Duke, Denver, Cornell, Syracuse Advance After Wild, Nail-Biting LAX Quarterfinals

Wow.

If the NCAA Lacrosse semi-finals and championship are anything like this weekend’s quarterfinals, they will have to find a bigger venue to play next year to hold all the new fans. 

With three of the four games tweaking the nail-biter meter deep into the red, the match-ups could not have been scripted any better. Big on drama and suspense, these games all came down to the wire, had fans on pins and needles, and the winner decided with only seconds left. 

Here is the breakdown:

Heart Attack and Twine*

Yale –vs– Syracuse

Syracuse started the game on fire and quickly jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter, and it looked like a long day in the making for the Yale squad. 

Yale, who has a habit of finding themselves in a hole, weathered the early Syracuse attack, and finally managed to score its first goal as time ran out in the first quarter. From there, it was all Yale, as they held the Orange scoreless for the second, third, and most of the fourth quarter. With a two-goal lead with just over three minutes left in the game, it seemed Yale had the game well in hand. But Syracuse lived up to their championship pedigree, and collectively willed their season to last at least another week. 

If you plot the Syracuse output on a graph, it looks like a heart rate monitor, with a lot of activity at the ends, and nothing in between, where they spent 43 minutes wandering the desert. In fact, only an offensive outburst (and a great save of a point-black shot by Syracuse goalie Dominic Lamolinar) in the final three minutes kept Syracuse from flat lining for the rest of the game, and going home for the season. 

The last 184 seconds of the game belonged to the Orange, as they scored twice in 44 seconds to knot up the game up at six. Yale had a great opportunity to score the go-ahead goal when Conrad Overbeck got all up in the Orange’s grille with a shot right in front of the crease, but was stuffed by Lamolinar. 

After a quick time out, Yale tried to ride out the clock and head to overtime, but Syracuse Attackman Dylan Donahue had other ideas, and found the twine with just 13 seconds left, (13 was a lucky number this weekend for two teams, more below) for the last score of the game. It was a heartbreaking loss for Yale, who looked to have the game wrapped up, and while Syracuse was able to come back to life at the end of the game, a similar effort next week against Denver, will make them fans, not players, in the Championship game. 

Syracuse faces Denver on Saturday in the semifinals.

Downed By Law

North Carolina –vs– Denver
This game was off-script, and off the charts, but hewed to the tendencies of both teams. North Carolina is known to start hot and fade in the fourth quarter, and Denver with its relentless play and potent offense, have the ability to weather adversity and wear teams down over the course of 60 minutes.

The Tar Heels got came out blazing, and jumped to an early 6-1 first quarter lead. Denver was in deep trouble, as no team down at least five goals has ever come back to win in a NCAA Lacrosse Championship Quarterfinal. 

Denver helped North Carolina by playing sloppy ball, turning over the ball, and even allowing an empty net goal as Denver got caught with their pants down while substituting goalies. 

The Pioneers had some good shots on goal, but couldn’t convert. It seemed like North Carolina had a magnet in the lacrosse ball they could turn on at will, as Denver had at least six shots hit the pipe and bounce away. 

Denver and North Carolina traded goals with three each in the second quarter and the Tar Heels took their five point lead into the locker room at halftime. 

Pioneers coach Bill Tierney, no stranger to the tournament, lit a fire under his team, and the second half was a different story for the Denver squad. The Pioneers slowly and methodically chipped away at the NC lead. 

Wesley Berg, the outstanding middie who is having an phenomenal post-season, led with four goals, to add to the eight he had last week at Albany. Attackman Eric Law posted two goals and three assists, and stellar play in the goal by Jamie Faus (11 saves) helped Denver outscore NC 7-2 in the second half and finally tie the game at 11-11 with 1:31 remaining.

On the next possession, Denver looked to hold the ball for the last shot, ensuring at least a tie and overtime, but they were hit with a stall warning with 40 seconds left, giving them 30 seconds to take a shot.  Attackman Eric Adamson fired on goal with about 15 seconds left, but goalie Kieran Burke deflected the ball. 

Eric Law was positioned perfectly for the rebound and with lucky number 13 showing on the clock, scooped up the ball and fired it in point blank for the winning score, and his third goal of the game. This is the second game in as many days to have the game winning shot clear the goal with 13 seconds left. 

Denver fans were elated and North Carolina’s stunned after giving up a five goal lead. 

Denver faces Syracuse on Saturday in the semifinals.

Downed by Law(son) II

Duke –vs– Notre Dame
While the other games this weekend were characterized by prolonged scoring streaks, this game was nip and tuck the whole way. Featuring five lead changes and nine ties throughout the game, neither team led by more than two points the entire day. 

Duke relied on a career-high five goals by middie David Lawson while Josh Dionne chipped in another three. Notre Dame was slightly more balanced, with three goals each for Matt Kavanaugh and Conor Doyle, and Jim Marlatt adding two of his own. 

Notre Dame was stymied in the fourth quarter, and after scoring with 9:29 left in the game, couldn’t eke out another score or stop a determined Duke team from going on the longest scoring streak of the afternoon. The Fighting Irish allowed three unanswered goals from the Blue Devils which spelled the difference in this game and propelled Duke into the semifinals for the seventh consecutive year. 

Duke faces Cornell on Saturday in the semifinals.

16 Shells

Cornell –vs– Ohio State
Far from setting precedent for the weekend, the first game of the quarterfinals was the only one whose outcome was well known by halftime, as Cornell overpowered Ohio State all day, for a 16-6 win, and a trip to the semifinals.

Cornell was nearly unstoppable, with Steve Mock scoring seven goals, a career high, and Rob Parnell, a Tewaaraton Award Finalist (the Teaaraton Award is to Lacrosse what the Heisman Trophy is to college football), continuing his outstanding play with eight points on two goals and six assists. 

Like North Carolina, Cornell jumped all over Ohio State early taking a 6-1 lead in to the second quarter. Unlike Denver though, the Buckeye’s could not overcome the onslaught, and Cornell’s five goal lead blossomed to eight at the half. 

Cornell dominated Ohio State on both ends of the field, won 16 of 26 faceoffs, and stopped ten shots to the Buckeye’s eight. 

The only bright spot for Ohio State in this rain soaked game, was holding Cornell scoreless for the entire fourth quarter, though it made no difference to the outcome, as the Buckeye’s only managed to score one goal themselves. 

Cornell faces Duke on Saturday in the semifinals

* and other Tom Wait references

As always, check out Inside Lacrosse for comprehensive coverage.

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