Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 20
 
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
SORE POINT: Princeton University senior attacker Peter Trombino, left, finds the going tough in a recent game. Trombino scored two goals and had two assists last Sunday as Princeton fell 9-8 at Georgetown in overtime in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Trombino finished his Tiger career with 98 goals and 54 assists, ranking him in eighth-place in career goals and 11th all-time in points scored at Princeton.

Unable to Convert Last-Minute Possession, PU Men's Lax Falls to Georgetown in NCAAs

Bill Alden

The Princeton University men's lacrosse team had the fate of its season in its hands in the waning moments of the fourth quarter of its NCAA opening round clash at sixth-seeded Georgetown last Sunday.

With the see-saw contest knotted at 8-8, Princeton had possession in the last minute and held the ball for what it hoped would be the last and decisive shot of the game.

The Tigers planned to set up senior midfielder Scott Sowanick for that last chance since he had been racing past the Hoyas all afternoon at Georgetown's sunsplashed Multi-Purpose Field in Washington, D.C.

Seeing that he was double-teamed, Sowanick passed the ball to classmate Whitney Hayes but he was unable to gather it in as he was recovering from a hard hit on a screen.

The game went into overtime and Georgetown got possession on the opening faceoff. The Hoyas didn't waste any time in cashing in on its chance as Brendan Cannon scored 31 seconds into overtime to end Princeton's season.

Acknowledging that the nail-biting defeat left him unable to sleep Sunday night, Princeton head coach Bill Tierney said he was proud of his team's effort. "It was a high-level, high-intensity game," said Tierney, whose club finished with a final record of 10-4. "Both teams went on runs; neither team was ready to go home."

The loss was doubly disappointing as Princeton is a host site next Saturday for one pair of NCAA quarterfinal games. It marked the third straight time that Princeton Stadium has hosted the quarterfinal but the Tigers lost in the first round.

The game was full of twists and turns as neither club led by more than three goals at any point. Georgetown opened the scoring in the first minute but then Princeton scored three straight as Hayes, Rob Engelke, and Peter Trombino found the back of the net for the Tigers. The Hoyas outscored Princeton 3-1 in the second quarter, leaving the teams tied 4-4 at the half.

Georgetown came out of the locker room on fire as it scored three goals in the first five minutes of the third quarter. But refusing to fold, Princeton got goals from Trombino, Mark Kovler, and Engelke to pull even at 7-7. In a critical sequence, the Hoyas stemmed the Princeton tide as it got a goal with seven seconds remaining in the quarter.

Sowanick answered back with a goal 1:52 into the fourth quarter and the teams traded scoring chances until Cannon found the range in overtime.

Tierney pointed to Georgetown's late third-quarter goal as pivotal. "The goal at the end of the third quarter was huge," said Tierney, whose team was outshot 29-25 as its six-game, 16-year streak of NCAA overtime wins come to an end.

"We were totally controlling things and they score with seven seconds left. We bounced back when Sowanick got that goal in the fourth quarter. We thought we were on our toes; we had our shots."

Tierney credited his seniors with generating a lot of those shots as they fought valiantly to keep their careers alive.

"You hope they do that," said Tierney, who got two goals and two assists from Trombino, a goal and an assist from Sowanick, and a goal and three assists from Hayes, a former Princeton High star.

The play of Hayes, who ends his career with 13 points in NCAA play, was heartening to Tierney. "Whitney is an interesting guy," said Tierney, who has led Princeton to six national titles and now has a 29-11 record in NCAA competition.

"He came in as a freshman and was a big surprise. He was steady as a sophomore and a junior.

This year, he didn't have a great start but he worked his way back to where he was as a freshman, playing with poise."

The Tigers' normally stifling defense wasn't quite as poised Saturday as it has been most of the spring.

"We've got a captain [Zach Jungers] who is one of the best defenseman in the country but hasn't practiced in three weeks due to a knee injury," said Tierney, whose team came into the game leading the nation in scoring defense, surrendering just 6.0 goals a game.

"We throw him into a playoff game. His knee was clearing up and we couldn't deny him that opportunity. We had a couple of mess-ups where we didn't slide on a couple of their goals. They are a good team and we held them in single figures. When you do that, you should win. We had our chances, one team just scored one more goal than the other team."

In Tierney's view, that result was a microcosm of a spring that saw the Tigers fall just short in its biggest games. "I think the game was a snapshot of our season," said Tierney, whose team dropped 7-6 heartbreakers to national powers Johns Hopkins and Virginia and fell 10-6 at undefeated and top-ranked Cornell.

"We started out fine; we had some lapses in the middle and then we came on in the end. If we had scored in overtime against Hopkins or if we had beaten Virginia, we are seeded fourth and playing at home. The message is that every game in important; one missed shot, one mistake can be important."

While Princeton couldn't quite get over the hump, Tierney saw progress as the program looks to once again be a Final Four contender. "I think this was another step in the right direction," said Tierney.

"Overall I think the seniors can hold their heads high. What they have done is brought us back from the depths of the 2005 season [when Princeton posted a 5-7 mark]. I know that's not how they look at it since we went to the quarterfinals last year. I feel bad, I stayed awake all night thinking what else I could've done. We're all in this together."

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