Commentary

Experiencing the lacrosse championship

Originally Published: May 25, 2009
By Alisha Ricardi | ESPN.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Editor's note: Alisha Ricardi blogged live from the 2009 men's lacrosse national championship at Gillette Stadium.

4:42 p.m.: A few things to wrap things up here at Gillette. The All-Tournament team consists of five Syracuse players and five Cornell players (go figure). In alphabetical order:

[+] EnlargeCornell Big Red menís lacrosse
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.comEveryone wanted to shake hands with Most Outstanding Player Kenny Nims.

Matt Abbott, Syracuse, Senior, Midfield
John Glynn, Cornell, Senior, Midfield
Ryan Hurley, Cornell, Junior, Attack
Cody Jamieson, Syracuse, Junior, Attack
Matt Moyer, Cornell, Senior, Defense
Kenny Nims, Syracuse, Senior, Attack
Rob Pannell, Cornell, Freshman, Attack
Pat Perritt, Syracuse, Senior, Midfield
Max Seibald, Cornell, Senior, Midfield
Joel White, Syracuse, Sophomore, Longstick Midfield

Nims was named the Most Outstanding Player.

A few stats for the road, as well:

• Glynn led all scorers with three goals and two assists for five points.

• Jamieson led Syracuse in scoring with two goals -- his most important being the game winner. He also had one assist.

• Syracuse goalie John Galloway and Cornell goalie Jake Myers tied with 10 saves on the game -- each had zero saves in OT.

• Cornell had six extra-man opportunies, as opposed to Syracuse's one, but the Big Red converted only once (in the second quarter).

Thanks for tuning in during the long weekend. If you missed any of the games, you can always check the ESPN networks for replays (or watch it on ESPN360.com). And remember -- the 2010 championship is only 365 days away.

I'll leave you with a quote from Nims after the game:

"This is our time of year. Simply put. This is why we go to Syracuse. The tradition of our program is extremely rich. This is what we've been waiting for all year, and this is our time."

4:08 p.m.: I went down to the field to catch Syracuse hanging around the fans before the players headed into the locker room. Man, those Orange fans are intense.

Besides hovering over the edge of the stands to seemingly get as close to the team as possible, a lot of kids were shouting to get the guys to throw them any piece of equipment they could see.

"C'mon, you have two lacrosse sticks, can't I just have one!?"

"Just throw me one of those pads!"

It was pretty entertaining. And really, can you blame them? After that kind of showing to come away with the title, any casual Syracuse lacrosse fan would instantly become a die-hard.

The players were spending most of their postgame time on the field talking to the media and giving one another bear hugs. But they did get up to the fan base for some high fives and to throw fans some equipment (no, not the lacrosse sticks), as requested.

There were lots of calls for Kenny Nims, but, not surprisingly, he was tied up with interviews. Cameras and reporters and photographers covered the inches in between Syracuse teammates until finally the players dispersed to their locker room (where even more media awaits them).

3:42 p.m.: After the team addressed its huge crowd of fans, a few players moved over to Cornell's goal to take down the net.

[+] EnlargeCornell Big Red menís lacrosse
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.comYou could feel Cornell's confidence on the field in the third quarter.

3:38 p.m.: The Orange, wearing their champion hats and T-shirts, were just given the championship trophy and posed for cameras before taking their new hardware over toward their fans and making their way around the stadium for the victory lap.

3:31 p.m.: This place is still on its feet as the Syracuse fans crowd up against the edge of the stands and Cornell's fans await their team.

3:28 p.m.: Cody Jamieson scores for Syracuse and that's the game. Cuse defends its championship, and they're going crazy down on the field.

That was absolute insanity. Talk about an instant classic.

The crowd went nuts as the Orange stormed the field, running toward their net into a big, jumping huddle. Orange gear is all over the field as Syracuse runs around celebrating.

Cornell, meanwhile, walked straight to their goal, gathered there and then walked through the Syracuse celebration to their sideline, where they're now huddled.

3:27 p.m.: The entire stadium is on its feet -- all 41,000 people. I've never seen anything like this in person.

3:24 p.m.: Overtime, baby! Did I call that or what?

Neither Syracuse nor Cornell has played overtime this season. Might as well make the first of the year the most pressure-filled one possible.

3:21 p.m.: And Kenny Nims scores off a backwards heave from Matt Abbott with 4.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game! Timeout Cornell.

I'm psychic.

3:20 p.m.: Another missed opportunity with an overthrown pass behind Cornell's net with 30 seconds to go.

3:16 p.m.: Syracuse just missed some serious chances right in front of the Cornell net with 2 minutes to go.

But here comes Matt Abbott grabbing a loose ball at Syracuse's end and bringing it back to the other end of the field. … Timeout.

3:11 p.m.: Stephen Keogh just scored off an assist from Dan Hardy to make the score 9-7 Cornell with just about 3 minutes to go.

