Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 9
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
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SAVING FACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Paul Barnes races up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, junior face-off specialist Barnes scored two goals to help Princeton upset No. 3 Johns Hopkins 14-8 in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at Baltimore’s M & T Bank Stadium. The Tigers, now ranked No. 5, play at eighth-ranked UMBC on March 6 before hosting Manhattan on March 8.

Displaying Offensive Flair, Stingy Defense, PU Men’s Lax Upends John Hopkins 14-8

Bill Alden

Last February, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team quickly found out it was in over its head as it faced Johns Hopkins in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at Baltimore’s M & T Bank Stadium.

The Tigers trailed 8-0 in the second quarter before getting on the scoreboard and were down 10-1 at halftime.

While Princeton showed some spunk in narrowing the final margin to a respectable 14-9, the Tigers were embarrassed by their performance as they lost for the sixth time in their last seven meetings with the Blue Jays.

As No. 11 Princeton prepared to take on No. 3 Hopkins last Saturday in this year’s Face-Off Classic, Tiger head coach Bill Tierney sought to minimize the revenge factor.

“When you look for revenge, you can forget about what is going on in front of you,” said Tierney. “We wanted to play better against them than we did last season, we weren’t putting any pressure on the kids to win the game.”

But in a reversal of fortune from 2008, Princeton put Hopkins under pressure right away as it hit its first three shots to jump out to a 3-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter, Princeton was up 6-1 and the advantage stood at 9-3 as the teams left the field for halftime.

The Tigers never looked back as they cruised to a 14-8 win before a crowd of 17,119 on hand at M & T Bank Stadium.

In Tierney’s view, his team’s looser mentality has helped it produce a promising 2-0 start.

“They have bought in to just worrying about themselves,” said Tierney. “Last year, I made the mistake of dwelling too much on the other teams.”

Princeton has shown an offensive flair and balance that could strike some fear into other teams.

“When you hit the first three shots of the game, that gives you confidence,” said Tierney, who got four goals from sophomore star Jack McBride in the win with senior Mark Kovler and junior Paul Barnes adding two apiece and Scott MacKenzie, Chris McBride, Rob Engelke, John Cunningham, Greg Seaman, and Josh Lesko each scoring one.

“We got man-up goals, we got goals in transition, we got goals from a lot of different people.”

While Princeton isn’t about to be confused with a run-and-gun team like Syracuse, there is a sense that the Tigers are a little more trigger happy this spring.

“People blame me for a lack of scoring in the past,” said Tierney, who is known as one of the top defensive minds in the world of lacrosse.

“I never told kids to not take shots, we haven’t changed a lot. We just have kids who can score. One thing we have done, and it’s credit to Metz [assistant coach David Metzbower], we are not getting on them about taking shots. If you are getting 14 goals a game, things are going OK.”

In the win over Hopkins, the Tigers got the sharp shooting it has come to expect from midfield standout Kovler.

“Mark hasn’t had good games against Hopkins and he responded well on Saturday,” said Tierney.

“He’s a marked man and he has to deal with that. Mark hasn’t played his best yet but he is the kind of player who gets better and better as the season goes on.”

Junior midfielder and face-off specialist Paul Barnes has played a lot better this season, emerging as a key performer after making a total of just nine appearances in his first two seasons.

“Paul was a highly, highly recruited player out of high school,” said Tierney of Barnes, whose goals Saturday were the first of his Princeton career.

“There are two things that have changed. First, he has embraced the face-off role, working hard with Kevin Unterstein. He has also developed some poise and toughness we didn’t see the first two years and that allows him to score.”

It is becoming tougher and tougher for Princeton’s foes to stop Jack McBride.

“When Jack is good, he is great,” said Tierney of his sophomore star, who now has eight goals on the season.

“Right now everything is happy, he likes playing with his cousin and Tommy Davis. He is in a good spot; he’s getting his shots. But he is going to be a marked man and we’ll see how he reacts when the shots aren’t falling.”

Tierney likes the reaction he is getting from freshmen defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and John Cunningham together with freshman goalie Tyler Fiorito

“Wiedmaier has not shown one ounce of trepidation from the day he walked in here,” said Tierney of Wiedmaier who was named the Ivy league Rookie of the Week for his performance last Saturday.

“Cunningham just comes to work everyday, he plays the same way in games as he plays in practice. He never stops going. Tyler is a cool customer; he played very well in front of the big crowd Saturday.”

The Hall of Fame coach knows that his team can’t get too excited about the win over Hopkins.

“I don’t want to diminish the effort or the enthusiasm,” said Tierney, who has guided Princeton to six national titles.

“It was a big win for the guys, for me, and for the program. But it makes us 2-0 and not 18-0, the next step is to be 3-0”.

With the parity in the world of college lacrosse, Princeton knows that no game is a cakewalk.

“Look at Georgetown, they beat Maryland a couple of weeks ago and then they lost to St. John’s last weekend; that provides a great lesson,” said Tierney, whose now 5th-ranked team plays at No. 8 UMBC on March 6 before hosting Manhattan on March 8.

“We had games like that last year with Albany, Brown, and Dartmouth. We need to take care of business. Handling prosperity is not as black and white as handling a loss.”

Princeton faces a big challenge in handling UMBC this Friday. “They are playing extremely well; they have a very talented offense,” said Tierney.

“Zim [UMBC head coach Don Zimmerman] is a great offensive coach. They only take good shots. You have to worry about their scheme; the ball comes from different places and it comes hard.”

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