PHILADELPHIA -- The biggest surprise of a lacrosse season that was full of surprises is that underdog Princeton was able to beat physically superior Syracuse, 10-9, in double overtime here yesterday and win the NCAA Division I championship.
How did the Tigers do it?
Why, the same way undermanned Princeton basketball teams have been doing it for years for coach Pete Carril against bigger, more talented opponents.
Gilman School grad Matt Eastwick, a forward on Carril's Princeton team the last four years, was at the lacrosse game yesterday. When coach Bill Tierney's Tigers took a 6-0 lead in the second period, Eastwick was asked how Princeton was doing it.
"By controlling the tempo, by being patient and taking good shots," said the 6-foot-7 Eastwick. "Princeton is taking the air out of the ball and taking some time off the clock."
You see? Even the language is the same as basketball's.
"Coach Tierney is a disciple of Coach Carril," Eastwick explained. "He spends a lot of time with Coach Carril. He hangs out with him. The similarities are amazing."
Tierney has to be named Coach of the Year. Coming from an assistant's job at Johns Hopkins, he took over at Princeton five years ago when the program was at the bottom. He was 2-13 his first year.
"And we were 13-2 this year," said a happy Tierney. "Of course, we have much better talent now."
* By taking Princeton to the title, Tierney may have taken himself out of the running for the vacant Virginia coaching job.
Coaches are reluctant to walk away from a national champion that has its ace goalie (Scott Bacigalupo, from Baltimore's St. Paul's School) coming back for two more years.
Besides, Princeton would give Tierney just about anything to keep him -- as it did when Hopkins offered Tierney its coaching job two years ago.
Two former Virginia players and assistant coaches, both head coaches now (Kevin Corrigan at Notre Dame, Mike Caravana at Denison) have a definite opinion on what kind of coach Virginia will hire to succeed Jim Adams, who retired two weeks ago.
"Virginia hires understated coaches," said Caravana. "Look across the board. What you see is coaches with in
tegrity, character and class -- George Welsh, Terry Holland, certainly Jim Adams."
That sounds to me like Mike Waldvogel. Virginia would appreciate Waldvogel's Ivy League pedigree. Played at Cornell. Coaches Yale.
Waldvogel told me yesterday he's interested in Virginia -- "and so is every coach in the Ivy League," he added.
* You can tell what's expected of lacrosse at Johns Hopkins by the way the players talk about winning championship rings. You can also tell how lacrosse has changed, how it's no longer the private domain of one or two schools.
"We don't want to be the seniors who never won a ring," co-captain Jeff Wills said after the Blue Jays beat Notre Dame, 15-7, in the first round of the tournament.
Hopkins, remember, has won or tied for 42 national championships. Was Wills saying his class would be the first not to win a ring?
"No," he said. "Last year's was the first. We don't want to be the second."
Syracuse demonstrated its superiority over the Blue Jays in a 21-16 win in the semifinals Saturday. But better times appear to be ahead for Hopkins.
Second-year Blue Jays coach Tony Seaman, who is regarded as a good recruiter, has 10 promising prospects entering the freshman class in September.
"Last fall," said Seaman, "I showed my assistant, John Haus, a list of eight prospects. We agreed that if we got those kids, we'd be in business. Well, we got six of them."
These include midfielders Milford Marchant, from Severn; Brad Berzins, from Dulaney (son of 1963 Hopkins All-American Jan Berzins); Tim Colbert, a football quarterback from Huntington, L.I., who rejected Big Ten football offers to come to Hopkins; Yorktown, N.Y. attackman David Marr, brother of ex-Blue Jay Scott Marr; and goalie Jonathan Marcus, from the same high school on Long Island (Lynbrook) that produced Quint Kessenich.
* A final word on second guessing:
Seaman is being criticized for having his team in hot black jerseys for the Syracuse game when the temperature on the Franklin Field artificial turf was 110.
But it was the new black jerseys that inspired the Hopkins players when they beat Towson State, 15-8, in the quarterfinals, the Jays' best showing of the season. Seaman had to go with the black against Syracuse. If he had worn blue and lost, he would have been criticized even more.