Blue Jays rally, but miss out on final 4

Orange wins ninth in row despite allowing 3 late goals

Syracuse 13 Johns Hopkins 12

May 21, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- Two months ago, after losing by five goals to Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field, the Syracuse Orange was a young, banged-up team headed for a 1-4 start and staring at the possibility of missing the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.

Yesterday, in a quarterfinal before 8,335 at LaValle Stadium, fourth-seeded Hopkins got the much-improved Syracuse team it fully expected to see, and the Blue Jays paid a painful price after putting together a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback.

After trailing by five early in the fourth quarter, Hopkins nearly rallied to force overtime by scoring three times in the final four minutes. But Syracuse goalie Peter Coluccini smothered a 30-yard desperation shot by Blue Jays senior midfielder Greg Peyser as time expired, and the defending national champions went down with a 13-12 loss.

The victory, the ninth straight for the Orange, sends fifth-seeded Syracuse back to familiar territory. A year after missing the final four for the first time in 23 seasons, the Orange (10-4) will play the winner of today's Virginia-Georgetown quarterfinal Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Hopkins will miss its first final four since 2001, although the Blue Jays (9-5) did not bow out easily. Sophomore midfielder Paul Rabil scored his fourth goal of the game with 6.7 seconds left, after beating a zone defense by backing in defenseman Kyle Guadagnolo, then diving across the crease and scoring to make it 13-12.

But the Blue Jays, who took a Syracuse turnover and spent more than a minute of precious possession time before Rabil's score, won the ensuing faceoff, then ran out of time. Coluccini made the last of his 16 saves by going down to smother Peyser's game-tying attempt on a short hop.

"When Paul scored that [last] goal, it would have been nice if we had a little more time left," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "We didn't lack poise and character today. Statistically, we had a decent day. But we didn't do what we set out to do defensively, and that was to defend the unknowns."

Those would be sophomore attackman Mike Leveille and senior attackmen Joe Yevoli and Brett Bucktooth, who combined for eight goals and five assists, as Hopkins surrendered a season-high 13 goals, after trailing 8-5 at halftime. Leveille finished with four goals. Yevoli scored two goals, and had three assists. Bucktooth had two goals and one assist.

It looked like a Syracuse rout might be unfolding. With well-placed shots from the outside and sharp passes to open cutters on the crease, the Orange took apart the Blue Jays in stretches. They also caught junior goalie Jesse Schwartzman on a subpar day. He made eight saves.

"I was moving early and anticipating where the ball was going. That little hitch, at this level of lacrosse, will kill you, and it cost me today," Schwartzman said. "They are great outside shooters. Their shooters kind of had my number today."

The Orange took command in the second quarter with a 5-1 run that featured shots on the doorstep of the cage as well as 12-yarders from the wings and a 10-yard, fast-break score by long-stick midfielder Stephen Panarelli after a Blue Jays extra-man turnover. That made it 8-5.

Hopkins scored on back-to-back extra-man chances to make it 8-7 with 5:55 left in the third, only to surrender four straight damaging Syracuse scores. The last one, from 4 yards out by freshman midfielder Kenny Nims, put Hopkins in a 12-7 hole with 8:57 to go.

Blue Jays midfielder Stephen Peyser and attackman Jake Byrne then countered to make it 12-9, before Syracuse midfielder Brian Crockett sent a blistering, 12-yarder by Schwartzman for what proved to be the game-winner with 4:17 left.

Greg Peyser, attackman Kevin Huntley and Rabil then scored, but this day would not end with Hopkins completing a miraculous comeback.

"Every [final four] is special," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "To come back from 1-4, to watch this team grow, beat the teams we've beaten, to beat a Hopkins team that beat us quite handily, it is special."

"We made a run and came back within one and just couldn't get enough," said Greg Peyser, who finished his career with a two-goal, two-assist day. "If this is the worst thing that happens in life to me, that's a good thing." gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

Syracuse 3 5 2 3 - 13

Johns Hopkins 4 1 2 5 - 12

Goals: S-Leveille 4, Bucktooth 2, Yevoli 2, Crockett, Hardy, Nims, Panarelli, Perritt; JH-Rabil 4, Byrne 2, G. Peyser 2, Christopher, Dabrowski, Huntley, S. Peyser. Assists: S-Yevoli 3, Hardy 2, Abbott, Bucktooth, Leveille; JH-G. Peyser 2, S. Peyser, Rabil, Skakandi. Saves: S-Coluccini 16; JH-Schwartzman 8.

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