Sports: April 21, 1999
The end of the golden road?
Men's lacrosse loses its first three games, in danger of missing the NCAA playoffs
After winning a trio of national titles the last three years, the Princeton men's lacrosse team opened 1999 with a much less welcome trifecta: consecutive losses to Johns Hopkins, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina. Though Princeton ended March with a 13-3 win over Rutgers, the Tigers have little room for error if they want to make the 12-team NCAA playoffs for a 10th straight year.
Two of the losses were especially excruciating. In its March 6 opener, Princeton led Hopkins 9-3 late in the second quarter -- and 11-9 with six minutes left in the game -- before losing 12-11. Hopkins All-America goalie Brian Carcaterra made a spectacular save of a shot by B.J. Prager '02 with four seconds left in the game to preserve the win. Two weeks later in Chapel Hill, Princeton scored the first two goals of the second half to take a 9-6 lead only to go scoreless the rest of the game. North Carolina won 10-9 in overtime, breaking Princeton's streak of eight straight overtime wins since 1991.
In both games, the Tigers managed only two goals in the second half. "Against Hopkins and North Carolina, the offense played timidly. They sat back and hoped the clock would run out," says Kurt Lunkenheimer '99, a co-captain and four-year starter on defense. Sandwiched between the two heartbreakers was a 6-4 loss to Virginia on March 13 in which Princeton played raggedly throughout, managing only 11 shots on goal. Even a good defensive performance was spoiled when Lunkenheimer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee with less than a minute left in the game. He's postponed surgery and is rehabilitating the knee with the hope of returning to action in late April.
Many of Princeton's woes stem from inexperience. Entering the season, Josh Sims '00 and Lorne Smith '99 were the team's only proven scorers, and in the Tigers' first four games, they've carried the offense: Sims has scored 12 of the team's 37 goals, Smith seven. Otherwise, only attack-man Matt Striebel '01 has been a consistent offensive threat, notching three goals and five assists. Coach Bill Tierney has tried to generate offense by moving Smith from attack to midfield, where he played his first three seasons, in hopes that putting Sims and Smith on the same midfield will put more pressure on opposing defenses and give attackmen Striebel, Prager, and Matt Trev-enan '02 more scoring chances.
"We're young," Tierney says, "and when you rebuild, you tend to focus on who's going to replace whom, but it's really about psychological things." Hence, Tierney has moderated his demanding coaching style. "You try to make short-term solutions -- patting kids on the back more," he says. "But if you understand that you're young, you can't totally change because of three losses by four goals. It's a fine line. I've been more conscious of my dealings with individual players than in the past."
The players have responded to the losing streak in their own way. "We're trying to get a bat-out-of-hell mentality," midfielder Rob Torti '01 said after the Rutgers game, in which he scored three goals. He and his teammates will need it. Princeton may have to win its eight remaining games to secure a playoff berth, because, except for Syracuse, the rest of Princeton's opponents -- its Ivy foes and Hobart -- are not highly ranked, meaning that while wins over them count for little with the tournament selection committee, a loss would probably eliminate Princeton from playoff consideration.
The Tigers could rest easy the last few weeks of the season if they beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome -- a tall order for any team. But Tierney is hopeful that his team will make the playoffs whatever the outcome of the Syracuse game. "With the way things are going for the teams we play, we need to win the league," he says. "If we do that and beat Hobart, we have room for leeway against Syracuse."
-- David Marcus '92
Men's hockey eliminated at the ECAC tournament
Every year, thousands of people go to Lake Placid to hike up one of the mountains in the picturesque Adirondack range. When the Princeton men's ice hockey team (20-12-2) went there in mid-March, however, it did the hikers one better -- it found its own mountains. And while the Tigers may have made a valiant effort to find the summit in the ECAC tournament, in the end they were eliminated by Clarkson on March 19, and from national tournament consideration by Rensselaer the following day.
