VILLANOVA, Pa. – Led by a career-high tying six points from Tommy Palasek (Rocky Point, N.Y.) the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team (9-7) built a 7-0 first-half lead and never looked back en route to a 12-4 victory over St. John’s (8-7) to capture the inaugural BIG EAST Men’s Lacrosse Championship Saturday, May 5 at Villanova Stadium.
With the win, the Orange receives the conference’s automatic bid in the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship. Syracuse will learn its first-round NCAA opponent tomorrow night at 9 p.m. when the tournament field is revealed on ESPNU. Syracuse will make its fifth consecutive appearance in the national tournament, and its 32nd overall.
Palasek, who had 10 points (4g, 6a) against Villanova and St. John’s, was named the BIG EAST Championship’s Most Outstanding Player. He was joined by Bobby Eilers (Simsbury, Conn.), Brian Megill (Clark, N.J.) and Bobby Wardwell (Clifton Park, N.Y.) on the all-tournament team.
“I thought we came out and really understood in such a short period of time of who they were and what they liked to do, especially defensively,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko. “Guys really rose to the occasion. Our goal was to play 60 minutes of lacrosse again today and I thought we did that. It’s great to win the BIG EAST Championship and it’s great to be in the NCAA’s again.”
Against St. John’s, the Orange used a season-high five man-up goals to help gain control of the game, and finished the contest 5-for-6 with the man advantage. The Orange outshot the Red Storm, 40-30, and held a slight 30-29 edge in ground balls. SU also won the battle at the faceoff X for the third straight game, claiming 10-of-19 faceoffs.
Following a strong defensive stand to start the contest, Syracuse got on the board first as Palasek fired a pass from behind the cage up top to Eilers, who scored with a defender draped all over him for an early 1-0 lead.
With the Orange on a 6-on-4 man advantage, Palasek and Eilers connected again midway through the first quarter to put SU up two, and Derek Maltz (Ashburn, Va.) gave the Orange a 3-0 lead with another man-up goal at the 4:34 left in the period. Palasek notched his first goal of the game three minutes later when he lost a defender behind the cage and beat St. John’s goalie Jeff Lowman with a low shot.
SU extended its lead to 5-0 with 10:29 remaining in the second quarter as Tim Desko (Syracuse, N.Y.) converted from five yards out. Palasek and Hakeem Lecky (Nantucket, Mass.) also tacked on second-quarter goals to put SU up 7-0 heading into intermission.
The Orange continued to pour it on at the start of the second half as Luke Cometti (Syracuse, N.Y.) scored a man-up goal just seven seconds into the third off a feed from Eilers.
The Orange didn’t allow a goal until Kieran McArdle finally got St. John’s on the board with 14:02 left in the third, snapping the Red Storm’s 30:58 scoring drought and making the score 8-1 Syracuse.
After McArdle netted a man-up goal to bring the Orange lead down to six (8-2), SU answered with 1:25 to go in the period as JoJo Marasco (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) made a great pass to Billy Ward (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) on the weak side for an easy goal and a 9-2 lead after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was a formality as Syracuse outscored St. John’s, 3-2, in the stanza to produce the 12-4 final score.
Palasek tied his career high with six points (3g, 3a) in the contest. Eilers had another big game, contributing four points (2g, 2a), and Wardwell finished with seven saves in a little more than 53 minutes of work between the pipes before being replaced by Dominc Lamolinara (Arnold, Md.). Five of Wardwell’s saves came during SU’s first-half shutout of the Red Storm.
McArdle factored in all four St. John’s goals, recorded two goals and two assists. Harry Kutner also added one goal and one assist for the Red Storm, while Lowman totaled 13 saves in the cage.
Game Notes: Syracuse’s first-half shutout marked the first time the Orange blanked an opponent in a half since April 16, 2011 versus Providence (second half) … The Orange’s five man-up goals in the game were its most since netting five at Virginia in 2010 … Eilers scored at least two goals for the sixth time in the last seven games … Marasco’s third-quarter assist extended his streak to 24 straight games with at least one point … Marasco has a point in 32 of the last 33 games overall … Brandon Mullins (Coppell, Texas) set a career high with five ground balls … Palasek has now has five games with at least three assists this season.