Foxborough, MA-Heading into its NCAA semifinal game against the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, defending National Champion Syracuse featured 20 different players that had scored goals this season. Eleven players had at least five goals and eight players each had at least 10.
"We said at the beginning of the season that we lost some key offensive players," senior attackman Kenny Nims, who is first nationally in scoring at 4.29 points per game. "We said, 'don't wait for someone else to step up.'"
That they didn't. Nine different players including Nims who had four and fellow senior Pat Perritt who also had four as Syracuse defeated Duke, 17-7 to advance to the National Championship game on Monday. Syracuse who will be gunning for its 11th national title, will face Central New York foe Cornell. The Big Red upset No. 1 seed Virginia, 15-6 in the other semifinal game.
Syracuse advances to its 15th championship game. The Orange is 9-5 in NCAA title games, having won championships in 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008. This is Cornell's first national championship appearance since 1988. The Orange captured its second national championship banner by knocking off the Big Red 13-8 that year.
"I thinks it's just the fact that we're so deep," Nims said. "We have about 10 guys who are capable of putting up big numbers. Any given day someone new can have a huge day. That's been the story of our season pretty much all year and I wouldn't be surprised if someone new stepped up and had a huge game on Monday."
Cody Jamison and Tim Desko each had two goals. Dan Hardy, Chris Daniello, Stephen Keough, Joel White and Jake Moulton each tossed in one.
Syracuse's 17 goals are the most allowed by Duke this season. The previous high was 13 against North Carolina in the championship game of the ACC Tournament, a 15-13 Duke win. The Orange's first eight first half goals matched the highest total allowed by Duke this season, matching the total from the ACC final, which was tied 8-8 at halftime.
"We know Syracuse likes to play to their strengths and they knew exactly what their strengths are," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "Coming into the game, we thought we had a plan for that, but I thought they made some tremendous looks and plays. If we left someone open, the ball was in his stick and out quickly. When you reach the Final Four, everyone has skilled players and plenty of talent. Everyone is capable of making plays. If you look at their box scores from all season, they evenly distributed their goals and points."
After Syracuse scored two consecutive goals, one on a low shot by Daniello and another on a bounce shot from White, Duke's Zach Howell answered with two scores, both assisted by Ned Crotty to knot the score at two with 4:32 remaining in the first period. The Orange never trailed after that. Perritt bounced a shot in on the right side of the goal. The ball some how made it between the right foot of Blue Devil goalie Rob Schoreder and the net. With one tick left in the period, Nims scored as he was getting hit by a Duke defender.
Duke would cut the score to 4-3 on the ensuing faceoff, as Max Quizani scored on an assist from Sam Peyton at the 14:49 mark, but that's the closest they would get. Perritt and Jamison had each two second period goals, while Duke only scored one other time on a goal from Brad Ross. Syracuse led 8-4 at the half.
Moulton won the second half faceoff and raced down the middle of the field untouched to score the Orange's ninth goal of the game seven seconds into the third period. The Orange outscored the Blue Devils 9-3 in the second half. Desko, the son of head coach John Desko, scored two goals in the fourth period.
"Winning the face-off and scoring right away to begin the second half was a big lift for us," coach Desko said. "It started us off on the right foot."
Desko improves to 26-5 all-time in NCAA tournament play. His .839 tournament win percentage is the highest among coaches who have coached at least 10 tournament games. Desko has been a part of all 10 titles, including winning four of them as head coach.
"It would be great," Perritt who set a career high with his four goals and tied a career high with five points, said on the chance to win back-to-back national championships. "It would mean a lot to the program, to myself and to the rest of my teammates. That's our goal right now and we're looking forward to seeing who we'll play after the game...Being a Syracuse lacrosse player, your goal is to win a national championship and that's been our goal all year."
Syracuse leads the all-time series with Cornell, 58-33-1. The two teams met on April 7 at the Carrier Dome, with the Orange winning, 15-10.