Overcoming Nemesis Yale in NCAA Quarters, PU Men’s Lax Makes Final 4, Will Face Maryland
TITLE SHOT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Sam English fights to get off a shot against Boston University in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14. Last Saturday, junior midfielder English tallied three goals to help fifth-seeded Princeton top fourth-seeded Yale 14-10 in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Tigers, now 11-4, will face top-seeded Maryland (16-0) in the NCAA semis on May 28 at East Hartford, Conn., with the victor advancing to the title game on May 30. It marks Princeton’s first Final 4 appearance since 2004. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Matt Madalon could have felt an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu as the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team fell behind Yale 3-1 in the NCAA quarterfinals last Saturday afternoon.
With fourth-seeded Yale having beaten fifth-seeded Princeton six straight times and Tiger head coach Madalon never having experienced a win over the Bulldogs in his five-year tenure, history seemed to be repeating itself in the contest played at Hofstra University.
But Madalon wasn’t fazed by the early deficit. “We were down 3-1 but we were still getting some of the shots off that we would like to get, they just weren’t dropping,” said Madalon. “I think at that point, it was ‘hey, just stick to the game plan and keep working. If we get some shots to drop, we can flip this pretty quickly.’”
Princeton did flip the script in a hurry, going on a 7-0 run over a 14-minute stretch from the latter part of the first quarter into the second to seize momentum.
“It was really important, I don’t know if we have been on a 7-0 run at any other point of the year,” said Madalon. “It was a couple of good bounces, a couple of good saves, and a couple of really good shooting performances.”
Building an 8-5 lead at halftime, the Tigers held off the Bulldogs over the final 30 unites of the contest to pull out a 14-10 win. The Tigers, now 11-4, will face top-seeded Maryland (16-0) in the NCAA semis on May 28 at East Hartford, Conn., with the victor advancing to the title game on May 30. It marks Princeton’s first Final 4 appearance since 2004.
Madalon liked the way his squad took care of business in the second half.
“That was the story of the whole game, we would get up three and they would chip back and get it to two,” said Madalon. “We would get it back to three and they would chip back to two. I don’t believe it ever closed to one goal, had that happened, maybe the momentum flips a little bit. I think our guys did a really good job on executing at crucial, critical points.”
Junior midfielder Sam English came through at crucial points, scoring three goals to help spark the Tigers.
“Sam is great, he had a great day,” said Madalon, who got two goals apiece in the victory from Christian Ronda, Alexander Vardaro, and Coulter Mackesy. “He does a lot for us, he plays offense, he plays defense, he plays on the wings at times. He is really helpful in the clearing game, he had a really nice game.”
Princeton senior star defender George Baughan had a nice game as he helped hold Yale standout attacker Matt Brandau to one goal and one assist.
“That was a huge matchup, those are two premier players in Division I lacrosse,” said Madalon, who got 17 saves from senior goalie Erik Peters.
“Matt Brandau is a world class attackman, he is excellent. Both of those guys played really hard. It was a good match, George did a nice job.”
Beating Yale in such a high stakes contest was a huge confidence builder for the Tigers.
“It was a big step for our program, I hadn’t beaten Yale in my tenure as a head coach,” said Madalon. “That was essentially the standard of Ivy League lacrosse. They won a national championship and competed for another one. They have been at the top of the Ivy League so it was a great step for us. It was good to beat those guys, that is a heck of a team.”
Making it back to the Final 4 was big for Princeton players and staff, past and present.
“It was great for the program, teams are teams but the programs are different,” said Madalon.
“This really has been a program in terms of Division I lacrosse. It has been a little bit of a drought getting back to championship weekend. It is a heck of a group, led by the senior group and our captains. I am proud for everyone involved. It really takes a village to get a team to this point in the season, support staff, alumni, everything.”
Now Princeton is getting a rematch against a great Maryland program, a juggernaut who defeated Princeton 15-10 on February 26.
“At this point in the season, every team is playing at a high level,” said Madalon. “We are excited to be in the Final 4. We are excited for our Maryland matchup and looking forward to getting our group ready this week.”
In order for Princeton to pull off an upset of the Terps, Madalon believes his squad needs to stick to basics.
“It is a familiar opponent but again that was so early in the season,” said Madalon. “They have continued to take steps every week and put themselves as the undefeated, No 1 team. We fight and clawed to get ourselves in this position. It is being able to get to work around the face-off X and just really just settle into our game plan as early as possible. We need to weather the emotion of the Final 4 and just get back to playing our lacrosse, our style.”