PHILADELPHIA -- Only once before in its storied lacrosse history spanning more than 100 years had Johns Hopkins been pelted by as many goals.
The Blue Jays lost to Syracuse, 21-16, in the NCAA tournament semifinals yesterday before 15,523 at Franklin Field, matching their goals-allowed high in a 21-13 regular-season loss to Maryland in 1976. In tomorrow's championship game, Syracuse will meet Princeton, which defeated North Carolina, 16-14.
Top-seeded Syracuse (13-1) disposed of No. 5 Hopkins (8-5) with eight unanswered goals in a 7:20 stretch in the fourth period. Hopkins had taken a 14-13 lead on three straight goals, the last two by Brian Lukacz, when Syracuse went on one of its patented runs.
"We're a streaky team," Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. said. "We like to fast break, but we've got to get into that mode by getting face offs. There for a while, we weren't."
Hopkins got 28 of the 41 faceoffs, most of them by Steve Vecchione, whose play Hopkins coach Tony Seaman described as "magnificent." Near the end, Simmons used fresh faceoff men in the belief Vecchione was tiring in the 93-degree heat on the artificial turf field.
"We felt if we could get into our transition game, we'd be comfortable," Simmons said. "We got the streak I was looking for. We're explosive. Eight straight goals -- that's unsettling and disheartening. I think Johns Hopkins saw the game slipping away."
The game was up for grabs until Syracuse began its decisive run with less than 10 minutes left.
The score was tied 12 times, the last at 14-14. The teams weren't separated by more than a goal until it was 9-7, Syracuse, early in the third quarter. The Orange also led 13-11 just before Hopkins' three straight made it 14-13.
"It was a great game until they made their run," said Seaman, who has seen plenty of them after going 0-9 against the Orangemen in eight years at Penn. "We knew the run would come -- the world did -- and we couldn't stop it."
With Hopkins up by a goal, Seaman called a couple of plays that involved Jeff Wills and Brian Piccola, hoping to put Syracuse away.
"One play was from Wills [three goals, five assists] to Piccola [five goals], but Piccola dropped the pass," Seaman said.
"Syracuse rebounded and suddenly it was 14-14. Then Vecchione got the faceoff, passed and had it fed back to him only to have the ball go off his stick.
"If we had scored those, we'd have put the game in the ice box," said Seaman, who as Hopkins coach had won two of his previous three meetings with Simmons. "We hoped to get the lead and sit on it."
Syracuse outshot Hopkins, 53-47, and Blue Jays goalie Scott Giardina made 14 saves to 16 by counterpart Chris Surran. The Orange's Matt Riter and John Barr had four goals apiece and Jamie Archer had three.
"They got that fast break going," Giardina said. "They attacked us. Barr's shooting was great. It seemed to me like all but one of his shots went in.
"They got the shots at the end and put them in when they needed to. My hat's off to them."
PD Although neither coach dwelled on it, the heat was a factor that
doubtless worked in favor of Syracuse, which is deeper and faster.
"Because of the heat," Barr said, "I thought our legs were a little stronger. I could tell we had a step on them. They weren't keeping up. They started jawing a little, but we kept our composure and kept doing what we'd been doing all season."
Syracuse, whose lone loss was to Hopkins by a goal in March, set a tournament record, with the Blue Jays' help. The game's 37 points broke the record of 35 established in Syracuse's 28-7 win over Michigan State last year.
Two of the key goals in Syracuse's run were back-to-back by Dom Fin, giving the Orange a 17-14 lead.
"Words couldn't describe the feeling," Fin said. "From Day One, our goal has been to win the national championship. I felt a lot of emotion after those two goals."
Syracuse's Tom Marechek, who scored two goals to raise his team-high total for the season to 45, took a knee in the calf late in the game.
"Plus, his leg cramped up after he was hit," Simmons said. "He may not be 100 percent, but he'll play [tomorrow]."
Seaman senses that he might take some heat for dressing his players in black uniforms in the intense heat. He unveiled the uniforms as a motivational device before last week's quarterfinal win over Towson State.
"Some wizard is going to tell me I shouldn't have had the team in black," said Seaman. "But the kids were excited about it."
Said Simmons, "Black soaks in more heat than white, but we had the choice on that and took white as the home team. Hopkins' choice was blue or black."
G; That, he seemed to be saying, is like no choice at all.