Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 15
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
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CITY LIMITS: Princeton University men’s lacrosse senior midfielder Scott MacKenzie fights off a check in recent action. Last Saturday, MacKenzie notched a goal but it wasn’t nearly enough as No. 4 Princeton fell 13-4 to third-ranked Syracuse in the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, the first-ever event in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Princeton Men’s Lax Falters in Big City Classic, Losing to Syracuse in New Meadowlands Opener

Bill Alden

In its first two trips to National Football League venues this spring, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team displayed a grit and efficiency that would impress Bill Belichick.

Facing Johns Hopkins in early March at the Baltimore Ravens’ M and T. Bank Stadium, the Tigers edged the Blue Jays 11-10 in overtime.

A month later, Princeton traveled to Gillette Stadium, the home of Belichick’s New England Patriots, and came away with a 9-7 win over Ivy League rival Brown.

Last Saturday, fourth-ranked Princeton looked forward to its third game in an NFL stadium as it faced No. 3 Syracuse in the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, the first-ever event in the gleaming New Meadowlands Stadium, the future home of the Giants and the Jets.

With 25,710 on hand in the 82,500-seat sports palace that cost $1.6 billion to build, the Tigers looked like they were headed to another nailbiter, trailing the Orange 3-2 early in the second quarter.

But then Syracuse did its imitation of the high flying New Orleans Saints, displaying its multi-faceted offense, reeling off four straight goals to take a 5-2 lead at intermission.

The blitz continued in the second half as the Orange outscored Princeton 5-0 in the third quarter on the way to a 13-4 rout.

Speaking in a glass-walled room in the middle of the plush Coach’s Club, Princeton head coach Chris Bates acknowledged that his team got outplayed in every phase of the game.

“I give Syracuse a lot of credit; they played well and got us out of the things that we do well,” said Bates, whose team fell to 7-2 with the loss.

“We never got in any kind of rhythm anywhere on the field. They faced off well; they played great between the lines. I thought they shot very well.”

Conversely, Princeton’s offense misfired most of the evening. “If you look at the possessions, I don’t think we had the ball very much at all,” said Bates, whose team was outshot 38-30 and went 1-for-9 in extra man opportunities.

“When we did, I thought their goalie played well. We never had multiple shot possessions and got ourselves feeling good. It was one and done. Our offense is good when we share the ball and possess it for a minute or two minutes and wear a defense down. We didn’t wear anybody down today. With a good goalie and a good defense; that is not going to cut it.

Senior midfielder Scott MacKenzie said that Syracuse left the Tiger offense literally speechless.

“We just came out flat and we didn’t communicate,” said MacKenzie, who tallied Princeton’s first goal early in the second quarter.

“So much of offense is communicating with our picks and the plays we are trying to run. It is a big venue with a lot of fans and we didn’t talk as much as we have done in the past.”

Star goalie Fiorito, who had a big game in last year’s Big City Classic when the Tigers topped Syracuse 12-8, talked honestly about the defeat.

“In the first quarter we started off OK and in the second quarter, it kind of got away from us and it got away from me,” said the sophomore netminder who ended up with 12 saves in the setback.

“Syracuse played great today. They shot the ball really well and we didn’t rise to the occasion. I think you can say all over the field, Syracuse outworked us and it showed in the score.”

A glum Chad Wiedmaier echoed Fiorito’s analysis. “Syracuse is a team with runs in the way they play transition and like Coach Bates said we had to expect those runs and bend with it and not break,” said the sophomore defenseman.

“We let them pull away with it. I don’t know if it was the venue or if we weren’t up to the occasion but we weren’t as sharp as we had to be mentally.”

With Princeton slated to host Rutgers on April 13 and Dartmouth on April 17, Bates is hoping the Syracuse loss will be a wake-up call for his squad.

“It’s a young team in a lot of ways and we have to learn from this,” said Bates. “Maybe this is good for us; we haven’t had great weeks of practice lately and these guys know it. This is a little bit of a humbling day but at the same point, we can kind of sharpen the axe a little bit and dial in. We have the capability of playing with anybody in the country. I believe that and I think these guys believe it too.”

If the Tigers can sharpen up, they could get another trip to an NFL venue on Memorial Day weekend when the NCAA Final Four comes to M and T Bank Stadium.

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