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Saturday, Feb 09, 2019 at 12:47 am

Syracuse Stunned in Season-Opening Loss to Colgate

By Sam Rothman

CitrusTV Men’s Lacrosse Reporter

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Coach John Desko’s squad hadn’t lost a season opener since 2013. Colgate hadn’t grabbed a win against Syracuse since 2008. Well, that all changed on Friday. The unranked Raiders stunned the No.10 Orange with a 12-9 win to kick off the 2019 campaign.

In the past six matchups, Syracuse outscored Colgate 87-37. However, this time it was the Raiders who came out on top. Although the players on the field weren’t much different from last year, the faces on the sidelines were. Colgate entered the 2019 season with a brand new coaching staff, spearheaded by first-year head coach Matt Karweck.

“I look across the sidelines and it’s just surreal for me to be able to compete against these guys at this level,” said Karweck.

After a disappointing 8-7 record last season, Syracuse hoped to get off on a strong foot this year. The Orange were excited about returning eight of their ten starters from last season and believed their experience would help them turn things around. But, Colgate had the same mindset.

“They’re somewhat like we are,” said Desko. “They started a bunch of young guys last year. A lot of young guys got a lot of playing time.”

And it was Karweck’s squad who came firing out of the gate, scoring three straight goals to open up the game.

“I think to start the year with a new coaching staff, a lot of excitement on their part,” said Desko. “We knew they were going to be better.”

The Raiders were the better team in every facet of the game to start off the night. While Colgate was winning the faceoff battle and outshooting Syracuse, the Orange struggled to get anything going offensively in front of their home crowd.

“We didn’t know what they were going to do coming in offensively or defensively,” said Desko. “We knew we were going to have to adjust to that.”

The Orange were able to make that adjustment. After trailing by three goals, Syracuse responded with two markers in the final minute of the first quarter to pull within one. Brendan Curry fired one past Colgate goalie Connor Mullen on a man-up opportunity, while Andrew Helmer netted his first career goal after a Colgate turnover led to a Syracuse odd-man rush.

Things were looking up for the Orange. Despite being outshot 15-6 and winning just two of six faceoffs, SU was down by just one goal.

However, the Raiders quickly took away any momentum the Orange had. Colgate responded with three straight goals to open up the second quarter. That was the story of the game. Syracuse would score a couple of goals, and just when you thought the Orange were making a comeback, the Raiders shut them down and shifted the momentum back in their favor.

“Throughout the game there were huge momentum changes,” said Curry. “You saw Brett Kennedy pick one up and take it all the way and score. Those are just huge plays that we need to start making, especially late in the game.”

After trailing by four goals early in the third quarter, Kennedy cut the deficit to one and got it done all by himself. The redshirt sophomore long pole made his way up the field, beat two defenders and then buried one home. Syracuse had some life.

The Orange as a team had a better effort in the second half. Syracuse was able to make the necessary adjustments to keep the Raiders off the board, which included assigning defender Nick Mellen to shut down Colgate’s Sam Cleveland. The senior scored two goals in the opening half but was held off the scoresheet for the rest of the game.

However, that didn’t stop the bleeding. With eight minutes left in the game, SU freshman Griffin Cook turned the ball over in the offensive zone. Colgate picked up the ball and scored on the opposite end of the turf to regain a three-goal advantage on the transition play.

“You’ve got to come ready to play and you can’t make as many mistakes as we made today and expect to win the game,” said Desko.

Syracuse was its own worst enemy in the game. Colgate held just a 10-9 lead over SU with seven minutes left in regulation. But, the Orange found themselves in some penalty trouble, and Colgate’s Duncan Hoskinson took advantage on the man-up to complete a hat trick. While Syracuse struggled with its discipline, Colgate stayed composed.

“It’s really easy to get excited by being up by two against Syracuse,” said Karweck. “But you have to continue to understand that the game isn’t over until that bell rings. I’m so proud of my guys with the way that they handled their poise in the moment.”

With 1:31 left in the game, Colgate’s Nicky Petkevich scored an empty-net goal as Drake Porter was behind the cage. Syracuse fans started to file out of the Carrier Dome while the Colgate sideline erupted. The Raiders knew that goal sealed the deal.

“One loss doesn’t define a whole season,” said Nate Solomon. “We’ve got a long way ahead of us.”

sbrothma@syr.edu | @samrothman_