Despite coming out to boos, Syracuse outlasted a very deserving opponent in the Navy Midshipmen. The Orange used 15 saves by Jay Pfeifer, along with three goals by Brian Nee (also two assists) and Brian Crockett, not to mention Mike Powell’s five assists and game-winning goal. Navy received contributions of five points from sophomore Jon Birsner (2a, 3g) and four points from sophomore Ian Dingman (2,2). Navy held an overwhelming groundball advantage (60 to SU’s 39), along with winning 20 of 30 face-offs. The win gives Syracuse their 9th Division I National Championship, marking the senior classes 2nd Championship in their career in front of a Championship game record 43,898 crowd, who braved the conditions on this Memorial Day.
The game started with Navy working the ball around, only to be stripped by short-stick defensive midfielder Jared Park. Navy rode the ball back hard, and Graham Gill came up with the loose-ball. Gill ripped it by Pfeifer for what appeared to be Navy’s first goal. However, the goal was waved off due to a Syracuse holding call on Scott Ditzell when the ball was down, apparently the players didn’t hear the whistle. No goal.
Shortly after the penalty was called Ben Bailey picked up a loose ball that had been a feed intended for Ian Dingman on the crease from X. After the pass didn’t connect it carried up to a waiting Bailey, who ripped it past Pfeifer for Navy’s first real goal 1:53 into the game. At 11:38, Brian Crockett saw an opening underneath the Navy defense as he tucked his stick and pushed up the goal-line, diving in front of the crease to beat Russell for Syracuse’s first goal.
After going 2 for 3 in the early going, Danny Brennan limped off the field, only to return shortly after for the next face-off. Later Chris Pieczonka would show his dominance at the face-off X, as Brennan is still new to the face-off X, Pieczonka came up big in the big game.
At 10:17, Syracuse worked the ball around, until Powell zipped it to Greg Rommel. Rommel ripped a righty shot into the upper corner off-stick of Russell for Syracuse’s 2nd goal. Off the ensuing faceoff, Nay went into a fast break, with Gill dumping it back to have Dingman fed on the crease. With a wide open shot, the ball slipped it out of Dingman’s stick.
After regaining possession, Adam Reel dodged hard down the wing for Navy. As he drew the slide he planted and dumped it back to a waiting Taylor Harris. Harris was able to hold onto the feed and ripped his 3rd goal of the season past Orange goalie, Jay Pfeifer. Shortly after, Ian Dingman forced a pass to a cutting Midshipman, only to have Orange defenseman Dan DiPietro send the cutter’s stick helicoptering through the air. After recovering his stick and the loose ball, Navy was back working it around on the offensive. At the tail-end of the possession, Navy drew two flags. With a two-man advantage for 30 seconds, Navy couldn’t connect on two easy passes and were forced to hustle after groundballs heading towards out-of-bounds. They earned one good look at the net, but the shot went wide.
After killing the penalties, Syracuse went down to their offensive side and displayed their great ball movement abilities, but Navy matched it (at least for awhile) with nearly perfect team defense. The defense was beaten when Mike Powell threaded the needle into the crease finding Alex Zink, who put the Orange up 3-2.
Despite winning the face-off, Navy turned the ball over with a moving pick. However, on the clear, Pfeifer tried to roll it to a long-stick as he was facing pressure. The ball carried out of bounds giving Navy the ball right back.
One back on offense, Syracuse couldn’t get anything going on offense and Navy eventually forced the ball out-of-bounds. On the clear, Navy pushed it into transition until the youngest Looney, Brendan, fed the middle Looney, Steve. Steve Looney finished it and knotted the game at 3. With only :51 to play in the first quarter, Brett Bucktooth ripped a shot from ten yards out past Navy goalie, Matt Russell, giving Syracuse the lead at 4-3. Navy didn’t want to head into the second quarter down, and after Syracuse won the next face-off, Navy stripped the ball and forced it into transition. After settling the ball, Jon Birsner fed Graham Gill in front of the crease. Gill had a stick in his face and more rapidly collapsing down on him in the crease. Despite the circumstances, Gill handled the feed and stuck the ball past Pfeifer with just :03 left in the first.
