The last time the men’s lacrosse team beat perennial powerhouse Princeton was in 2002, when this year’s seniors were rookies. It was a game that the class of 2005 remembers well.
“I’d say celebrating on Princeton’s field freshman year was one of the highlights of my lacrosse career,” captain DJ Barry ’05 said. “We broke their Ivy winning streak then, which was at 35 games. It was such a huge game for us and this game [this weekend] is just as big.”
Saturday the Elis (4-2, 1-1 Ivy) will host the No. 13 Tigers (0-4, 0-0 Ivy) in a game that has major implications for both teams. A win for the Tigers will help them kick off their Ancient Eight schedule as they attempt to do what no other team in Ivy League history has done — win 11 straight league titles. But a victory for the Bulldogs, who are on a roll after demolishing Hartford 21-7 last Tuesday, would keep them competitive within the league and help prove that they can play with any team in the country when the team works as a group.
The Tigers are coming into the contest this weekend after getting caged by No. 1 Johns Hopkins, No. 3 Virginia and No. 7 Syracuse. But the record may be deceiving because the Tigers have faced top opponents and have had tremendous success in recent years, including making it to the semi-finals of the NCAA tourney last year.
But one important thing has changed for the Tigers. Last year, Princeton graduated Ryan Boyle, a 2003 and 2004 first-team All-American and Princeton’s assist man.
“He set up everything and they are having a little trouble with that,” Eli assist leader Dan Brillman ’06 said.
While Boyle’s absence behind the Eli cage will help the Bulldogs, Princeton still has some talented players on attack. Peter Trombino, Scott Sowanick and Jason Doneger will be the major threats to the Eli defensemen. Sowanick in particular is a skilled finisher and has tallied eight goals so far this season.
In practice this week, the Bulldogs have been focusing on defense, Barry said. The Bulldogs have learned some lessons from the way Cornell got through the Eli defense, he said, and are ready to apply them to Sowanick, Trombino and Doneger.
“All three are definitely capable, but we are looking to shut down their whole group,” Barry said. “We’ve got to play much better team defense than we did against Cornell. One-on-one we match up well, but we do need the slide and have to be a lot better at that. We were a little slow on the second slide, but if we clean that up, we’ll be fine.”
Barry said that the other side of the field has been working well for the Bulldogs and is less of a worry. But similar principles of teamwork apply to the Eli attack as well. Attackman Seth Goldberg ’05 said getting into a rhythm and working together will be crucial.
“If we move the ball well we can play versus any defense no matter what they throw at us,” Goldberg said. “We all know what it takes to run our offense effectively, and we are getting better every day in practice.”
Brillman said the team has had a very focused week of practice in preparation.
“We are tailoring practice to playing them more than with other teams,” he said. “I think it’s pretty much that we all have to work together. No matter what sticks are on the field, everyone has to do what he’s supposed to do. It’s about how well we can execute.”
If the team does execute its game plan on attack and defense, the seniors may walk off the field the same way they did four years ago — as winners.