COLLEGE PARK -- The NCAA Division I lacrosse title match has become a mind game as well as a championship game.
It's No. 3 Princeton (13-1) against No. 5. Virginia (13-3). It's slowdown vs. fast-paced. It's the Cavaliers offense taking on the Princeton defense. It's about two teams coming off emotional wins with only a day's rest.
And the major theme, as it has been through this 12-team, 16-day tournament, is about revenge.
Virginia wants it. Princeton will try to deny it. Game time is at noon today at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
"It's amazing the way you go back and forth with the mental preparation for doing things," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney.
One day after upsetting No. 1 Syracuse, 15-14, in overtime of the semifinals Saturday, Virginia has the chance to even the score and avenge another early-season loss, this time to Princeton, which defeated Virginia, 14-6, on April 22.
Revenge has been a motivating factor for the Cavaliers during their postseason run. Virginia has beaten North Carolina and Duke in second meetings after losing to both earlier in the season.
Virginia also was motivated against the Orangemen, who dominated the Cavaliers in a preseason game.
"Revenge is just a side note of winning the championship, but we talk about it all the time," said Virginia attackman Michael Watson, who scored the game-winner in overtime Saturday. "If we win this one, all the losses are avenged."
Avenging losses has happened quite often through this season and tournament, especially without a dominant team. Loyola beat Brown earlier this season, but Brown won the rematch in the tournament quarterfinals.
Brown beat Princeton, 7-6, earlier this season and eventually won the Ivy League title, but it was Princeton over the Bears on Saturday in the other semifinal, 10-7.
Tierney said he is concerned.
"It seems to be a season of revenge, and it's hard to beat a team for the second time. The last time we played Virginia, we played our best game of the season against them," said Tierney. "I keep telling my players we can't expect another eight- or nine-goal win against them. They are a much better team since we played them."
Princeton was in a similar situation against Johns Hopkins a week ago. The Tigers had beaten Hopkins, 20-11, in the season opener, but managed a 12-11, overtime win in the quarterfinals.
"I didn't think this way when it happened, but the second Hopkins game was a good experience for us," said Tierney. "We didn't play well. Maybe we over-prepared. We sure didn't shoot well.
"But we won by one goal, and we've beaten Duke by one goal, so it's helped us with our confidence that we can win close games," he said. "I think this will be a close game."
Both teams are coming off emotional wins Saturday, and had only short times to celebrate.
"We talked about emotion at a meeting last night and this morning," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said yesterday. "You don't want your players to get too high, because there is still one more game to play. These kids are pretty intelligent. Hopefully, they'll keep it in perspective."
The championship game will be a contrast in styles. Virginia likes to run, and Princeton prefers it slow. Both teams, though, can mix it up.
One key is how well Princeton can handle the pressure at midfield. Virginia's bunch of Greg Traynor (33 goals, seven assists), David Jones (20, six) and Chris Driggs (13, four) on the first unit, and Brad Hoag (14, five), Andrew Dausch (10, seven) and Drew Fox (eight, six) on the second are as good as any in lacrosse.
Virginia's attack, led by Tim Whiteley (24, 43) and Watson (28, 19) also have played well.
"It will be a great challenge to me," said Princeton goalie Scott Bacigalupo, who played with Whiteley and Watson at St. Paul's. "They scored 15 goals against Syracuse, so I know they are going to be coming at me.
"It's OK if we give them two or three goals during a streak, but we can't give them four, five or six during the streak," said Bacigalupo.
Princeton will counter with Bacigalupo and defensemen Nick Lane, Todd Higgins and Peter Ramsey, as well as long-stick midfielder Rob Neff.
Princeton held Brown scoreless for nearly 31 minutes Saturday, and five times during the season has shut out teams for 20 minutes or longer.