March 25, 2012
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The 14th-ranked Villanova Wildcats (5-3, 1-0) posted a historic 11-10 victory over ninth-ranked Syracuse (4-3, 2-1) in front of 3,811 at the Carrier Dome on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Wildcats broke a four-game winless streak against Syracuse dating back to March 2nd, 1991 and also handed the Orange their first-ever BIG EAST Conference loss since the formation of the league in 2010.
Prior to today's game, Syracuse was riding a 14 game win streak against conference foes. Additionally, the Orange previously held a 24 game win streak against BIG EAST opponents which began prior to the start of the lacrosse conference in 2010.
The Wildcat victory also broke an eight-game at home win streak for the Orange dating back to an 11-6 decision to Cornell on April 12, 2011.
Head Coach Mike Corrado states, "To beat a team like Syracuse at the Carrier Dome is about a big a win as we've ever had in our program." Corrado continued, "Considering the way we lost our last two games, to come up here and do what we did, we're extremely proud of our guys. We just never gave up today."
Rice added, "Last year, it was a heartbreaker that we lost with the couple seconds left," Rice said. "The year before, it wasn't that close. So to come up here and beat them on their own field is huge for our program and something we can build on if we continue to play well."
In a blistering game that featured seven lead changes and six tied scores, the Wildcats came back from a two goal deficit at halftime and played a stellar second stanza to come away with the win.
Highlighted by two three-goal runs starting at the 12:48 mark and again with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Wildcats outscored Syracuse by a 6-3 margin in the final 30 minutes and saw goals from senior Matt Bell (Severna Park, Md.) and juniors Will Casertano (Millbrook, N.Y.), Nick Doherty (Bernardsville, N.J.), Max Hart (Bethesda, Md.) and Rice.
With 5:05 remaining in the game, Syracuse's Luke Cometti would cut the Villanova lead to one at 11-10, but the Wildcats ran out the clock to secure their first-ever victory in the Carrier Dome.
Highlighted by the 9-of-11 (81%) effort at the face-off X in the second half by sophomore Thomas Croonquist (North Caldwell, N.J.) and senior Nolan Vihlen (Germantown, Tenn.), the duo combined to go 14-of-25 (56%) on the day.
Villanova got off to a quick start to begin the game, scoring just 59 seconds into the contest when Rice found sophomore Mark Jackson (West Chester, Pa.) for his first career goal off a nice transition to get the early lead.
Syracuse would bounce back with two quick scores at the 9:06 and 8:43 marks off from JoJo Marasco and Matt Harris to give the Orange a 2-1 lead, but the Wildcats responded with points from Rice and sophomore Kevin O'Neil (Cockeysville, Md.) to put the scoreboard in favor of VU, 3-2.
The Orange would go on a three-goal run bridging the first and second quarters for a 5-3 lead with 13:06 left in the half before O'Neil broke the streak with an unassisted play to get VU within one at 5-4.
Villanova's final goal of the half blossomed out of a scramble to get the ball inside the restraining box when senior Chris Creighton (West Chester, Pa.) found sophomore Chris Piccirilli (Davidsonville, Md.) streaking towards goal to put the ball past the Syracuse netminder. At the half, Syracuse led 7-5.
In an excellent defensive effort, the Villanova defense shutout all five Syracuse extra-man opportunities on the day.
Senior goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez (Chevy Chase, Md.) played a phenomenal second half and posted 11 saves for the victory while making several high-quality stops in the closing minutes. Sophomore John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) grabbed four ground balls and caused three turnovers on the day.
Villanova will be back in action for their final non-conference game of the year against No. 17 Penn State next Saturday, March 31st in University Park, Pa. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.