Princeton Falls 6-5 To Virginia In NCAA Tournament Opening Round
Virginia shortstick defensive middie Chris LaPierre twice stood a few yards off the sideline in front of the Princeton bench at Klockner Stadium and lofted the ball, oh, 70 or 80 yards down the field, once to end the first half and the other to end the second half.
The first time LaPierre sent the ball down the field, the result was the biggest moment of the game. The second time he did it, the result was the end of Princeton's season.
Take away those those two moments, and it could very well have been Princeton and not Virginia who advanced in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.
Virginia, the defending NCAA champion and fifth seed in this year's tournament, held off Princeton 6-5 in front of 2,612 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Make that barely held off Princeton.
The Tigers end their season 11-5 overall and with their 26th Ivy League championship. UVa extends its season by at least one week, with a date in the quarterfinals in Philadelphia next Sunday.
On a day when both defenses played with fierceness, when goals were at a premium and when the stakes were huge, the difference was the sequence at the end of the first half, which included LaPierre's 80-yard or so pass to Steele Stanwick.
Virginia led 4-2 before the wild final 30 seconds of the half, which began when Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito - who finished with 12 saves and was amazing the entire game, which led Tiger head coach Chris Bates to call his goalie "clearly the best player on the field" - stopped UVa's Colin Briggs and then triggered the ball 70 or so yards down the field to Jeff Froccaro.
Before Princeton could get a shot off, though, UVa's Chris Clements caused a turnover, which sent the ball to LaPierre with about 10 seconds left. LaPierre picked it up and launched it down the field, where Steele Stanwick had slipped behind the entire Princeton defense. Stanwick caught it and beat Fiorito one-on-one, with five seconds to go.
Instead of possibly 4-3 had Princeton scored, instead it was 5-2 Cavs at the half. The LaPierre-to-Stanwick goal came after UVa had scored with 9.8 seconds to play in the first quarter, after causing a turnover while Princeton was holding for the final shot and starting a fastbreak the other way, which ended when Bobby Hill converted from defenseman Matt Lovejoy.
Princeton didn't go away, though, and when Froccaro scored the only two goals of the third quarter, it was 5-4 heading to the fourth.
Princeton would outshot UVa 10-3 in the fourth, but one of those three shots was a Stanwick feed to Chris Bocklett with 7:07 to play that made it 6-4.
Fiorito made a great save on Bocklett - as it turned out, his 624th and final save, good for second place all time at Princeton - with 3:45 to go, keeping the Tigers in the game.
Tom Schreiber (2G, 2A) scored with 1:19 left to make it 6-5, and Bobby Lucas won the face-off. Princeton got off three shots after that, and the final one from Forest Sonnenfeldt (who had a goal earlier) hit LaPierre and bounced out of bounds across the sideline with six seconds left.
After a UVa timeout, LaPierre, from the exact same spot where he made his pass to end the first half, lofted another one, this time just to run out as much time as possible. The ball landed in Fiorito's stick, but there was no time left.
Schreiber finished his season with 32 goals and 28 assists, tied for ninth best all-time at Princeton.
In addition to Fiorito, Chad Wiedmaier also had a great performance in his final game, as he held Stanwick, the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy winner, to one assist in addition to his one goal at the end of the first half.
Princeton graduates four year starters Fiorito, Wiedmaier and longstick midfielder John Cunningham, as well as standouts like Jonathan Meyers, Alex Capretta and Mike Grossman.
Princeton went from 4-8 a year ago and not in the Ivy or NCAA tournaments to winning the league, getting back to the NCAA tournament and coming oh-so-close to advancing.