Syracuse defense silences Denver in clutch, sends Orange to first national championship game since 2009

first_img Related Stories DEVILS MAY CARE: Syracuse rallies to beat Denver in final four, advances to face Duke in title gameHarris delivers on defense, from wing on faceoffs in crucial situation to seal Syracuse victoryDenver subs out LaPlante at halftime, sticks with two-goalie system despite stellar early showing Facebook Twitter Google+ PHILADELPHIA – With three seconds left, Eric Law flung a pass from behind the cage toward Eric Adamson. It floated in front of Adamson’s stick, waiting for him to simply step in, catch, shoot and send the game into overtime.Adamson got the step and the ball, but the shot never came. His stick was helplessly pinned against his own body. Matt Harris caught Adamson from behind. The Syracuse defense had caught Denver from behind, and just in time.The same Denver attacks that had made the Orange defense look cement-legged for so much of the game were left to watch Adamson fling his stick in desperation, then fall to the ground with his teammates, struggling to choke back tears.“At the end, they closed it out for us, the defense,” said SU midfielder JoJo Marasco. “And that’s huge for us.”Though the Syracuse (16-3) defense clamped down and ultimately solved the problem that was the Denver (14-5) offense, early on in the game the Orange defense was the problem. But in the game’s deciding moments – the final ones – the SU rearguard was the solution, and the reason Syracuse’s season continues.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Pioneers pounced on the back line of Brian Megill, Dave Hamlin and Sean Young though, as Syracuse’s defensive midfield offered little protection in the game’s opening minutes and goalkeeper Dominic Lamolinara hardly covered for his teammates.Off a loose-ball scramble to the left of Lamolinara’s crease, Adamson tossed a soft shot that seemed destined for the goalie’s stick. It was. It glanced off Lamolinara’s shaft, then into the goal just 57 seconds into the game.For a team that was 8-1 when opposing teams scored first, surrendering the opener to Denver wasn’t crushing. But the way the Pioneers drifted away from their Orange markers was. The way the SU defenders could appear to have Denver trapped, only for the DU attacks to float around or through them, then turn and score when they seemed to be retreating gave Orange fans little comfort. Lamolinara’s slightly porous net-minding didn’t help.“But I settled down, talked to my teammates at halftime and they got my confidence back up,” Lamolinara said. “That’s really what’s great about Syracuse is whenever anybody is having an off day you can count on your brothers to pick you up, and that’s what they did.”And the defense lifted the team. After Chase Carraro burned Steve Ianzito on a wraparound to put Denver up 3-0, Megill huddled his defense and midfield together. He pointed fingers at chests, broke down the Orange’s lack of communication and jogged the group off into a timeout.From there, the Pioneers would score, but the game no longer belonged to them. The DU team that averaged just 12.6 turnovers per game, gave up 17.SU’s metronomic attack chipped away at DU’s lead. Still, with 2:35 remaining, the Orange trailed by one. Syracuse had to chase the game, and without the ball, its dissecting attack couldn’t do it.After Denver came up with another critical faceoff, Carraro crossed through midfield toward SU’s goal to start killing off the game – until Ianzito thundered into his shoulder, sprawling the attack to the ground and giving the Orange the ball. Ianzito, an injured midfielder who was dusted early on, had grown faster and meaner as the game tightened.“For him at the end of the game to still have enough juice left to make a big play like that is a lot of heart,” SU head coach John Desko said.Syracuse equalized on that very possession and got its first lead of the game on the next – the only lead SU’s defense needed.It left Law, with seven seconds left, chucking that last-gasp assist that never was to Adamson. When he needed to most, the Orange defense blocked off the plays Denver had drawn up.It’s why after the final whistle blew, most Denver fans stood several rows back from the Pioneers sideline while the Orange-clad crowd dangled over the walls around Lincoln Financial Field, clamoring for high-fives from their national championship-bound idols.For the same reason, Law could only reflect on how it would feel to take his Denver jersey off for the last time. DU head coach Bill Tierney shook his head at the stat sheet and waxed poetic about perspective while Desko and Marasco could crack jokes about their excess of one-goal wins.At the end of a drama-filled day, it was the SU defense left standing while the Pioneers fell to their knees in despair.Said a teary Law: “They made the plays and we didn’t.” Commentscenter_img Published on May 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm Contact Jacob: jmklinge@syr.edu | @Jacob_Klinger_last_img read more