The Tony Seaman-Roy Simmons Jr. lacrosse rivalry goes back to the 1960s, when Seaman was a Cortland State attackman and Simmons was a Syracuse assistant.
"He's been haunting me, in some capacity or another, all this time," Simmons said as his top-seeded Syracuse team prepared to meet Seaman's No. 5 Johns Hopkins in the NCAA tournament semifinals tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. In the other semifinal, North Carolina and Princeton tangle at 4 p.m.
Simmons smiled, for he is the haunter, not the haunted. At least that was the case until last season.
In four meetings against Syracuse as a college player, Seaman recalls that Cortland "got killed" all four times. At the time, the Orange was directed by Simmons' father, Roy Sr., who coached from 1931 until 1970, when Roy Jr. took over. Simmons was an assistant under his father from 1959-70.
The next confrontations were during Seaman's nine years as Penn coach. Again, he came up empty at 0-9, although he did have the satisfaction of keeping the margin of defeat to three or fewer goals four times.
"It felt like 0-90 instead of 0-9," Seaman said. "He had great teams. He has always gotten kids who play within his system. His philosophy is the transition game -- no gimmicks, no slowdowns, no different defenses. He believes in man-to-man and letting the athletes play."
Once Seaman arrived at Hopkins last season, his rivalry with Simmons took a turn for the better.
The Blue Jays' 18-12 regular-season victory last year ended Syracuse's 26-game home winning streak and prevented the Orange from receiving a first-round bye for the first time since 1982. Syracuse came back to knock off Hopkins in a tournament quarterfinal at Homewood Field, 11-8. In March, Hopkins handed Syracuse its only defeat this season, 15-14.
"That's why I took this job, so I could beat Roy," Seaman said jokingly. "Here, we can get more athletic kids than I could at Penn, players who can challenge a talented team like Syracuse."
Simmons still simmers over the loss to Hopkins this season in which Syracuse was called for 10 penalties to the Blue Jays' two. At Monday's news conference of the Final Four coaches in Philadelphia, Seaman baited Simmons by referring to "the few extra people" on the field.
"A bad call or two kept us from an undefeated season," Simmons said. "At least the same three officials won't be on the field this time."
However, two players who gave Syracuse fits will be on the field -- Hopkins goalie Scott Giardina and faceoff specialist Steve Vecchione. Giardina made 19 saves in the first game against Syracuse and Vecchione won 16 of 27 faceoffs.
"We have to get a good share of the faceoffs again to allow us to dictate the tempo, because we can't afford to get into an athletic game with them," Seaman said. "I expect to be out-shot by 15 or 20 shots, so Scott will have to be on top of his game."
Simmons, in reviewing the rivalry, recalls Hopkins' 14-13 regular-season victory in 1989 that was Syracuse's only defeat in three years. The Orange came back, when the teams met for the fourth time in the championship game in the 1980s, to win, 13-12.