When the national lacrosse community thinks of Ivy League teams, two usually come to mind first — the Princeton Tigers and the Cornell Big Red. The two squads have had at least a share of the last 16 conference titles and have often fought deep into the NCAA Tournament, with Princeton winning six NCAA championships since 1990. But following last year’s four-way tie for the regular season title, the 2011 Ivy championship is anyone’s game.
If Yale’s No. 19 men’s lacrosse team (4–1, 0–1) wants to come out on top, they’ll need to defeat their rivals, starting with the unranked Princeton team (1–4, 0–1) they will face in New Jersey on Saturday.
After a tight 10–8 loss to No. 10 Cornell (4–2, 1–0) at home last weekend, the Bulldogs head to Princeton having not beaten the Tigers since 2005’s 9–8 thriller in New Haven. The Tigers hold a 70–20–2 all-time record against the Bulldogs in a series that dates back to 1882.
“It’s obviously tough to come so close to taking down a big team like Cornell,” defenseman Peter Johnson ’13 said. “However, while that game is over, the season is far from it.”
Yale is Princeton’s sixth Top 20 opponent of the season, while the Bulldogs’ only contest against a ranked opponent was the loss to Cornell. Both Yale and Princeton opened Ivy play in the loss category, with the Tigers snapping a 21-game winning streak against No. 13 Penn (4–2, 1–0), losing 8–3 in Philadelphia.
The typically competitive Tigers have failed to produce offensively this spring, partly due to the absence of two 2010 superstars. All-American attackman Jack McBride will not play against Yale, as he continues to suffer from a groin injury he reaggravated in Princeton’s season opener at Hofstra. Another All-American and the 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, withdrew from Princeton for the spring semester. The latest blue chip recruit to join the Tigers, Tom Schreiber, leads Princeton with 10 points on the season, but did not play in last week’s game at No. 13 Penn (4–2, 1–0) because of a rib injury. Regardless, the Bulldogs are taking their opponents very seriously.
“We know they are an extremely talented team so we are going to need all areas of our game to be in great shape on Saturday,” captain and long stick middie Pat Coleman ’11 said.
The Bulldogs’ attack, which struggled against Cornell’s goalie, A.J. Fiore, and close defense, will face similar pressure in Princeton’s defensemen Chad Wiedmaier and Long Ellis and goalie Tyler Fiorito. Offensive leaders Brian Douglass ’11 and Matt Gibson ’12 combined for a total of one point against Cornell, as Yale relied on fast attacks in transition and isolation dodges from its midfield to open up scoring lanes last Saturday.
“We are fortunate to have two short stick defenders that could play offense for a lot of teams in the country,” midfielder Greg Mahony ’12 said. “So pushing transition is actually one of the strongest facets of our game.”
The Bulldogs have been spectacular on special teams this season. Their man-down defense has overcome 66.7 percent of the 18 penalties they’ve faced, while Cole Yeager ’13 and Division I leader Dylan Levings ’14 have combined to win 66.9 percent of Yale’s face-offs. In the five times Wiedmaier has been in the penalty box this season, opponents have capitalized on four occasions, while the Tigers’ man-down squad has fared much better with the Inside Lacrosse pre-season All-American defenseman in the line-up, allowing only four goals on 18 chances. Yale has traditionally dominated the Tigers on the face-off, winning 91 of the past 131 match-ups in the last seven seasons.
With Yale’s close defense committing few sliding errors and goalie John Falcone ’11 stopping more than 60 percent of the shots he’s faced on the season, the Bulldogs will need Douglass and Gibson to lead the set offense against Princeton.
The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at Princeton’s Class of 1952 Stadium.