Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trying To Match The ’94 Tigers

The 1994 Princeton women's lacrosse team won its first 14 games before being tripped up by Maryland in the regular-season finale. Final score - Maryland 12, Princeton 10.

The 1994 Princeton men's lacrosse team also had one regular-season loss, to Brown in the seventh game. Final score - Brown 7, Princeton 6.

So what happened come NCAA tournament time?

The women beat Maryland in the championship game. The men beat Brown in the semifinals. The score of both games? Princeton 10, other team 7.

The men still had another game to play after the win over Brown. This was on Memorial Day, in the final against Virginia.

The game was played at Byrd Stadium, which is now called Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. It was the same field where the women had beaten Maryland one week earlier.

Kevin Lowe, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton men's lacrosse history, made his 247th and final point his biggest, scoring in overtime against Virginia to give Princeton a 9-8 win and the championship.

To TigerBlog, the 1994 championship is the most important of the six that Princeton has won, even if it tends to get overlooked a bit.

The 1992 title was the first, but that could have gone down as a one-hit wonder if Princeton had not won another one. Princeton reached the semifinals in 1993 but lost to Syracuse. Yes, Princeton had established itself as a real factor in lacrosse at that point.

The 1994 championship stamped Princeton has elite. It led to the flood of talent that followed, resulting in the great run of three-straight championships from 1996-98 and then the three more finals appearances in a row from 2000-02, including the 2001 title.

No team has matched the three straight championships since Princeton did it, by the way. It won't happen for awhile either, as the defending champion Denver Pioneers will not be repeating.

And something no one else has ever done, before or since? Win the men's and women's championships in the same year.

Only Princeton in 1994 has ever done it.

That could change this weekend, as two teams have a shot at it.

Beginning tomorrow and running through Monday, the Philadelphia area will crown five different lacrosse champions - in Division I, II and III men's at Lincoln Financial Field and in Division I and III women's at Talen Energy Stadium (the home of the Philadelphia Union).

It all begins tomorrow, with the Division I women's semifinals, Maryland-Syracuse and North Carolina-Penn State. The Division I men's semifinals, North Carolina-Loyola and Maryland-Brown, will be Saturday.

Clearly, Maryland and North Carolina can win both. Maryland, though, is the No. 1 seed in both tournaments.

In women's lacrosse, Maryland is 21-0, including 3-0 against the other three teams in the Final Four. On the other hand, Maryland's wins were by five goals over Syracuse but just one goal over North Carolina and Syracuse.

On the men's side, TigerBlog has thought for the second half of the year that Brown is the best team. The Bears, making their first NCAA appearance since that 1994 game against Princeton, are playing on an incredible level.

The thought about Brown is that they play a style most other teams don't, a fast-paced, push-it-all-the-time, no-shot-is-a-bad-one, keep-the-poles-on-offense track meet. There's some truth to that, but the reality is that Brown just has superior, veteran players throughout its lineup.

The big if, of course, is Dylan Molloy, the best player in the country. Unfortunately for Brown, he's also injured, and he missed the 11-10 win over Navy in the quarterfinals last weekend.

When the tournament started, TigerBlog thought the team that could beat Brown was Denver, because of its face-off man and ability to match goals. Can Maryland beat Brown? Definitely. To do so, the Terps will need to make it a half-field game, because no team is better in 6-on-6 defense than Maryland.

And it's not really about winning face-offs. It's about limiting the damage off of face-off losses. If Will Gural, Brown's face-off man, can create two or three goals off of face-off transition - maybe scoring himself or maybe just starting the fast breaks - that might be too much for Maryland to overcome.

The easy analysis is that it took a ridiculous 21-save performance by Navy goalie John Connors to keep that game close last weekend. Can Maryland's Kyle Bernlohr match that? He was first-team All-America a year ago.

Brown's team already plays with a chip on its shoulder. Now it has the "nobody thinks we're good without Molloy" piece to go with it.

TB will be at the Linc for the men's games. He'll definitely have an eye on the NCAA baseball selections show Monday to see where Princeton, the Ivy League champ, will be headed.

And this is also the weekend for NCAA track and field regional in Florida, where 22 Princeton athletes will compete. And the NCAA women's rowing championship in California.

As for the lax, TigerBlog will go with Maryland-North Carolina in the women's final and Brown-North Carolina in the men's final. He'll take Maryland and Brown to win.

And the 1994 Princeton teams to remain unmatched. 

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