Photos by Joe Caulfield
Story by Zach Babo
Everyone expected fireworks for the highly anticipated Duke-Syracuse semifinal, but few could have predicted the artillery would be so one-sided. Behind strong senior play, a stalwart defensive effort, and a relentless assault on the offensive end, Syracuse advanced to the national championship 17-7 over Duke.
“I’m very happy with how we played today,” Syracuse Coach John Desko said. “I thought our defense understood their personnel and what they were trying to do. We got some saves from our goaltender, especially early, so that was a very good defensive effort. And offensively we were able to score in settled situations and unsettled situations. To put the number of points up that we did, we certainly have to be happy with that. We came out healthy, and we are looking forward to playing again on Monday.”
Syracuse got on top of Duke early, and there was no looking back. Chris Daniello started scoring, turning the corner around the cage and tucking a shot low as he stepped above goal line extended. Longstick middie Joel White added the next when he trailed the push up field in transition, grabbed a loose ball, and sat off the pipe looking to move the rock to the open man. Seeing no good options, and with no one applying any defensive pressure, White used his longstick to create enough angle to skip a bouncer around Duke goalie Rob Schroeder for the 2-0 lead.
Duke would answer, tying the game at 2-2 after back-to-back goals by Zack Howell, each assisted by Ned Crotty. In the early goings, Crotty looked poised for another big day as Syracuse applied soft pressure to him, allowing his hands to stay free and feed to many talented shooters. But those two helpers would be the last we heard from Crotty thanks to Sid Smith and the rest of the Syracuse defense.
While Syracuse’s offense exploded for 17 goals, it was the play of the defense that really stood out today. Duke simply could not generate enough shots. Syracuse poles aggressively pressed Duke ball handlers into bad decisions and turnovers, yet had the discipline to be ready with a quick slide or a stick in a passing lane.
“[Syracuse] punched us in the mouth early,” Duke attackman Max Quinzani said after the game. “We look to a lot of guys, but they kept on making saves, we were hitting them in the stick. They didn’t allow us to have long possessions, and then we started running around like chickens with our heads cut off.”
Seniors Pat Perritt and Kenny Nims paced the Orange offensively. Perritt dodged effectively all day. He would often get a step on his man and charge right at the cage to fire a quick shot tucked to the far low corners. His first goal barely squeaked by Schroeder’s leg and the post. As the defense began to over pursue his north-south moves, he would roll back and forth until he could get underneath his man and again charge at the cage.
“Fortunately, the shots I was taking were finding the spot, and I had a good day shooting,” Perritt said. “Their goalie takes up a lot of space in the cage, and I just wasn’t trying to shoot the ball too hard, shoot it through the net. Coach said during the week just try and place the ball, shoot it overhand and put it to the far corners and that’s what I tried to do and it worked”
Nims would add his first goal after Perritt’s shot slipped in. Dodging from behind on Mike Manley, Nims rolled topside, turned back in, and whipped a shot to the far corner as he stretched out.
The quarter would end 4-2 Syracuse.
The few good possessions Duke had were highlighted by slick, quick stick work. The Blue Devils got the game to within a goal early in the second stanza as Crotty hit Sam Payton, who immediately kicked down to Quinzani on the wing for the finish. It would be the closest Duke would get all day.
Nims added his only helper of the day, skipping the ball from up top down to Cody Jamieson sitting on the crease. Jamieson’s box roots are undeniable as he caught the ball, fought off checks, faked, and shot, all fiercely protecting his stick in his left hand. He would carry and shoot the same all day, never taking his stick out of his left hand. Oddly enough, the Duke defenders were allowing him to play as such, even over pursuing his awkward cradling to allow him the chance to turn and set up his left for every shot.
Perritt would add two more goals on similar dodges, with Duke getting a nice rip by Brad Ross in between to leave the score at 7-4. Jamieson ended scoring for the half, carrying from X, tucking the stick inside and shielding it with his shoulder, he was able to turn inside and again get free for a shot.
The deluge came early in the second half. Jake Mouton won the opening faceoff, grabbed the ball, and charged right down field at the Duke cage for the score. Howell of Duke would get his hat trick then, coming around, losing his defender, and having the patience to stand and fake out goalie John Galloway for the score.
Perritt then assisted on a blast from Hardy. Duke would get another on some more crisp ball movement in transition. The play ended with longstick C.J. Constable turning away from pressure and hitting Quinzani down low for the finish. But Nims would quickly add another off an assist from Matt Abbott.
Abbott had a fairly quite game, though still contributing in his usual ways, soaking up ground balls, carrying effortlessly in transition, and generally doing all of the little things he does so well.
Sophomore Stephen Keough built the lead to six when he caught a pass in traffic from Hardy, spun, and tucked in a shot while falling. Nims then got his hat trick, slapping in a nice cross-crease dish from Greg Niewieroski. Perritt then added another goal, rolling off another dodge, and the route was on, 14-6.
Duke would add one more goal off the extra man. Quinzani got himself a hat trick, scoring off an assist from Justin Turri. But Syracuse would answer. This time Jamieson threw across the face of the goal to a cutting Nims who twisted in air just enough to still give himself an angle to score.
Tim Desko finished scoring for the Orange, first on an EMO goal off a dish from Chris Daniello, then on a nice jumper as he turned the corner up top, getting the feed from Scott Kahoe.
What may pay the greatest dividends for Syracuse in this game was that they were able to remove most of their starters with significant time left in the fourth quarter. This not only keeps them fresher for the short turnaround for Monday’s championship, but shows that they have contributors up and down the bench.
“I think it’s just the fact that we’re so deep,” Nims said. “We have about 10 guys who are capable of putting up big numbers. Any given day someone new can have a huge day. That’s been the story of our season pretty much all year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone new stepped up and [had] a huge game on Monday.”
In much the same way they have been operating all year, Syracuse dutifully handled another team with a steadfast, yet aggressive defensive scheme, and unrelenting offensive pressure. Behind five points from Perritt and Nims, 12 different scorers littered the stat sheet for the Orange.
Syracuse will go on to face Cornell in one of the more intriguing championship match-ups in years. With the contributions the Big Red are currently getting from their senior leaders and defense, the Orange will have to rely on their depth and never let off a dangerous Cornell team.
Either way the national title will end up in Central New York, but Syracuse has their own seniors who have their sights set on the history books. If Syracuse can win Monday, they will be the first team since the 1997-1998 Princeton Tigers to repeat as national champions.
“That’s our goal right now,” Perritt said. “Being a Syracuse lacrosse player, your goal is to win a national championship, and that’s been our goal all year.”
|Kenny Nims||(4, 1)|
|Pat Perritt||(4, 1)|
|Cody Jamieson||(2, 1)|
|Dan Hardy||(1, 2)|
|Tim Desko||(2, 0)|
|Chris Daniello||(1, 1)|
|Greg Niewieroski||(0, 1)|
|Scott Kahoe||(0, 1)|
|Matt Abbott||(0, 1)|
|Joel White||(1, 0)|
|Jake Moulton||(1, 0)|
|Stephen Keogh||(1, 0)|
|John Galloway||11 (0.611)|