Navy and Syracuse Play for Lacrosse Title
Syracuse has the opportunity to add another trinket to an overflowing trophy case when it faces Navy in the NCAA lacrosse title game Monday.
Playing in the finals for the fifth time in six years, the Orange will be vying for their ninth national championship - the third in five years. It's the closest thing to a dynasty that this sport has seen, and Syracuse wouldn't have it any other way.
Navy's incentive has nothing to do with extending a storied lacrosse tradition. The Midshipmen have never won the title, and will be playing in the championship game for only the second time.
They will not go at it alone.
When Navy's Chris Pieczonka crouches down for the opening faceoff Monday afternoon, the backing he and his teammates receive will extend well beyond the partisan crowd at M&T; Bank Stadium.
"We know the whole world is watching us," senior Joe Bossi said. "From guys in Iraq to guys in Nigeria. Coach (Richie Meade) gets so many e-mails from guys around the world, and so many lacrosse alumni would love for us to win the national championship. For us to do that would be awesome."
Navy (15-2) advanced by defeating Princeton 8-7 Saturday. The Midshipmen are the second-seed in the tournament and Syracuse is No. 4, but there's little doubt that the Orange (14-2) are the favorite.
But not the fan favorite.
Navy will have tens of thousands of fans in the seats as it vies for the school's first NCAA title since the men's soccer team won it all in 1964. The Final Four is supposed to be at a neutral site, but Annapolis-based Navy clearly benefited from the crowd support in its semifinal game against Princeton.
"It's very gratifying to be in this atmosphere and have the opportunity to see our kids so excited," Meade said.
Syracuse advanced by upsetting top-seeded Johns Hopkins 15-9. It was a stunning turnaround for the Orange, who had lost their previous two games against the Blue Jays by a combined 36-13 score.
Coach John Desko, who devised an excellent game plan for Hopkins, wasn't 20 minutes removed from the victory before he starting thinking about the best way to put away Navy.
Step one: Win the faceoffs. Pieczonka won 15 of 19 against Princeton, one big reason why the Tigers were outshot 32-22.
"They did a great job in faceoffs, and they've got some people really stepping up offensively," Desko said. "They don't mind playing any tempo that they're given. I'm sure there are going to be a lot of adjustments during the game."
If the Midshipmen have their way, the Orange will have to wait at least another year before claiming yet another national title.
"We're here," Navy goalie Matt Russell said, "because we're good. Everyone is confident we're going to win.