Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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BOUNCING BACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse attacker Jack McBride heads to goal in recent action. Last Sunday, McBride bounced in a goal with one second left in overtime to give Princeton a 10-9 win over Cornell in the Ivy League tournament title game as the Tigers rallied from a 7-3 deficit. The win avenged a 10-9 loss to Cornell in the regular season finale on May 1.

PU Men’s Lax Rallies to Edge Cornell in Ivy Tourney; No. 6 Tigers to Host Notre Dame in NCAA Opener

Bill Alden

Coming into the first-ever Ivy League men’s lacrosse tournament last weekend at Cornell, Princeton was determined to overcome its recent penchant for getting off to slow starts.

Princeton achieved that goal with aplomb in its semifinal matchup against Yale on Friday evening, jumping out to a 7-2 lead through three quarters.

But reversing form and faltering down the stretch, the Tigers gave up four straight goals and had to hold on for dear life in prevailing 7-6.

“The mood was good; we were looking to come out fast,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team dug early holes in losses to Cornell and Harvard in its last two regular season contests.

“We had a breakdown by a defensive middie in the fourth quarter; in my 17 years of coaching, I’ve never seen one play that shifted momentum so clearly. They won a lot of face-offs after that and we wore down defensively. We were able to hold on.”

Two days later, Bates experienced an unpleasant case of déjà vu as the Tigers fell behind Cornell 6-2 at halftime and trailed 7-3 late in the third quarter.

“It was a frustrating game; I didn’t know how one-sided the stats were,” said Bates, whose team saw Cornell build a 20-4 edge in ground balls in the first half.

“We were man down a large part of the game. We were playing OK half field defense; we just didn’t have the ball. At halftime, we preached that we needed to get the ball.”

After starting the second half with an unforced turnover and another penalty, the Tigers started getting the ball as they were even on ground balls at 6-6 and won 3-of-5 face-offs in outscoring the Big Red 3-1 in the third quarter.

Princeton kept up the heat in the fourth quarter, going on a 4-1 run to forge ahead 9-8 with 7:30 left in regulation. The Big Red answered back nearly five minutes later with a goal to knot the game at 9-9 and set up a nailbiting finale.

Cornell had possession the last two minutes of the game and fired six shots on goal in that stretch. Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito made two point blank saves in the waning moments of the contest to hold off the Big Red and force overtime.

In overtime, Cornell had most of the possession but couldn’t cash in. Princeton got the ball with 24 seconds left in the extra session and Jack McBride made it count. The junior attacker bounced in a shot with one second left to give Princeton a 10-9 victory and set off a raucous celebration that climaxed as the Tigers sprawled on the field to pose with the championship plaque.

The win helped Princeton’s standing with the NCAA tournament committee as the 11-4 Tigers were given the sixth seed and will host Notre Dame (7-6) this Sunday at Class of 1952 Stadium in the opening round of the tourney. The winner of the contest will face the victor of the Maryland-Hofstra opening round clash in the quarterfinals on May 22 at Princeton Stadium.

For Bates, the win triggered feelings of relief and joy, “I just felt a sense of exhaling,” said Bates. “It was such a celebration; it was a thing you never forget. It was a great show of character; we struggled the last two weeks.”

The Tigers got a show of character from senior Rob Engelke (2 goals and an assist) and McBride (three goals) in the win over Cornell.

“I was happy for those guys,” added Bates of his two veterans who made the All-Tournament team along with Fiorito and defenseman Long Ellis.

“Even with the year Engelke is having, we have been challenging him to take the next step. He came up with some big plays. Jack made a big play at the end; it was nice to see.”

Sophomore goalie Fiorito made plenty of big plays last weekend, recording 16 saves in the title game on his way to being named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

“Tyler never beats himself,” maintained Bates. “He gets himself in the right position. He rises to the level of the game. That was evident on Friday and Sunday; he stood tall when it counted.”

In Bates’ view, the win Sunday should help Princeton elevate its game as it looks forward to competing in the NCAA tournament.

“Heading into tournament, it may have been hard to muster resolve coming off another loss,” acknowledged Bates. “Having a win like that really helps. We are excited. All the teams in the tournament are tough; there is no easy matchup.”

The Tigers know they face a tough task in their battle against Notre Dame.

“They have been up and down,” said Bates of the Irish, who are led by midfielders Grant Krebs (21 goals, three assists) and Zach Brenneman (23 goals, 12 assists) together with imposing 6’4, 254-pound goalie Scott Rodgers.

“You see the Krebs kid and Brenneman coming. Rogers is a big, physical goalie. They are very disciplined. Notre Dame is not a transition team; they want a half field game.”

In order to top the Irish, Princeton will need to open up the field. “Facing off is huge,” said Bates. “When we get the ball and get in a little flow, it seems to get us into the game. We tend to press if the opponent possesses the ball. We need the ball and we need to create a little in transition.”

Making it to the NCAAs is huge for Bates, who never got into the tournament during his decade guiding Drexel.

“I am thrilled; this is why I do this,” said Bates, the successor to Princeton legend Bill Tierney, who has led his Denver University squad into the 2010 tourney.

“We came close at Drexel. We put ourselves in position to do this but we didn’t get over the hump. It has been fun to hear from the Drexel people and see how they are happy for us.”

And Bates can only hope to be as happy this Sunday as he was a week before in Cornell.

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