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2009 E-Lacrosse Feature: Notes from Foxborough

What a final! So, after all the complaining I always do before the playoffs about the monopoly on the title by a few schools, I am always so impressed by how these teams pull it off year in and year out that I forget to complain. This year, either the Syracuse kids pulled off the win of the young century or the lacrosse gods were just playing with our heads. I mean, this comeback was not just unlikely -- it was unnatural. Cornell had just played perfect defense for 2.9 games against the best teams in the nation. They held Princeton to four goals, Virginia to six goals and then Syracuse to seven goals before it all fell apart. Or did it? Is there a better defensive feat than deflecting a critical pass to an open attacker with five seconds left in a national championship game?

The Big Red had the game won with 27 seconds left and possession of the ball, but after a behind-the-back desperation pass by Stephen Keogh on a ground ball followed by a backhanded, tipped pass from a double-covered Matt Abbott -- which is now called the "Immaculate Deflection" -- was caught by a falling Kenny Nims who landed at his man's ankles while shooting and scoring the equalizer with 4.5 seconds left. It was truly a miracle in Foxborough.

While the faithful never faltered, everyone I was with knew it was over the minute it went to overtime. We kept it to ourselves because Richie Moran, the legendary coach of those Cornell champions in the 1970s, sat only a few seats away and we knew how much he wanted it. He deserved it, really, as did Jeff Tambroni, Max Seibald, John Glynn and Jake Myers, but like so many others in the short history of the college game, it was yanked from their grasp at the last moment by those lax gods I mentioned. It was hard to see Richie after the Jamieson goal. As the Orange stormed the field, I turned away from his direction. I did not want to invade his very public private moment of despair. He wanted it so bad for all those guys. They're still his guys, decades after his retirement from coaching. Roy Simmons, the legendary retired coach of the victorious Syracuse team, referred to the players as "his boys" in a discussion with us at the Syracuse tailgate after the game. He was as happy as Richie was sad, I imagine.

The game of lacrosse is not without its growing pains from the rapid popularity, geographic growth and advancement into the mainstream. Each year more and more news organizations join the throng covering the final four weekend. And each year, members of the media with no real lacrosse knowledge increase in numbers. Ever since I've covered the NCAA tournament, the members of the media have selected the tournament MVP and the All-Tournament team. There have always been disagreements in the process, but over the last five or six years only the flashy make the cut, while the subtle goes unappreciated in the voting. One defenseman makes this year's team, after each team held an explosive offense to small numbers and then played a defensive classic against each other.

The blaring absence of Syracuse defensman Sid Smith is stunning. He held Duke's Ned Crotty, who led the nation with 76 points, to two assists and then Sunday held Cornell's Ryan Hurley to one goal and two assists while lending a big hand in keeping Max Seibald to only two goals. He made the check that stole the initial and crucial overtime possession from Cornell, which led to Cody Jamieson's winning goal. If you watch that last Cornell possession, Smith just stalks Hurley with his feet, playing perfect position and only laying one check to take the ball. Then he gobbled the ground ball and started the immediate clear. That's the type of play that is totally missed by the "new media". All the guys on the list below are quite deserving, though. I wouldn't take it away from anyone, but Smith was very possibly the tournament MVP and did not even make the team.

Here's this year's All-Tournament team:
Matt Abbott, Syracuse, Senior, Midfield
John Glynn, Cornell, Senior, Midfield
Ryan Hurley, Cornell, Junior, Attack
Cody Jamieson, Syracuse, Junior, Attack
Matt Moyer, Cornell, Senior, Defense
Kenny Nims, Syracuse, Senior, Attack
Rob Pannell, Cornell, Freshman, Attack
Pat Perritt, Syracuse, Senior, Midfield
Max Seibald, Cornell, Senior, Midfield
Joel White, Syracuse, Sophomore, Longstick Midfield

Speaking of Jamieson and Smith, in the blog I recently wrote, noting the geographical origins of the NCAA Division I field of players, I noted that there were only two Native Americans in the whole group and implored coaches to do more to recruit the descendants of the game's fathers. Well, those same two Native Americans made the two most critical plays in the 2009 National Championship overtime. And they are great friends. As soon as Cody knew his final goal had gone in he immediately located Smith, some 80 yards away and ran right to him without stopping for any of the celebrations in between. He knew who he needed to celebrate with.

Bureaucratic red tape pertaining to the transfer and acceptance of grades from a community college almost had Jamieson missing this postseason like he missed most of the season. His presence deepened the already potent Syracuse offense. Both potential opponents in the final, Virginia and Cornell, had played Syracuse already this season, but not with Jamieson in the lineup.

On a funny note, when Virginia beat Johns Hopkins by 11 in the quarterfinals, the sports information department at UVa. sent a release with this heading: "Virginia Men's Lacrosse Romps Past Johns Hopkins 19-8", but when they were beaten by Cornell by nine, they sent the following: "Cavaliers Fall to Cornell 15-6 in National Semifinal". Good thing they didn't lose by two more goals. They just barely avoided a romping, I guess.

I thought Syracuse wouId win by one in overtime but over Virginia. In the semi I predicted a halftime score of Virginia 8, Cornell 2. The halftime score was Cornell 9, Virginia 2.

May 21, 2009
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