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Friday, May 24, 2013

Heading to NCAA Men's Lacrosse Semis in Philadelphia

In 1992, I recall going to a Phillies-Reds game at Veterans Stadium on Memorial Day weekend.  It was Saturday, we had friends in from out of town, and we went to Pat's Steaks at 9th and Passyunk (which the locals call "Pash-yunk").  It was about 90 degrees, we ate cheesteaks "with" on the metal tables cemented into the side walk, caught the local vibe and then headed to the Vet, where the Reds pounded the Phillies.  In '92, Dutch Daulton, Nails Dykstra and company looked much more mortal than they did the following year.

The following Monday, we woke up to a 63 degree day, a mist, and the first time Princeton had made the NCAA finals.  They were playing perennial power North Carolina.  Both the Tigers and the Tar Heels won high scoring games the previous Saturday.  I think one beat Hopkins and the other Syracuse, but I cannot remember for sure.  We decided to go, as the game was at Penn's Franklin Field, sat in the end zone on the East End of the stadium, watched the underdog Tigers race out to a 9-1 lead, only to have Carolina tie the game.  It ended up going into double overtime, when the Princeton faceoff man won the faceoff, scooped up the ball, sprinted downfield toward the goal, virtuallly unguarded, and scored the game winning goal. 

Sudden death for the Heels.

The birth of the legend of Bill Tierney, who came to Princeton after spending years as a Hopkins assistant.  His first of 6 national titles.

Fast forward to 2006, when the finals were also held at the Linc.  Again, a scorcher of a day, about 93 degrees, and UVA manhandled a game but undergunned UMass squad to win the title.  Memorable about that day was that they were out of kid-sized commemorative t-shirts, with the result that I bought an adult small for my then 9 year-old daughter.  It just began to fit her last year. 

Tomorrow are the semis, pitting unseeded yet very dangerous Cornell against Duke (with roughly 10 Philadelphia-area players on its squad) and then Tierney's Denver squad against a Syracuse team that was fortunate to hold off Yale last weekend (about as fortunate as Denver was to overcome a big Carolina lead at the half in the final minutes to earn the win and berth in the national semis).

The weather might hit 60, the rain should abate by the 2:30 start time, and the excitement should be there.  The Linc is easy to get to from the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions, which remain the hotbed for lacrosse.  Twenty years ago and more, the three major areas were New York's Central Valley (near Syracuse), Long Island and Baltimore.  Those areas remain strong, but other areas have emerged, including the Philadelphia area, northern New Jersey and others.  My guess is that Duke will be favored over Cornell and Syracuse over Denver, but my pick is for a Cornell-Denver final with Cornell and its magical Rob Pannell winning the national title.  Denver will have to ensure that it doesn't fall behind the way it did to Carolina last week, because comebacks like the one they pulled off are hard to repeat.  And Cornell has to ensure that it's the team that beat Maryland and Ohio State in the tournament, and not the team that lost to Princeton in the Ivy semis by a goal about four weeks ago.  The bet here is that Cornell has the goods and the momentum, and that Bill Tierney is getting his Denver squad closer to a national title. 

It should be a great day at the national semis -- and this time there should be enough t-shirts that fit.


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