Tigers fall to Ivy rival Cornell
By David Marcus ’92
Cornell defeated Princeton 6-4 in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse quarterfinals May 16. The game was only the third in the 39-year history of the NCAA tournament in which two opponents combined to score fewer than 11 goals.
"It was nothing short of a slugfest," said Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I don't think I've ever seen a game in which two teams with so many gifted offensive players got shut down like that."
"Both teams knocked the ball to the ground a lot more than I've seen in a long while," said Princeton head coach Bill Tierney. "I thought both defenses played extremely well."
Both coaches signaled their anticipation of such a contest by calling timeouts in the first quarter. Tambroni used one to adjust his defense late in the period, and Tierney countered by setting up an extra-man play after Jack McBride ’11 scored to cut Cornell's lead to 2-1 with 1:52 left. But Princeton was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, and Cornell answered by scoring a critical goal with eleven seconds left in the quarter. "To be honest, I thought it got away from us when they made it 3-1," Tierney said.
Princeton's offensive strength all year had been its first midfield, which accounted for nine of the team's 10 goals and all three of its assists in a 10-7 win over the University of Massachusetts in the first round of the NCAA tournament May 10. Tambroni attended that game and responded by putting long-stick defenders on Princeton midfielders Mark Kovler ’09, the team's second-leading scorer, and Rich Sgalardi ’09, who often initiated the offense and was its leader in assists. The strategy rendered Sgalardi ineffectual and limited Kovler to three shots, but it did provide linemate Scott MacKenzie ’10 room to operate. He had several shots in the second quarter but hit the goal's pipe twice while Cornell goalie Jake Myers made very good saves on two other shots.
After that sequence, Cornell scored twice in the last six minutes of the second quarter to take a 5-1 lead at halftime. Princeton cut the deficit to 5-3 late in the third quarter before suffering two agonizingly close calls. Kovler scored just after time expired in the period, and Myers stopped Chris McBride ’11's shot from five yards just seconds into the fourth quarter. Cornell controlled the ball for much of the rest of the game to seal the victory, its second over the Tigers this year. The Big Red also beat Princeton 10-7 in Ithaca on April 18. The two teams split the Ivy League title with 5-1 records.
As good as the defenses were in the postseason matchup, both offenses contributed to the low score by combining to put just 21 of 58 shots on goal, performances well below the season averages for both teams. Princeton scored on only one of seven extra-man opportunities, and Cornell was 0-for-2. The Big Red will have to do better to have a chance in the NCAA semifinals against the University of Virginia or Johns Hopkins in Foxboro, Mass. Meanwhile, the Tigers are left to consider one of the most bitter losses in Tierney's 22-year tenure as head coach.
DÃ©jÃ vu in Evanston
For the second straight year, Princeton women's lacrosse traveled to Northwestern for an NCAA quarterfinal game, and for the second straight year, the Wildcats prevailed, ending the Tigers' season.
This year's game, played May 16, started well for Northwestern, which surged ahead 5-1 in the first 13 minutes. Princeton's Lizzy Drumm ’11 scored three straight goals, cutting the lead to 5-4, but Northwestern restored an 8-5 cushion by halftime.
In the second half, the Wildcats netted five early goals and never looked back, cruising to a 16-9 victory. Northwestern (21-0) advanced to the Final Four in Towson, Md., where it will try to win a fifth consecutive national championship.
For Princeton (14-4), 2009 marked arguably the program's strongest season in five years, thanks in part to a remarkable senior class. Holly McGarvie ’09, the Ivy League Player of the Year, led the team in points with 57 (36 goals, 21 assists), and classmates Kristin Schwab and Christine Casaceli each had at least 38 points. Senior defender Marie McKenna joined McGarvie on the All-Ivy first team, and senior midfielder Katie Cox was on the All-Ivy second team.
Three of the teams that beat Princeton this year (Northwestern, Penn, and Maryland) will compete in the Final Four. The fourth, Duke, lost in the NCAA quarterfinals.