March 26, 2011

Villanova Has Arrived, But Syracuse Wins

by Justin Feil | | Live Blog Replay

Jovan Miller had a goal and an assist to help Syracuse beat Villanova 5-4 before a record crowd of 6,289 at Villanova Stadium.

© Kevin P. Tucker

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Syracuse beating Villanova is nothing new, but Syracuse senior John Lade can understand better than most how much more meaningful it is this year.

Lade transferred to Syracuse after starting his freshman year at Villanova with a 21-6 loss to Syracuse. In three meetings coming into Saturday’s matchup, Syracuse had outscored the Wildcats, 60-20, including last year’s 20-6 win at the Carrier Dome.

On Saturday, before a record crowd of 6,289 at Villanova Stadium, top-ranked Syracuse needed a goal from JoJo Marasco with six seconds left for a 5-4 win over No. 7 Villanova.

“I’m just happy with the win,” Lade said, “and the way the defense played today.”

The top-10 showdown helped to draw more than 2,000 more than Villanova’s biggest crowd in program history. It’s their first week ever in the top 10, and likely the first time they had a good chance to beat Syracuse in four meetings.

“It was pretty cool finally seeing people on the other side of the stadium,” said Villanova’s Kevin Cunningham, who scored the game-tying goal with 57 seconds left after Brian Karalunas caused a turnover.

Lade had felt a sense of déjà vu at Friday’s pre-game practice, but there was nothing familiar with the way the Wildcats played. Villanova is a Big East contender.

“They’ve been playing really well,” Lade said. “Some of their younger guys who were freshmen last year have really grown up. They’ve been playing really great lacrosse and beating some great teams, like Penn and Princeton, so you have to expect to be in a close game.”

The Wildcats weren’t even in last year’s game against Syracuse by halftime when it was 10-4. This year, they were in it until the final seconds.

“I think it’s shown we’ve grown,” said Villanova head coach Mike Corrado. “When Brian, who’s a senior, was a freshman we went up to Syracuse and got beat up pretty bad up there. I told the guys in the locker room that our goal is to get to where we can compete with Syracuse. We knew the Big East was coming and that Brian’s class would be the one to try to lead us to try to narrow that gap.”

Syracuse, though, remains the toast of the Big East. They improved to 7-0 overall, 2-0 in the Big East while dropping Villanova to 7-2, 0-1.

“With being such a big game for Villanova, to come out with a W was certainly good for us,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko.

Despite its second straight poor offensive showing, the Orange were able to pull out the win. They beat Johns Hopkins, 5-4, in overtime last week, and their 10 combined goals in back-to-back games is their lowest since combining for 12 goals in back-to-back losses to the 2007 season. Both teams struggled to keep possession Saturday. They combined for 42 turnovers.

“I want to be more composed,” Desko said. “Everyone talks about our senior group out there, and guys have won a couple national championships and lost in the first round last year and been in a lot of tight games, you’d think we’d be a little more composed on the field and get the ball around and let everyone touch it.

“We’re so quick to take advantage of a defensive flaw or unsettled situation that we like to jump all over those. There are times we need to pass those up and work the ball around. I want to see more points on the scoreboard, and I think we can if we’re more patient offensively.”

It took a second chance for Marasco to keep them unbeaten. The Syracuse sophomore had the ball taken away less than a minute earlier by the nation’s leading takeaway longstick middie, Brian Karalunas, to lead to the tying Villanova goal from Cunningham. Karalunas finished with six caused turnovers.

“It was tough at first, but I wiped it off, the past is the past,” Marasco said. “I believe in our defense and I believed we’d get the ball again. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity at the end to be open and get the shot.”

The defense did the rest, and it was tested by Villanova, which outshot Syracuse, 30-25.

“They probably should be tired when they played defense for most of the game tonight,” Desko said. “They probably played defense for three-quarters of the time.”

John Galloway made 11 saves and on his birthday tied Princeton’s Scott Bacigalupo for career wins by a goalie with 51.

“John’s been a great goalie ever since I’ve been at Syracuse,” Lade said. “He played tonight like he always plays. He made a lot of great saves. He helped us out when our defense broke down. I expect nothing less from him because he’s one of the best in the country. He does it game in and game out.”

In a misleading high-scoring first quarter, Villanova’s C.J. Small scored the first of his two goals, but Syracuse answered with back-to-back goals from Stephen Keogh and Marasco. The Orange would never trail again, but they were never comfortable either.

Michael Vigilante tied it, 2-2 before Kevin Drew gave Syracuse a 3-2 lead. Syracuse wouldn’t score for another 40 minutes.

Villanova tied the game halfway through the third quarter, 3-3, on Small’s second goal. It was their only goal in a stretch of more than 51 minutes as Syracuse’s defense barely allowed many good scoring chances.

“Really the last couple games, we’ve been talking a lot better, we’ve been watching a lot more film and we’ve becoming a lot more prepared,” Lade said. “I think when it comes to game time, we’ve been really prepared thanks to our coaches.”

Syracuse broke the tie with Javon Miller’s incredible individual effort. He fought off a hold in which the Villanova player did everything but tackle him to muscle a shot in for a 4-3 lead with 10:24 left. Karalunas gave Villanova a huge lift after a timeout with 1:17 to go when he stripped Marasco then fed Cunningham in transition.

“Fortunately I won that battle,” said the Villanova senior. “Unfortunately they scored again. We came up six seconds short. It goes from about as high to as low as you can get.”

Miller again made a big play on the restart with 15 seconds left. He found Marasco, who was given too much space and finished off the upset bid.

“I was kind of just trying to set a pick for Keogh, he’s been the hot one late in games,” Marasco said. “I knew if I could get him open, he could probably get the ball in the back of the net. My guy, when I set the pick, went with Keogh and I was right there. Javon made an unbelievable pass to my stick and I was able to just throw it on net.

“We never give up,” he added. “That’s how it’s going to be all season.”

And it looks to be that way this year with Villanova, which already had four one-goal wins to help vault into the top 10.

“The coaches have done a great job here and they’re recruiting great players here,” Lade said of Villanova. “They’re really building up to be one of the premier programs in the country. I’m so happy for them and the way they’re really progressing as a program.”

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