Friday, May 15, 2009

"The Best Rivalry In The Ivy League"

Princeton and Cornell meet tomorrow in the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals. If you're a Princeton fan, you're probably thinking back to the April 18 meeting between the teams, which Cornell won 10-7 by dominating face-offs and possession and grabbing the early lead, which it never gave up.

If you're a Cornell fan, you're probably thinking that if you can repeat that formula, you could be headed to Foxboro and the Final Four next week, but can you repeat that formula?

When the draw came out, it became apparent that a trip to the Final Four for these two meant in all likelihood getting past the other, as both would be favored in the first round. It set up another round of what Cornell radio play-by-play man Barry Leonard (only TigerBlog has been doing radio in the Ivy League longer among current league voices) "the best rivalry in the Ivy League right now."

Leonard mentioned Harvard-Yale football and Penn-Princeton men's basketball, of course, as well as Cornell-Harvard and even Cornell-Princeton men's hockey. For his money, though, the best rivalry right now, today, is Princeton-Cornell in men's lacrosse.

What makes it even more special is the fact that the two teams are both on top of their games now. When they met the first time, TigerBlog said on the radio that these two could quite possibly be the two best teams in the country, and when they're on, that still holds.

Bill Tierney, for his part, has always talked about the quarterfinals as the round with its own kind of pressure, because of the great prize that awaits the winner. Princeton has played some great quarterfinal games under Tierney and is 10-5 all-time in this round.

So where does that leave us for tomorrow?

Well, Princeton has a great mix of a senior class that goes eight deep and sees all eight contribute that teams with some outstanding younger players (including freshmen and sophomores) who play huge roles. The Tigers have great balance on offense and a defense that has been nearly unbeatable in the first half since that loss to Cornell. Princeton's goalie, Tyler Fiorito, may be just a freshman, but he has the highest save percentage and second-lowest goals-against average of any goalie left in the tournament. Chad Wiedmaier may be a freshman on defense, but he's as good a defenseman as there is in college lacrosse. Add in four players with either 41 or 42 points and a fifth who needs one point to reach 30, and it's a team that can beat you in many different ways.

As for Cornell, the Big Red are a great face-off team, obviously, as they have two of the best players in college lacrosse in John Glynn and Max Siebald (who may be the best of all of them). Rob Pannell edged Wiedmaier for the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award and is among the national leaders in scoring. There is a strong attack unit, a top-notch defender and a goalie who has played well at times in his career.

TigerBlog doesn't think face-offs will be physically a huge part of the game, though they could be mentally a big part if Princeton becomes obsessed with them. Princeton is the 37th ranked face-off team in Division I, and for years the Tigers have been used to winning games while losing face-offs.

No, TigerBlog thinks the key is the first five minutes. Cornell led 3-0 after 4:46 of the game on April 18. Cornell led 2-0 in the first quarter a year ago, though Princeton did rally to win. Two years ago in Ithaca, Princeton trailed 1-0 after 53 seconds and 4-1 after 10 minutes.

Deficits like that are easily overcome in lacrosse, but that's also where the possession issue becomes huge. Princeton spent the entire game in Ithaca playing catch-up; if Cornell can repeat that or if Princeton can prevent that, it would be huge for either.

Regardless, it figures to be an outstanding game. As Tierney said after the first round, "they know us and everything we do; we know them and everything they do. We could play the game right now."

Well, they didn't play it then. They've waited a week, and the wait for another round of the best rivalry in the Ivy League is almost over.


Anonymous said...

Why does the online 'Section 3 of the Lax Media Guide- All Time Records and Results" lead nowhere?

What's up with that?

Princeton OAC said...

Didn't realize it did. We will correct it.

Anonymous said...

Check the attendance at a Princeton Cornell lax game vs. Harvard Yale football game....not even close. I'm sorry but no Lax game is the greatest Ivy League rivalry. Heck Princeton Yale football is a better rivalry.