Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 17
 
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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GETTING RICH: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Rich Sgalardi heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sgalardi chipped in three assists as No. 4 Princeton topped Dartmouth 14-7 to improve to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in Ivy League play. The win set up an Ivy title clash when 10th-ranked Brown (12-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy) comes to Class of 1952 Stadium on May 2. Cornell has finished the league season at 5-1 and will tie for the league title with the winner of the Brown-Princeton clash.

Sgalardi Relishes Victory Over Dartmouth; No. 4 PU Men’s Lax Stays Alive in Ivy Race

Bill Alden

Rich Sgalardi cut a forlorn figure last year on the bench as the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team lost at Dartmouth.

Sidelined due to a sprained ankle, Sgalardi could only watch as the Tigers fell 11-9 and squandered a chance at clinching a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I can’t even describe it, my teammate and linemate Mark Kovler was also injured for that game and I remember both of us on the sideline,” said senior midfielder Sgalardi, recalling that dark day which was followed by a loss to Brown as the Tigers failed in their last chance to qualify for the NCAAs.

“It was hurting us enough that we couldn’t play but seeing the team losing out there and us not being able to help really tore up both of us.”

So last Saturday when Dartmouth came to Class of 1952 Stadium, a hale and hearty Sgalardi was ready to go to battle with Kovler and torment the Big Green.

“Coming out here today I think both of us were really motivated and excited to be out there and do all the things to help the team,” said Sgalardi.

The 6’0, 190-pound native of Garden City, N.Y. passed for two assists in the first half as the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 halftime lead.

Sgalardi added another helper in the second half as No. 4 Princeton cruised to a 14-7 win, improving to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in Ivy League play.

The win set up an Ivy title clash when 10th-ranked Brown (12-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy) comes to the Class of 1952 Stadium on May 2. Cornell has finished with a 5-1 Ivy record and will tie for the league title with the winner of the Brown-Princeton clash.

In Sgalardi’s view, it was critical for Princeton to set the tone early. “In games we have struggled this year, I think the common factor has been that we get off to a slow start,” said Sgalardi.

“We got off strong defensively and offensively today. We were really able to dictate the pace and the style of the game. When we are able to do that, we feel pretty confident.”

Sgalardi and his linemates Kovler and junior Scott MacKenzie on the first midfield have developed full confidence in each other.

“It is really something you can’t really pinpoint when you have chemistry with some guys; it is something that transcends what happens on the field,” said Sgalardi.

“We are great friends off the field; we are always hanging out. The extra thing with our chemistry is that our styles all feed off each other. We complement each other really well. Some have weaknesses in things that the others are stronger at; it just fits in together nicely.”

After scoring 18 points in his first three seasons combined, Sgalardi has been a strong performer for Princeton this season as he has 36 points on 15 goals and a team-high 21 assists.

“I think it is confidence, Coach [Bill] Tierney told me in the beginning of the year that he needed somebody to step up and I am just trying to help the team as much as I can,” said Sgalardi, who is the only Princeton player to score a point in every game this season.

“There has been a lot of opportunity to do so. I am playing with some great guys on offense.”

For Sgalardi, suffering the injury last spring helped put him on track to his big spring.

“I think last year really motivated me, not being able to play in those last two games,” asserted Sgalardi.

“It started with my rehab on my ankle and through the summer. I was trying to get in the best shape I could and playing the most lacrosse I could.”

Sgalardi’s renewed commitment dovetailed with his teammates’ collective mentality this season.

“I have never been part of a group of guys who has worked so hard,” said Sgalardi.

“From the first day we came in last September, it has been a team effort, even the guys who aren’t playing. The level of effort the guys are giving day in, day out has really dictated the season.”

Head coach Tierney liked the way his team worked through some glitches Saturday.

“Give our guys credit, they battled through some lethargic play,” said Tierney, who got four goals from Jack McBride in the win over Dartmouth with Tommy Davis adding three and Kovler, MacKenzie, and Rob Engelke chipping in two apiece.

“They kept going; they knew how important this was and they got it. At this point in the season, it is get me a win, I don’t care how you do it. We move on to the next one.”

Tierney liked the way Sgalardi picked up his game. “In the last couple of games, Rich hasn’t been himself,” said Tierney.

“He has started to get back into it. He threw some nice passes today which is what he is all about. His goals are a bonus. It is his passing that is so important. He got better today.”

Princeton will have to play better this Saturday in order to top Brown. The Bears will get the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament if they beat Princeton. The Tigers would get a share of the Ivy crown if they prevail but Cornell would get the automatic bid by virtue of its win over Princeton.

“They have the best goalie in the country [Jordan Burke] and he is really a talented kid,” said Tierney, whose team is in good shape for an at-large NCAA bid by virtue of its overall record and wins over such national powers as Syracuse and Johns Hopkins.

“They play a really different style than anybody else. They have two great attackmen [Andrew Feinberg and Kyle Hollingsworth] and they are very opportunistic. They are running more than they have in the past and they are very well coached. They are as good as anybody; they just haven’t played anybody so it is hard to gauge.”

Sgalardi, for his part, vows that the Tigers will be primed for the opportunity to run with Brown.

“We are going to be ready to go,” maintained Sgalardi. “They are a great team, they always are. I am sure it is going to be a tough one. Those guys are going to come ready to play and we are going to come ready to play. It should be a great game.”

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