On a frigid and gloomy Tuesday night on Sherrerd Field at the Class of 1952 Stadium, No. 3 men’s lacrosse (2–0 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) clashed with the Manhattan Jaspers (2–1, 0–0 Metro Atlantic Athletic) in what was a tougher-than-expected game for the heavily favored Tigers. After a 22–9 stomping of Monmouth (1–1, 0–0 Colonial Athletic), Princeton’s endurance, resilience, and poise were tested, but the Tigers emerged with a 14–9 win.
The Jaspers started off strong thanks to the work of midfielder Tadhg O’Riordan, who secured the ball from the opening face-off and scored within twelve seconds. Despite a three-goal deficit, the Tigers refused to accept defeat, responding to the Jaspers’ barrage with a goal of their own from senior midfielder Alexander Vardaro.
Princeton’s defense struggled in the first quarter, allowing easy shots on goal. Manhattan’s relentless attack allowed them to push the lead to 4–1, forcing Princeton lacrosse head coach Matt Madalon to take a crucial timeout to reevaluate the game plan. It paid off, as senior midfielder Jake Stevens immediately netted a goal to make it 4–2.
To start the second quarter, the Jaspers committed a holding foul, allowing Princeton to take advantage. Sophomore attacker Coulter Mackesy netted an underhand dinger to cut the lead to one.
However, Princeton committed a penalty of its own, allowing Manhattan to capitalize and score to make it 5–3. Vardaro’s second goal of the game came 30 seconds after the Jaspers’ fifth goal, not allowing the visitors to celebrate for long. The rest of the half was a defensive battle, and Manhattan took a surprising one-score lead into the break.
“Manhattan did a really good job of playing their game plan. We are used to playing a little bit faster, and they slowed it down and we had to recalibrate,” Madalon told The Daily Princetonian.
He also remarked that the team had to be “a little better with perimeter ball movement and sharper with [its] shooting.”
That's exactly what Princeton did in the second half. The coaches' messages and game plan brought out an entirely different Princeton team. The defense only allowed four more goals the entire game.
Princeton went on to score four goals of their own in the first six minutes of the third quarter, dominating the helpless Jasper defense. Mackesy would later score two crucial back-to-back goals to pad Princeton’s lead, pushing the Tiger advantage to 11–7. Princeton would then score one more to round out the third quarter.
The Tigers controlled the fourth quarter with poised defense, allowing no goals for Manhattan until halfway through the quarter. Both sides netted two more goals to round out the scoring in the final frame, leading to a 14–9 victory for the Tigers.
Princeton’s strong second-half performance propels them into a highly anticipated home match-up against perennial powerhouse, the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (2–1, 0–0 Big Ten). This matchup will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday and will be streamed on ESPN+.
“They are one of the best teams in the country year in and year out,” Madalon told the ‘Prince.’ “We’ll look at the film from today, learn from it, have a quick flip of the page and then go on to the Terps.”
In recent history, the Tigers have struggled against Maryland, with a season-ending loss last year in the NCAA Lacrosse semifinal. Coach Madalon hopes to “come out on the right side” of the Maryland game, this time against a fellow NCAA title contender.
This Maryland matchup is only the start of a rigorous out-of-conference schedule, as Princeton will play Georgetown (0–2, 0–0 Big East), No. 14 Rutgers (2–1, 0–0 Big Ten), and No. 19 Syracuse (3–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) later this season, on top of an already-stacked Ivy league conference that features four teams currently in the top seven of the national rankings.
“We always try to give our guys two ways into the NCAA tournament: [the] Ivy League [championship] and then at-large through tough scheduling,” Madalon told the ‘Prince’. “Hopefully we [will have] an opportunity to play in both the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments.”
JP Ohl is a contributor to the Sports section at the 'Prince.' Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.