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May 26, 2009

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Blog from the 'Boro: NCAA Championships

LMO's Matt DaSilva, Paul Krome and Paul Ohanian blog live from the 2009 NCAA men's lacrosse championships in Foxboro, Mass. Check back here for commentary throughout the weekend, or leave your own comments below.

For updated brackets and all of our postseason coverage, visit the Mayhem Central page.


'Instant Classic' and a Clarification

posted Tuesday at 2:39 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Well, I was home for about 10 minutes before I decided I must get on YouTube to see Kenny Nims' game-tying goal -- or more importantly, the bizarre sequence of events preceding it -- one more time.

As it turns out, if you get ESPN Classic, you can see it again for yourself tonight at 7 p.m. This thrilling NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship game between Syracuse and Cornell has been dubbed an "Instant Classic" and will air then. ESPNU will also re-air the game Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and June 3 at 2 p.m.

I'm not that patient. I found the below clip on YouTube and it did the trick. There were varying accounts in Foxboro -- from media, coaches and the players who actually participated in Monday's circus act -- on how the game-tying goal went down. Here's the skinny:

After Kenny Nims' intended crease feed fluttered high and out of bounds, Cornell had possession on a restart in its defensive end. Max Seibald passed to Matt Moyer on the right wing. Moyer caught it inside with his left hand, switched to his right, and carried the ball up the right sideline. Nims rode him hard. Moyer tried to switch to his left hand and go to the inside, but Nims had him there. Moyer rolled back outside and switched back to his right hand. He got a step ahead of Nims and switched back to his left hand as he approached the center of the field, at which point Nims stripped him with a diving trail check.

(I know PK railed on Nims' selection as championship MOP below, but man, that was some some great riding by Nims.)

A loose ball ensued, with Moyer and Pierce Derkac of Cornell being pursued by Stephen Keogh and Joel White of Syracuse. Derkac scooped the ball, but could not escape with possession, as White made a timely strip over Derkac's head.

With the ball jarred loose again, Keogh broke free of the pack and snared it.

Eleven seconds left.

Just as Derkac brought the hammer down on Keogh, the deft Canadian threw a prayer behind his back as he slipped to the ground. The desperation feed found Matt Abbott streaking between two Cornell players.

As the entire Big Red defense drifted towards Abbott, the Tewaaraton finalist turned his back to the cage and kicked one leg out to keep his balance after drawing contact, looked over his shoulder, and shoveled a pass that floated about 15 yards. It deflected high off the outstretched stick of Cornell midfielder Roy Lang to Nims naked on the crease.

Cornell goalie Jake Myers came out to challenge Nims, but Nims showed remarkable crease presence. He received the feed high and dropped low, wrapping the shot around Myers' left leg and into the cage with 4.5 seconds remaining.

As Seinfeld would say, that is one magic loogie.


Tuesday Afterthoughts 

posted Tuesday at 10:15 p.m. by Paul Krome

The communities of Foxboro, Walpole, Norwood and the like were empty shells of themselves last night as the lacrosse community exited Massachusetts following a stirring weekend of games at the NCAA men's championships.

Getting ready to board a flight home in Providence, R.I. I'm not sure we mentioned this before, but Syracuse attackman Kenny Nims was named the championship game's Most Outstanding Player. A bit tough to believe, not discounting his game-tying goal and defensive role in that wild play. Cornell defenseman Matt Moyer took Nims out of the game and came within five seconds of ending the nation's leading scorer's 33-game point streak. From where I sat, Syracuse LSM Joel White or Cornell midfielder John Glynn were more deserving candidates.

All in all, though, a memorable weekend, and thanks to Lacrosse Magazine cohorts DaSilva and Ohanian for providing some entertaining fodder as we media'd ourselves through five games in three days.

As mentioned, tickets for the 2010 NCAA men's lacrosse championships in Baltimore are now on sale at www.ncaa.com.


Gate Keeping 

posted Monday at 7:11 p.m. by Paul Krome

The NCAA announced a paid crowd of 41,935 for today's Division I final. That ranks sixth on the all-time list. The record of 48,970 was set last year for Syracuse-Hopkins here at Gillette Stadium.

Total attendance for the weekend, including the paid figure of 36,594 for Saturday's Division I semifinal doubleheader and the actual crowd of 24,072 for Sunday's Divisions II-III championship games, came in at 102,601 - also sixth on the all-time list. The total attendance record for this event is 123,225, set in 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Tournament director Phil Buttafuoco spoke with some reporters just prior to today's championship game.

"I've been around to events, coaches clinics and tournaments and got a good feel for people and where they were at, with the economy taking a dive in the last eight months. Clearly, fans from around the country made the decision not to come to New England," he said, adding that attendance at events such as the Preakness and in Major League Baseball have been down.

