Item: What if we were to tell you that between 1983 and 2004 a never before, or ever since, amazing accomplishment occurred in NCAA Div. I lacrosse? Syracuse, under Hall of Famer Roy Simmons Jr. and future Hall of Famer John Desko, reached the sport’s semifinal round an amazing 22 consecutive years. As this year’s Orange team (13-2) prepares to play in the quarterfinals with the goal being the first return trip to the Final Four since 2013 meeting Towson (11-4) Sunday afternoon at Delaware Stadium (12:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2), all eyes will be on this senior class to lead a rapidly developing corps of underclassmen to not only the sport’s biggest stage, but the larger goal to end the national championship drought at eight years and counting.
To put into perspective exactly how fabulous the lacrosse program’s semifinal streak will forever be saluted as an all-time legacy achievement, consider that since the last year of the streak, 2004, the Orange has only made the Final Four four times, and the current three consecutive years of early exits is the longest period over that timeline.
Sure, the sport has changed dramatically during the last dozen plus years, as Denver, Albany, Ohio State and even Notre Dame, teams joining SU in the quarterfinals this weekend, have raised their national profiles dramatically in either winning or competing for the NCAA crown.
Along with parity from coast to coast and even north to south among programs in once considered far-flung locales, the old saying repeated annually during the glory years of “The Streak” that “devoted SU lacrosse fans booked their Memorial Day weekend plans during the preseason winter months, not even thinking twice that those plans would be altered,” has been banished from the college lax lexicon.
For a bit of a postseason history lesson, the first three years of the semifinal streak, including the first national championship victory over Johns Hopkins in 1983, were games played on a Saturday afternoon, NOT Memorial Day Monday. The Orange hosted the semifinal games each year between ’83-’85, before the format was shifted to Saturday-Monday in 1986.
The ‘Cuse also hosted the semifinals in 1988 and 1991 at the Dome as part of the Final Four weekend, SU beating Cornell for the ’88 title, and bowing to ’91 champion North Carolina in the semis, keeping the streak alive in the first season post-Gary and Paul Gait by upsetting Johns Hopkins 11-8 at Homewood Field in the quarterfinals to advance.
The other five seasons in which the streak almost came to an end include:
- 1985 – SU needed OT to nip North Carolina 14-13.
- 1994 – The Orange got by Duke 12-11 at the Dome.
- 1997 – A late goal edged Loyola 13-12 at Hempstead, N.Y.
- 2002 – Another late goal this time edged Duke 10-9 at Hempstead, N.Y.
- 2004 – The Orange held on against Georgetown 8-7 at Ithaca.
For 2017 and this weekend’s test against a Towson program the Orange hasn’t even faced since 2000 (and playing adorned in their much ballyhooed new Cascade “S” orange helmets), it’s going to be up to the senior leaders, Sergio Salcido, Nick Mariano, and Jordan Evans attacking the cage on offense, along with Scott Firman and Evan Molloy on the defensive end, to lead the ‘Cuse back to a place that the lax team used to call “home,” in a position to play two games in three days for a national championship.
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