PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Princeton's offense is traditionally known for its pinpoint execution and its methodical nature, but that mattered little in the final seconds of yesterday's national championship game.
With six seconds left and his team trailing by one and 40 yards away from the Syracuse cage, Tigers coach Bill Tierney knew his team's hopes hinged on a lucky pass or a deflection. That his team had a chance at all was due to a premature celebration that had led to an illegal subsitution penalty on Syracuse.
"Metzy [assistant coach David Metzbower] did a great job getting the team ready to go, but with six seconds, you can't call a play. It's a pass and a shot or just a shot," said Tierney.
The play unfolded right in front of the midfield stripe with the ball in the stick of Princeton junior Sean Hartofilis, who was being guarded by Syracuse All-American John Glatzel. Hartofilis passed to junior midfielder Brad Dumont (McDonogh) on the right side, but Dumont didn't handle it cleanly, and when he finally got control, he threw an errant pass as the clock expired.
"I was trying to draw a defender just to clear somebody up for a shot, but as I caught the ball, my hand slipped off and I panicked," said Dumont in a somber Princeton locker room.
Hartofilis said he was expecting to receive the ball right back from Dumont, so he could fire a shot through a screen.
It was a tough ending to a standout game for Dumont, who was named a second-team All-American earlier in the day and then showed why, scoring two fourth-quarter goals off great individual efforts to spearhead the Tigers' comeback.
"Today, it just didn't go our way," Dumont said. "I messed up in the end. I had a chance, but I couldn't get a goal."
It was a fitting ending for Syracuse's senior class, which compiled a 55-11 record and won two national championships during its tenure.
It was the first class in the program's history to play in the national title game all four seasons, and went 2-2 in the finals.
"It's good to go out on top," said Glatzel, a Boys' Latin alum who held Princeton's star sophomore Ryan Boyle scoreless in the last three quarters after the Gilman grad had scored twice in a 47-second span of the first quarter.
"I had a lot of friends that had a bad taste in their mouths last year about losing their last game [10-9 in overtime to Princeton], so this is definitely all we can ask for."
Added midfielder Spencer Wright: "I was happy with my first championship, but this is even sweeter. This is why you come to Syracuse University."
Bliss shrugs off injury
Syracuse junior defender Sol Bliss was questionable for yesterday's game after injuring his knee in the semifinal against Virginia, but the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder went the whole way, and aside from attackman Michael Powell, may have been the Orangemen's most valuable player.
Playing with a bulky brace on his knee, Bliss held B.J. Prager, who scored five times against Johns Hopkins in the semifinals, to a goal and an assist. And the only goal came when Prager stole a clearing attempt from Billy St. George and scored into the open net.
Like father, like son
Tierney nearly broke down in tears at the press podium after the game, while talking about how much it meant to him to have coached his two sons. His oldest son, Trevor, a goalie, graduated last spring after leading the Tigers to an NCAA title. Brendan, a senior attackman, played his last game in a Princeton uniform yesterday, and said later it was an honor to play for the best coach in the game.