Ryan Powell nearly wound up playing lacrosse at Loyola College. He liked the people at Evergreen, but the real attraction was that a particular someone wasn't there.
"I thought it might be nice," Powell said, "to get out of my brother's shadow."
Powell is the No. 2 point-getter in college lacrosse, but he isn't even No. 1 at Syracuse. That would be big brother Casey, the Orangemen star who is not only the more prominent half of the nation's most productive attack combination, but also recognized as the best player in the college game.
Casey is a senior who will wind up his college career this weekend at Rutgers, trying to add a bookend to the NCAA championship that Syracuse won in 1995, when he was a freshman. Ryan is a sophomore who two years ago realized that he had a better shot at a title with Casey, than without him.
Ryan collected what would have been an incredible 438 points for West Carthage High in upstate New York, if not for the state record total put up by Casey. Ryan was the point guard on the basketball team, but not until his junior year, because Casey had the position before then. Ditto for option quarterback on the football team, where Ryan finally outdid Casey.
"I got him in football," Ryan said. "I was first-team all-state, and Casey was only third-team."
Casey wasn't involved in recruiting Ryan, but family matters were definitely a consideration.
"Ryan thought that maybe he would strike out on his own, but the Powells are very family oriented," Syracuse coach Roy Simmons said. "I just think that Ryan didn't want to split his family up, and make his parents decide who to watch on a Saturday afternoon. This was the most comfortable situation for everyone."
Simmons said that the Powells are folk heroes in West Carthage. A banner strung across a main street congratulates Casey for being named to the U.S. team that will be favored in the World Games at Johns Hopkins in July, but there were times when neighbors wanted to call the authorities, because the Powell boys were pounding on each other again.
The Powells fought over everything from video games to who was going to wear the designer jeans to school. When's the last time you heard of a baseball game being stopped because of a brawl between teammates?
"It was in pee-wee baseball," Ryan said. "Casey was pitching and I was catching, but it's almost like he was pitching against me. He was having trouble with his curve, and when he threw the ball over the backstop, I started laughing. Casey walked over to my Dad, who was coaching, and said he wasn't pitching anymore. We fought right there.
"We are very serious competitors, and I still take a lot of heat from Casey. There are some guys on the team who can't take Casey yelling at them, but I'm used to it."
There are also some Orange players who couldn't keep up with Casey. One of the reasons Ryan was moved from midfield to attack this season is that he isn't caught off guard by his brother's behind-the-back and no-look passes.
Ryan learned to expect the unexpected when he was in junior high. After school, the Powells would pull on their Syracuse jerseys, and pantomime the Gait brothers. Casey was No. 22, Gary "the great" Gait. Ryan wore the No. 19 of sidekick Paul. The backyard games and weekend trips to Syracuse were the seeds of Casey's flamboyant style.
Ryan has racked up 36 goals and 33 assists this season, to Casey's 44 and 32. Their combined career point total is 368, and it's up to Ryan if they surpass the 465 put up by the Gait twins.
The Gaits won three NCAA championships, and this weekend is the last chance the Powells have to team up for one. Loyola and Rutgers slowed Casey and beat Syracuse, and the best antidote for gimmick defenses has become Ryan. He had a career-high five goals in the quarterfinal comeback over Virginia, the fifth straight win for Syracuse.
"Casey likes Ryan as an outlet," Simmons said. "He needs a complement in order to do his thing, and that's Ryan, who has taken some of the pressure off of Casey."
No. 5 seed Maryland vs. No. 1 Loyola, noon, ESPN2
No. 2 Princeton vs. No. 3 Syracuse, 45 minutes after first game, ESPN2
Monday's championship, 10: 55 a.m., ESPN
Syracuse at a glance
Location: Syracuse, N.Y.
Coach: Roy Simmons, 28th season, 290-95
1998 record: 11-2
NCAA tournament titles: Six
How the Orangemen got here: Third seeded, Syracuse beat Virginia 17-14 in the quarterfinals.
Goals leader: Casey Powell (44)
Assists: Ryan Powell (33)
Ground balls: Jason Denicker (67)
Faceoffs: Denicker (.567)
Goalkeeper: Jason Gebhardt (.540)
Pub Date: 5/21/98