Maybe Syracuse University doesn't have Paul and Gary Gait anymore, but the Orangemen still score and throw passes from behind the back. And they still play pressure defense, score momentum-breaking goals and have the Michael Jordan of college lacrosse, attackman Tom Marechek.
And most of all, the Orangemen still win.
Yesterday Marechek scored four goals and Syracuse's defense turned in perhaps its best performance of the year, as the Orangemen defeated No. 4 Johns Hopkins, 11-8, in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I quarterfinal game at Homewood Field.
No. 5 Syracuse (12-2) will play No. 1 North Carolina (14-0) in a noon semifinal game Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., and No. 11 Towson State (11-3) will meet No. 7 Maryland (10-4) in the other semifinal game, which will start at 3 p.m or 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
The Orangemen, led by the Gaits, Canadian-born All-America midfielders, have won the past three national championships. After yesterday, there are many who think the Orangemen will win another because they have won their past 10 games and are the host school in the tournament.
One of those believers is Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman.
"It's going to be tough for anyone to beat them at home," Seaman said. "They have a three- or four-goal advantage because it's a unique place to play. If I were a betting man, I'd have a lot of money on the Orange."
Since losing to Johns Hopkins, 18-12, in Game No. 4, the Orangemen have averaged 20 goals. Yesterday, they outshot the Blue Jays (8-4), 46-35, and won 15 of 23 faceoffs. Besides the stick work of Marechek, who also had an assist, attackman Matt Riter and Jamie Archer each had two goals.
The threesome were excellent on the transition. When Johns Hopkins pulled within 7-6 with 10 minutes, 33 seconds left in the game, midfielder Tom Gilmartin won the faceoff and hurled a pass to Riter outside the crease for a goal six seconds later.
When Johns Hopkins attackman Matt Panetta scored with 6:28 remaining in the game to cut Syracuse's lead to 8-7, it was Marechek who scooped up a loose ball, ran 25 yards and threw a cross-crease pass to Riter for another goal 28 seconds later.
Marechek then added his fourth goal, beating defender Bill Dwan with 4:14 left, giving the Orangemen a 10-7 lead. Johns Hopkins came back with a goal from midfielder Seth Tierney with 2:49 remaining, but Syracuse midfielder Dom Fin had a shot ricochet off the stick of goalie Scott Giardina into the goal that ended the final threat with 2:31 left.
"We had some opportunities and they had some opportunities," Seaman said. "The difference was that they capitalized on theirs, enough for a three-goal difference. They had a couple of transition goals, and some of them, like the 10th and 11th, were real backbreakers."
Syracuse's defense was just as good. Orangemen defender Pat McCabe held Panetta (Blue Jays' leading scorer with 28 goals) to one goal, stripped him twice on checks and denied him the ball most of the second half. Syracuse goalkeeper Jerry DeLorenzo, a sophomore, had several clutch stops among his 13 saves, and the Orangemen in front of him doubled the ball frequently.
"Pat took it as a personal challenge to go against Matt Panetta," Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. said. "He took a lot of offense away from the big boy. He made the game uncomfortable for Mr. Panetta."
"The last time we played them, I couldn't stop a beach ball," said DeLorenzo, a first-year starter. "That was my first big game in the Dome. But this was the playoffs. This is the time we separate the men from the boys."
DeLorenzo sounds a little cocky, but Syracuse players, as well as Simmons, never have shied away from conversation.
They are apparently confident about winning another title.
"Since the Hopkins loss, we have remained focused and never looked back," Simmons said. "When the seedings came out, I asked our kids if they were happy with their position. They were ecstatic to play Hopkins and North Carolina again [both losses]. They wanted to go the hard way. They wanted to hurt them [Blue Jays] where they lived. They did."
McCabe said: "Like the coach said, I cannot sit at home and watch another lacrosse team. I'll get to watch a game, but I'll be playing in the national championship game Monday."
Johns Hopkins .. 0 .. 4 .. 1 .. 3 .. -- .8
Syracuse .. .. . 1 .. 3 .. 3 .. 4 .. -- 11
Goals: S--Marechek 4, Archer 2, Riter 2, Gilmartin, Barr, Fin. JH--Wills 4, Morrissey, Lukacz, Panetta, Tierney. Assists: S--Marechek, Archer 2, Ritter, Lockwood, Gilmartin, Fin. JH--Morrissey 2, Lukacz, Cavallaro, Wills, Wright. Saves: S--DeLorenzo 13. JH--Giardina 16.