Tyler Fiorito's Fourth-Quarter Save
Fifty-weeks after the low point, Chris Bates sat on a bench, looked at the trophy next to him and muttered the obvious.
"If we had to share the championship," said Princeton's men's lacrosse coach, "it wouldn't have felt good."
Instead, the 2012 Ivy League men's lacrosse title belongs only to the Princeton Tigers.
Alex Capretta scored a career-high five goals and Forest Sonnenfeldt and Jeff Froccaro added three each as Princeton defeated Cornell 14-9 in front of 4,133 fans at Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium. The win gave Princeton a perfect Ivy League season, the outright championship and the hosting role in next weekend's Ivy League tournament.
The tournament begins with the semifinals Friday, as second-seeded Cornell makes a return visit to take on third-seeded Yale at 5, followed at 8 by the game between the top-seeded Tigers and fourth-seeded Brown. The winners play Sunday at noon for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Princeton (10-3 overall, 6-0 Ivy) outscored its Ivy opponents by a combined 81-35.
Princeton and Cornell are tied with 26 Ivy titles apiece.
The night began with a recognition of the Princeton seniors and their parents and ended with a massive celebration at midfield.
No player enjoyed senior night more than Capretta, who scored the goal 3:10 into the game that gave the Tigers a lead they would never give up and then added another in the second, two more in the third and then another in the fourth.
"It was so special for me," Capretta said. "My parents were able to come all the way from San Francisco, and then to have the game go the way it did was great."
Princeton led 3-0 after Capretta's first was followed up by Sonnenfeldt and MacDonald, but it was only 3-2 at the end of the first. Froccaro scored six seconds into the second quarter, and it would be 8-3 late in the quarter, 8-4 at the half and then never closer than four goals in the second half.
Tom Schreiber had three assists for Princeton. Matt Donovan led Cornell with four.
For Princteon, the big night came 52 weeks to the day that Cornell ended the 2011 Princeton season at 4-8 and with no bid to the Ivy tournament.
That game ended 9-7 in favor of Cornell, and Tyler Fiorito made 20 saves for Princeton to keep it that close.
This time, Princeton put up twice as many goals while holding Cornell to the same number. Instead of 20 saves from Fiorito to keep it close, all that was left in the fourth quarter was for Fiorito to rob Steve Mock on what might have been the nicest of the 696 saves he's now made as a Tiger.
In the first two years of the ivy tournament, the regular-season winner has won once and lost in the final once. But hey, there was nobody thinking that far ahead in the Princeton locker room after this one.
Well, maybe one person.
"All we're guaranteed is one more game," Bates said.
Then, in the next breath, he wanted to make sure the trophy was making its way back from the stadium.
The Ivy League championship trophy.
In 2012, it belongs only to the Princeton Tigers.