HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Virginia now understands the magic of Casey Powell.
A Syracuse senior attackman, he broke the school career record for points with a slick behind-the-back shot, jump-starting a game-ending nine-goal run as the third-seeded Orangemen blindsided the sixth-seeded Cavaliers, 17-14, yesterday before 8,841 at Hofstra Stadium.
Syracuse (11-2) advanced to its 16th straight Final Four, where the Orangemen will meet Princeton, the two-time defending national champion.
"I think that goal got the crowd into it, and all the players started to feel the emotion," said Ryan Powell, Casey's brother, who had five goals and two assists. "It was the turning point. And he did it with a behind-the-back goal. But, hey, that's Casey for you."
Virginia (8-5) seemed on its way to becoming the first team to beat Syracuse in an NCAA quarterfinal game, building a 14-8 lead with 5: 25 left in the third quarter. But the Cavaliers let their biggest lead of the game evaporate in a matter of 10 minutes.
A minute after Virginia's final goal, Powell provided the momentum-shifter, whipping the ball behind his back on a full sprint from seven yards out. That gave Powell his record-breaking 284th career point.
"It means a lot, and I take pride in my personal accomplishments," said Casey Powell, who finished with three goals and three assists. "But it's going to be my fourth Final Four appearance in four years, and that means more than any personal accomplishment."
Ryan Powell then scored twice and Casey Powell added an extra-man goal in a span of a minute to pull the Orangemen to within 14-12 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Syracuse completed the comeback when Tim Byrnes scored his fourth goal of the season a minute into the fourth and John Mathews, a third-line midfielder, angled a shot into the right corner to tie the game at 14 with 10 1/2 minutes left in the game.
"We didn't plan to get behind six goals, but we wanted to catch them by the fourth quarter," Syracuse coach Roy Simmons said. "We boiled it down to a 10-minute game, and in a 10-minute game, my guys are tough."
Just 54 seconds after tying the game, the Orangemen took their first lead with 9: 24 left. Drawing a triple-team on the right wing, Casey Powell made two spinning moves before feeding the ball to a wide-open Matt Cutia for a close-range shot on the crease.
Virginia never retaliated, ending the game with a drought of 20 1/2 minutes.
"I wasn't happy when we started to trade goals with them a couple of minutes into the third quarter," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "I was concerned that they were starting to score a little bit and show some cracks on our defense. I think they smelled blood."
After falling behind, the Cavaliers made two turnovers and took only three shots, all of which were saved by backup freshman goalkeeper Rob Mulligan.
He replaced starter Jason Gebhardt 2 1/2 minutes into the third with Syracuse trailing 12-6. Mulligan, a Farmingdale, N.Y., native, made an impressive return to Long Island by making nine saves and allowing only two goals despite a cast on his right hand that was molded around his lacrosse stick.
"When I came in, I got up into some of the guys' faces, challenging their manhood," said Mulligan, whose nickname is "Mouth." "The way I looked at it was I had nothing to lose. I waited for this chance a long time. It's a good time to get it."
Virginia rolled out to a 7-2 lead two minutes into the second quarter when David Wren scored the Cavaliers' sixth unassisted goal. Virginia continued to cruise, building a 14-8 advantage as Drew Melchionni's intended pass to the front of the goal landed inside the goal.
From that point, Virginia misfired on its final nine shots and Syracuse connected on nine of 19.
"That behind-the-back goal lifted them up more than anything," Melchionni said.
Virginia 5 4 5 0 -- 14
Syracuse 2 3 7 5 -- 17
Pub Date: 5/17/98