March 4, 2011

Desko, Syracuse End No. 1 Debate

by Chris Iseman | | Bratton vs. White: Made-for-TV Lacrosse

Syracuse attackman Tim Desko calculates his next move Friday. Desko scored five goals in the top-ranked Orange's 12-10 win over co-No. 1 Virginia at the Carrier Dome.

© Greg Wall

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – There was nothing to dispel the notion that a game between Syracuse and Virginia would result in a shutdown performance by either side. Between the two top teams in the nation, that simply couldn't be the case.

So when it was over, it was no surprise that the game was a fight up until the final second.

"An exciting lacrosse game," Virginia head coach Dom Scarsia said. "It felt a little like a fire drill out there at times. But I thought both teams were really getting after it."

In front of the largest crowd at an NCAA lacrosse game this season, Syracuse defeated Virginia 12-10, getting its first regular season win over the Cavaliers since 2006. Throughout the entire game, neither team would let the other pull away for an easy win. Syracuse and Virginia matched each other in nearly every way, yielding the type of fight that was only expected between the Orange and Cavaliers.

Fourteen of the past 20 games between the two teams ended with a decision of just one or two goals. And that would be no different on Friday. Syracuse and Virginia nearly matched each other goal-for-goal in the first half.

The Orange went on a three-goal run in the first quarter that gave it a 6-4 lead at the end of the period. But that lead wouldn't last long, as Virginia answered right back in the second quarter with a run of its own. Going into the half, Syracuse had an 8-7 lead in a game that seemed to be heading for an offensive shootout.

"(It was) A run-and-gun, up-and-down game against the Cavaliers," Syracuse head coach John Desko said. "...We got off to a great start. And I thought Virginia showed their character and composure and came back."

Virginia came into the game having won seven of the past eight games between these two teams, and won the past three games at the Carrier Dome. The Orange was hungry to end that stretch, as well as put separation between itself and the Cavaliers in the rankings. And Virginia was just as determined to prove it was the team that deserved the No. 1 ranking.

While both teams matched each other's scoring runs in the first half, they matched each other's defensive performance nearly just as much in the second half. Syracuse, though, did everything it needed to keep Virginia from finding the back of the net. It pressured the Cavalier offense, forcing it to take rushed shots to the goal.

Virginia took 16 shots in the half, but Syracuse goaltender John Galloway only had to make three saves. Still, the Orange was still unable to go on a scoring run like it did in the first half. Instead, Cavalier goalie Adam Ghitelman made 16 saves, allowing Virginia to always be within striking distance.

"I thought we battled, I thought Adam kept us in the game in the second half," Scarsia said. "I thought we had a chance to win. Right down to the end, I felt like we were going to come back and do something with it. We just couldn't seem to get what we needed."

That's especially true when it came to defending Syracuse attack Tim Desko, who finished the game with five goals. Desko made backdoor cuts into the Cavaliers' defensive zone to find open opportunities, scoring three goals in the second half.

"Basically, the defensemen were ball watching a little bit," Desko said. "When they turned their head, I cut in and I was wide open."

The Virginia defense had no way to stop Desko, which along with Syracuse's defensive stop, proved to be the difference in the game. But really, that was the only advantage Syracuse would have.

Everything else was a fight until the end. Between the top two teams in Division I lacrosse, it was as much a fight as it was meant to be.

Said John Desko: "I guess we really didn't expect anything else."

Game Notes: Friday night’s game marked the first time in history that two teams sharing the No. 1 ranking in the USILA poll met during the regular season... It was only the second time in the history of the poll that two teams shared the top spot. The final regular season poll in 1985 saw Johns Hopkins and Syracuse share the No. 1 spot. The USILA poll began in 1973… With the victory, Syracuse improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2004 … It was also John Desko’s 150th career coaching win … Galloway’s nine saves moved him into eighth on the SU career saves list (480) … Senior Joel White collected three ground balls to pass Matt Abbott and Sam Bassett on the school’s career ground ball ledger … White ranks eighth all-time at Syracuse with 214 ground balls … The Orange sported retro uniforms for the game … The team wore white nylon mesh jerseys and blue shorts similar to the uniform combination worn by the squad in the early 2000s … SU also donned white helmets with blue visors that featured the interlocking “SU” logo from the same time period.

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