Syracuse men’s lacrosse stumbles after hot start against Notre Dame

Men's lacrosse stumbles after hot start against Notre Dame

'Cuse drops back to back games for the first time since 2019 postseason as Pat Kavanagh puts up nine points for the Irish.
Published: April 3, 2021
Syracuse Orange midfielder Jamie Trimboli (12) dodges to the goal against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse Orange midfielder Jamie Trimboli (12) dodges the goal against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

In their fourth ranked matchup of the season, the No. 4 Syracuse men’s lacrosse team squandered an early lead and succumbed to No. 9 Notre Dame, 18-11. Stephen Rehfuss led the way with a hat-trick, but three four-goal scorers for the Irish overshadowed his performance and outscored the entire team.

The Orange – fresh off their second loss of the year in a 15-14 grudge match against now No. 1 Duke – found themselves on the wrong side of the win column once again. Notre Dame last played against No. 6 UVA and fell 12-1. With both teams looking to right the ship, the Orange started fast but fell apart after the first quarter.

The Orange burst out of the gate firing and recorded six shot attempts in the first five minutes of play. Only two ended up on frame, but both were buried as Jamie Trimboli started the scoring with a sharp angle snipe, followed by a one-handed wrap-around goal by Owen Seebold as he was knocked to the ground.

Notre Dame added the next goal, but Rehfuss scored the next two, both underhand shots from seven yards off the right side of the net. The first scorched under the crossbar and the second trickled in the goalie’s five-hole.

Rehfuss was added to the Tewaaraton Watch List on Friday, which honors the best players in college lacrosse. He joined teammates Brendan Curry, Tucker Dordevic and Trimboli on the watch list.

Owen Hiltz capped off the first quarter, scoring with a tricky shot fake from fifteen yards out. He pumped his shot, pulled back, and found Chase Scanlan posted up right next to the Irish goaltender. Scanlan smoothly guided the ball into the back of the net to extend the lead 5-2.

The second quarter began in similar fashion, with the Orange striking first. Curry brought the lead to four goals before the Irish answered with two of their own to cut the lead to 6-4.

After the game, Brett Kennedy detailed the struggles on the defensive end.

“We were just lacking communication, slow on our feet,” Kennedy said. “They just outworked us. All around, we have to be bigger, stronger. They were out-hustling us, and that just can’t happen.”

With 9:01 remaining in the half, the lead dropped to one as the Irish scored a man-up goal on the first penalty of the game. Pat Kavanagh began dismantling the Orange defense with two goals and two assists that propelled Notre Dame ahead 7-6. Three goals within 70 seconds, capped off with two six seconds apart, sapped the energy from the fans in the Dome.

Less than a minute later, the crowd was back in the game following the tying goal by Peter Dearth and a drawn cross-checking penalty for a man advantage opportunity. ‘Cuse capitalized off Hiltz’s second assist of the afternoon for Curry’s second goal to reclaim the lead, but the game was once again tied after 40 seconds.

Syracuse Orange attackman Stephen Rehfuss (29) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse Orange attackman Stephen Rehfuss (29) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

Kavanagh tallied the highlight of the game less than a minute later with a one-handed flip over his head with his back to the goal for a hat-trick. The ball trickled through Drake Porter’s five-hole on a shot he never anticipated, and the Irish were back on top.

Another member of the Irish, Griffin Westlin, joined the hat-trick club to widen the SU deficit 10-8. After holding Notre Dame to two first quarter goals, the Irish erupted for nine in the second and carried an 11-8 lead into the half.

In the postgame press conference, head coach John Desko blamed the second quarter run for the loss.

“I think we kind of fooled ourselves with an early lead,” Desko said. “We fell apart defensively. The wheels came off in the second quarter. If you don’t have the ball, you’re not going to score. They really came alive in the second quarter.”

Faceoff woes plagued the Orange throughout the first half. After seven losses on eight tries, Jakob Phaup was replaced by Danny Varello who won just two of six. Freshman Jack Savage was called upon and won as many as his teammates combined in only six tries.

Porter was only able to pick up four saves on 15 shots on goal as the Irish outshot the Orange 28-20. Notre Dame also dominated in ground balls 26-11.

The Irish opened the second half by putting the game out of reach. Already up three, Westlin and Kavanagh each picked up their fourth goals of the game and another tally seven seconds later extended the lead to 14-8.

Not throwing in the towel, Scanlan tallied his second of the game on a backdoor feed from Dordevic to shrink the lead to five. Seebold added his second as he corralled a saved shot for a second chance goal.

The Orange trailed 14-10 with 2:37 remaining in the third, and with two minutes remaining, Rehfuss cut the lead to three by completing his hat-trick, and the game would remain 14-11 heading into the fourth.

Signaling a change in momentum, Nick DiPietro made the hustle play of the game for SU as he dove out of bounds to secure possession on a missed shot. The Irish, unfazed by the scoring run and effort, pushed the lead to seven goals by scoring four unanswered goals and draining the remainder of the clock.

Porter and the SU defense never figured out the Irish attack, as the team was outshot 47-34 in the contest. Porter saved 11 of 29 shots on goal for a .379 save percentage. Faceoff play and ground balls never substantially improved as Notre Dame won 23 of 32 faceoffs and secured 25 more ground balls.

Now 4-3 on the season with a losing conference record, the Orange will try to bounce back against UAlbany on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Dome before setting their sights on No. 2 UNC the following week.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and lead sports producer for The NewsHouse.