[+] EnlargeGillette Stadium
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.comNot a bad view from the second-level seats.

I'm a big fan of overtime, so I wouldn't mind seeing something happen like what did in the 2001 championship I mentioned earlier, when Mike Powell took it to the net with 16 seconds to go to throw the game against Princeton into OT.

Whoa, did they hear me typing again? Syracuse goal by Cody Jamieson from Josh Amidon to make it 9-8 ...

3:02: Just heard the attendance for today's game: 41,935. That's the sixth largest attendance ever for a men's lacrosse championship game.

2:58 p.m.: I just went down to the field and I was hearing a lot of "Let's Go Red!" cheers. But one thing's for sure -- when Syracuse fans don't like a call, they let you know it. Plenty of boos were coming from the people in orange after a few different plays in the third quarter.

Syracuse also quickly scored two goals to muzzle the Cornell fans for a bit and give theirs something to cheer about. After the second, to put Syracuse within one goal of Cornell with 12½ minutes to go, the stadium erupted with "Let's Go Orange!"

2:21 p.m.: I expected more at halftime but that cow-bear show was about it. Some quick first-half stats as the teams re-emerge from the locker rooms and fans mill about.

Shots: Cornell 23, Syracuse 18.
Ground balls: Cornell 15, Syracuse 14
Faceoffs: Syracuse 7, Cornell 5
Saves: Cornell 6, Syracuse 5
Turnovers: Cornell 6, Syracuse 6

This is still a close game and the clock is winding down for halftime. Here we go again.

2:08 p.m.: It's halftime here at Gillette Stadium, and Cornell leads 6-4.

As for halftime activities, a polar bear mascot and a cow mascot (think Coca-Cola and Chik-Fil-A) are standing in nets right now as two kids compete to dress in lacrosse gear and race down the field to their respective goals. First kid to make a goal wins. And ... the cow-side kid gets it!

[+] EnlargeBall Boys
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.com.The ball boys might have the best seat in the house. (If only they could stay focused on the game.)

The other kid was slower, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say the polar bear was just the better goalie.

1:29 p.m.: It's all tied up here as Greg Niewieroski just scored for Cuse to make it 2-2.

I'm going to head down to the stands soon and check in again around halftime.

1:25 p.m.: It's like they heard my typing: Chris Daniello just took a rebound off an Orange shot, took the ball around the next and scored for Syracuse.

1:22 p.m.: Cornell is off to a quick start, as John Glynn has scored twice to put the Big Red up 2-0 with 7½ minutes to go in the first quarter. Cuse needs to get by a Big Red defense that's looking stingy right now if the Orange want to get in the game.

Both Cornell's and Syracuse's fan sections are looking just as impressive as they did Saturday, filling up their respective sections directly across the stadium from each other.

1:10 p.m.: When the military pulled out the flag for the national anthem, I thought it was crooked at first. It ended up being in the shape of the country, which just goes to show that I wasn't a geography major.

Here we go, people. The game is about to begin. Starters for each team stood across from each other at center field before shaking hands and separating to their respective positions.

The ball is down for faceoff ... and the game is off.

1:05 p.m.: The starting lineups were just announced and now the teams are on their respective sidelines while a highlight package plays on the big screen. (I love highlight packages, by the way. Does anyone else get chills?) There's a massive -- seriously, massive -- flag being held by military members directly in front of the teams. It nearly spans the entire length of both teams on the sideline.

[+] EnlargeCornell Big Red menís lacrosse
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.com.Cornell stretched in unison while Syracuse took shots on goal on the other half of the field.

12:44 p.m.: Welcome back, Cornell band! The Big Red just took the field, and as they ran into a wide circle, the band starting playing its usual "Give My Regards To Davy" rendition.

Then Max Seibald took center circle to address the team. Obviously I can't hear what he was saying, but let's just say he looked p-u-m-p-e-d. Feet jumping, head bobbing and fists pumping. Then the team swarmed Seibald and broke off into their warm up.

Less than 15 minutes 'til face off.

12:33 p.m.: Syracuse just took the field for their official warmup with 30 minutes to go before gametime. I talked to one of the Orange's sports information directors who had seen the team earlier today, and he said they were loose and ready to go.

Most of these guys have been on this stage before, so they know what to expect and what they need to do to win.

[+] EnlargeGillette Stadium
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.com.Big Red fans showed up big time.

12:07 p.m.: I couldn't find a sign for Lot 22, so I just followed the crowds of red shirts into the big fan zone next to Patriot Place. I couldn't tell if I was in the right place ... and then I saw it.

Red. Everywhere.

Sorry Cuse fans, Cornell outdid you this time. I've never seen so much red at once. Red shirts, red hats, red flags -- do the red tops of the grills count? It was tough to even move in there, and it was quite a wide space.

