Men's Lacrosse: Tigers face Orange at Meadowlands
“We’re really excited about Saturday,” junior midfielder Tyler Moni said. “This will be our third time playing in an NFL stadium, which is a venue we really like and really play well in. Playing against Syracuse is always fun: They’re one of our biggest rivalries and it’s going to be a great day.”
Princeton and Syracuse have won a combined 16 of the last 22 national championships, with the Orange having a 10-6 edge over the Tigers. Last year, Princeton prevailed over Syracuse in their regular season meeting, but Syracuse went on to win the national championship for the second consecutive year.
Sophomore goalie Tyler Fiorito had what was then a career-high 15 saves last year in Princeton’s 12-8 victory over the Orange. Junior attackman Jack McBride netted three goals for the Tigers. Even though Princeton walked away with the win, Syracuse dominated some of the statistics, winning 15 of 23 faceoffs, scooping up 40 of 65 ground balls and outshooting the Tigers 39-31.
“We need to face off well,” Moni said. “[Syracuse is] known for playing in between the lines. They’ve got a lot of good athletes. They’re really, really aggressive, and so we’re going to try and match them with a lot of athleticism and smart play. Their goalie, John Galloway, is playing unbelievably right now, so that’s another thing — we’ve got a lot of guys who need to shoot well.”
“I think this weekend’s matchup is going to come down to goalie play, just because it’s a brand new environment,” senior goalie Nikhil Ashra said. “It’s a new field. It’s like a preview of the Final Four. We need the mentality of the Final Four. I think it was Trevor Tierney ’01 who said, ‘For goalies, it’s not about how many saves you get, but about getting by and winning.’ So I think the game is going to come down to seeing which goalie can control the pace of the game.”
Galloway and Fiorito have both been playing well lately. Galloway has a slight statistical advantage over Fiorito. The Orange goalie allowed 8.43 goals per game and has a .568 save percentage. Fiorito has allowed 8.62 goals per game and has a .534 save percentage.
Galloway also has two national championship victories under his belt, “so he’s a seasoned veteran even though he’s only a junior,” Princeton head coach Chris Bates said.
Fiorito, however, has been on fire recently. After posting a career-high 15 saves against Syracuse last year, Fiorito tied it two weeks ago in Princeton’s one-goal win over Yale. Last week, he set a new personal best of 17 saves in the win over Brown.
“Tyler has certainly stepped up his play,” Bates said. “He’s got high expectations, and those around him have high expectations, which has got to be hard at times because even when Tyler’s not at the top of his game, he’s been a very solid goalie.”
Fiorito’s goalkeeping streak has coincided with sophomore defender Chad Wiedmaier’s return from injury. Without Wiedmaier, Princeton allowed 9.8 goals per game and Fiorito had a .455 save percentage. In the Tigers’ last two games with Wiedmaier back, Princeton has allowed 6.5 goals per game and Fiorito has a .711 save percentage.
“I think one of the keys for us offensively is to share the ball better than we have in the last few games and to have better shooting decisions,” Bates said. “When our offense bogs down, it tends to be when we don’t make that extra pass or we take a lower percentage low-angle shot — which can kill the rhythm of the offense and give a team an easy save — and the ball goes back the other way.”
Before the game, No. 1 Virginia (10-0) and No. 2 North Carolina (10-0) will battle to stay undefeated.
Having four talented teams playing back-to-back will have many fans in New Meadowlands Stadium hoping that another big event is in their team’s future: the Final Four. If Princeton makes it that far, it would be its fourth game in an NFL stadium.