Syracuse falters, Princeton wins, 11-10 Non-adjusting Orangemen spoil Simmons' exit in blowing 4th-period lead

May 24, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Even to the very end, Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. couldn't abandon the style that won him six national championships in 28 years, though it probably led to the Orangemen's demise in the 1998 semifinals yesterday.

The wreckless, run-and gun approach has been Simmons' trademark, but yesterday it led to six passes being thrown away at the offensive end of the field. Syracuse also allowed three extra-man goals as it blew a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter.

And it didn't get the ball to the country's best lacrosse player in the final 19 seconds of the game.

Final score: Princeton 11, Syracuse 10, in the Division I semifinal before a crowd of 21,194 at Rutgers Stadium.

Princeton (13-1) will bid for its third straight championship here tomorrow when it faces Maryland (14-2) in a rematch of last season's title game, which Princeton won, 19-7.

Yesterday, Princeton midfielder Josh Sims scored the game-winner with 5 minutes and 14 seconds left by taking a clearing pass near midfield and running the remaining distance before dodging midfielder Tim Byrnes near the top of the crease and hurling a shot past goalie Jason Gebhardt.

Sims' score ended a four-goal run by Princeton, which trailed 10-7 with 14: 22 left in the game, and also marked the end of an era at Syracuse as Simmons announced his retirement.

"This had nothing to do with this game," said Simmons. "Win, lose or draw, I had made this decision. After 40 years and a great ride, maybe the fire in the belly is not there, but the torch is still burning. The torch I carry is still ablaze, but I pass it on. You get out on top and I consider this the top.

"They [Princeton] could three-peat. I know another team that had a three-peat," said Simmons, whose Orangemen won the title in 1988 and 1989 and then had their 1990 championship vacated because of an ineligible player.

fTC "It's not easy. There will always be teams that are in your face. They [Princeton] had the guts to come back and didn't look back today. We let them back into the game."

This was an ugly farewell game for Simmons, who confessed to making a major mistake near the end when Syracuse got the ball to restart play at the offensive end of the field with 19 seconds left and Princeton's best defensive player out with a knee injury.

Instead of giving the ball to senior attackman Casey Powell, the game's best player, Simmons put the ball in the hands of senior midfielder Ira Vanterpool, who eventually had it knocked out of his stick before the Orangemen could get off a shot.

"Yes, I was a little surprised, especially with Christian Cook out," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney. "I guess they were probably trying to get him the ball off a pick or something."

Simmons said: "That's my mistake. I'll take the blame for that. Matt Gutia had five goals for the day and we were hoping that Matt would draw some players over and get Casey the ball. In retrospect, it's something I should I have done differently."

There was little Simmons would have changed in the first two quarters. Syracuse outhustled Princeton to groundballs, 28-21, controlled nine of 12 faceoffs and had a hot goalie in Gebhardt, who had eight saves and led the Orangemen to a 6-4 lead at the end of the half. But the momentum started to change at the end of the third quarter.

Syracuse defender Marshall Abrams was called for a 30-second interference penalty with 6: 26 left in the third period. Princeton midfielder Lorne Smith, who finished with two goals, scored on the extra-man opportunity 13 seconds later to pull Princeton within 8-5.

With 5: 13 remaining in the third period, Vanterpool got hit with a 30-second pushing penalty. Smith capitalized again on another underhand shot with 4: 50 left to play. Princeton was within 8-6.

And closing fast.

The Orangemen had a chance if they'd gone to a slow-down game, but that's never been Simmons' style. He watched his team self-destruct as Princeton pounded away.

"I'm so impressed with our heart and guts," said Tierney. "Syracuse is a team that is so good, so well-prepared that you just say time ran out on them. Maryland looked fabulous today. We'll have our hands full."

Pub Date: 5/24/98

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