I moved on to pass the fan zone on my way back to the stadium. It's a cool setup there, too. There was a good mix of orange and red to go along with another band (the one at the main entrance was all military, in their camo, doing cover songs, but I didn't get a close look at the fan zone one), games, promotional tents and lots of blow-up structures.

On a side note, the weather really couldn't be any more perfect. Still barely any clouds, lots of sun and it's hot, but not too hot.

11:25 a.m.: Boy, does the air out there smell good. I seriously considered ditching work to have something off the grill and grab a spot in one of those mini-lax games. Clearly, I chickened out. Afterall, there were Cornell fans to be found.

[+] EnlargeJake Donohue
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.com.Jake Donohue gets a thumbs-up for chill tailgating digs.

Once I got away from the main entrance and closer to Patriot Place, the shopping area surrounding the back end of the stadium, I started seeing the red. But before I got to Lot 22, I stopped by Lot 20 to check out a few of the fans there.

I found what has tied with the luau tent as my favorite fan setup: the back of an SUV laden with a Cornell sweatshirt and square flag, topped with a few trinkets. Coolers, lacrosse sticks and a sweet hand drum in front finished off the look. It was simple and relaxed -- the perfect tailgating setup.

I have to give a shoutout to the group from Barrington, R.I., just next door to that setup because they offered me ribs and water. I didn't have any for fear of making a serious mess of myself with that sauce, but hey -- it's the thought that counts.

11:09 a.m.: The first thing I thought to myself when I got to the tailgaters was, "Where the heck are all the Cornell fans?" Syracuse is beyond well-represented in the front parking lots, flags waving and orange shirts everywhere. There are a couple of aisles that are just stacked with fans -- tailgating centrals for the Cuse supporters.

I found one aisle that was bumping with activity. Older fans were cooking and mingling, young adults were enjoying a beverage or two and little kids were playing lax among it all. There was even an impressive spread under a luau-like tent (at least that's what it looked like to me).

I tried to find a few Cornell fans here and there to ask were the rest where, but most of who I saw were scattered among their Orange-fan friends and had no clue were the rest of their contingent was. Luckily, I ran into three guys wearing red who told me they were stationed on the other side of the stadium with the majority of the Big Red fans.

[+] EnlargeTailgate
Alisha Ricardi for ESPN.com.Cuse fans made me hungry.

The guys told me to go to Lot 22, so that's where I'm heading now to see what Cornell side has to offer.

10:21 a.m.: The Championship Weekend house band was going strong when I walked out of the stadium and into the main entrance area, but I don't think anyone really noticed.

Most people were milling around with their lacrosse sticks, while a few folks were buying their tickets. That's one plus of going to an event this size in a stadium built for one of the top-selling NFL programs -- there will always be tickets to buy. (By the way, ever been inside an empty NFL stadium? It feels ... reeeeally empty.) It makes me wonder why there are even scalpers gracing the parking lots -- how much easier is it to just go to the ticket booth than deal with some guy who has X number of seats in this level for that price?

Pick-up games are in full swing in every part of the lots -- in open space, down the aisles of tailgaters and squeezed in between cars. It's mostly little kids and teenagers playing lacrosse because all the adults are busing with other games. Besides the usual cornhole, I saw some crazy contraption that had two blocks of wood, each with three holes, separated by rope. The player stands on one block and tosses rings into the other block's holes. Never seen that one before, but then again, a friend of mine was amazed I didn't know about the three-rung game some Duke fans were playing Saturday.

9:36 a.m.: Just getting set up here at Gillette and let me tell you -- it is a gorgeous day. Nothing at all like the start to Saturday's semifinals. Clear blue skies and sunshine are blanketing the stadium.

Hopefully the weather is foreshadowing what should be an awesome national championship game, as Cornell and Syracuse get themselves amped to duke it out.

To get myself amped for today's game, I caught the end of the 2001 national championship matchup on ESPN Classic yesterday. When I tuned in, Syracuse's Mike Powell had come through in the clutch against Princeton and tied the game up at 9-9 with 16 seconds to go in regulation. The ensuing overtime was pretty ridiculous -- especially the final two minutes. It was a fully charged, turnover-crazy period, and neither team looked ready to let up.

Then, with less than a minute and a half left in overtime, Powell was suddenly on the ground with a right leg cramp and taken off the field. With 44 seconds remaining, Princeton scored the game-winner. Celebration erupted, and Bill Tierney was even kneeling on the field crying. It was a great moment.

So needless to say, I'm ready to get out into the action here. There weren't as many people in the parking lots when I drove in around 9 a.m., but plenty of early risers considering the game doesn't start until 1 p.m. (check it out live on ESPN).

Same as with the semifinals blog, if you have any questions or anything you'd like me to go check out, e-mail me at espn.ar@gmail.com.