Exclusives: The Varsity Typewriter
PAW web exclusive column by Patrick Sullivan '02 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
24 , 2002:
Underdogs or Top dog?
teams, both men and women, will soon know
By Patrick Sullivan '02
For many sports enthusiasts, the mention of Princeton athletics
readily brings certain images to mind. The most obvious might be
those of Pete Carrils crisp-passing, back-door streaking basketball
teams in the late 1990s. Or possibly the heroics of hoops star turned
senator Bill Bradley 65.
The next most-recognized Princeton sport would have to be mens
lacrosse. Whenever strangers ask me where I go to school, they almost
inevitably follow up with an all-too predictable question. "So,
are you on the basketball or lacrosse team?"
No, I run track. And I hate lacrosse.
As a Midwesterner my knowledge of the sport was negligible until
four years ago when I came to Princeton and its powerhouse lacrosse
program. My understanding of lacrosse centered around thick-headed
fraternity boys banging into each other on a turf surface, using
the word "sweet" a lot, and trying (unsuccessfully) to
act cool and macho as they re-enacted an olden-day Indian war-game
with ridiculous rules.
Lacrosse in northern Illinois is about as popular as ice hockey
in southern Florida which is to say, we couldnt care
less. We thought of lacrosse as diluted hockey: no ice, a bigger
"puck," and less checking. It was a pseudo-manly game
that pretty boys from Phillips Exeter and Andover Academy played
to impress their blond girlfriends and their old-money fathers.
However, laying aside any misconceptions and opinions I may (still)
have about lacrosse, the performances by both the mens and
womens teams this weekend were impressive.
Mens Lacrosse: The Underdog?
The men successfully staved off elimination from the Ivy League
title hunt, soundly defeating Cornell 12-7. The Big Red entered
the game with a No. 5 national ranking, three spots ahead of Princetons
paltry No. 8 ranking. The game was also the first time the Tigers
were the lower ranked Ivy team since the 1990 NCAA quarterfinals
match-up between Yale and Princeton. Sixty minutes later, head coach
Bill Tierney had secured his 200th career victory and his humbled
team had found much-needed confidence.
The game unfolded in the true Princeton style of unselfish team
play. Six players scored and junior attack Sean Hartofilis led all
scorers with three goals. The Tigers narrowly outshot the Big Red
32-31, but the difference came in retrieving ground balls, where
Princeton owned the advantage, 31-19.
The Tigers began the season with grand expectations many
polls touted Princeton as a preseason No. 1, predicting a repeat
national championship season. Scouts emphasized Princetons
strong recruiting class and its talented, offensively potent upperclassmen.
This supposedly high-intensity offense faired poorly, however, as
the overly confident squad started the season 0-2, losing to Johns
Hopkins and Virginia. They defeated Hofstra, prompting some to say
that the first two games were merely an early season fluke. An 11-8
loss to the Syracuse Orangemen the following week silenced this
Further embarrassment befell the cocky Tigers when Yale defeated
them at home on March 30, ending a 37-game Ivy winning streak and
handing Princeton its first Ivy loss at home in the seven-year history
of the Class of 1952 Stadium. Six games into the season and the
six-time national champion, 17-time Ivy League champion Tigers held
an abysmal 2-4 record. Worse still, they faced a must-win situation
in order to hold on to the Ivy title and receive an automatic bid
to the NCAA tournament.
The mens team rose to the challenge, winning its last four
games and outscoring its opponents 55-21. With just two regular
season games remaining, all that stands between the Tigers and their
ninth consecutive Ivy title is a hapless Dartmouth team and a mediocre
Brown squad. Two victories would assure the Tigers of a bid to the
NCAA tournament, though once at the "Big Dance," the team
would likely face an uphill battle against better-ranked opponents.
Almost certainly, Princeton would not enjoy such perks as a No.
1 ranking or a first round bye, both of which accompanied the teams
bid last season.
Womens Lacrosse: Sitting on Top
The womens team, however, is enjoying yet another strong season,
boasting a 13-game win streak and an almost flawless 13-1 record.
The lady Tigers, whose only loss came against Georgetown in their
first game of the season, hold the nations current longest
win-streak and the present national No. 1 ranking. The Tigers have
the ambitious goal of capturing their sixth Ivy League title and
their second NCAA championship. Two years ago, the team made it
to the NCAA finals, but lost to Maryland 16-8. Last season, Princeton
shared the Ivy crown with Dartmouth and advanced to the semifinals
before losing to the Terrapins again.
The womens team also boasts a high-octane offense, outscoring
its opponents 205-96. In the two games this week, the Tigers defeated
the Pennsylvania 14-7 on Wednesday and Dartmouth 15-3 on Saturday.
These victories assured Princeton of at least a share of the Ivy
League Championship with two regular season games remaining,
the team controls its future. Only a weakened No. 12 Maryland and
a struggling Brown stand between the Tigers and their third consecutive
NCAA tournament appearance.
Players arent taking the game against Maryland lightly, however.
The contest, which is at home in 1952 Stadium, pits the seven-time
defending national champion Terrapins against the school that last
captured the NCAA crown in 1994. The Tigers must make a statement
in this game if they hope to erase the bad memories of the past
Against Penn on Wednesday, Princeton foreshadowed just how emphatic
their "statement" might be for the Terps. Freshman midfielder
Lindsay Biles added four points in the onslaught against the Quakers,
while senior attack Lauren Simone contributed three. The Tigers
outshot Penn 34-14. Against the Big Green on Saturday, the team
continued its offensive domination, dumping 15 points on a Dartmouth
squad that was co-Ivy League champions with Princeton last year.
Six players scored, but Simone led the way with four goals and two
assists. Princeton again outgunned its foe, 32-24. The team also
commanded ground balls, picking up 26 to Dartmouths 12.
Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, both the
mens and womens lacrosse teams have their sights set
on Ivy titles and NCAA bids. For the womens team, near-perfect
regular season performances leave little doubt of the talent, dedication,
and drive of the senior-laden squad. The mens team, however,
finds itself in the unenviable position of underdog, a role that
past mens lacrosse teams have rarely experienced. Nobody questions
the talent of this Tiger team, but the remaining games will certainly
reveal whether Princeton can rise to the humbling challenge of playing
from behind to defend their NCAA title.
can reach Patrick at email@example.com.