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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Former Princeton University lacrosse stars Rob Torti, right, and Jesse Hubbard celebrate a goal for their current team, the New Jersey Pride of Major League Lacrosse (MLL). Torti and Hubbard were back in the area recently as the Pride fell 20-18 to the Long Island Lizards before a franchise record crowd of 4,367 in the team's first-ever appearance at Mercer County Park. The Pride, which usually plays its home games at Montclair State, was playing at MCP as part of the National Lacrosse Festival Tournament.
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Torti Enjoyed Mercer Homecoming Even Though N.J. Pride Fell Again

By Bill Alden

As the New Jersey Pride warmed up for its recent Major League Lacrosse (MLL) clash with the Long Island Lizards at Mercer County Park, the loudspeaker blared the Thin Lizzy 1970s hit, "The Boys are Back in Town." For the Pride, which normally play its home games at Montclair State, the song was particularly appropriate as the squad brought such former Princeton University stars as Rob Torti, Jesse Hubbard, Christian Cook, and Trevor Tierney back to the area.

While the homecoming turned sour for New Jersey as it dropped a 20-18 decision to the Lizards, Torti, for his part, was happy to be playing lacrosse again on a Mercer County field.

"It's great to have the crowd we had today with more than 4,000 people," said Torti, a 2001 first-team All Ivy performer for Princeton who was at MCP with the Pride in conjunction with the National Lacrosse Festival Tournament that drew 120 boys' and girls' teams from the Northeast Corridor.

"I overshot the exit on the way here and I ended up at the dinky station in Princeton. You see all the fields around you and it makes you think of your memories of Princeton."

Torti, who played on national championship teams in 1998 and 2001 while starring for the Tigers, has relished getting the chance to keep playing the game after college.

"It's by far the greatest competition anywhere, the club game doesn't compare and the world game doesn't come close either," asserted Torti, a Long Island native who has played in the MLL since its inception in 2001.

"The fact that they give us money to play this is a no-brainer. Everybody is really enjoying this because we've never had this talent level together in one spot."

After being a two-way midfielder in his days at Princeton, Torti has been forced to change his focus at the pro level.

"My role is to be more of a defensive guy," said Torti, who scored a career-high 14 goals and added 12 assists in his senior season at Princeton .

"Coming from Princeton, you have all that defensive knowledge. We had 18 different defenses my senior year. I have a pretty good feel of what's going on."

Facing former All-American attackmen on a weekly basis in the MLL has made Torti's new assignment particularly challenging.

"It's tough being a defensive middie in this league, it's probably the worst job," said the 6'2, 205-pound Torti with a rueful grin.

"You're going against people like A.J. Haugen and Jay Jalbert. We're pretty much directing traffic rather than really stopping them. Hopefully you can stop one move but they re-dodge and re-dodge. It's tough."

One thing that hasn't been tough for Torti is being reunited with his former Princeton teammates. "We feel like we really have a good group of guys on this team," said Torti, who did lose one of his running mates last week as Tierney was traded to Boston Cannons.

"We have a really good chemistry. We all enjoy being here, we don't have any internal turmoil like some other teams have experienced."

Since the MLL is in its fledgling stages, most of the players have day jobs, necessitating some juggling while building some additional camaraderie.

"It's tough going to work all week and then coming to practice changing your suit in the car," said Torti, who has worked as an equity trader on Wall Street.

"Our little city group is fun, we have one car for five guys, it's a scramble. It's worth it, everybody enjoys playing the game."

Torti, however, hasn't enjoyed the Pride's struggles this season which have seen it get off to a 1-7 start after posting a 7-5 mark in 2003 and making it to the semifinals of the 6-team circuit.

"We're just getting bad breaks," explained Torti. "We've been playing from behind for most of the year. We had a tough time with guys retiring. We have a lot of new guys to work in."

As New Jersey looks to pick up some wins down the stretch, Torti promises it will show the work ethic and intensity similar to that displayed by the teams he played on at Princeton.

"We're going to come out and give 100 percent every time for the fans and the other guys who come out here and do this," vowed Torti. "Don't expect a letdown from us. This team has a lot of character."

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