- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

BALTIMORE — One last member of the sport’s royalty stands between Navy and its first NCAA men’s lacrosse championship.

After beating Princeton in the semifinals, the second-seeded Midshipmen (15-2) face fourth-seeded Syracuse (14-2) in today’s title game at M&T; Bank Stadium. Princeton and Syracuse have combined to win 13 of the last 16 titles.

“One of the great things about being at the Naval Academy in Annapolis [is that] we don’t get to read a lot of the stuff you guys write,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “These guys all know about lacrosse, they know about the final four, they know about all that stuff. But when you’re a midshipman at the Naval Academy, you have other stuff to think about. We’ve never been intimidated by much.”

The Mids were poised against Princeton on Saturday when a defensive stand in the final 33 seconds clinched the program’s first title game appearance since 1975, and it seems unlikely they will be tentative against the Orange.

The Mids had not won a tournament game in 15 years before this month. They had almost full backing from fans Saturday and probably will receive similar support today from a hometown crowd expected to top 40,000.

Navy’s role in world events — particularly the possibility this month’s graduates could be sent to Afghanistan, Iraq or other unstable areas — has helped cement the Mids’ status as sentimental favorites.

“We’re viewed as the bad guys,” Syracuse attackman Mike Powell said. “[Midfielder] Steve [Vallone] just read an article about Navy in the Baltimore Sun, and he said, ‘Geez, I almost want Navy to win after reading this.’ They are a great team with a great story, and they’ll have a lot of people rooting for them. It might be bittersweet.”

The Orange probably will return to their run-and-gun style after slowing it down against Johns Hopkins in the semifinals. Navy, which has thrived in transition all season, advanced to the final by grinding out two low-scoring games.

However the Mids approach it, faceoffs probably will be a critical facet. Both Navy’s Chris Pieczonka (35-for-47) and Syracuse’s Danny Brennan (36-for-64) have fueled their teams’ playoff runs.

“You’ve heard this theme over and over again,” Meade said. “Possession of the ball is going to be important tomorrow. It’s been important over the last several weeks. Even though we may get the pace we want, everybody’s going to have to make good decisions.”

Carthage connection

No matter what happens today, one of Carthage’s favorite sons will walk away with a national title.

Syracuse’s Mike Powell and Navy attackman Ian Dingman both hail from the upstate New York town. The two were teammates at Carthage High School before going their separate ways.

Powell is the leading scorer in Syracuse history and enters his final game with 301 points. Dingman, a sophomore, has 34 goals and 24 assists for the Mids.

“Carthage is very excited right now,” Powell said. “I’m sure they’re down at Keddy’s drinking Genny Lights and going nuts.”

Rain men

The weather has been close to perfect for the first two days of the championship weekend, but there is a threat of rain for today’s final.

Navy coach Richie Meade, though, doesn’t think a wet artificial surface will have too much of an impact against Syracuse.

“We’re in the Navy, so we like water,” Meade said. “It’s going to be what it is. The forecast for tomorrow is lacrosse.”

A different look

Mike Powell usually has scampered around large defensemen during his career at Syracuse, but he won’t have the opportunity today.

None of Navy’s starting close defensemen checks in at taller than 5-foot-11, and only senior Jared Bosanko is listed at more than 175 pounds.

“They have a lot of short athletic guys, which I really hate,” Powell said. “I like when the big meatheads try to cover me — it’s a little easier on me. But now that there’s three guys like me out there, it makes it a little more difficult to maneuver.”

LeMoyne, Salisbury win

Brandon Spillett scored in the second overtime period to lift LeMoyne (N.Y.) past Limestone (S.C.) 11-10 in the Division II title game. The Dolphins (16-0) won their first national title in any sport.

Meanwhile, Salisbury won its second straight Division III title, upending Nazareth 13-9.

Scott Simmons had three goals and two assists for the Sea Gulls (20-0), who set a program record for victories and extended their winning streak to 29. Goalie Alex Civalier made 20 saves for the Golden Flyers (16-3).

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