April 12, 2014

Heroes Abound for Syracuse in Win Over North Carolina

by Stephen Bailey | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

In-Game Blog Replay


SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The four heroes sat behind the podium from left to right. Each redeemed fittingly in a comeback win that completed Syracuse's propulsion from the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar into the conference tournament.

Faceoff specialist Chris Daddio, once the target of all things failure in the Syracuse program. Now the center of its success at the X.

Injury plagued midfielder Nicky Galasso, once the North Carolina transfer pushed out of Chapel Hill, N.C. Now the spark that helped send the younger, more talented corps of replacements trudging off the Carrier Dome turf.

Second-half goalie Bobby Wardwell, once subjected to constant split-time duty questions. Now the staunch netminder who stoned the Tar Heels through the second half.

And Billy Ward, once the senior captain with only seven goals on the season. Now the glory worthy attack, who scored three goals including the double-overtime game winner to propel Syracuse past North Carolina.

"I thought it was a great game for college lacrosse today," SU head coach John Desko said. "The overtimes, the back and forth, the goalie saves. Just a great game for college lacrosse and for Syracuse University."

Behind Ward's game-winning rip with 2:57 left in the second overtime, and an 18-of-26 performance from Daddio in faceoffs, No. 7 Syracuse (8-3, 2-3) fought back to beat No. 3 North Carolina (8-3, 2-3) 11-10 in front of 6,684 fans in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. The Orange won a game it didn't lead in for the first 52:13, and one that included its first scoreless frame of the season.

But seven-second half goals, including a game-tying bounce shot from Kevin Rice with 8.4 seconds left, erased a 6-3 halftime deficit and put SU in a position for Ward's magical game winner.

As Randy Staats sprinted around the right side of the cage, Duncan Hutchins slid off Ward to help. That's when Staats flicked a pass to Ward, who wound up and fired a shot into the top-right corner of the net.

"I saw my guy, go, I knew Randy would find me and I just let it fly," Ward said. "It's a blur to be honest. You see the net move, and you're kind of like, 'What just happened?' And the next thing you know you're getting tackled by a bunch of guys."

It was Ward who also delivered a powerful halftime speech, reminding the team its heart shown bouncing back from a 21-7 loss to Duke earlier this season. A call to action that Daddio said resonated with the team after scoring just three goals in the first 30 minutes.

The Tar Heels had needed just 5:19 to do the same.

But after halftime, the openings that Chad Tutton and Jimmy Bitter exploited closed up. The Orange defenders improved their slides, and Wardwell saved 3-of-4 Tar Heel shots in the third frame.

But most importantly, UNC's opportunities diminished.

"I think we played well when we had the ball," Bitter said of the second half. "We just didn't have the ball too often."

That's a credit to Daddio. He won 8-of-9 faceoffs from the fourth quarter on — admittedly committing a couple turnovers in the ensuing play — but allowed the Orange to dominate possession time down the stretch.

And SU nearly ended the game at the end of regulation and the first overtime. First, Daddio won the faceoff following Rice's game-tying score and slung it ahead to Rice on the left side, who quickly threw a pass to Dylan Donahue in front of the crease. But Donahue's shot zoomed just over the net.

Then at the end of the first overtime, it was Donahue who found Rice on the right doorstep. But, UNC goalie Kieran Burke stoned him with one of his 14 saves.

Finally, with 2:57 left in the second overtime, Ward finished Daddio's final faceoff win. As the ball fell into the back of the net, Staats ran over to maul Ward before the rest of the Orange players completed their sprint onto the field.

Said Daddio: "We just came out as a team and played better in the second half. I think we just have to look forward now and get better every day."

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