Wasting no time to start the second, after wining the loose ball on the face-off, Chris Piezczonka took a hand in the scoring. He fed Ben Bailey who faked low and ripped a shot high past Pfeifer only 13 seconds into the second quarter. The rip gave Navy its 2nd lead of the game. Not looking to fall behind, the Orange responded at 13:31. Sean Lindsay drove down the left wing and placed a nice high-to-high lefty shot past Russell. One minute later, Syracuse regained the lead as Kevin Dougherty fed Brian Nee. Nee put a lefty shot past Russell. At about the 10:50 mark, Kevin Dougherty was laid out right in front of the Orange bench, but was able to throw the ball into the middle of the field. Mike Powell came up with the loose ball. At 10:24, Nee added his 2nd goal of the game, as he was able to get his man tied up above the goal-line as he danced behind the net. He picked the left-side to push and was able to get off a nice lefty shot. Nee’s 2nd stretched the Orange lead to 2.
On the next two possessions, Pfeifer contributed a save on an outside Navy shot, only to be matched by a Russell save on a Dougherty shot.
Syracuse again went two-men down thanks to a personal foul and a technical foul. After being able to kill the technical foul, Jon Birsner fed the crease where Ian Dingman took it and placed it past Pfeifer for the extra-man goal after nearly a five minute drought.
A long Navy possession followed after they stripped the ball from Syracuse. Following a wide shot, to the boos of the fans, Syracuse was awarded the ball back as an Orange player was closest to where the ball went out (the fans didn’t agree). Immediately after he shot, Ian Dingman was laid out by Scott Ditzell. Each goalie got into the action again. First, Matt Russell stuffed a Mike Powell shot from no angle and found the open Navy clearer. To answer, Pfeifer contributed with two saves as Navy was making a push at the net.
With :41 left in the half, Ian Dingman barreled his way up above the goal-line and took what looked to be a poor left-handed shot, but Ben Horn gathered the errant shot as he was planted next to the crease and put it away. Dingman was credited with the assist, evening the score once again at 7.
On the ensuing face-off, former Navy goalie, Seth DiNola came up with the loose-ball from his new longpole position. DiNola lost it around the top of the Navy restraining box. Navy scooped up the loose-ball, but on the clear, goalie Russell was being pressured and threw the ball away thanks to a nice Syracuse check. The ball sailed out of bounds and Russell was left holding parts of the stick in either hand. The first half ended with the game knotted at 7.
The second half started with a nice check as Sean Lindsay with a one-handed check sent Billy Looney’s stick end-over-end through the air.
After trading possessions, and an early Powel goal that was waved off. Powell took his man from up-top, drove hard, and dumped back to Steve Vallone who let go a nice shot into the bottom left corner of the net, to put Syracuse ahead 8-7.
At 9:57, Jon Birsner took a pass from X and sprinted past the short-stick defender. Birsner got top-side and beat Pfeifer with a lefty shot. To end another five minute scoring streak, Brian Crockett took a Jared Park assist and ripped a very low-angle shot giving the Orange the lead, 9-8.
Then to start Syracuse on the offense, Pfeifer had bumped his save total to 8 on a low Navy shot. On the possession, Mike Powell drew a penalty after a push had awarded Syracuse the ball off of the face-off. On the man-up, Powell fed the ball across the Navy defense and found an open Alex Zink. Zink ripped a low shot through the five-hole of Navy keeper, Russell. The Zink goal extended the lead to 2.
The last two minutes of the third quarter were played at break-neck speed. After a weak Navy shot right at Pfeifer’s stick, Joe Bossi came up with a laser shot that nailed the crossbar for Navy. On another big play by Pfeifer, he stoned a point-blank Navy shot leading into the transition. At the end of the transition, the Syracuse shot dinged the pipe. Then Ian Dingman was determined to get top-side on the Syracuse defense. When he was finally successful in getting a look, he missed the cage from in-close. Navy entered the 4th quarter, down 2, 10-8.
