The Syracuse University lacrosse team captured its ninth national title on Memorial Day, defeating Navy 14-13 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The win marked the third title in the last six seasons under head coach John Desko.
Desko's Orangemen headed into championship weekend the underdog. The Orange defeated Johns Hopkins 15-9 in the semifinals, then had to face this year's Cinderella and sentimental favorite the Naval Academy in the title tilt.
"It's been a great run," Desko said. "To have the seed that we had, we didn't take any shortcuts to get here. I owe it all to these guys. I'm very proud of them."
Desko has now guided the Orange to five NCAA title game appearances in his six seasons as head coach. His teams have won three championships (2000, 2002, 2004) and finished second twice (1999, 2001). He owns an overall record of 80-19 (.808) and is 17-3 in postseason play, good for an NCAA Tournament winning percentage of .850, tops in the nation.
"This was a very emotional game," said Desko. "It was a different championship game. Our opponent, the United States Naval Academy, (head coach) Richie Meade and his staff just had a real sense of pride. I was so proud of them being there, and the way they've played all season. They played with a bigger cause. It didn't have the feel of other opponents. We were pulling for them also."
Syracuse outscored Navy 3-1 in the final five minutes to overcome a 12-11 fourth-quarter deficit to capture the win. Seniors Brian Nee and Michael Powell and sophomore Brian Crockett each scored the game's final three goals. After Clipper Lennon gave Navy a 12-11 lead with a transition goal with 5:40 remaining in the contest, Syracuse gained possession thanks to a Steve Panarelli check. SU called timeout and came back on the field to tie the score at 12-12 when Crockett scored on a pass from senior Steve Vallone with 4:57 remaining. Powell found Nee to give SU a 13-12 advantage with 3:37 remaining and Nee then dished off to Powell on a fast break with a minute remaining in the match. It was Powell's first goal of the game and the 150th of his career.
"When you're playing with guys like Brian Nee," Powell said, "I can't express in words what a luxury that has been my whole career. A lot of people don't give him enough credit. I wouldn't make that pass (on Nee's goal) to anybody but him. I know what he's going to do with it."
Ian Dingman scored his second goal of the contest with 40 seconds remaining on the clock to cap off Navy's scoring on the afternoon.
The championship game between Syracuse and Navy featured 10 ties and four lead changes. No one team held more than a two-goal edge the entire day. Syracuse went ahead 10-8 at the end of the third quarter when senior attackman Alex Zink scored a man-up goal. The Orange's second two-goal lead was 14-12 in the fourth period.
Junior goaltender Jay Pfeifer had 15 saves, including nine in the second half and five point-blank stops in the third quarter.
Powell tallied a game-high six points on one goal and five assists to earn the NCAA Most Outstanding Player Award for the second time in his career (2002, 2004). He is the first Orange player to win the honor twice during his career.
Powell is Syracuse's all-time leading scorer with 307 career points. He finished fourth on the all-time assists list with 157 behind Tim Nelson (187), John Zulberti (158) and Tim O'Hara (158) and sixth on the career goals chart at SU with 150.
The championship was the second of Powell's career here.
"Ever since I was a kid, I'd dreamed of getting the goal that won the championship. And I had that dream again last night. And after all this time, it finally came true. Scoring the last goal of the season. Scoring the last goal of my career. Scoring the game-winning goal. There's nothing better than that."
Earning NCAA All-Tournament honors were Pfeifer, Powell, Nee, Sean Lindsay, Kevin Dougherty and Dan DiPietro. It was the first time for Nee, Lindsay, Dougherty and DiPietro. Powell and Pfeifer were recognized in 2002.
Orange Capture Ninth Title
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