Finishing the season with a 9-8 overall record, I suppose the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse team should feel glad to have qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament at all. Of course, anyone who's been a fan of Syracuse lax for more than a year will tell you that such thinking isn't good enough for this program.
So, when we look back on the 2012 season, which ended today with a 12-9 loss to the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, we hope that it's merely another roadbump on the continued road to championships and not the harbinger of parity to come.
The outcome of the game wasn't in doubt once the second half began. The Blue Devils dominated the Orange in the way that most teams have dominated them this season, on face-offs. Duke won 17-of-24 as well as holding a 32-24 edge in ground balls. Clinging to a 5-4 lead at the half, Duke blew the doors off the barn with a six-goal third quarter and never looked back.
Tommy Palasek finished the game with one goal and two assists, giving him at least three points in each of post-season games SU played this year. Meanwhile, JoJo Marasco's 25-game streak of scoring at least one point ended in the loss.
Syracuse will miss the Final Four for the third-consecutive season, something that hadn't previously happened since 1979. Couple that with the missed NCAA Tournament in 2007 and the entire program finds itself in a curious position. It's still among the elite but it feels as though we're "merely" among the elite. There was a time when Syracuse Lacrosse seemed to be above even that level of talent in a class all it's own.
In theory, we've got one season left in the Big East and then it's off to the ACC where we'll play the likes of Duke and Virginia twice, maybe three-times a year. The Syracuse name still means something and I think every program is allowed a bit of a downturn. However, as the sport slowly continues to let parity and competition creep in, it's up to next year's Syracuse team to restore the balance and get us back to the Final Four.