Despite entering the season unranked in the preseason top-20 poll, the Princeton Tigers (4–1 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) have come out scorching, beating programs ranked in the top-three in consecutive games.
Following a loss to No. 1 Maryland (6–0, 0–0 Big Ten) in the third game of the season, the No. 18 Tigers traveled to face No. 3 Georgetown (5–1, 0–0 Big East) in front of a sellout crowd on Saturday, March 5.
With the weather in the 60s, there was an atmosphere of excitement and intensity at the stadium, firing up both squads prior to their first faceoff. Once the ball was dropped, the game got off to a quick start with Georgetown scoring in under a minute. This did not phase the Tigers, however, as they swarmed the Hoyas to tally three unanswered goals. The first came from junior midfielder Sam English. Junior attacker Alex Slusher followed with two of his own.
Following the early flurry by Princeton, Georgetown settled back in to tie the game at three with 12 minutes to play in the second period. The teams continued their back-and-forth battle, and the Tigers went into halftime with 5–4 lead off of a pair of goals from Slusher and senior midfielder Luke Crimmins.
Coming into the third period, Princeton looked to put the Hoyas away with English and junior midfielder Jake Stevens and Sam English ripping in two quick goals to give the Tigers a 7–4 lead. While Georgetown managed to stay within striking distance, the momentum that Princeton had generated proved to be too much for the home team to overcome. The Hoyas were forced to play catch up for the remainder of the game and ultimately failed to equalize. The final score was 10–8 in favor of the Tigers, giving them their first win over a ranked team this season.
To fuel this impressive win, Slusher netted five of the team’s 10 goals, while English was able to claim three. The defense, however, was truly what made the difference, as the Tigers recorded 17 caused turnover — a program record.
With the win against Georgetown, the Tigers climbed their way to seventh place in the nation. The next Friday, they returned home to Sherrerd field to face an unbeaten Rutgers team that had moved in front of the Hoyas to claim the No. 3 spot.
In this highly anticipated rivalry under the lights, Princeton aimed to continue their stellar play to claim the Meistrell Cup, named after hall-of-famer Harland Meistrell. Mesitrell played a big role in restarting the lacrosse programs at both schools back in the 1920s, and each year, Princeton and Rutgers compete for his trophy.
As expected, the game started out with the two teams exchanging goals. The first period ended with Princeton in the lead 5–4, courtesy of goals from English, Slusher, first-year attacker Coulter Mackesy, senior attacker Chris Brown, and junior attacker Christian Ronda. The second period saw the Tigers begin to pull away from the Scarlet Knights, with Princeton outscoring Rutgers 6–3, extending the lead to four going into halftime.
In the third, Princeton’s offense was held scoreless, but Rutgers was also unable to capitalize on their strong defensive efforts as they only managed to net one. Failing to generate any momentum off of the Tigers’ slow offense, the Scarlet Knights were unable to mount a comeback. With a late 5–3 run that resulted in a dominant final score of 16–11, the Tigers secured their second win against a No. 3 team.
Senior goalkeeper Erik Peters shined bright on Sherrerd Field, recording a career-high 21 saves to defeat one of the best offensive teams in the country. Peters now has 57 saves in the last three games. Mackesy also made his presence known during his second start on attack, tallying his four goals and two assists with jaw-dropping aplomb. Slusher continued his amazing play as well, with four goals and two assists of his own.
Princeton will look to continue their upward trend in the rankings as they prepare to open Ivy League play against No. 5 Penn next Saturday, Mar. 19 on Sherrerd Field.
Eric Lee is a senior writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at email@example.com or on Instagram @airic.lee.