No. 13 Princeton halts Bears in their tracks

Sports Editor
Monday, April 2, 2012

The men’s lacrosse team had a busy spring break, playing three games in three states, with two of the contests against nationally-ranked opponents. The week started off strong with a 14-5 demolition of Vermont, but after a fourth quarter comeback against No. 8 Duke fell just short, the Bears (3-5, 0-2 Ivy) fell 13-2 to No. 13 Princeton at Stevenson Field. Against the Tigers (6-2, 3-0), the Bears were shutout 9-0 in the second half and dropped their second Ivy League matchup of the season, leaving an uphill climb to make the Ivy tournament.

“We’re certainly disappointed when you look at the record,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “But I believe in this group, and they want to get better and are yearning for more, and not every team has been like this.”

Unlike many of their classmates who headed to warmer waters for spring break, the Bears kicked off the week by heading north to Burlington, Vt., to take on the struggling Catamounts (1-8). Vermont snagged an early 1-0 lead, but this would be the only advantage it would hold the entire game. The Bears ripped off a 5-0 run to seize control of the game, with a pair of goals coming each from Nick Piroli ’15 and Sam Hurster ’14, as well as one from co-captain Parker Brown ’12.

The Catamounts twice clawed back, cutting the deficit to only two goals in both the second and third quarters. But after a pair of Vermont goals cut Brown’s lead to 6-4, the Bears ended the game with a 8-1 run to earn a comfortable win. Goals from George Sherman ’13, co-captain Rob Schlesinger ’12 and John DePeters ’13 stretched the lead to 9-4 in the third. After Vermont got one back, Brown shut out the Catamounts in the final period while scoring five goals themselves. Among the fourth quarter scorers was Piroli, whose four goals earned him Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week Honors.

“We hadn’t gotten that big win yet, and going up to Vermont we continued to play well,” Tiffany said. “As a coach, it was rewarding to see us put together a complete game.”

Tiffany said key play in the win came from players whose contributions did not show up on the stat sheet.

“It started at the middle of the field, starting with our faceoff men,” Tiffany continued. “Tommy Capone (’14) at the faceoff X earned us valuable possessions, and we saw some wing play from Dan Mellynchuck (’14) and Nick Weeden (’15), two middies who don’t garner much attention because they don’t post many goals or assists, but they made a lot of heads-up, smart plays and ignited our transition game.”

Hot off the win, the squad then jetted south Wednesday to Durham, N.C., to face perennial powerhouse No. 8 Duke (9-3). Last year, the Bears played the Blue Devils close in a 12-7 loss and in 2010 lost by only one goal, 11-10.

“We had only a couple of days to prepare for one of the best teams in the nation, but we brought our best game down there,” Tiffany said. “Whereas last year we really hung in there against them, I felt that this year, on that day – maybe not on the next day – I felt that we were the better team.” 

This year, the Bears came out determined to finally knock off Duke, and they drew first blood on a DePeters goal. The game was tight for the entire first half, as both teams exchanged goals. Duke opened up a 4-2 lead, but a Hurster goal before half-time cut the deficit to one at intermission.

In the second half, the Blue Devils scored twice to extend their lead to 6-3. After Dan O’Brien ’12 got one back for the Bears, Duke’s Eddie Loftus put one home to stretch the lead back to three with only 14 seconds left in the quarter. But off the ensuing faceoff, Weeden scooped up a ground ball and got it to Hurster, who scored his second of the game to cut the lead to 7-5 with only one second remaining on the clock.

Duke opened the fourth quarter as it had the third, scoring two goals and seemingly putting the Blue Devils in the clear, up 9-5. But in the final seven minutes, the Bears chipped away at the lead. Goals from O’Brien and Parker Brown a little over a minute apart made it a 9-7 game. Piroli scored his 14th of the season to bring the score to 9-8, but the 29 seconds on the clock were not enough for the Bears to complete the comeback and force overtime. Sherman got off a shot with only 10 seconds remaining, but Duke goalie Dan Wigrizer made the crucial save and the Blue Devils escaped the Bears once again with a close win.

“The Duke goalie played a great game, but at the end we started to crack the code a bit,” Tiffany said. “It felt like one of those days where we just ran out of time. We just needed a little more time – we took good shots, played well as an offensive unit and defended well. … It felt as good as you can feel without winning a game.”

But Tiffany acknowledged, “We have to find a way to win these games.”  

Against a Princeton team that Tiffany described as “not good, but great,” the Bears struggled to break through. Princeton’s goalie made 16 saves to stymie the Bears attack, shutting them out in the second half on the way to a 13-2 win.

“We knew that Princeton was good going in, but we found out how good they are,” Tiffany said.

The Bears fell behind 2-0, but fought back with two goals from Schlesinger and were only down 4-2 at the half. But the second half was all Princeton, who saw goals from 10 different players to lead them to victory.

“Against a great team like Princeton, they’ll go on a run,” Tiffany said. “We have to keep those runs to two or three goals, not seven, like they did in the third quarter, and that’s where we failed.”

Tiffany said though the scoreline was lopsided, he was happy with certain things the team did and he still has a great deal of faith in his players.

“To summarize, we lost by 11 goals. It hurts, but the score does not truly indicate where we are as a team,” Tiffany said.

The Bears have another quick turnaround, as they host in-state rivals Bryant Tuesday.

“We’ve got a very talented Bryant team who is probably going to crack the Top 20,” Tiffany said. “They’ve won six games in a row and are going to come over here with swagger and confidence, and we are going to get a great game. We’re lookin
g forward to burning away the disappointing feel of these losses.”


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