April 21, 2008

Red Drops to Second With Loss

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When Princeton men’s lacrosse head coach Bill Tierney declared the game the biggest win he had seen for his Tigers in a long time, you wouldn’t have expected it to be after a game against Cornell.
Going into last Saturday’s matchup with the No. 17/19 Tigers, the No. 3/4 Red had won 14 straight Ivy League contests, four in a row against Princeton and five straight Ivy titles overall. Maybe that’s why Princeton’s 11-7 win over Cornell was such a big win for its lacrosse program. It’s also a pretty hard loss to swallow for the Red.
“We just played scared, and we’re embarrassed about how we played,” said senior co-captain John Glynn.
The loss dropped the Red’s conference record to 4-1 (9-3 overall), a half game behind both Princeton (7-4) and Brown (10-2), who both boast perfect 4-0 conference records. All is not lost, however, with Cornell and Brown facing off next weekend. The week after, Brown and Princeton will match up, meaning a Cornell win over Brown and a Brown win over Princeton would create a three-way tie for the Ivy title.
[img_assist|nid=30052|title=The Great Wall|desc=Junior defender Matt Moyer led a Red defense that faltered at times last Saturday and at one point allowed Princeton to score eight straight goals.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We still have a lot of fight left in us,” said junior Matt Moyer. “ … We have to do everything we can on our side of it and let everything else play out. We can’t worry about the external. We just need to worry about our team and the internal.”
Cornell could have used some of that fight Saturday afternoon against Princeton. Despite an early lead, the Red’s offense was absent most of the afternoon — at one point going 31:28 minutes of action without a single goal. The stat sheet was pretty bare, with Glynn not registering a single point. The whole squad only totaled three assists. Junior co-captain Max Seibald led the way with three goals and sophomore Ryan Hurley had two goals and an assist.
“This team has really handled us of late,” said Tierney after the game. “They’re great shooters. They really move the ball well. I thought our defense was amazing. This was one we really needed. Like I told the team, it’s been awhile since we’ had one like this.”
On Saturday, there was little ball movement or good shooting from the Red offense. Despite ample opportunities created from controlling the face-off “X” — Cornell won 16-of-21 — the Red couldn’t capitalize.
“When we’re winning 75 percent of our face-offs, we should be scoring a lot more,” Glynn said. “We should be shooting the ball a lot more times. … We just have to take care of the ball. Personally, I threw the ball away a bunch of times.”
Out of the gate, it didn’t look like offensive sloppiness would be a problem. Cornell is a team that has gotten off to slow starts this year. Saturday, though, the Red staked itself a 2-0 lead in the first 3:26. Things started to go downhill quickly after that, though. By the time Cornell scored again, it trailed by six goals in the third quarter.
“In the beginning, we were taking better shots, we were moving the ball,” Glynn said. “Once we got down a couple of goals, our offense just tried to make too many plays individually. We were making a lot of unforced errors and it kind of snowballed for us.”
On the other side of the field, the Tigers’ slow-paced attack picked away at the Red defense. Although Tommy Davis led the Tigers with four points, it was Bob Schneider who scored three times for Princeton before the first quarter buzzer sounded. He took advantage of slides to slip into the cracks between the defenders.
“You have to give [Schneider] credit for his ability to find the back of the net because it was definitely a gameplan to not let him get those kind of looks and he was still able to,” Moyer said. “When he got his opportunity, he got his shots on cage and put them in good spots.”
Which was exactly what the Red attackers couldn’t do — put its shots on goal. Cornell faced the added challenge of All-American goalie Alex Hewit, who made a couple of big saves with a total of 10 on the afternoon. As the shots flew wide or were rejected by Hewit, the attackers began to look to junior co-captain Max Seibald take over.
“We looked at Max a lot to take on a lot of responsibility,” Glynn said. “He’s definitely capable of doing that, but we just have to be better teammates on the offensive end.”
Cornell did have some fight left in its tank, however. Two quick Cornell goals in the third period brought the score to 8-4. Then the Red found itself gifted a man-up opportunity. Hewit made the big save, though, and the momentum went right back the other way. Less than a minute apart from each other, Princeton netted two goals.
“Anytime we had something going, they would just kind of turn it back around on us,” Glynn said. “That’s something that’s happened all year long for us. Even when we’re up, we get complacent and letting teams come back. Now, when we’re down, we can’t crawl back all the way.”
In the end, it boiled down to the fact that the Tigers did what the Red couldn’t do — play as a team.
“It really wasn’t just one guy out there [for Princeton], it was really a team offensive effort,” Moyer said.
And because of that, Princeton took a big step towards an Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament appearance. In turn, Cornell took a big step back and now has its back against the wall.
“I think we looked at the Princeton game with our successes the past couple years that we’ve beaten them every year,” Glynn said. “In the back of our heads, I think we just expected to win. When we got down there, that wasn’t the case.”