Recalling the last Maryland-Syracuse game

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It was a dozen years ago. As for of the fuzzy details that are left from the afternoon the last time Maryland and Syracuse met in lacrosse, chances are gregarious Hall of Famer Dick Edell (who deserves such billing as both a coach and raconteur) will embellish them a little.

But, really, who needs to embellish an 18-17 classic. The Terps escaped that afternoon at Byrd Stadium in a game that barely featured half as many saves (19) as goals allowed (35).

Not to mention the fact Cuse star Casey Powell had the ball in the closing seconds.

“I know they had last possession,” Edell said this week. “I think my eyes were shut.”

Somehow, the unseeded Terrapins held on for the victory, only to absorb a 19-7 drubbing two days later against middle-of-a-dynasty Princeton team.

But the postscript didn’t matter in this case. Not one bit.

Because beyond Matt Hahn’s game-winner with less than three minutes left, and beyond Maryland joining 1988 Cornell and 1991 Towson (and, later, 2006 Massachusetts) as the only unseeded teams to reach a title game, was an absolute throwback game.

“No one was making any saves. We were going against two Powells and another attackman who was an All-American,” said Maryland’s past-and-present defensive coordinator, Dave Slafkosky. “We weren’t stopping them at all. Luckily for us we scored two short-handed goals, and then after one of our short-handed goals we didn’t put enough people on the field to face off and they went and scored.”

It was the sort of game even guys on the other sideline didn’t find themselves a part of all that much. True, Syracuse’s season started with a 22-21 classic against Virginia at the Dome.

This, too, was something else.

“The ‘97 game, I just remember it was back-and-forth, a really physical game,” said current Syracuse coach John Desko, who was an assistant at the time. “There was a lot of contact in that kind of game. They played with a lot of intensity and played hard, and it was a very good lacrosse game.”

It was something of a stylistic clash. While those late-90s Maryland teams could score, there was still a ruggedness about them that reflected the way Edell and Slafkosky went about their business.

And Syracuse? Well, it was was a glitzy Orange outfit that rang up a dozen goals on all but two occasions that spring.

The differences led to a few curious moments Slafkosky still remembers.

“The other thing I remember that day is Casey Powell took more flops than I’ve seen in one game. …,” Slafkosky said. “I remember yelling one time at an official in the game ‘He flopped again.’ He said ‘It wasn’t Casey.’ I said I don’t care. It’s the same thing. Someone’s flopping. You guys are taking a big strong guy and you’re nudging him and it’s ‘Aaaaagh’ and the gloves fall off. But that was an amazing game.”

Maryland packed 30,580 into Byrd that afternoon, the largest crowd ever for an on-campus site in the NCAA tournament. And paired with a 10-9 Princeton defeat of Duke, they walked away having witnessed a remarkable doubleheader.

It stood out enough for former Maryland assistant and current Albany coach Scott Marr to give Slafkosky a call this week to remind him of the last meeting. And despite a mischievous comment or two from Edell (“It was 12 years ago,” he said. “I can make up things now.”), there isn’t much reason to stretch the truth on this one.

“It was reminiscent of Hopkins-Virginia from this year [a 16-15 Cavaliers victory], but it was a back-and-forth kind of game,” Edell said. “No one ever led by a lot. If you weren’t for either team, you wished it would never end. That was the way lacrosse used to be played.”

Patrick Stevens

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