Vol. LXI, No. 16
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)FULL STOP: Princeton University men's lacrosse junior goalie Alex Hewit controls the crease area in recent action. Last Saturday, Hewit recorded 13 saves as Princeton stifled Harvard 9-3. Hewit, a first-team All-American in 2006, saw his goals against average drop to a miniscule 5.60 as a result of his effort against the Crimson.
Alex Hewit is so smooth in goal for the Princeton University men's lacrosse team, one could get the impression that it is easy to stop shots traveling in the neighborhood of 100 m.p.h.
The 5'10, 200-pound junior not only saves most shots, he deftly gathers in the ball and coolly clears the ball to trigger the Princeton offense.
Last Saturday, Hewit, a returning first-team All-American, put on another clinic, recording 13 saves as Princeton stifled Harvard 9-5 before a crowd of 2,517 at Class of 1952 Stadium.
The win improved No. 5 Princeton to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the Ivy League, setting up a pivotal clash at undefeated and top-ranked Cornell (10-0, 4-0 Ivy) this Saturday. Hewit, meanwhile, saw his goals against average drop to a miniscule 5.60
Hewit will tell you that a little sibling pressure has helped instill the work ethic that is the foundation of his excellence.
"My older brother, Grant, used to push me strong in practice," said Hewit, referring to his older brother, who was a co-captain of the Tigers last season as a senior.
"I know that he was gone and it gave me the opportunity to grow and work harder. It's hard to not be working as hard as you can when everyone around you works hard. If you have respect for your teammates, then you are going to work your hardest."
A major aspect of that work is film study. "Day in, day out the coaches and players are working very hard," added Hewit. "We look at every goal and see what we did wrong. And see how we can fix that. So far, we are doing alright."
The soft-spoken Hewit will grudgingly admit that he is doing alright. "I think I'm a little more confident in the clears this year," said Hewit, who accounted for an assist in Princeton's recent win over Bellarmine. "I guess that comes with the entire defense being older and more mature."
Hewit, a native of New Vernon, N.J. who helped Delbarton win three state championships, credits the defense in front of him with making his job easier.
"They are forcing outside shots, giving me the best opportunity to see the ball," said Hewit, whose high school teammate, Dan Cocoziello, is one of the mainstays of the Princeton defense. "All I can do is to try to do my job to stop shots."
The Princeton coaching staff gave Hewit and his defensive mates a good blueprint to help the squad through a busy week which saw it play at Penn on Tuesday before hosting Harvard.
"The coaches worked real hard all week, not only preparing us for Penn but preparing us for Harvard," said Hewit, who recorded five saves in Princeton's 10-5 win over Penn on April 10. "We had a mental day on Wednesday and we got to understand what Harvard did and what they want to do. The coaches put together a good game plan and the defense executed it."
Princeton head coach Bill Tierney admits that Hewit's brilliance has spoiled the Tiger players and coaches. "You assume that stuff is easy," said Tierney. "You assume the guy is going to shoot and Alex is going to make the save. It's such a surprise when the ball goes in. You assume Alex is going to make every save and that's not fair."
While Hewit has been drawing raves with his saves, Tierney is thrilled with his defensive unit as a whole. "I think our defense has been great," said Tierney, citing the play of Cocoziello, Zach Jungers, Jeremy Hirsch, Chris Peyser, John Bennett, and Charlie Kolkin. "They have played a lot together. They are just so confident out there and they seem to get better each game."
Tierney has special words of praise for his shortstick defensive midfielders Zack Goldberg, Brendan Reilly, and Derek Sudan. "They have changed the Princeton defense because we don't have to slide all the time," asserted Tierney.
After starting 1-2, the Tigers have seen positive changes in reeling off seven wins in the build-up to the long-anticipated showdown at Cornell this Saturday.
"The goal was to be 8-2 going into the Cornell game and that's what we are," said Tierney, who got three goals from Mark Kovler and two from Tommy Davis in the win over Harvard.
"There have been some bumps in the road; there have been some ugly wins. But we're 8-2 and playing the best team in the country at their place. We couldn't ask for a better scenario. You talk about not talking about Cornell but I know it was on the back of a lot of people's minds. It's good to get to it."
Tierney, though, acknowledges that his team faces a major challenge in trying to topple the Big Red, who edged the Tigers 4-3 last spring in a rugged defensive encounter.
"Cornell is a totally different team than anyone we have seen this year," explained Tierney. "They are the 'new' Syracuse. They force you to play. They challenge you and take chances defensively. They've got a great goalie. They just throw the ball and move it quickly; they are the best shooting team out there."
Hewit, for his part, is relishing the challenge. "They are an all-around great team which is why they are undefeated and ranked No. 1," said Hewit, who had 15 saves in the Princeton's loss to Cornell last season.
"We have to work hard everyday, study, and listen to the coaches and buy into what they are saying. We have to come together as a team and do our best when we go up there. It's going to be a fun weekend and a great game."
And if Hewit can keep up his brilliance in goal, Princeton could be having a lot of fun this Saturday and over the rest of the spring.
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