Tyler Fiorito started the season opener in his freshman year with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team in 2009 and seemingly never left the field over the next four years.
The star goalie made 59 starts and played 3,396 minutes for the Tigers, recording 624 saves, the second-highest total in program history, and compiling a sparkling goals against average of 7.47.
Fiorito earned All-American and All-Ivy League honors all four years of his career and was the Ivy Player of the Year in 2012 as a senior.
After graduation, Fiorito joined the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse and found himself in an unusual position — mired in the bench. In the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Fiorito made no starts and had one appearance for a grand total of 15 minutes of playing time.
Reflecting on his first two seasons in the MLL, Fiorito knew that he had to pay his dues.
“It is a very different game; you come in and you are playing with guys that are 10-12 years older and are veterans in the league,” said the 6’2, 200-pound Fiorito, a native of Phoenix, Md.
“I just wanted to get to know my teammates and the league. I got to practice five weeks in 2012, they suited me up for championship weekend so I would get a taste of things. Last year, I suited up for half the games so there was progress for me. You can only suit up 19 players — 2 goalies and 17 field players so having the ability to suit up is a privilege.”
This summer, due to an injury to starting goalie Kip Turner, Fiorito got the privilege to start and emerged as a standout. He was named the MLL Defensive Player of the Week in late July after making 15 saves in a 12-11 win over the New York Lizards.
For Fiorito, the award was validation of his toil over the last two summers.
“I was doing this full out the last two years and it was great to earn the respect,” said Fiorito, who ended up making eight appearances and six starts this summer with a goals against average of 12.35.
“Guys doubt your abilities and whether you can be more than a backup. I proved to myself that I can play in this league. It was great to have others recognize that I have the ability to play in this league.”
For Fiorito, who works on the investment equity sales desk for UBS in New York City, keeping his lacrosse skills sharp has been a challenge.
“It is difficult to take shots during the week, there are not too many fields in the city and it is hard to find guys that can come out after 6 p.m. and shoot on you,” said Fiorito, noting that he typically misses one Bayhawks practice a week as the team trains on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“You love the game so you make it work. You stay late on Friday and take shots. You hop in when the team is doing shooting drill, it is good for them to have a live goalie.”
Goalies, in general, don’t have it easy in the MLL. “This is a difficult league for goalies, the shooters are all good,” said Fiorito.
“It is the progression from high school to college to the pros. In high school, there were a bunch of good players but usually one or two shooters that you had to worry about. In college, there would be four or five that you had to worry about. In this league, every guy can shoot and is dangerous. In college, you had a week to prepare for a game. You had film study and two days of walking through. You had a game plan; you knew the other team’s plays and recognized them. In this league, you have film but you don’t have as rigid a game plan. It is a lot of 1-versus-1 matchups and relying on general defensive principles.”
Fiorito got his first taste of action this year when starting goalie Kip Turner was injured during an April 27 contest at Boston. Fiorito came in and made seven saves in a 15-9 loss.
“Kip got hurt in the game and I came in the first half, which was tough,” recalled Fiorito.
“I didn’t have the mentality of starting and going through the process of warming up. I didn’t do a good job.”
Fiorito did a better job two months later when Turner suffered a season-ending thumb injury in a June 21 game at Denver.
“In Denver, the second time he got hurt, he told me at halftime that he couldn’t go,” said Fiorito.
“Confidence is a big part of this. I was ready to go and I got a good warmup at halftime. We were down 6-1 at halftime, I didn’t have a lot to lose. The best I could do was to give my team a spark with some big saves. I did well. We ended up losing 9-7 but it was an exciting confidence builder for me. I made some good saves.”
As Fiorito saw more action this summer, he developed a comfort level guiding the Bayhawk defense.
“I can be more of a leader on the field,” said Fiorito. “Before, I was the new guy not playing and it is hard to assert yourself. Now I have shown I can be a starter.”
In the business world, Fiorito had gotten off to a good start at UBS. “The job comes first, you don’t make money playing in the MLL,” said Fiorito, who has spent much of his spare time this year preparing for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, necessitating studying in hotels when the Bayhawks were on the road and catching 10:40 p.m. trains out of Baltimore after home games to get back to New York to study on Sundays.
“I am two years into my job with UBS and I am 24. This has been a big year in terms of having more responsibility. I am starting to pick up my own accounts, which is a big deal. Perception is reality at this job. I need to continue to put in the time at work. It is a balancing act if I want to continue to do what I love.”
In the wake of his breakthrough campaign, Fiorito plans to continue his MLL career.
“I am confident in my abilities and my place in the league,” said Fiorito.
“I love the game; it was hard not playing for two or three years. I had to decide whether taking all of this time, being away 18 weekends out of New York. It makes it all worth it, seeing the team win the championship the last two years and then getting to play this year. It is reaping the benefits of the hard work and sacrifice.”