Princeton, the defending ECAC champion, arrived in Lake Placid emboldened by their three-goal comeback in a do-or-die quarterfinal match with Cornell and convinced that no deficit was insurmountable. They were almost right. The fourth seed among five teams at Lake Placid, Princeton faced Colgate in the preliminary game March 18. Down 2-1 after two periods, forward Scott Bertoli '99 tied the game with a power play goal, then Benoit Morin '00 completed a 2-on-1 with Kirk Lamb '01 for the gamewinner. Goaltender Dave Stathos '02 turned aside 21 shots and denied Colgate many second-chance opportunities by allowing few rebounds. After the game, head coach Don Cahoon, commenting on his team's recent propensity for third-period comebacks, wryly said, "I don't know if I'd bottle [this] formula."
Regrettably, Cahoon would have to peel back the plastic and remove the cap again in the next evening's semifinal. Top-seeded Clarkson blitzed the Tigers with 27 first-period shots, scoring on three of nine against Stathos, who was often rendered helpless -- and friendless -- by the lackluster play in front of him. With Nick Rankin '99 weakened by a stomach virus, Cahoon turned to seldom-used Craig Bradley '00. The backup netminder kept the Tigers in the game, and the senior-laden squad recovered to cut a 4-0 deficit after one into a 4-3 disadvantage after two.
Although Clarkson managed a tally in the third for a 5-3 advantage, the Tigers continued to control play. Defenseman Steve Shirreffs '99 halved the lead to 5-4 with 4:17 left. The Knights were clearly tiring and were forced to resort repeatedly to icing the puck, generating faceoffs in their defensive zone. That played into the hands of the best draw man in the ECAC, Tiger center Syl Apps '99. With Bradley pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute, Apps lined up in the right faceoff circle facing the net. He won the puck back to Jeff Halpern '99 at the point, whose wrist shot caromed toward the far side of the crease, where Bertoli stood alone and banged it in for the tie with 43 seconds remaining.
With the summit within reach, however, Clarkson defenseman Willie Mitchell severed the Tigers' rope. As the final seconds of the third period rolled off the scoreboard, Mitchell picked up a dancing puck at center ice, near the boards, and unleashed a wicked slapshot that whistled through the air, then took a precipitous dip as it approached Bradley. He reached out with his glove hand, only to have the puck catch the bottom of his arm, bounce underneath, and slip into the net with 2.6 seconds left. Unbelievably, Mitchell explained after the game that he had just begun practicing that precise shot a few days earlier.
"I can't think of another game I've ever been involved in that had so many highs and lows," said Clarkson head coach Mark Morris, whose team would win the championship the next night.
As devastating to Princeton's psyche as the setback was, the Tigers knew they still had a chance to qualify as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament. With the NCAA field determined by a strict formula, Princeton entered the March 20 consolation game knowing a win probably would extend the season. As it turned out, a tie would have achieved the desired result.
Once the game began, Princeton started looking for a mountain to scale, with some help from a slash to Apps's left wrist that sent him to the hospital. "Our lineup changed considerably when Syl got knocked out," Cahoon said. "I think you could see in the defensive end of the rink what that meant without Syl on the draw. Part of that is my fault, because we haven't spent a lot of time practicing that with anyone other than Syl."
The Engineers got to Stathos twice in the first period, and Cahoon again made the switch to Bradley. But he could not stop the avalanche as Rensselaer amassed a 5-1 lead in the second. A late Halpern tally provided the Tigers some oxygen entering the third.
And sure enough, they charged up the hill one last time. Lamb converted a steal by Chris Corrinet '01 at 5:02, then David Del Monte '02 chipped in a rebound of a Mike Acosta '99 blast at 7:50. Just like that, it was 5-4. Once again, Princeton was forced to pull Bradley for an extra attacker in the final minute with a faceoff in the offensive zone. Without Apps, however, the Tigers could not win the draw cleanly, and the puck squirted out past the blue line toward the far boards -- near where Mitchell had buried Princeton one night earlier. Rensselaer's Danny Riva won the footrace to the puck and flipped it on goal, in the opposite direction of Mitchell's shot but with the same numbing effect. The empty-netter sealed Rensselaer's 6-4 victory and sent the lofty aspirations of the winningest Tiger team ever tumbling back toward sea level.
