Fiorito Leads Princeton to Ivy League Championship
by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
ITHACA, N.Y. — After two games in two weekends against Princeton, Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni has seen enough of Tyler Fiorito.
"When goalies play like that, you're going to have to double up a certain statistic in order to create more opportunities, more scoring chances. In essence, more goals," Tambroni said.
Fiorito made 16 critical saves and was named the Ivy League conference tournament's Most Outstanding Player after Jack McBride's golden goal with two seconds left in overtime gave the Tigers a 10-9 victory Sunday at Schoellkopf Field.
With the win Princeton (11-4), not Cornell (10-5), gets the Ivy League's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Both teams are expected to qualify.
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Fiorito takes up a ton of space between the pipes. But as he showed this weekend in Ithaca, he possesses lightning quick hands and more important, he boasts the immeasurable characteristic of consistency.
Only a sophomore, his reputation is rising quickly.
"Tyler played a great game in the cage and bailed us out a couple times," Princeton coach Chris Bates said. "I think in big games, Tyler is at his best and Cornell puts pressure on you non-stop."
This wasn't a one-game standout outing, either. Fiorito was just as good in Friday evening's semifinal victory over Yale, a 7-6 outcome that didn't go the Bulldogs favor because Princeton's defense held strong under pressure.
The Tigers have weaknesses, none more so than their current penchant for slow starts. They trailed by scores of 4-0 and 9-3 last week against Cornell, didn't score until 27 minutes into Friday's semifinal, and fell behind Cornell again by margins of 4-1 and 7-3.
But Fiorito and his surrounding defensemen, particularly Chad Wiedmaier and Long Ellis, enable Princeton to sustain lengthy offensive droughts.
"I think all year we've been able to come back from deficits," Fiorito said. "I don't think it's the place we want to be in, down a few goals, but knowing we were able to come back, we've done it before and we can definitely do it again. Today, we played great and started coming (back) one step at a time. One save. One stop. One goal. That's what we try and do every time we're down."
Fiorito had better saves, but none were bigger than his stop on Steve Mock with 66 seconds left in regulation. Cornell possessed the ball for the final 2:51 of the fourth quarter, and uncorked six shots at Princeton's cage.
Only two were on target, but Fiorito gobbled up both.
Mock received a pass from Rob Pannell in the middle of the field, two yards off the crease, with time and space. Fiorito, who tried but failed to intercept Pannell's pass, got back into position quickly.
"I'm a bigger kid, I just held my ground," he said. "He ended up hitting me right in the chest. I was in good position and it hit me. I can't take too much credit. But I was in good position."
Fiorito made seven saves on nine shots on goal in the second quarter, during a time when Princeton was parading to the penalty box. The Tigers were whistled six times in the first 30 minutes, and Cornell scored two man-up goals.
But despite a 14-1 edge in ground balls, a perfect 4-for-4 effort on the faceoff X and a 6-on-4 extra-man advantage in the second quarter, Cornell scored only twice. And it didn't score on the two-man power play.
Princeton erased a six-goal deficit in the fourth quarter against Cornell last week, only to lose 10-9. A four-goal deficit was no problem, not with Fiorito backstopping.
He was good enough for his teammates to capitalize.
"Tyler, I'll take him any day, any game, and the bigger the game, the better," Bates said. "He was huge for us."
comments powered by Disqus