On the last weekend of April 2017, a nationally-ranked Princeton squad which had already secured the No. 2 seed in the Ivy League tournament was upset by unranked Cornell men’s lacrosse on the Red’s home turf in the final game of the regular season.
Exactly one year later, the roles were reversed. Princeton (8-5, 3-3 Ivy) capped off its regular season with an exclamation point on Saturday, upsetting red-hot Cornell (10-4, 4-2), 14-8, to end the Red’s seven-game winning streak.
“I thought it was a really well-executed game by Princeton,” said interim head coach Peter Milliman. “They had a pretty good game plan and found a way to follow through with what they were trying to do … We played hard, they played harder. They deserved to win for sure.”
Cornell seemed unable to get going for much of the contest, finishing the game without ever holding a lead — a first for the Red this season. The Tigers struck first on reigning Ivy League rookie of the year Michael Sowers’ 26th tally of the season. The squads would trade goals for a few minutes thereafter and the Red evened the score a couple of times.
But with just over 5:30 to play in the opening frame, Princeton defender George Baughan made it 3-2 in favor of the home team and the Tigers never looked back.
“I don’t think we finished our shots as well as we could have,” Milliman said. “We had a handful of good looks and didn’t finish them when we needed to. I also think we had opportunities in the offensive end where we were a little careless with the ball.”
Sophomore attack Jeff Teat, the nation’s leader in points per game, was held to zero points for just the second time in his career, ending a 24-game point streak for Teat that began on March 11, 2017. Baughan, Princeton’s lead defender, was responsible for shutting down a player that is widely regarded as perhaps the best in the nation.
“If any one of our players isn’t having their best game, I think that the rest of the guys know that they need to step up,” Milliman said. “For the most part, we’ve been successful doing that, but today we struggled with that. I don’t think the rest of the guys were carrying the offensive load as well.”
Teat’s silence offensively reflected yet another reversal from last season’s game against Princeton, which saw the then-freshman’s career high 12 points lift Cornell to an upset win.
“[Baughan] is a pretty good athlete and he did a pretty good job of face guarding [Teat],” Milliman said. “We need to find ways to continue to run our offense and execute regardless of what they’re doing to Jeff or anybody else.”
Cornell’s eight goals were its fewest all season. As few offensive bright spots as there were, among them was senior long-stick midfielder Scott Flynn’s first collegiate goal. Junior attack Clarke Petterson and senior midfielder Jordan Dowiak each registered three points to lead Cornell, which entered the contest with the best offense in the nation.
“It’s never a bad thing to have yourself humbled a little bit,” Milliman said. “We’ve been playing well, we’ve been playing hard and we’ve been scoring a lot lately. And I think this was maybe a little bit more of a wake-up call in that sometimes they don’t come as easy as we may have been getting them the last few weeks.”
After Brown defeated Dartmouth later in the day, the Bears earned the third seed in the conference tournament and will face Cornell in the second semifinal on Friday. The Ivy’s top seed, national No. 1 Yale, will play Penn in the earlier matchup.
With an impressive regular season behind it, Cornell will look to the Ivy tournament to cement its accomplishments and try to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. If Cornell is able to win twice next weekend, it will earn an automatic-qualifying bid to the national playoffs. The task begins Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Columbia’s Robert K. Kraft Field in New York against Brown.