UMass falls to Syracuse in front of record crowd

P.J. Stanley/Collegian

Travis Tripucka is relatively new to the Massachusetts-Syracuse men’s lacrosse rivalry. But one has to wonder if the sophomore defender knew exactly what he was doing when he completely flattened a Syracuse player in the third quarter.

The victim of the vicious hit? None other than Tim Desko, the freshman son of Syracuse coach John Desko ‘- the same John Desko who, at least temporarily, wants to end the 34-year rivalry.

The knockdown hit had to have been an extra-special one for Tripucka and the Minutemen, but that was about all UMass could celebrate after suffering a 10-3 loss to second-ranked and defending national champion Syracuse on Saturday before a record home crowd of 13,722 at McGuirk Stadium.

The No. 16 Minutemen led 2-1 early, but a stifling Syracuse defensive effort led to seven unanswered goals during a 38-minute scoreless stretch for UMass, which couldn’t overcome the offensive firepower of the Orange.

‘This game is about opportunities. We had opportunities, we didn’t finish them. And when you play a team like Syracuse, you have to,’ UMass coach Greg Cannella said after the game. ‘I’m not sure we shot the ball very well today, but [SU goalkeeper] John Galloway hung in there and made great saves.’

Syracuse (11-2) capitalized on virtually all of its opportunities in the second half to cruise to victory and a likely No. 1 spot in the national polls. The non-conference loss may cost UMass a chance at an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, but the Minutemen can still get in with a win Saturday at Rutgers, which would give them the ECAC title and automatic NCAA qualifier.

UMass (8-5, 5-1 ECAC) would tie Loyola atop the standings with a win over the Scarlet Knights, but would claim the ECAC crown by virtue of its 8-6 win over the Greyhounds on March 21.

Syracuse, meanwhile, already has spot secured. After struggling early in Saturday’s game against UMass goalkeeper and All-American candidate Doc Schneider (17 saves), the Orange eventually broke through in a decisive third quarter.

The deep and talented Syracuse offense continued to snipe goals in the third period while UMass remained stagnant offensively. Schneider didn’t make a save as the Orange scored on all four shots on goal. Once the Minutemen ended the seven-goal Syracuse spurt and 38 minute, 19 second scoring drought at the 1:18 mark, it was too late.

‘Not how we wanted to come out, obviously,’ said senior midfielder Rory Pedrick of the slow start. ‘The defense played well but offensively we didn’t execute what we wanted to do. I think we all kind of forced it at times and they caused turnovers and they went down on offense and kind of took over the game.’

Although the Minutemen were displeased with their shot selection, Galloway made some big saves early to further frustrate the UMass offense.

‘Our defense was stymieing them,’ said Galloway, who made 14 saves. ‘They have a really talented attack ‘- they have one of the best duos on attack in the country and they scored two goals. We’re excited to have a defensive performance like that.’

UMass’ Jim Connolly and Tim Balise entered the game with a combined 55 goals. But Connolly’s two tallies were the only points that either scored. Ryan Marcus scored UMass’ other goal.

Stephen Keogh led the Syracuse offense with three goals, while Josh Amidon added two. Five others players chipped in one, including Kenny Nims who also had three assists.

As the lead in the second half grew for Syracuse, the Orange slowed the game down, running down the clock.

‘I was surprised, I probably haven’t seen a Syracuse team stall that often in a game,’ Cannella said. ‘But I think with the weather they figured that would be their best opportunity.’

Barring a potential meeting in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday’s game was the last chance these teams will have against each other, at least for the foreseeable future.

‘I don’t know if this game has been the healthiest game for both teams,’ Syracuse coach John Desko told the Syracuse Post-Standard prior to Saturday’s matchup. ‘So maybe a little time off might help that situation.’

Cannella told the paper that he was disappointed.

‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘I was looking at it today, and we’ve played Syracuse every year since 1976 and twice in 1994 and 2005. You’re looking at a lot of games. I’m real sad to see it end. I wish it would continue.’

For now, Syracuse extends its series lead over the Minutemen to 28-8 ‘- ending a four-game drought against UMass in Amherst.

At least one UMass player would love to see them again sooner rather than later.

‘You never know, we could see these guys again [in the NCAAs] ‘- which would be a blast,’ Schneider said. ‘Rutgers is like a playoff game now and we should go in with a little edge and be a little pissed off about today and hopefully we channel that positively.’

Game notes

Prior to Saturday, UMass hadn’t played a game at McGuirk Stadium since a 1997 loss to Syracuse. ‘hellip; Saturday’s record home crowd topped the previous high of 12,143 fans that saw a 1989 loss to Syracuse.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]