SYRACUSE men's lacrosse - one of the nation's most recognized collegiate lacrosse programs - is making its 27th appearance in the Final Four, set for this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.
The top-seeded Orangemen (15-3) defeated Yale, 7-6, in last weekend's quarterfinals and will face fourth-seeded Denver (14-4) in tomorrow's second semifinal.
"We are excited to be back in the championships with only four teams left," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "The whole community is buzzing. Everyone is excited to be back and to have the opportunity again."
As a sophomore, Villanova native and Orangemen midfielder Matt Walters has played a large part in the team's success. Walters played in all 18 games this season, tallying eight goals, eight assists, 16 points on 23 shots.
"I would probably just say it is my hard work that makes me successful," Walters said. "I am always listening to [coach Desko] and I know my role with the team."
A Haverford School product, Walters said it was always his dream to play for Syracuse. Although numerous schools were after his services on the lacrosse field, Walters said once he received his acceptance letter, he knew he was headed to Syracuse to play under Desko.
"Matt is a big presence on the field as he is 6-3; his size really helps him," Desko said. "He has one of the hardest shots in the game and we have been trying to get him on the field more and more."
During his freshman season in 2012, Walters saw time in 10 of 17 games, tallying five goals, two assists and seven points on 12 shots. After a year of practice and growth as a player, Walters finished tied for ninth in scoring on the team this season with his eight goals.
Walters credits much of his success to his hard work and dedication and his ability to listen to instructions from the Syracuse coaching staff.
In the 2012 tournament, Syracuse lost in the first round to third-seeded Duke, 12-9. For this year's tourney, Walters and Desko both have the same mindset - win or go home.
"We have pretty high expectations," Walters said. "Denver is a great team with a great coach."
In the first semifinal tomorrow, unseeded Cornell will face off against seventh-seed Duke.
The semifinal winners will play in the championship Monday.
"I don't think many expected much from Syracuse this year," Desko said. "Looking at our team, I don't think people believed we had a lot of go-to guys. We tend to share the ball and not rely on one person. We get people open and score goals, rather than give it to our best player like most teams. I credit the players for understanding the system."
For the weekend, Desko said he plans to use Walters just as he has all season, as a situational player described as a "zone-buster" with the ability to score in man-to-man situations.
Walters only hopes that this season is a stepping stone for multiple national championships. Coming up short last season, he believes Syracuse has as good a chance as ever to take home the title. The Orangemen own 11 national championships.
"I want to leave [Syracuse] with a couple of national championships," Walters said. "Other than that, I don't have goals to score, just more goals for the team."