Princeton men top Maryland in lacrosse quarterfinals

Balance puts PU back in final four

By: Bob Nuse
   PISCATAWAY — When sophomore B.J. Prager went down with a season-ending knee injury late last month, a lot of the offense for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team went with him.
   Prager, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year last year, had become the go-to guy on offense and when he was suddenly lost for the season, there was a period of adjustment on offense.
   Saturday, that period of adjustment appeared to be coming to an end. With seven different players scoring, the Princeton offense was at its best since Prager’s injury, helping the Tigers to a 10-7 win over Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday at Rutgers University.
   “I can’t ever say we’ll be the same team without B.J., but Brendan (Tierney) and Sean (Hartofilis) have done a nice job filling that roll,” said Princeton coach Bill Tierney, whose team advanced to the NCAA semifinals, where they will meet Virginia Saturday in College Park, Md. in the second game of a doubleheader. Syracuse and Johns Hopkins will meet in the opener. “We moved Josh (Sims) there today to give us a little more athleticism.
   “I was thrilled with the scoring. We have a senior at the top (Sims) who is one of the best players in the game. Then we have the others who are able to do it and it makes us that much tougher. They’re certainly doing a good job.”
   Sims, Matt Striebel and Hartofilis scored two goals apiece, while Owen Daly, Brad Dumont, Josh White and Brendan Tierney added one goal apiece. Striebel and Sims also had two assists apiece.
   Of all the Tigers that needed to make an adjustment when Prager went down, it was probably Striebel who had to adjust the most. He and Prager had become quite an offensive tandem. In the first eight games of the season, Striebel had 17 assists, 11 of which went to Prager. In the next four games he had just four assists.
   “B.J. made me look good more than I made him look good,” said Striebel, who was also a member of the Princeton soccer team which reached the NCAA tournament in the fall. “But there are other guys who understand the offense and do a great job of getting open. That has opened up more for us.
   “We lost a little bit of our crease game because B.J. is such a great finisher. But Sean and Brendan have been playing very well. We miss a lot without B.J., but so far the other guys have really stepped up.”
   While the offense was putting 10 goals on the board in the first three quarters Saturday, the defense was limiting the Terrapins to just three goals over those same three periods. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, when Maryland scored four straight goals, that the outcome was even remotely in doubt.
   “Defensively, I thought Trevor (Tierney) got us going and then the kids just kept it together,” said Bill Tierney, whose team will be looking to avenge a 15-8 regular-season loss to Virginia. “In the fourth quarter I thought Ryan Mollett was a warrior out there. For those first three quarters the game went as well as we could have hoped.”
   The win was the third straight for the Tigers against Maryland in NCAA tournament play, including wins in the 1997 and 1998 championship games.
   “We don’t play Maryland in the regular season, so every time we’ve played them it has been in a huge environment,” Tierney said. “To have the result be what it has been, I just can’t explain. We’ve been fortunate to do as well as we have.”
   Princeton certainly never thought Saturday’s win would come as easily as it did. But the Tigers showed they’re starting to adjust to life without Prager, and that was a key to the win.
   “There wasn’t one specific moment where I thought we took control, but I thought we did a good job of staying aggressive and the defense did a phenomenal job of stopping them,” Striebel said. “We kept getting more chances and when you get a lot of opportunities like that, things start to open up.”
   And it was just like old times for the Tigers, who head to the national semifinals with an offense that appears to be back on track.