KENNESAW, Ga. – Seven Syracuse players found the back of the net and the Orange defense held North Carolina scoreless in the first and third quarters as Syracuse defeated top-seeded North Carolina, 10-7, in the first semifinal of the 2016 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship.
Derek DeJoe, Jordan Evans, and Nate Solomon all scored two goals apiece for the Orange, while goalkeeper Evan Molloy notched 14 saves in the win. The two goals for Solomon, a freshman from nearby Alpharetta, Georgia, set a career high.
With the victory, Syracuse improves to 9-4 and advances to the ACC title game for the third straight year where it will face the winner of Friday night’s game between Duke and Notre Dame on Sunday at 12 p.m. on ESPNU.
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, scoring three straight goals from Evans, DeJoe, and Solomon. The Orange defense held the Tar Heels scoreless on five shots in the opening period, the fifth time Syracuse has held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter this season.
The Tar Heels (8-6) got on the board to start the second quarter as Brian Cannon took advantage of an extra man opportunity, but Syracuse scored the next three to push the lead to 6-1. North Carolina matched with its own run of three straight on goals from Cannon, Patrick Kelly, and Steve Pontrello in the final four minutes before halftime to bring the deficit to 6-4.
DeJoe scored his second of the day for the Orange to end a nine-minute scoreless drought for both teams to start the second half. Sergio Salcido notched his 22nd goal of the season with under a minute remaining in the third quarter to push Syracuse’s lead to 8-4.
The two teams traded goals to start the fourth quarter, with Solomon and Mariano scoring for Syracuse and Pontrello scoring twice for the Tar Heels. Cannon tallied his third of the game for North Carolina to make the score 10-7, but the Tar Heels were unable to bring it any closer.
With his goal in the second quarter, Syracuse’s Dylan Donahue extended his national-best point streak to 52 straight games and 38 straight with a goal.
North Carolina was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-man opportunities, while Syracuse scored twice with an extra man. The Orange held narrows edges in shots (37-36) and shots on goal (22-21) over the Tar Heels.
Head Coach John Desko | Evan Molloy | Nate Solomon
Desko: Well obviously a good win for us to beat Carolina twice in one year. That’s my biggest fear having to play somebody we just beat a bit little earlier in the season. I was very happy with the focus our guys and our team defense was very good once again in this game. We’ve been putting a lot of effort into that in practice and adding some drills to that. I think that when they did have an opening it was great to have Evan play so well tonight and the little crack in the lining he was there to make the stop. He got some of those outside shots early in the game which I think gave our defense a lot of confidence. Offense got some goals in the first half and to put some pressure on them and it was great to see this young guy get out there in his hometown and play well this evening. Congratulations to our guys and I know Carolina, it’s great to beat a good team like that and we wish them the best going forward.
On coming back to Georgia and playing well
Solomon: It felt really good to get out there again. I’ve got a lot of friends and family here, a lot people texted me saying they were here so that felt really good. I’m just used to the air so I like the Georgia air (laughter).
On if he was nervous
Solomon: Nah, it felt like high school again kind of. I mean it was a lot of fun, I know it’s a big stage but you just have to play confident.
On a strong performance for Molloy in net
Molloy: Honestly it’s just great our defense is playing so well. They always rise to the occasion in those big games I’ve been playing in, I mean they’re giving me shots I can save and I know we’re just playing great as a unit and my game is nothing without them. Every single one of the guys -- the d-middy’s, the poles, the close guys -- they all played great, they all had great games. That’s a testament to them when I have a good game because you know I can’t do it without them so as a unit it is great that we are stepping up in those big ACC games and that’s all I can really ask for.
On seeing a lot of low shots from UNC and if he was anticipating them
Molloy: I’ve been working really hard on not really guessing at all, just kind of waiting for the shot. I’ve been a more patient goalie than I ever have been and it’s been paying off. That one I was just upset I didn’t get my stick down you know and that’s just goalie 101. I was just kind of hard on myself on that one. I mean, I felt great out there.
On holding North Carolina two seven goals twice in three games
Desko: I think it’s been a real focus on ours and we wanted our defense to be a strength earlier in the year with our guys coming back. They’ve been giving up a couple more goals than we wanted to in overtime losses and it’s great to see those guys playing better this time of year. Evan helps quite a bit making those saves as well as his communication to the other guys. Communication overall helps with our defense.
Head Coach Joe Breschi
Statistically, I think they beat us on groundballs, face-offs, x. We scored four man-up goals. I think we did a nice job there. I thought both goalies played really well. A lot of credit goes to Syracuse for the way they played and competed and took advantage of the opportunities they had.
On having to play from behind
Similar to the game at the Dome, they controlled the pace and the tempo and got up on us early and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had. I thought our goalie, I thought both goalies played very well. I know their keep was 67% and Balkam had 12 saves as well for us. So that was a big part of the game.
Same suspects for them did a really nice job. Nate Solomon scored two goals. Mariano and Salcido did a terrific job of assisting the guys up top for opportunities when they came.
On having momentum at the end of the first half
Yeah, then halftime came. We had opportunities, actually, both teams had opportunities in the third quarter. Balkam had seven saves in the third. Their goalie had four. So the opportunities were certainly there. If we could have broken in a little bit but anytime you’re shut out in two quarters, it’s tough, it’s tough to win games that way.
On similarities between this game and thirteen days ago
Very similar. They came out and got the early lead on us and certainly never looked back. So credit goes to them for coming out. The first quarter set the stage for them. They out-shot us ten to five. Groundballs nine to five. Three out of four at the faceoff x, I think early on in the first quarter the last two times we’ve played them in the first quarter. But we were right there at halftime and made a run, halftime came, third quarter could have swung either way. Both goalies made some big saves.