22 and Through

Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 by John Desko

Amherst, Mass. - One of the more remarkable streaks in college athletics ended in gloomy, gray daylight Sunday as Massachusetts cowbells clanged and the Syracuse Orange trudged off a lacrosse field for the final time until next season.

SU lost to UMass 16-15 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as spectators hogged every open space around Garber Field to witness the end of an era. The Orange, which had made Memorial Day plans to be in the city where the Division I final four had been held for 22 seasons, will spend the 2005 championship weekend doing something no SU player has done since 1982.

It will watch as four other teams compete for a national championship.

"It's disappointing," said SU coach John Desko. "But to go there 22 years in a row is certainly special. And we probably come out of a game like this with more of an appreciation of the past and of the tradition."

The game unfolded like so many other Orange contests this season. SU played nine games that were settled by two or fewer goals this year. On Sunday, it was again immersed in a close, anxious affair that made every faceoff, every shot, every save a reason to exhale.

And like it had two weeks ago on this very field, SU

stormed back from a fourth-quarter deficit, this one a 14-11 hole with 13 minutes, 58 seconds left in the game. UMass had shredded the Orange defense with opportune cuts, precision passes and relentless shooting all afternoon.

Orange goalie Jay Pfeifer, so brilliant in compiling a 9-1 NCAA Tournament record, struggled Sunday against all those UMass cutters and shooters. Jeff Zywicki scored six times, with a couple of those shots coming on Houdini-like contortions on or near the crease. His last goal came at the 6:03 mark, when he dropped to his knees and shoveled the ball beneath Pfeifer's stick.

"I guess I saved my worst game for my last," said Pfeifer, his eyes bleary, his eye black coating his cheeks. "I didn't play well. The defense never really got comfortable. They were shooting pretty well, but I don't know."

He glanced away and shook his head.

Click Here for rest of story