Women's Lacrosse

No. 4 Syracuse overcomes 9-goal deficit to defeat Virginia

Cody Hendrix | Contributing Photographer

Syracuse trailed 11-2 at one point in the first half but mounted a furious comeback to beat Virginia.

In order for Syracuse to execute the improbable comeback, it needed help. All five goals scored by Devon Parker, and the three by Natalie Wallon, were essential. The Orange demanded Virginia to make mistakes and the Cavaliers obliged. With 4:06 left on the clock and the score tied, Syracuse needed Riley Donahue’s heroics again. And she delivered.

The 31st and final goal of the game looked familiar. Cara Quimby lofted a pass to Donahue just a few feet from her usual spot in SU’s offense and the junior attacked. Last week against Albany, the Camillus, New York, native drew a foul and scored on the subsequent free-position shot. This time, she wove through two Cavalier defenders. When she managed her way in front of UVA goaltender Rachel Vander Kolk’s net, the rest was textbook.

Syracuse head coach Gary Gait upper-cut punched the air after seeing the ball nestle into to the bottom right corner of the net. A few yards away, associate head coach Regy Thorpe unleashed a fury of strikes in his own celebration. Comeback complete.

At one point in the first half, No. 4 Syracuse (7-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed the Cavaliers (1-4, 0-1) by nine, but SU never gave up. The Orange overcame a porous defensive effort, kick started a stagnant offense and ultimately won, 16-15. The first and only SU lead in the game came when Donahue put away her game-winner. This season, the Carrier Dome has seen its share of close calls, the men’s basketball team produced three court storms and the men’s lacrosse team’s last three games have been decided by one goal. Sunday night, the women chipped in.

“You know what? It seems to be something in the snow up in Syracuse,” Gait said. “You’re never out of it till the final whistle goes.”

Gait believed his team came out a step slow. In the first two minutes, Virginia scored four. Four minutes later, Avery Shoemaker ripped a back handed shot and the lead ballooned to five. SU’s Haley McDonnell walked over to goalkeeper Asa Goldstock and attempted to settle the freshman down, but it didn’t work. Just 12 minutes into the game, Goldstock only saved one shot and conceded seven goals. Bri Stahrr replaced her in net but the bleeding didn’t stop. Stahrr let in two shots in 67 seconds and Gait switched back. With 5:22 remaining in the first half, the Orange trailed 11-2.

Mary Rahal ignited an 8-1 Orange run when she flashed across the net, picked Wallon’s pass out of the air and hurled a shot to the bottom right corner. In the second half, SU inched closer. With every goal scored, a formerly lifeless Orange bench grew louder. When Parker cut the lead to four with 25:11 left, players ran up and down the bench shouting.

The UVA sideline became irritated when its once large lead dissolved. Head coach Julie Myers and her assistants barked at the officials after every call. After off-setting fouls, an assistant sarcastically yelled at the referee to “make it easier.” After the game, Myers believed she should have handled herself better.

SU’s offense found success by sticking to what has worked all season. The Orange attack incessantly rushed at UVA defenders in an effort to draw fouls. The referee’s accommodated. Between the two teams, 87 fouls were called. The Orange gained extra possessions and more opportunities to score. Last week against Albany, Gait cited his team’s style of play that allowed the referee’s to call so many fouls. Gait requires his team, specifically the attack, to be aggressive and work through opposing defenders. Donahue displayed that when she scored the dagger in the final five minutes.

“We were all on fire,” Wallon said. “It was all just about timing, but we came up with the big plays at the end.”

After playing four games in eight days Syracuse didn’t think it would have to make a nine-goal comeback against unranked Virginia, but it did. After four victories in that span and two thrilling finishes, all Gait could do was sit back and sigh in relief.

“Woo, what a week,” Gait said. “What a week.”

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