"This is no disrespect to them, but they have had me during my career here,"Powell said. "This is one of the biggest wins I have ever had here at Syracuse. I like being the underdog."
The underdog Orange played perfect in all aspects of the game and defeated the top-seeded Blue Jays, 15-9 in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse semifinals in front of a record crowd of 46,923 fans at M & T Bank Stadium. The wins sends the 14-2 Orange in the NCAA championship game for the 14th time overall and the fifth time in six years. SU will face Navy in the title game at 2:30 p.m. on Monday. The game will be televised live by ESPN.
Syracuse will be shooting for its ninth NCAA crown on Memorial Day. The Orange won its last championship in 2002 at Rutgers Stadium. The Orange also won in 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995 and 2000.
The Orange has now won its last six games. They will meet Navy, a team they did not play during the regular season, but scrimmaged back on February 14 at the Carrier Dome. SU had the upper-hand in that meeting, 10-8, despite the absence of Powell who attended his sister's wedding.
In a total team effort, Syracuse dominated Hopkins. Senior midfielder Kevin Dougherty scored a career-high five goals, senior Brian Nee had four goals and freshman midfielder Danny Brennan won a personal-best 16 faceoffs. The defense played solid limiting Johns Hopkins (13-2) to fewer than 10 goals for the first time since April 10. Pfeifer recorded 13 saves and improved his NCAA Tournament record to 8-1. He also moved up to third on SU's career NCAA saves list with his 124 tournament saves since 2002.
"I think some of our people really stepped up," said Syracuse head coach John Desko. "Danny Brennan just did an outstanding job on the faceoffs. Jay Pfeifer once again did a great job in the cage. The team defense was very good and so was our offense. I give a lot of credit to our assistant coaches, Roy Simmons at the defensive end and Kevin Donahue on the offensive end. My hat is off to them because everything worked to a tee today."
SU led 4-2 after the first quarter. Nee had two goals. Both teams were three-for-three on extra-man opportunities in the first half. Conor Ford and Matt Rewkowski recorded back-to-back goals at 8:49 and 5:48 of the second quarter for Johns Hopkins to knot the score at 4-4. The two teams traded goals once more before halftime Powell found Dougherty with 47 seconds remaining to give the Orange a 6-5 halftime lead.
"I was just closing my eyes and shooting," said Dougherty. "I realized pretty early that they weren't sliding to me at all. I think it's pretty easy for anybody on our team to be successful when you're not getting slid to. And I think the theory behind that from Johns Hopkins' point of view is as a team defense they were concentrating on certain guys on our team and they were sagging towards Mike (Powell) or Sean (Lindsay). They were worried about those guys."
Powell broke the school's all-time NCAA assists record with his assist to Dougherty. His three assists against Hopkins pushed him ahead of Tim Nelson, who set the record from 1983-85 with 27 NCAA tournament helpers. Powell now holds the record with 29. He reached another milestone with his third assist to sophomore midfielder Brett Bucktooth with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter. That assist marked his 300th career point, making him just the fourth Division I player to achieve the feat.
The Blue Jays registered the first two goals of the third quarter. Kyle Harrison tied the game at 6-6 and Ford gave Hopkins its first lead of the game (7-6) at the 12:38 mark. SU sophomore Greg Rommel netted two third-quarter goals, including one off an assist from Steve Lykudis that tied the game at 7-7 at 10:28. Hopkins'Greg Peyser scored on an outside shot to put his team back on top, 8-7, but Rommel answered again with a left-handed shot that found the back of the net with 3:16 left in the third period. SU scored the next three goals to take an 11-8 lead into the fourth quarter.
Powell (one goal) and Dougherty (two goals) added goals in the fourth quarter.
Syracuse practiced at a local high school on Sunday in preparation for Monday's tilt with Navy.
"We notice they did a great job at faceoffs this season," Desko said. "Their goalie has been good in the cage. Maybe you'll see two similar teams. It will be a feeling out process and a lot of adjustments in the game."
Orange Top Blue Jays; Meet Navy For The Title
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