Seated at midfield between the Syracuse and Navy bench at the Carrier Dome on Saturday was the Varello family. Clad in blue t-shirts with “Varello” scribed on the back and photos of two generic faceoff specialists at their stooped position, they cheered when both the Orange and Midshipmen won a faceoff.
Their son, Dan is a sophomore faceoff specialist for Syracuse. Their son, Joe, mans the faceoff circle for Navy.
When the final horn sounded, the Varello’s no doubt felt the thrill of victory for one son, and the agony of defeat for the other.
With 9.5 seconds remaining in regulation, and the game tied at 12, Joe beat his younger brother at the X, pushed the ball down the field and scored the game-winning goal with .2 seconds remaining to give No. 16 Navy the 13-12 win over No. 9 Syracuse in front of 3,700 fans.
It was Joe Varello’s third goal of the season. The Midshipmen celebrated and the brothers embraced at midfield.
“This whole week I’ve been trying to take the emotion out of it,” Joe Varello said. “I’m sure if you asked Danny (who was not available for interviews following the game) he wouldn’t say he felt bad beating his brother, just like I’m trying to say I don’t feel bad beating my brother. I was just out there trying to put forth the best effort for my team. After the whistle, he was back to being my brother again. I tried my best to look at him as No. 42 on Syracuse.”
Joe Varello not only beat his brother on the scoreboard, but also at the circle, winning 16-for-27 faceoffs. Dan went 11-for-27.
SU’s Tucker Dordevic scored with 58 seconds remaining in the game to give the Orange a 12-11 lead. Dan Varello won the ensuing faceoff and the Orange took possession and just needed to burn the clock. The Midshipmen forced a turnover and scored in transition, as John Salcedo dished the ball off to Jack Ray who fired in his fourth goal of the game with 9.5 seconds remaining to tie the game and set up the dramatic finish.
Stephen Rehfuss scored a goal and contributed six assists, the most by a Syracuse player since Kevin Rice did vs. Notre Dame in the 2014 ACC Tournament, to lead the offense. Nate Solomon added two goals and two assists, while Brandan Bomberry had three goals and Ryan Simmons chipped in with two.
“Congratulations to Navy. To come in here, go behind by a couple of goals and then win it like they did, my hat’s off to them,” head coach John Desko said. “Joe [Varello] did a great job at the X and was rewarded late with a goal, so that’s something he’ll probably remember for a long time. I thought we made too many mistakes. I looked at the stats sheet and saw we had 14 turnovers. You don’t want to have that many at this time of year, but we have to load up and get back on track and get ready for the ACC Tournament.”
The Orange 7-5 and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament must move on from this heartbreaker, as they will face fourth seed Virginia in the Semifinals at Kolckner Stadium in Charlottesville on Thursday. Faceoff will be at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
As for the Varello’s, big brother Joe said that Saturday’s game will be something that the siblings will remember for a long time.
“After the game, we told each other how much fun it was, how much we loved each other,” Joe Varello said. “This is something we’re going to be talking about the rest of our lives. It was awesome to share that with my brother. It’s something that I will look back on and I’m sure he will too.”