Men's Lacrosse

Despite Yale’s dominant possession time, Evan Molloy shines as No. 2 Syracuse escapes with 11-10 win

Jordan Phelps | Staff Photographer

Syracuse redshirt senior goalie Evan Molloy came up with 15 saves to salvage SU's poor performance at the faceoff X.

Twenty times in the opening quarter, Yale created enough space to shoot. Offensively, the team dominated possession and peppered Syracuse goalie Evan Molloy with shot after shot. But the ball rarely found the back of the net. Instead, it went wide or ended up in Molloy’s stick, keying a Syracuse counter attack.

In Syracuse’s biggest game of the year, its goalie saved the team from an early NCAA tournament exit. In its 11th one-goal game of the season, the No. 2 Orange (13-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) escaped with an 11-10 win over No. 15 seed Yale (10-6, 5-1 Ivy). Despite being out shot by 13, losing the ground ball battle and coming away with only four faceoffs the entire game, SU will advance to the quarterfinals and take on Towson next Sunday at noon at the University of Delaware. Much of Sunday night’s success can be accredited to the Orange’s 6-foot redshirt senior, who made 10 more saves than his opposing goalie, Phil Huffard.

“Fifteen saves,” Yale head coach Andy Shay said. “It’s hard to overcome.”

Over the course of 60 minutes, the Bulldogs ripped 42 shots toward the cage. In the first quarter, the Bulldogs already had 15 more shots than SU. That didn’t affect Molloy. He saw the field and the ball more clearly. Rather than passing for the better opportunity, Yale took the shots as they came. It wanted to attack Molloy early. But the goalie saw the lanes, not blinded by screens or the defense surrounding him, and he stopped a potential landslide Yale win.

After Syracuse struck first, Yale proceeded to let off six straight shots. Four sailed wide and Molloy deflected a pair. Releasing shots didn’t faze Molloy. It made him more comfortable.

“When you get those shots,” SU head coach John Desko said, “you get in the flow consistently.”

Some teams slow the ball down with pace of play, waiting for the right shot. That’s when it’s most difficult for the goalie — he can’t get used to the player’s tendencies or see shots coming at him.

“Teams slow the ball down and jam it inside,” Molloy said, “and I don’t get to see a lot of shots. … The 20 shots in the first quarter weren’t overwhelming, it was a good thing.”

By Yale’s 21st shot, Molloy made his seventh save of the game. By halftime, he had nine saves to his name. Syracuse’s inability to win faceoffs (1-for-10 in the first half) helped Yale dominate possession time. Still, SU trailed by just two, a deficit that had the potential to be much worse if it wasn’t for Molloy.

The last time Molloy made 15-plus saves was April 5 against Hobart. He allowed 10 goals, making 17 saves on 53 shots. That was a regular season game against a sub .500 team. This came Sunday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Lose, and the season is over; Syracuse would graduate its first senior class without a Final Four appearance.

The second half of the game marked a turnaround for Syracuse. The defense buckled down and caused four turnovers, including three in the third quarter alone. The Syracuse offense created more opportunities from Yale mistakes in the middle of the field. Molloy settled in and saw only 14 shots — much different from Yale’s 28 in the first half.

“In the second half, he didn’t need to really make as many,” said senior midfielder Nick Mariano, who scored two goals. “But he made the crucial ones we needed.”

Up a goal early in the fourth quarter, Yale’s Eric Scott broke through the defense. He created a one-on-one opportunity with Molloy. But his shot was met with swift movement of Molloy’s stick, deflecting the ball away. In the middle of SU’s 6-1 run, Molloy made five saves, including one from point-blank range. The end result of that save was a Ryan Simmons goal on the opposite end.

Time and time again, Molloy was tested. Tewaaraton finalist Ben Reeves had 10 shots and another seven Yale players had four-plus. On a night when Syracuse lost in a landslide in most statistical categories, Molloy was the one constant who kept the team afloat.

“When (Yale) did have an opportunity, Desko said before pointing toward Molloy, “this guy made the save.”

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