To start the 4th, Navy cut into the two-goal lead on a pretty man-up goal. The goal saw Jon Birsner feed Ben Horn from behind the goal-line. Horn had to jump to catch the pass and while mid-air shoot it past Pfeifer, cutting the lead to one.
Navy evened the game when Jon Birsner took an Ian Dingman feed with 12:15 to go in the championship battle. Dingman pushed his way above the goal-line with two Cuse defenders on him and fed cross-crease to Birsner who beat Pfeifer for the 8th tie of the game.
The Navy offense then set up into a circle. From the circle, Joe Bossi grabbed a feed from behind, dropped his stick lefty while deking short-stick defender John Gallagher. Bossi stepped into the middle and beat Pfeifer off-stick hip to give Navy the lead with 9:59 left in the game. On the goal, Navy head coach Richie Meade has this to say, “Offensively we were really in a groove and they were in a zone and we executed…With five minutes left in the game and a one goal lead, if you get the next possession you’re in pretty good shape. I thought they were struggling with us on the defensive end of the field as much as we were struggling with them.”
Syracuse received a gift as Navy gave them a two-man advantage on a Pieczonka technical foul hold and a Lennon unnecessary roughness. On the man-up, Brian Crockett drove towards the left pipe to have Pat Reilley, sliding from the crease, maul him. Syracuse was able to even the game at 11 on the man-up. A pass was skipped up-top to Brian Nee. Nee dumped it to Sean Lindsay. Lindsay took the pass and finished a lefty dunk from the doorstep.
In the last quarter of his college career, Powell had a rare mental lapse as he was caught off-sides, giving Navy a 30-second man advantage. Navy went from a 1-3-2 into a 1-4-1, which gave them a few good looks at the net. Their shots went wide of the net, until eventually a crease violation gave Syracuse the ball back.
With 7:00 to go in the season, Navy 1st Team All-American goalie, Matt Russell, left with a mysterious injury. Navy subbed in freshman Colin Finnegan. The update came shortly after that Russell had sustained a shoulder injury. As Meade said after the game, “I think it happened on a ground ball play when he came out and got his stick caught in the ground and threw the ball and it popped out.” He would not return to the game. Finnegan, seeing only the 6th game of his career, faced 5 shots with 3 goals against and no saves.
After a couple of minutes on offense for the Orange, where the unsuccessfully tried to isolate on the Navy short-sticks from behind the net, Mike Powell had his stick ripped from his hands by Navy senior defenseman Jared Bosanko. Bosanko pushed the loose ball to Finnegan. Bosanko then received the clearing pass up-field to leg it out himself. Bosanko dumped to Clipper Lennon in the lefty shooter’s spot. Lennon cut into the middle for a lefty rocket before the double came. It was only Lennon’s 3rd goal of the season, but what better time to score than in the 4th quarter of the championship game to give your team a lead, 12-11, with 5:40 to play in the season.
Syracuse didn’t waste much time in evening the score once again. On a quick counter clockwise rotation across the top, Kevin Dougherty found Steve Vallone. Vallone found Crockett, who despite no angle, put an overhand righty shot past Finnegan to at 12’s with 4:57 remaining. The Navy defense couldn’t string out the slides fast enough.
Cuse then pulled ahead 13-12, 1:20 later. Powell pulled it out above the box and drove down on Navy’s all-tournament team defenseman Mitch Hendler. Powell split right and dropped it down to Brian Nee who was hugging the left pipe. Nee did a little shake-and-bake with several tight jukes, eventually to bury it point blank as he was falling to the turf.
Down 1, Ian Dingman tried to bull around both sides with about 2:30 left, but Orange defenseman Scott Ditzell lifted Dingman’s elbow enough for Pfeiffer to gobble up the weak bouncer. Syracuse then proceed to throw the ball away at midfield as Navy took a timeout.
Once they settled, Navy threw the ball away on a cross-field pass from back left to top right that sailed towards the box. Some great ground-ball work at midfield allowed Brian Nee to break out of the pack. Nee to Powell on the jailbreak. Powell finished the one-on-none, netting the eventual game-winner to end a spectacular college career with 1:00 left in the battle.