"At the end of the day, I've been hearing from fans around the country and even locally that they simply could not afford to come."

Certainly, the economy's downward turn is a major reason attendance was off. All-session ticket prices for this weekend ranged from $80 to $125.

I asked Buttafuoco if the lack of a team from Maryland contributed.

"If there was another team from two different population bases, would the crowd have been different Saturday? Potentially. When you have four teams within 50 miles of each other in upstate New York, you can't go after different youth groups because they're all supportive of the same [teams]. A Baltimore team certainly would've brought a different audience here, as would have Hofstra from Long Island or Princeton if they had advanced past Cornell. We would've had a New Jersey fan base. Would that have helped us from a crowd standpoint? Potentially," he said.

I'm not so sure Princeton's fans would've made a difference. Not a shot at Tiger supporters, but the school doesn't have a large, traveling alumni and fan base. Princeton fans were overwhelmingly outnumbered by Syracuse fans at Rutgers Stadium in 2002, and Piscataway is a 40-minute drive from Princeton's campus.

Johns Hopkins may be the love-it or hate-it team in college lacrosse, but Baltimore fans would've had a positive impact on the crowds here. They will get their chance to prove themselves in 2010 and 2011, when this event returns to M&T Bank Stadium.


Final Notes

posted Monday at 6:50 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

* With today's victory, Syracuse has now won five NCAA titles in this decade (2000, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009). Princeton won five championships in the 1990s.

* Syracuse is the first team to win back-to-back championships since Princeton won three straight from 1996 to 1998.

* Today's game was the first overtime contest of the seaosn for both teams.

* This was the 18th time that the championship game has been decided by one goal, and the sixth time since 2001.

* Prior to today, Cornell had been 12-0 this season when leading after three quarters and had won 39 consecutive games when doing so.

* Syracuse finished 16-2 overall, tying its school-record for wins in a season. Previous 16-win seasons were in 2009 and 1922.

Postgame comment from SU's Kenny Nims:
"To be honest, I never did think we were going to lose. Our guys never give up. Never count us out. We made some mistakes here and there, but worked hard to get the ball back and come out on top. This is our time of year. Simply put. This is why we go to Syracuse."


 One Half Left in the 2009 Season

posted Monday at 2:22 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

We've reached halftime of the championship game with Cornell leding 6-4. The improved Big Red defense, anchored by Syracuse transfer Jake Myers in goal, has done a much better job through the first 30 minutes today than it did on April 7, when the Orange led 8-4 at halftime en route to a 15-10 victory at the Carrier Dome.

If Tambroni and his staff learned anything in that game it was that they couldn't leave their defenders "on an island" against Syracuse's offensive playmakers. It's been clear today that Cornell defenders are looking to slide early and double the ball whenever they have the chance. So far, it's working.

In recent years, the NCAA has used the final four weekend as an opportunity to recognize prior championship teams on the 25th anniversary of their title. In that vein, the members of the 1984 Johns Hopkins team are currently being introduced on the field.

Members of this year's Cornell team are now 30 minutes away from an all-expenses paid reunion at the site of the 2034 championship game.


New York State of Mind

posted Monday at 1:04 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

Regardless of the outcome in today's game, this season will be the first since 1993 to yield three men's champions from the Empire State. With Cortland State and C.W. Post having won the Division III and II titles yesterday, all that remains is to determine whether the Division I trophy will reside in Syracuse or Ithaca.

In 1993, the three divisional champions were Syracuse, Adelphi and Hobart.

And on the coaching front, both head coaches in today's game are products of West Genesee High School, outside Syracuse, and played for legendary coach Mike Messere. 


You're Either in or You're Out

posted Monday at 12:45 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

As we approach the start of today's championship game, one of the most compelling stories belongs to a person who won't score a goal or make a save.

Alex Cocoziello is a former walk-on player for Cornell who saw limited action last year after joining the program as a transfer from Penn State. He hoped to play a bigger role on the field this season, but was hit in the neck with a ball prior to the start of fall practice. Due to nerve damage, doctors strongly recommended that he no longer put his body through the rigors demanded of a varsity athlete.

Cocoziello wanted to stay involved with the program, and after meeting with Coach Jeff Tambroni, agreed to serve as the team manager this year. He has been at every practice, film session and team meeting. He is on the field today assisting with team warm-ups.

But that's just the tip of Cocoziello's story.

His real victory came before he ever transferred to Cornell.

As a three year old, on an outing with his dad and brothers, he was involved in a terrible accident on the golf course, of all places. Not aware of the potential danger, he walked up behind his dad on the fairway and was hit in the head by his dad's golf club. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined that he had suffered severe head trauma with nerve damage, and that his cranium had been broken open. He was immediately rushed into surgery so that doctors could pick out cranium fragments that had fallen into his brain.

