Despite 11-9 win at Colgate, Syracuse ‘really (hasn’t) put it all together’
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
UPDATED: May 6, 2017 at 4:38 p.m.
HAMILTON, N.Y. — A scrum in front of the net as the third quarter came to a close ended with Scott Firman lying on his back. A handful of white and blue jerseys fought for the ground ball, and after the buzzer sounded, Evan Molloy emerged from the net and put his hand on the chest of the player who had tripped Firman. The two players exchanged some words before walking off to their respective sidelines.
“He just needed some backup there,” Molloy said, “so I had to step in.”
The physicality between Syracuse and Colgate, its central New York counterpart, lasted all 60 minutes. No. 3 Syracuse (12-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) escaped after landing the last blow and ended its regular season with an 11-9 win against Colgate (5-9, 3-5 Patriot) on Saturday afternoon at Andy Kerr Stadium. The team finds out its seeding in the NCAA tournament on Sunday. And the win itself wasn’t easy. Defensive midfielders struggled sliding and a season-worst 17 turnovers trapped SU into a close game against inferior opposition, a well-worn storyline this season.
“We were a little more aggressive today,” attack Brendan Bomberry said. “That really showed in some good ways and some bad.”
The game remained too close for comfort for a Syracuse team eight days removed from its second loss of the season — to North Carolina in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Transition offense and players trying to create offense by themselves often led to a turnover and a Colgate counter attack in the opposite direction.
Entering Saturday’s contest, Syracuse sat fifth in the nation in turnovers per game with 10.92. The balanced attack normally beats opponents with its passing — not trying to force shots and instead finding the open man. That wasn’t the case against Colgate.
“That was all mental,” Molloy said. “We had the hustle, we were prepared and we had the energy today. We were just beating ourselves with mental errors.”
Despite the mental mistakes, Syracuse won the ground ball battle by nine. Loose balls were met with pushing and shoving. Brendan Bomberry was often times in the middle of the scrums on the offensive end. At the end of the first quarter, a defenseman shoved him and, later in the game, he trucked Will Blumenberg trying to clear the ball. Most of the aggressiveness, however, came at the faceoff X.
Off the faceoff following Syracuse taking a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter, the ball bounced toward the 30-yard line where players stood, ready to pick up the ground ball. Ben Williams popped up and chased after the ball before lowering his shoulder and hitting a Colgate defenseman. Austin Fusco picked up the ball and shot, but the ball double-posted and trickled near the sidelines.
Blumenberg ran at the sideline, scooped the ball and instantly met Williams, who had lowered his shoulder. Syracuse grabbed possession as Blumenberg went down and coughed up the ball. As Williams jogged off the field, Luke Schwasnick high-fived the faceoff specialist.
Still, the Raiders persisted and pestered. Colgate used quick side-step dodges to create open shots against defensive midfielders. Once the offense settled, Colgate worked from behind the net and used off-ball cutters to create lapses in front of the net for the Orange.
“They got good separation from our shorties a few times today,” SU head coach John Desko said. “… We didn’t want to come from (Sam Cleveland), but Tyson was a little anxious to help out.
“It’s a good game plan on their part. They got the shorties.”
With just over a minute and a half remaining in the game, Cleveland dodged and gained a couple steps on SSDM Joe Gillis. He let off a shot while moving laterally and past Molloy. Cleveland constantly created separation from the short-stick defensive midfielders thrown at him, finishing with four goals. Other times, Tyson Bomberry guarded the attack down low. So, he fed to teammates from behind the net.
Bomberry was originally paired with Cleveland, a freshman attack. But moving up toward the midfield line led to short sticks sliding toward him. The leading goal scorer for Colgate just needed an extra step, which he repeatedly got.
“They were putting him at the slide spot, which put us in a tough spot,” Molloy said, “because we didn’t want to leave him necessarily to go to the middies.”
Cleveland’s goal with just over a minute left pulled the Raiders within one. Once again, SU found itself gripping a tight lead as the game wound down.
A Colgate offsides with less than 30 seconds remaining led to an SU possession. Evans got the ball and passed toward an open Nate Solomon. But the ball sailed over the sophomore’s head, giving Colgate one more chance to tie with 17.3 seconds remaining.
But once again, pushing transition, Colgate went offsides, the third turnover in 30 seconds between the two teams. As time expired, Molloy threw the ball in the air and, as the buzzer sounded, hit the back of the net.
The physical, seesawing contest almost became Syracuse’s 11th one-goal game, but it didn’t. It ended with the Orange players running onto their field to celebrate with their goalie. Even with the win, it worried a team gearing up for the postseason.
“We really haven’t put it all together,” Molloy said.
All season long, Syracuse has failed to pull away from opponents without the same pedigree. Colgate was no different.
Published on May 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm