HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- It didn't have to be this close.
The Princeton men's lacrosse team led Georgetown by as many as five goals in the first half, and four in the third quarter, but when you are talking about Princeton and the NCAA tournament is there any surprise that the game came down to one goal?
After giving up what appeared to be a comfortable lead, the fourth-ranked Tigers won thanks to attackman Ryan Boyle. The sophomore from Gilman scored a gritty goal with four seconds left to lift Princeton to an exciting 14-13 victory yesterday over the fifth-ranked Hoyas in an NCAA quarterfinal game before 5,561 at Hofstra Stadium.
The Tigers' fifth straight one-goal tournament win sends the defending national champions to next weekend's final four, where they will play the winner of tomorrow's quarterfinal matchup between top-ranked Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts.
"I am a real believer that these kids handle an awful lot of pressure during the week," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney. "When we recruit kids, we don't promise them that playing for me is going to be a bargain, but we promise them there is going to be opportunities to be in situations like this."
Boyle salvaged the opportunity. On the play before, he was stripped by Georgetown defender Kyle Sweeney. The Hoyas (12-3) turned the turnover into a Walid Hajj goal that tied the score at 13 with 44 seconds left.
Georgetown won the ensuing faceoff, but junior Trevor Walker, who scored four goals, was denied by Princeton goalie Julius Gould.
Tierney then called a timeout with 13 seconds left and set up a play that he later admitted didn't work. But Boyle, the quarterback of the Princeton offense, took it himself. Sprung by two picks that took Sweeney out of the play, he drove past two defenders and beat Scott Schroeder on a high shot from about 4 yards out.
"As soon as it went in, I heard some noise," said Boyle, who finished with two goals and three assists. "I wasn't sure if the time had run out or not."
"There is a lot of disappointment in our locker room," said Georgetown coach Dave Urick. "I told our kids that a road to a national championship goes through Syracuse or Princeton. We lost to both of those teams by a goal, so we are awfully close to where we want to be."
Princeton (9-4) scored the last goal of the first quarter and the first four of the second to take a 7-2 lead with more than nine minutes to play in the half. The Tigers' attack was crisp, they looked dangerous in transition and several players were getting into the act. Sean Hartofilis had four goals; Josh White and B.J. Prager added three each.
Making matters worse was Tigers junior defender Damien Davis, who held Georgetown attackman Steve Dusseau, the likely national Player of the Year, to just one goal, though Davis was getting a lot of help on the defensive end.
The Hoyas instead got offense from attackman Mike Hammer, who scored four goals, and midfielder Phil Vincenti, who scored twice and added two assists.
Hammer scored two straight and then Vincenti converted a Dusseau pass to make the score 12-11. Prager then scored a nifty behind-the-back goal before Hammer and Hajj tallied for Georgetown to set the stage for Boyle.
"We knew they would make a run," Prager said. "But we know how to win close games. That made a big difference today."
Georgetown 2 4 4 3 -- 13
Princeton 3 7 2 2 -- 14
Goals: G--Hammer 4, Walker 4, Vincent 2, Goldman, Dusseau, Hajj; P--Hartofilis 4, White 3, Prager 3, Boyle 2, Daly 2. Assists: G--Goldman 3, Vincenti 2, Hammer, Kanach, Dusseau, Hajj, Staab; P--Boyle 3, Hartofilis, Trevenen, Dumont. Saves: G--Schroeder 8; P--Gould 10.