May 8, 2010

Familiar Foes Emerge from Ivy League Fray

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Ivy Semifinals Blog

Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito (11 saves) carries the clear on his own Friday in the Tigers' 7-6 win over Yale in the Ivy League semifinals. "The way Tyler goes, this team is going to go," said Princeton attackman Jack McBride.

© Greg Wall

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Some traditions are just too deeply ingrained to be uprooted in one season’s time.

The Ivy League saw its first four-team tie for the regular season title in 2010, but when the lights at Schoellkopf Field were turned off late Friday night – the two teams left standing in the inaugural conference tournament were the two that are typically left standing in the postseason.

Princeton and Cornell.

The two longtime rivals will play for a second time this season at noon Sunday for an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. It’s a rematch of last Saturday’s regular season finale, won 10-9 by the Big Red. Second-seeded Princeton edged Yale in the first semifinal, 7-6, before top-seeded Cornell trounced Brown 14-8 in the nightcap.

“The good thing is, good and bad, it depends on how you look at it, we just played them so I don’t think it takes a lot of preparation,” Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni said. “Princeton’s probably not going to have to prepare too much for Cornell. Cornell’s not going to have to prepare too much in terms of X’s and O’s. Both teams are going to know each other really well.”

Princeton’s defense was terrific, led by 11 saves from sophomore goalie Tyler Fiorito. When the Tigers’ offense spent 27 minutes and 47 seconds trying to beat Yale goalie Johnathan Falcone for the first time, it was Fiorito who kept the Tigers’ deficit to 1-0.

“The way Tyler goes, this team is going to go,” attackman Jack McBride said. “He’s our backbone; he’s our leader. If he plays well, everyone feeds off of him.”

Princeton coach Chris Bates will spend the next 36 hours figuring out how to get his team off to a better start. Poor starts have become a little too common, most recently Friday and in last Saturday’s loss to Cornell, when the Big Red opened leads of 4-0 and 9-3 before hanging on late.

“I think we’re doing our best on offense and defense if we can control the tempo of the game, win a few faceoffs and get a few in there early against (Cornell),” Fiorito said.

If Austin Boykin manages a repeat of Friday, Princeton is in trouble.

Boykin spearheaded Cornell’s victory with a dominating 20-for-25 effort on the faceoff X. He won countless draws cleanly and rarely, if ever, did Brown (8-6) ride the ball back after Cornell (10-4) took initial possession. With the win, Cornell avenged a 13-10 loss to the Bears two weeks ago at Schoellkopf Field.

“This game in comparison to last game, they hustled,” Tambroni said. “I don’t think it was so much X’s and O’s.”

Austin Boykin won 20 of 25 faceoffs for top-seeded Cornell in its 14-8 win over Brown in the Ivy League semifinals.

© Greg Wall


Cornell outshot the Bears 51-27 and held a 37-18 edge in ground balls. If not for Matt Chriss’ 18 saves, or three late goals in the fourth quarter, this score would have been more lopsided.

The game felt more lopsided.

Cornell and Princeton played twice last season. Cornell won both games, including a 6-4 decision in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Princeton did a fine job last week on Rob Pannell, who torched the Bears with two goals and three assists. But the Tigers allowed Ryan Hurley to go for four points, and he parlayed that effort into a six-point performance on Friday night. Freshman Steve Mock also stood out, scoring a career high four goals in a reserve role as fourth attackman.

One thing is clear heading into Sunday. Win or lose, both teams feel confident that their seasons will last beyond Sunday’s encounter. Both have strong at-large resumes and schedule strengths.

“We feel really good,” Bates said.

For Yale and Brown, Friday’s losses could very well signal the offseasons’ beginning.

Even in a historic year of parity, some things don’t change. Not with Princeton and Cornell. Not just yet.

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