Syracuse lacrosse can’t close the deal (again) in double overtime loss to Cornell

Syracuse lacrosse can’t close the deal (again) in double overtime loss to Cornell
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Ithaca, NY —It was a lacrosse game that had everything.

Buzzer beaters and bad blood.

Comebacks. Collapses. An assistant coach ejected.

A goalie change that brought on a haunting case of déjà vu.

Rain, raw temperatures and a rivalry renewed after ridiculously taking a year off.

When it was over, Cornell’s 18-17 win over Syracuse in double overtime on Tuesday night at Schoellkopf Field was an instant classic from one perspective but a painful reminder of an inability to close in the clutch for the other.

Syracuse shot out of a cannon to begin the game, ripping off seven straight goals to build a 7-0 lead on the Big Red with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.

That’s when the first of many head-turning events happened.

With :15.2 seconds remaining in the first period, Syracuse offensive coordinator Pat March was escorted out of the stadium for arguing with an official.

Cornell cashed in two man-up goals with the three minutes of unreleasable penalty time that resulted from March’s march out of the stadium and a bench penalty on the Orange, cutting SU’s lead to 7-4.

“I don’t even know what the call was, to be honest,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. “I think the ref put his hand in his face. Something happened, I’m not exactly sure what. I was in front of him. But that’s something we’ll deal with. I’m positive it will never happen again. I know that. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again. It was an interesting situation. We’ll just say that.”

The nasty tone had been set.

SU led Cornell 14-10 at halftime but it had also accumulated six penalties, with several of those of the unsportsmanlike variety, while Cornell picked up four flags of its own.

Cornell head coach Connor Buczek switched out goalies at halftime, replacing freshman Matthew Tully with junior Wyatt Knust.

Knust should ring a bell, SU fans. He came off the bench and stifled Syracuse for eight saves in Cornell’s 16-15 overtime win over the Orange at the Dome the last time these two teams met on April 11, 2022.

Knust made eight saves in Tuesday’s game as well, partly because Syracuse wouldn’t listen.

Syracuse scored most of its goals with low shots on Tully in the first half. Despite being warned repeatedly by Gait that Knust was a better goalie low and that his offense needed to find other means to score, the Orange continued to shoot low and were stimulated.

An offensive juggernaut that put up 14 goals in the first half was held to three after the break.

Syracuse held a 16-10 lead with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter, but the lack of offensive cohesion put too much of a strain on the Orange defense against the fourth-best scoring offense (15.38 goals per game) in the country. Will Mark stood tall in making 16 saves for SU, but eventually Cornell’s offense is going to strike if you keep giving it opportunities.

Cornell rattled off seven unanswered goals to take a 17-16 lead, the seventh straight score coming with just ten seconds remaining.

Syracuse’s Sam English responded with a charge to the net and a goal that tied the game at 17 with 1.1 seconds remaining.

To overtime the game went, a place that gives Syracuse the shivers as it had lost twice there before this season to Army and Maryland.

The first extra session only produced two shots by the Orange. A Cornell man-up opportunity was killed off by SU’s man-down unit, dubbed the “Junkyard Dawgs.”

Syracuse had two glorious scoring chances in double-overtime shut off by Knust, a charge at the net by Luke Rhoa and a Finn Thomson shot on the doorstep off a beautiful feed from Joey Spallina (who finished with 3 goals and 4 assists) with 1 :13 remaining.

With 47 seconds remaining in double OT, Cornell’s CJ Kirst caught a pass from Baldwinsville graduate Spencer Wirtheim with his right hand, quickly switched to his left, cocked his stick and fired a shot past SU goalie Will Mark in the lower right corner of the cage .


“For us, it’s about one possession at a time,” Cornell head coach Connor Buczek said. “That’s how we have to play the season. When it’s not pretty, it’s not perfect, it’s tough and that’s what Cornell Lacrosse kind of hangs their hat on.”

“We had multiple opportunities in overtime,” Gait said. “We kept doing what we needed to do to try and win that game. Unfortunately, we just didn’t put the ball in.”

On Saturday, Syracuse went to South Bend with a chance to claim the top ranking in the country if it could beat Notre Dame. SU lost 14-12 to the Irish after a furious comeback in the fourth quarter fell just short of victory.

Gait’s team now sits on a two-game losing streak and is fighting for its postseason life after yet another close-but-no-cigar defeat.

SU’s four losses this season are by a combined five goals. Three (Maryland, Army, Cornell) have come in sudden death.

Syracuse will have a long time to let this one seep into its soul. The Orange don’t play again until April 13 at North Carolina.

Gait hopes the extra time will provide clarity.

“This is one of our longest breaks of the year,” Gait said. “We can go back to some basics. Get back to some fundamentals and really focus on what we have to do to have better success at the end of games. We’re fighting to get into the playoffs and we want to have that opportunity to play to move on.”

“We’re just not finishing the opportunities,” Gait said. “In every single one (SU’s overtime losses), we’ve had opportunities to win the game and unfortunately we’re just not making the play.”

Contact Brent Axe: Email | X | Voicemail 315-552-1964

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