Experiencing the lacrosse semifinals

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Editor's note: Alisha Ricardi blogged live from the 2009 men's lacrosse national semifinals on May 23 at Gillette Stadium.

5:14 p.m.: Cornell charged the field as time expired in its 15-6 win over Virginia to close out the semifinals. After a team huddle, they sprinted across the field to their enthusiatic fans, lining up and giving a sort of bow with their sticks.

The Cavs are clearly disappointed -- I can tell even looking at them from way up in the press box. Heads were hanging low as the teams shuffled into a huddle on the field.

This was definitely an unexpected outcome -- far more lopsided on Cornell's end than I ever would've thought. Rob Pannell's hat trick led the Big Red -- he finished with three goals and three assists.

Official attendance for the semifinals is 36,574 -- not as big as last year, but considering the economy, it's a good number. Hopefully most of that crowd returns Monday, because if Cornell plays against Syracuse the way it did against Virginia, we could see one heck of a championship game.

4:58 p.m.: Max Seibald just scored to put Cornell up 14-6 with about 8½ minutes to go.

And the masses are starting to file up the aisles and out of the stadium.

4:42 p.m.: I happened to be standing next to a man in a Virginia sweatshirt when Cornell scored its ninth goal of the game in the third quarter.

He threw up his hands and walked away.

There's not much else Cavaliers fans can do at this point. The Big Red are completely dominating them, leading 11-4 heading into the fourth quarter. (Who saw this one coming?) The fans in the section behind the UVa bench are still being supportive, but they're understandably pretty quiet.

In other news, Cornell fans look like they're having a great time.

4:01 p.m.: With an 8-2 score at the half, Cornell is amped and Virginia is … not. This is the Cavs' largest halftime deficit of the season -- and it's the wrong game for it.

3:53 p.m.: 17 minutes, 32 seconds. That's how long Cornell held Virginia scoreless between the Cavs' first and second goals. Shamel Bratton saved the day and got Virginia fans cheering again after what must have seemed like an eternity for them.

But alas, the Big Red bounce back as Rob Pannell scored less than a minute later.

3:37 p.m.: The Big Red are becoming a big problem for the Cavs. They lead 5-1, with Virginia just scoring its first goal about a minute into the second quarter.

Virginia just can't seem to get past Cornell's defense. The Cavs took only four shots in the entire first quarter, as opposed to Cornell's 10 shots.

The seats are filled up again, as the band keeps the stadium extra lively. I'll be heading down to the field shortly to get a feel for this Game 2 crowd.

3:09 p.m.: Cornell's Chris Finn just scored the first goal of the game. The Big Red's band really is a nice touch for celebrating.

Oh, and there it goes again with "Give My Regards To Davy" (that's Cornell's fight song, to the tune of "Give My Regards To Broadway") as Jonathan Thomson scored for the Big Red to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes, 38 seconds to go in the quarter.

3:05 p.m.: Cornell and Virginia has officially started and there are visibly more empty seats than in the first semifinal. But the crowd is still good -- fans should be in for a decent game.

2:53 p.m.: Cornell and Virginia are still warming up, but the game should get under way shortly. Cornell's gathered fan base has grown to fill an entire section, complete with a waving flag and even the school band a few sections over.

Virginia's fans are forming a nice crowd behind where the Cavs' bench will be. They're on their feet and cheering, looking eager for the game to start.

Much of the crowd has dissipated into other areas of the stadium during the break, but I can't imagine too many people leaving without seeing this matchup.

2:21 p.m.: Syracuse just beat Duke 17-7 to advance to the championship game. Cornell and Virginia's goalies are now warming up on the field as the Orange and the Blue Devils line up and head off to the locker rooms.

1:53 p.m.: There's a distinct wave of orange in the stands -- a section behind the Syracuse bench that I could hear cheering even through the thick windows of the press box at Gillette. So I decided to go down to the field to check it out.

Why didn't I go down there sooner?

The atmosphere on the field is incredible. There's a buzz that fills the entire stadium, and the Syracuse fan assembly that spans the entire section behind the Orange's bench is vivid and roaring (mostly thanks to the 14-7 score with 12 minutes to go in the game). There's no other section in the stands like it. Cornell fans seem to be grouping directly across the stadium from the orange bunch, but it isn't nearly as big -- which could change come Semifinal 2.

The weather has also perked way up. The clouds have completely parted above the stadium, leaving mostly blue skies and sunshine. It's got to be at least 65 degrees now, and the wind has also died down. A nice setup for the Cornell-Virginia matchup.

