March 7, 2009

Courtesy of Princeton

A little overshadowed in the barrage of shots and goals that the Princeton men's lacrosse team put up in its first two games were the performances of freshman goalie Tyler Fiorito and junior face-off man Paul Barnes. There was no overlooking either one Friday night, as the Tigers' offense came down to Earth a bit while Fiorito and Barnes were out of this world.

Fiorito made 10 saves and Barnes won 13 of 15 face-offs to lead Princeton past UMBC 6-5 in front of 1,744 at UMBC Stadium Friday night. Princeton led 6-3 before UMBC scored twice in the final 1:24 to make it interesting.

When the dust settled, fifth-ranked Princeton was 3-0 for the first time since 2001 and more importantly had two wins over Top 10 teams. The Tigers followed Saturday's win over Johns Hopkins with the win Friday night against the Retrievers, ranked sixth by the coaches and eighth by the media.

The Tigers will have a quick turnaround, as they return to Class of 1952 Stadium Sunday at 1 against Manhattan in the first meeting ever between the schools.

"It doesn't matter how you get it," siad Princeton coach Bill Tierney. "It's just that you leave with at least one more goal than the other team. With two teams playing offense the way they were this year, it might have been a surprise to see a defensive game like this. Both D's played well, and both goalies were outstanding."

Both teams came in averaging better than 13 goals per game, and Princeton had scored 14 goals in each of its first two games, including a 14-8 win over Hopkins last week.

UMBC goalie Jeremy Blevins, a senior, made 11 saves, but he was done in by a five-goal Tiger third quarter. Fiorito was especially strong in the first half, when he made six of his saves and kept the Tigers in the game.

"It's been incredible," said the freshman. "The guys trust me a lot. Our defense is so good, it enables me just to play my game and not try to do things I'm not really able to do."

As for Barnes, all he did was win the first 11 face-offs of the night. He also won the final one, which came with 57 seconds remaining after UMBC had pulled within one with two goals that came 27 seconds apart.

"Coach U [Kevin Unterstein] has been helping me a lot," said Barnes, who won 13 of 22 in his first two games. "I've been watching a lot of film, trying to get an edge. The guys on the wings have done a great job."

Princeton led 1-0 after Mark Kovler scored the only goal of the first quarter, but the Tigers would not score again before intermission. UMBC took the lead 2-1 on a pair of second quarter extra-man goals, the second coming with 30 seconds to go before the half.

Any momentum the Retrievers disappeared in a strong third quarter as the Tiger offense resembled the unit from the first two games. Princeton took 111 shots in the first two games and then just 12 in the first half Friday night, but the Tigers exploded for five goals on 14 shots in the third quarter.

Chris McBride scored twice to start and finish the run, and Kovler, Rich Sgalardi and Jack McBride all scored one each in the quarter.

The score was 6-2 after three, but Princeton would not score again. UMBC Alex Hopmann scored his second of the game with 10:37 to play to make it 6-3, and it stayed that way into the final two minutes.

Ryan Smith would score with 1:24 to play to make it a two-goal game, and Kyle Wimer made it 6-5 with 57 seconds to play. Barnes' final face-off win enabled Princeton to clear all but the final seven seconds off the clock, and UMBC could get no closer than a desperation pass from behind its net towards the box as time expired.