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Syracuse men's lacrosse player Joey Spallina roars after scoring

Syracuse Uses Third-Quarter Barrage to Defeat Towson in NCAA Tournament

May 12, 2024
Matt DaSilva
Todd Slabaugh

Syracuse’s first NCAA tournament appearance in three years appeared in peril of ending early Sunday. But the fourth-seeded Orange let loose in the third quarter, scoring nine unanswered goals en route to a 20-15 victory over Towson in an offensive showcase at JWA Wireless Dome.

As a result, all eight seeded teams have advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2004. Syracuse will play fifth-seeded Denver next Sunday at Towson.

Attackmen Joey Spallina (four goals, four assists) and Owen Hiltz (four goals, two assists) combined for 14 points against the Tigers, who came in allowing the fewest goals per game (8.44) of any team in Division I men’s lacrosse.

As underdogs go, Towson did not fit the prototype. Nor did it play like one for the first 30 minutes.

What started as a scorched-earth run to the CAA championship continued with a lights-out first quarter in which the Tigers scored on six straight shots. They led 9-8 at halftime after Josh Webber scored with 13 seconds left in the second quarter.

Then Syracuse went ballistic. Its nine-goal barrage lasted 10 minutes, 30 seconds. By the time Towson could even breathe again, it was staring at a 17-9 deficit.

The Tigers could not keep pace with the Orange’s rapid ball movement. Nor did they have an answer for faceoff specialist John Mullen (18-for-23).

But the most impactful play of the third quarter came on the defensive end for Syracuse. After Finn Thompson tied the game for the ninth time at 9 apiece, Towson had a chance to retake the lead on a two-on-one. Orange defenseman Riley Figueiras bated Tigers midfielder Mikey Weisshaar into passing the ball and then snatched it cleanly from the air, drawing loud praise from the 3,167 fans in attendance for the Sunday night Dome show.

On the next possession, midfielder Michael Leo scored on a sweeping lefty dodge over the top to put Syracuse ahead 10-9.
A dead ball foul gave the ball back to Towson, but Orange goalie Will Mark made a quick save on the other end. Hiltz fed Sam English for a goal and then Mullen took the ensuing in to score six seconds later to make it 12-9.

The onslaught did not stop there. Defensive midfielder Carter Rice supplied another juice play for Syracuse, diving at the sideline after an errant Tigers shot to win possession. Towson got caught in a 6-on-5 while substituting and Orange midfielder Jake Stevens capitalized, making it a four-goal game.

Then flags flew. The Tigers committed three penalties in less than a minute, leading to a man-up goal by Christian Mule from Hiltz to make it 14-9.

Just when it looked like Towson might get a stop, Hiltz bounced in a twister shot on the back end of a give-and-go with Spallina, scoring as his momentum took him behind the goal by shooting across his body and turning his top wrist.

The fireworks continued, culminating in a Luke Rhoa rollback to set up an underhand howitzer that gave Syracuse an insurmountable 17-9 advantage.

Towson countered with five fourth-quarter goals, but it was not nearly enough. Among the bright spots for the Tigers was sophomore attackman Alex Roussel, who played in place of injured starter Joaquin Villagomez and finished with four goals and three assists. One of his assists came as he fell to one knee behind the goal and somehow threaded a feed through traffic to Chop Gallagher in the first quarter.

Neither goalie made a save in the first frame. Both settled in after that, with Syracuse’s Will Mark outdueling Towson’s Luke Downs. Mark made four saves each in the second and third quarter and finished with 10 in the game.