Cuse decided to start Springer, Powell, and Banks on attack and bring in Coffman from the midfield. Hofstra started McTigue, Kessler, and Dooley on attack and would bring in Clash from the midfield. Dooley hit pay dirt just 8 seconds in -- Shanahan got the face pushed forward and during the rush for the loose ball it squirted out to Dooley. Mulligan was caught out of the net and Dooley had no problem finding the mark for a quick 1-0 lead.
Shanahan won the second face and got the ball up to Kessler at the top of the box. Kessler circled and drove from the top center and split left. As soon as a slide released, he moved it to McTigue on the left pipe. McTigue finished for Hofstra's second of the day just :35 seconds in.
When Cercy got his first face (it would be another insane day for him) Hofstra started in a wide man to man. Hofstra's poles were able to hang step for step with every member on Cuse's offense, and Cuse's hurried attempts at iso'ing produced nothing. Hofstra cleared after Cuse threw one high to the sidelines, but it came right back down the other way when Abendroth grabbed a pipe rebound and cleared (with considerable difficulty). Cuse let 'em fly as soon as they got the ball in the box, and Brian Solliday got them on the board when he ripped a righty overhand on pipe rebound. Solliday was all alone in the middle and let it go before anyone even realized he had the ball.
Cuse would even it up when Banks trapped Evan Kostewka on the sideline clear outside of the box. Banks pushed it up to Powell, who was breaking straight down the middle, and Powell put it stick side hip on a back-peddling Alaimo.
Remember, these are both run and gun teams -- Hofstra went up 3-2 after Kevin Dougherty took the next face straight down the middle, face dodged, and blasted a low rip by Mulligan that he had trouble getting down on.
The next face was controlled by Hofstra and worked down to Dooley at X. Dooley worked the ankles of Bliss behind, and Bliss was hanging on to every change of direction for dear life. Dooley eventually got Bliss to cross his feet drew a slash when Bliss let his stick try to keep up. Cuse held off the penalty by pressuring out to the corners of the box and forcing Hofstra to loop it wide around the outside.
Both teams looked a little nervous still, and both had trouble converting on some opportunities that would've normally been money. Mulligan came up big on a lefty spinning bullet by Shanahan and it set off a series of up, downs, and rips. Hofstra almost used the transition to their advantage when Powell overthrew a feed to the middle -- McTigue scrapped it up amid the cluster at the midfield line and got behind the Syracuse defense. He nearly found an open net, but Mulligan looked like he would've cut off the angle.
By the way, Cuse has not held on to the ball for more than 30 seconds at this point -- they were either getting picked (Hofstra's longsticks are surgical), making bad passes, or shooting so Alaimo could save it.
Hofstra moved the lead up to 4-2 when Dooley found Femminella on a sick cross field thread along goal line extended. Femminella was cutting down to the pipe on the back side and Dooley hit him with a 20 yard laser. Syracuse's :30 second offside penalty had just been released when it happened. On the other end, Alaimo withstood a dead-on garbage attempt from Springer just 5 yards out, and then Kostewka picked Powell as Powell was coming around the right pipe. Powell recovered the loose ball, but Kostewka tomahawked him anyways. It was the 3rd time Powell had been stripped on the day.
Hofstra then held a little bit of an extended possession (for this game at least), but Dooley got overthrown when they tried to rotate it behind. Syracuse cleared, but not before Desko had to blow a TO on a tough shutoff ride from Hofstra. On the following offensive run, Polanco shouldered up to Banks and then shoved him to the ground as Banks was trying to turn the corner. Banks lofted it to the heavens and out of bounds.
Shanahan ripped one wide his next time down, but Hofstra was called for an in the crease, so Mulligan started with the ball at X (the refs should have brought the ball outside the box). As Mulligan brought the ball around to the front of the goal, he somehow flubbed his stick handling and let the ball squirt free -- a collapsing Dooley and Kessler were on him like, well, you know what. Kessler laid his body into Mulligan and Dooley grabbed the fruits for an empty netter and a shocking 5-2 lead.
Hofstra controlled the face again, and after a 30 second ground ball battle, Shanahan snaked through the traffic, grabbed the ball and drew an on-the-head. Hofstra would have had possession to start the second, but Cuse's Dan Stessen threw a sick check with time winding down to insure a faceoff as the 2nd started.
Cuse won the man down face and burned away their minute penalty. As the Orangemen started to challenge again, Polanco pulled a masterful behind the neck dink check on Powell -- Powell didn't even know hit him and continued to run until Polanco peeled off of him to track down the loose ball. Hofstra worked it around again without getting any opportunities, then Stessen doubled on the back side and stripped Kessler. Cuse again held on to the ball for less than 30 seconds when Springer ducked underneath from the top left tried to dump it Coffman on the left pipe, but Springer lofted it beyond Powell's leaping endline save attempt.