1:10 p.m.: Cornell captain and Tewaaraton Trophy candidate Max Seibald was just honored with the Lowe's Senior Class Award. Seibald might need that extra confidence boost heading into the Big Red's game with powerhouse Virginia (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET). Seibald was held to only one goal in a 14-10 loss to the Cavaliers in March.

1:02 p.m.: The score is 8-4 in Syracuse's favor at the half. The eight goals allowed by Duke ties the most the Blue Devils have allowed in the first half this season. They also allowed eight against UNC in the ACC tournament final, where the score was tied 8-8 at the half.

John Galloway seems steady in his return after a bout with the flu that kept him out of the quarterfinals. He has seven saves for the Orange in the game so far, the same amount Rob Schroeder has for Duke.

12:39 p.m.: We're into the second quarter, with the Orange up 5-3 over the Blue Devils. This is a fast-paced game with plenty of shots. (Duke had 9 in the first quarter and Syracuse had 11.)

12:08 p.m.: Duke and Syracuse just faced off, and this place is packed. I've been to college lacrosse games and seen maybe 5,000 fans max. I don't know the official attendance count here yet, but I can tell you it's definitely about six or seven times what I'm used to seeing.

11:33 a.m.: Duke fans also get style points for their tailgating. I ran across a group that was playing a sort of modern horseshoes in which you throw a rope with rubber balls on either end across to a three-rung stand. I'm sure there's some sort of points system involved with the rungs, but I'm not sure the guys were in a state to explain it well …

There were plenty of Cornell fans to be found, and I even saw a group of young kids rockin' the red, playing their own game in between car rows. The group from Ithaca, N.Y., included 12 kids, two little goalies and one torn father.

Neil Tarallo came with his friends and the kids, as they do every year, to root for the Big Red. Only problem? Tarallo is a professor at Syracuse University.

"It isn't easy to be a Syracuse fan when you live in Ithaca," Tarallo said. But he manages to give love to both his teams -- by wearing a Cornell shirt under a Cuse shirt.

10:58 a.m.: Syracuse just took the field for warm-ups. Coach John Desko seems pretty calm, strolling in between the players while they pass around.

A sharp-looking Duke just showed up, too -- goalies first with the rest of the team jogging in two-by-two and breaking off into lines along both sides of the field for passing. Pretty fancy, I have to say. Inside Lacrosse's Sean Burns and I just agreed that Duke wins at least style points in this matchup.

More fans are coming into the stands now, so I'm going to head out for one more look around the tailgaiters.

10:37 a.m.: A few scattered fans are starting to enter the stadium, but all the action is by the cars. It was a little tough walking around the tailgating while trying to dodge lacrosse balls coming from all the pickup games. Even the port-a-potties aren't safe -- a pair were taking a bit of a beating from the game going on behind them.

One area was so swamped with kids, sticks and nets that two men walking through asked me whether it was a reserved section for lacrosse. It might've been their red wine talking. Yes, red wine. In glasses.

"This is lacrosse," one of the men reminded me, "not some pigskin game."

9:53 a.m.: There's definitely a lot of orange in the parking lots. And most of it seems to be Syracuse fans, but maybe the Virginia caravans are just buried inside the masses of tents, avoiding the drizzle. (I talked to two guys in one Syracuse section who turned out to be sophomores at the high school I graduated from in Newton, Mass. Small world, huh?)

One orange shirt stood right out. Right as I was walking into the first lot, Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross was leaving his car with other Cuse folks, including women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman. I sure hope Gross makes some good memories this Championship Weekend to last him through football season.

9:11 a.m.: I just arrived at Gillette Stadium about 20 minutes ago to find Cortland State gathered on the field. The Division II and III teams are lucky enough to get the early-bird practices before Duke and Syracuse take the field at 11 a.m.

The weather is definitely to all the upstate New York teams' advantage right now -- pretty cool (Accuweather.com reports that it feels like 52 degrees in Foxborough) with a light drizzle. The rain seems to be passing, though, and the forecast calls for it to warm up to about 63 degrees.

It's not like bad weather would deter the fans here. I saw plenty of tents in the parking lots and lacrosse sticks everywhere when I drove in at 8:50 a.m. Last year's national championship game tallied more than 48,000 fans, and this weekend's games should bring in no fewer.

I'll be updating this blog throughout the day with all the happenings at Gillette. If you have any questions or want to know about something going on here at the national semifinals, you can e-mail me at espn.ar@gmail.com.