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Can The Final Four Streak Begin Anew?

Between 1983 and 2004, Syracuse lacrosse made it to the Final Four every single season.  That's 22 times in a row.  TWENTY-TWO FINAL FOURS IN A ROW.

In 2005, that streak ended when the Orange lost to UMass in the first round.  The Orange returned in 2006 but then missed the tournament altogether in 2007.  Last year, the WON THE NATIONAL TITLE.  And now, the Orange have a chance to kickstart a new Final Four streak into existance.  The road begins this Sunday when the Siena Saints come a-callin'.

The top-ranked Orange received the No. 2 seed in the 2009 NCAA Championship and will begin postseason play against MAAC champion Siena in the Carrier Dome at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 10. The game will mark the first meeting between the two schools on the lacrosse field. Syracuse earned the tournament’s second seed on the strength of a 12-2 regular season and the Orange is currently riding a five-game winning streak. The Saints are making their first trip to the postseason. They are 12-5 overall.

For the Saints, MAAC Rookie of the Year Bryan Neufeld is their biggest threat. Neufeld has 50 points, including 37 goals, this season. Junior attackman Jordan Loftus is second on the team with 41 points and is the younger brother of former SU player Brendan Loftus, who graduated last year.

For the Orange, three players that will have a critical impact on the game and the post-season are Matt Abbott Kenny Nims and Cody Jamieson. 

Abbot is SU's lone Tewaaraton Trophy candidate and it's due to his all-around ability that canot be summed up in just stats:

On the field, Abbott is recognized as one of the game's best all-around players. He plays on SU's first midfield line but also plays defense, man-down defense and wing on the faceoff. His ability to clear the ball is unparalleled.

Nims is SU's leading point-getter and he also leads the nation in scoring with a 4.21 points per game average.  He has 59 points and 35 assists, and that also gives him the third best assist average in the nation.

As for Jamieson, his statline doesn't leave much to the imagination with only one goal on the season.  But since he joined the team two games ago, his potential has given the Orange a fresh breath going into the tournament.  If Jamieson can find his groove in the next week or two, he'll give the Orange a weapon that teams like Princeton, Virginia and anyone else they played earlier this year never saw.  For Coach Desko, it's all about finding the space for Jamieson in a packed attach line-up:

"I want to get him out there as much as possible to see what he can do in a game situation," Desko said. "I think he's had some moments. We've used three guys in that position, and we came out with four goals and an assist last game using those three guys. So it's kind of difficult to just throw him out there and forget about the other guys.

If they win this weekend, the Orange will head to Hofstra where they will await the winner of Notre Dame-Maryland.  One brings historical pedigree while the other is undefeated, but even so, the Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston says it might not matter either way:

It doesn't make a difference which team wins.

Because of their lightweight schedule, the unbeaten Fighting Irish (15-0) are unpredictable and unproven. As for the Terps (9-6), they have underachieved most of the season, having stumbled in recent weeks after losing a seven-overtime thriller to Virginia. Maryland was also ousted in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by North Carolina, which had previously lost 12 straight in the event.

One step at a time, of course.  But all signs point to the Orange being one-win away from a 2nd straight Final Four.  It's not 22 in a row, but it's a start.