COLLEGE PARK - The Syracuse family came to Byrd Stadium and started the party early yesterday.
With legendary former coach Roy Simmons Jr. and former All-America attackman Casey Powell among the scores of Orangemen fans in attendance, Syracuse owned the place, manhandled Princeton and quickly took the suspense out of the NCAA men's lacrosse championship game.
And after the Orangemen scored the game's first six goals, then capped their methodical, 13-7 rout before 22,880 by taking a victory lap with their championship plaque held high, the family was officially connected by another title.
There was Simmons, producer of six previous championships, including a 1990 title vacated by the NCAA, congratulating second-year coach John Desko - Simmons' longtime assistant - who had just won his first. There was Casey Powell, the 1998 graduate who won a title as a freshman, leaving the stands to hug his younger brother, Ryan, minutes after he had earned a crown in his last game and finished in a tie with Casey for highest scorer in school history.
"It's a great day for our family. It's a great day for two brothers from a small town," said Powell, the rugged attackman from West Carthage, N.Y., who capped a four-time All-America career with three goals and two assists to finish with 287 points.
"It's the greatest feeling I've ever had in my life," he said.
"I'm just so happy for 48 lacrosse players at Syracuse who have busted their tails from Day One. This team has more confidence than any I've ever been on. You can't really single out anybody. Everybody stepped up their game to a level where they had to be at to win the national championship."
There was nothing magical about the Orangemen's march to their first championship since 1995. Yesterday's affair was about a bigger, more talented, more experienced team outclassing an opponent that had gone as far as it could.
The Princeton Tigers (12-3), sporting the youngest squad to play for a national championship under coach Bill Tierney, got here by overcoming injuries, playing textbook defense and beating heavily favored Virginia in the semifinals.
Yesterday, the five-time national champions lost their first title game by hitting a wall painted orange.
Powell was only the beginning of Princeton's nightmare. While the Tigers used Ryan Mollett and Damien Davis to cover the Orangemen's primary threat with limited success, sophomore attackman Liam Banks got loose repeatedly on the crease and made the Tigers pay with a career-high six goals. Sophomore attackman Michael Springer, a 6-foot-3 matchup problem, added two goals and two assists.
The Orangemen (15-1) also hammered Princeton with grinding defense and impressive dirty work. The Tigers rarely got a good look at the net in the first half, which they started by controlling the ball for much of the first 10 minutes, to no avail. It took the Tigers 24 minutes to score their first goal, and all that did was cut the Syracuse lead to 6-1.
"They are just a really quick, highly skilled team. You can usually deal with one or the other. They're just awesome," Tierney said of the Orangemen.
The Tigers were facing tough odds by having to come down from the emotional high of Saturday's 12-11 upset of Virginia. They looked tentative and tired yesterday, as Syracuse owned them on the ground by winning the battle on 57 of 88 loose balls and 15 of 22 faceoff attempts.
The Orangemen also showed Princeton a thing or two about defense. Defenders like Joe Ceglia, Sam Bassett and John Glatzel took prime scorer Josh Sims (two goals) out of the game. No one else scored twice. Sean Hartofilis, fresh off a five-goal outing against Virginia, finished with one.
The fast break, a staple of Syracuse days gone by, was not required much yesterday, as the Orangemen wore down Princeton's defense with patience in their half-field attack. They also demoralized the Tigers in the first half, by taking a 4-0 lead late in the first quarter by scoring in a man-down situation, then by making it 5-0 while Hartofilis served a three-minute penalty to start the second quarter for an illegal stick violation.
Banks was the main beneficiary on offense. While the Tigers paid close attention to Powell, Banks found openings often on the crease and cashed in on well-placed passes around the net, some off of rebounds following saves by Princeton goalie Trevor Tierney (15 saves).
"I had a lot of easy looks at the goal today," Banks said. "I was right on the doorstep, and it's really hard for a goalie to make a save there."
By the time Syracuse had extended its lead to 12-5 early in the fourth quarter on Powell's third goal, leaving him one point shy of Casey's record, the only question left was whether he would catch his brother. After hitting the pipe with a shot at the 8:40 mark, Powell fed Ethan Mills for the game's final score with 18 seconds left.
"I'm just a small-town kid that lives on a farm," Powell said. "I came here, there's cameras all up in my face. It's been an unbelievable ride for me. I'll cherish these memories for the rest of my life."
Princeton 0 3 2 2 7
Syracuse 4 3 4 2 13
Goals: P-Sims 2, Daly, Hartofilis, Striebel, B.Tierney, Torti; S-Banks 6, Powell 3, Springer 2, Coffman, Mills. Assists: P-Harrington,, , Mollet, Sims; S-Hardy 2, Powell 2, Springer 2, Banks, Coffman. Saves: P-Tierney 15, Wu 0; S-Mulligan 10, Rust 0.