Salerno’s last-second goal sinks men’s lacrosse

Sal Valenti vs Zak Fazio lacrosse

The Oswego State men’s lacrosse team overcame an early five-goal deficit to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, but fell just shy in a 10-9 loss to SUNY Oneonta Saturday at Laker Field.

The Lakers started extremely slow on a cold, windy afternoon. Oneonta’s Jim van de Veerdonk won the opening faceoff and took the ball down the field before letting loose a shot that scored only seven seconds into the game. The goal sparked a 5-0 first quarter for the Red Dragons.

Van de Veerdonk scored again two minutes into the game to double the lead. Oneonta’s Mike Salerno scored two more goals within the first five minutes of the game to expand the Red Dragon lead. Salerno completed the hat trick with 1:50 remaining in the period to complete the scoring for the opening stanza.

The Red Dragons won all six faceoffs in the period. They also dominated in the hustle department, throttling the Lakers 14-2 in groundballs.

"We dug ourselves a hole," Lakers coach Ryan Martin said. "We needed to be able to slide to the body of No. 9 (van de Veerdonk), who was winning faceoffs forward. Stop the bleeding and score one goal at a time."

A more inspired Oswego State team took the field to start the second quarter. Sophomore attacker Mark Briggs tallied the first Laker goal at 3:53 in the period on a pass from sophomore midfielder Adam Jean. The Lakers cut into the deficit again when junior midfielder Brett Sarubbi scored an unassisted goal halfway through the quarter.

Oneonta kept the pressure on when Ryan Gifford found John DeOrdio a minute later to push the lead back to four goals. The Lakers hung tough, however, winning half of the 12 groundballs to remain competitive.

Junior attack/midfielder Casey Balzer scored his first of three goals in the game with 2:32 left in the half. Balzer’s goal was the last of the half, giving the Red Dragons a 6-3 halftime lead.

After being outshot 21-11 in the first half, the Lakers registered nine shots in the third quarter to just four for Oneonta. Offensive pressure by Oswego State led to a pair of goals by freshman attacker Chris Porten in the stanza. Balzer assisted on the second of the two, which cut the lead to one.

Balzer tied the game up at 1:26 of the high-scoring fourth quarter. He completed his hat trick at 3:16 with the only man-up goal of the game to complete a 7-1 run for Oswego State. Andy Lever was credited with an assist on the goal. The Lakers finished 1-for-6 in man-up situations, while the Red Dragons went 0-for-4 on the day.

Two goals less than a minute apart by Oneonta’s Brian Kollar put the Red Dragons back on top, 8-7. Oswego State junior midfielder Britt Leone fired a long-range shot that knotted the game up at eight halfway through the final period. The tie held until four minutes remained in the game, when Porten found junior attacker Andy Williams for the go-ahead goal.

Van de Veerdonk found the back of the net one last time with less than two minutes left to tie the game for the fourth time in the period at nine goals apiece. A combination of penalties on Oneonta’s Tyler Gore with 41 seconds left gave the Lakers a man-up situation in the offensive zone.

Oswego State called a timeout to set up a play, but a high pass by Balzer went out of bounds giving the ball back to the Red Dragons with 22 seconds left. Van de Veerdonk found Salerno on a cut, and Salerno turned and fired a shot that beat the Laker goalie with four seconds left in the game.

"The thing that’s plagued us all year is finishing a game, and making decisions that we need to make at the end of a ball game in order to be successful," Martin said. "We haven’t done a good job with that all year, even in some of our wins."

Oswego State junior goalkeeper Ian O’Brien finished with nine saves in the loss. Oneonta goaltender Sean Reynolds recorded eight saves in the contest. The Red Dragons won 16 faceoffs in the game compared to only seven for the Lakers.

The victory was the first conference win for the Red Dragons this year. Oneonta improved to 3-8 overall and 1-2 in the SUNYAC. The loss dropped Oswego State to 5-7 overall and 0-4 in conference play.

Oswego State takes Laker Field again on Saturday, April 23, when they face Rochester Institute of Technology.

"We just have to keep getting better," Martin said. "Have a burning desire to be the best you can possibly be. We’re going to continue that. We’re not giving up. We’re not quitting."