On a brisk Tuesday evening in Princeton, N.J., the Princeton Tigers opened their home schedule against the Villanova Wildcats.
The Tigers, coming off a huge win against Johns Hopkins, came into the contest at No. 5 in the nation, exceeding early season expectations. Both teams came into Tuesday night after weekend wins, with few days to rest and prepare.
Princeton took an early lead after freshman Ryan Ambler showed his skill set early in the first quarter. It looked as though the Tigers would roll to a victory, but that quickly changed.
Following some early Tiger success, the Wildcats began dominating face-offs and maintaining long possessions. Villanova's Thomas Croonquist won 15 of 21 draws in the first three quarters.
These face-off wins led to a lot of offensive success for Villanova, with Will Casertano leading the early surge. The Wildcats were relentless on ground balls, showing great aggression in beating Princeton to the loose balls on the turf. Aggressive dodging and excellent shot selection allowed Villanova to sustain a lead and keep the Tigers at bay.
Midfielder Paul Mita led the Wildcats in the scoring column with two goals, showing textbook bull dodging to take advantage of his strong frame. Nick Doherty also caused problems for the Tiger defense, continually using his quickness to get to the front of the cage. Doherty, whose brother Matt once played for Princeton, finished with two goals as well.
Entering the fourth quarter down by two, Princeton head coach Chris Bates put senior attacker Jeff Froccaro at midfield to try and sway to face-off momentum. Froccaro won five of his seven face-off attempts, swaying time of possession in the final quarter.
The Princeton defense also turned up the volume in the fourth with freshman goalie Matt O'Connor making key saves down the stretch. Derek Raabe and Alex Beatty impressed on defense, proving themselves as reliable players for an inexperienced crew on the back end. Raabe came up with key ground balls off the wing on face-offs when Coach Bates moved him up to longstick midfield on the draws. The defense also held Villanova's Jack Rice pointless in the game, preventing him from reaching the 100 career goal plateau on their watch.
Will Princeton finish the 2013 season ranked in the Top 5?
By getting the ball in the offense's hands, the Tigers were able to go on a 6-1 scoring run, showing why they came in ranked fifth in the nation. Ambler finished with three goals and two assists on the day, while Jeff Froccaro finished with two goals and one assist in addition to his face-off heroics.
Jeff's brother, freshman Jake Froccaro, continued to grow up quickly by scoring two goals in the contest. Sophomore attacker Mike MacDonald scored two goals and added two assists on the night, including a key behind-the-back goal in the fourth quarter. This goal really took the wind out of the Wildcats' sails and got the Princeton bench on its feet. All-American and Tewaaraton trophy hopeful Tom Schreiber added a goal and two assists in the game.
In the end, the Tigers scored seven of the last eight goals in the contest, defeating Villanova 14-11.
Princeton will travel to UNC on Saturday for a big matchup with the Tar Heels, as Villanova will make the short trip to face the Penn Quakers, their second Ivy League opponent in as many games.