SYRACUSE, N.Y.- Number eight seeded Syracuse hosted unseeded Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Carrier Dome on Sunday night. In a tale of two halves, Syracuse rallied past Albany to win 11-9 and secure its spot in the quarterfinals against Maryland next weekend. The Great Danes lost to the Orange in the Carrier Dome earlier this season, 16-7.
Albany came out firing in the first half, grabbing the first five faceoffs and first two goals securing a 6-2 lead at the half. The Great Danes outshot the Orange in the first two quarters, 21 to 12. Albany’s goalie Blaze Riorden looked strong early, making six saves of the eight that were on cage in the first half.
“That was a hell of an effort by us,” Albany Head Coach Scott Marr said. “This is probably the hardest place to play in college lacrosse. For us to come in here and play the way we did and put on a good show for the fans across the country, like I said I’m extremely proud of my kids.”
The Orange won the second half, proving to be the deciding factor. Ben Williams won eight of twelve faceoffs in the second half, giving the Orange more possessions than in the first. Syracuse outshot Albany 27-13 in the second half, outscoring Albany 5-1 in the third quarter and 4-2 in the fourth.
“Once you look at the scoreboard at halftime you realize this is it, we’ve got to do something here,” Sergio Salcido said. “That’s when we all stepped up and started making plays.”
“We knew they were going to throw a punch but we thought that if we hit them with the first punch they wouldn’t have a chance to gain momentum. In a place like this, they get a couple goals and the crowd gets into it,” John Maloney said. “It’s not like we gave up or didn’t give 100 percent effort, it’s just that some things didn’t go our way.”
Salcido led the Orange in scoring with a pair of goals and a pair of assists. Tim Barber followed with a two goals and one assist and Jordan Evans also had a pair of goals. Nick Mariano, Derek DeJoe, Matt Lane, Joe Gillis and Dylan Donahue each added one goal, tallying eight goal-scorers on the night.
“They’re a matchup nightmare,” Riorden said of Syracuse’s depth. “It’s the fact that they can run five or six attackmen in a game and still have success on the offensive end.”
Albany scoring was led by John Maloney with two goals and one assist, followed by Connor Fields and Adam Osika who each added a pair of goals. Seth Oakes finished with one goal and one assist. Neither team had any penalties and thus no man-up opportunities.
Despite the difference in numbers by half, Williams and Albany face-off man Zach Ornstein split the faceoffs 12 of 24. Williams finished with four of ten in the first half and eight of 14 in the second. Ornstein finished with six of ten in the first and six of 14 in the second.
“It’s just five faceoffs,” Williams said. “You’ve got to take them one at a time. I don’t look up at the scoreboard, I don’t like how we keep track of faceoffs on the scoreboard anyway so just one at a time and we chipped away at it.”
“Ben Williams and their whole unit; they work hard week in and week out,” Ornstein said. “They have a ton of guys, Coach Donahue even. They just work hard. They don’t get nervous. We win the first five faceoffs, they win the next five. [Ben Williams] is a very calm and content faceoff guy. He doesn’t let the pressure get to him. He’s just a grinder.”
Evan Molloy also improved during his time in goal for the Orange, saving seven of 13 in the first before saving five of eight in the second. Again, Riorden saved six of eight shots during the first half but dropped to three of 12 in the second while Syracuse was taking more opportunities on cage.
With the win, Syracuse improves to 12-4 and will advance to the NCAA quarterfinals where the Orange will face Maryland in Providence, Rhode Island on May 21st.
“I think the type of game it was, you know rolling our sleeves up in the second half and really getting after it will help us next week,” Syracuse Head Coach John Desko said.