Villanova Stadium was upset central as both top seeds fell in the semifinal of the inaugural Big East Lacrosse tournament. Notre Dame rallied late, but couldn't complete the comeback against fourth-seeded St. John's in the early game, while Villanova fell to Syracuse in the second game.
Syracuse fell short in their first meeting with Villanova this season, but in the rematch in Thursday night's semifinal they found a new gear and out-paced the Wildcats scoring. The Wildcats fell, 15-6, and will now await their fate with the NCAA Tournament, but a big seems unlikely.
Both teams entered the game needing to win to keep their season and NCAA hopes alive.
The dual-upsets make Syracuse the highest remaining seed for Saturday's championship game, and the winner will be awarded with the newly-granted automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. For Villanova and Notre Dame, however, the best hope may be an at-large selection — likely in the case of the Irish, but not for the Wildcats.
Villanova tried to start fast, taking shots early, but they were off the mark and Syracuse was able to build up a 2-0 lead before the Wildcats found the back of the net. Things remained close through the first half, however, with Nova trailing by two goals at the half, 6-4
The second half was when Syracuse found a scoring groove and pulled away, however. It was a back-and-forth affair early in the third quarter, but the 'Cuse eventually took control. After three quarters, the score was 10-6. The Orange defense stifled Villanova, and the 'Cats were not able to score at all in the fourth quarter. Syracise scored the final six goals of the game.
For an offense that averages over 10 goals per game, the 6-score performance was unexpected.
Syracuse had a 41-22 edge in ground balls for the contest, with a career-high eight by Ricky Buhr, who also led the Orange at the face-off X, going 11-for-20.
Villanova's goalkeeper, Dan Gutierrez, had 8 saves in the game, but couldn't stop the Syracuse barrage. Bobby Wardwell made 12 saves for the Orange.
Jack Rice (2 goals) and Kevin Cunningham (1 goal, 1 assist) led the way for the Wildcats scoring. They were just 1-of-5 on extra man opportunities, however, and had just 30 shots for the game, compared to 38 for the Orange.