On this Memorial Day, Navy refused to go away. Pieczonka took the face-off and got it down to the offense. Dingman, as is characteristic, bull-dodged around the right pop and put a change-up through Pfeifer’s five-hole with just :40 on the clock.
Pieczonka again took the next face himself and bolted down the middle. However, a ‘Cuse trailer caught his stick at the last second and Pfeifer beat the wayward shot to the end-line. Calling timeout, Powell starts with the ball on the clear behind the net. He tried to leg it out, but when the support came he dumped to Dougherty in the middle. Dougherty chucked it the length of the field. Not done yet, Finnegan recovered it in the goal and cleared it up to midfield.
Navy used their final timeout. Navy started off the timeout with Graham Gill taking the ball. Gill was shoved as he was trying to feed across the middle, and Syracuse’s Dougherty picked off the pass and again lofted it up-field to run out the clock on the Navy season.
The loss ended a magical season for the Midshipmen, and would have been a story-book ending on this Memorial Day for a Navy Championship. But as Mike Powell put it in the post-game press conference, “We weren’t playing to beat our country. We weren’t playing to beat the Naval Academy. It was just another opponent. We didn’t view it as something unpatriotic. We viewed it as a national championship game.”
Powell and his fellow seniors wrapped up their careers in familiar Syracuse fashion, as they captured the storied program’s 9th National Championship. 2004 wasn’t supposed to be the year of the Orange, but they came up big when they needed to as the 4th seed in the tournament. They knocked off the team that most had penciled in as the favorite, Johns Hopkin, and today they knocked off what would be considered the people’s champion, Navy. There is no room to argue, Syracuse earned the championship this year, because they came to play when they needed to.
As for Mike Powell’s future plans? “I’m gonna sit back and take a cooling off period for the summer. No disrespect to lacrosse, but I have other interests and I want to be a jack-of-all trades. I’ve been playing competitively for 15 years and I just need a break,” said Mike Powell. We’ll have to see what that means. He did finish this season with his highest single season total, besting his sophomore year total of 84, with 89 points. Mike Powell finished atop the Syracuse record books with 307 career points and 2 National Championships.
In an interesting turn of events, the elder Powell (Casey) ran onto the field to enjoy in the celebration with brother Mike. However, he was escorted off shortly thereafter by two Stadium security guards because he didn’t have the right identification on. They may have been the only two people in the stadium who didn’t know who he was. Later, an emotional Mike Powell brought his #22 jersey to his Mom.
Following the game, the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse All-Tournament Team was also announced:
Jay Pfeifer, Syracuse
Mike Powell, Syracuse
Brian Nee, Syracuse
Sean Lindsay, Syracuse
Kevin Dougherty, Syracuse
Graham Gill, Navy
Dan DiPietro, Syracuse
Mitch Hendler, Navy
Tim Sullivan, Princeton
Most Outstanding Player
Mike Powell, Attack, Syracuse
-this was the second time Powell was named MOP, as he received the award in 2002 after Syracuse defeated Princeton in the championship game.
Heading into next season, Navy probably won’t be a surprise. As Coach Meade said today, “we thought coming into today that we weren’t the little brother getting the pat on the head. It was a great story, but we have a great lacrosse team and we expected to compete and we expected to win.” Expect to see Navy playing late into May next year as well. Of course, don’t be surprised to see Syracuse around Memorial Day either. And that concludes an exciting 2004 college lacrosse season…
|Jon Birsner||(2, 3)|
|Ian Dingman||(2, 2)|
|Joe Bossi||(2, 0)|
|Ben Horn||(2, 0)|
|Adam Reel||(1, 0)|
|Billy Looney||(1, 0)|
|Clipper Lennon||(1, 0)|
|Steve Looney||(0, 1)|
|Taylor Harris||(1, 0)|
|Graham Gill||(1, 0)|
|Ben Bailey||(1, 0)|
|Chris Pieczonka||(0, 1)|
|Matt Russell||6 (0.353)|
|Colin Finnegan||0 (0.000)|