Lowe takes Princeton to the top with OT goal

May 31, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- This had been a frustrating tournament for Princeton's money player, senior attackman Kevin Lowe. He did not score in the semifinal game. Teams were denying him the ball. His shots were banging off pipes. Nothing came easy.

Then yesterday, Lowe received the gift of his career: an errant pass, no defenseman, a wide shooting lane and a chance to win a championship.

"That is like money in the bank for a person of Lowe's ability," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia.

Lowe delivered, scoring on a five-foot, low, bouncing shot 42 seconds into sudden-death overtime to give No. 3 Princeton a 9-8 win over No. 5 Virginia in the NCAA Division I championship game.

It was Princeton's second title in three years and marked the first time men's and women's teams from the same school won lacrosse titles in the same year.

"I was due," said Lowe, from Williston Park, N.Y. "This has been a frustrating second half of the season for me because everyone was playing deny on me.

"Then I bang three pipes in the Brown game, and hit one earlier today. I was wondering what I had to do to get a goal. Then this ball just bounces to me 'cause I'm in the right spot. The least I could do was deposit it in the back of the goal for my teammates."

That's vintage Lowe. Usually cool. A team player. Always dangerous.

After Princeton won the faceoff in overtime and Tigers coach Bill Tierney called a timeout, almost everyone in the record crowd of 24,730 at Byrd Stadium knew Lowe would restart the game with the ball.

But Lowe was shut down by Virginia defender Matt Crisp. Lowe passed to midfielder Jeff MacBean, who was working from the left of the goal and looking for cutter Scott Conklin. When that didn't work, MacBean went behind the goal and threw a pass to midfielder Jason Osier at the top of the crease.

vTC The pass sailed wide left, but Crisp went to double on Osier, leaving Lowe open. Lowe scooped up the ball, and the rest is NCAA history.

"Actually, I was just there to back up the play and make sure the shot didn't go out of bounds," said Lowe. "And then there it is, the dream -- overtime, national championship and my shot. I'm just so thankful it bounced to me. It's a thrill I have for the rest of my life."

It was a bad bounce for Virginia. For most of the day, Crisp had played good defense on Lowe, limiting him to one assist.

Crisp did as he was supposed to on the play, only Virginia thought Lowe was going to be at the top of the box, where a long shot probably wouldn't hurt the Cavaliers.

"We weren't going to let their short stick walk in on our short stick, and Matt did as we discussed," said Starsia. "It's just one of those plays where everybody did what they were supposed to, but they were able to squeeze the ball through the defense."

Princeton's win ended a great run by Virginia. The Tigers, with nine seniors, including the game's best attackman (Lowe) and goalie (Scott Bacigalupo), were expected to challenge for the title, but few expected Virginia to be here under Starsia, only in his second year.

But Virginia (13-4) made a remarkable second-half comeback in the regular season and tournament, avenging earlier losses to Duke and North Carolina. Then the Cavaliers had the upset of the tournament, a 15-14 overtime win over Syracuse in the semifinals.

Yesterday, though, the Cavaliers could not control the tempo, and Princeton (14-1) slowed it down.

Virginia wanted to run, especially with attackmen Tim Whiteley and Michael Watson. Watson finished with three goals and Whiteley had four assists, but this was far from run-and-gun.

"Slow-paced?" said Tierney. "I wished I could have made it slower. This was a classic lacrosse game at our speed."

Virginia, though, hung tough. The Cavaliers never trailed by more than two, and Virginia attackman Doug Knight tied the game at 8-8 on a goal by Whiteley with 1:20 left. Virginia won the ensuing faceoff, but lost possession when its player inadvertently stepped out of the box with 1:08 left.

"We came up short against one of the most experienced teams in the country," said Starsia. "We beat North Carolina on the road. We beat an experienced Syracuse team in the semifinals. You feel good about the effort, but you feel bad because these opportunities are so few that you hate to lose one."

Princeton played great defense throughout the tournament, and showed character by beating two teams twice, Johns Hopkins and Virginia, on the way to the crown.

Meanwhile, Maryland, Loyola, North Carolina and Brown fell in tournament rematches against teams they had beaten earlier in the season.

Princeton had beaten Virginia, 14-6, on March 12, but from the outset this clearly was going to be a closer game.

Virginia took a 1-0 lead when attackman Sean Miller, from the top of the crease, took a pass from Whiteley and scored with 9:53 left in the period.

Conklin answered with a goal 59 seconds later, scoring from the right of the crease.

Conklin scored again with 1:50 left in the period after Lowe delivered a check, then fed Conklin with a bounce pass outside the crease.

But Whiteley made another big pass with 32 seconds left in the quarter from left of the crease and behind the goal, feeding charging Doug Knight for a goal that tied the score at 2-2.

The second quarter belonged to the goalies.

James Ireland had six saves, three from point-blank range. Bacigalupo had four saves, two on one-on-one chances. Watson finally broke the drought, scoring with 3:44 left in the half for a 3-2 Virginia lead.

It didn't last long. Princeton midfielder Paul Murphy, the first of any of the Tigers to shoot high all game, scored on a 15-footer with 2:33 remaining to tie the score.

Then, with 13 seconds left in the half, Princeton midfielder Scott Reinhardt lost control of the ball at the top of the crease but swiped it in for a goal that gave Princeton a 4-3 lead at halftime.

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