SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse University's lacrosse team was supposed to be unbeatable at the Carrier Dome. The Orangemen had compiled a 67-4 career record here, including a 32-1 record since 1987. They were unbeaten in 13 playoff games.
"God would have a tough time winning there," said one Division I coach.
Well, North Carolina didn't. The No. 1-ranked Tar Heels, rallying at the end of each of the last three periods and dominating midfield play, defeated three-time defending champion and No. 5 seed Syracuse, 19-13, yesterday before 14,544 in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I semifinal.
North Carolina will play Towson State, a 15-11 over Maryland in yesterday's other semifinal, for the title tomorrow at noon here.
The Tar Heels knew about Syracuse's success at home. Maybe no other team had been more frustrated than North Carolina, which had lost four times in the playoffs to Syracuse, three in overtime.
But that all changed yesterday.
"I had read their statements in the paper about how it felt to bea Johns Hopkins at home and how they wanted us," said North Carolina senior attackman Dennis Goldstein, who had four goals. "I thought they were pretty arrogant, especially when they said we caught them early and it was on grass.
"They don't know how good it feels to beat them here. We wanted to beat them where they lived," said Goldstein laughing, repeating earlier Syracuse statments.
First-year North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann said: "I think i was the great game everybody expected. There was tremendous intensity and some great rushes. I'm ecstatic to beat Syracuse here because I've been on the short end of a lot of games here over the last decade."
North Carolina (15-0) did get a little help. The Orangemen (12-3) were without starting attackman and second-leading scorer Jamie Archer (33 goals, 29 assists), who was out with mononucleosis. And Syracuse starting defender John Winship left in the first 17 seconds of the game with a knee injury.
"It was tough trying to get over those two hurdles because Joh covered the other team's top scorer and Jamie is our quarterback," said Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr., who fell short in his quest to become the first Division I coach to win five national titles. His team was denied an unprecedented fourth consecutive title.
"We played against a great North Carolina team, one that is unbeaten in the country," said Simmons. "But don't lose heart. We'll be back."
Syracuse, trailing by 15-9 at the end of the third period, tried t come back in the fourth quarter after North Carolina failed to put the game away.
Instead of trying to run off some time with a 16-10 lead and 6 minutes, 29 seconds left in the game, Tar Heels players ignored the advice of Klarmann and kept trying to play an up-tempo game.
But Syracuse midfielder John Barr scored after he knocke down an outlet pass from North Carolina goalie Andy Piazza (12 total saves), and nearly three minutes later, Orangemen attackman Tom Marechek (three goals) followed up a Tar Heels turnover with a transition goal that pulled Syracuse within 16-12 with 3:06 left.
Syracuse midfielder Dom Fin (three goals) scored on a low sho )) to make it 16-13 with 2:17 left in the game, but that's as close as the Orangemen would come.
Syracuse goalkeeper Jerry DeLorenzo, who was caught severa times out of the goal, got burned again as Tar Heels midfielder Steve Speers (three goals) scored with 2:07 left.
Goldstein, who repeatedly beat Syracuse defender Pat McCabe scored with 1:52 left, and midfielder Craig Hasslinger closed the scoring with 31 seconds left.
"In big games like this, the goalie is supposed to stay in the hole," said Goldstein. "DeLorenzo took all kinds of chances and we capitalized on them. Our goalie stayed in the hole and he didn't get rattled. When they started coming back, we just hung closer."
North Carolina handled Syracuse fairly easily in the first two quarters for a 10-5 halftime lead. Most of the damage came in the second quarter, when the Tar Heels scored three straight goals in the last 4:31 of the second period.
North Carolina looked like the Syracuse of the past three years i the second quarter after the teams played to a 3-3 tie at the end of the first period.
The Tar Heels outshot Syracuse, 19-9, in the second period and held a 20-14 edge in ground balls. The Orangemen also could not contain attackmen Goldstein and John Webster and midfielder Ryan Wade.