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Orange downs Duke, 15-14
PHILADELPHIA – Third-seeded Syracuse overcame a slow start and held on late to beat fourth-seeded Duke, 15-14, to claim the 2015 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship Sunday at PPL Park.
With the Orange leading 15-12, Thomas Zenker and Myles Jones scored for Duke within 24 seconds to make it a one-goal game with 2:32 remaining. The Syracuse defense then kept the Blue Devils from scoring the late equalizer as the Orange won its first ACC title in its second year in the league.
Kevin Rice, Randy Staats, and Nicky Galasso led the way for Syracuse (11-2) with three goals apiece.
Rice was named the Most Valuable Player after tallying seven points on three goals and four assists on Sunday and two goals and two assists in the semifinals on Friday.
“Playing two games in three days against top six teams is sort of what you will see in the Final Four,” said Rice. “To know we can go in and win a game the first day, get our preparation in quickly and get our bodies back and win another game at the end of the weekend is good to know moving forward.”
The 29 goals scored equaled the championship game record, set in each of the last two years. It marked the sixth time in league history that the title game was decided one goal.
Jack Bruckner posted five goals and Myles Jones chipped in a hat trick to lead the Duke (11-5) offense.
The Orange converted on 3-of-4 extra-man opportunities, while Duke did not score on four attempts, including two in the fourth quarter.
“I think we understood who they were,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko on his defense against Duke’s man-up offense. “I give Bobby Wardwell a lot of credit for the saves that he made today. I was surprised with the numbers, the amount of situations and all over play. He saved us today.”
After giving up a goal less than a minute into the game to Nicky Galasso, Duke strung together five straight to grab control in the first quarter.
Syracuse opened up the second quarter with its own 5-0 run to take the lead, 7-6. Orange goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell made four saves in the frame to help Syracuse get back into the game.
“We did a better job with our possessions,” said Desko on the turnaround after the early deficit. “Especially in the first quarter, we had a lot of turnovers on the offensive end of the field and gave them the ball back. Every time we got a faceoff with Ben (Williams), I think that gave us a little spurt in those situations too. I think we got on a little bit of a roll and figured out who they were defensively and what they were doing.”
Dylan Donahue and Randy Staats scored the final two goals of the first half to give Syracuse a 9-7 lead heading into halftime.
Duke’s Jack Bruckner scored less than a minute after halftime to pull the Blue Devils to within one goal, but Syracuse answered with tallies from Rice and Galasso to push the lead to three, 11-8.
The third and fourth quarters saw back-and-forth action, with the Orange unable to pull away and the Blue Devils unable to tie the game.
Duke fired four shots in the last two minutes after pulling to within one goal, but could not get the last score needed to send the game to overtime.
“Defensively, we haven’t been overly outstanding over the course of the year,” said Duke head coach John Danowski. “We are playing so many young people in so many new positions. For our guys, it’s not so much a matter of preparing for your opponent as much as it is trying to get better ourselves and working on what we do.”
The Blue Devils outshot Syracuse, 43-35, and both teams grabbed 34 ground balls. Wardwell (11-2) made eight saves for the Orange in the victory.
Led by Kyle Rowe, Duke was 21-of-32 on faceoffs.
With the victory at PPL Park and the 9-8 sudden victory overtime win in the women’s tournament, Syracuse becomes the third school in ACC history to sweep the men’s and women’s titles.
Kevin Rice, Syracuse (MVP)
Bobby Wardwell, Syracuse
Brandon Mullins, Syracuse
Nicky Galasso, Syracuse
Randy Staats, Syracuse
Jack Bruckner, Duke
Case Matheis, Duke
Kyle Rowe, Duke
Myles Jones, Duke
Chad Tutton, North Carolina
Nick Ossello, Notre Dame
Head Coach John Desko
“It was a great game for college lacrosse and we are really excited to come away with a win today. My hat’s off to Coach Danowski and his team. They are a much different team than we played the first go-around. Much improved. They’ve figured it out and have their people in the right places. They changed things up offensively and defensively. Congratulations to them for making it to the finals of the ACC Championship game.”
On Syracuse’s defense when Duke was man-up…
“I think we understood who they were. I give Bobby Wardwell a lot of credit for the saves that he made today. I was surprised with the numbers, the amount of situations and all over play. He saved us today.”
On the turnaround from first quarter to second quarter…
“We did a better job with our possessions. Especially in the first quarter, we had a lot of turnovers on the offensive end of the field and gave them the ball back. Every time we got a faceoff with Ben (Williams), I think that gave us a little spurt in those situations too. I think we got on a little bit of a roll and figured out who they were defensively and what they were doing. And, we stopped turning the ball over. Kevin did a great job with the matchup changes, figuring out who he was being covered by and what kind of move or dodge he would take with that person.”
On man-up offense…
“The system we were running was working really well. We were swinging the ball to the open guy and the back-side guy was open the majority of the time, so we were finding that.”
On winning the ACC Championship…
“It’s big in multiple ways. You want to win every game that you play, especially when there is a trophy on the line, it adds some intensity to the game. Playing two games in three days against top six teams is sort of what you will see in the Final Four. To know we can go in and win a game the first day, get our preparation in quickly and get our bodies back and win another game at the end of the weekend is good to know moving forward.
On having an older, experienced team...
“I think it helped a lot today, especially early. We came out pretty flat. I’m not sure if it was tiredness or nerves or what it was, but we spotted them a four-goal lead at the end of the first quarter. We played pretty poorly, but we ended up with a two-goal lead at halftime. To be able to turn it around that quickly was nice and it put us in a good spot going forward.”
Head Coach John Danowski
“We want to congratulate Coach Desko, his staff, and his students on winning the ACC championship. It’s a great honor and they have a great time and great tradition.”
About Kevin Rice…
“He’s an older player, a smart player with a good high school background, he’s been playing in the same system for four years with the same guys. A lot of it is the players he’s playing with—guys move off the ball well to get open, so they are a tough team to defend because they have a lot of capable players. They’re such a good team as a group offensively, the other guys make good players better.”
On the ACC Tournament format/timing…
“The ACC enjoys crowning a champion and it’s a lot of fun. What a great experience for our kids, especially our younger guys, to play in this kind of environment against a great program with their tradition. We get to be together for a few days.”
On Duke’s defense...
“Defensively, we haven’t been overly outstanding over the course of the year. We are playing so many young people in so many new positions. For our guys, it’s not so much a matter of preparing for your opponent as much as it is trying to get better ourselves and working on what we do. Syracuse did a great job of throwing the ball inside today, they probably scored four or five times inside and got really nice finishes. On those plays, we got a one slide but not a two slide. Those are things we need to work on.”
“I let the game come to me. Had a tough stretch of the last three games, trying to force it and do too much. I trusted my teammates, and it always comes back to me. I got the ball in some opportunistic spots, and kind of made them count when the team needs it.”
“We dodged really hard and forced the defense to slide and switch. When the short stick’s in front of me I try to take advantage of it. Those guys recognize the slide packages and when the long stick slides off of me and they’ll throw it right back and then we’ll kind of get our offense going that way.”
“A lot of us have that Final Four experience; we told the younger guys this is kind of like that, playing two games in three days. We knew this would be a big game, and there was a lot of energy in this game. Coming down to the wire, the experienced players on our team are going to step up. We came up short, but there was a lot of energy on our side especially in the fourth quarter in those final 4-5 minutes.”
“It was crunch time, and a lot of the guys depend on me as an older guy on the team now. I had to make my presence felt in the game, I got into good opportunities where short sticks were in front of me and I was able to take advantage of those closer to goal and use my body to get good shots.”