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Princeton's rise reaches top of line


PHILADELPHIA -- The wild celebration started the instant Andy Moe's shot whistled into the Syracuse goal. Princeton's players tumbled around the field and pummeled one another in joy.

The team took a victory lap. Holding the NCAA lacrosse championship plaque aloft, senior Justin Tortolani joined in the parade around Franklin Field.

In one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's 22 years, No. 3 Princeton defeated top-seeded Syracuse, 10-9, on Moe's sudden-death goal nine seconds into the second overtime yesterday before 13,650.

It marked the first time a team other than Johns Hopkins, Syracuse or North Carolina had won the title since Cornell in 1977.

"We played a great Princeton team," Syracuse coach Roy Simmons said. "I know I've said that silver is mediocrity, but this time I can proudly say my boys will hold their heads high as we take home the silver."

Princeton stunned Syracuse by taking an 8-2 lead early in the third quarter, but the Orange, in one of its patented runs, pumped in six straight goals for an 8-8 tie with 8:28 left.

Greg Waller's goal gave Princeton a 9-8 edge with 2:37 left, but Tom Marechek tied it with 42 seconds left to force overtime.

After one scoreless, four-minute overtime, Moe ended the game. Scooping up a loose ball near midfield after the period-opening faceoff, he raced downfield and fired a 10-yard shot past Syracuse goalie Chris Surran.

It was the sixth overtime championship game in tournament history -- the first since North Carolina defeated Virginia in 1986 -- and the third that required two overtimes.

The victory underscored the rise of Princeton lacrosse in five years under Bill Tierney, a former Johns Hopkins assistant coach. Tierney's first team in 1988 was 2-13. His fifth finished 13-2.

Moe, who took a year off from school in 1990 to travel to Europe, is the only player left from Tierney's first team. He scored a game-high four goals, including the game-winner.

"It's been a long road," said the senior midfielder from Chevy Chase. "We had a decided lack of talent that first season. When I first came here, Coach Tierney said we would have to do this, this and this to win a national championship. Guys would look around the room and say, 'National championship? Who is this guy kidding?' "

Tierney said: "My first year, our kids would show fear in close games," "But, this year, I would look in their eyes and see people who wanted to play when it counted."

Afterward, Waller, Moe and Scott Bacigalupo, the sophomore goalie from St. Paul's, were talking about Waller's goal that gave Princeton the 9-8 lead.

"I thought it was the game-winner," Waller said.

"Sorry," Bacigalupo said. "My big goof."

Bacigalupo ventured out of the cage a few minutes later in pursuit of a long pass from the Syracuse end -- a maneuver Tierney teaches. The ball spun out of Bacigalupo's stick, and Marechek picked it up and fired the tying goal past a defenseman attempting to guard the cage.

Princeton finished with a 10-game winning streak. Five of those victories were by one goal, including three in overtime.

Playing what Tierney called a "perfect first half," Princeton built a 6-0 lead. Syracuse didn't score until 1:13 remained in the half.

The Orange's scoreless first quarter ended a streak; the team had scored in 111 straight quarters dating to the 1991 opener against Carolina.

"We were flat," defenseman John Winship said. "Oh-and-6 was definitely not on the chalkboard. We couldn't get Princeton out of its methodical offense."

Said Simmons, who was shooting for an unprecedented fifth NCAA title and fourth in five years: "We didn't own the ball long enough to take more than 14 first-half shots. Made a million mistakes. We didn't shoot well."

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