Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 18
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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CLOSE RANGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Scott MacKenzie heads to goal last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-9 loss to Cornell. MacKenzie scored two fourth quarter goals as the Tigers produced a 6-1 spurt to battle back from a 9-3 deficit. The Tigers will play at Cornell this weekend in the inaugural Ivy League tournament. Second-seeded Princeton will face No. 3 Yale in one semifinal on Friday with top-seeded Cornell and No. 4 Brown squaring off in the other semi matchup. Friday’s winners will play on Sunday with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament at stake.

PU Men’s Lax Falls Just Short in Loss to Cornell; No. 8 Tigers Heading to Ithaca for Ivy Tournament

Bill Alden

With the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team trailing Cornell 9-3 heading into the fourth quarter last Saturday, Tiger senior midfielder Scott MacKenzie wasn’t about to go out with a whimper.

Needing a win at a sweltering Class of 1952 Stadium to stay home for the inaugural Ivy League tournament, MacKenzie and the Tigers turned up the heat on the Big Red with a flurry of goals.

The 6’5, 210-pound MacKenzie fired in back-to-back goals as the Tigers produced a 6-1 spurt to turn the one-sided contest into a 10-9 nailbiter.

With 24 seconds left, the game was in MacKenzie’s hands as he cleared the ball from behind the Princeton goal and raced up the field into the attack area.

MacKenzie dished the ball to freshman star Mike Chanenchuk, who fired a shot off the pipe. Tiger midfielder Jeff Froccaro gathered in the ball and made a last-gasp attempt that went wide as Princeton fell by that 10-9 margin before a throng of 3,133.

The win dropped No. 8 Princeton to 9-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League play with sixth-ranked Cornell improving to 9-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy action. The result coupled with Brown’s win over Dartmouth left Princeton, Cornell, Yale (10-3 overall, 4-2 Ivy), and Brown (8-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy) in a four-way tie for the Ivy Title.

The Big Red earned the No. 1 seed in the Ivy tourney and will host the event this weekend. Second-seeded Princeton will face No. 3 Yale in one semifinal on Friday with Cornell and No. 4 Brown squaring off in the other semi matchup. Friday’s winners will play on Sunday with the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament at stake.

In reflecting on the loss, a glum MacKenzie said that the game should never have come down to a desperate rally, lamenting that Princeton dug a 4-0 early hole that left the Tigers fighting an uphill battle all day long.

“It was tough when you start out like that, down 4-0 at first quarter,” said MacKenzie. “It is an Ivy championship game and you have to be ready to play and put everything out there. It has been the story of our season. We have been coming out flat. I don’t know what we have to do. If we want to make a run at the playoffs, we have to change that.”

Notwithstanding Princeton’s sluggish start, MacKenzie believed the Tigers could pull the game out of the fire.

“I thought the momentum was with us,” said MacKenzie, reflecting on Princeton’s fourth quarter rally. “The guys were making plays out there; we were starting to get the ground balls. It just didn’t happen.”

It was particularly galling for MacKenzie and the Tigers to lose another tight one to the Big Red, considering that Princeton lost 10-7 in the regular season matchup last year between the rivals and then fell 6-4 to Cornell in the NCAA quarters.

“In my four years, we have only beat them once,” said MacKenzie, noting that the Tigers spotted Cornell early leads in both of the 2009 meetings. “They are a well-coached team and they always come out flying.”

In MacKenzie’s view, the Tigers need to bottle the intensity they showed in the fourth quarter as they look to earn a possible rematch with the Big Red in the Ivy championship game.

“We have got to take that fire and take that passion,” said MacKenzie. “If we get another shot at them, I hope we are all fired up. I know I am and I am pretty sure all the guys are.”

Speaking in a hoarse voice and with clenched teeth, Princeton head coach Chris Bates was visibly frustrated with his team’s penchant for getting off to sluggish starts.

“It happened last week and it happened again today,” said Bates, whose team fell behind Harvard 5-2 on the way to an 11-8 loss to the Crimson on April 24.

“We clearly were not ready to play. We get ourselves in a hole, it starts with ground balls and face-offs. It is too little, too late. You get down 4-0 against a good team and that’s the position you are going to put yourself in.”

Bates faulted his veteran players for not answering the early Cornell surge. “I am disappointed in some of the upperclassmen,” said Bates, who got three goals from Chanenchuk in the loss. “Frankly when we need a play, that’s who you have got to rely on. It can’t be freshmen.”

The Tigers will need to show a sense of urgency next weekend in Ithaca in order to come home with an NCAA berth.

“I’ll be interested to see what this team has in its tank,” said Bates. “There is a lot to play for. If we come out like we did today, our season may be over next week. We have talked about leaders stepping up and getting ourselves ready to play and execute.”

MacKenzie and his senior classmates are determined to step up as they look to end their careers with an NCAA tourney run.

“We have to come out fired up for every game, we can’t take anything for granted,” said MacKenzie, who has 18 points this season on eight goals and 10 assists.

“This is it for the seniors, we have got to leave everything out there. This is our last go at it. Our backs are against the wall. We have to win next weekend if we want to go to the playoffs.”

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