Syracuse lacrosse falls to rival Duke in overtime showdown, 14-13

Syracuse LAX falls to rival Duke in overtime showdown, 14-13

The Orange drops to 0-2 in ACC and .500 on the season.
Published: March 5, 2023
SU vs Duke Men's Lacrosse Game
Syracuse's Luke Rhoa (#8) pulls back from goal as Duke's Jack Gray (#20) catches up to him during an ACC men's lacrosse game on Sunday at the JMA Wireless Dome.

On Sunday afternoon, the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils traveled to the JMA Wireless Dome to take on the No. 20 Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse team. The storied programs competed against each other in what turned out to be an instant game classic. Four periods were not enough to decide the game.

It wasn’t until overtime that the winner was decided when Blue Devils’ Charles Balsamo scored a goal in the first overtime to give Duke a 14-13 win over ACC rival Syracuse.

The first period of the game belonged to the Orange. SU outscored Duke 5-1 in the opening period. Cole Kirst scored two of his season-high four goals in the first period. Joining him in the opening period with goals were Jackson Birtwistle, Alex Simmons and Luke Rhoa.

Kirst now has 10 total goals on the season. Kirst spoke unselfishly on how his teammates were the reason for his goals.

“The other guys on offense allowed me to have space to really dodge hard and create a lane for myself,” Kirst said. “Just all the credit to the other five guys on the offensive end.”

SU vs Duke Men's Lacrosse Game

Syracuse goalie Will Mark stops a shot from Duke's Owen Caputo (#13).

SU vs Duke Men's Lacrosse Game

Syracuse's Jack Fine (#38) and Duke's Jake Naso (#56) collide while fighting for possession of the ball.

In the second period, the Blue Devils responded to the Orange in a huge way, scoring three goals in 36 seconds at just about the mid-way point. Just two minutes later, SU had a retaliation scoring three goals in just 75 seconds. Freshman stand-out Joey Spallina facilitated two impressive assists during that sequence.

In response, the Blue Devils scored two goals before the half, the first coming from Charles Balsamo and the second from Brennan O’Neill, who had his elite scoring ability showcased the entire game. After leading Duke 5-1 to end the first period, the Orange had just an 8-6 lead at halftime. 

O’Neill finished the game with a team-high four goals to go with his two assists. O’Neill said he knew his team would win once their shots started to fall.

“The whole game, the ball movement was there. We were in the right spots. Shots weren’t forcing anything,” O’Neill said. “It was just a matter of time until our shots started falling. It’s great when you have a defense you can rely on to always feel safe to make a couple of mistakes.”

SU vs Duke Men's Lacrosse Game
Syracuse struggles to win faceoffs during the second quarter.

In the first half alone, The Blue Devils outshot SU 32-15 and still trailed by two. In the second half, the aggressiveness from Duke would only increase.

But, the third period started just as the game would start, with Birtwistle and Kirst scoring goals. After that sequence, Duke completely dominated the third period going on a 6-0 scoring run. This incredible run gave Duke their first lead of the game and a 12-10 lead going into the fourth period.  

After getting his teammates involved earlier in the game, Spallina took it upon himself and scored an unassisted goal at the midway point of the final quarter to bring his team within one. Spallina now has 16 total goals on the season as a freshman.

Following that, Dyson Williams scored his 21st goal of the season to increase the Blue Devils lead to two. The Orange would not go away as Kirst and Finn Thomson scored to even the playing field and send the game to overtime. Winning the game for Duke was Balsamo, who scored his second goal of the game to give the Blue Devils the victory.

Duke was able to get the victory due to dominating in two key categories, total shots and ground balls won. The Blue Devils shot more than twice as many times as the Orange, outshooting them 65-32. Duke also controlled the game regarding ground balls, outdoing the Orange convincingly 40-24. 

A big reason for SU being able to stay in the game was due to goalie Will Mark. Mark faced more shots (65) than minutes played (63). Mark finished the game with 27 saves, but as he and head coach Gary Gait mentioned, this isn’t Mark’s first time around the block, which works in SU’s favor.

Mark talked about how his experience has prepared him for any shot that comes his way.

“I’m at that point in my career where I think I’ve seen pretty much any shot that’s out there,” Mark said. “The guys in front of me work countless hours, to prepare, to scout, to watch the film, to give me the shots that I wanna see. I’ve been around the block a couple of times. That definitely helps.”

The loss now puts the Orange at 3-3 on the season and 0-2 in ACC play. Syracuse will look to get back on track when they host No. 15 Johns Hopkins Saturday at 4 p.m.