Crushed twice by Jays, Orange looking to reverse trend

Johns Hopkins dominant in teams' past 2 meetings


May 29, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Syracuse has assumed its customary position as an NCAA men's lacrosse final four participant, although the Orange, with eight national titles behind it, has come to its 22nd consecutive appearance with a decidedly different look.

As the tournament's fourth seed, the Orange will take the field today against top-seeded Johns Hopkins at M&T Bank Stadium as a clear underdog.

That's because no team has owned Syracuse lately the way the Blue Jays have. In their past two meetings, dating to last year's 19-8 Hopkins rout in the national semifinals in Baltimore, Hopkins has walloped the Orange by a combined 36-13.

What in the name of a dynasty is going on here? In both games, including a 17-5 laugher at Homewood two months ago, the Blue Jays schooled Syracuse in the faceoff game, held the ball for long stretches and did not waste their high-percentage shots. On defense, they never allowed spectacular senior attackman Michael Powell to affect the game as a shooter or a passer.

Powell offered another reason for the recent lopsided nature of the series. He thinks his team got demoralized and gave up. And he doesn't believe the recent whippings at Hopkins' hands have gotten too far inside the heads of the Orange.

"I think the [last] two times we've faced them, we kind of threw in the towel a little bit early," Powell said. "We're in the semifinals. We're seniors now. If we get behind by a couple of goals, we're going to have to be the people who step up and make sure it doesn't get carried away.

"I think it's going to be a different lacrosse game than the one early on this year. That much I'll promise you."

If Syracuse fails to win a decent amount of draws and maintain considerable possession time, Hopkins, with all of its offensive weapons, could cruise again.

With Greg Peyser, Kyle Harrison and Lou Braun splitting faceoff chores, the Blue Jays have won 60.7 percent of their attempts. Syracuse has struggled in that area for two seasons, and only the late-season improvement of Danny Brennan (55.7 percent) has upped the Orange to an overall 51 percent success rate.

"It's very important to get off to a [good] start and not get down by too many goals," senior attackman Sean Lindsay said. "We were pretty much embarrassed the last time we played [Hopkins]. We're feeling pretty loose right now. We're going to be ready to go."

Bayhawks firm on Powell

Is Powell truly ready to put down his lacrosse stick to do something else?

Yesterday, Syracuse's all-time leading scorer stuck to his statement earlier this week, when he said he was burned out enough from playing lacrosse that he wants to take some time off from the game.

"After this season, it's going to be about 15 years of playing lacrosse for me, straight, and Mike Powell needs a break from that, for a little while, anyway," he said. "It might just be for one summer. I'm probably going to take this summer to sit back, relax and figure out what else I'm good at."

Gordon Boone, a part-owner of the Baltimore Bayhawks, said the Major League Lacrosse franchise has no intention of changing its mind. When the MLL conducts its draft on June 3, the Bayhawks will use their No. 1 pick to select Powell, who would be their contractual property.

"Mike Powell will be drafted No. 1 by the Bayhawks, period," Boone said. "If Mr. Powell wants to sit out, then he'll sit out. But he will either play in a Bayhawks uniform or none at all."

Crowds to exceed 40,000

With favorable weather predicted by forecasters this weekend, it appears the Division I tournament attendance records are about to tumble.

As of noon yesterday, 41,117 tickets had been sold, and upper-deck seats on the north side of M&T Bank Stadium had been put on sale. Last year, in inclement weather, a record 37,823 came to the Ravens' home field to watch the semifinals.

For Monday's championship game, 40,327 tickets have been sold. Last year, a record crowd of 37,944 watched Virginia edge Hopkins in the title game.

Meade wary of Princeton

Navy coach Richie Meade has heard all of the talk. The Midshipmen are the second seed and a team of destiny. They will have a huge home-field advantage against sixth-seeded, six-time national champion Princeton. They have emotion, a hot goalie, excellent faceoff men and the ability to play effectively at any tempo on their side.

Meade looks at Princeton coach Bill Tierney, with his young squad, his 28-8 postseason record and his 22-game tournament winning streak against teams other than Syracuse, and sees the great equalizer.

"If you look over the last several years, Billy has beaten teams that are better than him in situations like this on a fairly consistent basis," Meade said. "We know we're going to have our hands full."

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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