Five days after Bill Tierney saw his team’s season end with a 6–5 loss at Brown, the Princeton men’s lacrosse coach still could not explain how the Tigers finished 7–6 and missed out on both an Ivy League title and the NCAA playoffs by losing their last two games. “The whole thing is a mystery,” he said. “There is nothing about the season that I can say I’ve experienced before in 34 years of coaching.”
An 11–7 win over Cornell April 19 had portended a happier ending. Princeton played its best game of the season against the Big Red, who were then ranked third in the country. But the Tigers fell 11–9 at Dartmouth the next week, leaving the Brown game as a de facto Ivy League championship. The Bears earned a share of the title with their first win over Princeton since 1994, the last time Brown captured the league crown, despite 13 saves from Tiger goalie Alex Hewit ’08.
Tierney does have reason for optimism next season. Three of his top four scorers return, including Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jack McBride ’11, and he believes his incoming freshman class is as good as any in the country. But the Brown game left Tierney searching for answers. “When you have a team that can beat Cornell and Hofstra and can hang with [Johns] Hopkins and Virginia, it means that you have enough talent and you better re-evaluate yourself,” he said. “What is it that I do that negatively affects my players? Maybe it’s our practices, our approach, our drills, our off-season conditioning — there are so many things.” Then Tierney paused to reflect on a piece of advice he’d received that morning from Julie Shackford, Princeton’s women’s soccer coach. “Or maybe I need to stop ‘catastrophizing.’”
Daivd Marcus ’92 is a frequent PAW contributor.