PISCATAWAY, N.J. - He had played brilliantly in his final collegiate game, but that served as little consolation for Syracuse goalie Rob Mulligan.
If not for Mulligan's 14 saves, the Orangemen might not have been in position to produce a great fourth-quarter comeback and force overtime in yesterday's 10-9 loss to Princeton in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse title game.
The Orangemen were a stagnant, turnover-prone bunch for three quarters, during which they lost too many ground balls, took too many ill-advised shots and failed to dictate tempo. As a result, they trailed Princeton 8-4 going into the fourth quarter. That was easily the Orangemen's worst offensive show for any 45-minute stretch of the season.
"We came in at halftime [trailing 5-3] feeling fortunate in some ways. Rob made some tremendous one-on-one saves to help us stay within reach," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "Then he came up huge in the third quarter."
Although Mulligan allowed back-to-back goals to B. J. Prager during the final six minutes of that period, as Syracuse fell behind 8-4, the Orangemen probably would have fallen into an inescapable hole had Mulligan not saved seven shots in a quarter dominated by the Tigers.
The end was hard on Mulligan, who, along with fellow senior John Glatzel, was the last Syracuse player to leave the Rutgers Stadium field.
"It's been a great career. Not many goalies have been to three straight championship games," said Mulligan, who fought back tears in the post-game news conference. "Yeah, I was 1-2 in them, but you've got to look at the big picture. We were good enough to get there three times, and I was a two-time captain. I feel like I've made my mark on this program."
Mulligan was named a third-team All-American yesterday, a year after making the second team. He finished his career with 626 saves, fourth on the school's career list.
Tigers turn off Springer
While Princeton defenseman Ryan Mollett earned all-tournament team honors, largely for limiting Syracuse attackman Liam Banks to one assist, there was another shutdown effort within the Tigers' defense that carried Princeton to the title.
Remember Syracuse crease attackman Michael Springer? He scored a career-high six goals in a 12-5 semifinal victory over Notre Dame.
Yesterday, Springer ran into Princeton defenseman Scott Farrell and came away without a point.
"Going into the game, I'm thinking if Springer gets only three goals, it's a great day for us," Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. "I think he's the best finisher in the game."
Farrell put a dent in that trend. Springer, who missed one game with the flu but had scored in every other game in 2001 before yesterday, had scored 40 goals on 107 shots.
"We knew coming in that Springer obviously had a huge game in the semifinals," Farrell said. "Before, we never wanted to slide off of him. Today, I was sliding off of him, and I had so much help inside around the crease. We are the best defense in the country, and we showed it today. I couldn't ask for more."
Springer could not score yesterday because he could never get into a consistent position to do so. Springer took three shots in nearly 65 minutes.
Princeton can thank its McDonogh connection for helping it establish early control of the championship game.
The Tigers scored the game's first four goals, with three of them coming from sophomore midfielders Brad Dumont and Owen Daly, who replaced injured defensive midfielder Kyle Baugher.
"Both of them could be big-time players at other schools, but they want to fit into the system here," Tierney said. "Owen has got ice water in his veins. We told he's now a defensive middie. What does he do? He scores a goal."
Dumont, who had scored five goals coming into the game, beat Syracuse midfielder Josh Coffman and scored the first goal yesterday. He then caught the Orangemen in a slow slide into the middle and burned Mulligan to make it 4-0 nearly two minutes into the second period. Daly's goal made it 2-0 with 10:52 left in the first quarter.
In addition to Mollett, Princeton's Trevor Tierney, Matt Striebel and Sean Hartofilis made the all-tournament team. Other selections included Michael Powell, Springer, Glatzel and Mulligan from Syracuse, and Towson attackman Kyle Campbell. ... The All-America team snub of the year goes to Campbell, who spent nearly the entire season ranked among the nation's top six scorers and finished with 53 goals on a (14-4) team that went to the final four. But Campbell only earned honorable mention honors.(All-America teams, 7C)