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Playing against top-10 teams, Bears keep falling just short

The No. 16 men's lacrosse team dropped a pair of close games to top-10 opponents last week, falling at No. 7 Duke (9-3), 11-10, on Tuesday before suffering a 9-7 loss to No. 5 Princeton (7-1, 3-0) at the New England Lacrosse Classic at Gillette Stadium Saturday. The Bears' record fell to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in Ivy League play.

"Despite the fact that our opponents were both in the top 10 and both outstanding lacrosse teams … it's still a disappointment in having come so close, because close isn't good enough for us," said Head Coach Lars Tiffany '90. "The group of men I coach, they want more, so we won't be happy with coming up just short against great teams."

Coupled with an 11-10 loss to No. 9 Massachusetts (7-2) on March 23, Brown has lost three straight games to top-10 opponents in which the game was tied midway through the fourth quarter.

"Three games in a row, the opponent scored the next goal, and then we're the ones chasing to the end of regulation," Tiffany said. "We've got to find a way to make that next play when it's the middle of the fourth quarter, tied. We've got to take the lead."

After the game against Princeton in the home of the NFL's New England Patriots, the Bears held a team meeting in the locker room that normally houses the New England Revolution soccer franchise to ask themselves how they could improve. But the answers will come on the field.

Duke 11, Brown 10
On the strength of a 17-1 first-quarter advantage in shots, Duke raced out to a 5-0 lead just 17:26 into the game in what Tiffany called "the worst start in a lacrosse game that I've been a part of in my four years" at Brown. Yet the Bears battled back with goals by Rob Schlesinger '12, Andrew Feinberg '11 and two from quad-captain Thomas Muldoon '10 before the Blue Devils scored once more to take just a 6-4 lead into halftime.

Tiffany said the coaching staff made no significant adjustments.

"There was nothing special we said. It was really the men themselves, after the second time out I called, getting on each other and pushing each other."

After two goals by Feinberg and one apiece from Muldoon, quad-captain Reade Seligmann '10 and Parker Brown '12, the game was tied at nine with 9:03 left in the fourth quarter. Tiffany said the Bears were able to survive Duke's advantages of 46-27 in shots, 34-22 in ground balls and 16-8 in faceoffs because of "Matt Chriss ('11) making great save after great save, the defense, after the poor start, settling down and playing very tough, tenacious man-to-man defense against one of the best attack units in the country" and opportunistic offense.

Muldoon scored his fourth goal of the game to put Brown in front, but Duke answered with two goals, the second coming 10 seconds after the first, to take an 11-10 lead with 6:41 left.

Neither side would score again. Though Chriss made two of his 15 saves in the waning minutes to keep the Blue Devils off the board, the Bears could not beat Duke goalie Dan Wigrizer despite two late extra-man opportunities.

Princeton 9, Brown 7

On Saturday, the Bears never took the lead against Princeton, but they repeatedly answered the Tigers' rallies.

"That's the character of this group of men: Never give in, never say die," Tiffany said. "We constantly matched what they were doing."

After a quiet first half in which Brown trailed, 3-2, getting goals from David Hawley '11 and Feinberg, the Bears recovered to take 36 shots in the second half, but they were frequently stymied by Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito, who notched eight of his 17 saves in the fourth quarter.

"I've never coached a Brown team that's taken 36 shots in a half," Tiffany said. "We generated 36 shots against a good defense. To only score five goals on those 36 shots is a tremendous credit to Tyler Fiorito."

After Brown tied the game at five on goals by Feinberg, Schlesinger and Hawley, Princeton took the lead with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter. The Bears answered five seconds later when Willie Fix '12 keyed the fast break and fed Muldoon for the game-tying goal.
"It's tough to score in five seconds," Tiffany said.

After a five-minute scoreless stretch, Princeton scored twice to take an 8-6 lead with 4:07 left, with the second goal coming on a strong shot by Paul Barnes.

"It was a 13-, maybe 14-yard laser that hit the absolute corner," Tiffany said. "It hit the net and the corner and bounced out. It was a perfect shot."

After the Tigers added an insurance goal, Seligmann added a man-up goal with 53 seconds left, but Fiorito made two saves in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory. Chriss finished with nine saves.

The Bears adapted to the experience of playing in Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots, after Tiffany urged his players not to be awed by the venue.

"Try to enjoy the atmosphere, then bring it back to Earth, but I have to admit, it really was a thrill to play in an NFL stadium," Tiffany said. "What an exciting opportunity for us and our men."

While the Bears ponder how to conquer their late-game struggles against top-10 opponents, they will turn their immediate attention to in-state rival Bryant (6-3). The Bears will take on the Bulldogs Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Stevenson Field.

"Bryant is a good lacrosse program, by no means a pushover," Tiffany said. "Combine that with the local state rivalry — it always feels good to beat your neighbors. I'm sure Bryant is going to come over here fired up and loaded, ready to play. We're going to have to match their intensity and take it one step further."


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