With less than two minutes remaining in Sunday’s first-round NCAA Tournament game, the men’s lacrosse team trailed Virginia 6-4. Sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber cut the lead to one with an unassisted strike, and junior midfielder Bobby Lucas won the most important face-off of Princeton’s season. Junior attackman Forest Sonnenfeldt sent two shots wide, but Princeton retained possession, leaving 16.5 seconds to extend its season.
On the restart, the Tigers gave the ball to Schreiber, who had scored or assisted on four of Princeton’s five goals. Schreiber dashed toward the right side of goal, then swung the ball back across the field to Sonnenfeldt, who had found open space near the middle of the field. With the clock ticking down, Sonnenfeldt wound up and fired — right into the chest of Virginia midfielder Chris LaPierre, who leapt into the path of the powerful shot. The ball trickled out of play and the Cavaliers ran out the final six seconds of the game, ending Princeton’s season in heartbreaking fashion with a 6-5 score.
“I saw the defense converge to the middle and Forest open for a shot in the middle of the field. I definitely thought we were headed to overtime,” Schreiber said in an email. “One of their players made a selfless play and jumped in front of Forest's shot and ended up sealing the game for them. I have a ton of faith in Forest's shooting, and if the shot wasn't blocked before reaching the goal, I'm confident it would have been a goal.”
Virginia beat senior goalie Tyler Fiorito twice in the first six minutes to take control of the game until Schreiber put Princeton on the scoreboard. Late in the period, Princeton lost possession, allowing midfielder Bobby Hill to get open in transition and score a fast-break goal with 10 seconds on the clock, giving the hosts a 3-1 lead.
After 11 scoreless minutes, the two sides traded goals in the second quarter, with Sonnenfeldt providing Princeton’s score on a rocket from near the boundary of the offensive zone. But late-quarter woes befell the Tigers once again. Princeton turned the ball over in the waning seconds of the half, and the ball wound up with LaPierre. He launched a prayer of a pass from the midfield line, finding the stick of star attackman Steele Stanwick, who beat Fiorito from close range to extend Virginia’s halftime lead to 5-2.
Princeton’s defense showed why it is one of the best units in the nation in the third period, holding the hosts without a goal and forcing five turnovers to reverse the momentum. Junior midfielder Jeff Froccaro struck twice, including a late-period goal of his own with six seconds left, cutting the deficit to 5-4 entering the final quarter.
Princeton outshot Virginia 10-3 in the final period, but both teams found the goal exactly once, allowing Virginia to advance to next week’s quarterfinals. The Cavaliers will face No. 4-seed Notre Dame, which thrashed Yale 13-7 on Sunday.
Senior defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and the rest of the Princeton defense held Stanwick, who entered the game averaging five points per game, to only one goal and one assist. Virginia scored only one goal in 30 minutes after halftime as Fiorito made 12 saves for the game.
“Our defense was unbelievable the entire game,” Schreiber said. “I think it’s the best they've played all year. Tyler Fiorito probably played his best game of the year — he was lights out. Chad Wiedmaier did an amazing job neutralizing Steele Stanwick. Our entire defense played their hearts out.”
Three of Princeton’s five losses this season were decided by one goal, all against nationally ranked teams, and a fourth was a 10-8 defeat to No. 2 Johns Hopkins.
“It stings looking back at how close we were to winning a couple more games, but I think it also shows that we are right there with the top teams in the country,” Schreiber said. “We were just a few goals away from winning more games and advancing in the tournament.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/05/14/30958/