April 9, 2014

Princeton Edges Lehigh in 'Instant Classic' 2OT Thriller

by Justin Lafleur | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

In-Game Blog Replay


Princeton and Lehigh battle for a ground ball at the X in Tuesday's contest. (Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)

PRINCETON, N.J. - Tuesday night's Lehigh at Princeton game featured the back-and-forth of a heavyweight bout with the intensity of a playoff game. Unfortunately, one team had to lose. Although Princeton walked away victorious, the sport of lacrosse may have come out as the biggest winner.

Sixty minutes weren't enough. Princeton All-American midfielder Tom Schreiber scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to give the Tigers a dramatic 10-9 victory in front of 1,022 fans and a national television audience on ESPNU.

The game had all the twists and turns that make the sport of lacrosse so great. Neither team led by more than one goal on the evening. The game was tied at one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine. You can't get closer than that.

Lehigh's Kurtis Kaunas scored the go-ahead goal with 1:22 left in regulation, but Princeton's Kip Orban evened the score at nine with just 2.7 seconds on the clock. Mountain Hawks goalie Matt Poillon made a save on Schreiber with less than 30 seconds remaining, but a chaotic sequence saw Princeton eventually retrieve the ball near mid-field. That led to the tying goal and a visibly deflated Lehigh squad.

The Mountain Haws regrouped in overtime, winning the opening faceoffs in each stanza. They had their chances, including a Kaunas shot that was stopped by Princeton goalie Eric Sanschagrin early in the second overtime to set up the potent Tigers offense. After a timeout, they executed the game-winning play for Schreiber who buried one from seven yards out.

"We felt we could get a look on a short stick coming strong over the top," said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. "We felt the guy covering Tom would need to support it. We did a nice job throwing the ball back to Tom. If you have one shot, you want number 22 taking it. It was executed well.

"Lehigh is a good team. I'm proud of our team," Bates continued. "I thought we played with some grit and resolve. It's a nice win for us."

"We played great defense all day," said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. "That's one of the top offenses in the country. However, we played our worst defensive set on the last play of the game. We left the best midfielder in the country open with his hands free after we had been playing him great all day. It was really disappointing."

Schreiber unleashed 21 shots, but only eight were on goal and four went in. There of his four goals came in the final quarter and overtime. Several of Princeton's 52 shots were from the outside, either going wide or giving All-American goalie Matt Poillon a chance to make the save.

"We were just playing stick-to-it defense [against Schreiber]," said Cassese. "We were quick to help to him and slow to leave from him. Unfortunately at the end there, we just didn't do our jobs."

While Schreiber scored four goals, Lehigh's leading scorer Dan Taylor one-upped him, tying a career high with five including the Mountain Hawks' first three.

Lehigh got the scoring started with 1.7 seconds left in the first quarter when Taylor took a restart and brought it in front, beating Sanschagrin to make it 1-0 after 15 minutes of play.

In the second quarter, Princeton took its first lead at 2-1 following a Ryan Ambler extra man goal, but Taylor evened the score at two before Schreiber gave the Tigers a 3-2 halftime advantage.

After five goals in the first half, the third quarter saw seven by itself. The Mountain Hawks came out of the locker room on fire. Entering the game outscoring opponents 42-14 in the third, that quarter proved to be friendly once again. Taylor tallied his hat trick goal less than a minute in, then after a Princeton goal, Dylan O'Shaughnessy scored off a faceoff. Alan Henderson made the scoop and found the long pole in the middle of the field to tie the score once again. Taylor gave Lehigh a 5-4 lead just over one minute later.

Princeton responded by scoring three of the next four goals as Schreiber's second of the evening gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. A Patrick Corbett extra man goal evened the score at seven, then after Schreiber gave the Tigers an 8-7 lead, Taylor tied the score exactly one minute later, setting up Kaunas' go-ahead goal and the dramatic end of regulation and back-and-forth overtime.

Despite being an April nonleague game, the game certainly had the feel of an NCAA Tournament game. Both teams hope to be there come May.

"Both teams really wanted this game and fought tooth and nail for it," said Cassese. "That's how you get a double overtime game."

With the win, Princeton looks to be in better shape for any at-large possibilities, owning strong wins over Penn, Hofstra, Villanova and now Lehigh.

The Mountain Hawks beat both Villanova and Colgate when they were nationally ranked. However, all that's on their mind is playing their best for the Patriot League Tournament later this month. The Mountain Hawks can play their way into the big dance by winning their third straight tournament championship.

"There were many positives tonight, but we're going to leave with a sour taste in our mouth," said Cassese. "We'll get back on the horse, lick our wounds a little bit and get ourselves rested and ready to go for the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday night."

For Bates, he saw progress from his defense which has struggled all year. In his words, the team "bent but didn't break."

"We had three defensive stops in overtime, including a long one in the first overtime," said Bates. "Defensively, we did a nice job to hold strong under that pressure. Those guys are young, but held up strong. If you give one up in overtime, you go home."

Regardless of who went home winners, the biggest winner on Tuesday evening was the sport of lacrosse.

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