Following the operation, doctors advised his family that he would be paralyzed from the chest down. Several mor esurgeries followed in the subsequent weeks. Most of the next year was spent in the hospital with rigorous, daily physical therapy sessions. Improvement was slow when it came at all.

All hope of walking again seemed lost. And then, the unexpected. One day, at another family outing weeks after being discharged from the hospital, Alex was sitting in his mother's lap when a soccer ball his brothers were kicking around rolled past. Alex jumped from his mom's lap and started running after the ball.

Physical therapy sessions continued over the next eight years in attempts to strengthen Alex's right side, which was most effected by the original injury. Today, he remains paralyzed only on his right side from the calf down.

"I think everyone goes through certain experiences...and obviously from those experiences you take away life lessons that stick with you forever," said Alex as he recounted his story through Cornell's media relations office. "I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to have the ability to walk, let along run and play sports. I have a greater appreciation for life in general and the people who I'm surrounded by."


Sunday After-Dinner Cordials 

posted Sunday at 7:47 p.m. by Paul Krome

Some postgame notes for you on today's Divisions II and III men's championship games, while we watch the completion of Northwestern's obliteration of North Carolina in the Division I women's final.

- The turnstile attendance for today's doubleheader at Gillette Stadium was 24,072. The figure ranks second only to last year's 24,317. All four teams had good contingents of fans in the stands.

-- We're aware of Gettysburg coach Hank Janczyk's standing on the all-time wins list. Less publicized, but Cortland's win today gave head coach Steve Beville his 200th career victory, which includes stops at Colorado College and Vermont.

Beville played and coached at Washington College and has experienced the NCAA final before: "I've been here a number of times as a player and coach. I have enough silver to start a fork business and enough to make some silverware. It's great to get the gold," he said after the win.

-- Cortland's shutout of Gettysburg in the second and third quarters marked the first time in championship game history that one team blanked another in two quarters. I noted that Beville spent some extra time with his defense during a timeout near the end of the first quarter, when the Bullets were having their way offensively.

"The thing that was lacking in the first quarter with our defense was communication. I just didn't hear any talk," said Cortland senior goalie Matt Hipenbecker. "Coach told us that's what we were missing. We started talking and causing turnovers. When you know when the first, second and third slide is going to be, you can push out and be aggressive. I think communication is what led to our defense stepping up."

-- Critics may point to yet another letdown in a big game by a Janczyk-coached team (the Bullets are 0-for-3 in NCAA finals and had notable semifinal losses in recent years), but Bullet LSM and USILA Player of the Year Tommy Kehoe doesn't buy the criticism of his coach. "I don't even know that I look at him as coach as much as I do a great person. We don't ever to go into games to win one for Coach because that's not what he wants," Kehoe said. "I'll miss this team, but he prepared me for life as much as he prepared me for this game."

Said Janczyk, after his 22nd year at Gettysburg: "It breaks your heart when you're here and it doesn't happen. It's tough. It's very, very tough. It's another life lesson, but it's tough."


Loving That Unsettled Feeling

posted Sunday at 4:24 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Just posted this story about, among other things, Cornell's Max Seibald and Syracuse's Matt Abbott representing a rare breed of lacrosse player. They'll throw down between the lines in the NCAA Division I championship game Monday.

Perhaps it's ironic then that I did so while overlooking the Division II championship game featuring Le Moyne, the prototype of specialization. How can anyone root for this team? It's like rooting for Drago in "Rocky IV" -- every play the Dolphins run seems so synthetic and calculated.

C.W. Post, a team with a more creative, up-and-down approach, is up 4-3 at halftime. But I could easily see the Pioneers getting sucked into the half-field game Le Moyne loves.

Yawn.

There was a lot of talk in the D-I press conferences this morning about controlling the pace of the game Monday. That always seems to be the key: dictating tempo. Syracuse head coach John Desko repeatedly talked about how Cornell "values its possessions," which is code for being deliberate on offense.

"We'll try to control the pace of the game a little more than we did the last time," Seibald said yesterday, referring to Cornell's 15-10 regular season loss to Syracuse.

I never get it when teams recuse themselves from a certain style of play (i.e., "We don't want to get into a track meet."). Why not mix it up? Good teams find ways to score in settled and unsettled situations. Look at 'Cuse. The Orange did most of its damage against Maryland in the quarterfinals in 6-on-6 sets, but cleaned up on Duke in transition.

Can Cornell show the same versatility Monday?


