Syracuse ousts No. 1 seed, 15-9

2nd half wilts Hopkins

title drought at 17 years

Ncaa Lacrosse Final Four

May 30, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala stood motionless - his arms stoically folded across his chest - as the final seconds ticked off in the top-seeded Blue Jays' 15-9 loss to Syracuse in yesterday's NCAA tournament semifinal at M&T Bank Stadium.

He had the look of a coach who couldn't believe what had just happened, couldn't believe how things had gone so wrong so fast.

Another promising season ended without a national championship yesterday as the Blue Jays' title drought reached 17 years before a record crowd of 46,923. It'll be Syracuse playing Navy, an 8-7 winner over Princeton in the first semifinal, tomorrow in the Orange's fifth title game in six seasons.

Trailing 8-7 late in the third quarter, the fourth-seeded Orange (15-2) outscored the Blue Jays 8-1 over the final 18:16 of the game to deliver Hopkins (13-2) its worst loss in the rivalry since 1990.

"We did a lot of things today that were very uncharacteristic of us, particularly in the defensive end," Pietramala said. "We missed slides; we hesitated a lot. ... I think it was a culmination of a lot of things. And I'll be honest, they played like a team that had lost convincingly [to the Blue Jays] the last two times."

The largest crowd to watch an NCAA lacrosse game witnessed a role reversal of unbelievable proportions.

In thrashing the Orange in two consecutive games, including last year's final four, by a combined 36-13, the Blue Jays dominated on faceoffs and consistently broke down Syracuse's defense with their midfielders, while keeping the Orange's offense under wraps.

Yesterday, Syracuse freshman Danny Brennan, who didn't take a single faceoff when Hopkins won 20 of 24 in its 17-5 rout in March, corralled 16 of 26 faceoffs against the Blue Jays' normally dominant unit, which lost one of its key members when junior Lou Braun went out with a shoulder injury in the first half.

"We wanted to beat them at their game and flip into their shoes for a while and make them sit down there, and guys like Conor Ford and Kyle Harrison get a little anxious, like I do when I'm watching their offense dominate," said Orange senior attackman Michael Powell, who had a goal and three assists and notched the 300th point of his career. "It forces them to make bad decisions, and that's something they aren't used to doing."

Syracuse got nine goals from its midfield, including a career-high five from graduate student Kevin Dougherty, a transfer from Hofstra, and four from unheralded senior attackman Brian Nee, a Boys' Latin graduate.

More deliberate on the offensive end than usual, Syracuse also used a variety of defenses against the Blue Jays. They went man-to-man, regularly threw in a zone and shut off Hopkins senior Ford (two goals), trying to make another Blue Jay beat them.

But Hopkins, which trailed 6-5 after a mistake-ridden first half, looked like itself for only about two minutes yesterday.

Junior midfielder Harrison scooped up the opening faceoff of the second half, raced about 45 yards and beat goalie Jay Pfeifer (13 saves) to tie the score at 6.

Less than two minutes later, junior short-stick midfielder Benson Erwin picked up a ground ball in the defensive end before setting up Ford for a goal that gave the Blue Jays their first lead.

"We thought if we were able to keep that going, we would have a shot at winning the game," said Blue Jays senior midfielder Kevin Boland, who had three assists. "But that was the difference in the game. We weren't able to make a typical Hopkins run in the second half."

Greg Rommel started a four-goal Orange run to finish the quarter by scoring off the dodge. Dougherty blasted his third goal past Hopkins sophomore Scott Smith (14 saves), Brett Bucktooth finished a Powell feed and then Sean Lindsay dived headlong outside the crease before finishing to give Syracuse an 11-8 lead with three seconds left in the third quarter.

Those four goals could have stood as a microcosm for the game. The Hopkins defense was too slow to get out on shooters and always seemed to be a step slow.

"I think it's pretty easy for anybody on our team to be successful when you aren't getting slid to," Dougherty said.

Said Blue Jays junior defenseman Chris Watson: "I think we were expecting them to pull the ball back a little and they did a great job with that. They were moving the ball so quickly and it made it tougher to rotate."

Any thoughts of a Blue Jays comeback ended early in the fourth quarter, as Powell and Dougherty scored to make it 13-8. By that point, the crowd started hitting the exits.

"I'm just tremendously disappointed our season ended that way," Pietramala said. "Syracuse earned the win; I just wished for more for our guys. We just didn't play the way we are capable of."

Syracuse 4 2 5 4 - 15

Johns Hopkins 2 3 3 1 - 9

Goals: S-Dougherty 5, Nee 4, Rommel 2, Powell, Lindsay, Vallone, Bucktooth; JH-Rewkowski 3, Ford 2, Harrison 2, Peyser, Byrne. Assists: S-Powell 3, Vallone 2, Lykudis; JH-Boland 3, LeSueur, Erwin. Saves: S-Pfeifer 13; JH-Smith 14.

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