Syracuse lacrosse turns slow start against Cornell into easy finish

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Syracuse improved to 2-0 with a win over Cornell

Syracuse surprised Coach John Desko with his 200th career victory against Cornell Sunday, Feb. 15.

After starting slow, Syracuse built momentum over the final three quarters en route to a 14-6 win at the Carrier Dome. The no. 3-ranked Orange is 2-0 while it was the season opener for the no. 11 Big Red.

“It’s great,” Desko said afterwards, admitting he was not thinking of the milestone victory in SU lacrosse history. “I’d like to be here for 300.”

Syracuse is the first Division 1 program with three 200-win coaches. Roy Simmons Jr. is the school’s all-time leader with 290 victories while his father, Roy Simmons Sr., finished his career with 253 victories.

It was the earliest season meeting between the two schools in the 100-game series.

While the Orange cruised in the season opener a week earlier against Siena, it was a different story against Cornell; that is, until the offense clicked with a little help from the defense.

“It took a little time,” Desko admitted, “but after we made a few adjustments, we got going.”

Randy Staats scored the first quarter’s lone goal off an assist from Sergio Salcido. Staats, a senior attackman and 2015 Inside Lacrosse Preseason Second Team All-American, netted three goals and one assist for the Orange.

SU opened it up in the second and third quarters, by outscoring their visitors from Ithaca, 11-5. Dylan Donahue, off a Kevin Rice assist, opened the scoring gate with a man-up goal less than two minutes into the period. After John Edmonds found the net for Cornell, SU used goals by Staats, Nicky Galasso, Rice and Hakeem Lecky to take a 6-1 lead at the half.

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Syracuse kept rolling in the second half when Derek DeJoe scored a man-up goal on Syracuse’s first possession just 15 seconds into the period. Henry Schoonmaker assisted on the score.

The game stats certainly don’t tell the whole story. The Orange came out on top with a 38-36 shot advantage and Syracuse had eight more clears.

Cornell‘s Dominic Massimilian outmuscled 14-23 faceoffs against SU’s Ben Williams.

“We were forced to play defense,” said Desko, who noted the number of Cornell‘s offensive possessions, “and that helped us get in the groove.”

Led by All-ACC junior Brandon Mullins, Syracuse held Cornell in check while the offense put up 11 goals in the middle periods. Connor Buczek, the Ivy League Player of the Year and First Team All-American, wasn’t a factor. He netted three goals but two were unassisted in the game’s final minutes. Dan Littner and Matt Donovan, the other Big Red All-American attackmen, were held without a point

Despite the opening week’s victory against Siena from the MAAC Conference, the Orange wanted to prove something against the Big Red.

“We really weren’t pleased with last week,” Mullins said, in reference to the Orange’s 21-7 victory. “We were more physical today and played with more intensity.”

Matt Kerwick, the Cornell coach, praised the Orange overall effort.

“We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game with Syracuse,” Kerwick said. “We had a few unfortunate turnovers and Syracuse was very timely with their opportunities.”

Lecky also finished with three goals. Donahue, the squad’s leading scorer through two games, pitched in with two goals and three assists. Donahue now has six goals and three assists in two games.

Galasso and Rice each scored twice and Ben Wiilliams, who was praised for his effort for the second consecutive game, had a goal.

Galasso (2), Rice, Salcido, Schoonmaker, Staats and Williams had assists.

Syracuse will now focus on Army, who will visit the Dome Sunday for a 7 pm contest. The Cadets knocked out Syracuse in the NCAA First Round in 2010.

After reflecting on the noteworthy victory that put him in the record books, Desko said, “A win against Cornell is always good.”

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John Zych

About John Zych

John is an active freelance writer, photographer and editor. His credits include being an official photographer at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central New York Ms. Orange Fan Luncheon and regularly contributing to SU Athletics.com and Eagle Newspapers. Prior to that, he was the managing Editor and journalist for several community newspaper groups from 1985-1997 including the Oneida Dispatch, Eagle Newspapers and Taconic Media (Millbrook, NY).
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