ALBANY — The game UAlbany waited over a year for was worth every second to the Great Danes.
Playing in a steady rain before a soggy 3,688 fans at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, UAlbany received a lot of contributions in defeating Syracuse 14-12 in a men’s lacrosse non-conference game on Thursday night.
It was the first time in 20 meetings that the Orange traveled to Albany. The visit was originally scheduled for 2020, which fell through when the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was initially pushed back to 2021, but that meeting was played in Syracuse and UAlbany’s home game was postponed to this year. Even if the win was only UAlbany’s third in the series, it was by far the biggest one because of where it was held.
If UAlbany (4-5) was to beat Syracuse — which fell to 4-6 but is still a feared name in college lacrosse — it was going to need contributions from unlikely sources. It got that aplenty.
It started in goal, where redshirt senior Will Ramos made his first start of the season since receiving a waiver to play after missing the team’s first seven games due to academic reasons. Ramos finished with 15 saves, several of them brilliant, including six during the second quarter, which helped the Great Danes take an 8-5 lead at halftime.
“I just love this game,” Ramos said of his ability to rise to the occasion. “We’re going to ride off this energy for the rest of the year. We’ve been riding on a bus to the [Carrier] Dome forever. They want to come to our stadium, we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win.”
“I knew he was chomping at the bit,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said of Ramos, “and he made some huge saves tonight.”
One of the other unlikely stars was long-stick defensive midfielder Jake Piseno, from Liverpool in suburban Syracuse and who had two first-half goals. Hepresented such a problem for the Orange that they devoted one of their top scorers, Owen Seebold, to face-guarding him every time he came into the attacking box in the second half.
Freshman midfielder Thomas Decker entered the game with two goals and four assists, but he erupted for three goals and an assist. Not to be outdone was fellow freshman midfielder Adam Thistlethwaite, who only had three shots before Thursday. But he tickled the net for two goals in the first half.
UAlbany took a 1-0 lead on the first of Graydon Hogg’s two first-half goals in what became a back-and-forth first quarter, which ended tied 4-4.
The Great Danes took the lead for good on Piseno’s second goal, when the Orange inexplicably left him open after he’d already proven he wasn’t shy about shooting.
Thistlethwaite scored his second goal of the half at 12:52 to make it 6-4 when he picked up a ground ball off a missed pass and fired as the shot clock was down to 5 seconds.
There wasn’t much scoring for a decent stretch of the second quarter, and that was partly due to the strong play of Ramos. He made four consecutive saves in the second before Jacob Buttermore scored his second to close UAlbany’s lead to 6-5.
The Great Danes made it 7-5 on Jack Pucci’s high bouncer with 4:09 left in the half, and then increased it to 8-5 on Decker’s inside-roll goal with 2:34 left.
UAlbany goals from Hogg and Decker (twice) gave the Great Danes an 11-6 lead with 5:40 left in the third, but then Syracuse closed the quarter on a 4-0 run that had to be the No. 1 thing UAlbany was hoping to avoid.
UAlbany wrestled back the momentum to start the fourth quarter, as Nick Karnes won the faceoff and ran right in to put one in the net seven seconds into the period.
“For him to win that faceoff and score just brought all the energy back to us, and we just had to manage the game from there,” Marr said.
And it did. UAlbany’s fourth quarter goals exemplified the control and alertness it played with the entire game. It never rushed a shot and waited for the right opportunities to present themselves.
“For the majority of the game we played a really poised game, slowed the ball down when we had to, used the shot clock, had some good possessions, were smart when the flag was down. Extra man, three for six is outstanding. Learning how to win is not easy. Winning against a program like this can really give us a lot of confidence going forward,” Marr said.
Syracuse coach Gary Gait said the story of the game, “was easy: We didn’t finish.” Gait said there were plenty of opportunities (52 shots), but a high number of turnovers also didn’t help his team get any momentum outside of the one time.
UAlbany, on a three-game win streak, will leave for its Saturday game at UMBC on Friday.
Syracuse 4 1 5 2 — 12
UAlbany 4 4 3 3 — 14
Syracuse scoring: Dordevic 3-0, Seebold 3-0, Buttermore 3-0, Burry 2-1, Berkman 1-2, Staats 0-1. UAlbany scoring: Hogg 4-0, Decker 3-1, Piseno 2-0, Thistlethwaite 2-0, Pucci 1-1, C.Hay 1-1, Karnes 1-0, Yunker 0-3, Whitcomb 0-2. Goalies: Syracuse, Gavin, 11 saves. UAlbany, Ramos, 15 saves.