Lacrosse returns to championship weekend — 2012-13 Syracuse year in Review

Each Friday during the summer, The Juice Online will be looking back to some of the biggest story lines in the 2012-13 Syracuse sports year. This week, we take a look back at Syracuse lacrosse’s return to championship weekend.

Death. Taxes. And traveling to championship weekend on Memorial Day weekend.

These three things were guarantees for any fan of the Syracuse men’s lacrosse program up until four years ago. But in the last three years prior to the 2013 season, the Orange failed to reach the Final Four, meaning an entire class was in jeopardy of not reaching championship weekend.

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Syracuse returned to championship weekend

That worrisome streak became even more ominous after a mistake-filled 16-15 loss to Albany in double-overtime in the season opener. But, from there, the Orange reeled off five straight victories, including wins over rivals Virginia and Johns Hopkins.

Still, it wasn’t until one-goal wins at Princeton and at home against Cornell when the Orange really proved it was back to being royalty in college lacrosse.

The team played eight one-goal games in the regular season, winning six of them. It steamrolled through the Big East Tournament, winning its fourth Big East championship in the four-year history of the league.

After surviving another pair of one-goal games against Yale and Denver, Syracuse met Duke in the title game.

But Syracuse was denied a record 12th national championship after a season-long problem at the faceoff X came back to haunt them. The Orange had been mediocre at best in that department, and after jumping out to a 5-0 lead a minute into the 2nd quarter, the Syracuse (16-4) offensive went into a 22-minute scoring drought.

That happened mainly because Duke faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler won 20-of-28 (.714) draws, repeatedly giving Duke possession, and consequently wearing down the Orange defense. Syracuse would go on to lose 16-10.

While it was a tough loss for Syracuse, a new rivalry may have been born with Duke.

With the Orange joining the ACC in July, Syracuse will see Duke each year, along with Virginia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and for one more season at least, Maryland.

» Related: A look ahead to the 2014 lax season

WHAT WE SAID

It won’t be long before the Orange get its shot at the Blue Devils again. No sour grapes here concerning the faceoff disparity and its direct effect on Duke beating SU on Monday for the NCAA championship. There has been a season (2008) in which the ‘Cuse was a respectable 58 percent at the ‘X’and won a national title, so hats off to Duke and Brendan Fowler (62 percent faceoff success rate), the first-team All American at his position, who’s mastered the art of sticking the ball to the backside of his stick, and either flipping it to himself or in the direction of a charging teammate to gain, or in the case against SU, maintain ball possession. It’s just that the faceoffs can so dramatically tilt the field; a lot of the competitiveness can be removed if basically one team has the majority of the scoring opportunities. — Brad Bierman

WHAT THEY SAID

It’s not like it’s been forever since the Orange won — four years to be exact. Then, in 2009, it was for the second of back-to-back titles. Certainly no one will shun the Orange should they return from the Memorial Day trip to Philly empty-handed, but they will be disappointed. Yet three months ago, they would have been thrilled to even have a chance to play for a title. Last season, an unseeded Syracuse team lost to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, finishing a pedestrian 9-8. Consequently, when this season began, the Orange were a middle of the pack national team. No one knew what to expect, not even head coach John Desko. — Dana O’Neil, ESPN

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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