Today's Men's Semifinal

May 24, 2008|By EDWARD LEE

No. 2 Virginia (14-3) vs. No. 3 Syracuse (14-2)

Time -- Noon

Site -- Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

No shortage of offense

Both ranked in the top four in the country in scoring. These teams scored 27 goals in their only regular-season meeting March 1, with the Cavaliers prevailing on an overtime goal by Brian Carroll (Gilman). Virginia has scored 18 goals in the tournament, but the Orange has scored 31 in two contests.

Where's the Cavs' midfield?

Virginia's offense is built on its attack, but coach Dom Starsia would love to see his midfield take a little pressure off Garrett Billings, Danny Glading and Ben Rubeor (Loyola), who have combined for 15 goals in the tournament.

Must-see goalies

Freshman John Galloway is the Orange's undisputed starter, but he struggled in an 11-9 quarterfinal victory over Notre Dame. Galloway allowed six goals on 10 shots in the third quarter before he was rescued by the offense. Cavaliers senior Bud Petit can mix eye-opening saves with soft goals.

KEY MATCHUPS

A lot will be learned when Syracuse senior Danny Brennan lines up opposite Virginia freshman Garett Ince, who has overtaken sophomore Brian McDermott as the team's primary faceoff specialist over the past seven games. Brennan leads the nation with a .679 faceoff percentage; Ince has a .532 percentage.

COACHES

Syracuse coach John Desko is the all-time leader in winning percentage in the NCAA tournament (.808). Under him, the Orange won national titles in 2000, 2002 and 2004, but this is the program's first appearance in the Final Four since 2006. Starsia has guided the Cavaliers to three semifinal appearances in the past four years and titles in 2003 and 2006.

WHEN VIRGINIA HAS BALL

The Cavaliers depend on their trio of attackmen to fuel the offense. Glading (27 goals, 34 assists) usually quarterbacks from behind the cage, and Billings (34, 25) is the classic sniper. Rubeor (38, 13) can dodge from any spot on the field. Shamel Bratton and his twin, Rhamel Bratton, provide speed and quickness to elude defenders.

WHEN SYRACUSE HAS BALL

The offense is sparked by senior attackman Mike Leveille, who has recorded 43 goals and 30 assists en route to being named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy. Juniors Kenny Nims (31, 24) and Greg Niewieroski (22, four) tend to draw attention, but the Orange midfield is just as dangerous. Steven Brooks (27, 11) leads the team with five game-winning goals.

BOTTOM LINE

This is a meeting of two titans in college lacrosse, with the teams having won 12 national championships between them. Virginia has won the past five meetings and six of seven. The Cavaliers' attack alone should keep them in the contest. But Brennan's mastery at faceoffs and a solidified defense suggest that the Orange will advance to the championship final for the 15th time.

EDWARD LEE

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