Men's Lacrosse: UVA battle looms in NCAAs
“We thought we were done, and getting a second chance is a thing not a lot of teams can say,” sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber said. “We’re gonna make the most of our chance and hopefully come through with a win.”
Virginia is the favored team in Sunday’s matchup, earning the tournament’s No. 5 seed and playing at home. The defending national champions, who consistently sat at No. 1 in national rankings throughout February and March, dropped to No. 4 after their April 13 home loss to ACC rival Duke. The Blue Devils capitalized on a 6-0 stretch between the third and fourth periods to lift themselves past UVA, 13-5.
Almost before the Cavaliers could recover from their devastating loss, they surprisingly fell in the ACC tournament semifinal to North Carolina. Even though Virginia’s star attackman Steele Stanwick tallied seven points to set the program’s career point record, the Cavaliers struggled with the Tar Heels — including former Tiger Jack McBride ’11 — until the bitter end, losing 11-9.
The Tigers, who earned the title of regular-season Ivy League champion, encountered a small speed bump at Syracuse in a 10-9 loss on April 7. After the loss, Princeton dominated its final regular-season contests. A 14-9 victory over Cornell earned the Tigers’ first outright and perfect record Ivy League title since 2001, granting them the ability to host the league championship tournament as well.
The postseason forecast seemed to sway in Princeton’s favor. The Tigers, the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League Tournament, prevailed over Brown in the semifinal. But in Sunday afternoon’s championship game, the Tigers’ perfect league record would not give them the edge.
Princeton fell hard to Yale, 15-7. The hosts took command of the game’s opening minutes, posting three shots, but Yale’s Conrad Oberbeck initiated scoring, firing past senior goaltender Tyler Fiorito. The two teams played somewhat evenly in the middle periods, but the Bulldogs put away seven shots in the fourth while the Tigers only managed two.
“They [were] playing with a ton of confidence; they really [were],’’ head coach Chris Bates said. “And when you’re playing with confidence, you make plays. At the end of the day, I don’t think we did what we needed to do to win a big playoff game.”
The Tigers allowed Yale its first NCAA bid in 20 years and waited seven long hours to hear their own fate. And when they heard the results of the NCAA pairings — after deciding not to watch the selection process as a team in expectation of disappointment — they realized their season was quite far from over.
“Me and a couple of guys were pretty sure we were gonna be out and were pretty upset all day,” Schreiber said. “Seeing our name come up on that screen was pretty unbelievable and something I’ll never forget.”
Princeton’s defense— which is the sixth-best in the nation, allowing only 7.3 goals per game, — will have its hands full with Stanwick, who won last year’s Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the nation’s top player. This season, Stanwick ranks second in the nation with 5.07 points per game. He scored 70 points last year, and has only improved on that this year by one point. In a 12-8 win over Maryland earlier this year, Stanwick accounted for eight points on three goals and five assists.
“Limiting Steele Stanwick, [Virginia’s] best player and probably the best player in the country ... that’s definitely our main focus, as is any team’s focus when [it] plays Virginia,” Schreiber said.
The game will be a reunion for two teams that were once familiar with each other. The series started with a 13-8 win by the Tigers in Charlottesville in 1948. After playing each other annually from 1992 to 2008, the two have not met since. The teams have met three times in the postseason, with the Tigers stealing each game by one goal. The wins in the 1994 and 1996 NCAA tournaments came in the championship game, while the 2000 victory was in the semifinal round.
In expectation of a showdown, ESPN will broadcast the 1 p.m. game, one of only two first-round matchups televised on the network’s main channel. The winner will face the winner of Yale and Notre Dame in the tournament quarterfinals at PPL Park in Philadelphia on May 20.
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