Boyle Eclipses Career Assist Milestone In Leading Princeton Men's Lax Past Yale
By Bill Alden
As Jon Hess was rewriting the Princeton men's lacrosse record book in the mid-1990's with his playmaking prowess, a high school kid from the Baltimore area was paying close attention.
That youngster, Ryan Boyle, soaked up the nuances of Hess' slick passing game, modeling his game after the Princeton great.
Last Saturday, Boyle, now a senior attacker for Princeton, dished for five assists in the Tigers' 12-9 win over Yale at Class of 1952 Stadium to pass Hess for second place in school history in career assists with 134.
For Boyle, topping his idol proved to be an emotional experience. "It means a lot because I have so much respect for Jon Hess,² said Boyle with his voice rising as he reflected on his milestone moment.
"When I saw him play for Princeton, I watched every little thing he did, the way he organized his team and orchestrated the offense. I respected his game so much. I tried to emulate a lot of the things that he did."
Boyle needed to put those lessons into action in the second half as Princeton fell behind the Bulldogs 6-4. With Boyle passing for two assists, the seventh-ranked Tigers went on a 7-0 run to break the game open as they won their Ivy League opener and improved to 4-2 overall.
"I think our energy level went up," said the 5'11, 180-pound Boyle, who now has a team-high 24 points for the Tigers and trails only Kevin Lowe (174) on the Princeton career assist list.
"It seems so silly and stupid but it's the difference between guys walking to their spots and hustling to their spots. We were clearing the ball well, we were subbing fast. It was getting a good tempo."
Princeton head coach Bill Tierney will tell you that few have set the tempo for Princeton like the gifted Boyle.
"I'm not a big stat guy, never have been, never will be, but Ryan is certainly one of the top five lacrosse players we've had at Princeton," said Tierney, who got four goals from junior star Jason Doneger in the win over the Bulldogs and two more from prolific freshman Peter Trombino. "He's a wonderful player. Putting himself with the likes of Jon Hess is a credit to Ryan and his teammates."
Tierney had to credit his squad collectively with the grit it showed in holding off the Bulldogs and preventing a repeat of Yale's 15-13 upset of the Tigers in 2002 in Princeton.
"I was having flashbacks to two years ago,² said a grinning Tierney, whose club outshot Yale 30-27 on the afternoon, outscoring the Bulldogs 8-4 over the last 30 minutes.
"It's the same thing all over again, they're playing smart and it seemed like the bounces weren't going our way. It felt like we were in trouble. But we won some faceoffs and the kids started shooting the ball better. We were more aggressive defensively."
After going through a dogfight in Ivy play last spring which saw the Tigers emerge as a tri-champion with a 5-1 conference record, Tierney acknowledged that it was vital for his squad to get off on the right foot in league play.
"We couldn't let this slip away," said Tierney, whose club has won or shared the last nine Ivy crowns and hosts improved Rutgers on April 10 and Penn on April 13. "In this league, one loss and you could be out. It's a great league, there are a lot of good teams. We certainly need to play better."
Boyle, for his part, maintained that he and his teammates came into the day looking to assert themselves as they started their Ivy campaign.
"In my four years, this is the strongest the league has been," said Boyle, the 2002 Ivy League Player of the Year and a first-team All-American last year.
"We wanted to establish ourselves as still the team to beat in the Ivy League. I think it's huge to not show a chink in the armor early in the Ivy season."
With a recordbreaker like Boyle triggering the attack, Princeton will be tough to knock off its Ivy perch.