Categories: College Sports
Bobby Wardwell has two wishes as his senior year winds down at Syracuse University.
The starting goalie for the Orange men’s lacrosse team, Clifton Park’s Wardwell wants to use his final weeks at Syracuse to keep getting better — and the senior wants to do everything he can to make sure his collegiate career does, in fact, have a few weeks left in it.
“That national championship has evaded us the last few years,” said Wardwell. “All of our sights are set on winning that trophy on Memorial Day.”
That day — May 25 — is when two teams will play for the 2015 national championship, a game Wardwell and the Orange are a favorite to play in this season after Syracuse won the ACC tournament championship Sunday with a 15-14 win over Duke. Wardwell made eight saves in that victory, which came a game after recording a career-high 14 saves in a 9-8 ACC semifinal win against North Carolina.
The ACC title was the first for Syracuse, which began playing in the nation’s top lacrosse conference for the 2014 season. After the weekend’s action, Syracuse was ranked No. 1 in the Inside Lacrosse Division I media poll — and leaguemates Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke were at Nos. 2, 4, and 5, respectively.
“This is a brutal league,” said Syracuse head coach John Desko, the ACC Coach of the Year.
The performance in the semifinals was likely the best of Wardwell’s career at Syracuse. Besides the career-high saves total, Wardwell’s effort came just 13 days after he had struggled against the Tar Heels in a losing effort. In that regular-season game, Wardwell allowed 10 goals and only made four saves before being pulled in an eventual 17-15 loss.
Wardwell had battled adversity before during his college career. After a sparkling high school career in which he was a five-year starter for Shenendehowa, Wardwell established himself as Syracuse’s starting goalie during his freshman season. A rough sophomore season ended with Wardwell on the bench before he rebuilt his confidence during a strong junior campaign and emerged as the team’s full-time starter for this season.
“He’s been very consistent this year for us,” said Desko. “He’s always been a goalie that makes the saves he should — he’s always in good position. This year, what we’re getting is some saves he shouldn’t make.”
“It’s a good feeling knowing I have the support of the coaching staff and our players,” said Wardwell. “It helps you go into the game with more confidence.”
Still, Wardwell had to recover after his rough outing against North Carolina. He spent the days leading up to the rematch working with Syracuse undergraduate assistant coach Dominic Lamolinara, whom Wardwell had split time with last season. Lamolinara put Wardwell through the paces in practice sessions, making sure the goalie was prepared to stop low shots aimed at his non-stick side.
“They had exploited that weakness, and I worked really hard on [fixing] it,” said Wardwell, whose work was rewarded with his career-best performances.
Wardwell and Syracuse have one more regular-season game — Saturday at Colgate — before finding out Sunday the Orange’s draw for the national tournament. Winning that tournament’s title, Wardwell said, would be a dream come true for someone who first started with the sport as a second-grader.
“As a senior, it’s pretty crazy to think it’s going to be ending soon,” he said. “Hopefully, we still have a few weeks left.”