May 2, 2009

Princeton, N.J. -- The first quarter between Princeton and Brown was a perfectly played drama befitting a championship game. The second quarter was just perfectly played, befitting a championship team.

Princeton played perhaps its best single all-around quarter since the first quarter of the1997 NCAA championship game to sprint past Brown 11-7 and claim a share of the Ivy League championship in front of 2,132 fans at the Class of 1952 Stadium.

Princeton scored seven goals on seven shots against arguably the best goalie in college lacrosse in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter after the teams had played a tight, brilliantly contested - and scoreless - first quarter. Brown would get no closer than four goals the rest of the way.

The 2009 Ivy League championship is shared by Princeton and Cornell, who defeated the Tigers two weeks ago in Ithaca and as such get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton, ranked fourth in both polls, finishes the regular season 12-2 and is widely considered a lock for an at-large NCAA tournament bid when the field is announced tomorrow. In fact, it is likely that Princeton, Cornell and Brown (ranked 10th in both polls) will all be in the tournament.

Princeton finished the regular season at 12-2 overall, 5-1 in the Ivy League, 6-0 at home and 5-0 against teams that it had lost to a year ago. Brown, who lost for the first time in eight road games, is 12-3, 4-2 in the league; the Bears would have shared the title with Cornell and won the league's automatic bid with a win.

"When we broke out the trophy in the locker room, it was the first time some of those guys had ever seen it," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney. "It's something we used to take for granted around here, but it's not something you should ever do. Ivy League championships are special."

The title was the 24th in school history. Princeton did not win an Ivy title in the 21 seasons prior to Tierney's arrival in 1988; he has now won 14 championships in 22 seasons as Tiger head coach.

That number would have been 15 championships had Princeton not lost to Dartmouth and Brown to end the 2008 season. The Tigers avenged the Big Green loss a week ago and then set out to turn around last year's 6-5 loss in Providence on the final day of the 2008 season, a loss that denied Princeton an Ivy title and kept the Tigers out of the NCAA tournament.

Princeton lost that game as Bears' All-America goalie Jordan Burke made 13 saves against five goals, running his career save percentage against Princeton to .667. The only goal of the fourth quarter of last year's game came from Tiger goalie Alex Hewit - who was in the stands for the rematch - but Princeton could not get the tying goal past Burke after that.

"The difference between the feeling of walking off the field last year against Brown and this year against Brown is amazing," said Princeton's Josh Lesko, who made the biggest play of the game. "We worked really hard for this one."

The first quarter Saturday afternoon was an amazing defensive performance by both teams. Scott MacKenzie took the first shot of the game, a tough low shot that Burke made a big save on, and that seemed to affect the Tigers shooters.

As for Brown, its first shot came from Brady Williams on another tough shot, this one saved by Princeton freshman Tyler Fiorito. Neither team would have a shot on goal for the rest of the quarter, and both defenses made every offensive possession difficult. Brown maintained possession for the final 3:26 of the quarter and took six shots during that stretch but could put none on goal as Tiger defenders hounded the Bears everywhere they went.

"I think the goalies made a big difference on the shooters at the start," Tierney said. "He [Burke] made a tough save, and now everyone is thinking that they have to be perfect. I think we may have had a similar affect on them."

When the first quarter ended, Princeton had gone 42:05 without having anyone other than the goalie score against Burke. That all disappeared in the second quarter.

"It was a pretty good quarter for us," said Greg Seaman, who had two goals for Princeton. "We had a lot of confidence there."

Seaman scored the first goal of the day, which came 51 seconds into the second quarter on a tough catch-and-shoot in front off a feed from Tommy Davis. It was 2-0 less than a minute later as Davis scored on a feed from Rich Sgalardi.

Brown then called timeout and won the face-off as play resumed. Jack Walsh then hit the pipe on a shot, which rocketed back to Princeton defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, who flipped it ahead to Lesko as he flew down the middle of the field. Lesko then ripped it past Burke low, and it was 3-0 Tigers instead of 2-1 had Walsh's shot gone in.

By the time the quarter ended, Jack McBride had scored twice, Paul Barnes had added a goal seven seconds after a McBride goal and Mark Kovler had added one of his own. Those seven goals came on seven straight shots.

Princeton would shut out Brown in the first half, just as it had done against Dartmouth

The lead became 8-0 in the third quarter on Davis' second of the day less than two minutes into the third quarter. Brown finally broke through when Thomas Muldoon scored on the Bears' 20th shot of the day, which ended a streak of 18 consecutive shots that missed the cage.

The Bears would get back into it enough to put some pressure on Princeton, but the lead never got close than 10-6 and the final of 11-7. Like a year ago, Princeton's final goal came from a defender, this time Wiedmaier, who made it 11-6 with an end-to-end rush with 4:52 to go.

Muldoon would score three times to lead Brown, but it took him 15 shots to do it. The Bears threw 49 shots at the Princeton goal, of which 33 missed the cage. Burke made some big saves in the second half, especially against Kovler and McBride, as he and Fiorito both finished with nine saves.