Men's Lacrosse

No. 2 Syracuse’s man-up unit, 2nd-best in the nation, falls short in season-ending loss

Sabrina Koenig | Asst. Photo Editor

Towson star goalie Matt Hoy won the starting job in mid-April on the very same field, in Delaware Stadium, that he dominated Syracuse on a month later.

NEWARK, Del. — The second-best man-up offense in the nation failed to convert on all four opportunities in its most important game of the season.

Syracuse alley dodges were stonewalled by defenders. Slide gaps didn’t create any open room for shots. The Orange passed around the packed-in Towson defense, probing for opportunities that seemed not to be there. When SU did find enough room for a quick pass or outside shot, goalie Matt Hoy was there for the stop.

No. 2 Syracuse’s (13-3, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) reliable man-up unit went AWOL on Sunday afternoon in its 10-7, season-ending loss to No. 11 Towson (12-4, 4-1 Colonial Athletic) in the NCAA quarterfinals at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware. The 0-for-4 performance is SU’s worst all season and just the third time without a single man-up goal this year. The struggles were due, in large part, to Hoy’s 12-save performance in net.

“To have a good man down,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said, “you need a goalie to make saves, step up and be a little showstopper.”

Entering Sunday’s matchup, SU converted on 54.8 percent of its man-up opportunities, second only behind Johns Hopkins. The only other times man-down units blanked the Orange was against St. John’s (0-for-2) and Binghamton (0-for-1). This was the same extra-man offense that hung five goals against Hobart and three on both Army and North Carolina.

The first Syracuse man-up came just over three minutes into the first quarter. Twenty-one seconds later, Nick Mariano unleashed a shot from far out. Hoy saw the ball and made the stop, starting a Towson transition.

“That first quarter, Mariano had that shot I saved,” Hoy said. “That put me in the zone for the rest of the game. That gave me confidence against their best shooter right from the get-go.”

Towson’s defense crowded in the middle of the field and often TU flooded the crease, stopping any off-ball movement in that area, where Brendan Bomberry and Nate Solomon thrive.

Hoy hadn’t been Towson’s starter at the beginning of the season, Nadelen instead favoring junior Josh Miller. But Hoy forced a rotation and midway through April, against Delaware on the same field as Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinals, Hoy won the job outright. Since, Towson has not allowed double-digit goals. That included Sunday, when the Tigers defense limited Syracuse to its fewest goals all season.

“(Hoy) really saw the ball well,” Solomon said. “He stopped me on a good shot from like five yards out. … From outside and inside. He’s just a very good goaltender.”

Instead of conceding sweeps toward the middle of the field, the TU forced Syracuse to dodge down the alley. When SU would try to cut toward the middle of field, multiple Towson defenders converged on the player. The Syracuse offense that had thrived in the middle of the field had to adapt, even while 6-on-5. Shots from farther out ensued, and many ended up high and wide — or in the webbing of Hoy’s stick.

Twice, Syracuse forced its way inside near the crease while man-up. Both times, Brad Voigt caught a pass before shooting 1-on-1 against Hoy. Both times, the senior goalie made the save and killed off the penalty.

As the fourth quarter wound down, Syracuse made a quick run. Solomon scored three goals in a row and the offense began to push transition on Towson turnovers. But the harder Syracuse pushed, the more comfortable Towson became. Stopping the wave of man-ups put Hoy “in the zone,” he said. Hoy made 12 saves total.

“Our credit really goes to their goaltender more than their man-down defense,” SU head coach John Desko said. “He got in front of the ball, and maybe our placement was a little off, but those are 5- and 6-yard saves.”

Aside from a Solomon behind-the-back goal and transition goals late in the fourth quarter, Hoy rarely faltered. Syracuse went scoreless the entire first quarter. The second and third, SU had just three to its name. Hoy had nine saves in those frames alone.

Only seven of Syracuse’s 31 shots found the back of the net. The last time SU had scored just seven goals came in the NCAA quarterfinals the year before against Maryland. Last year, Kyle Bernlohr made 15 saves and was the brick wall in net that held SU to just 1-of-5 on its man-up opportunities. This year, it was Matt Hoy that shined.

“I just can’t explain it,” Hoy said. “You get in a zone as a goalie. It’s like I didn’t even see the ball, I just went.

“I knew where they were going to shoot the ball.”

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