PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Michael Powell matched his big brothers with his first NCAA title yesterday. If he spends the next two seasons performing like he did in Syracuse's 13-12 victory over Princeton, he'll surpass them and become the Orange's all-time point leader, too.
Powell had four goals and three assists in front of 19,706 at Rutgers Stadium, where Syracuse raced to a 12-7 lead, slowed the pace and let the Tigers back in it. He was involved in five of the last six goals for the Orangemen, and what the game summary didn't note was how he set up two other scores, with a ride and a screen. In the biggest game of the college lacrosse season, he figured in nine goals.
"Watching the game, I thought he did it quietly, too," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "That was a tremendous effort. He made a lot of things happen."
It's what has come to be expected from America's first family of lacrosse. Casey Powell came out of Carthage, N.Y., and helped Syracuse to an NCAA Division I title in 1995, when he was a freshman. Ryan joined him two years later, and led the Orangemen to the 2000 championship. They share the Syracuse career record with 287 points, and Mike already has 154.
Oh, yes, he has two more seasons to play. Powell is just a sophomore, but he's already a two-time All-American and a member of the U.S. men's team that will go to the world championships in Australia this summer. Yesterday's show gave him an even 42 goals and 42 assists for the season, and he didn't slow down until Desko tried to protect the five-goal lead.
"Coach tried to slow it down," said Powell, the final four's Most Outstanding Player. "I don't like to slow it down too much. When I get an opportunity to shoot, I'm going to take it. It makes me feel great that I can lead my team to victory by stepping up and making shots."
Powell scored what proved to be the game-winner with 11:35 left, off an assist from Mike Springer. It was Syracuse's only goal in the last 25 minutes, as Jay Pfeifer, a redshirt freshman goalie out of Gilman, was called on to preserve the victory.
McDonogh grad Brad Dumont got Princeton within one with 11:22 left on his second driving goal in two minutes, but both teams were blanked the rest of the way. Pfeifer withstood a flurry of shots midway through the final quarter, when he had two of his 13 saves. A premature celebration gave the Tigers an extra-man advantage with six seconds left. Princeton got the ball to Dumont, who lost control.
That bobble sealed the third straight one-goal win in the tournament for Syracuse (15-2). Princeton's tournament history had included a 13-1 mark in one-goal games. Its four-goal run that cut the difference to 12-11 during a 13-minute Orange drought evoked one of the early notches in that clutch record, the 1992 final in which the Tigers made up five goals on Syracuse and won in overtime to produce the first of coach Bill Tierney's six titles.
Attempting to become the first champion with four losses since 1972, Princeton (10-5) scored the first two goals and moved to a 5-3 lead, but Syracuse scored seven of the next eight goals. The Orangemen went ahead to stay at 6-5 with 10:43 left in the second quarter, on a shot up top from Sean Lindsay, and Powell was just getting started.
Powell, who's listed as 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds, was checked by former Gilman star Damien Davis, who said: "We weren't talking. Michael got through some picks and got some open shots."
Tierney went zone at one point.
"Michael is not the kind of kid you stop," Tierney said. "He's a fabulous player. More important, he's a fabulous kid. He enjoys the game and plays it full tilt. Win or lose, he has a smile on his face at the end."
Powell said he made amends for last year's title game, when he came out cautious and the Orangemen had just nine goals in a loss to Princeton. It was the third straight time the game's two dominant powers had met in the NCAA final.
It was the seventh title for Syracuse, matching Johns Hopkins; its second in three seasons; and the fourth straight final for the senior class.
That group moves on. Powell will be back, and probably steer Syracuse to its 21st straight final four next year, when the affair shifts to Ravens Stadium.
Princeton 5 1 4 2 - 12
Syracuse 4 4 4 1 - 13
Goals: P-Hartofilis 3, Pellegrino 2, Boyle 2, Dumont 2, White, Trevenen, Prager; S-Powell 4, Solliday 3, Coffman 2, Park, Hardy, Lindsay, Springer. Assists: P-White 2, Clark, Dumont, Prager. S-Powell 3, Wright 1, Smith 1, Nee 1, Coffman 1, Solliday 1, Springer 1. Saves: P-Gould 13; S-Pfeifer 13.