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Orange advance to Sunday’s championship to face Duke
PHILADELPHIA – Kevin Rice scored the game-winning goal with 1:48 remaining to give third-seeded Syracuse a 9-8 win over second-seeded North Carolina in the second semifinal of the 2015 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship at PPL Park.
Rice held the ball behind the net, took it to his right, and snuck it past North Carolina goalkeeper Kieran Burke for his 24th of the season and the game winner.
“Our defense was keeping us in it and keeping it tight,” said Rice. “Bob [Wardwell] played outstanding and at the end, we just ended up getting it done. Their defender went to my left side, so I pushed to the right and was able to get it in there.”
With the victory, Syracuse improves to 10-2 and advances to the ACC title game for the second straight year where it will face Duke Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPNU.
“Both teams played really hard,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko. “We were fortunate to come out with the win so we can go on and play Duke on Sunday. We are feeling good about the win tonight, enjoy it, and will prepare for the Blue Devils.”
Nicky Galasso led the way for the Orange, posting his fifth hat trick of the year and third in the last four games. The former Tar Heel scored the first two of the contest and then found the back of the net with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter to send the game to halftime tied at 5-5.
Syracuse scored three straight goals in just over five minutes to start the second half. Randy Staats, Dylan Donahue, and Henry Schoonmaker all tallied goals to give the Orange an 8-5 lead.
Duncan Hutchins scored his fifth of the season for the Tar Heels midway through the third quarter, and then Chad Tutton scored twice within two minutes to tie the game up at 8-8 with 11:12 remaining in the contest.
After battling back and forth through the final quarter, Rice notched his second of the game to send the Orange home a winner.
“Kieran Burke was outstanding in the cage and I thought our defense stepped up and had one of their better games of the year forcing perimeter shots and shots that Kieran made,” said North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi. “I thought our man-down was great. Our transition game was solid, but I don’t think we quite had that chemistry offensively we have had recently, and I credit Syracuse.”
Syracuse outshot North Carolina 36-32, while the Tar Heels held a 25-21 edge in ground balls. Ben Williams won 14-of-21 faceoffs for the Orange.
Bobby Wardwell (10-2) made 14 saves for Syracuse in the win, including seven stops in the third quarter. Burke (7-3) had 13 saves in the loss.
Syracuse Head Coach John Desko
“Well we haven’t played at Carolina for 20-some years and then this year we play them twice. It was a couple of great games. It was a good game down in Chapel Hill and a great game here this evening. Both teams played really hard. We were fortunate to come out with the win so we can go on and play Duke on Sunday. We are feeling good about the win tonight, enjoy it, and will prepare for the Blue Devils.”
On the play in the fourth quarter…
“That whole fourth quarter was back and forth. Teams were taking shots. I thought their goaltender made some great saves and Bobby made some great saves for us. I thought the whole fourth quarter, 10 minutes to go, was just a rollercoaster. No one was really scoring, so it felt like whoever was going to get the next goal was going to win the game. Fortunately, Kevin stuck that in for us.”
Syracuse Senior attackman Kevin Rice
On the offense…
“Their goalie was playing pretty well, but we were playing pretty poor offensively throughout the game. Our defense was keeping us in it and keeping it tight. Bob played outstanding and at the end, we just ended up getting it done. Their defender went to my left side, so I pushed to the right and was able to get it in there.”
“We talk about pace a lot and the speed at which we go with our dodges. We were forcing it too early in the game. The crowd was pretty loud and it was a night game. You don’t get too many of those. It was a nice atmosphere and I think we sort of got caught up in it. We were going a little bit too fast, but fortunately we were able to make a play when we needed to and the defense got the stops it needed to.”
On it being nice to not be down early…
“We talked about it all week. The book on us is that we can’t play well on the road. We wanted to answer those critics. I thought defensively we were great. We only gave up a goal or two in the first quarter, which helps the offense when you know you are getting stops and Ben is winning faceoffs.”
North Carolina Head Coach Joe Breschi
“I thought it was a heck of a lacrosse game. I thought our guys played really hard across the board. Just statistically, Kieran Burke was outstanding in the cage and I thought our defense stepped up and had one of their better games of the year forcing perimeter shots and shots that Kieran made. I thought our man-down was great. Our transition game was solid, but I don’t think we quite had that chemistry offensively we have had recently, and I credit Syracuse. They played terrific on 67 percent of the faceoffs as their faceoff guy is a solid guy. But I thought all in all it was a great effort by our guys. I’m really proud of our effort. I’m disappointed in the loss, but wish Syracuse luck.”
On the tempo of the game…
“I think the big there is that we both know a lot about each other having played two weeks ago. So I think that was part of it. Wardwell making seven saves third quarter was huge. I thought we had some great opportunities there and he came up big. Burke was so good in the cage with 13 saves. I thought it was a great lacrosse game. I think we know each other well and each other’s tendencies after playing a full game down in Chapel Hill. I think that’s why the score was a little bit lower this time around.”
On preparing for a team the second time around…
“It’s been six weeks of played six straight top seven teams. It’s a gauntlet no matter who you play. We watch a ton of film. These guys are well prepared. We know the tendencies. I thought the defenses on both sides were excellent. I credit their adjustments.”
On the clear at the end …
“We were offsides. We had four failed clears. Last time we played them, we were 19-19, so four failed clears resulted in two goals. Just the fundamentals and attention to detail.”
Junior goalie Kieran Burke
On the play Kevin Rice in the fourth quarter…
“It’s tough. It was a little miscommunication between me and Bailey, but we have a long way to go. It was my fault on the play. It’s tough for him to score the game-winning goal.”
North Carolina Senior midfielder Chad Tutton
On the tempo of the game…
“It’s tough when you have a slow start. You have to work that much harder as the game goes on to get back into it. I thought we did a good job as the game went on. Obviously, we could have done some things better – we had four failed clears and they had two goals on those failed clears. It’s tough.”