Syracuse 14, Navy 13
Navy's chance for its first NCAA lacrosse title came down to a freshman goalkeeper having to stop a shot from one of the greatest players in the sport's history. In the end, senior Michael Powell scored on a breakaway for a two-goal lead in the final minute, and Syracuse held on for a 14-13 victory before 43,898 at waterlogged M&T Bank Stadium on Monday.
Navy (15-3) was playing in its first lacrosse title game since 1975 and was playing for the school's first NCAA title in any sport in 40 years.
The Midshipmen had trailed for only 37 seconds in their first three NCAA tournament games. They trailed for 29 minutes 52 seconds against Syracuse (15-2), and the two-goal lead tied the largest of the game.
"I thought there were four or five times they could have pulled away from us," Navy Coach Richie Meade said. "And we kept fighting back. We were attacking the goal at the end of the game. We were right on the doorstep."
The breakaway by Powell put Syracuse up 14-12 with one minute left. The Midshipmen closed to 14-13 following a score on a close shot by sophomore Ian Dingman with 40 seconds left.
Navy junior Chris Pieczonka won the next faceoff cleanly and raced toward the goal. As he readied to take an eight-yard shot, however, junior Jarrett Park dove and knocked Pieczonka's stick slightly. The shot went wide, and Syracuse regained possession with 32 seconds left.
"There wasn't much time left," Pieczonka said. "I knew I had to go."
The Midshipmen had one more possession when Syracuse went offside with 13 seconds left. But junior Graham Gill's pass was intercepted by Kevin Dougherty with five seconds left.
Finnegan had replaced sophomore Matt Russell, who was named first-team all-American earlier in the day, with 8 minutes 1 second to play. Russell separated his right shoulder late in the third quarter; his shoulder was reset at the end of the quarter, but he said it popped out at least three more times.
"I wasn't able to clear the ball," Russell said. "It just wasn't going to work out."
Finnegan, a graduate of St. Mary's-Annapolis, had not played since April 30.
It could not have been comforting for him to see Powell racing at him in the final minute. Powell was named a first-team all-American for the fourth straight year on Monday. He is only the fourth player in the sport's history to be so named.
Many Syracuse fans wore T-shirts with a Superman logo, only with the number 22 -- Powell's jersey number -- replacing the giant "S" inside. The gloves he wore during the game were taken to the sport's hall of fame immediately afterward.
Powell's goal finally separated the teams after the game was tied 10 times. Navy led 11-10 following a goal by senior Joe Bossi with 9:59 to play. Navy's sideline erupted and, amidst the hugs of his teammates, Dingman and junior Graham Gill each grabbed Bossi by the shoulders and saluted him.
But the Orange tied the game for the ninth time on its next possession. The Midshipmen were called for two penalties, one for a hold and one for unnecessary roughness, and senior Sean Lindsay scored with the two-man advantage to tie the game at 11 with 8:58 to play.
The Midshipmen took their last lead at 12-11 following a score by defensive midfielder Clipper Lennon with 5:40 left. Pieczonka won the next faceoff, but freshman Steve Panarelli stripped him of the ball and Syracuse regained possession. The Orange tied the game on that possession, following a goal by sophomore Brian Crockett with 4:57 left.
The Orange took the lead for good after a goal by senior Brian Nee with 3:37 left.
Powell finished with a goal and five assists, and junior goalkeeper Jay Pfeifer had 15 saves. Sophomore Jon Birsner had two goals and three assists and Dingman added two goals and two assists for Navy.
"If we get that faceoff [at 12-11], all of a sudden Syracuse is totally on the defensive," Meade said. "But they got the ball into their offensive end, where they have six players and five of them are seniors who have played in the championship game before. . . . A few years from now I think these guys will understand what they did and appreciate it."
In all, Syracuse won its eighth national title -- it also won in 1990, though the NCAA later made it vacate that title.
But the Orange had to earn the one on Monday. Following the goal that closed Navy's deficit to 14-13, Pieczonka and Syracuse freshman Danny Brennan approached each other to take the faceoff. As the referee placed the ball on the ground, Pieczonka extended his hand, and Brennan shook it.
"We had battled all day," Pieczonka said. "It was a gesture from one warrior to another."