Unlikely source powers No. 2 Syracuse

Hardy's two goals include game-winner in 2nd OT to stop No. 3 Virginia, 12-11

May 26, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - It was not high-scoring Michael Powell, nor was it fellow Player of the Year candidate Josh Coffman. And, senior sniper Mike Springer did all of his damage early.

With a berth in the national championship game hanging in the balance yesterday, No. 2 Syracuse twice went to a member of its second midfield.

Senior Tom Hardy entered the game with just 12 goals but he delivered yesterday - tying the score with 25 seconds left in regulation and converting the game-winner with 32 seconds left in the second overtime - to send the Orangemen to a 12-11 win over third-ranked Virginia before 23,123 yesterday in the second Division I men's lacrosse national semifinal at Rutgers Stadium.

"We just saw that he really wanted to play, really wanted the ball in his stick at the end," said Syracuse coach John Desko. "We went to him in the second overtime, and it really paid off."

On the game-winner, Syracuse inverted for the first time all game, Desko said. Hardy appeared to be headed around the right side of the net, but pivoted and cut back to the other side. Virginia senior midfielder Tony Russo overran the play, leaving Cavaliers goalie Tillman Johnson powerless to stop Hardy's shot from right on the doorstep.

"I just tried to make a quick move to my left, and the guy got caught on the back of the net, and luckily I had an opening," Hardy said.

Added Johnson, who was brilliant in net with a season-high 18 saves: "I was hoping I could just make the save on the last play, but it was a great shot. I went up high and he shot it down low."

The goal vaulted the Orangemen (14-2) into tomorrow's 11:30 a.m. title game against Princeton.

But, if not for a couple of costly turnovers late in the game, the Cavaliers (11-4) would be playing tomorrow.

Virginia opened the game with a Syracuse-like surge, scoring three times in the opening 44 seconds, while holding the Orangemen without a shot until nearly the five-minute mark.

In the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers erased Syracuse's two-goal lead, which the Orangemen had largely because of the play of Springer (four goals, two assists.).

Virginia took an 11-10 advantage on senior midfielder Brenndan Mohler's low shot past Syracuse redshirt freshman Jay Pfeifer (19 saves) with just 4:08 to play.

Brett Hughes beat Powell to the endline to give the Cavaliers possession with just two minutes left, and Virginia needed only to run out the clock.

But Mohler (Catonsville) was forced out of the restraining box by Billy St. George, giving Syracuse possession with 35 seconds left.

Off the dead ball, Donn Vidosh fed a streaking Hardy, who dodged midfielder Billy Glading before firing a low shot past the lunging Johnson with 25 seconds to go.

The game was almost settled in regulation, but Johnson got a piece of Brian Nee's shot with eight seconds left, setting the stage for an up-and-down overtime period, filled with good chances by both teams.

"We didn't have a lot of time to dwell on things," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. "It didn't come down to one possession or one shot. There were a number of good opportunities on both ends."

After the overtime opened with a turnover by Virginia faceoff man Jack deVilliers, Nee's shot was blocked by Trey Whitty. On the other end, Virginia freshmen John Christmas and Joe Yevoli, who led the Cavaliers with three goals each, both missed opportunities.

In the second overtime, Johnson robbed Brian Solliday and Josh Coffman. Virginia's best chance was when Christmas - who gave the Syracuse defense fits all day - drove to the net but was checked into the crease, forcing a violation call.

Two minutes later, the Orangemen were out on the field, mobbing Hardy.

"I'm pretty speechless; I think we all witnessed something special here," Starsia said. "I feel it was a courageous effort by both sides and it is a shame that both teams couldn't have won."

Meanwhile, Syracuse talked about a chance to avenge last year's 10-9 loss to Princeton in the title game. This is the third straight year the teams will play for the championship.

"It just wouldn't be the championship without us," said Powell, who had two goals and an assist. "We're the best two teams, and we'll see who is the best team on Monday."

Virginia 3 3 2 3 0 0 11

Syracuse 2 4 3 2 0 1 12

Goals: V-Christmas 3, Yevoli 3, Shannon, Mohler, Rotelli, Gill, Little; S-Springer 4, Powell 2, Hardy 2, Coffman, Wright, Lindsay, Vallone. Assists: V-Gill, Yevoli; S-Coffman 3, Springer 2, Hardy 2, Powell, Nee. Saves: V-Johnson 18; S-Pfeifer 19.

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