By Chris Stearns -- Today correspondent
FOXBORO, Mass. - Sidney Smith's smothering defense helped the Syracuse University men's lacrosse team win the NCAA Division I lacrosse championship by beating Johns Hopkins University by a score of 13 - 10. The Syracuse Orange claimed a record 10th national title May 26 in front of a crowd of 48,970 fans at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
The Orange were not favored to win the tournament, having come off a 5 - 8 season in 2007 when they did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.
One big reason for the Orange's dramatic turnaround this year was the arrival of Smith, an Iroquois from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada. The 21-year-old transferred from Onondaga Community College to Syracuse as a junior last fall. This season, Smith helped anchor a Syracuse team that went 16 - 2. Smith was named an Honorable All-American this year by the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association.
Over the course of the NCAA championship weekend, Smith showed why he has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best defensemen in the country by holding two of the nation's best offensive players, Ben Rubeor of the University of Virginia and Kevin Huntley of Johns Hopkins, to just two goals and one assist. Smith earned All-Tournament honors for his efforts. The Syracuse defense held the Johns Hopkins power play offense to just one goal out of five chances. The Orange defense also shut down the Hopkins offense for a critical 12-minute stretch in the second half, during which Syracuse turned a one-goal lead into an insurmountable five-goal advantage.
Smith's lacrosse achievements are extensive. He played for the Iroquois Nationals at the 2006 World Outdoor and Indoor Championships and captained the Six Nations Arrows Express team to the 2007 Minto Cup title, the Canadian junior men's lacrosse championship. In 2006, he won the Tom Longboat award as the Outstanding Male Aboriginal Athlete in Canada. In 2007, he won the Gus McCauley Trophy as the Ontario Junior ''A'' League's Defender of the Year. In 2006, Smith led the Onondaga Community College men's team to the national Junior College Championship and a perfect season. Smith was named to the 2006 NJCAA All-America First Team for his defense.
Lacrosse is considered the most popular Native sport in the world and is the oldest game played in North America. Today's field game most closely resembles the games invented and practiced by tribes of the Northeast, including the Iroquois, while other tribes ranging from the Southeast to the Great Lakes play related games.