Hofstra bumped up the lead to 4 when Dooley was rounding the corner to Mulligan's left and fed Dougherty on the crease. The crease appeared to part for Dougherty as soon as it looked like Dooley was going to move it round the outside -- Dooley recognized the premature slide and found the space underneath. And all that occurred with a flag down after Kessler drew an on-the-head. It was now 6-2 halfway through the 2nd. Cuse got on the board with another when Springer, on the top left, passed it along to Banks just above goal line extended. Banks dropped his stick and found the only spot he could on Alaimo -- just outside Alaimo's pipe hugging ankles.
The Oangemen then finally put together some time on offense and it paid off. After some flubbed one-on-one attempts, Banks drove hard for the right pipe from deep on the endline and beat his man on a straight sprint around the corner to stick it low and make it 6-4 Hofstra. The stands were now packed.
Dooley countered for Hofstra when he caught a present on the right pipe -- after McTigue's rip from a cross-field feed was greeted by Mulligan with an insane splitting save, Dooley grabbed the rebound and popped it in the top left corner as Mulligan was still getting up.
Soon after it was 8-4 Hofstra when Kessler finished an open field cross-crease feed from Dooley. Hofstra was breaking on a clear and Syracuse slid upfield short-handed. To make matters worse, Liam Banks had turned around to a trailing ref and berated him for some phantom call -- Banks got a minute for it. Cercy won the face clean however, and Stessen booked down the right sideline, drew a hold, and evened up the men. Cuse then iso'd with Coffman off to the right of Alaimo -- he drove with power around the right pipe on Lance Yeagle, who had to press his body up on Coffman and got his stick trapped under his arm. Coffman felt it and inside rolled to stick it low on Alaimo for an 8-5 Hofstra lead.
On the next series, Syracuse's Mike Springer got into the action when he backhanded one to the bottom right corner while cutting down the middle, right to left. Banks had just been robbed by Alaimo (Banks' redirect from 3 yards out caught Alaimo's shoulder and then the crossbar) and Springer got the jump on the rebound to the middle of the field.
One more for Springer 5 seconds later -- Cercy started a break on the face (how he wins them so quickly is beyond me) and moved it across to Springer at the point for an 8-7 Hofstra lead. Springer didn't even move from the righty point on the break -- he just wound up and let a wormburner go. The half ended 8-7 Hofstra, and Hofstra looked awfully confident.
Cercy raked it back to himself to start the third, and after a dangerous pass back to Mulligan, Cuse settled. Josh Coffman was leisurely jogging (well, at least not running full speed) down the right and Sylvester Patterson was in perfect position on him. But Coffman decided to unleash it -- he stuck it stick side high on Alaimo with no angle. Alaimo had to move his stick in order to let it by. It was tied up just like that. Dooley gave Hofstra a great chance when he nearly broke Bliss in half on a perfectly timed inside roll. Mulligan smothered the diving shot though when Dooley announced he was going low.
Hofstra went up again when McTigue came around the cage righty for a one-handed dunk that went a little wide. Solomon Bliss was hanging on the far pipe and accidentally batted it in for an own-goal and a 9-8 Hofstra lead.
You could sense that Coffman was starting to take charge of the Syracuse offense now. He was actively trying to get the ball and was setting the table for the rest of the offense. It worked -- Coffman hit Powell, who was off to the left pipe, and Powell dropped his stick to put it top shelf with nearly no angle. Coffman had busted through 3 guys from the top of the box in order to dump it to Powell.
Soon after, Syracuse's Bill Perritt moved it to Sean Lindsay for an upper left laser (that was becoming Alaimo's weak spot) for Cuse's first lead of the game, 10-9. Linday was all alone in the middle and wound up without pressure for the lefty crank.
Clash stalled for a little while at the top of the box until he moved it around to Shanahan. Shanahan gathered, and switched between 3rd and 4th gears as he was sizing up Abendroth across the top of the box. Shanahan bumped it into 5th around a pick up top and curved into the middle. He ripped a bouncer on the run that beat Mulligan to the 5 hole and tied up the game.
But on the next Cuse possession, Coffman drove across the middle, right to left, and buried it in the top left. It looked to be a routine play that never would have scored earlier in the game. On the very next face, Springer got the ball at the point and pushed it down to Banks on the standard 4-3 break for another tallie. Cercy had won the face as cleanly as you possibly could. 12-10 Syracuse.
