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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction )

GOING FOURTH: Princeton junior attacker Jason Doneger heads towards the goal in Princeton's 12-4 win over Rutgers in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Last Saturday, Doneger scored two goals as Princeton rallied to stun Maryland 9-8 in overtime in the NCAA quarters. The win advanced the Tigers to the NCAA semis in Baltimore on May 29 to face Navy in May 29 with the victor to play the survivor of the Johns Hopkins-Syracuse semi on May 31 in the title game. It will be the 10th appearance in the Final Four and the fourth in the last five years for Princeton, which has won six national championships.
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Boyle's Late Heroics Spark Dramatic Comeback As Tiger Men's Lax Edges Terps, Returns to Final 4

By Bill Alden

In late April, the Princeton University men's lacrosse team scored three goals in the last 1:49 of its contest with Cornell to force overtime.

Although the Tigers went on to lose the game 12-11, the experience of rallying back from that deficit laid the foundation for what will go down as one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the program.

Finding itself down 8-6 to Maryland with two minutes left in last Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal match-up, Princeton used the memory of the Cornell game as a rallying cry.

Inspired senior All-American Ryan Boyle took matters into his own hands for the Tigers as he scored twice to force overtime and then fed freshman Peter Trombino for the game-winner 1:42 into the extra session, giving sixth-seeded Princeton a 9-8 upset over No. 3 Terps in a game played at Charlottesville, Va.

The win advanced Princeton to a semifinal showdown against second-seeded Navy on May 29 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore with the victor to face the survivor of the Johns Hopkins/Syracuse clash in the championship game on Memorial Day. It will be the 10th appearance in the Final Four and the fourth in the last five years for Princeton, which has won six national championships.

In reflecting on his team's amazing comeback, Princeton head coach Bill Tierney said the Cornell game was very much on his players' minds.

"You just try to stay positive," said Tierney, whose club improved to 11-3 with the win. "The guys kept talking about the Cornell game and getting three goals in the last two minutes."

Tierney conceded that the brave talk would've meant little without a maestro like Boyle orchestrating the comeback.

"The beauty of it is to have a Ryan Boyle who can take over a game and wants to," said Tierney, for his prolific senior who scored three goals and had two assists Saturday to give him 228 career points, trailing only Kevin Lowe (247) on Princeton's all-time list. "Individually he just took over the game and team and led us to that win."

The win, which improved Princeton to 6-1 in NCAA tournament games in overtime and 19-3 in NCAA tourney games decided by one or two goals, was a reflection of character as much as skill.

"People give coaches too much credit," asserted Tierney, in assessing his team's penchant for winning the close ones in post-season play.

"This comes from the fabric of the kids in our program. We put them under pressure in practice and we do a lot of situational work. It also comes down to the character of the kids in the program and their families. They pass up a free ride elsewhere to come to Princeton where they know they will have to work harder in the classroom and on the field."

Tierney got some good work all through the lineup Saturday as Jason Doneger and Whitney Hayes each scored two goals, Drew Casino added an assist while winning seven of 10 face-offs, and goalie Dave Law had 12 saves.

Once again, Tierney got good work from his crew of precocious freshmen. "Trombino just wanted to win, he wasn't worried about his streak," said Tierney referring to his freshman star who has now scored a goal in all 14 games of his college career. "Scott [Sowanick] was playing with a back-up stick, he could've had four goals but his shots just didn't fall. Whitney beat his man and scored twice, that's not easy."

The Tigers won't have an easy task in trying to overcome 14-2 Navy this Saturday. "The biggest challenge is that we don't know them too well, we haven't played them in years," said Tierney, who last guided Princeton to a national title in 2001 when the Tigers edged Syracuse 10-9 in overtime.

"From what I saw yesterday (in Navy's 6-5 win over Cornell), and on film, they are the rare team that has good players at every position. Some teams are attack-heavy, but they have good players at each spot. They are a sliding team that plays hard and clean."

If Saturday's game turns into a nail-biter, Navy may have a hard time sliding past a Princeton team that possesses a rare ability to win the tight ones come tournament time.

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