For one quarter, the Syracuse Orange lacrosse team looked destined to reclaim their rightful crown atop the NCAA Lacrosse Kingdom with ease. Up 4-0 at the end of the first quarter, and up 6-1 shortly-thereafter, concerns over a lack of face-off success were being offset by fantastic play on both offense and defense.
And then the face-off problems simply overwhelmed them. The attackmen might as well have taken a seat on their side of the field and Duke slowly but surely chipped their way back into the game, eventually taking full control in the second half. Aside from a brief run midway through the fourth quarter by the Orange, the Duke Blue Devils absolutely owned the last three quarters of the game, en route to winning 16-10.
It didn't matter who Syracuse put in the face-off circle, Brendan Fowler absolutely owned SU all day. The Devils won the face-off battle 21-9 and basically took the Orange's high-powered offense out of the game. Goalie Dominic Lamolinara started out almost unstoppable in the pipes but the never-ending pressure of Duke's offense was too much.
It's Duke's second national title since 2010. Combined with seven-consecutive Final Fours, they're now the closest thing college lacrosse has to a current dynasty, though any proclamations that they are one already are a bit premature. They'll need to win a few more before they get to that level. With Syracuse and Notre Dame joining the ACC next season, it's going to get harder to do that...for anyone.
For the Orange, the program is at least back where it's supposed to be. Their return to the Final Four puts them back among the elite and their run to the title game justified the No. 1 seed. For a team that lost to Hobart, it turned out to be one hell of a season.
On to the next season and on to the ACC. My only request? Recruit a face-off specialist, already.