PHILADELPHIA -- Syracuse coach Roy Simmons strode into the news conference and dropped a statistical message intended for Princeton.
Simmons noted that the top-seeded Orangemen made 21 of their 53 shots in Saturday's 21-16 NCAA tournament semifinal win over Johns Hopkins, which put his team in today's championship game against No. 3 Princeton.
"Twenty-one of 53 -- that's better than Ty Cobb's batting average," Simmons said, referring to the baseball Hall of Famer. "If we get our usual 55 to 60 shots, we should get enough goals to win."
Simmons' remark was not lost on Bill Tierney, the former Hopkins assistant who has led Princeton past the quarterfinals for the first time.
"If they shoot 53 times, they'll have the ball an awful lot," Tierney said. "That would force us to shoot extremely well when we do have it."
Syracuse will try to capture its fourth NCAA title in five years, while Princeton attempts to become the first team other than Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and North Carolina to win the championship since Cornell in 1977. Hopkins has won six, Syracuse and Carolina four apiece.
When he was lured to Princeton four years ago by Tierney, Justin Tortolani never envisioned reaching the championship game. The senior attackman is the school's all-time goals leader with 119.
"It wasn't until my sophomore year that I thought we had a shot at making the Final Four," Tortolani said. "Now that we're here, it would be great for the sport if we could break in on the Big Three. Parity. Shake things up. Dynasties are boring."
In five years under Tierney, Princeton has gone from a 2-13 record to today's 12-2. Even so, there were whisperings the Tigers were overrated, at least until they knocked off defending champion North Carolina, 16-14, in the semifinals.
"I'm confident we belong," Tierney said. "Somebody told me that it wasn't until there were 30 seconds left that a radio announcer said, 'Princeton just might win this.' Hey, if we're overlooked, if we're underdogs, that's OK with me."
Said Orange freshman defenseman Ric Beardsley: "Princeton's legit. Just because they're Ivy [League] doesn't mean they can't play lacrosse. North Carolina took them too lightly. You can't do that, Ivy or not."
Simmons reported that Tom Marechek, Syracuse's goals leader with 45, showed no ill effects of being kneed in the calf in the Hopkins game after running during a light workout yesterday. Marechek's two goals were below his norm.
"People say, 'Wow, Hopkins shut down Tommy,' " Tierney said. "Yet, Syracuse still scored 21 goals."
Div. 1 lacrosse championship
vs. Syracuse (13-1)
Site: Franklin Field, Philadelphia, noon
Radio: WERQ (1010 AM)
Outlook: If upstart No. 3 seed Princeton can do what Johns Hopkins was unable to do, it will have a chance at knocking off faster, deeper Syracuse, the No. 1 seed. Hopkins dictated the pace in Saturday's semifinal until Syracuse broke loose for eight unanswered goals in the fourth quarter. "We've got to play a slow-paced game," Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. "If we don't, we'll have to play 12 midfielders [in an attempt to run with the Orangemen] and win the faceoffs." Faceoff superiority probably isn't enough. Syracuse is .500 in faceoffs (226 of 452), yet is on the verge of its fourth NCAA championship in five years. The Orangemen have outscored opponents, 249-157.