Friday, April 2, 2010

The Classics

Back on Nov. 22, the Jets lost 31-14 at New England. Then, a week later, the Jets defeated Carolina at home 17-6.

The win over Carolina sparked the Jets on a late-season surge that saw them get all the way to the AFC championship game.

The next team to play at Gillette Stadium one week and then at the Meadowlands the next will be none other than Princeton's men's lacrosse team. Princeton plays Brown tomorrow at Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots, at 2:30 in Game 2 of the New England Lacrosse Classic, which matches Cornell and Dartmouth in the first game at noon.

Next week, Princeton is part of a tripleheader at the new Meadowlands Stadium. The event on April 10 begins with Hofstra-Delaware and then continues with Virginia-North Carolina, which could be No. 1 vs. No. 2. If those two aren't in the top two, then it'll be because of Syracuse, whom Princeton plays at 6:30 in the last game of the day.

As an aside, those three games are the first events in the brand-new 82,500-seat building. If it's a nice day, not even a gorgeous day but a nice day, TigerBlog imagines that the three games coupled with the ability to get a look at the new building could mean a huge attendance.

For Princeton, it'll be back-to-back games in NFL stadiums, and it'll bring the number of games Princeton has played in NFL stadiums to three, the same as the number of games Princeton will have played at Class of 1952 Stadium.

Princeton is 1-0 this year in an NFL venue, having defeated Johns Hopkins in overtime back on March 6. That one was called the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic.

The official name of the event at the Meadowlands is the Konica Minolta Big City Classic. That's three classics for Princeton in its first nine games. Actually, breaking it down, it's three classics, three home games and three away games.

It's a tough balance for a Division I lacrosse team. On one hand, there's the opportunity to play games in NFL venues, which has been exciting for the game every time it's happened. On the other, it's moving great matchups off campuses. This isn't just a Princeton thing; games like UNC-Virginia or Army-Navy or Johns Hopkins-Maryland are being played as part of the Classics.

On the other hand, there's the idea of playing games on home or at the home field of your big rivals (Princeton's Class of 2010 is the first who didn't play a game at Hopkins' Homewood Field in something like 70 years), as well as the idea of playing in front of intimate crowds.

Of course, when you're playing in front of 20,000 at M&T Bank Stadium or probably more than twice that at the Meadowlands, that isn't as big as issue.

As for Princeton, the game against Brown is huge for more than just the location. Princeton and Cornell are 2-0 in the league, while Brown is 1-0.

The Tigers and Bears have both lost one-goal games in the Research Triangle in which they rallied after trailing by five only to lose in the end, Princeton at North Carolina and Brown at Duke. The Brown-Duke game was this past Tuesday.

The Princeton-Brown game traditionally has been low scoring, but this year the teams are among the more explosive offensive teams in the country. Of the 13 games they've played between them, nine have seen both teams in the game reach double figures.

Princeton's defense was bolstered by the return last week of Chad Wiedmaier, who missed the first six games after having off-season knee surgery. Without Wiedmaier, Princeton allowed nearly 10 goals per game; with him the Tigers held Yale to six. Any more than that and Princeton would have lost, as it was a 7-6 win.

Princeton has also had a flair for the dramatic, with the big rally against North Carolina followed by comeback from 7-1 down to defeat Penn 11-10 in overtime before the tight, tense win over Yale. Freshman Jeff Froccaro scored the game-winner against both Penn and Yale, and he and fellow freshman Mike Chanenchuk have combined for 25 goals through seven games, three more than senior All-Americas Mark Kovler and Rich Sgalardi had through seven games last year. The huge hole that Kovler and Sgalardi left in the midfield was the biggest concern for the Tigers in the preseason.

It's been an interesting and mostly exciting start to the Chris Bates era with Princeton lacrosse. Of course, the goal is to have an exciting April and May, not just an exciting March, and the stretch drive begins with the Brown game.

Ahead for Princeton is six more regular season games, including the other three highest ranked Ivy teams (Brown, Harvard, Cornell), No. 2/3 Syracuse and a Rutgers team that is off to a great start and is pushing the Top 20, as well as a Dartmouth team that has given the Tigers fits through the years.

Beyond that is the first Ivy League tournament, which will have the top four teams in the league meet at the site of the league champion, and ultimately if all goes well the NCAA tournament.

That's a minimum of a six games and a maximum of 12. Two are guaranteed to be "Classics." The goal is to have some of the others fit that description as well.

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