Down by two entering the fourth quarter against a Villanova team that had dominated possession and momentum for 45 minutes, Princeton men's lacrosse coach Chris Bates still had a card to play.
So he went all-in with his 10, and it turned out to be an ace.
Jeff Froccaro, Princeton's No. 10, completely turned the game around in the fourth quarter, winning 5 of 7 face-offs and allowing Princeton to finally get some offensive continuity going. Led by Froccaro - and two absolutely beautiful goals that came 24 seconds apart - fifth-ranked Princeton was able to rally past Villanova for a 14-11 win in front of 876 chilly fans at Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium.
"He's such a gamer," Bates said of Froccaro, who had three goals in addition to his big night facing off. "We didn't want to use him facing off, but we felt we needed to get another look out there."
Froccaro won 5 of 7 face-offs after Villanova's Thomas Croonquist had won 15 of 21 in the first three quartes. With contstant possession, Villanova built three three-goal leads, at 5-2, 9-6 and then 10-7 with 4:46 to play in the third quarter.
From there, Princeton would score seven of the final eight goals, including a 6-1 run through the fourth quarter.
The win improved Princeton to 3-0 on the young season and came in the Tigers' first game after an 11-8 win over then-No. 3 Johns Hopkins Friday night. Princeton is at North Carolina Saturday.
"It was a midweek game, our first after a big win, against a team we handled last year," said Bates, who now has 99 career wins. "It wasn't going to be easy for us."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jeff Froccaro had one goal in the first three quarters, largely because Princeton rarely had possession. He also hadn't faced off. In the fourth quarter, Froccaro went off, winning the 5 of 7 face-offs and also scoring two huge goals, one to tie it at 10-10 with 11:39 to go and then to seal it at 14-11 with 1:42 to go. Froccaro had five goals last year in the 14-8 win over Villanova, who will be happy to see him graduate.
CO-PLAYS OF THE GAME
Ryan Ambler, who had three goals and two assists, gave Princeton the lead for good when he scored off a feed from Jake Froccaro with 11:03 to go in the fourth, 36 seconds after Jeff Froccaro had tied it. Ambler's goal came as he appeared to be falling, but he somehow got a rocket off that went over the shoulder of Villanova goalie Greg Stamatov and into the top of the net. Then, 24 seconds later, Tom Schreiber found Mike MacDonald, who went behind-the-back to beat Stamatov, build the lead to two and keep the Princeto momentum going. Both goals were things of beauty.
HIDDEN MOMENT OF THE GAME
Villanova led 8-6 at the half and then scored the first goal of the second half, making it 9-6 early in the third. Freshman goalie Matt O'Connor then made two huge one-on-one saves, against Max Hart and John Kluh, to keep it only a three-goal deficit. Had the lead grown to four with the way Villanova was winning face-offs, Princeton might have been digging too deep a hole.
SIGHT OF THE GAME
Villanova's Jack Kluh often found himself guarded by Princeton longstick midfielder Alex Beatty. Why is this significant? Because if Kluh, at 5-4, isn't the shortest player in Division I then he's close. And if Beatty, at 6-7, isn't the tallest player in Division I, then he's close too.
WHAT THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T TELL YOU
WHAT THE BOX SCORE DOES TELL YOU
Down 2-1 in the first quarter, Villanova scored four goals in a 1:39 span. During its fourth quarter run, Princeton scored five goals in a 3:32 span.
THE OTHER FROCCARO
Jake Froccaro, a freshman, had his second straight two goal game. After not having a point in the opener against Hofstra, Jake Froccaro has seven points in the last two games (2G, 2A vs. Hopkins, 2G, 1A vs. Villanova).
Chris Bates now has 99 career wins as a head coach (70 at Drexel, 29 at Princeton). Tom Schreiber, who had a goal and two assists against Villanova, now has 98 career points.
Prineton travels to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels Saturday at noon. Princeton is 0-3 against UNC in Chris Bates' time as head coach.