Team of the Decade: Men’s Lacrosse, 2001
The 2001 season earned Boyle Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and pushed Tierney and Mollett into the first-team All-America roster. Boyle would go on to take the first-team title his junior and senior years. Although the Tigers have remained a major player in the national picture, the astounding success of the 2001 team remains the highlight of Princeton’s athletic decade.
The team let the NCAA know it was a force to be reckoned with right off the bat. The 2001 season opened with a trio of convincing victories against powerhouses Johns Hopkins, Virginia and Hofstra. The Tigers remained undefeated throughout the first half of their season, save a brief hiccup against bitter rival Syracuse.
But with an April game against Penn, Princeton’s team went from flat-out talented to undoubtedly historic. In this match, Boyle — playing only half of the game — asserted himself in the history books as the first Tiger to notch six assists in one game since the 1993 season. These assists, along with Boyle’s pair of goals, pushed the team past the 19-goal mark for the first time since 1998 as it beat the Quakers 19-8.
Penn seemed more of an afterthought than an opponent. In that game, and in many after, the Tigers were merely repeating their previous excellence.
Even with its obvious edge, Princeton did not let itself become lazy in league play. The Tigers pursued victories relentlessly during Ivy League games. The Tigers crushed Brown 15-2, Harvard 15-1 and Dartmouth 19-2. The victory over Dartmouth clinched Princeton its seventh-straight Ivy League title.
But the team’s crowning achievement came outside of the Ivy League. In May, the Tigers journeyed north to Rutgers Stadium to take on Syracuse in the NCAA finals. This game, unlike the league games, was a true test of Princeton’s skill and teamwork.
Nothing was set in stone walking into the stadium that day. In fact, given the season’s history, Syracuse was favored to win. The Orange had brought the Tigers their only loss of the regular season: a 14-8 early-season game that seriously slowed down the formidable Princeton squad.
Nonetheless, the Tigers came back strong in a 10-9 game that kept spectators on the edge of their seats. Although Tierney, Mollett and Boyle were the season’s stars, Princeton owed that day’s victory to then-junior attackman B.J. Prager ’02. Prager’s torn ACL had forced him to the miss the previous year’s NCAA final, but he made the most dramatic championship reappearance imaginable, scoring four goals in the game, including the match’s winning overtime goal.
Prager’s performance earned him the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. Tierney, Mollett and Boyle remained forces to be reckoned with.
The U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association awarded Tierney the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award for his outstanding performance, and also named Mollett the top defenseman in Division I lacrosse, granting him the William C. Schmeisser Award.
Tierney, Mollett, Chip Buzzeo ’01 and Matt Striebel ’01 captained the 2001 team together. Mollett, Striebel and Tierney all earned first-team All-Ivy honors.
The lacrosse team went on to win three more consecutive Ivy League titles and proceeded to the NCAA tournament in subsequent years. However, the stars were aligned in 2001 more than in any other year, and more for that team than for any other Princeton squad. For its unforgettable performance throughout the year, the 2001 men’s lacrosse team is The Daily Princetonian’s Team of the Decade.
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