Saturday, May 20, 2006

Syracuse Survives Johns Hopkins 13-12

The old saying goes, to be the champ you gotta be the champ.

Well the fifth-seeded Syracuse Orange (10-4) accomplished just that, sending the defending national champion fourth-seed Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (9-5) packing with a 13-12 victory.

Hopkins got off to the quick start when Paul Rabil took little time in knocking in the first of four goals with 11:05 remaining in the first. Brett Bucktooth responded for the Orange a minute later to notch the game back at even. Two more quick goals gave the Blue Jays a two-goal lead before former Virginia player Joe Yevoli rocketed in his first of two goals to cut the gap back to one. Mike Leveille then added his first of four goals for the Orange to deadlock the score at 3. Greg Peyser of the Blue Jays would have the last laugh, scoring with 2:40 left in the quarter and gave the Blue Jays an early lead after the first.

The second quarter belonged to Syracuse. The Orange scored 5 of the 6 goals in the quarter, 3 of which were by Leveille. The Orange outshot the Blue Jays 25-14 in the first half. This compiled with some lackluster defensive efforts to give the Orange a substantial 8-5 lead at the half.

If the UMass game had proven anything, it was that no lead was safe. Hopkins responded brilliantly in the second half, taking advantage of some Orange mistakes and scoring on two consecutive EMO to cut the gap to 1. Unlike Hofstra however, the Orange responded to the pressure and tallied four straight goals to give the Orange a five goal lead with 8:57 remaining.

If that sounds familiar, so will this. Hopkins charged back, eight seconds off the goal by the Orange, Stephen Peyser knocked in a goal off the faceoff. The X was a place where Hopkins dominated, winning 21 of 29 opportunities. Yet they could not take advantage of the ball control. Jake Byrne knocked in a goal with 5:25 to make it 12-9 Syracuse. Brian Crockett answered getting a huge and critical goal to extend the lead to four yet again. A last minute charge by Hopkins featured two more goals to take it back to 13-11. With less than two minutes to go, Hopkins had a shot but the Syracuse D held tough. They were relentless in denying the Blue Jays a goal. With less than a minute to go, the Hopkins offense grew tenative and when they finally got the goal, there remained only 5.5 second in the game. While the Blue Jays had stolen victory from Virginia with seconds remaining last year, they proved unable to do it this time around. Syracuse withstood a strong charge, and will return to Philadelphia.

Injuries have mired Syracuse's season. A 1-5 start made many wonder whether the Orange would even make the tournament. They've earned their spot now and it's thanks to leaders like Brett Bucktooth and Mike Leveille. The Orange are the hottest team in the country, and have now avenged a loss earlier in the season to Johns Hopkins.

For Hopkins, their chance of a repeat are officially over. Despite having what many consider a down year, the Blue Jays still showed a lot of poise and promise. With many talented players gaining a year of experience, along with a great recruiting class, expect Johns Hopkins to take its place among the elites of lacrosse once again.

A great Saturday, Sunday's matchups will have a lot to live up to.


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