PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Syracuse upheld its tradition of producing its finest lacrosse in late May, while Notre Dame performed like an outclassed participant that had never before hung around this long in a season.
Notre Dame, which rode a nine-game winning streak into its first-ever final four appearance, found out firsthand why the Orangemen have gone to 19 consecutive final four games.
The top-seeded Orangemen (13-2), who will go for their eighth championship against Princeton in tomorrow's national title game, are known primarily for their fast break. They hit the Irish with several scoring spurts and ended the competition in the first half by rolling to a 9-3 lead at intermission.
Sophomore attackman Michael Springer was the prime weapon. He personally outscored Notre Dame with a career-high six goals, four of which were assisted by freshman Michael Powell.
But the day ultimately belonged to the other half of the Syracuse equation - a big, rough, mobile defense that stuffed the Irish (14-2).
It was a demoralizing day for Notre Dame, which tied for the lowest amount of goals ever scored by a team in the tournament's semifinal round. Senior attackman Tom Glatzel entered the contest as the team's leading scorer. Then, he ran into 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore defenseman Solomon Bliss.
Glatzel shot 0-for-8 and did not score for the first time this season. His scoring partner from Boys' Latin High, senior attackman David Ulrich, managed one goal and two assists, but was never a factor. Syracuse defenseman John Glatzel, the brother of Tom, took care of Ulrich.
"The defense has been the unsung hero of our team, and while we were getting our feet under us on offense today, our defense played extremely well," said Syracuse coach John Desko, who singled out the performances of John Glatzel and Bliss.
"Those guys [Tom Glatzel and Ulrich] are [Notre Dame's] quarterbacks, and they do a great job of drawing double teams and finding their middies cutting to the goal. We didn't have to worry about that much today."
The Orangemen's worries were brief. Notre Dame peaked by scoring the game's first goal, and that was pretty much the end of the Irish, who looked overmatched and intimidated.
Syracuse did the things it does best, and did them at will.
Faceoff specialist Chris Cercy won nine of 14 first-half faceoffs against Notre Dame's Chad DeBolt, igniting one of the sport's more scintillating transition offenses. The Orangemen also did the dirty work on a slick field, by running through the Irish to recover loose balls - many of their own doing - in a sloppy first half. Syracuse won the ground ball battle in the first half, 42-23. Powell had a game-high 10 ground balls.
The Orangemen, who also got three assists from attackman Liam Banks, exploited the slow-sliding Irish with their set offense when they weren't beating them on the break. Syracuse put enormous pressure on Notre Dame goalie Kirk Howell (14 saves). Most of its scores came from point-blank range.
"I would have liked for them to have been a little farther out [while shooting]," Howell said. "I did the best I could."
The Orangemen took over the game quickly. In an 11-second span in the first quarter, they took a 2-1 lead they would never relinquish. During a 52-second span early in the second period, they scored twice to make it 6-2, giving Syracuse all it would need to win with 12:22 left in the first half. Springer's quick back-to-back goals completed a 6-0 run that made it 9-2 with 3:30 left.
"I think we contributed a little bit to our own demise," said Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan, who hinted the Irish panicked in the face of Syracuse's rapid-strike attack.
"You prepare yourself for that [fast break] going in, but we started to make decisions by thinking we had to make great plays. We're all about ball movement, but we went to too much isolation. We made decisions that were out of character for us."
Notre Dame 2 1 1 1 - 5
Syracuse 4 5 2 1 - 12
Goals: ND-Harvey 2, Frigon, D.Ulrich, Young; S-Springer 6, Solliday 2, Hogan, Januszkiewicz, Wright. Assists: ND-D.Ulrich 2, T.Ulrich; S-Powell 4, Banks 3. Saves: ND-Howell 14; S-Mulligan 11.