Syracuse men's lacrosse coach John Desko did not talk much about his team's title drought during the season. He knew he did not have to.
The Orange return to the final four this weekend for the first time since 2009 when they meet Cornell on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
For the nation's premier program, four years may have felt like an eternity.
"The seniors have been very strong leaders all year long with their team on and off the field," Desko said. "Making good decisions, and they use it as an incentive. They want to leave some of their own legacy."
One of those seniors is Steve Ianzito, who appears likely to play against Denver despite suffering an ankle injury in the quarterfinals. He practiced on Friday at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia.
The defensive midfielder has 38 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.
Ianzito is joined on the back line by senior defender Brian Megill (48 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers) and junior longstick man Matt Harris (47 ground balls, 25 caused turnovers).
The tournament's top seed began the season ranked No. 13 in the coaches' poll and dropped its season opener to visiting Albany.
"Not having three first-team all-Americans coming back to give the ball to, we made some decisions that we were going to have to be a team offensively," Desko said.
And Syracuse responded by winning nine of its next 10 games.
Matt Walters, a sophomore midfielder from the Haverford School, emerged late in the season and returns to Philadelphia with eight goals. He scored once in the team's Big East title win at Villanova and could provide a spark off the bench.
In the other semifinal, Duke's stalwart defense will provide a solid test for Cornell's Rob Pannell.
The Blue Devils, led by Malvern Prep's Billy Conners, allowed 10 goals per game and held opponents to a .291 shooting percentage.
Conners, a senior captain, has 39 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers this season. He was a three-sport standout at Malvern, playing football and basketball along with lacrosse.
Pannell, a senior attack, was named on Friday as the winner of the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award, given to the outstanding men's lacrosse player. He is the fifth player to win the award twice. Pannell has started all 17 games this season and has a team-high 95 points.