Another face for Cercy which ended up with Alaimo stoning a point blank shot , but Powell forced Patterson out on the sideline clear. Alaimo would make another save and Hofstra finally cleared it. Hofstra then settled for a long series of Clash and Dougherty trying to test their shortsticks from behind, but Cuse doubled from the wings with smart timing, and Hofstra eventually threw it out of bounds. The third would end that way, with Cuse clinging to a precarious 12-10 lead. The difference in the game was clearly Mulligan and Alaimo -- both had their share of spectacular saves, but Alaimo had let in a host of demoralizing, weak shots. I could see Hofstra's defensemen showing palpable frustration after letting up a goal while still in perfect position.
The fourth started with Brian Solliday, right from the face, nailing a 5-hole bouncer on the run that had no right getting by Alaimo. 13-10 Cuse. Cercy again won the face cleanly, but Defendi grabbed a loose ball and legged it out the other way. Hofstra had their chances when Cuse found themselves two men down on back to back slashes, but Cuse killed them both after Kessler couldn't handle a pass on the crease and the Orangemen ran in circles avoiding the double teams.
As the 2 men were released, Cuse worked a 3-3 after getting a 30 second advantage for a push from behind on Bill Perritt's goal line extended drive. But nothing came of it until they were all even. And that's when Syracuse pushed it to 14-10 on a wheel play that had Powell creeping around from behind while Cuse was moving the ball the other way across the top. Hofstra's rotation couldn't keep up, Banks moved it to Powell, and Powell ripped it by Alaimo from the wing. It was another one Alaimo should have had.
Jason Januszkiewicz connected on one from Powell, who was feeding from the left wing, while Januszkiewicz was cutting down to the left pipe. 15-10 Cuse. Cercy dominated the face again, but Kostewka picked Banks on the butt end. Kostewka wasted the pick when he threw it high on the clear. But as it came down Hofstra's throat again, Polanco picked Powell behind the neck. This time it was Polanco's turn to throw it high on the clear. Hofstra eventually got it back and challenged when Kessler got a step around the left corner, but a splitting Mulligan was there to meet him low and send it the other way.
Mulligan's save would hurt, because on a man-up for Cuse after it was pushed the other way, Springer got it on the righty shooter's spot and let it fly. It wasn't the usual Springer rocket, but it beat Alaimo anyways. This one was really weak in Alaimo's resume. 16-10 Cuse.
Tom Kessler took matters into his own hands with Hofstra's next possession and gave Glatzel a pretty intense workout -- he burned around the left pipe, stopped on a dime (which brought Glatzel to the turf in an attempt to keep up), and rolled around to the inside to beat Mulligan from the crease. But Spencer Wright made it all for naught when he stuck one to the bottom stick side for a 17-11 Cuse lead.
Shades of the UVA game at Army started creeping up when Hofstra closed to 17-12 on a botched Syracuse clear. After a save Mulligan tried to bounce it by Dooley, who was hanging on the crease during the clear. It hit Dooley's leg and trickled behind. Dooley scooped it up and whipped it to Kessler, who buried it in the open (for the most part) net. Another one for Hofstra when McTigue hit Kessler right off the face (Hofstra finally won one) on a skip pass 4-3 break. Kessler stuck it on the right pipe from a yard out.
But Syracuse would have none of this comeback stuff and buttressed their lead on a Coffman face-dodging, on the run, bouncer from dead center after Cercy cleaned house.
Hofstra was starting to show their desperation, but their peppering of Mulligan didn't produce anything. Mulligan was anticipating every shot with brilliance (he often had his scoop to the ground before Hofstra's shooters even decided they wanted to go low).
Cuse was playing keep-away with 2:00 minutes to go and didn't surrender the ball until Polanco grabbed a pipe rebound and started a break for Hofstra. He whipped it down to Dooley on the opposite bottom of the break and Dooley shot wide, but no one from Hofstra was there to back up. Cuse cleared and called a timeout with :53 to go. Hofstra played it out with intensity, but it was all over. The Orangemen were heading to one more Final Four, an 18-13 victory in the bag.
Hofstra vs. Syracuse
|Josh Coffman||(4, 2)|
|Liam Banks||(3, 2)|
|Michael Springer||(3, 2)|
|Mike Powell||(3, 1)|
|Spencer Wright||(1, 1)|
|Brian Solliday||(2, 0)|
|Bill Perritt||(0, 1)|
|Sean Lindsay||(1, 0)|
|Jason Januszkiewicz||(1, 0)|
|Chris Cercy||(0, 1)|