LAKE PLACID — The week-long Summit Lacrosse Tournament wrapped up seven days of action in Lake Placid on Sunday, Aug. 8 as two teams — Rusty Red and Graph Tex — successfully defended their titles in close matches against big-time rivals.
The men’s Master’s Division I championship matchup between Rusty Red and Burnt Orange proved to be an epic — and historic — battle as a combined 20 players in the contest were All-American selections during their collegiate days. And for the second time in as many years, Rusty Red, consisting of Cornell graduates and other college stars and past pros, slipped past the legendary laxmen from Syracuse of Burnt Orange.
Rusty Red took the title a year ago by a two-goal margin over Burnt Orange, and accomplished the feat again in a thrilling 14-13 overtime triumph in front of what was the largest crowd of spectators to ever witness a Summit Lacrosse match in Lake Placid, according to tournament director George Leveille.
Rusty Red claimed the crown, its third straight, despite facing a loaded Burnt Orange roster that featured lacrosse legends, brothers Casey and Ryan Powell.
“This was the marquee match in the 21-year history of the Summit Tournament,” said Saranac Lake’s Bob “Soot” Zatorski. “We thought we had the roster to get it done, but Rusty Red loaded up and did what they needed to win. There were 20 all-Americans out there today, and you only 10 players on the field at a time for each team. It was just incredible. The best of the best were out there today.”
“It was such a great week, and that’s why it was anticlimactic for us the way the game ended,” Zatorski added. “I’m in tears again, believe me. But that’s OK. Last year we lost 12-10 and this year we fell by a goal in overtime. Next year we are coming back to win it.”
Burnt Orange held a 12-10 lead with about five minutes remaining in regulation, but Lindsay Dixson then took over for Rusty Red. Dixon notched three straight goals, including the go-ahead tally with 43 seconds left that put his team on top 13-12. But with 10 seconds on the clock, Tim Burns notched the equalizer for Burnt Orange off a feed from Casey Powell to force overtime. With 3:07 gone in the extra session, Dixon sealed the deal for Rusty Red, getting the game-winner, which was the sixth goal of the match for the team’s most valuable player.
“This is really a dream come true for us,” said Rusty Red captain and Cornell graduate Joe Lizzio. “Winning a game like this, it’s something we won’t forget. Playing our favorite sport, in front of these mountains, in front of our families, our kids and our fans, it doesn’t get any better. Us old guys, we were fortunate to be able to move around enough to get the win.”
Rusty Red finished the tournament with a 3-0 record, while Burnt Orange was 2-1 overall.
Spencer Wright, a 2002 Syracuse graduate, played for Burnt Orange for the first time this year in the tournament.
“This is such a legendary group, and to be asked to play with these guys was quite an honor,” Wright said. “I was really lucky to be a part of this team, and hopefully, they will want me to come back next year.
“It was a tough loss, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else,” Wright added. “We are all Syracuse guys, and we don’t lose very often. We have a saying. ‘When we win, we celebrate. When we lose, we party.’”
In the final contest of the day, Graph Tex edged Power Tek 8-6 to capture the men’s Open Division championship. In a rematch of last year’s Open final, Graph Tex was led by on defense by goalie Patrick Mullen, a former standout player and now a coach at Nazareth College, and attacker Jake Plunkett, who notched a hat trick in the win.
“Both teams played great defense,” Mullen said. “We were pretty evenly matched there, but our push on offense is what pulled us through in this game. There were plenty of guys who could be in the pro ranks on both teams. Winning a championship in a tournament like this is a big deal. We’re all going home happy.”
Leveille said the tournament keeps getting bigger and bigger, and pointed out that the huge crowd that lined the field for the Masters top division game was evidence of its popularity.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” Leveille said. “The fans were four or five deep up and down the field. I heard a suggestion that we should get some bleachers for next year. That’s something we might have to do.”
Leveille said about 3,000 lacrosse players competed in the tournament this summer, and noted the biggest increase was in the youth divisions. The 2009 Summit marked the introduction of the youth divisions and featured 17 squads. That number doubled this year, and Leveille said there may even be more teams next summer. Overall, teams battled for championships in a dozen divisions at this year’s Summit Lacrosse Tournament, which ran for seven days.
“Bringing in the young players was a huge step for us,” Leveille said. “It was another incredible year. Everybody was smiling, the weather was wonderful, and really, you can’t find a better environment for an event like this. Lake Placid and lacrosse were made for each other.”
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Spectators, four to five deep, ring the field to watch players from Rusty Red and Burnt Orange battle it out in the Men’s Masters Division I championship game at the Summit Lacrosse Tournament in Lake Placid. The crowd was the largest ever to witness a match at the tournament, which celebrated its 21st summer in the Olympic Village.