Princeton lacrosse, NCAA round one

First midfield leads Princeton men to first-round win

i-e50e254f5d85ab58b8ad754acffd8537-kovler.jpgBy David Marcus ’92

Mark Kovler ’09 scored five goals and added an assist to lead Princeton University’s men’s lacrosse team to a 10-7 win over the University of Massachusetts in an opening round NCAA playoff game at Princeton May 10. With the win, the Tigers advance to play Ivy League rival Cornell at noon May 16 in a quarterfinal match at Hofstra University.

“It was a tough game for us,” Princeton head coach Bill Tierney said of his squad’s first playoff win since 2006. “It was a big mental hurdle. Now we know who’s waiting for us. We know them and what they do, and they know us and what we do.”

The game turned on a timeout by Tierney in the second quarter. Goalie Tyler Fiorito ’12 was struggling to clear the ball and heaved a pass from his own end of the field into the UMass half. Princeton’s Jack McBride ’11 came up with the ball, and Tierney immediately called timeout with 6:10 left and Princeton leading 3-1. Kovler scored on the ensuing possession and added another goal a minute later. He finished out the half by firing a shot past the Minutemen’s second-string goalie after starter Doc Schneider got an unnecessary roughness penalty. Schneider came into the game with the second-highest save percentage in Division I and made 13 saves against Princeton.

UMass never got closer than three goals in the second half. Fiorito made four of his 12 saves in the fourth quarter to preserve the lead before Rich Sgalardi ’09 scored the last of his three goals with two minutes left to give Princeton (13-2) a 10-6 lead.

Kovler and Sgalardi played in Princeton’s first midfield along with Scott McKenzie ’10, who added a goal and an assist against UMass. With temperatures in the mid-60s and UMass holding the ball for long stretches, Tierney was able to use his first midfield on most of his team’s possessions, a strategy that may become harder to implement in hot weather or a more up-tempo game.

UMass usually opted for a man-to-man defense, and Tierney and his offensive coordinator, Dave Metzbower, countered by initiating almost all of their offense from the midfield. Kovler, Sgalardi and McKenzie finished what they started by accounting for nine of Princeton’s 10 goals and all three of its assists. Attack Tommy Davis ’09 broke their stranglehold on the scoring column with a man-up goal late in the third quarter.

The victory sets up a rematch with Cornell, which defeated Princeton 10-7 in Ithaca April 18. The Big Red won 14 of 19 face-offs that day, allowing them to dominate time of possession. The two teams tied for the Ivy League title (each was 5-1 in Ivy games). The winner of the May 16 game will earn a trip to the Final Four at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Women’s lacrosse stifles Hoyas in 15-9 win

By Eben Novy-Williams ’10

If there was one play that perfectly exemplified the Princeton women’s lacrosse team’s 15-9 dismantling of Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament May 10, it came with 17:47 remaining in the second half.

Following a free-position save by sophomore goaltender Erin Tochihara, the Tigers pushed the ball up the field in a hurry. After crossing midfield, midfielder Holly McGarvie ’09 found attack Kristin Morrison ’10 streaking toward the goal and fed a perfect pass over the Georgetown defense. Morrison caught the ball in stride and stuffed it inside the Hoyas’ net to give Princeton an 11-7 lead.

Throughout the program’s second straight first-round victory, the Tigers (14-3) were proficient on both ends of the field. Senior midfielder Kristin Schwab had a team-high five goals, while Tochihara made eight saves and the Princeton defense held the Hoyas scoreless for the first 26:48 of the second half.

“This was a really big win for us against a very talented Georgetown team,” Princeton head coach Chris Sailer said. “We came out and really executed our game plan very well. … We’ve been united in a common mission all year long, and we saw that on the field today.”

The Hoyas opened the scoring just 1:44 into the game, but the Tigers responded with four straight goals — from Morrison, Schwab, Christine Casaceli ’09, and McGarvie — to build a lead they would never relinquish. Georgetown pulled within one with 18 seconds remaining in the first half, but the Tigers opened the second frame with five unanswered goals to put the game away.

As impressive as the Princeton offense was, however, the second half belonged to Tochihara, who led the defense in its domination of one of the nation’s most talented offenses.

“I came out in the second half a lot more relaxed,” Tochihara said. “I really just focused on playing my game.”

It may not have been the prettiest of games — the defensive struggles at the end of the first half were eerily reminiscent of Princeton’s loss to No. 2 Maryland two weeks ago — but the Tigers were best when it mattered most, especially in the second half, when they won nine of 10 draws and 11 of 16 ground balls. Schwab led the team with five goals, Morrison added four goals and an assist, and McGarvie, the Ivy League Player of the Year, recorded a team-high three ground balls.

The Tigers now advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament May 16, where they play a familiar opponent: undefeated defending-champion Northwestern.

“We have a lot of experience in the tournament now, and having lost to Northwestern last year, we have a lot of revenge that is motivating us,” Schwab said. “Having played them last year is going to really benefit us going into the game on Saturday.”

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