With 6:12 left in the game and Syracuse up 10-7 against North Carolina, the biggest lead of the game for either team, it appeared the Orange were putting the finishing touches on its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament win since 2016.
Then the Tar Heels stormed the Orange, ripping off three goals in 45 seconds to tie the game with 3:01 left. With 1:07 left, Matt Gavin dodged from behind the cage, ducked under two SU defenders and dropped a shot over Drake Porters left shoulder.
I thought we felt a little too comfortable with too much time left, Syracuse head coach John Desko said in his postgame press conference.
No. 4-seed Syracuse (9-4, 2-2 ACC) fell, 11-10, to No. 5-seed North Carolina (8-6, 1-3) in the ACC tournament play-in game on Thursday night in Chapel Hill. Like the first matchup between the two sides, the teams played evenly through the first half, scoring four goals each in the first 30 minutes. But after putting the Tar Heels away with a 4-0 third quarter two Saturdays ago, the Orange couldnt pull away and keep the Tar Heels out of reach.
And Syracuse, a team that survived the first half of the season by putting together late runs and pulling away, seemed to have done it again. Three goals was enough to stiff arm UNC the first time around, but Thursday was different.
When the timer in Syracuse lacrosse attack Bradley Voigts stomach went off at 11:30 p.m. on Monday, he knew it was time for what he likes to call his second dinner. The dining options at that hour were limited, so Voigt settled on Wendys. His food wingman had to be fellow attack Stephen Rehfuss. Rehfuss is always up for these sorts of things and was happy to tag along. Voigt polished off a large chocolate Frosty, an order of fries and two junior cheeseburgers.
I thought Carolina played very well, Desko said. It was a team that had to win tonight and they showed that.
With the loss to the Tar Heels, the Orange are bounced from the ACC tournament and will wait for their NCAA tournament fate on Selection Sunday, May 5. Currently, Syracuse ranks No. 6 among the tournament committees’ Top 10 teams, putting it in line to host a first-round game.
Premier League Lacrosse, a new outdoor lacrosse competition with some famous-name financial backing, will play its championship game at Talen Energy Stadium on Sept. 21. Philadelphia has been home to many final fours at the collegiate level, which is the gold standard for our game [below] the professional ranks, said PLL co-founder Paul Rabil, a former player for the Philadelphia Wings. Talen Energy is a beautiful venue.
Video: Syracuse vs UVA WLAX Highlights
SU and UNC ground through turnovers and sloppy play in the first 30 minutes. Early in the first quarter, a Syracuse defender stripped the ball from a UNC attacks stick. As he flung a pass to the midfield, Timmy Kelly, a Tar Heels attack, reached up and intercepted the casual pass. By halftime, each team had coughed it up nine times.
In the second half, each side buckled down after trading goals for most of the third quarter and the Orange started to pull away, seemingly for good. But even as SU built its slim margin, the Tar Heels started winning draws at the faceoff X. From the beginning of the second half to the game-tying 10th goal for UNC, the Tar Heels won 9 of 12 faceoffs.
So even though the Orange had, again, built a late lead to preserve, this time it was UNC making the run, scoring the go-ahead goal and moving on to Saturday.
I thought we were a little sluggish in the first half at times, Desko said. I thought we worked our way through it and we had that three-goal lead. And probably not enough of a lead with the amount of time that was left on the clock.
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Fourth-seeded Syracuse stood four minutes away from advancing to the semifinals of the ACC Lacrosse Tournament when the roof fell in Thursday night.
Fifth-seeded North Carolina rallied from a three-goal deficit by scoring the final four goals of the game to rally past the Orange 11-10 at UNC Lacrosse Stadium.
Matt Gavin broke a 10-10 tie with his second goal of the night off an isolation play with 1:07 remaining, and the Tar Heels (8-6) weathered two Syracuse possessions in the waning seconds. Gavin had started UNCs comeback with a similar play on the other side of the net, cutting Syracuses lead to 10-8 with 3:46 left.
That score ignited a three-goal outburst by the Tar Heels that spanned only 45 seconds and pulled them even with 3:01 remaining.
The victory sends host UNC into a semifinal meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday with top-seeded and sixth-ranked Virginia (11-3), which beat UNC 11-10 during the regular season. UNC probably needs to win the ACC Tournament to make the NCAA field, but the Tar Heels still have that chance.
No. 2 seed Duke, ranked third (11-3, 2-2), and No. 3 seed Notre Dame, ranked 11th (7-5, 2-2), will meet in the second semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The final will be hosted by the highest remaining seed at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4.
Syracuse (9-4), ranked seventh nationally, will have to sit and wait until Selection Sunday on May 5 to learn its postseason fate.
Only 12 days earlier, the Orange had beaten UNC 12-9 on the same field with a dominant second half, and it looked like they were on their way again.
Syracuse scored three consecutive goals to break a 7-7 tie in the fourth quarter. Sophomore midfielder Jacob Buttermore started the run with his third goal of the game, senior attackman Bradley Voigt struck for his fourth, and when Brendan Curry added an extra-man tally with 6:12 remaining, it looked like it was over.
I think deep down they knew this was a game they really needed, he said of the Tar Heels. I tried to tell our guys its always hard to play somebody youve beaten a couple weeks earlier. You have to climb inside our guys heads and say this is a whole new game and look what theyre playing for.
We thought we kind of worked our way through that, and by the time we got the three-goal lead, I thought we got too comfortable with too much time left, he said.
It was kind of a comedy of errors there. A couple of times our goalie threw it away twice on possessions where we had open men. Thats another 80 seconds (of) possession. Who knows what could have happened there? Their faceoff man scored off a faceoff one time. I dont know if hes got a goal all year, but he gets this one. A couple other things happened that Im sure were not going to have fun watching on film.
UNC tied it at 10-10 with 3:01 left when Zachary Tucci, who helped the Tar Heels to a 9-5 faceoff advantage in the second half, won a draw cleanly, scooped up the ground ball as he headed goalward, and beat All-ACC goalie Drake Porter with a low shot. It was only the second goal of the year for the freshman specialist.
Brian Cameron and William Perry also had two goals apiece for UNC, with Camerons second pulling the Heels within 10-9 in their late run.
When youre up by three goals at the end of the game … we thought we had it under control, Voigt said. We just needed like one or two more good possessions, and the game would have gone the other way.
I think we felt like we were in a good spot, not being complacent or anything like that, said Syracuse redshirt junior attackman Stephen Rehfuss, who contributed four assists.
We knew they were fighting for their season, and their seniors were fighting for their careers, he said of the Tar Heels. We have to go back and watch the film. We definitely could have done some things differently. It stinks, but we have to improve from it and get ready for the (NCAA) tournament.