In recent history, shared Ivy League titles have been the norm in men’s lacrosse, as six of nine championships from 2003 to 2011 were split between two or more teams. Another norm has been a Big Red champion, as Cornell had won at least a share of the title each year in that span. Entering Saturday night’s annual matchup against Princeton, the Big Red had a chance to extend both of those streaks.
Instead, the Tigers owned the game from the opening minutes, hammering Cornell 14-9 to finish as the undisputed Ivy League regular-season champion for the first time since 2002. Aside from a victory at Yale that took five overtimes to decide, Princeton dominated the Ancient Eight, outscoring the other five teams by a total score of 71-26.
“This was a big goal for us – we didn’t want to share it,” head coach Chris Bates said after beating Cornell. “If we lost today, it wouldn’t feel good sharing it with the team that beat us.”
The biggest difference between the two teams came inside the crease. While both squads took 20 shots on goal – including a fair number of attempts from several yards away – Princeton won by five goals thanks largely to the play of star goalie Tyler Fiorito ’12, who made 11 stops and finished conference play with a .680 save percentage (nobody else in the league was above .500).
The senior’s most spectacular play came in the fourth quarter, when he left the crease to help play defense and a well-placed pass gave Cornell’s Steve Mock a shot on an open net. Fiorito dove from behind the goal to knock the ball away, and although Cornell would score its final goal 15 seconds later, a highlight had been made.
“I just turned around, saw it and dove, and happened to get my stick on it,” Fiorito said. “It’s my first time [making a save like that]. I see goalies make them all the time – and it was pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, two goalie changes for Cornell could not slow down Princeton’s offense, as the Big Red tandem of Andrew West and A.J. Fiore managed only six saves in the game. Led by the laser shot of Alex Capretta ’12, who scored a career-high five goals on Senior Night, the Tigers passed extremely well on offense and consistently found space for quality shots.
“We have a fantastic chemistry on offense,” Capretta said. “I know what Mike Grossman [’12] is going to do. Tom Schreiber [’14] knows what I’m going to do. We’re all so comfortable together.”
A 6-0 Ivy League record (10-3 overall) gives the Tigers a credible case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, should the hosts falter in the Ivy League playoff next weekend; however, they would likely be one of the first teams on either side of the bubble, as a down year in the Ivy League plus struggles from opponents such as Hofstra and Villanova – who opened the season in the national rankings – leave Princeton without many quality wins.
The Tigers can erase any doubt by beating Brown (which only got two shots past Fiorito in the regular season) and the Cornell-Yale winner to take the automatic bid. And given their recent play, nobody else in the nation will want to draw them in the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t want to call it peaking, because I think we have a lot of room to grow as an entire team,” Capretta said. “Hopefully we are on the upswing, but I don’t want to say we’re peaking yet, because it’s too early to peak.”
It was nearly a perfect weekend for BASEBALL. Needing to sweep four games against league-leading Cornell to return to the championship series, Princeton won the first three – including a 1-0 victory on Friday thanks to a nine-inning, 14-strikeout performance by Zak Hermans ’13, which he called the best pitching performance of his life – making Sunday’s finale at Clarke Field a division championship game. Trailing 3-2 heading into the ninth, the Tigers scored a run to force extra innings, but the hosts could not answer a 12th-inning homer and lost 4-3, ending their hopes of a second straight Ivy League title.
It wasn’t easy, but WOMEN’S WATER POLO won the Eastern Championship for the first time since 2000, beating Maryland 6-5 in Sunday’s final. Saturday’s rematch with Brown was even more dramatic; the Tigers were just seconds away from elimination when Camille Hooks ’15 scored to force overtime, then found the net again for a 7-6 victory. After winning the tournament, the Tigers will advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in the 12-year history of the event.
Another weekend, another set of milestones for MEN’S TRACK & FIELD. At the Penn Relays – arguably the nation’s biggest track and field meet – the quartet of Joe Stilin ’12, Tom Hopkins ’14, Michael Williams ’14 and Donn Cabral ’12 won the collegiate distance medley relay on Friday. The following day, the Tigers (with two new members) defended their 2011 title in the mile relay, as Williams, Stilin, Trevor Van Ackeren ’14 and Cabral bested a strong field in 16:16.79, making Princeton the first Ivy League team since 1961 to win two relay events at the Penn Relays.
SOFTBALL played the equivalent of five and a half games against Cornell – including a 14-inning game in the series opener on Saturday – but finished with an 0-4 record for the weekend, as the Big Red needed and got a sweep to force a playoff with Penn for the division title.
Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.