Men's Lacrosse: Ivy quartet vies for NCAA bid
Despite the Tigers’ first-seed position and its 13-2 blowout win against the Bears (7-7, 3-3) in Providence on March 31 of this year, Princeton insists that it isn’t taking its first opponent of the weekend for granted.
“[Head] Coach [Chris Bates] has been stressing all week that we caught [Brown] on one of their bad days that day,” sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber said. “They came back to beat Cornell on the 21st in what was a close game, but a win is still a win.”
Looking back, the Princeton-Brown rivalry extends to 1964 whereas the Tigers have faced other league opponents including Yale and Harvard since the 1880s. Brown’s men’s lacrosse team joined the Ivy League the year of its first matchup, and the Tigers went on to capture the conference regular season championship title that year. In the all-time series, Princeton leads 29-21 and has won the last four. Perhaps the peak of the Princeton-Brown rivalry was in 1994, when the Rhode Island team captured a 7-6 win in the regular season to win the Ivy title. But the Tigers beat the Bears 10-7 in the post-season NCAA semifinals on the way to the second of their six NCAA championships.
Last Saturday, the Tigers won the Ivy League title outright with a 14-9 win over Cornell. Princeton’s win snapped a streak of nine consecutive seasons that the Big Red seized at least a share of the Ivy League title. With the win and a stellar individual performance, Schreiber leads the Ivy League with 54 points and 25 assists. Senior goalie Tyler Fiorito, who was just voted unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year on Wednesday, had 11 saves against Cornell last week and 16 against the Bears earlier this season. Fiorito leads the Ivy League and ranks fourth nationally in goals against average (6.65), and ranks third nationally in save percentage (.615) behind Notre Dame and UMass’ goalkeepers.
While the Tigers come off of one of their best regular seasons in recent memory, both in terms of overall performance and individual statistics, Brown’s recent surge will help it this weekend. Goalie Will Round defensively contributed to the Bears’ four out of five victories in their last four games, making 14 saves against Cornell and 12 against Dartmouth in a 10-8 win this past Saturday. Round ranks second in the Ivy League in save percentage at .530.
“Coach pointed out something after practice: that Brown has more All-Ivy players than we do. They have seven, and we have six. We’re definitely not taking them lightly. Brown is a definitely tough team,” junior midfielder Tucker Shanley remarked with respect to the Tigers’ expectations going into the Ivy League tournament.
The Ivy League announced the 2012 season All-Ivy Honors list on Wednesday by a vote of seven Ivy League lacrosse coaches. While seven Brown players found spots on the list, Princeton was the only team in the conference to earn a spot in every category on the First All-Ivy team. Junior attackman Jeff Froccaro, Schreiber, senior defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and Fiorito were all given the highest honor. Additionally, senior midfielder John Cunningham and senior defenseman Jonathan Meyers made the Second All-Ivy Team. Several other Tigers have posted All-Ivy worthy stats in the 2011-12 season, but individual Bears players could say the same. Viewers can likely expect a more even matchup than the one earlier this season.
“When we played Brown we handled them easily. They had an off day. If you look at the rest of their results, they’ve played close games. We were the only game they played where it wasn’t close. They are better than what they showed last time. They played within one against Duke and beat Cornell,” Shanley said.
Notably, Shanley is the only Princeton player with at least one goal in every game this season.
If the Tigers beat Brown on Friday, they will advance to the championship final and play the winner of the Cornell-Yale matchup on Sunday at noon. The winner of Sunday’s game will clinch the Ivy League tournament title and will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are in a good place entering this weekend, but they are not taking any obstacle lightly.