The Yale men's lacrosse team oozed confidence as it walked down the little path from its locker room and onto Sherrerd Field Friday afternoon, and why would it be any different?
Yale's last two visits here had both been victories, including a complete demolition of Princeton in the Ivy League tournament final a year ago.
This one wasn't didn't figure to be easy, not with face-off man Dylan Levings ready to do what he always seems to do, and that's dominate possession time for the Bulldogs, especially against Princeton.
Then came the opening face-off, which Justin Murphy won cleanly. And that set the tone for the day.
Murphy won 13 of 22 face-offs to lead sixth-ranked Princeton to 10-9 win over No. 18 Yale in front of 1,079 frozen fans Friday afternoon. Mike MacDonald (3G, 1A) and Tom Schreiber (1G, 3A) had four-point days for the Tigers, who had to hold off a furious late challenge by the Bulldogs.
Princeton improved to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the Ivy League, six days after a bitterly frustrating loss to Penn in its Ivy opener. Yale is now 3-3, 0-2 in the league after being outscored by Cornell by two goals and now Princeton by one in its two league games - but with the knowledge that after it fell to 0-2 a year ago in the ivy League, it did not lose again until the NCAA tournament.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Again, it was Justin Murphy for the Tigers. The sophomore face-off specialist won 13 of 22 face-offs, taking all but one draw for the day for Princeton. And he did it against Dylan Levings, who won 24 of 40 face-offs against Princeton last year (60%) and won an amazing 22 of 25 against Cornell a week ago. Levings ranked fourth in Division I in face-off winning percentage at 61.1% prior to the game. Murphy, who has now won 40 of his last 60 face-offs, helped Princeton to have an edge in shots (38-37) and ground balls (32-31), rather than having the huge disadvantage in both that would have resulted had Levings been able to dominate.
WHAT THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T TELL YOU
Yale had won 132 of 201 face-offs (65.7%) during the last 10 meetings between the schools before Murphy won 13 of 22 this time. Tom Gibbons, a longstick midfielder, took the final face-off of the third quarter after a Ryan Ambler goal with four seconds left and simply tried to stop Levings from getting a fast break.
WHAT ELSE THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T TELL YOU
Princeton is 5-2. The Tigers are 5-0 when Ryan Ambler has a goal or assist, and he now has nine goals and eight assists in the five wins after his two goals against Yale. Ambler has not scored in either of Princeton's two losses.
CO-PLAYS OF THE GAME
Princeton led 10-7 with 8:57 to go when Mike MacDonald scored his third goal. Yale, though, answered with two goals in two goals 1:37 apart to make it 10-9 with 5:18 remaining. Yale then won that face-off, and when longstick Michael McCormack lingered on the offensive end when Murphy didn't, he found himself open from about 15 yards out. McCormack let a tough low shot go, but Princeton goalie Matt O'Connor smothered it. Then, with just over a minute to go and Yale in possession, Mark Strabo stripped Conrad Oberbeck - Yale's leading scorer who had two goals in the game - as he dodged from goal line extended, and the ball rolled to O'Connor in the crease. Yale would not regain possession.
HIDDEN PLAY OF THE GAME
Princeton, up 10-9, cleared after the Strabo caused turnover and then put the ball on the ground, where Hunter deButts came up with a tough ground ball, leading to a Princeton timeout with 28 seconds left. Had deButts not come up with the ball, Yale would have had plenty of time to get the tying goal.
STAT OF THE GAME
Yale had been shooting nearly 31% as a team for the year. Against Princeton, Yale was 9 for 37, or 24.3%.
Princeton has reached double figures in all seven games this season. The last time Princeton was in double figures in this many games to start a season was 2003, when it did so for the first 10 games. The only time Princeton has been in double figures in every game for a full season was in 1951.
Princeton's 10 goals all came from its starting attack and first midfield - MacDonald with three, Ambler and Kip Orban with two and Schreiber and Jeff and Jake Froccaro with one each. That group now has 79 of Princeton's 85 goals this year.
Princeton will be home Saturday, March 30, against Brown.