Red Dragons Win the Division III Title, 9-7

posted Sunday at 2:45 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

Sunday's first game is in the books and Cortland is the Division III national championship for the second time in four years. Much like the first meeting between these teams back in March, Cortland seized control in the second half, scoring five straight third quarter goals to build a 9-4 advantage. Gettysburg scored three times in the final quarter - including a final tally with 27 seconds remaining - but never really mounted a serious challenge.

Cortland knew the game was in hand when Coach Steve Beville called a final time out with 1:08 remaining and holding a 9-6 lead. Much of the time out was spent with players hugging each other on the sideline and the red-clad fans in the seating section behind the team bench celebrating in anticipation of what was to become official just moments later.

Junior midfielder Brandon Misiaszek (5 goals) led the Dragons at the offensive end, tying a career-high in goals, and was selected as the game's Most Outstanding Performer (the NCAA's equivalent of the MVP award, as its known in virtually every other sport.)

Meanwhile, goalie Matt Hipenbecker and the defense did its part by holding Gettysburg scoreless for a stretch of 38:03 that extended from late in the first quarter into the fourth quarter. Hipenbecker finished with 10 saves and a bit of redemption for last year's championship game loss to Salisbury, in which in he appeared briefly in an ineffective relief role.

Interestingly, due to the doubleheader format of Sunday's games, the goalies for the second game take to the field almost immediately at the conclusion of the first game. So while Cortland was celebrating its title with victory laps around the field and posing for photos with the trophy in hand, assistant coaches from Le Moyne and C.W. Post were peppering their goalies with shots at each end of the field.

Warm-ups continue for the Division II final, with a light rain now falling in Foxboro.


Cortland-Gettysburg Reach Halftime: This Looks Familiar

posted Sunday at 1:10 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

For the second time this season, Cortland and Gettysburg are tied at halftime. We're knotted at 4-4 midway through the Division III championship game, with Cortland scoring the only two goals of the second quarter. Gettysburg had its first scoreless quarter in the last 10 games.

The current scenario duplicates the March 7 meeting between the teams. The Bullets and Dragons were tied at 5-5 in that contest before Cortland ran off seven consective goals through the opening 17:50 of the second half to break the game open.

Gettysburg has yet to trail in today's game, which is consistent with their play throughout this year's NCAA Tournament. The Bullets have trailed for a grand total of 41 seconds in their three prior games (Washington & Lee, Denison, Stevenson).


Division II Finalists Bring the Talent to Foxboro

posted Sunday at 10:55 a.m. by Paul Ohanian 

Many criteria (records, rankings, statistics) confirm that the two best teams in Division II this season did indeed advance to Foxboro to play in the national championship game. And the All-America team released this week by the USILA provides further evidence that the Dolphins and Pioneers are stacked with talent. 

C.W. Post led all schools with nine selections, including four players on the 13-person first team. Le Moyne had seven players recognized, with three first teamers. The combined 16 players between the two schools accounts for 44% of all the players chosen (first team, second team, honorable mention).

The team's also dominated the individual awards.

C.W. Post's senior Greg Cerar was the national Attackman of the Year and Player of the Year, while junior midfielder and face off specialist Michael Cama was named the Specialist of the Year.

Le Moyne's junior Drew Bezek was the Defenseman of the Year, and senior goalie Doug McIver is the Goalie of the Year.

Looking for an individual match-up to focus on this afternoon? Try Cerar vs. Bezek. According to the division's coaches who select the USILA AA teams, it doesn't get better than that.


Good Seats Still Available

posted Saturday at 7:48 p.m. by Paul Ohanian 

The NCAA has issued a media advisory requesting that we inform fans that tickets are still available for Sunday's championship games in Division II and III, as well as for Monday's Division I final between Syracuse and Cornell.

Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 800-745-3000, or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Walk-up tickets will also be available at Gillette Stadium on both days.

The single-day tickets range from $38 to $48 for Sunday's doubleheader, and from $33 to $43 for Monday's D-I final.

Saturday's announced attendance figure was 36,594, a significant decline from last year's Saturday attendance of 48,224.


Enjoying the Hoopla

posted Saturday at 4:40 p.m. by Paul Ohanian

While 'Semifinal Saturday' is a work day for the four Division I teams, among those that get to sit back (mostly) and take it all in are the Division II and III finalists that take center stage on Sunday.

The teams typically have a light practice on Saturday morning - Gettysburg and Cortland State each had time on the Gillette Stadium turf prior to today's first semiifnal game - then get to enjoy the afternoon. In recent years, the NCAA has also hosted an autograph session on the main concourse level featuring players from the D-II and D-III teams during the break between Saturday's two games.

During today's first game, players from Cortland State, Le Moyne and C.W. Post were seen lounging in the sun watching the action. Their seats have long since been vacated. If the teams are watching the second Division I semifinal, they are likely doing it from the comfort of their hotel rooms.

