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Men's lax upset by Virginia

The dream of an undefeated season died Saturday afternoon. It was officially laid to rest in Charlottesville, Va. as the No. 1 men's lacrosse team lost to No. 5 Virginia, 9-7.

But life and death often go hand in hand, so while one dream died Saturday, the dream of a third straight national championship survived. And if history is any indication, Princeton's defeat might just be a sign of good things to come.

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"I've been around here too long and coached too many fine players to think that this is the beginning of anything but a rededication of Princeton lacrosse," head coach Bill Tierney said.

Snapped

Saturday's loss ended Princeton's winning streak at 29 games, the longest active streak in the country and the second longest in Division I history. The Tigers had not suffered defeat since their last visit to Charlottesville, way back in the spring of 1996.

"The loss is done," Tierney said. "It's how you react to the loss that matters. Are you going to look in the mirror?"

Both Tierney and senior attackman Jon Hess looked in the mirror after the game, and they saw an offense that needed fine-tuning.

"Our offense was very lackluster," Hess said. "We didn't move enough and help each other out. There was a lot of standing around and watching."

The vaunted Princeton attack of Hess and fellow seniors Chris Massey and Jesse Hubbard were held to only six points for the game. Hess tallied one goal and two assists, while Massey had a goal and an assist. Hubbard was limited to just one goal.

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"I don't think Hubbard, Hess and Massey played the best games of their lives," Tierney said. "In fact, it was probably the worst game of their lives."

Goaltending

Much of the credit for the attackmen's low scoring output goes to a tough Virginia defense that was led by senior goalie Chris Sanderson. Sanderson made 19 saves on 35 Tiger shots, but none were more important than his denials late in the fourth quarter.

With Virginia ahead 9-5 late in the second half, junior midfielder Lorne Smith found the back of the net to cut the lead to three. Massey followed suit less than a minute later when his shot dribbled off Sanderson's foot and into the net with two minutes, 41 seconds remaining.

Freshman midfielder Matt Bailer won the ensuing faceoff, and the Tigers seemed poised to narrow the margin to one. But Sanderson saved last-gasp shots by Massey and Hubbard to seal the Virginia victory.

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"(Sanderson) is a very streaky goalie," Hess said. "We caught him at a good streak.

"We thought we knew where to shoot, but he was guessing where we were shooting."

Unprepared

The majority of Virginia's goals came in quick spurts which caught the Tigers off-guard.

After Hess cut the lead to 6-3 early in the third quarter, Virginia's dynamic scoring duo of Jay Jalbert and Tucker Radebaugh – who combined for seven goals on the day – responded with two goals in nine seconds, handing the Tigers a deficit they could not overcome.

After outscoring Princeton, 2-1, in the first quarter, the Cavaliers exploded for three goals in 39 seconds early in the second quarter. Jalbert scored the first of his three goals off of a pass from fellow attackman Drew McKnight to cap the run with 11:19 left in the quarter.

Junior goalie Corey Popham could not match Sanderson's stellar game, but according to Tierney, the defense played well enough to win the game.

"If you would've told me before the game that we would hold (Virginia) to nine goals, I would've told you we would win," he said.

"We should score more than 10 goals every game," Hess said.

Falling

Princeton (1-1) will likely drop from first to third in the new rankings, with Syracuse occupying the top spot and Virginia (2-1) in second.

Back on March 9, 1996, Princeton's attack trio of Hess, Hubbard and Massey – sophomores at the time – could not overcome Sanderson either, as the Tigers dropped a 12-9 contest to the Cavaliers.

However, Princeton bounced back from that loss to claim both the Ivy League and national championship. And, fittingly, the Tigers beat Virginia in the national title game that year, 13-12, in overtime.

So while Princeton looked sluggish in losing to Virginia Saturday, don't count the Tigers out come tournament time.

Yes, Sanderson killed one Tiger dream Saturday. But the next time these two teams meet, it's possible that the national championship will be on the line. Don't expect the Tigers to give up that dream so easily.

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