcido added one goal and two assists. Dylan Donahue finished with one goal and one assist. Syracuse went two for four on extra-man opportunities.
"It felt really good to get out there again," Solomon said. "I've got a lot of friends and family here. A lot of people texting me saying they were here so that felt really good. I'm just used to the air. I like the Georgia air. It felt like high school again, kind of. It was a lot of fun, I know it's a big stage but you've just got to play confident."
North Carolina was led by Steve Pontrello with three goals and two assists, followed by Brian Cannon with a hat trick of his own. The Heels took advantage of all man-up opportunities, scoring on all four.
Ben Williams went 12 of 21 at the face-off X, losing all but one in the second quarter. North Carolina’s Stephen Kelly won the other 9 of 21.
Evan Molloy made 14 saves on 21 shots on goal for the Orange. The save percentage of .677 is Molloy's highest save rate this season.
"It's great that our defense is playing so well," Molloy said. "They always rise to the occasion in the games that I'm playing in. They're giving me shots that I can save and we're just playing great as a unit. My game is nothing without them. Every single one of those guys."
"I thought our team defense was very good once again in this game," Desko said. "When they did have an opening it was great to have Evan play so well tonight. With a little crack in the lining he was there to make the stop. He got a lot of those outside stops early in the game which I think gave our defense a lot of confidence."
Syracuse's defense tallied eight caused turnovers, four of which belonged to Brandon Mullins. Mullins also picked up five ground balls for the Orange. Salcido caused a turnover late in the game to assure Carolina's defense would not have the opportunity to get back into the game.
Carolina’s Brian Balkam made 12 saves on 22 shots on goal.
With the win, Syracuse improves to 9-4 and Carolina drops to 8-6. The Orange will play Duke on Sunday in the ACC Championship for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.