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The Cornell lacrosse team won its 29th straight game and its second consecutive NCAA championship Saturday, unleashing an awesome first-half barrage and going on to rout Johns Hopkins, 16-8.
The 11,340 lacrosse faithfuls who converged on the University of Virginia's Scott Stadium for the title duel were looking forward to a delicious replay of the nail-biting squeaker the two squads staged during the regular season, a game the Big Red won with a second-half rally, 12-11.
Instead Cornell stunned the crowd, roaring to a 9-0 advantage, and finishing the game for all intents and purposes long before half time. When attackman Eamon McEneaney, the top player in the country, fed a pass to Reilly MacDonald all alone on the goalie's doorstep for tally number six, he broke the record for most points in one NCAA tournament.
The old record was set just last spring by the since-graduated Mike French, who garnered 20 post-season points to lead Cornell to last year's title. McEneaney added three more points later in Saturday's game to finish with 24 in the Big Red's three post-season triumphs.
The superb stickman scored the first goal against Hopkins and finished his final afternoon of college competition with a hat trick and four assists. Sophomore Tommy Marino, whose older brother Billy was an All-American on last year's championship squad, supported McEneaney with three goals.
Meanwhile, Cornell's ironclad defense held the Blue Jays two big guns, attackmen Mike O'Neill and Rich Hirsch, to just one goal apiece.
The shell-shocked Jays finally got on the scoreboard late in the half, but the Big Red connected again and held a 10-1 advantage at the half.
No half-time lead is completely safe, considering the kind of explosive lacrosse that has been played in recent years. For example, Cornell trailed Hopkins, 7-1, in that regular season game they eventually won, and trailed Maryland at the half in last year's final, 7-2, before rallying for a 12-10 lead and, eventually, a 16-13 triumph in overtime.
But if the Blue Jays had any chance at all at the half, it was gone after the third quarter, when the Big Red had pushed the lead to 14-3. Hopkins did break through five times in the final stanza, but it is doubtful that anyone was paying attention by then. Cornell's eventual 16-8 margin was the most lop-sided in the seven-year history of the NCAA final.
With the victory, the Ivy League champions became the first team to take three titles and the first team to win back-to-back crowns since the NCAA held its first tournament in 1971. Back in the days when the champion was selected on the basis of regular season records, Navy won eight straight titles starting in 1960, sharing the crown twice, but winning five straight outright starting in 1962.
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