PHILADELPHIA -- Without hesitation, Princeton's Bill Tierney ranks Scott Bacigalupo among the great lacrosse goalies he has coached.
He mentions Larry Quinn, who played under Tierney in high school in New York and later at Johns Hopkins. He mentions Quint Kessenich, who was at Hopkins when Tierney was an assistant there.
"And now Scott," Tierney said as No. 3 seed Princeton awaited its NCAA tournament semifinal game against No. 2 North Carolina today at 4 p.m. at Franklin Field. "His anticipation is as good as anyone's.
"Quinn was a pure positional goalie who would bait a guy to shoot at spots and then take it away. Scott is a flopper who does splits. He's intense. Practices hard. Wants to be 3 shot at."
If that's Bacigalupo's wish, he'll doubtless get it today. The former St. Paul's athlete knows it won't be like it was in March, when North Carolina edged Princeton, 9-8, despite being outshot, 45-33. He and Carolina goalie Billy Daye each made 13 )) saves that day.
"Princeton outplayed us, too," North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann said. "They deserved to win. If they get 45 shots and we get 33 this time, they'll win again."
Bacigalupo, a sophomore, said he thinks the early-season exposure to the Tar Heels will be beneficial today when he faces nTC John Webster, Dan Donnelly, Mike Thomas and Ryan Wade, Carolina's top scorers.
"They're tough because they have so many cannons," Bacigalupo said. "But having played them once, I have an idea about their tendencies.
"We were up at halftime 4-3 the last time, but fell behind 9-6. We got two goals at the end. Maybe if we'd had a few more minutes."
Bacigalupo came out of St. Paul's as valedictorian of his class and as a goalie sought by Princeton, North Carolina, Virginia and Johns Hopkins. All offered full scholarships except Princeton, which is prohibited by Ivy League rules from awarding athletic financial aid.
"I didn't have that [money] problem," said Bacigalupo, whose father, Charles, is a stockbroker with Legg Mason. "My father said to go where I wanted."
Sensing that, Tierney sold him on Princeton. Because he was still in the process of rebuilding Princeton lacrosse, Tierney could promise Bacigalupo he would start as a freshman.
Bacigalupo's response was to play well enough as a freshman last year to make first-team All-Ivy League. An economics major with a 3.3 grade-point average, he repeated this season, and is a major reason Princeton made the Final Four for the first time.
Asked to describe his goaltending style, Bacigalupo said, "Fundamentally sound, but unorthodox. I'll make a kick save with my foot, a body save or throw an arm out there. If I get anything in front of the ball, fine."
Klarmann considers Bacigalupo exciting, talented and acrobatic.
"You can't just fling the ball at the cage against a goalie like that," Klarmann said.
Tierney calls the goalies the key to today's game, noting that both played well in the first Princeton-North Carolina meeting. Bacigalupo hopes that game, and Princeton's 11-2 season as a whole, will silence the grumbling that the Tigers might be overrated.
"If people don't think we're a power now, I don't know how we can convince them," he said.
On second thought, Bacigalupo can think of a perfect way.