For two and a half quarters Saturday, Georgetown had defending national champion Syracuse on the ropes. The Hoyas were outplaying the Orangemen and looked well on their way to their first win over the traditional lacrosse powerhouse since 1999.

Then Syracuse showed why it has won two of the last three national championships.

Its offense caught fire, scoring eight unanswered goals in an 11 minute span to take control of the game and emerge with a 12-10 victory before a crowd of 2,186 at Harbin Field. The No. 10 Orangemen improved to 8-5 overall with the win and solidified an at-large berth in the 16-team NCAA Tournament field which will be announced Sunday night. The No. 5 Hoyas fell to 10-3 overall and they closed out the season losing three of their last five games.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Syracuse Head Coach John Desko said. “We were playing with a lot more confidence and today it just flowed.”

The Hoyas still received some good news at the end of the game when they were informed that No. 9 Rutgers had knocked off No. 3 assachusetts by a score of 12-9 in Piscataway, N. J. The win by the Scarlet Knights gives the Hoyas the ECAC Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. It is Georgetown’s third conference title in the last four seasons. The news did not bring all that much consolation, as today’s loss means this year’s senior class will graduate without a much-coveted win over Syracuse.

“I don’t think anyone was too happy on the sidelines,” senior defenseman Brant Gresham said. “We kind of feel like we backed up into it.”

Everything seemed to be going the Hoyas’ way in the first half. They opened up a 6-2 lead late in the second quarter helped by a pair of goals from senior midfielder Trevor Walker. Syracuse cut the deficit to 6-3 at the half on a goal from senior midfielder Liam Banks.

The first half was one of the most impressive all season for the Georgetown defense. Syracuse has not been held to less than 10 goals in a game all season and boasts on its attack line two All-Americans, senior Michael Springer and the 2002 National Player of Year, junior Michael Powell. The two had combined for 52 goals this year entering Saturday’s matchup but the Georgetown defense of Gresham, junior Andrew Braziel, senior Pat Collins and sophomore long stick midfielder Brodie Merrill who was filling in for injured All-American senior Kyle Sweeney held both of the Orangemen’s stars scoreless in the first half.

Georgetown was able to keep things going in the beginning of the third quarter. Junior attackman Neal Goldman scored twice to put Georgetown ahead 8-3 with 8:19 remaining in the third.

But then Syracuse opened the floodgates. Freshman midfielder Greg Rommel got things going with an unassisted goal just 30 seconds after Goldman’s. Later in the quarter, freshman attackman Brian Crockett, Springer and junior attackman Alex Zink each scored within the space of a minute and 36 seconds to bring the Orangemen to within one goal.

Then at the 1:59 mark, Banks scored his second of the goal of the game to tie the score 8-8 for the first time since early in the second quarter. On the ensuing play, Georgetown junior midfielder Walid Hajj forced Syracuse sophomore goalie Jay Pfeifer to turn the ball over in front of his own net. Hajj recovered the ball but fired the shot above the crossbar of the open goal as Georgetown missed a golden opportunity to break Syracuse’s momentum.

Junior attackman Brian Nee scored with 20 seconds left in the quarter to give Syracuse its first lead of the game, a lead they would not relinquish in the final quarter. Powell finally got on the board with two goals in fourth including one on a beautiful behind the back shot which put Syracuse ahead 12-9 with under five minutes remaining in the game and all but sealed the crucial victory for the Orangemen.

“We let them off the hook,” Georgetown Head Coach Dave Urick said. “I’m sure they had a lot to do with that. I think our close defense may have gotten a little tired but overall I was awfully proud of the effort our guys gave. It was our fifth game in 15 days, but we’re not interested in excuses. These kids left it on the field. That’s all you can really ask.”

Georgetown will find out Sunday night who their opponent is in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If it receives a top eight seed, which is a possibility, it will play host to a game either next Saturday or Sunday. If it is seeded ninth or lower, it will go on the road for the first round.

“Right now we just have to put this game behind us and learn from our mistakes,” Collins said. “We’re grateful to have the automatic qualifier.”

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