NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Donahue's Goal with 13 Seconds Remaining in Regulation Pushes Syracuse Past Yale

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

The Orange move on to their 26th Final Four.

There is something to the notion that Syracuse lacrosse has a latent magic. The Orange, seemingly unlike any other team in the college game, has an uncanny ability to win in the least likely circumstances: Competitively beaten and left for dead on the side of the road (to eventually be found by a drifter thumbing it to points unknown), Syracuse dusts itself off, sticks its tongue on a nine-volt battery for a quick pick-me-up, and charges after its would-be executioner to earn immediate vengeance. The Orange's effort in the 2009 national championship game was the apex of this phenomenon -- a game in which Cornell battered Syracuse for 55 minutes but eventually saw the Orange come out victorious (thanks, in part, to a wild ride that resulted in a Kenny Nims goal with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation to knot the scoreboard and push the game into overtime) -- but that moment is built only from bricks laid in the program's history. The Orange's game against Yale in the national quarterfinals today -- a 7-6 victory for Syracuse -- was one of those difficult-to-fully-understand bricks: Held scoreless for 43 minutes, Syracuse pumped in three goals in the final three minutes of play to erase a 6-4 deficit to give the Orange its 26th trip to Championship Weekend and a shot at the program's 12th national title.

Here are some brief notes on the game:

  • For a sport that defines much of its volition of play as a game of runs, Yale-Syracuse epitomized that sentiment to perfection: Syracuse used an early 4-0 run over the first 13:38 of play to build a cushion against the Elis; the Bulldogs responded -- pragmatically, as is their style -- with a 6-0 run over the next 32:04 of the game to build a 6-4 lead; and Syracuse scored three straight goals over the final 3:04 of regulation, a run that determined the final outcome. Couched between the end of Syracuse's early run and late surge to find victory, the Elis put together the 43-minute defensive stand that both defined much of the game and served as the contrast to the offensive burst that the Orange generated late in the fourth quarter.
  • Yale's defense -- its rock throughout the 2013 season -- was a spider web of pain for Syracuse's offense for much of the game. The Elis packed it in, got on the hands of Orange shooters and ball carriers, and played disciplined and spirited defense throughout the day, frustrating the Orange's offense and making Syracuse -- a team that had exhibited fluidity and care for much of the year -- look one-dimensional and lost. Eric Natale was a beast in the crease for the Bulldogs, stopping attempt after attempt and erasing the offensive efficiency to which the Orange rested upon as a success-driver. The most impressive aspect of Yale's defensive strength on the day (outside of the team's ability to (1) force the Orange into timer-on postures, and (2) limit the Orange's ability to pick corners) was the rate at which the Bulldogs turned Syracuse over: Yale generated caused turnovers on almost 30 percent of their defensive opportunities against an Orange offense that had only committed caused giveaways on about 16 percent of their offensive possessions. Syracuse isn't a turnover-prone type of team; Yale's defensive ability to erase defensive opportunities ultimately frustrated the Orange and allowed the Elis to dictate the momentum of the game.
  • Three plays stand out as game-defining efforts: (1) Dominic Lamolinara's stone-cold stuff of Conrad Oberbeck with 1:20 remaining in regulation kept the score tied at six and provided the offensive opportunity that the Orange would eventually use to secure victory; (2) Donahue's game-winner from right on the crease, a play that saw Yale lose track of the sophomore while watching JoJo Marasco -- quiet for much of the game -- dance and wiggle until he was able to feed the crease for the game's ultimate finish; and (3) Matt Pratt's caused turnover against Dylan Levings (Levings had just won the draw on the faceoff that followed a Kevin Rice goal that drew Syracuse within 6-5 of the Bulldogs with 3:04 remaining in regulation) and the groundball pickup from Matt Harris that directly led to Luke Cometti's game-tying goal with 2:20 remaining in the game (just 44 seconds after Rice's tally).
  • For all of the struggles that Syracuse's offense faced against Yale's staunch defense, the Orange's defensive unit stood strong despite facing pressure. The Elis held a plus-13 offensive opportunity advantage over the course of the game but were able to score on only about 16 percent of its total possessions. Yale wasn't wasting their offensive opportunities via turnovers, and the Orange put the Bulldogs in a position to work for looks and shots. Syracuse held Kirby Zdrill pointless and limited Brandon Mangan and Conrad Oberbeck (Yale's offensive power plant) to five combined goals. The Elis weren't able to leverage its heavy possession advantage into an insurmountable lead, and that's partly attributable to the Orange's defense doing a nice job in difficult circumstances.

Here's a truncated tempo-free box score:

Yale-Syracuse: Truncated Tempo-Free Box Score
Metric Yale Syracuse
Offensive Efficiency (per 100 Offensive Opportunities) 16.22 29.17
Offensive Opportunities 37 24
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 0.86 1.46
Offensive Shooting Percentage 18.75% 20.00%
Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities) 37.84 45.83
Caused Turnovers (per 100 Defensive Opportunities) 29.17 24.32
Unforced Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities) 13.51 16.67
Team Save Percentage 61.11% 60.00%
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 45.83 24.32
Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Total Possessions 34.43 44.26

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