Unaccustomed to struggling, young Syracuse team brought back to pack

Men's notebook

College Lacrosse

April 14, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Over the past two decades, Syracuse University has set the standard for collegiate men's lacrosse. During the 2005 season, the Orange has become a good example of the parity in the game.

The Orange, sporting one of its younger teams in recent years, stumbled to a 1-3 start, including one-goal losses at home to then-No. 6 Virginia and top-ranked Johns Hopkins. It became the first Syracuse team in 30 years to drop three of its first four games and first in 10 seasons to lose back-to-back games at the Carrier Dome.

Then, Syracuse righted itself with four consecutive victories over second-tier Top 20 opponents Brown, Hobart, Princeton and Loyola - the last three of whom the Orange helped knock out of the rankings.

Then, No. 6 Syracuse failed Tuesday to beat visiting, eighth-ranked Cornell, which rode a seven-goal outburst by junior midfielder Joe Boulukos to a 16-14 victory.

Syracuse is 5-4 overall and 2-3 at home after entering the 2005 season having won 91 percent of its games at the Carrier Dome.

"We knew our season wasn't over at 1-3, but we had to step up and win some games," Syracuse junior defenseman John Wright said. "We've grown a lot, but we need to keep going up. There are a lot of good teams out there."

The Orange probably doesn't have to worry about how freshman attackman Mike Leveille will respond down the stretch. Leveille, the program's signature recruit after the departure of Mike Powell, has scored 18 goals in his past six games.

Barring a major collapse over its final three regular-season games - against visiting Rutgers and No. 18 Albany and at No. 10 UMass - the Orange will have a shot at its 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament final four appearance.

For all of its struggles against Top 10 teams, Syracuse is the only school to beat No. 5 Army.

Familiar situation

When top-ranked Johns Hopkins went into overtime against No. 2 Duke on Friday at Homewood Field, the Blue Jays had the Blue Devils right where they wanted them.

The Blue Jays, whose 11-10 win in double overtime set a school record with their 32nd consecutive home victory and left them as the only unbeaten Division I team, have learned to thrive amid tense conditions under coach Dave Pietramala.

The Blue Jays are 7-2 in overtime games and 18-4 in one-goal games under Pietramala. Hopkins has won nine of its past 10 one-goal games after going 12-9 in one-goal games in the seven years before Pietramala returned to his alma mater after the 2000 season.

"Experience has a lot to do with that. We've got a number of guys who have been in a lot of different situations," he said. "Those guys are resilient, they don't get too high or too low, and they say the right things on the field.

"In the middle of the [Duke] game, [senior faceoff specialist] Lou Braun is on the sideline telling the other guys this is the kind of game we need to be in, and this is going to help us down the road. They don't talk about having an undefeated season."

The week ahead

No. 1 Johns Hopkins (8-0)

Schedule: at No. 9 Maryland, tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Skinny: It's the 101st meeting in college lacrosse's greatest rivalry, and Hopkins is facing a slumping Maryland team that soon could be in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. Freshman attackman Kevin Huntley has been the difference in two of Hopkins' past four victories - over No. 2 Duke and then-No. 2 Virginia - with hat tricks in each game.

No. 7 Navy (8-2)

Schedule: vs. No. 5 Army, Saturday, noon

Skinny: The Mids have won seven straight in the series. This time, they are facing maybe the best Army team in more than two decades in a huge Patriot League game. The defense must contend with the superb attack duo of senior Jim Wagner and junior John Walker, and the Navy offense is glad that senior midfielder Graham Gill ended a scoring drought with three goals against Maryland.

No. 9 Maryland (5-4)

Schedule: vs. No. 1 Johns Hopkins, tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Skinny: The Terps might be without sophomore attackman Michael Phipps (shin) for the second straight game, which hurts an offense dogged by shooting problems. With games against Fairfield and Penn remaining, Maryland is in good position to secure a winning record and an NCAA tournament berth. A win over the Blue Jays ends any speculation.

No. 14 Towson (7-3)

Schedule: vs. Sacred Heart, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Skinny: Since coach Tony Seaman moved junior Steve Mull from midfield back to attack, where he excels as a passer, sophomore attackman Bobby Griebe has thrived. Griebe has 11 of his team-high 17 goals in the past three games, and he is the Colonial Athletic Association's Player of the Week for the second week in a row.

Loyola (4-4)

Schedule: at No. 4 Georgetown, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Skinny: After a sloppy effort against Syracuse at home, the Greyhounds face a crucial road test. An upset victory would provide a huge, quality win and put Loyola in position to secure its first NCAA tournament berth since 2001, the year the Greyhounds went to their 14th straight under former coach Dave Cottle.

UMBC (5-5)

Schedule: vs. North Carolina, Saturday, 1 p.m.; at Loyola, Tuesday, 4 p.m.

Skinny: The Retrievers have failed to beat any of the four ranked opponents they have faced but have clinched a berth in the four-team, America East tournament and could earn an automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Mount St. Mary's (5-5)

Schedule: vs. No. 13 Bucknell, Saturday, 1 p.m.; vs. Saint Joseph's, Wednesday, 4 p.m.

Skinny: The Mount has been walloped by each of its five non-league opponents but has beaten its four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponents, including preseason favorite Providence.

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