Tyler Fiorito acknowledged that the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team didn’t take care of business when it hosted Yale last Sunday afternoon in the Ivy League championship game.
Knowing that a win could be its only route into the upcoming NCAA tournament, Princeton got overrun by a sizzling Yale team, falling 15-7 to the Bulldogs before a crowd of 1,422 at Class of 1952 Stadium.
In a post-game press conference that had the feel of a wake, a red-eyed Fiorito tipped his hat to Yale, which has now won nine straight games and improved to 11-4.
“They are a good offensive team,” said senior goalie and tri-captain Fiorito, who made just four saves on the day, a far cry from the 13 stops he piled up when Princeton edged the Bulldogs 10-9 in five overtimes in their regular season meeting on March 24.
“They are playing with a lot of confidence and they have some good inside guys. I think they held the ball and brought it behind the net and really attacked us from there. They weren’t taking too many outside shots and they were patient with the ball. They finished their opportunities today.”
Fiorito thought that Princeton might be finished for the year as the loss dropped the Tigers to 11-4 and put them firmly on the bubble for a spot in the 16-team NCAA field.
“We had our chance today, we had it in our hands,” said Fiorito, who was named last week as the Ivy League Player of the Year after helping the Tigers go 6-0 in regular season league action.
“It didn’t go our way; I think it is disappointing for us. We’ll look back at this as a lost opportunity if this is it. We fought hard.”
About seven hours later, however, things went Princeton’s way as the Tigers received an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney, where they will play at fifth-seeded and defending national champion Virginia (11-3) on May 13 in a first round contest.
Princeton head coach Chris Bates knows that the Tigers will have to take some lessons from the Yale defeat in order to beat Virginia.
“It is a tough locker room to be in right now, I don’t think any of us were prepared for this,” said Bates, whose team fell behind 4-0 in the second quarter but rallied to trail just 7-5 early in the third quarter before Yale put the game away with a decisive 6-0 run.
“I give Yale a ton of credit. I thought they played hard; they made plays for themselves. At the end of the day, I don’t think we did what we needed to do to win a big playoff game.”
Bates’ heart went out to his seniors who took the setback to Yale hard.
“I am most disappointed for our seniors who have done everything possible to shape a culture and win games like this,” said Bates, whose Class of 2012 features tri-captain Fiorito, John Cunningham, and Chad Wiedmaier.
“We are not ready for this to be over. I am proud of these guys; I love these guys.”
Bates didn’t love what he saw offensively from his team on Sunday. “I thought Yale controlled the tempo of the game, they wanted to shorten the game and have long possessions,” said Bates, who got two goals and two assists from Alex Capretta in the loss to Yale with Mike MacDonald chipping in two goals and the trio of Forest Sonnenfeldt, Jeff Froccaro, and Kip Orban adding one goal apiece.
“That gets an offense out of a rhythm; we never felt good. We never had the ball moving. Our legs never got under us offensively to gain some momentum and then you do score, if you are not winning the face-off, you have to play defense and recharge the batteries again. That is a challenge.”
In Bates’s view, his team is up for the challenge posed by Virginia. “We can play and beat anybody in the country,” asserted Bates, whose team could get a rematch with the Bulldogs as the winner of the Princeton-Virginia clash will face the victor of the Notre Dame-Yale opening round contest in the NCAA quarters on May 20 in Philadelphia. “I don’t think anyone in the locker room has a doubt; we know we can.”
Fiorito, for his part, has no doubt that the Tigers can do some damage in the NCAA tourney.
“I think we are a great team,” said Fiorito. “I think every time we step on the field, we are going to bring it. I think a lot of teams would fear us. We are a tough team. I think if they put us in there, we would do well. If we get in, we are going to make a little run here.”