Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 20
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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EXIT WOUND: Princeton University men’s lacrosse senior attacker Rob Engelke gets poked by a defender in Princeton’s 8-5 loss to Notre Dame last Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Engelke scored two goals in his final appearance for the sixth-seeded Tigers, who squandered a chance to be at home for the NCAA quarterfinals by virtue of their early exit from the tourney.

PU Men’s Lax Runs Out of Late Magic; Falling to Notre Dame in NCAA Opener

Bill Alden

Although the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team trailed Notre Dame 6-5 going into the fourth quarter last Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, the Tigers had the Fighting Irish just where they wanted them.

After all, the Tigers have owned the fourth quarter this spring, outscoring their foes 50-33 overall in the final period during the regular season.

Along the way, Princeton produced late rallies in wins over Penn, Yale, Rutgers, and Cornell, the latter coming just last week in the Ivy League Tournament championship game.

This time, though, the sixth-seeded Tigers couldn’t pull off any late magic as a gritty Notre Dame squad utilized stifling defense and deliberate offense to outscore Princeton 2-0 over the last 15 minutes to earn an 8-5 win before a crowd of 3,305 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

The defeat left Princeton with a final record of 11-5 as the Tigers squandered a chance to play before the home fans at Princeton Stadium, one of the two quarterfinal sites of the tourney this weekend.

Notre Dame, now 8-6, will face third-seeded Maryland in one of the quarterfinal clashes at Princeton with No. 4 North Carolina and fifth-seeded Duke facing off in the other contest.

While the Tigers outshot Notre Dame 11-7 in the fourth quarter, a frustrated junior attacker Jack McBride acknowledged that Princeton never found the range as it got sent home for rest of the season.

“We couldn’t can a lot of our shots,” said McBride, who had two goals and three assists on the game.

“Their goalie [Scott Rodgers] is a good goalie. We kept shooting and let him get on track; we talked all week about that not happening. We hit him a couple of times and that gave him confidence. He came out with some good saves but we didn’t finish some easy ones.”

The Tigers made things hard on themselves as they fell behind 3-1 by the middle of the second quarter. But with McBride triggering the offense with a goal and two assists, the Tigers reeled off three straight tallies to take a 4-3 halftime lead.

The second quarter spurt left McBride and his teammates feeling good going into the second half.

“I thought we were going to get back and start getting some ground and going ahead,” said McBride.

“We came out a little tight in the second half. We turned the ball over two times in a row and they scored two quick ones. I think that was a big moment in the game. We had an opportunity and we just didn’t finish it.”

Princeton’s goalie, Tyler Fiorito, was confident that the Tigers could pull off another big finish.

“We have been there before, we are not panicking,” said Fiorito, assessing Princeton’s mindset in the fourth quarter.

“We are taking it one play at a time. Scott played great in goal today; we just couldn’t put them away at the end. I think defensively, we gave up a few which we wish we could have back.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knows that his team doesn’t get a do-over at tourney time.

“We didn’t feel like we played particularly well and we don’t advance,” said Bates, reflecting on his first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, not having made it as a player at Dartmouth or during his 15-year coaching stint at Drexel.

“The finality of it is hard to stomach. This group has done a wonderful job all year and we have all grown together.”

Bates acknowledged that his group wasn’t sharp offensively in the loss to the Irish.

“We didn’t seem to get untracked offensively and I give Notre Dame credit,” said Bates, whose team did outshoot the Fighting Irish 37-31 on the afternoon.

“Their goalie made some big saves; I thought he stood tall all day. When we had some good opportunities, he stymied us.

By contrast, the Tigers committed some defensive lapses that cost them dearly.

“The transition defense was the key to the game; they got opportunities between the lines,” explained Bates. “There have been a couple of times this year where that has hurt us and today that was the backbreaker.”

While the loss to Notre Dame left a bitter taste, Bates was able to savor what the Tigers have accomplished this spring in his debut season at the helm of the program.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and this year,” said Bates. “We have had some gutsy wins and we end up coming into an NCAA tournament with a six seed. There are a ton of positives. I feel for the seniors at this point because it is over. But there is a lot to build on and a lot of young guys. Hopefully the group learns from today. I think it bodes well for the future; the program is in good standing.”

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