COLLEGE PARK -- Printed on the back of the T-shirts that Virginia's players wore beneath their game jerseys yesterday were the words "Buckle Up," which turned out to be pretty good advice considering the Cavaliers were in for a bumpy ride.
Their leading scorer never got untracked. They kept slipping on the wet grass. It took more than 32 minutes for them to take the lead, and hardly any time at all seemingly to fall out of contention.
And in the end, after having fought back from a three-goal deficit in the last 11: 18 of regulation, they were beaten by the same team, on the same field, heading in the same direction and with the same swiftness as two years earlier.
Sophomore attackman Jesse Hubbard scored on the first possession of overtime off a pass from Lorne Smith to give No. 1 Princeton a 13-12 victory over the Cavaliers in the NCAA lacrosse tournament final before 22,602 at Byrd Stadium.
Hubbard's underhand shot from about 10 yards bounced past Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Chris Sanderson 34 seconds into overtime. The goal brought back memories of the 1994 championship game in College Park, when Princeton again won the faceoff to begin the extra session and never gave Virginia possession.
"I've got to find a different line of work. This overtime stuff is getting a little out of hand," said Tigers coach Bill Tierney, whose team has won three national titles in five years, with none being decided in regulation.
Princeton's James Mitchell won the faceoff to start yesterday's overtime, making him 13-for-19. After a timeout, Smith passed to Hubbard, who was circling around the left side of the net off a pick from Jason Osier. And in an instant, Princeton sticks were flying in the air and bodies were piling on top of Hubbard in celebration. And Virginia was left still looking for its first championship since 1972.
"We designed the play for me to flip the ball to someone coming down, but we basically ran a pick for me and I curled around and tried to get a shot off," said Hubbard, whose goal was the quickest of the seven overtimes in NCAA tournament final history. "It's a pretty basic play, but still hard to defend."
And harder for the Cavaliers to accept.
Virginia junior defenseman Tommy Smith, his voice cracking as he wiped away tears, said he thought the Cavaliers had the momentum. Junior attackman Michael Watson said he thought luck would be on the Cavaliers' side this time, "but just like in '94, we didn't get the ball down in our end."
Hubbard and senior midfielder Don McDonough each had three goals, leading a Princeton offense that produced eight different scorers. And senior Pancho Gutstein made eight saves -- including two in the last four minutes of regulation -- in relief of junior Patrick Cairns, who was removed after giving up two quick goals to begin the third quarter.
"I can tell you exactly when I was real comfortable -- when Jesse Hubbard scored the winning goal," Gutstein said.
When Cairns exited, Virginia (12-4) had its first lead, 7-6, Princeton (14-1) had its second goalkeeper and Watson had every intention of winning the game by himself. The St. Paul's alum finished with five goals against the Tigers' packed-in zone and was named the tournament's MVP.
His output was essential, because junior Doug Knight, who set school records with 55 goals and 83 points but also came in with a sore shoulder, had one goal and two assists. Knight didn't get many shots in the first half, and didn't score until 9: 23 remained.
"Doug, for whatever reason, just struggled a little bit today," said coach Dom Starsia. "He missed the cage a couple times and dropped a couple of balls, but he's responsible for an awful lot of our success this year. He's carried us a long way."
Princeton uncharacteristically began to self-destruct in the fourth quarter after completing a 4-0 run and taking its second three-goal lead, 12-9. The team known for its ability to control the ball began throwing it all over the place, enabling Virginia to score three times in a span of 3: 35.
The Tigers were 3-for-8 in clears in the fourth quarter and 15-for-28 overall. They lost the ball twice after Virginia's David Curry had evened the score at 12 with a lunging goal at 9: 51, and were unable to get off a shot in the last 32 seconds after Princeton's Jeff MacBean had missed high on a good opportunity.
"When you play a zone defense and play against a team as athletic as Virginia, you get caught, you get boxed in," Tierney said. "And to be honest, our kids didn't have any legs left. We were just trying to get a cheap [goal]. We were trying to get one up to Jesse or Jon [Hess], and the ball skimmed a couple times."
The field conditions favored Princeton, which had an easier time keeping its footing because it stayed in a zone. At times, the Cavaliers looked like they were on skates while in man-to-man, and at least three of Princeton's goals came after a Virginia defenseman had fallen.
"That's a slick field when it's dry," said Starsia. "We all had on the right shoes. Those kinds of things happen sometimes.
"I'm not usually an emotional guy; I don't show it very much. But this is very difficult," he added. "This is a wonderful group of guys. I don't know why these things work out sometimes. The difference in an overtime game is a whisper in terms of play."
Virginia .3 2 4 3 0 -- 12
Princeton 4 2 4 2 1 -- 13
Pub Date: 5/28/96