Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 20
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
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END POINT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse senior attacker Tommy Davis eludes a defender in recent action. Last Saturday, Davis scored a goal and had an assist but it wasn’t enough as fourth-seeded Princeton fell 6-4 to No. 5 Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra. Davis ended his career with 134 points, 16th all-time in program history.

PU Men’s Lax Misfires in Cornell Rematch, Falls 6-4 to Big Red in NCAA Quarterfinals

Bill Alden

For the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, this spring has amounted to a revenge tour.

Over the course of the season, Princeton has beaten five teams (Johns Hopkins, Albany, Syracuse, Dartmouth, and Brown) who tagged the Tigers with losses in 2008 when they went 7-6 and didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Last Saturday, the Tigers were looking to avenge one of their two defeats this spring on a field where it lost its other game as it played Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra.

While fourth-seeded Princeton didn’t have a full week to prepare for No. 5 Cornell, Tiger head coach Bill Tierney thought his club was ready to turn the tables on the Big Red, who had posted a 10-7 win in the regular season meeting between the teams.

“It was a different week,” said Tierney, whose team shared the Ivy League title this spring with Cornell as both went 5-1 in league play.

“The week before was a long week but we needed it because we were playing a team in UMass that we didn’t really know. We had played them on Sunday and then we were playing again on Saturday but we know Cornell well so everything was good.”

It didn’t take long for things to turn bad for Princeton in the rematch with the Big Red.

Cornell jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two scores in the first 3:36 and then scored a goal with 11 seconds left in the first quarter to push its advantage to 3-1.

By halftime, Princeton trailed 5-1, despite holding its own in two key statistical categories, having been outshot by just 16-14 and winning three-of-eight faceoffs.

Despite the deficit, Tierney and the Tigers weren’t in panic mode at intermission.

“As crazy as it sounds we didn’t feel that bad,” recalled Tierney. “It wasn’t like we were overwhelmed or getting steamrolled. The defense was digging in and we just needed to chip away on offense.”

The Tigers did chip away in the third quarter, getting late goals from Tommy Davis and Chris McBride while holding the Big Red scoreless. Princeton nearly got a third goal but a Mark Kovler tally was disallowed when it was determined that it didn’t go into the net before the buzzer.

Princeton won the faceoff in the fourth and went on a fast break that yielded a point blank shot from Chris McBride. The shot was stuffed and midway through the quarter, Cornell tallied to take a 6-3 lead.

The Tigers couldn’t find an offensive rhythm and were only able to notch one more goal on the way to a disappointing 6-4 loss.

In Tierney’s view, the game turned on the sequence at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth.

“We got it to 5-3 and almost made it 5-4,” said Tierney, whose team ended the season with a 13-3 record.

“That was a pivotal 15 seconds or so. We miss a goal by 0.2 seconds and then we get a fast break and have a shot in the first 13 seconds. It was a layup, the kind of shot Chris McBride usually makes.”

Tierney was proud of how his team played the stifling defense for which it is known.

“We played great defense in the fourth quarter; we knocked the ball down a lot,” asserted Tierney, whose team forced three Cornell turnovers in the quarter and 16 on the afternoon. “Charlie Kolkin made some senior plays. When you hold a team to six goals, you expect to win.”

But Princeton squandered that defensive effort by misfiring at the other end of the field.

“When you only get 9 of 29 shots on goal and go one-of-seven on extra man opportunities, it is tough,” said Tierney, whose club did lose the ground ball battle 39-19. “Overall, we just weren’t sharp on offense like we have been in the last few weeks.”

It was tough for Princeton’s nine seniors to see their stellar careers end in defeat.

The class, which included Davis, Kovler, Kolkin, Chris Peyser, Brendan Reilly, Rich Sgalardi, Tim Novick, Greg Seaman, and Josh Lesko, persevered through some ups and downs as they helped Princeton return to the NCAA quarters for the first time since their freshman campaign.

“The message to them after the game was the same as before the season — the goal is to get the Princeton program back where it belongs and they did that,” maintained Tierney.

“We went 13-3 and made it to the NCAA quarters; it’s just disappointing when you come so close to the Final Four.”

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