Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 18
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
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STICKING IT TO THEM: Princeton University men’s lacrosse senior defenseman Chris Peyser controls the ball in No. 4 Princeton’s 11-7 victory over 10th-ranked Brown last Saturday. The win earned the Tigers a share of the Ivy League title and marked Princeton’s fifth win in five tries this spring against teams that beat it last season. The Tigers improved to 12-2 overall and 5-1 in Ivy play with the triumph, tying for the league title with Cornell.

Seniors Help PU Men’s Lax Regain Ivy Title, Tigers to Host Massachusetts in NCAA Opener

Bill Alden

Chris Peyser and his senior classmates on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team are all smiles in a photo gracing the cover of the program’s media guide which was taken last summer on the squad’s trip to Ireland.

But there have been plenty of frowns, grimaces, and even some tears along the way for the Class of 2009 which has experienced plenty of ups and downs.

After helping Princeton earn a share of the Ivy League title as freshmen in 2006, the class was disappointed as they fell short of a league title the next year and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Last spring, Princeton lost its last two games to squander both a share of the Ivy crown and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

When Peyser hit the field at the Class of 1952 Stadium last Saturday as No. 4 Princeton hosted 10th-ranked Brown with a share of the Ivy title on the line, the team tri-captain was primed to help lead the Tigers to the crown.

“It has been a goal of ours all year to come away with an Ivy League championship,” said the 6’1, 190-pound defenseman from Manhasset, N.Y.

“It is something we were working toward the entire time. It was great to get out here on our senior day and have the opportunity to get a share of the title.”

With Peyser quarterbacking the Tiger defense, Princeton stifled Brown’s high-powered offense, forcing one errant shot after another as the Bears went scoreless in the first half.

“We came out with a lot of energy; we were very excited coming into the game,” said Peyser.

“We had a great plan going into the game; the coaches prepared us well all week. We went out there and we were able to execute it.”

After misfiring in the early going, the Princeton offense executed brilliantly in the second quarter, scoring seven unanswered goals to build a 7-0 lead at halftime.

Princeton extended its lead to 8-0 early in the third quarter and never looked back, winning 11-7 and clinching a share of the Ivy crown along with Cornell.

Afterward, Peyser and his classmates couldn’t stop grinning as they cradled the Ivy League trophy and savored ending the regular season at 12-2 overall and 5-1 in Ivy play.

The win marked the latest stop in Princeton’s revenge tour which has seen it go 5-0 against teams that beat it last year, topping Johns Hopkins, Albany, Syracuse, Dartmouth, and Brown.

“We had a lot of losses last year and we definitely had those games circled on the calendar,” said Peyser.

“We were looking forward this year to getting the Ivy League championship and getting back some of the wins we lost last year.”

In addition to earning a league title with the victory Saturday, the Tigers locked up a home game in the opening round of the NCAA tournament where fourth-seeded Princeton will host Massachusetts (9-5) on May 10 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

If Princeton prevails against UMass, the Tigers will get a chance to avenge one of their two defeats this year as they would face the winner of the Cornell/Hofstra opening round clash in the NCAA quarterfinals.

In Peyser’s view, the team’s defensive solidarity has helped pave the way for Princeton’s success this spring.

“We have a pretty tight unit; we work really well together,” asserted Peyser, an honorable mention All-Ivy pick the last two seasons.

“There are young guys, old guys. Everyone has stepped up and done their jobs.”

For Peyser, handling the job of being tri-captain has been no problem in view of the tight bond among the team’s seniors.

“I think what has made it easy is that this senior class is unbelievable,” said Peyser.

“We are so tight. It is a small group, there are nine of us and everybody is a great leader.”

Princeton head coach Bill Tierney certainly sees his corps of seniors as a special group.

“This class of ’09 has been a special one from day one,” maintained Tierney.

“When they came in as freshmen, you knew they were going to do something special. It’s not that it’s that talented a class other than maybe [Mark] Kovler, it is guys who have hung together and have worked very hard to make themselves talented. It is special for them to achieve this.”

Tierney enjoyed the special performance his team produced in the first half last Saturday.

“Two games in a row, leading 7-0 at half, I will take that any time,” said Tierney, who got two goals apiece from Jack McBride, Tommy Davis, and Greg Seaman in the win.

“I felt we were pretty good in the first quarter offensively but we just couldn’t score. Both goalies had an effect on the other teams’ shooting. I thought we were OK after that, seven in a quarter is pretty special.”

In Tierney’s view, Peyser has been better than OK in his role as quarterback of the defense.

“The summer before Chris started here; he came into my office and we went for three hours teaching him the defenses,” recalled Tierney.

“He’s been running the defense ever since. He knows more about our defense than I do. He is a coach and captain on the field; I can’t say enough about him. He’s a fiery guy but he’s so intelligent. He keeps us all together out there.”

Tierney is hoping his team can hold things together as they return to the NCAA tournament, shooting for their first Final Four appearance since 2004.

“I am just so proud of them,” said Tierney, who has guided Princeton to six NCAA crowns.

“Going into the tournament, we are playing pretty well. At least we know we will have a home game and we will move on from there.”

Peyser, for his part, believes the Tigers are moving in the right direction as they head into the national tournament.

“The past two games have gone well, obviously,” said Peyser.

“We had a tough loss against Cornell which was definitely a wake-up call for us. We are very excited to go into the tournament.”

If things go well in the tournament, there will be one final smiling portrait of Peyser and his classmates.

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