Villanova entered Saturday's Big East Conference Championship at 7-7, meaning a win was the only way the Wildcats would be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. Villanova hosted the tournament by having a stellar league record, while they stumbled in their out-of-conference matchups.
Unfortunately for 'Nova, the Syracuse Orange were their opponents in the final. Syracuse has been on a tear. They are playing great lacrosse on both ends of the field, with goalie Dominic Lamolinara becoming a force in the cage.
Goalie play has been inconsistent for the Orange for the past few years. In 2012, they ran a two-goalie system, for the most part, but have stuck with Lamolinara in 2013. He made nine saves against Villanova Saturday, many of which came in big moments to prevent a late Villanova run.
Kevin Rice lead the way for the Syracuse offense, scoring two goals and adding three assists. Scott Loy also came up big for the Orange, scoring a hat trick as his team won the league crown.
Syracuse was able to take advantage of a great team performance at the faceoff X to gain possession and keep the ball away from a talented Villanova attack. Both Syracuse and Villanova are great off-ball teams, and Syracuse showed this by forcing passes into the crease on many possessions.
Although Villanova will not make the NCAA Tournament due to its losing record, the Wildcats should be proud of their Big East performance this year. The Wildcats won the regular-season championship after beginning the year at 2-6 and being considered an afterthought in the conference.
They were impressive in wins over Delaware, Syracuse and St. John's, while their out-of-conference losses included the likes of Princeton, Penn, Maryland and Lehigh. With such a tough schedule, there was clearly a big adjustment period for this VIllanova team early in the year.
After playing tough against the nation's elite, the Wildcats made great adjustments and found themselves with an opportunity for a tournament bid. Unfortunately, Syracuse is just too good right now.
Syracuse will almost certainly be towards the top of the brackets that will be revealed tonight. With that said, in such an unpredictable year in college lacrosse, no first-round matchup will be a breeze.
There will be many elite teams missing out on postseason play due to upsets in conference title games. This selection Sunday will be unlike any other in history, so catch the selection show at 9 p.m. on ESPNU Sunday night.
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for all of your NCAA Lacrosse Tournament coverage.
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