It’s not over until it’s over
Lacrosse championships poised to provide big excitement
Yogi Berra’s “it ain’t over til it’s over” certainly applied during a fantastic two days of lacrosse last weekend.
A goal by David Lawson with just over two minutes remaining lifted Duke to a 12-11 win over Notre Dame. Denver beat North Carolina by a similar count, rallying from an early 6-0 deficit. Syracuse scored three goals in the final three minutes to get by Yale, 7-6.
Syracuse veteran head coach John Desko summed up another victory in May, “any win this time of year is a great win.”
All three come-from-behind victories came during the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championships. Denver, Duke, and Syracuse join Cornell for this weekend’s semifinals and finals in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field.
Cornell, who has outscored two tournament opponents, 32-14, meets Duke at 2:30 p.m. (ET) with Syracuse and Denver facing off at 5 p.m. The fight for the 2013 championship is Monday at 1 p.m.
One thing is certain: any of the four could be crowned national champion.
Syracuse, the top seed, brings a 15-3 mark to Philadelphia. Desko’s squad opened the 16-team tournament with a 12-7 win against Bryant. The Orange, making its 32nd NCAA appearance, trailed 4-0 before rallying behind redshirt-freshman Dylan Donahoe’s four goals. Against Yale, Donahue scored off a pass from senior JoJo Marasco with thirteen seconds showing to give the Orange its sixth one-goal win of the season.
Playing for championships is nothing new to Desko and the Orange. The program won its 10th title in 2009. Syracuse also claimed back-to-back trophies in 2008 and 2009. This weekend, however, marks the first trip to the semifinals for the senior class.
“We haven’t talked about it much to the team as a coaching staff, but they have talked about [getting back to the semifinals] as a group and individually, especially the seniors,” said Desko. “They have been very strong leaders all year long, on and off the field in making good decisions. They have used it as an incentive; they wanted to leave their own legacy as seniors in the 2013 season.
“These guys grew up and decided to come to Syracuse for opportunities like this.”
“We can’t be satisfied a team,” said defender Brian Megill. “We have one goal in mind right now and it’s the next game. We want to get to the championship.”
Marasco’s 58 points lead the team. Derek Maltz and Luke Cometti have each tallied 30 goals. Dominic Lamolinara has started 13 games in goal, recording a handful of massive saves and breaking up one final attempt against Yale in the quarterfinals.
Syracuse lost to Duke in the first round of the 2012 championships.
On the opposite sideline of Desko will be friend and rival Bill Tierney, longtime Princeton coach who has now taken the Denver program to two semifinals in three seasons. Two seasons ago, the Pioneers lost to eventual champion Virginia in the NCAA semifinals. Tierney’s status at Princeton borders on legend, leading the Tigers to six NCAA titles. In July of 2006 he took his talents to Denver.
“I think one of the things that hurt us last time we made the NCAA semifinal was that I had championship experience and the players didn’t,” said Tierney. “I was trying to get them to understand things that you can’t understand until you experience them. We’re more experienced now. Our juniors and seniors have been there before, and they know what they need to do.”
Denver (14-4) opened the tournament with a 19-14 shootout win against Albany. Last weekend, things looked bleak early, but senior Eric Law scored with 13 seconds left for a 12-11 win. After giving up six scores in the opening 10 minutes, Pioneer goalie Jamie Faus held UNC to five goals during the final 50 minutes of the contest. Law’s 75 points ranks among the nation’s best, along with sophomore Wes Berg and his 56 goals. Denver ranks fifth in the country at 12.7 goals per game.
The other semifinal, Duke and Cornell, features two of the top three offenses in the country. The Big Red (14-3) opens the weekend in search of the program’s first NCAA title since 1977. Rob DeLuca’s squad drilled Maryland, 16-8, in the first round; last weekend Ohio State was not match in a 16-6 rout. Senior Steven Mock, whose 59 goals lead the nation, scored an NCAA tournament-record seven goals against the Buckeyes. Senior Rob Pannell, who has 42 goals and 95 points, had eight points in the quarterfinal win. Pannell enters Saturday with 347 career points, six behind former Duke star Matt Danowski for the top spot on the NCAA all-time list.
“We know that we are the underdog once again,” said DeLuca. “(Duke) has great athletes up and down the field, we are going to have our hands full. But we are OK with that role, with that moniker because we are coming in with a great amount of confidence.”
Duke (14-5) has taken Berra’s saying literally this postseason. The Blue Devils opened the NCAA championships with a double-overtime victory against 2012 champion Loyola (Md.). Freshman Case Matheis’ goal provided the victory and pushed Duke to the quarterfinals.
Against second-seeded Notre Dame last weekend in Indianapolis, Lawson scored five goals and Jordan Wolf had four assists in one of the best games of the season. Wolf enters this weekend with 74 points and 49 goals.
Duke and seventh-year head coach Jon Danowski will participate in the NCAA semifinals for a seventh consecutive season.
“We try not to think about that,” Lawson said of the semifinals streak. “You try not to get nervous about being the first team not to get to a [national semifinals] under Coach Danowski. But we’re obviously very happy about it.”
Topping last weekend’s emotion-filled quarterfinals will be difficult.
Can Duke give Dankowski a second title in seven years?
Will tradition-rich Syracuse add to its legacy?
Can a legend at Princeton start a new dynasty far away from the East Coast?
Will the Ivy Leaguers hoist the trophy for the first time since the Jimmy Carter administration?
Also in Philly
Division II’s top-seeded and unbeaten Mercyhurst brings two consecutive one-point, overtime victories into the title game against Le Moyne. Like many of their Division I brethren, the Lakers rallied late, scoring twice to erase a 17-15 deficit in the final minutes of a semifinal win against Limestone. Deven Alves scored the winner in overtime. Zac Reid scored seven goals to lead Mercyhurst, who also survived a first round challenge with Erie College when Brady Heseltine scored an overtime goal, his 37th of 2013, for a 10-9 victory.
Le Moyne, the third seed, has taken a similar path. Andrew Chadderdon scored early in overtime to give the Dolphins a 9-8 win against LIU-post in the first round. Chadderdon added five goals in a 16-13 semifinal win against Adelphi that pushed Le Moyne to the DII title game for the seventh time in 10 seasons. In 2006, Le Moyne won the NCAA title in Philadelphia.
The Division III championship pits Rochester Institute (19-2) against Stevenson (21-2), who ended Salisbury’s two-year reign in the semifinals with a 12-6 victory. RIT beat top-seeded and previously unbeaten Cortland State, 10-9, in a semifinal that required overtime.
Stevenson beat RIT in overtime during the regular season.
Division I, II and II comebacks … overtime … down-to-the-wire affairs. Expect Yogi Berra and his famous saying to be heard around Franklin Field this weekend.