If you didn't watch the NCAA men's lacrosse championship on Monday, you missed a prime example of why lacrosse is the best up-and-coming sport in America.
In an epic display of perseverance and resilience, the top-seeded Syracuse Orange battled back from a three goal deficit with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to defeat fifth-ranked in-state rival Cornell by a single goal.
In a rematch of their Apr. 7 victory over the Big Red at the Carrier Dome, the defending national champion Orange fell behind early, ending the first quarter on the wrong end of a 3-2 tally.
They failed to gain the lead at halftime, falling even farther behind at 6-4.
Cornell's dynamic senior midfield combination of Max Seibald and Jon Glynn helped them stretch their early lead, combining to rack up four goals and two assists in the first half alone.
Senior goalie Jake Myers played well between the pipes, most notably at the end of the first half when he made a key save that kept possession for Cornell going into the second half.
Each side scored once in the third quarter, but it was almost more: A second Syracuse goal by sophomore attack-man Stephen Keough was waved off after a controversial crease violation.
The final period of regulation saw Cornell control the speed of the game while using a clock-eating possession-based offense, scoring two goals and extending their lead to 9-6.
Considering the snail's pace of the action, Jeff Tambroni's squad seemed poised to win their first national championship in any sport since 1977.
But Big Red would not score again.
Overcoming a serious second-half scoring drought up to that point, Syracuse started a comeback beginning at the 5:31 mark of the fourth with a goal from Keough.
Fifty-one seconds later, junior attacker Cody Jamieson brought the Orange within one.
With 1:30 left, Syracuse coach John Desko called timeout to set up a last-ditch attempt to save his team's season.
The Orange won the face-off and took possession of the ball in the restraining box, continuing to move the ball in search of open shooting opportunities. With under 30 seconds remaining, an Orange pass missed its intended target and the ball rolled out of bounds, giving Cornell possession and seemingly adding the last nail to Syracuse's coffin.
On the restart, Myers passed to senior defenseman Matt Moyer on the near side. Moyer continued up the sideline but was pressured by the Syracuse midfield and was unable to move the ball into Cornell's offensive half.
Moyer changed direction, running to the center of the field looking for a receiver for an outlet pass.
As Moyer reached midfield, he was checked by a Syracuse player and lost possession of the ball with the clock ticking under twenty seconds. In the scramble for the ground ball that followed, Keough gained possession with ten seconds remaining.
As the clock wound down, Keough made a blind over-the-shoulder heave from the scrum to senior middie Matt Abbott, who forwarded it to a waiting Kenny Nims.
Nims, the Orange's senior leader on attack and the nation's leading scorer, had been held without a point for the entire game.
With one flick of the stick, Nims sent Gillette Stadium and all of upstate New York into utter pandemonium, netting the equalizer with just four seconds to go.
The ensuing face-off was uneventful.
The national championship would be decided in a four-minute sudden death overtime.
In the extra period, Syracuse lost the face-off, but the defense managed to take the ball from Cornell and set up in their offensive zone. Just under 90 seconds into OT, Jamieson received a pass just outside the far post of the Cornell goal and slung a low shot past Myers for the game-winner, his eighth goal of the postseason.
The championship, Syracuse's 10th all-time (the most in the NCAA), is an appropriate culmination for the Orange's seniors.
Nims and fellow seniors Dan Hardy and Pat Perritt were the top recruits in the country in 2005, and they have not disappointed, winning consecutive championships for the storied program.
See highlights of the Syracuse comeback here.
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