The Washington Times - May 25, 2009, 12:19PM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A little less than an hour until today’s title game between second-seeded Syracuse and fifth-seeded Cornell on a gorgeous day at Gillette Stadium.

It’s the sixth time teams from the same state have met for the national title. The list:

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1973: Maryland 10, Hopkins 9 (2OT)
1974: Hopkins 17, Maryland 12
1975: Maryland 20, Navy 13
1979: Hopkins 15, Maryland 9
1988: Syracuse 13, Cornell 8

So that’s an interesting nugget. But it won’t tell you who will win today.

Still, there’s some things to keep an eye on as today’s game unfolds

1. First five

Cornell’s entire approach is predicated on patience and playing from ahead to force opponents into mistakes. It worked perfectly against both Princeton and Virginia, neither of whom led in their games with the Big Red earlier in the tournament.

Syracuse is more explosive than Princeton and more disciplined than Virginia, but falling behind by even two goals will make a second straight title rather difficult to secure. Cornell’s style makes opponents use a ton of mental energy simply to rally and tolerate the Big Red’s stall ball tactics. If Syracuse can build its own 2-0 lead, things could grow precipitously worse for Cornell.

2. Explosive defensive midfielders

Syracuse does something I’m not sure I’ve seen on a regular basis in Division I, at least not this decade – use its defensive midfielders as one-man clears from end to end, going so far as to run behind the cage.

What this effectively does is place an opponent’s top offensive midfielders in a vulnerable defensive position, and the Orange did this several times to Duke with Jovan Miller and Matt Abbott (who also happens to be on Cuse’s first midfield line).

Cornell’s first midfield line is probably more capable of defending this situation than Duke’s. But the more time Max Seibald and John Glynn spend on defense, the more tired they’ll be when they’re back on defense. The Big Red needs to accomplish what Maryland did and neutralize this Syracuse ploy.

3. Closing in

Cornell goalie Jake Myers has stopped precisely half of the shots he’s faced this season. Needless to say, that isn’t great. Here’s the save percentages of the last 10 title-winning goalies:

2008: John Galloway, Syracuse, .534
2007: Jesse Schwartzman, Hopkins, .572
2006: Kip Turner, Virginia, .573
2005: Jesse Schwartzman, Hopkins, .625
2004: Jay Pfeifer, Syracuse, .559
2003: Tillman Johnson, Virginia, .655
2002: Jay Pfeifer, Syracuse, .540
2001: Trevor Tierney, Princeton, .671
2000: Rob Mulligan, Syracuse, .614
1999: Derek Kenney, Virginia, .529

Which is to say, even the shakiest championship goalies aren’t exactly 50/50 propositions.

Kenney and Galloway were both freshmen; Kenney eventually lost his gig to Tillman Johnson, while Galloway bumped things up to .570 this season.

In any case, Myers is a fifth-year senior. And he’s vulnerable. If Syracuse can get in close to shoot, it could be a long day for the Big Red.

Patrick Stevens