Web Edition

lead stories
other news



chess forum
town talk


press releases


last week's issue

real estate
classified ads


(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

LOW RIDER: Princeton University senior goalie Matt Larkin, left, goes low to make one of his 13 saves in the Tigers' 10-8 loss to Syracuse last Saturday. It was Larkin's first career start after serving more than three seasons in a back-up role. Larkin and the Tigers will look to get into the win column as they start their Ivy League campaign by playing at Yale on April 2 and at Penn on April 5.
end of caption

Larkin Tries to Save Princeton Men's Lax But Syracuse Rallies to Drop Tigers to 0-4

By Bill Alden

Matt Larkin has learned quite a bit about persistence during his career with the Princeton University men's lacrosse team.

After riding the bench for more than three seasons, the senior goalie earned his first career start as the Tigers hosted defending national champion Syracuse last Saturday.

The Severna Park, Md. native was determined to savor his moment in the sun, no matter the outcome.

"It was the first time in a Princeton uniform that I got to shake hands with the other goalie at the start of the game," recalled Larkin, who had seen action off the bench in two of Princeton's first three outings this season in his role as Dave Law's back-up. "It was the first time I heard my name called out on the loudspeaker."

Once the action started, Larkin's actions spoke loudly as he made one dazzling save after another to keep the Tigers in the game. The 5'9, 155-pound Larkin recorded eight saves in the first half as a sputtering Princeton went into intermission trailing the Orange 3-2.

In the third quarter, Princeton built a 5-3 lead but then Syracuse adjusted their shots and got to Larkin as they outscored the Tigers 7-1 to build a 10-6 lead by the middle of the fourth quarter.

While the Tigers gamely fought back, they ended up losing 10-8 before a crowd of 6,148 jamming the Class of 1952 Stadium. The loss dropped Princeton to 0-4 for the first time since 1986.

A subdued but still pumped-up Larkin was philosophical as he assessed his performance. "Those are the ones you would like to have back," said Larkin, referring to a Syracuse goal that trickled past him in the waning seconds of the third quarter.

"Some of those saves, I probably should not have made. Some of those could have gone in but that's how it goes. I've been playing goalie a long time and that's a fact of life at the goalie position."

Larkin credited his teammates with helping him come up big in the first half. "We had a good defensive scheme," said Larkin. The defensemen did a great job with that. Oliver Barry, Dan Cocoziello, and Tim Sullivan held it down for me as much as I held it down for them. We were there for each other."

Flashing a rueful grin, Larkin acknowledged that it was impossible to hold Syracuse down all afternoon. "Lacrosse is a game of momentum and it can go either way," said Larkin. "You hope it goes along for you rather than them. It just worked out in their favor. They got on a really good run."

Gaining the starting assignment Saturday marked the culmination of a special run for Larkin, who turned heads last fall during the Tigers' preseason work.

"I just really wanted it this year," explained Larkin, who came into 2005 having seen just 187 minutes of playing time in his first three seasons at Princeton.

"I was taking things seriously but with a more relaxed attitude. I had so much more confidence this year. The team has really been supporting me. Dave Law has been supportive. It's been a great situation."

Princeton head coach Bill Tierney had no qualms in shaking up his goalie situation. "That was an easy decision," said Tierney, whose team was outshot 40-29 by the Orange.

"Matt and Dave have been playing well head to head. Alex Hewit is just as good. We're going to play three goalies in the coming games. Whoever has the best week is going to play. I thought Matty did a fabulous job today. Only the top teams could've made an adjustment like Syracuse did today."

With Princeton and Syracuse having staged some remarkable battles befitting programs who have combined to win 14 of the last 17 NCAA titles, Tierney knew that his team's 5-3 lead in the third quarter wasn't safe by any means.

"We've been through a lot of these Syracuse-Princeton games," said Tierney with a raspy and knowing chuckle. "They wear you down. They are so well-coached, they have such good kids, and they play so hard. We had a two-goal lead and I thought we were really starting to click. To their credit, they were very business-like. They do what they do and they made adjustments."

With the Tigers sitting in a 0-4 hole for the first time in his storied 18-year tenure, Tierney hasn't lost faith that his team can make the adjustments needed to get on the right track.

"I think we gained a lot from today," said Tierney, who got three goals from Peter Trombino and one apiece from Scott Sowanick, Mike Gaudio, Zach Goldberg, Tripp Shriner, and former Princeton High star Whitney Hayes.

"I'm extremely confident that this is a good lacrosse team. We've played four of the top teams in the country. Now it's our turn to go out there and try to do our best in the coming games."

The Tigers now move into Ivy League play, a pleasing prospect considering that the program has won 10 straight league titles.

"I told them that they can grow off of this," said Tierney, whose team plays at Yale on April 2 and at Penn on April 5.

"I really believe that when we get that first win, we're going to be a tough team. We played well today."

Larkin, for his part, maintained that Princeton made strides Saturday notwithstanding the final score.

"We had some great spurts today, offensively and defensively," said Larkin, who ended the afternoon with 13 saves.

"We just need to feed off of each other. Everybody was pumped up, everybody was excited to play. I was trying to get into people's faces, trying to be as much of a leader as I could. I'm going to keep doing that whether I'm in the goal or not."

Based on how Larkin responded in his first-ever start, he should be doing a lot of that leading on the field.

go to next story

Website Design by Kiyomi Camp