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The 2008 Lacrosse Season In Review - Part 2

The success of the Orange was clearly tied to their specialist, Danny Brennan.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three part review of the historic 2008 Syracuse Lacrosse season. Part one focused on the first half of the regular season, part two focuses on the second half of the regular season, and part three will focus on the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned for part three coming soon. Part one can be found here.

The second half of the season saw a lot of ups and rarely a down. By this point in the year Syracuse had achieved a benchmark not seen since 2004; a #1 ranking. Syracuse at the start of April had a record of 7-1, Virginia being the only blemish on an otherwise stellar season.

It was only fitting that Syracuse would play longtime rival Princeton next, a team that, of course, beat them the previous year. A rival game for Syracuse, the exploits of these two teams could not be better illustrated than the 2000, 2001, and 2002 National Championship games. Syracuse won in 2000 and 2002, but lost in overtime in 2001 to Princeton. These were some very exciting finals and after that overtime loss, Syracuse and Princeton were rivals from then on. Both Brendan Loftus and Steven Brooks contributed three goals, but it was Brooks that had a complete day with three assists as well. Danny Brennan was almost unstoppable as well as he won 15 of 21 face offs. Clearly as the competition got harder, DBren became a more important piece of the puzzle for the ’08 Orange. Syracuse beat Princeton 13-6.

Syracuse’s next stop on the ’08 Revenge Tour would be familiar territory for Syracuse. It would be a measly hour away, traveling down I-81 to Cortland, and then a trip on Route 13 to Ithaca, New York to take on Cornell. The ‘Cuse lost to the Big Red the year before in the Dome 16 to 15, while Cornell had the #1 next to its name. This year the tables were turned in relation to that #1 and Syracuse looked to enact revenge from the previous year’s result. Cornell was not a shabby team either, sporting a #5 ranking. Both teams were also 8-1 on the year at this point. Mike Leveille would be the leader in this game, as he ripped off five goals and an assist. Cornell was not even close to competing in this game as Syracuse won 15-8. The interesting statistic from this game were that there were 19 total penalties, 16 of which gave a man advantage to one team or the other, and Syracuse was able to convert on four of ten, while Cornell was unable to score on any of the six man advantages they had.

The Orange then traveled south to the Garden State to take on future Big East opponent Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Dan Hardy finally had a break out game, scoring four goals and an assist. Mike Leveille again had three goals and three assists. Danny Brennan again had a stellar day, earning 16 of 22 face offs. Syracuse would cruise to another win beating Rutgers 17-9.

Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome to play Upstate rival Albany. The Great Danes previously were ranked as high as #2 last year, but this year was not as kind to Albany. Sporting a record of 5-6 entering the contest, Albany looked to possibly save some face and play the still top ranked Orange hard. Alas, Syracuse would emerge victorious again by a score of 10-5. Leveille again led the Orange in scoring with three goals.

The year’s final home game rolled around against a foe that has certainly emerged in the last few years as a hated rival of Syracuse on the lacrosse field; Massachusetts. UMass entered the Dome much like Albany. They were just not as good as the year before. Syracuse traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts the previous year only to lose to UMass 9-7, assuring that they would not earn an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1982. This year Syracuse exacted its revenge with seemingly no mercy. Syracuse beat UMass 16-3. Mike Leveille and Steven Brooks again each had three goals. Leveille also had three assists. Danny Brennan, after injuring one of his legs, rested most of the game, after he won two out of three. The question would be how effective could Brennan be the rest of the season? Syracuse, like in many of their games, outshot their opponent by a wide margin. In this case Syracuse took 42 shots compared to UMass’ 21. UMass would be vanquished as just another opponent to fall victim to Syracuse’s renewed commitment to winning.

The final game of the regular season would be interesting. After ten straight wins Syracuse would travel to Colgate, just east on the New York State Thruway, to Hamilton, New York. Four players would have two goals for the Orange, but it would not be enough without the services of Danny Brennan. Sidelined due to injury, and an at large bid for the NCAA Tournament locked up weeks ago, Syracuse rested their specialist and that was clearly the difference in a Colgate win. Syracuse would come up just short by a score of 12 to 11. Syracuse again greatly outshot Colgate 40 to 26, but again Colgate was the better team. Syracuse had an excellent fourth quarter, but it was not enough to overcome a bad third quarter in which Syracuse was outscored five to one.

Because of the loss, Syracuse would lose its #1 ranking, but it mattered little to the Orange as they had already punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. They earned a #3 seed and looked to get back to the Final Four, this time in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The questions on everyone’s minds clearly were would Danny Brennan be ready for the NCAA Tournament, and was this regular season how Syracuse would perform in the Tournament, or would they choke and not close the deal when they needed to? Syracuse had at least two games before the Final Four, and they would certainly not be cake walks, not to mention the test they would find if they managed to make it to Foxborough.

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