Powell pays bruising price for being 'best in world' But Syracuse star lets label, hits roll off back

March 13, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Drawing the usual double-team on a drive to the goal, Syracuse's Casey Powell flips an instinctive, no-look pass to a cutter.

Then it's crunch, crack and crash as the defensemen blitz Powell from both sides, sending him to the ground. With his face in the turf, he only knows if his feed has been successful from the crowd's reaction.

Welcome to the life of the "best player in the world."

Powell is the opposition's top priority, the main focus and the No. 1 target in the crosshairs of all defensemen. And he expects no different treatment tomorrow when top-ranked Syracuse plays No. 5 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field in a game that will mark his last collegiate appearance in the area.

"I'm starting to get comfortable with it," said Powell, last year's Division I Player of the Year. "But it's absolutely not my choice. I just want to go out a winner. I want to win the national championship."

Just try and name a part of the game in which he doesn't excel.

Give him some room and Powell will launch himself into a body-extending maneuver across the crease. Lock down his right-handed shot, and he'll whip a high-velocity, behind-the-back shot to the open spot beside the goalkeeper's hip.

That's why most teams opt for the early slides, banking that the double-team will keep him away from a clear look at the goal. But there's no guarantees: Loyola went that route in last year's NCAA quarterfinals and Powell tied an NCAA record with eight assists.

His coach, Roy Simmons, even jokes that Powell's teammates have to keep their sticks up or they'll liable to get hit in the head with a pass.

"Casey Powell is the best player in the world," said Maryland coach Dick Edell, whose Terrapins committed six penalties against Powell in last year's NCAA semifinals.

"We physically wanted to go after him from the first minute and wanted to be as physical as we could be so that, having done that, in the last 15 minutes of the game, he would be a shell of himself. "But he's always playing hard, going to the cage in the 59th minute as time runs out. I admire him as much as anyone I've coached against in the last decade. He's a warrior.

"I'm a coach, but I'm a fan, too. He can do things and will try things that mere mortals won't try to do. Go and watch him play; just be prepared to sit up in your seat."

Powell, who shifts effortlessly from attack to the midfield, has never been short of more formal recognition, either. Besides being national Player of the Year in Division I and a first-team All-America attackman last year, he was the Midfielder of the Year as a sophomore and a second-team All-America attackman as a freshman.

Powell dazzles with style, showcasing the best stickwork in the HTC nation. And he's admired for his hustle, constantly adding to his team-best groundball totals.

And he accomplishes all that despite being a marked man.

"He's wearing a lot of weight on his shoulders," Simmons said. "Everyone wants to be on the cover of Lacrosse magazine, but he's on there with the label 'best player in the world.' That's putting a target on him. Well, so be it. He wears it well."

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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