- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

PISCATAWAY, N.J. Red, white and blue. And orange?
In the world of men's college lacrosse, the last color has come to represent Memorial Day, the annual date of the national championship.
It is no different today, when the orange and black of second-seeded Princeton (13-1) face off against the orange and blue of top-seeded Syracuse (13-2) for the NCAA Division I title at 10:55 a.m. at Rutgers Stadium.
Princeton and Syracuse have won eight of the past nine and 11 of the last 13 championships, and today's contest is a rematch of last year's title game, which Syracuse won 13-7. Princeton's only loss this season was a 14-8 defeat at Syracuse. In a season marked by parity and upsets, the top two teams at the beginning of the campaign are the two left standing.
"I'd be lying if I said, 'No, this isn't what I expected,' " Princeton senior defenseman Ryan Mollett said about facing Syracuse. "This is what we've been working for all season. I'm very good friends with [Syracuse defenseman] John Glatzel. All year he said, 'See you on Memorial Day.' … Here it is, Syracuse-Princeton on Memorial Day."
Said Syracuse senior goalie Rob Mulligan: "It's great for the fans to see the two premier programs meet up. We wanna play the best program in the nation. They feel that way about us, and we feel that way about them."
As good as Princeton has been against the rest of the nation the last two years, it has been just as bad against the Orangemen. Princeton is 24-3 since March 18, 2000, with all three losses coming at the hands of Syracuse. In those three meetings, the Orangemen outscored the Tigers 43-19, including 14-2 in the first quarter.
"We're gonna need to get off to a good start, especially offensively," said Princeton junior attackman B.J. Prager, who is second on the team in goals (32). "If Syracuse goes on a big run early, it's going to be tough… . Especially shooting. Mulligan is an emotional goalie, and it would be good to stick the first couple of shots."
Prager and Princeton realize the importance of a strong start, of not letting Syracuse dictate the tempo. Just like Towson, Princeton's semifinal opponent, Syracuse will look to create fast-break opportunities, especially off the faceoff. Orangemen senior Chris Cercy has won more than 70 percent of his draws, playing the lacrosse version of make it-take it.
The Tigers held Justin Berry, Towson's faceoff specialist, in check Saturday until the fourth quarter, when he won eight draws and helped bring Towson back to tie the game at 11-11. In the last three meetings against Princeton, Cercy has won 43 of 64 faceoffs.
"We've never handled [Cercy] before," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney, who won five national titles with the Tigers between 1992 and 1998. "We're going in with the idea, like we did against Towson, to make sure, if we lose the draws, the draws are only part of it… . We can't let this explosive team get fast-break goals off the faceoff.
Princeton's seniors were freshmen in 1998, the last time the Tigers won the title, 12-5 over Maryland. Mollett would love for him and his fellow seniors to go out on top.
"We want it pretty badly," Mollett said. "When we were freshmen, [goalie] Trevor [Tierney] played some minutes in the quarterfinal game and did a great job. Rob Torti played a little bit, Winship [Ross] played a little bit, but not many of us had a very big role on that team. We don't want to be the class that lets the legacy die down."


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