In a classic NCAA lacrosse rivalry, the No. 2 ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays make the trip to New Jersey to face off against the No. 11 Princeton University Tigers. Faceoff is set for tonight (March 2) at 5 p.m. EST.
Hopkins (3-0) and Princeton (2-0), both have this game circled on their schedules as an opportunity to make a big statement in the national lacrosse landscape.
After years of playing this rivalry game in NFL stadiums, the series returned to a home-and-home format last year, with Princeton taking a victory in Baltimore by a score of 8-3. This was one of very few highlights of Princeton's season, finishing a disappointing 4-8 in 2011.
Johns Hopkins, on the other hand, was able to shake off the loss to the Tigers and finish 13-3 in 2011. They were eliminated by a very fast and exciting Denver team in the NCAA semifinals.
For years, the rivalry between Johns Hopkins and Princeton was fueled by star power at the coaching position. Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala and Princeton's Bill Tierney (now head coach of Denver), had these teams competing for national titles year in a year out, which turned this game into an annual must-watch event.
Currently, Pietramala is still at the helm for the Blue Jays, while Princeton's Chris Bates is now in his third season with the Tigers. After a first-round tournament loss to Notre Dame in 2010 and the 4-8 record in 2011, Bates is looking to his senior leadership to put an exclamation point on the current season.
Despite recent struggles, Princeton has beaten Hopkins in three straight matchups. With a win on Friday, Princeton would be the first to win four straight in this age-old rivalry.
In 2012, Princeton has leaned heavily on sophomore Tom Schreiber to quarterback the offense. While playing both midfield and attack, Schreiber has seven goals and five assists in only two games thus far. His dodging and sneaky lefty shot has been tough to stop for opposing defenses.
Hopkins has three wins so far, with Junior attacker Zach Palmer contributing five goals and six assists in the victories. Freshman Wells Stanwick, the third Stanwick brother to play major Division I lacrosse, is already stepping into an important role, contributing three goals and five assists in his first three games.
A big matchup in this game will come at the goalie position. For Hopkins, Junior Pierce Basset is a tall and athletic goalie who is riding a 57 percent save percentage this season. His ability to make the big save can spark the Hopkins defense and lead to quick transition goals for the Blue Jays.
For Princeton, Senior and perennial All-American Tyler Fiorito will be in between the pipes. He also has a 57 percent save rate this season. After sitting out of Princeton's bout with Manhattan College Tuesday night, Fiorito will only be playing in his second game tonight.
For both goalies, this will be their biggest test of the season. A big performance from either keeper should be the difference between winning and losing.
With experienced players and coaches on both sidelines, tonight's game is truly a toss-up.
Although the No. 2 ranked team, Hopkins struggled against Delaware and Siena, winning by margins of two and three goals, respectively. Meanwhile, No. 11 Princeton has looked impeccable in their first two wins. They were able to confidently handle a respectable Hofstra squad in the opener, showing great versatility on both ends of the field.
Against Manhattan, Princeton was able to rest most of their starters in the second half, a big reason why the Jaspers were able to put up seven goals.
As always, faceoffs will be key in tonight's game. Princeton's Bobby Lucas is looking to continue his stellar year, strengthening a point of the Princeton team that was lacking in 2011.
You can catch the game on ESPNU, 103.3 WPRB FM, or WPRB.com. Face-off is set for 5 p.m. EST.