Friday, May 11, 2012

game preview: Princeton

Date/Time: Sunday, May 13; 1:00


Record against the Tigers: 13-10

Last matchup: UVA 12, Princeton 10; 3/8/08; at Princeton

Last game: UVA 10, Penn 8 (4/27); Yale 15, Princeton 7 (5/6)

Efficiency stats:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 55.2%
Princeton: 50.6%

Clearing %:
UVA: 89.8% (off.); 87.5% (def.)
Princeton: 85.6% (off.); 87.1% (def.)

Scoring %:
UVA: 36.8% (off.); 30.6% (def.)
Princeton: 38.1% (off.); 24.6% (def.)

UVA: 18.56 (6th)
Princeton: 18.16 (8th)

UVA: 13.24 (18th)
Princeton: 11.51 (4th)

We meet again.  Princeton used to be a regular opponent of the Hoos, every season; the series ran uninterrupted from 1992 to 2008.  Since then, nothing, which means we've never played them in the history of this blog.  Not since Bill Tierney surprised the lacrosse world by taking his talents to Denver.

Normally this is the part where I tell you what the significance of the game is and so forth, but it's the tournament, man.  If you need to be told the significance, I don't know what to do for you.  I'll say this: the last time UVA tried to defend a national title was also the last time we lost in the first round.  So that's something to be avoided this time.

-- UVA on offense

Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito is normally fairly impressive.  Before the Ivy League championship game against Yale, Fiorito was second in the country with a .619 save percentage.  Now he's fifth at .589.  That game did not go so well.

Still, he's one of the top goalies in the tournament, and he anchors a very experienced and stout defense.  Fiorito is a senior, as are three of the four poles on the field - D's Chad Wiedmaier and Jonathan Meyers, and LSM (and two-year captain) Jonathan Cunningham.  Wiedmaier has an excellent 33 caused-turnovers in 15 games.

Also, Princeton's efficiency stats are top-notch.  In allowing opponents to score on just 24.6% of offensive chances, they're second in the country behind only Notre Dame.  Princeton is 50/50 on faceoffs and doesn't have a great ride, so it's their close-in defense that's driving their top D-rating.  That's what makes their performance against Yale so baffling; the most goals anyone had scored on them all year was 10, and that was Hopkins, so, like, somebody really good.  (Syracuse also did it, in the Carrier Dome.)

Usual caveats apply about how they haven't faced an offense like ours, etc. etc.  For the most part they haven't, except for Cornell.  Cornell scored nine on them but couldn't stop their offense hardly  at all.  Next-best: Yale and Villanova, with O-ratings of 17.26 and 17.24, respectively, and 15 and 8 goals against Princeton.

So I think the conclusion is that good teams can score on them, despite the gaudy-looking numbers.  Not open up the floodgates - the Yale game has to be considered an outlier - but we won't likely get shut down, either.  As long as it's not a one-man show again.  Steele Stanwick had a great game against Penn and all but we'd have lost that game to a better team.  Getting some transition goals would be nice to keep the pressure off an offensive unit that has a tendency to bog down and then get impatient when unable to create a good shot.

-- UVA on defense

Princeton has a lot of gaudy numbers here, too.  Their offense is powered by their midfield, with sophomore middie Tom Schreiber leading the way.  He's got 30 goals and 26 assists and is far and away the most dangerous guy Princeton has with the ball in his crosse.  Jeff Froccaro is the next leading scorer, also a midfielder; he has a little less of a playmaking streak than Schreiber but can score just as well.

And then there's the future of Princeton lax: freshman attackman Mike MacDonald, who has an eye-popping .579 shooting percentage.  He's only got 38 shots this year, far fewer than many of his cohorts in the 80s, but he makes 'em count to the tune of 22 goals.

The thing about Princeton's offense, though, is that it's like their defense only more so.  Human when playing good opponents.  Yes I know a similar thing can be said about UVA's offense, but Princeton lacks a win against anyone in the tourney except a 10-9, 5OT affair against Yale.  When faced with a tough OOC opponent, Princeton usually wasn't up to the task, losing close ones to UNC, Hopkins, and Syracuse.  Typically what would happen is they'd keep it close into the fourth and then blow a fuse in crunch time in some important facet of the game.  Against Hopkins they were down by two heading into the fourth and then let Hopkins play make-it-take-it (either by losing the faceoff or by turning it over within a few seconds) and suddenly found themselves facing an insurmountable lead.  Against Syracuse they were held scoreless over the last nine minutes of a tied - and then one-goal - game.

With five 20-goal scorers in all, this isn't to be taken in a sense that Princeton isn't a dangerous team.  Their players are both playmakers and scorers, and a midfield-dominated team is something we haven't played much.  This is definitely one of the season's biggest tests for our defensive midfielders, and let's all hope Chris LaPierre is back and healthy or else trouble is brewing.  Still, if you told me we'd have our way with one side of the ball or the other, I'd say it'd be this one.

-- Outlook

Tough team.  As with Bucknell last year, if you don't get one of the top two seeds in the tourney you're going to get a very good opponent.  People are taking that Ivy championship game pretty seriously, though; where as Bucknell was widely thought of as a dangerous and underrated opponent (and we needed OT to beat them, so folks weren't wrong) Princeton is being largely dismissed.  Lot of people thought they shouldn't even be in and that Penn State should've had their spot.  (And PSU was 8-6, so if these are the same people saying UMass should've been a top 2 seed, shut up.)  A LaxPower poll on which unseeded team is most likely to win in the first round has 171 votes, and Princeton has only five of them.  Yale leads the way with 39.  Told you people were taking that game seriously.

It's nice to get a team that's been struggling lately, and as I said on Monday this bracket stacks up fairly well for the Hoos.  But let's not overlook that Princeton has some damn good players.  I don't foresee a loss, but neither do I think we'll have it as easy as Yale had it last Sunday.

-- Final score: UVA 11, Princeton 9

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