One coach I spoke to eagerly relayed the story about being at Saturday's semis a few years back and watching, with astonishment, as players from one of Sunday's participating teams spent the entire afternoon sitting in the hot sun with shirts off enjoying the doubleheader. That coach said, upon seeing that, he turned to one of his assistant coaches and said "those guys will get blown out tomorrow."

And he was right. (Otherwise, would he have shared the story?) Names have been withheld to protect the ignorant.


Canvassing the Crowd 

posted Saturday at 2:05 p.m. by Paul Krome

Since the NCAA moved its men's lacrosse championship weekend to NFL stadiums in 2003, we've grown accustomed to lacrosse fans buying tickets in record numbers year after year. Not so sure that trend will continue this year.

The NCAA won't announce the official paid attendance figure for today's doubleheader until midway through the Cornell-Virginia game, but it doesn't look like today's crowd will approach the semifinal record of 52,004 set in Baltimore in 2007, much less the 48,224 figure in Foxboro last year. Previous accounts were correct -- it was a late arriving crowd. Now that the fans are in, it looks healthy, but probably not enough to set a record from my vantage point.

Meanwhile, with Syracuse's rout of Duke in full effect, that late-arriving crowd has turned into an early-departing crowd. Thousands have exited to enjoy more tailgating on this partly cloudy, comfortable afternoon prior to faceoff number two.


Perritt Hits His Peak

posted Saturday at 1:15 p.m. by Paul Ohanian

We're at halftime of semifinal #1 and Syracuse heads into the locker room with an 8-4 lead.

The Orange broke a 2-2 first quarter tie with unassisted goals by seniors Pat Perritt and Kenny Nims in the final 35 seconds of the first quarter, and have built on that lead by also outscoring the Blue Devils 4-2 in the second quarter. 

The man of the hour thus far for Syracuse has been Perritt, who added two more markers in the second quarter to tie his career-high of three goals. Somewhat unexpected production from a player who had just 13 goals all season.

Junior Cody Jamieson has also provided a lift for SU with two second quarter goals, including one on a nifty feed from Nims. Syracuse has outshot Duke 21-16.


The Third Wheel Has Arrived

posted Saturday at 11:55 a.m. by Paul Ohanian

Despite a flight that was delayed over 90 minutes leaving BWI last night and arrived in Providence well past my normal bedtime, the senior citizen of the staff - myself - has now arrived in Foxboro.

And in keeping with the culinary theme established by my colleagues on this blog, I believe it may be mandatory for me to highlight food in my first entry.

As we await the start of the first game, now just minutes away, I quickly downed my first press box meal of the weekend. A bit disappointed - and surprised - that the soup offering was Manhattan chowder, as opposed to the New England version preferred by locals. But given the strong Empire State representation among the eight teams here at the championships, perhaps it's appropriate. 

My disappointment quickly subsided, however, by the generous offerings of corn bread that accompanied the soup. And to my credit, I believe I showed remarkable restraint with just one helping - as opposed to the 3-4 pieces that are part of my routine during staff lunch visits to Andy Nelson's back in Baltimore. If I've learned anything as the senior member of this Foxboro trio, it's all about disipline (and pacing myself for three days worth of buffet).

Oh, by the way. Duke and Syracuse are on the field in final warm-ups as I write this. It's a late arriving crowd, perhaps due to the incredible traffic back-ups heading into the Gillette Stadium parking lots.

Looking forward to two great games this afternoon, with some interesting storylines, as outlined previously by my colleagues. Five minutes and counting to the start of the first game - just enough time to go back for another piece of corn bread.


Chew on These

posted Saturday at 12:14 a.m. by Matt DaSilva

Carving out some story lines for Saturday's NCAA Division I men's lacrosse semifinals in between panicked excursions to the commode:

Star Watch
Each of the four teams boasts a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist. Duke has Ned Crotty, Syracuse has Matt Abbott, Cornell has Max Seibald (earlier announced as the USILA Division I Player of the Year), and Virginia has Danny Glading. Abbott and Seibald are superhuman. Their motors between the lines leave stretch marks in the turf, if not always in the stat book. Crotty and Glading are the perfect blends of feed and finish. There is no game-planning either of them.

The Trend
Recent history points to Virginia winning its fourth national championship. Dom Starsia's boys seem to be on a three-year cycle of late.

1. Win it all in 2003 and 2006.

2. Suffer shocking setbacks in subsequent years (starting with losses to Denver and Air Force during a demoralizing 2004; blow a tire against Drexel in 2007).

