The Georgetown Hoyas were bigger, they were faster, they were stronger, and they were just flat out better than their arch rival Syracuse Orange; as an old time rivalry renewed quickly turned into a one sided beatdown in College Park tonight, as the Hoyas ran past Syracuse in dominant fashion, scoring an 18-8 win that sends them to the Quarterfinals up in Hempstead next weekend for the first time since 2007.
The tone was set in the early going, as three times on the Hoyas first four possessions they were able to dodge past a Syracuse defender and get a good look at cage. Declan McDermott had two of those and the midfielder beat Drake Porter both times to stake the Hoyas to an early 2-0 lead. The Orange midfield got some good looks themselves in the first quarter and goals from the two Owens - Seebold and Hiltz - kept them right in the thick of things at the end of the first frame, trailing 3-2.
The impressive dodging of the Georgetown midfield continued in the early 2nd Quarter, as a beautiful rollback and snipe from Nicky Petkevich put them back up by two. Then Graham Bundy Jr, the leading midfielder for the Hoyas all year, finally joined the party to put the Hoyas to their largest lead of the game at three early in the frame. You’d have forgotten by this point that Georgetown also had a Tewaaraton finalist on their team, but Jake Carraway made his presence felt with an incredible acrobatic goal at 9:53 to stretch the lead to five. The speed differential at this point was glaring, with Georgetown able to dodge past their defenders at will while also flying around to any loose balls on the carpet and remaining their usually relentless selves on defense. Syracuse was able to hang around though, and a big transition goal by Brett Kennedy late in the 2nd Quarter kept them within touching distance at the end of the first half, down 8-4.
Porter continued his stellar performance to start the 2nd Half, making three stops consecutively on Georgetown possessions early on to run his counter to ten and keep the Orange in the game. But his opposite number was doing him one better; as Owen McElroy made his 8th save a possession later and then came up with a tremendous ground ball on the end line against two Syracuse defenders that erupted the Georgetown bench. A Stephen Rehfuss trip put Georgetown man-up, and seemingly just as they did all night long, the Hoyas punished the Orange for their error with a Carraway torpedo to restore the lead to five. In a sign and indication of the balance and complete effort that this Hoyas team had not only tonight but has possessed all year long; right when it felt like their offense had hit a lull in the 3rd Quarter, the defense completely locked up the Syracuse offense, holding them to just six shots in the frame and zero goals. And then the best goal of a night full of them from Dylan Hess, who in line with his team’s performance dominated Syracuse in all phases, stretched the lead to seven.
Syracuse’s composure withered in the 3rd Quarter, something that has often plagued them in their recent postseason losses. They took three penalties in the frame, two of which led to Georgetown man-up goals. Two of the penalties were taken by Syracuse attackmen, Stephen Rehfuss and Owen Hiltz. It was similar to their game against Towson in the 2017 Quarterfinals, where they got behind early and struggled to maintain poise. That was the last time Syracuse has been to the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, and tonight was not going to be a repeat, in large part due to the third quarter, where the carnage read out: 16-6 Georgetown in shots, 12-7 in ground balls, and a whopping 5-0 on the scoreboard that put the game, and Syracuse’s season, to bed with 15 minutes to play. But also a shocking 10 penalties in the second half by the end of the night, with the end of game being a scene John Desko and much of the Syracuse team would like to forget.
The Orange made a brief fight back early in the fourth quarter, with two goals from Jamie Trimboli and Owen Seebold’s 2nd of the night cutting the Georgetown lead to six with 11:47 left. But Georgetown was not to be denied. They stretched the lead back up to 15-7 with goals from Petkevich and Carraway after more undisciplined play from Syracuse. By the end, they had rung up 18 goals on their old rivals, and dominated the Orange all over the field en route to their first NCAA Tournament win and first Quarterfinal trip since 2007.
Not only did the Hoyas trounce Syracuse tonight, but it was a coming out party of sorts for the program ascent as well. It’s easy to focus on the descent of Syracuse, but Georgetown has gone from a team that won six games combined from 2016-17 to one that has won three consecutive conference championships, 44 games since 2018 to just 10 losses, and now is one game away from their first Final Four since 1999 and only the second in school history. They looked the part of a program that can compete for Quarterfinal and Final Four berths for years to come; and perhaps the most encouraging part of this game is that while Senior Jake Carraway will get the plaudits for a tremendous five goal performance; 10 of their 18 goals were scored by the midfield cavalry of McDermott, Bundy, and Hess who will be with this program for years to come. Throw in yet another vintage defensive performance - Syracuse finished with just a meager 22.2% offensive efficiency - from a unit that also will return much if not all of it’s core, and this was a statement not just that the Hoyas are here to get to Memorial Day this year, but in the near future as well.
Questions will come for John Desko and Syracuse; as their Final Four drought extends now to eight years, but even more ignominiously they haven’t gotten out of the First Round of the tournament since 2017. This was their worst tournament defeat in many years as well, and this was a team that started the season in the Top 3 and with a self-proclaimed “championship or bust mentality.” They never looked like a team that had that kind of ceiling, and this was another blowout in a long line of them this season, that completes their most disappointing season in a long time. People will ask whether Desko is still the man to lead this program and for the first time in his entire tenure, those questions are not just a minority, and have a gravity to them that has to be taken seriously.
But this night was about Georgetown. It was a dominant effort and a statement to the country about their climb to the top of the ranks, and they look to take the ultimate step next weekend with a trip to the Final Four in East Hartford on the line.