Ivy League Tournament preview: Princeton aims for automatic bid

Tournament schedule

Friday, May 4
Yale vs. Cornell, 5 p.m.
Brown at Princeton,
8 p.m.

Sunday, May 6
Championship, noon

TV: Semifinals – ESPN3, Championship – ESPNU

By David Marcus ’92
 
The men’s lacrosse team won the Ivy League championship on Saturday with a 14-9 win over Cornell, but Princeton may have to beat the Big Red again in this weekend’s Ivy League tournament to go to the NCAA playoffs. The victory gave Princeton its first undefeated Ivy campaign since 2001, when the Tigers went on to win the national title, and it broke a streak of nine straight years in which Cornell had either won or shared the crown. It also means Princeton will host the Ivy tournament this weekend.
 
The Ivy League likely will get only one NCAA bid this year, and it will go to the winner of this weekend’s tournament. “We feel that we need to win Friday and Sunday to ensure our spot” in the NCAAs, said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. 
 
Princeton beat Brown 13-2 on March 31 in Providence, a game in which Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito ’12 made 16 saves while his Brown counterpart Will Round recorded only four. Bates says that the Bears are a “different and better team” than they were a month ago.
 

Brown is 7-7 on the year and has won four of its last five games, including a 10-9 victory at Cornell on April 21. The lone loss in that stretch came at Yale, which defeated Brown 11-10 in a four-overtime game. Round made 17 saves against Yale and 14 against Cornell. He added 12 more in a 10-8 win over Dartmouth on Saturday that earned Brown a spot in the Ivy tournament.
 
Yale’s games against Princeton and Brown were typical of its season. The Elis, 9-4, played seven one-goal contests this year, losing the first three to Sacred Heart, Cornell, and Princeton and winning the final four, against Penn, Brown, Stony Brook, and Bryant. Deron Dempster scored the winner with 12 seconds left in regulation against Penn and also played the hero against Brown. Matt Gibson, Yale’s leader in goals and assists, won the Stony Brook and Bryant games with overtime goals. But the Elis’ most dangerous player is Dylan Levings, who has won 65 percent of the 225 faceoffs he’s taken this year (second best in Division I). It also keeps the Elis in games, because opposing teams have a hard time going on scoring runs.
 
Cornell, 9-3, spent much of the season perched high in the national polls before losing to Brown and Princeton. The Big Red’s best player, two-time first team All-American Rob Pannell, has been sidelined with a foot injury he suffered in an 18-7 win over Army on March 3, but freshman Matt Donovan has helped pick up the slack on offense. He’s the team’s leading scorer with 14 assists and 18 goals, four of which came against Princeton. Goalie Andrew West has struggled at times, but he played well in a 9-8 overtime win in March against Denver and a 12-6 win on April 10 over Syracuse, which had beaten Princeton 10-9 three days earlier.
 
Princeton comes into the tournament playing its best lacrosse of the season, having won eight of nine games after a 2-2 start. Fiorito has saved 61.5 percent of the shots he’s seen this year, third best in the country, and he and his defense have allowed just 6.85 goals a game while the offense has averaged 12.15 goals a game. The unit was clicking on Saturday, with Alex Capretta ’12 scoring five goals and Jeff Froccaro ’13 and Forest Sonnenfeldt ’13 each adding three. 
 
The offensive explosion came despite a relatively modest contribution from Tom Schreiber ’14, Princeton’s leading scorer with 29 goals and 24 assists on the year. He took only one shot against Cornell but had three assists. “Tom is a team offensive player,” said Bates. “He quarterbacked us and settled us down. We minimized turnovers, which is a credit to Tom, and we shared the ball well.” That’s the style of lacrosse Bates likes to play. If the Tigers do it as well this weekend as they did for most of April, they stand an excellent chance of playing deeper into May.
 

 
David Marcus ’92 is a frequent PAW contributor.

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