3. Refocus the next year (2005, 2008), advance to the semifinals, and lose in a heartbreaker (epic, storm-interrupted, overtime loss to Hopkins in 2005;  double-OT loss to Syracuse in 2008).

4. Win it all in 2006 (and 2009?)

Perritt, Nims and Hardy
For four years, five years really, those names have rolled off the Syracuse lacrosse fan's tongue like big juicy meatballs. Pat Perritt, Kenny Nims and Dan Hardy were heralded like the second coming prior to their arrival in Orange land. Each has had his hard knocks, with Perritt and Hardy overcoming off-field troubles and Nims struggling to find an identity until this year (he currently leads the nation in points per game).

Now they're seniors, and while righting the ship for a national title in 2008 will mark the trio's time at Syracuse, a repeat would be, well, twice as sweet.

Al Cavalieri - May 16, 2009
If Syracuse does indeed go on to a second national title, it will be hard not to point to the quarterfinal performance of junior Al Cavalieri, who made his first career start against Maryland to relieve a flu-ridden John Galloway. The kid was essentially to go his entire career without, perhaps, ever starting a game. Then he gets the nod three minutes before the NCAA quarterfinals and Hofstra and plays his tail off. A week later, with Galloway presumably good to return, the significance of Cavalieri's huge game still ingers.

Max Quinzani's Attitude Adjustment
Great article today in the Boston Globe on area native and Duke standout Max Quinzani.

John Danowski has had quite a project in Quinzani, whose overconfidence rubbed some the wrong way when he first came to Durham. He had the accolades to back up the bravado; he broke Casey Powell's national high school record for scoring, for crying out loud.

I remember being perplexed after Quinzani's senior year at Duxbury (Mass.) when he was left off the US Lacrosse All-America list. Regional reps denied him based on supposed unsportsmanlike behavior.

Sometimes confidence comes off as cockiness. "I thought I was 'it,'" Quinzani told the Globe.

Now Quinzani is a leader who lets his play do the talking - and there's plenty to be said.

Cornell's War-Torn, Rebuilt Defense
I blogged about this earlier. Matt Moyer is the centerpiece of this unit's revival. Who needs knees?

And when all's said and done, I'm not sure any of these will measure up to the Division I women's semifinals that transpired Friday night in Towson. Talk about drama!


Big 'D' Bolsters Big Red

posted Friday at 6:01 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Greetings, lax nuts.

Just dropped in on Foxboro after battling a suspected case of salmonella poisoning most of this week. Let's just say my bathroom back in Baltimore turned into something of a science experiment -- literally, with self-extracted samples required for confirmation.

Paul Ohanian has requested out of our hotel room share here at the Marriott Courtyard in Norwood, preferring to leave me to my "Tupperware party."

Nothing was going to keep me from this final four.

My flight got in just in time to catch Cornell's walkthrough at Gillette Stadium, which had a very casual and unstructured feel. No sense in reinventing the wheel at this point, right?

The highlight was probably assistant coach Ben DeLuca taking a stick and a bag of balls to the stadium's east upper deck and heaving them down on the Big Red long poles as they tracked them into (and, in some cases, out of) their pockets. It's a Schoellkopf Field tradition carried up to Foxboro.

Not quite Gene Hackman measuring the court dimensions and basket height in "Hoosiers," but still, it probably put the NFL stadium's magnitude into perspective and younger players at ease.

These long poles have carried Cornell here, anyway. The Big Red has anaesthetized two of the nation's most potent offensive teams -- Hofstra and Princeton -- en route to the NCAA semifinals.

Coming into this season, Cornell's defense was considered a significant weakness. Nick Gradinger and Max Dorne, starters in 2008, were forced to retire due to back injuries. Watching Navy treat the Big Red like a chew toy in fall ball had me thinking .500, and see you next year.

It got worse when the season started. The long poles became the walking wounded: standout Matt Moyer does not practice with the team during the week due to nagging injuries in both knees; Max Feely has two separated shoulders; Pierce Derkac has back spasms.

So how did this ragtag unit manage to hold Princeton to four goals in the NCAA quarterfinals?

Ithaca Journal sports editor and LM contributor Brian Delaney was equally as mystified, other than to say that Cornell's defense has turned into a "coaching cliché clinic," and that Jeff Tambroni has these long poles as fine tuned as any in the country.

It doesn't hurt that they've finally found a steady presence behind them, as Jake Myers has come on strong in the cage after he and Kyle Harer traded starts this year.

Or that Moyer continues to dominate despite his knees defying him. The senior from Delaware's Tower Hill School was named a first-team All-American this week, and he'll likely draw fellow first-team All-American Danny Glading as his assignment Saturday when Cornell meets Virginia.

"We've definitely been a unit that's been kind of scrutinized over the year," Moyer said. "It's getting used to a system and buying into it."

