Irish Show They Belong in Upset of Princeton
by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog
PRINCETON, N.J. – Notre Dame’s unbeaten regular season went for naught last year when they were upset by Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament. Struggling to make the 2010 playoffs apparently suited the Irish better.
Senior goalie Scott Rodgers led the defense and junior midfielder David Earl the offense, as Notre Dame pulled the first upset of the 2010 tournament, 8-5, over sixth-seeded Princeton on Sunday at Princeton’s Class of 1952 Stadium.
"You always feel like a really smart coach when you have guys like these two guys to make plays like they did today," said Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan after his team improved to 8-6. "They make you look smart a lot of times.
"You tend to forget about some of the defensive mistakes when Scottie is taking away the goals on the shot, and offensively it takes someone to step up and make a play, and that was Dave for us today."
Rodgers made 14 saves to help hold the Tigers (11-5) scoreless for the final 22:47 of play and Earl had a career-high five goals for the unseeded Fighting Irish. They will return to Princeton to play third-seeded Maryland in the quarterfinals across the street in Princeton Stadium on Saturday in a chance at some redemption.
"I don’t think we really think about it like that," Rodgers said. "It’s great to play these guys again and get another shot at them, but it’s just great to move onto the second round."
Grant Krebs added a goal and assist for Notre Dame, which will make its first quarterfinal appearance since 2008 -- not bad for a team that some felt didn’t belong an at-large berth this season.
Said Rodgers: "We just talked about if we had the opportunity to play another week, we’d take advantage of it and play our hearts out."
Princeton will host, the fourth time in the history of the six-time NCAA champions that they will host the quarterfinal round without playing in it. The Tigers are 16-for-17 in NCAA first-round games when they do not host.
"We’re disappointed because we’d like that one back," said Tigers head coach Chris Bates, who was coaching his first NCAA tournament game. "We didn’t play particularly well and we don’t advance. The finality of it is hard to stomach."
The first quarter ended tied, 1-1, as both defenses dominated the patient attacks. In the second quarter, the action picked up as Earl scored twice in 47 seconds for a 3-1 lead to start his career day on the right foot. His previous high was three goals.
"I got bumped up to the first line," Earl said, "so luckily I’m working with two great midfielders, Grant Krebs and Zach Brenneman. They get a lot of attention towards them. I was able to capitalize on a short stick and sneak a couple in."
Princeton responded with a flurry. Jack McBride, Paul Barnes and Rob Engelke scored for a 4-3 Princeton lead going into halftime. Engelke finished with a pair of goals, but there was no second-half explosion.
"It didn’t go the way we thought," said McBride, who led Princeton with two goals and three assists.
Notre Dame tied the score on Andrew Irving’s second goal of the season, but McBride put Princeton back in front with 7:13 left in the third quarter, 5-4. The Fighting Irish would not give up another goal and took a 6-5 lead into the final quarter on goals by Earl and Nicholas Beattie, who notched the game-winner with 22 ticks left in the third quarter.
"When we were able to get our defense going well," Earl said, "we knew our offense would come towards the end."
Earl scored less than a minute into the fourth quarter for the first two-goal lead of the game since midway through the second quarter. Princeton couldn’t get anything by Rodgers in the fourth quarter after outscoring opponents, 44-22, after the third quarter in its last 11 games.
"Their goalie made some big saves," Bates said. "I thought he stood tall all day, and when we had some good opportunities, he stymied us. We didn’t get on track offensively."
Tyler Fiorito made 11 saves for the Tigers, but it was Rodgers who ended up on the winning team in a matchup of two of the country’s premier goalies.
"It’s always a great challenge to yourself," Rodgers said. "It’s just natural to get up for a game like that against another goalie that’s considered one of the best.
"They gave me the shots I wanted to see," he added. "Everything was something I could handle. I’ll steal a couple. We work together so it’s a good effort."
On offense, Earl gave Notre Dame a lift from a less heralded source than Brenneman, who leads the Fighting Irish in scoring but went without a point Sunday, and Krebs, their second-leading goal scorer had just two points, and Hicks, who led the team in assists this season.
"Dave Earl has been our best player all year," Corrigan said. "I’ve said it over and over again. That’s not anything against anybody else on our team.
"He’s a great ground ball guy. He’s a great defender. He’s terrific in the middle of the field. He creates offense. He can handle a long pole. He can create against the long pole or the short pole. That’s a lot in one package. I’m happy the goals came his way today, but it doesn’t change our appreciation of David. We’ve known what a terrific player he is."
Earl got a chance to show it in Princeton on Sunday, and he’ll be back in less than a week for another chance at an upset win, this time against Maryland. Earl and the midfield will be key against the Terrapins.
"They’re going to keep coming at you in waves," Corrigan said. "And that’s going to be a big part of the game – just being able to handle that and control the tempo of the game so we don’t get caught running up and down because we’ll run out of horses before they do."
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