May 17, 2010

By Lindsay Kramer
Special to

Syracuse, N.Y. - Like most Central New York athletes who grew up with a lacrosse stick in their hand, Devin Lynch and Jeremy Boltus dreamed of playing that sport for Syracuse University.

That didn't work out.

And on Sunday night, the pair teamed up to give the Orange a nightmare end to its season.

Boltus fed Lynch for the game-winning goal with five seconds left in the second sudden-death overtime as Army stunned two-time defending national champ Syracuse, 9-8, in a Division I NCAA opening-round game in the Carrier Dome.

The improbable win gave the Black Knights (11-5) their first NCAA post-season win since 1993 and sends them to a date with 2009 national runner-up Cornell in a quarterfinal game on Sunday at Stony Brook.

"You think of lacrosse, you think of Syracuse lacrosse,'' said Lynch, from nearby Skaneateles."To be able to do something like this is amazing. It's something I'll remember the rest of my career.''

Try as it might, it will also be something the Syracuse will likely never forget. The powerful Orange, which beat Army 12-7 earlier this season, had won 11 consecutive, and seemed headed for a national championship game rematch with the Cornell. The Orange held an early 5-1 lead, led 7-4 in the third and 8-6 in the fourth. But the No. 1 defense in Division I couldn't deny a tenacious Army squad.

At the end of the game it was Syracuse that looked like a playoff novice, turning the ball over several times on possessions in overtime that could have won the game.

"I'd have to say it was just a meltdown on our part,'' said Syracuse midfielder Jovan Miller."I think they handled the pressure of the situation a whole lot better than we did.''

Boltus, Garrett Thul and Lynch each scored twice for the Black Knights, and Derek Sipperly won a game-changing 11-of-17 faceoffs. Cody Jamieson tallied three times for Syracuse, the No. 2 seed.

The game seemed headed for a third overtime before Boltus, from the Syracuse suburb of Baldwinsville, and Lynch connected for their storybook ending.

Midfielder Lynch, on the left side of the net, cut hard toward the goal and attacker Boltus feathered a pass around Syracuse defender Joel White to his teammate. That put Lynch eyeball-to-eyeball with Orange goalie John Gallows, and Lynch beat him to the right side.

"I thought I had the opportunity to back door. Jeremy hit me with the pass,'' Lynch said.
"When we have the ball, our plays are very good,'' Boltus said."We have all the belief in the world.''

The Black Knights backed that up late in the game and in overtime. Boltus knotted the game at 8-8 with 6:49 left in regulation, making it the type of gut-wrenching game that Army has become used to. Late in the season, Army had claimed four straight one-goal games.

"Our recent history had us believing we were going to win,'' said Army coach Joe Alberici, who is from nearby Auburn."I think when we went to overtime, the pressure turned to Syracuse. We just kept talking about playing to win.''

The Orange disintegrated in a pool of what had been its very strength in overtime - the transition game. At least three times Syracuse denied an Army bid and raced down the field with the game in its collective stick. But Syracuse failed to get a single quality chance, and mustered just one shot in the two extra periods total compared to six for Army.

"The game got a little tight there. Maybe we were gripping the stick,'' Jamieson said.

"I'm not going to tell the guys not to take a fast break if they have one,'' said Orange coach John Desko."It's like taking the orange out of SU.''

The final drama was set up by one last hustle play that typified Army's night. Syracuse unleashed its final shot of the season with 1:11 left, and when it went wide Black Knights defender Bill Henderson earned his team the possession by winning the race to the boundary. Army then went on the attack and held the ball until Boltus and Lynch punched the team's entry to the next round.

"It's certainly a proud moment for the whole Army family,'' Alberici said."All the guys we play for, all the guys overseas. It's a hard thing to put your arms around if you're not part of the program. It was great to see them rewarded tonight.''