Cornell's newfound defensive confidence will be put to the test against Virginia, which obliterated decent defensive teams Villanova and Johns Hopkins with 18 and 19 goals, respectively.

"They do a great job finding the lapses when you slide, skipping the ball through and finding that open guy," Moyer said. "We want to make sure when the ball moves, we set our slides and have four guys ready to go. Just keep rotating."


Send Help 

posted Friday at 5:30 p.m. by Paul Krome

Apparently Duke's plane wasn't the only one to have troubles this weekend. DaSilva's flight got delayed coming out of Baltimore. After driving back down to Providence, R.I., to pick him up, we arrived at Gillette Stadium only in time to see Cornell's practice. Airline problems may be the least of DaSilva's concerns, however, as he brought with him an already-disturbed digestive system. Fortunately for the good folks of Norwood, he's got his own room at the hotel.

My late lunch pick today was D'Angelo's on Route 1 in Norwood, where I had my first-ever lobster sub. Yes, in season, this place puts a healthy portion of basically a lobster salad (much more lobster than salad) on a sub roll. It's worth a try.

Though not matching up against each other, Saturday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal between Virginia and Cornell will feature two of the nation's top freshman attackmen in Cavalier Steele Stanwick and the Big Red's Rob Pannell. Most players dream of playing on this stage, but doing so in their first year means quite a quick journey from their high school days. For Pannell, his journey had an extra stop in between, and it's reaped rewards for himself and the Big Red. Click here for a story on Cornell's quarterback.


Print Pub Plug 

posted Friday at 10:15 a.m. by Paul Krome

If you're staying anywhere near Norwood, Mass., try the Westbury Farms Family Restaurant for breakfast. My visit to Outback Steakhouse last night notwithstanding, generally on road trips I, like many of you, like to find the good local joints for food. Westbury Farms feels like it's been here forever, but it doesn't look that way. Good food, diner-like set-up without the noise, a friendly staff and reasonably priced. Breakfast served all day, although the restaurant closes at 3 p.m. on weekends.

It's not often we get to plug on laxmagazine.com some of the specific stories you'll see in the print version of Lacrosse Magazine in enough time for you to start a subscription, but this is one of those opportunties. If laxmagazine.com is a part of your daily routine, consider making the printed LM part of your monthly routine. If you like the NCAA coverage you're getting here, you'll feel the same about the depth we're able to go into in the July issue of the magazine.

LM subscriptions cost $25 for youth, $35 for those in high school and $50 for adults. And your subscription fees go toward a good cause -- the growth of the game. LM subscribers are automatically enrolled as members of US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body that works tirelessly to help new programs get off the ground, put sticks in the hands of kids new to the sport, train and certify coaches and officials, and make the game safer, among other initiatives.

LM cohorts Matt DaSilva and Paul Ohanian arrive today, and two of our best photographers, Kevin Tucker and Bryce Vickmark, will be delivering the highest quality images of the championships for the online and print versions of LM. So, a bit shamelessly perhaps, we've got this event covered, and you'll see that in print form in the July issue.

The mailing address file for the July magazine gets pulled from the US Lacrosse database on June 1. To start your year-long subscription to LM with the July NCAA championship issue, click here before May 31.


Gaudet's Plan Includes Change from Host to Tourist

posted Thursday at 8 p.m. by Paul Krome

Syracuse's Jovan Miller enjoys some solitude during media day at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Click here for a gallery.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Virginia LSM Chad Gaudet relished his share of interviews Thursday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. And why shouldn't he? The Burlington, Mass., native got to talk about what it meant to him to return to his home state with a chance to win a national championship, not to mention advise teammates and out-of-towners alike on Boston's hottest spots.

"Antonio's, across from Mass General," he said when asked where to eat. "That's close to my heart because I had knee surgery at Mass General a couple years ago. We'd always go to Antonio's every time I had to check in."

Knee surgery long ago became a thing of the past for Gaudet, a football and lacrosse player at Dartmouth who turned happenstance into a plan to potentially win a national championship before a home crowd. A two-year tailback and then an honorable mention All-Ivy League LSM for the Big Green, Gaudet graduated from Dartmouth last year, but even before the season had ended, he was thinking about what he could do with a final season of lacrosse eligibility.

"We played Virginia when I was at Dartmouth on Virginia's senior day in Charlottesville," he said. "They were announcing the seniors and their plans for next year. At time Mike Timms and Ben Rubeor were seniors, and they announced that they were pursuing a fifth year program for a master's degree in the McIntire School of Commerce. When I got back to Dartmouth I researched the degree online. It was something I was interested in so I e-mailed coach Starsia and asked if I would get the opportunity to play on the team if I got into the program. He said yeah, if I got in I would get a shot on the team."

