Scott Rodgers made 14 saves Saturday afternoon to lead the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse team to an 8-5 upset over the sixth-seeded Princeton Tigers at the Class of 52 Stadium.
The five goals represented the fewest allowed by Notre Dame in an NCAA Tournament game.
Rogers and the Irish defense held Princeton scoreless for a 19:33 period in the first half and the final 22:12 of the game. Junior midfielder David Earl provided most of the offense Notre Dame needed by scoring five goals.
Princeton began the scoring with 7:47 left in the first quarter when Rob Engeke scored his 16th goal of the season when he received a pass from Jack McBride behind Notre Dame's cage and rifled a shot past Rodgers' left shoulder. Grant Krebbs tied the score at one when midfielder Zach Brenneman set a screen for Krebbs and Krebbs bounced a shot through the legs of Tiger goalkeeper's Tyler Fiorito.
Earl scored the first two goals of the second quarter before McBride scored his 34th goal of the season off a pass from Jimmy Davis. McBride continued his hot play in the second by assisting on consecutive goals by Paul Barnes and Engeke, giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead at halftime.
The scoring in the third quarter began early when Krebbs scooped up a pass that bounced off of Princeton's Tyler Moni and raced to the other end of the field where he found Andrew Irving, a long-stick midfielder, open in front of the Tigers' goal. Irving scored to tie the game just 1:18 into the second half.
Despite Irving's goal, his bigger impact on the game was the four turnovers he forced on the defensive end for Notre Dame.
The Tigers took the lead for their final time with 7:12 left in the quarter when McBride side-stepped past defender Mike Creighton and slipped a low-to-low shot beyond Rodgers' reach.
The next two goals by Notre Dame were sparked by strong efforts by defenseman Adam Felicetti. Felicetti was able to strip a Princeton player of the ball while the Tigers were on attack and pushed the ball to Kelly McKenna.
The Tigers made a mistake by having two men guard the Irish's senior midfielder and McKenna found a wide-open Earl that resulted in his third goal of the match.
Felicetti created the turning point of the game near the end of the third period when he knocked the ball away from McBride. The Tigers wanted a foul called but play continued, and Felicetti sprinted near Princeton's cage and passed to Neal Hicks.
Nicholas Beattie sprinted to the net and took a pass from Hicks and went top-shelf for the go-ahead tally.
Earl increased Notre Dame's lead when he faked out defenseman Long Ellis and beat Fiorito up high. Earl scored his final goal of the game and 20th for the season with just 55 seconds left in the game when he decided to shoot into a empty net after a penalty was called on Princeton.
Earl's five tallies tied Randy Colley for the most goals scored by a Notre Dame player in an NCAA Tournament game. Colley set his record in a first-round victory over Duke in 1995.
Rodgers responded with a huge effort in goal after experiencing a disappointing season in his senior campaign. The goalie suffered a hamstring injury during the year and finished the regular season with a 6-4 record, a .568 save percentage, and a 8.29 goals-against average.
Those numbers were a far cry from 2009 when Rodgers led the nation in goals against average (6.14) and save percentage (.663). Last season, the 6'4", 254 pound goalie from Wantagh, NY, won 15 of his 16 starts for Notre Dame.
The Irish will need another strong performance from Rodgers when the teams returns to the Class of 52 Stadium Saturday, May 22, against the third-seeded Maryland Terrapins.
Despite the victory over Princeton, the Tigers held the advantage in shots and ground balls. Princeton's low shooting percentage and 18 turnovers were instrumental in Notre Dame's victory.
The Irish's 43rd-ranked man-up offense continued to struggle as Notre Dame failed on all three of its extra-man opportunities.
Defense will need to be at a premium as Maryland is 12-1 this season when scoring 10 or more goals in a game.
Another win by Notre Dame in Princeton, and everyone in South Bend will want to be Rodgers' neighbor.
Photo Credit: UND.com/sports