While four teams will punch tickets to the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse National Championship after weekend’s quarterfinals, a fifth is already prepared for its Memorial Day trip.
The 1997 Princeton Tigers will be celebrated as a former national championship team after claiming the title of Champion of Champions via an online tournament coordinated by the NCAA earlier this season.
More than 14,000 votes were cast by fans to determine the honorary team. The 1997 Tigers earned 55 percent of the final round vote to beat 2012 Loyola Maryland for the title.
Craig Katz, a senior on that year’s team, is spearheading the team’s efforts for its reunion in Philadelphia.
• Princeton crowned champion of champions
“The excitement has been off-the-charts,” Katz said. “We had 48 guys on the roster, not counting coaches and staff, and 35 of those are coming.”
In addition to the coaches, support staff and families that have been invited, Katz said he expects about 125 people to be in the crowd celebrating the 1997 national championship team.
The group has designed special T-shirts to wear and will host a dinner Sunday night at a restaurant owned by Princeton lacrosse alum Dan Clark (’02).
“Our alumni group stays pretty close. We have an alumni game every October and regularly honor the anniversaries of national championship and Ivy League Championship teams,” Katz said. “The buzz around this is definitely high though. This is the most exciting gathering so far.”
Perhaps the most dominant lineup in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse history, Princeton finished 1997 with an unblemished 15-0 record and earned second of three consecutive NCAA national championships.
The Tigers defeated Maryland, 19-7, for the national title in what remains the largest margin of victory in a Division I lacrosse championship game.
“It really feels like yesterday,” Katz added. “I still get that adrenaline. In the 1990s, college lacrosse was the pinnacle of the game because the pro leagues were really just getting off the ground. We were fortunate to win three titles in my four years.
“Each season, it would get more and more exciting as you would want to get back to the national championship game and play in front of 30,000 people.”
Katz says that the drive that led Princeton to national titles and those lessons learned as a player still impact him daily.
“Teamwork, discipline, structure -- all the clichés you hear are true. We were fortunate to have coaches like Bill Tierney and the assistants we had driving us. You don’t appreciate it at the time, but that all carries over to your professional career, whatever it may be, and your family.”