Gaudet comes from an athletic family, so his drive and toughness haven't surprised Cavalier coach Dom Starsia. But Gaudet's not a typical LSM. He faces off with that pole.

"He created some issues for us, even through the end of fall lacrosse, because we didn't know what we were getting. So we never really thought about it - facing off with a guy with a long stick," Starsia said.

"It was actually a bit of a pain, at first. But we get into January and we're still not sure what we have, and then we get into a scrimmage against Navy and he was 10 for 10 facing off. But we went offsides five times. So if we could figure this out, this kid's actually going to play for us."

And play he has. Through 17 games, Gaudet has won 173 of 314 faceoffs (55.1 percent) and scooped a team-leading 96 ground balls. He'll have his work cut out for him in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. national semifinal against Cornell, and its cadre of faceoff options led by midfielder John Glynn (122 of 206, 59.2%). But on lacrosse's biggest stage, Gaudet has been planning for this.

"It was my plan when I decided to pursue this fifth year. I was well aware the final four was going to be held at Gillette Stadium," he said.

He better enjoy it, because he'll soon be going from host to tourist. In a week, Gaudet and others in his master's program depart for the business school in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a month to complete the requirements for his graduate degree.


Media Day Appetizer 

posted Thursday at 6:25 p.m. by Paul Krome

A brief first course for you. There was a decent-sized contingent of reporters that gathered on the FieldTurf surface of Gillette Stadium to speak with players and coaches from Cornell, Syracuse and Virginia (as expected, Duke could not arrive in time, but tomorrow's practices are open to media). The downturn in the economy hasn't spared the media industry, so it's not a surprise to see writers here in limited numbers because their companies have opted to minimize costs by not spending money on another night's hotel stay for their staff. Most of the players from the three teams made their way to the shady sidelines as writers circled for a few teammates and coaches.

Media day can become a welcome free-for-all from the writers' standpoint, particularly with access to teams sometimes limited during the weekly schedule of the regular season. Topics ranged from the obvious -- local reporters cornered a few New England natives on these teams' rosters -- to the over-arching -- alleged parity in Division I lacrosse and recruiting.

For example, Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni likened (rightfully, in my opinion) scholarship recruiting to coaches "spending money" on student-athletes they covet to various degrees. The highly skilled attackmen and goalies coming out of high school are the difference makers that warrant the most attention and scholarship dollars, he said. Tambroni's less than 48 hours from his biggest game yet as a coach. A writer asked him about recruiting and how other teams can crack the four-team nut that is the D-I final four, and he gave a well-thought-out answer. We may not have gotten that in other sports.

More from media day later today and tomorrow. I'm in search of my own appetizer -- some authentic New England Clam Chowdah.


Media Day at Gillette Stadium 

posted Thursday at 4:40 p.m. by Paul Krome

Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but I guess it wouldn't be an NCAA championship weekend without at least a little drama from the Duke Blue Devils. This time, though, it's most assuredly through no fault of their own.

The Blue Devils won't be able to attend the media session scheduled to start in about 20 minutes because they're having plane problems getting out of North Carolina. We're hopeful we can catch up with some Duke players and coaches at their practice session early tomorrow afternoon.

This is my first trip to Gillette Stadium, and it's an impressive facility. Not a big fan of the location of the press box, however. Like Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, media are confined to a press box essentially above the deep corner of an endzone -- southeast, if I'm smart enough to read the shadows correctly. There are plenty of flat screen televisions here, which will obviously help with replays. But if I wanted good views of the action on TV, well, I could've stayed home.


Welcome to New England 

posted Thursday at 1:25 p.m. by Paul Krome

Hello lacrosse fans! It is a sunny and warm day in Massachusetts, and the crack staff of laxmagazine.com has officially arrived to begin coverage of the 2009 NCAA men's lacrosse championship weekend.

I didn't notice any obvious lacrosse folks on the flight up here from Baltimore, and I wasn't surprised. For the first time since 1994, the state of Maryland is not represented in this event. Meanwhile, four teams (Syracuse, Cornell, Le Moyne and Cortland State) hail from upstate New York. (That's all Boston wants, I'm sure -- an invasion of New Yorkers.)

Expect a considerable portion of Orange-clad SU fans to also attend and cheer on their neighbors in the Divisions II and III title games. Red Dragons coach Steve Beville took time out of his media conference call Tuesday morning to talk about the pride he had in central New York teams being here.

The weather will be warm today and tomorrow before cooling off for the game days. Driving on I-95 wouldn't be the same without some construction in spots, so be advised of that. There's a media day event later today at Gillette Stadium. Check back for more later and throughout the weekend.

 


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