Dartmouth opens tournament play against Syracuse

by Christopher LaForgia | 5/9/03 5:00am

The Dartmouth talked with Andrew Goldstein '05, Tom Daniels '04 and Brandon Wright '05 about the men's lacrosse team and the upcoming game against the defending champion Syracuse Orangemen.

The Big Green is coming off its first Ivy League title since 1965 after defeating Harvard 5-4 last Friday night. In this amazing season, the Big Green notched 11 wins, totaling the most in 55 years.

The Dartmouth asked Goldstein and Wright what was the secret to the Big Green's success this year.

Goldstein said, "Our team has enjoyed a lot of success this year, and we would like to think that it comes from all of the hard work we have put in. Our coach keeps reminding us that just because you work real hard doesn't necessarily mean it will turn out like it has for us, but we have caught a few breaks and taken advantage of our opportunities."

Wright added, "The key to success for our team this year has been our will to do whatever it takes. Usually we are not the most skilled group of guys out there, but we can scrap with the best of them. We have a close knit group of guys who have gone through a lot this year and hopefully Sunday we can keep it going."

Goldstein pointed to a comeback 9-8 win over Yale as the turning point of the season.

"Since the second half of the Yale game, our team has played at a high level, forcing our opponents to play up to us or be left behind. Brown and Princeton had to play catch-up and didn't come close, while Harvard played some real solid defense that we were able to overcome. The entire school has given us a lot of support and we have really responded on the field."

The Big Green shared the Ivy League title with Cornell and Princeton leading to a dramatic random draw by league director Jeff Orleans. Dartmouth was the lucky team to get picked out of the hat and thus received the Ivy's automatic bid to national tournament.

Princeton received an at-large bid while Cornell was left out despite a victory over the Big Green this year. This was a very tough break for No.13 ranked Cornell, who had won a share of the Ivy title, but whose season is now over.

On Sunday, No. 12 seed Dartmouth faces No. 5 seed Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Historically, this is a match-up of David vs. Goliath in men's lacrosse as the two squads have very different pasts.

The Big Green has never been to the national tournament and has not had a winning Ivy League record since 1995. In fact, this is the first year in Ivy history that a team went from last to first as Dartmouth did over the span of one year.

On the other side, Syracuse has a storied lacrosse tradition. The Orangemen have won two of the last three national championships, and was the runner up in the other year. In total, Syracuse has won eight national championships.

Syracuse is making its 24th appearance in the tournament, 21 years straight, while Dartmouth is making its first appearance ever. The Orangemen and Big Green have met 22 times with 'Cuse winning 18 of those matchups. The two teams have not met since 1991, when the Orangemen rolled over Dartmouth, 23-7.

But this is not your typical Dartmouth team and may not be the dominant Syracuse team of old. Dartmouth features Ivy rookie of the year, Jamie Coffin '06, three first team all-Ivy selections in sophomores Andrew Goldstein, Ben Grinnell, and Pat Keeley. Tom Daniels '04 made second team all-Ivy as well. The Big Green is rolling into Syracuse with a four-game winning streak including an all-important win over Princeton.

Syracuse looks strong, but maybe not as strong as past years with its 8-5 regular season record.

"They are an extremely talented but streaky team that has history on their side. Nobody is expecting much out of us and hopefully we will use that to our advantage."

Many of the Orangemen losses have been close though, having lost four of their games by one goal and one by two. Their losses include Princeton, UVA, Rutgers, UMass and Hofstra -- all tournament teams. Syracuse has beaten No. 1 Johns Hopkins earlier this season.

Yet, the Orangemen are coming in having lost three of their last four after finishing the season with a 12-10 victory over Georgetown. Syracuse, which has played Princeton in the finals three straight years, may be looking ahead to a possible quarterfinal match-up with Princeton and may not be giving Dartmouth its due credit.

Goldstein said of Syracuse, "It is always tough to play a team of Syracuse's level. They are the defending national champions, so this tournament is theirs to lose. But if you are going to play Syracuse anytime in the tournament, this is as good a time as any. They have had an up and down season and their offense hasn't gotten on the roll we are accustomed to quite yet. We are playing with nothing to lose because we are not expected to be here nor are we expected to even put up a fight. We have been surprising people all season and we are ready for another week of the same."

Goldstein said, "Our locker room is incredibly positive right now. There is a sense among the younger guys that this is the way things are supposed to go, we should win most of our games and compete for the Ivy League championship and advance to the tournament. Hopefully this is the turnaround for the program that the last three or four classes have been working for. It's too bad our seniors last year had to miss this, but everything they did plays a part in our success this year."

Tom Daniels explained the Big Green's plan of attack for this Sunday.

"We plan on attacking 'Cuse using the same offense we have all year. We don't think their defense is as strong as it has been, especially their invert [defense], so we are going to look to attack from behind the net especially."

"We are going to have to score in the double digits to beat these guys cause their offense is too good. We need to stifle Mike Powell as best we can and go from there. We have relied on our D and goalie all year and we have a lot of confidence that they will be able to keep us in the game."

"Our offense has to step up and have another game like Princeton for us to win. I'm sure everyone is a little nervous, but the locker room is definitively full of excitement. We have no pressure on us to win which takes a lot of the nerves out of it. The Carrier Dome is one of the premier environments to play college lacrosse and the whole team can't wait for the experience. It's going to be exciting to say the least and with a little good fortune we know we can win."