"I think we proved we're a team of character," said a disappointed but proud Cahoon. "I've never been around a group of guys quite like these."
-- Mike Jackman '92
Sport shorts: winter/spring sports
So far this season, consistency has been the problem for the baseball team. After giving up just three runs over four games during their first home weekend, Princeton's pitching staff was pounded by Rutgers on March 30 for 18 runs. Meanwhile, although the lineup has plenty of promise, it has yet to consistently generate much offense. The team opened its defense of the Gehrig Division title on April 2 against Brown.
The fencing team took fourth in the NCAA championships held in late March. Six of the Tigers' nine fencers who participated in the meet earned either Second Team All-America or Honorable Mention All-America status. Jason Burrell '00 was Princeton's top finisher, taking fifth in the men's épée.
Nagging injuries have plagued many of the Tigers' top players so far this season, and the team lost to #49 William and Mary 4-3 on March 26. The team entered the Ivy schedule on April 3 against Pennsylvania.
In recent matches, the women beat Richmond 8-1 and lost a tight match to #44 Virginia Commonwealth University 5-4. Junior Amanda Hastings-Philips has a seven-match winning streak.
At the Hurricane Invitational over spring break, the men's track team more than held its own competing against teams from the Big East and the Big Ten as the team took first in five of the 19 events. A week later at the Raleigh Relays, the distance squad ran extremely well, and junior Chris Banks provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships by running the 10,000 in 29:35.
While on their training trip to Florida, several members of the women's track team performed well in a pair of invitational meets. Shawneequa Callier '00 and Becca Desman '01 tied for first in the high jump at the Florida International University Invitational with jumps of 5'8". At the University of Miami Hurricane Invitational, Courtney Ebersole '00 finished second in the 5,000, and Sarah Hendricks '00 finished third in the 3,000.
On March 22, Notre Dame officials interviewed Bill Carmody, the head coach of the men's basketball team, for their university's vacant head coaching job. On March 30, however, speculation that Carmody might be leaving ended when Notre Dame announced that it had hired former Kansas assistant coach Matt Doherty.
The women's lacrosse team rose to third in the national polls before being upset 10-4 by Georgetown on March 28. Against Penn State on March 26, Cristi Samaras '99 (right) scored five goals to break the school record for career goals in lacrosse -- male or female -- previously held by Jesse Hubbard '98. Samaras now has 164 goals.
After opening the season a disappointing 4-12, the Tigers have won four of their last five games. The team struggled to score runs early in the season, but the bats came alive in a 9-3 victory over Hofstra on March 27. The team entered its league schedule in early April.
The women's golf team finished fifth at the William and Mary Invitational in late March, 32 strokes behind champion Methodist. The men's season began at the Navy Spring Classic on April 9.
The women's water polo team, currently ranked #16 in the nation, is undefeated in the CWPA and will enter the Southern Division as the top seed. The team's most impressive recent outing was a 7-5 victory over #17 Maryland, a team the Tigers had never before beaten.
Although this season bears little resemblance to last year's dream campaign, the team sent senior middle Brandon Vegter out on a positive note by beating East Stroudsburg 3-0 in his final home game.
Women's open crew lost a tight race to Brown in their first race of the season. Officials disqualified the women's lightweight crew team from the San Diego Crew Classic after the qualifying heat when they discovered that the coxswain wasn't carrying her weight. The Tigers competed in the final as an exhibition team, and beat defending national champion Villanova.
Both the men's heavyweight and lightweight varsity eight began the season ranked first in the preseason 1999 U.S. Rowing Collegiate Coaches Poll. The heavyweight team opened the season against Navy, beating the Midshipmen by 25 seconds. The lightweight's first race was against Georgetown on April 3.
The March 24, 1999 paw stated that Meghan Murphy '99 had been playing on junior varsity the last time Harvard met Princeton before the Howe Cup. Murphy is actually a four-year varsity player who has played between seven and 10 on the team during her Princeton career.
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