Boyle Scores Career-High 4 Goals in Home Finale To Lead Princeton Men's Lax into NCAA Quarters
By Bill Alden
Ryan Boyle's gifts as a playmaker have earned him a special place in the lore of Princeton University men's lacrosse program. Utilizing slick passing and a singular field vision, the senior from Hunt Valley, Md. came into last Saturday's NCAA opening round contest against visiting Rutgers with 151 career assists, the second-most in school history.
Realizing early in the contest, however, that the Rutgers defense was blocking his passing lanes, Boyle turned from feeder into sniper as he scored a career-high four goals to lead sixth-seeded Princeton to a 12-4 win and a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals where they will play No. 3 seed Maryland on May 22 in Charlottesville, Va.
Afterward, Boyle explained that he was just taking what the Scarlet Knights defense was giving him. "I had to be more aggressive for my own shot because it didn't look like they were going to slide to me," said Boyle, who also passed for two assists on the day as the Tigers improved to 10-3 and beat the Scarlet Knights for the 16th straight time.
"When I got the ball I tried to be more aggressive than usual with my dodging. I missed some shots early. From then on, I tried to focus on my spot and just concentrate on burying it rather than just throwing a shot willy-nilly at the goal."
Boyle was determined to go out with a win in his last appearance at Class of 1952 Stadium. "I have a lot of good memories out there," said Boyle, who was named the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year, making him just the second player along with Cornell's Eamon McEneaney (1975, 1977) to have won that honor twice. (Boyle was also the 2002 Ivy Player of the Year.)
"The whole surrounding is special to me. I'm never coming back to that locker room with these guys to go out on this field. It's more special since we won rather than having lost."
Princeton head coach Bill Tierney made it clear that guiding his team to its 14th national quarterfinal in 15 years was special, especially considering that his starting line-up only included four players Boyle, Jason Doneger, Ricky Schultz, and Oliver Barry with any major NCAA tournament experience under their belts.
"I'm really proud of that," said a beaming Tierney when asked his thoughts on making it back to the elite eight. "That's huge for this team and how far they've come. Youth is a funny thing. When they are allowed to, they grow up quickly."
On Saturday, Princeton's young guns showed how much they have grown this spring as freshmen Peter Trombino and Scott Sowanick each scored two goals while their classmate Whitney Hayes, a former star at Princeton High, chipped in a goal and two assists.
Hayes, for his part, maintained that he and his classmates weren't fazed by playing in their first-ever NCAA tourney contest. "We've been through a whole season," said Hayes. "I don't think we really play like freshmen. We know the system. We know what we're supposed to do and what we're not supposed to do. We just go out there and play."
In Tierney's view, a key factor in the development of his young players has been the leadership exerted by the veterans. "I think their growth has been fostered especially by four young men, Ryan Boyle, Jason Doneger, Ricky Schultz, and Drew Casino," maintained Tierney, whose club is now 22-0 in NCAA tournament games since 1992 against teams other than Syracuse.
"Those are the older guys who could've packed it in. They could've said we've been in the Final 4, we've won a national championship. They could've said, oh these young guys, let's just get out of here. But they didn't."
Tierney credited Boyle's ability to adjust under fire as a key factor triggering the Tigers last Saturday. "Our first three possessions are always to determine what the other team's defensive plan is," explained the Hall of Fame coach.
"Once we determined that they are not going to slide to Ryan, if he feels confident he can beat his guy, then he's got that opportunity. He was very timely in that today. He just wasn't go-go-go. He picked some spots and made some huge goals for us."
For Boyle, playing intelligently is just a matter of following the script laid out by the Princeton coaches. "I don't run that fast, I don't have that strong a shot," asserted the 5'11, 180-pound Boyle, a finalist for the 2004 Tewaaraton Award, given to the outstanding male and female collegiate lacrosse player, who is also second on Princeton's all-time points list with 223, trailing only Kevin Lowe's total of 247.
"In our offense, as long as you make good decisions, you're going to play and you're going to succeed. I just try to play smart and within the system and let the system work for me."
Few Princeton players, though,
have matched Boyle's flair at making that system work.