April 24, 2024

PU Men’s Lax Displays Urgency in Win over Penn As Unsung Hero Barnds Stars in Last Home Game

BARN BURNER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tommy Barnds heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Barnds tallied two goals and one assist to help Princeton defeat Penn. The Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy League, play at Yale on April 27 in their regular season finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Tommy Barnds left the Class of 1952 Stadium last Saturday evening after his final regular season game on the field for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, he got a special embrace.

Princeton head coach Matt Madalon walked over to Barnds and gave him a bear hug, telling the senior midfielder how proud he was of him.

Patiently working his way into the lineup over the years, Barnds contributed two goals and an assist to help Princeton defeat Penn 15-10 before a standing room only throng of 2,766 as the Tigers improved to 8-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy League and stayed alive in their pursuit of a spot in the the upcoming Ivy postseason tournament.

Coming off a disappointing 13-12 loss at Brown a week earlier, Barnds and his teammates were determined to get back on the winning track.

“We were trusting our process,” said Barnds. “We had an extra focus in starting fast and practicing hard so we could come out in this game and really start fast and not get into a hole like we did against Brown.”

There was some extra emotion as the Tigers held their annual Senior Day celebration when they hosted the Quakers.

“It is definitely crazy to think that this is our last game on this field,” said Barnds, a 6’0, 200-pound native of Woodside, Calif.

“We know that all of the seniors are going to show out and all of the underclassmen are too. We have a lot of them who are going to play out there for us and they were going to do their thing also.”
The experience of going through COVID issues has helped Barnds and his classmates develop some tight bonds.

“Our group is closer than anybody else because of those challenges,” said Barnds. “It is another step in the path to get where we are now.”

After a slow start which saw the foes knotted in a scoreless stalemate through 10 minutes, Princeton stepped up with three goals in the last five minutes of the quarter.

“They are a very good defense, I think they are one of the best in the country,” said Barnds.

“We just had to stay patient and eventually the shots would fall. Two freshmen (Colin Burns and Nate Kabiri) came with our first two goals.”

Barnds got the third goal as the Tigers went up 3-2 and never trailed after that.

“I am just cutting to space and these guys are finding me,” said Barnds, recalling his tally. “They get it to me and I finish it.”

In the second quarter, Princeton kept finishing, outscoring the Quakers 5-2 to take an easy 8-4 halftime lead, highlighted by two goals by Andrew McMeekin as he won face-offs and raced in for shots that found the back of the cage.

Barnds struck again 2:15 into the second half, firing in a tally that put the Tigers up 9-4.

“We got a hangup somehow and I just cut to space,” recalled Barnds. “It was Burns who found me on that one.”

Hanging in there over the years, Barnds has carved out a role in Princeton’s high-powered offense.

“It is just go out there and try and play well and do my best and sometimes the ball goes in and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Barnds, who now has eight goals this season and 23 in his Tiger career.

“You practice every day, you don’t really think that you are getting too much better. It is just over the course of all of the shots that I have taken and eventually I start to get better.”

Playing well against Penn was critical for a Tiger squad that is on the bubble as it looks to qualify for the Ivy postseason tournament that includes the top four teams in the final league standings.

“I think we have confidence in ourselves but we really needed this one,” said Barnds.

“It was almost like a playoff game for us. We brought that urgency all week in practice.”

Princeton head coach Madalon saw a heightened sense of urgency from his players as they prepared for the clash with the Quakers.

“Our guys just wanted to get back to the locker room and back to practice and back to work,” said Madalon.

“They knew they let one get away from them but Brown also beat us. They were a better team that day.”

Madalon was thrilled to see the team’s Class of ’24 come through in their home finale.

“It is crazy, with all of the adversity and the COVID stuff,” said Madalon.

“It is an awesome group from the captains to the rest of the seniors. It is a true group that has led this program and set the standard. I couldn’t be happier for them that they got to do that on ’52.”
It took some time for the Tigers to find a rhythm against a tough Penn squad that brought a 4-1 Ivy record into the game.

“I think we just needed to get some shots on cage,” said Madalon.

“We were getting good looks, we just weren’t getting them on cage.”

Princeton got a big spark from sophomore face-off specialist McMeekin when he found the back of the cage twice in the second quarter surge.

“I think his first one was from 17 so I don’t think that was in the playbook,” said Madalon with a grin.

“We were obviously very thrilled about it. He has gotten better every practice and everyday he has been with us. He has done a really nice job, he is awesome.”

With the Tigers having played three one-goal games against Penn in the last two years, Madalon was thrilled to see his squad leading 11-7 after three quarters.

“Penn is a great program, every year they are one of the toughest teams we play,” said Madalon.

“We were anticipating a one-goal game. We were happy to get some separation and some breathing room going into the fourth quarter.”

At the defensive end, Princeton did a good job of stifling Penn.

“We were buttoned up for most of the second half, it was good,” said Madalon.

“We had to settle in, we have to protect Gio (goalie Michael Gianforcaro) a little more. He stole a couple too. We have to play a little better in front of him too.”

Scoring a goal late in the fourth quarter, the first for a Princeton goalie since a tally by Alex Hewit against Brown in 2008, Gianforcaro bought the crowd to its feet.

“His job is not to score goals but we were really thrilled for him,” said Madalon of Gianforcaro who made 15 saves in addition to his goal and was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week.
“I tried to call a timeout but I am glad we didn’t get it. That was really cool, I was happy for him.”

Madalon was happy to see Barnds come through with his second straight two-goal performance.

“Tommy is on man-up, he does a great job for us,” said Madalon, who also got two goals from another senior Lukas Stanat.

“He just found himself on a solid second line. He did outstanding, he was awesome today.”

As Princeton plays at Yale on April 27 in its regular season finale, the Tigers would clinch a spot in the Ivy tourney with a win over the Bulldogs. However, a Princeton loss and a Brown win over Harvard would eliminate the Tigers. Mirroring its approach to the Penn game, the Tigers will be bringing a sense of urgency this week as it girds for Yale.

“We have an opportunity to solidify that,” said Madalon, reflecting on the team’s prospects.

“We are going to put all of our effort into these next five days of practice.”

Barnds, for his part, believes that the win over Penn can propel the Tigers down the homestretch.

“This is one of the most fun wins I can remember on this field,” said Barnds.

“It is something we can build off going into Yale and the Ivy League tournament where we picked it up last year.”