- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

PISCATAWAY, N.J. Virginia, up one goal and holding possession of the ball with less than a minute to play, looked as though it was on its way to its second NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship game in four years.
However, Syracuse's Billy St. George caused a turnover when he forced Virginia's Brenndan Mohler out of the restraining box with 35 seconds remaining.
And, as teams have come to learn, when you give the high-powered Orangemen a slight opening, they take full advantage of it, and this was no exception. The turnover led to an immediate restart and fastbreak opportunity for Syracuse. Thomas Hardy took a long outlet pass from Donn Vidosh and tied the game 10 seconds later in an unsettled situation.
After a scoreless first overtime, Hardy won the game 3:28 into the second and sent Syracuse to its fourth straight NCAA final with a 12-11 victory yesterday before 23,123 at Rutgers Stadium.
"I'm pretty speechless," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia of the longest Final Four game since Princeton won the 1992 championship in double overtime. "This was one of the best lacrosse games I have ever been a part of."
The second-seeded Orangemen (14-2) will face fourth-seeded Princeton (10-4) in tomorrow's final for the third straight season. In the first semifinal here, the defending national champion Tigers built an early five-goal lead and never trailed, defeating top-seeded Johns Hopkins 11-9.
Johns Hopkins made the game interesting in the second half and cut a four-goal halftime deficit to 9-7 entering the final 15 minutes. But the Blue Jays (12-2) could get no closer to the Tigers, who were led by B.J. Prager's five goals.
Adam Doneger, who scored five in the quarterfinal victory over Massachusetts, paced the Blue Jays with three goals but took only four shots.
"We dug ourselves into too big a hole in the first half," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "And with the way Princeton plays, it's hard to dig yourself out. We had a great opportunity on the doorstep at the end of the game, but we didn't execute, and you have to be better than that to beat the defending champions."
Syracuse will get another shot at the Tigers in the title game after losing to Princeton 10-9 in overtime last year. However, it looked like Virginia would advance after holding possession in the final minutes. But the Cavaliers (11-4) could not run out the clock after Mohler made the score 11-10 with 4:08 to play.
"We didn't have a lot of time to dwell on things. Going into overtime, you tell your players that you're not going to shut down the other team to just one possession," said Starsia, who conceded that he should have emphasized the restraining box rule to his squad more during his team's last timeout with 1:51 remaining in regulation. "This was an up-and-down game with a lot of action at both ends."
Goalie Tillman Johnson (18 saves) bailed out the Cavaliers in the first overtime with a tough save on Spencer Wright, but Virginia could not end things on the offensive end. Freshman John Christmas (three goals) beat St. George around the goal and was headed to the crease, but his shot on the doorstep was checked away by Vidosh at the last second.
Johnson was brilliant in the second overtime as well, stopping two more shots, including a sliding stick save on All-American Josh Coffman (one goal, three assists). But he could do nothing on the game-winner.
Syracuse inverted its attack for the first time and went to midfielder Hardy on the right goal line. Hardy attacked the goal and lost short-stick defender Nick Russo, who got caught up in the net behind the cage, and finished low from point-black range.
"I hoped I'd make the last save, but it was a great shot and it went in," Johnson said. "[Hardy] faked to the right, so I turned back and I think our defender slipped. I went up high and he shot it low."
Jay Pfeifer also was stellar in goal for Syracuse, stopping 19 shots after his team fell behind 3-0 less than two minutes into the game. Freshman Joe Yevoli added three goals for the Cavaliers.
Syracuse was paced by Mike Springer's four goals and two assists. and Mike Powell notched two goals and one assist.


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