Leilani Burke/Sun Staff Photographer

Men's lacrosse celebrates a goal against Hobart on Feb. 27, 2024.

April 2, 2024

No. 12 Men’s Lacrosse Completes Monumental Comeback, Stuns No. 4 Syracuse in Double-Overtime Thriller

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As rain poured down under the lights at Schoellkopf Field on Tuesday, No. 12 men’s lacrosse and No. 4 Syracuse settled in for what would be an instant classic.

The flags poured on, as did the goals. 35 of them, to be exact.

An early Syracuse lead proved surmountable for the Red, as the wild, back-and-forth contest culminated in a thrilling 18-17 double-overtime win for Cornell. The Red trailed by as many as seven, but no deficit was too tall for Cornell as it secured its first top-five win of the season.

Not even 60 minutes was enough to decide the Tuesday, April 2 duel between the Red and the Orange, playing each other for just the second time in five years. The last meeting between the two, a 16-15 victory for Cornell in 2022, was also decided in overtime.

Two goals in the final 19 seconds on Tuesday evening saw Cornell tie the game and take its first lead of the game in rapid succession, but a last-second goal by Syracuse sent the game to overtime.

Senior attackman CJ Kirst — who posted a five-goal, six-point performance — was the hero for Cornell, notching the overtime winner in the second sudden-death frame. 

Fifth-year attackman Michael Long led the way with a five-goal, nine-point performance. On the other end, Syracuse’s Joey Spallina posted seven points, while the Orange’s goalkeeper, Will Mark, made an impressive 16 saves despite surenduring 18 goals.

A big decision at halftime by head coach Connor Buczek ’15 to substitute freshman goalkeeper Matthew Tully for junior goalkeeper Wyatt Knust proved to be the right one, as Knust came up clutch down the stretch and Cornell found its footing on defense.

Things looked bleak in the first quarter when the Orange jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Between the pipes for the Red, Tully struggled to keep up with the nation’s seventh-best offense entering Tuesday’s matchup, allowing seven goals and making just three saves in the opening quarter.

The Red tacked on two late first-quarter goals to halt the Syracuse run, coming off the sticks of Long and Kirst, respectively.

A late first quarter man-up opportunity bled into the second for Cornell, paving the way for Kirst to secure his second of the game and cut the deficit to four goals. Long scored soon after off a seamless passing sequence to make it a 7-4 ball game, capping off what was just one example of the two teams trading offensive runs.

In what was a 15-goal second quarter, Syracuse scored four goals in less than four minutes to gain ground on the Red. 

A lone goal from sophomore long stick midfielder/defenseman Brendan Staub interrupted the Syracuse run halfway through, giving the momentum back to Cornell, which outscored the Orange 5-3 in the final four minutes of the half. Freshman midfielder/attackman AJ Nikolic, Kirst, Long and a pair from fifth-year attackman Spencer Wirtheim closed out the half for Cornell, trailing 14-10.

A big storyline of the first half was Syracuse offensive coordinator Pat March’s ejection from the game. Details have yet to be revealed on the ejection, but multiple unsportsmanlike penalties were dealt the Orange’s way, handing many prime man-up opportunities to the Red.

However, an even bigger moment came when Knust was put between the pipes for the second half. Knust came up massive for the Red down the stretch, allowing just three goals and making eight saves, including many clutch stops on high-percentage Syracuse shots.

After a 24-goal first half, the teams combined for just four goals in the third quarter. Syracuse came out flying and tacked two more on to make it 16-10 — another substantial deficit — but goals from Long at 1:53 and Kirst (on the man-up) at 1:11 kept Cornell within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter, down 16-12.

The Red finally solved the Syracuse defense in the final 15, scoring five consecutive goals and continuing its run from the third. Two goals from freshman attackman Ryan Goldstein — continuing his hot stretch — sandwiched goals from senior midfielder Hugh Kelleher and Long to ultimately tie the game up late.

The latter of Goldstein’s goals came with 20 seconds left in the game, knotting the score for Cornell after a nice cross-crease dish from freshman attackman Willem Firth. 

Soon thereafter, an unlikely hero — senior face-off/midfielder Marc Psyllos — won the ensuing draw, took it the length of the field, fired and beat the Syracuse goaltender for the go-ahead goal. The timely goal gave Cornell both its first lead of the game and Psyllos’ first career goal.  

However, Psyllos got little time to celebrate when Syracuse face-off pro Mason Kohn — who was dominant in the X on Tuesday, winning 20 of 26 draws against Psyllos — won a timely draw, setting up an offensive attack for Syracuse, and ultimately found the game-tying when the Orange’s Sam English beat Knust with one second left on the clock.

Cornell, playing its second consecutive overtime game after falling to Penn in a double-overtime heartbreaker just 72 hours prior, had multiple chances to seal the game in overtime, including a man-up opportunity as the first overtime waned down.

Syracuse had no shortage of opportunities of its own, but the Orange either misfired key passes or was snubbed by Knust, who made four saves across both overtimes. The junior netminder, in his first action since the decimating loss to Penn State on March 9, made two clutch saves in the second overtime prior to the Red’s game-winner.

The hero, donning the familiar number 15 in white, completed the epic comeback with just 47 seconds left in the second overtime. Kirst fired a low missile of a shot from distance that beat the Syracuse goaltender, sending the fans at Schoellkopf home happy.

Cornell swarmed its goaltender, Knust, after what will go down as one of the most memorable games in Ithaca in recent memory, and a sure game of the year candidate.

The win ends a stretch of six consecutive games against ranked opponents for Cornell, which managed an impressive 4-2 record over that span.

The Red will be back in action on Saturday as it takes on Brown at Noon on Schoellkopf Field.