Yale's defeat of Princeton shows Ivy springing to life

Men's notebook

For first time in years, Tigers feel league heat

College Lacrosse

April 03, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Princeton's 15-13 loss to Ivy League opponent Yale on Saturday only reaffirmed what Tigers coach Bill Tierney has believed for a long time.

"We've always said it was a tough league to play in," said Tierney. "What has happened this year is some teams have caught up to us."

Dominated by Princeton for the past decade, the Ivy League has witnessed a rebirth of sorts this season, with five teams in Inside Lacrosse's Top 20 poll - No. 10 Cornell, No. 11 Princeton, No. 14 Yale, No. 19 Pennsylvania and No. 20 Brown - and two more, Harvard and Dartmouth, on the cusp of a ranking.

Tierney said the league hasn't been this competitive since 1992, when Brown, Harvard and Princeton all reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

This season, Penn beat Notre Dame, a final four team last year; Harvard narrowly fell to Duke after beating the Blue Devils last season; and Brown lost to Syracuse and Loyola by a combined three goals.

However, the biggest breakthrough came within the conference when the Bulldogs upset Princeton at the Tigers' Class of 1952 Stadium.

The Tigers had won 37 straight games against Ivy League competition, dating to the 1995 season.

"I'm sure there was some fist-pumping going on in lacrosse offices around the league," said Tierney. "We'd like to think a loss like that only highlights the success we've had."

The loss to the Bulldogs also puts another streak in jeopardy. Princeton has not missed an NCAA tournament since 1989, Tierney's second season.

With four losses, the Tigers, the reigning national champions and the preseason No. 1 team, must depend on the Ivy League's automatic qualifying berth, but to get that, they will need to beat conference leader Cornell later this month, and hope Yale loses.

"I think the league is going to be won or lost by a team with one loss," said Tierney. "The kids know it is do-or-die."

Practice makes perfect

Johns Hopkins junior Bobby Benson emerged from a frustrating scoring slump against North Carolina on Friday night with two goals and three assists, including the game-winning goal with 3:29 left. He had just six goals and one assist going into the game.

The timing of his breakout did not surprise Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala, who looked out onto Homewood Field early Friday morning, and again about three hours before the game, and saw Benson working on his shooting.

"He's been tremendously disappointed with his play, and he feels like he's let the team down, but we don't feel that way at all," said Pietramala.

Player of the week

Mark Bloomquist, Loyola. Shrugging off a dislocated finger he sustained at practice on Thursday, Bloomquist was nearly flawless in the Greyhounds' 15-7 win at Towson. The junior goalie from North County made 18 saves, several from in close, and had the vaunted Tigers' attack unit shaking its head for much of the afternoon.

Game of the week

No. 3 Loyola at No. 2 Syracuse; Saturday, 4 p.m. In a little more than a month, Loyola has gone from being too inexperienced, too injury-riddled and too thin in the midfield and on attack to being one of two undefeated teams in Division I. Georgetown is the other.

But there is no bigger test in college lacrosse than going to the Carrier Dome to play the Orangemen.

Ground balls

North Carolina goalie Paul Spellman (St. Paul's) went to Loyola last year, but did not play lacrosse. He then transferred to Chapel Hill and beat out three-year starter Kris Blindenbacher to become the first freshman to start in goal for the Tar Heels since 1980. ... After scoring six goals Saturday against Swarthmore, Western Maryland senior Tom Brown (Hammond) is the leading goal- and point-scorer in Centennial Conference history. ... Channel 2 will broadcast Navy vs. Maryland at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

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