No. 1 seed Syracuse entered the 2013 NCAA lacrosse tournament with the offense and defense to win the title.
The problem is, Syracuse struggled in faceoffs all season long, ranking 54th out of 63 lacrosse teams in winning percentage (42.4 percent) during the regular season, via NCAA.com, and that came back to bite them in the national championship game against No. 7 seed Duke on Monday.
The Orange won just 9-of-30 faceoffs on Monday en route to a 16-10 loss in Philadelphia, per Syracuse.com.
Despite a 4-0 lead headed into the second quarter, Syracuse's lead had been trimmed down to one at the half, 6-5. In the third quarter, Duke and Brendan Fowler—the tournament's Most Outstanding Player—took control, winning all seven faceoffs en route to five goals in the frame.
Fowler was a nightmare for Syracuse. He won 20-of-28 faceoffs on Monday, mercilessly digging away at the Orange's main weakness as they were gradually worn down.
Duke coach, John Danowski, said after the program's second national title, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
We got in their grills a little bit, we told them they had to play a little tougher and a little harder than they were playing. We slowed our slide down, and start to slow things down on offense.
Were you surprised by Syracuse's loss on Monday?
The loss exemplified how critical faceoffs are in the game of lacrosse. Coming into the tournament, Syracuse ranked 13th in the nation in goals per game and 12th in goals allowed per game, displaying a balanced effort at net. But the beating the Orange received during faceoffs turned the tide of the game on Monday, ceding the majority of possession over to Duke.
You can be formidable in several areas of lacrosse, but losing the faceoff battle time and time again makes it mighty tough to win a championship.
It's that saying again, "Faceoffs win championships."