SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- An investigation could cast a pall over their bid for an NCAA title, but the Syracuse Orangemen enjoyed themselves for two hours last night.
No. 3 Syracuse broke free from a 15-15 tie with the first six goals of the fourth quarter to beat No. 4 Johns Hopkins, 21-17, before 9,183 at the Carrier Dome. It was the eighth straight win for the Orangemen (9-2), while Hopkins (10-3) saw its win streak end at six.
The Orangemen wore down the Blue Jays, especially faceoff specialist Steve Vecchione, winning the first five draws of the fourth quarter. Matt Riter began the 6-0 surge on a stunning Air Gait move with 12:26 left, and 39 seconds later, after faceoffs to Syracuse and goals by Roy Colsey and Dom Fin, the difference was 18-15.
The turning point came when Riter, a senior who had five goals, started from behind the goal, leaped into the crease and sneaked a shot into the upper right-hand corner past goalie Jonathan Marcus. Originated by Gary Gait, who, with his twin brother Paul, led Syracuse's run of three straight titles from 1988 to 1990, the move is copied with rare success.
"They shot four times better than we did," Blue Jays coach Tony Seaman said, but the Orangemen said the difference was conditioning, not their stickwork.
"We knew we had the legs to run on them at the end," said midfielder Matt Puccia, who shared faceoff duties with Bob Feisee. "Vecchione was out there a lot, and me and Bob tired him out. Everyone doubted us after we lost to Loyola and North Carolina, and this gives us a boost going into the playoffs."
The Orangemen need a lift after the events of the previous 24 hours.
Spurred by a probe of the program by the Syracuse Post-Standard that coach Roy Simmons said centers on allegations made by former goalie Jerry DeLorenzo, the Orange athletic department announced Thursday night that it was beginning its own investigation.
Before the game, senior midfielder Fred Amaya was ruled ineligible because of possible violations, but Syracuse will ask the NCAA to reinstate him for the tournament.
"This is disturbing," Simmons said. "I spent the day talking to lawyers, and it was a relief to play the game. We're certain he [Amaya] is innocent, but on Monday the NCAA wants to look into allegations made by a crackpot."
When asked who made the allegations, Simmons said DeLorenzo, a former Syracuse goalie who transferred to Towson State and played for the Tigers last year.
Seven months ago, the NCAA levied penalties on five Syracuse programs. The lacrosse team was caught using too many scholarships, and for the next three years it will work with three under the NCAA limit.
History was also attached to the game, as Syracuse became the third college program to reach 600 wins. All-time leader Johns Hopkins is the only visitor to win a regular-season game here since 1987, doing so two years ago.
When they last met, in the 1992 semifinals, Syracuse's 21-16 win was the highest-scoring game in NCAA tournament history. That pace was resumed in the first quarter, one of the most electric ever in the rivalry.
Hopkins hit its first five shots, averaged a goal a minute in the first five minutes and still could take only a 5-3 lead. Jamie Archer and Fin scored in the final 21 seconds to get the Orangemen an 8-8 tie.
The pace slowed considerably in the second quarter. Hopkins' Brian Kelly tied it at 10 with a back to the goal shot, then fed Charlie Speno with 14 seconds left for a 12-11 halftime lead. Syracuse threatened to break away in the third quarter, but Casey Gordon and Dave Marr forced the tie at 15.
The game lost some of its edge Wednesday, when No. 5 Brown lost at Massachusetts. Along with North Carolina and Princeton, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins expect to receive first-round byes when the 12-team NCAA field is announced tomorrow.