South Bend, Ind. Holding the Quakers (6-6, 3-3 Ivy League) to their lowest scoring game of the year, the Princeton defense proved that it is the nation's best. Penn failed to score for a span of almost 40 minutes from the middle of the first quarter to the end of the third. "I thought we played well in spurts," Penn senior attackman Jon Cusson said. "Once we started attacking we were getting some good shots. We would liked to have finished off our shots a little better. They make you move a lot -- it is tough to play against." The Tigers' defensive plan of moving quickly to cover the man with the ball shut down the Quakers' ability to move well in transition and pass the ball to the player in front of the net. Princeton's aggressiveness was evident in racking up 12 more ground balls and two more face-offs than Penn. "We are very athletic at the defensive end," Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. "It takes a lot for a team to score on us by using an individual. We played good solid team defense. We tried to put pressure on them. We knew they were young and got away with it at times." Keeping the Quakers in the game for as long as they could, Penn goalie Matt Schroeder had one of his best performances of the year. With 14 saves in the first half, Schroeder allowed the Quakers to go into halftime with thoughts of a an upset, down only 6-1. Still playing a remarkable game with a total of 22 saves, the Princeton offense proved to be too much. "I thought Matt was terrific tonight," Penn coach Marc Van Arsdale said. "Matt's three best games this year are probably Princeton, Virginia and Syracuse -- the three best teams, by far, on the schedule. It is nice to know that you have got a guy that can rise in a big game like that. I think the rest of the team fed off Matt." Anchored by the junior corps of Chris Massey, Jon Hess and Jesse Hubbard, the Tigers offense ran rampant through the Quakers' defense. Outshooting Penn 50-18, Princeton held an offensive advantage all game. For the Red and Blue, the final goals of the season were scored by Cusson, senior midfielder Pete McGill, junior middie Joe Mauro and freshman attack Chris Wolfe each with a goal a piece. Dishing the ball out for assists were Cusson, junior captain attack John Ward and sophomore middie Bart Hacking, each with one. This year, only Princeton and Brown will represent the Ivy League at the NCAA tournament. With their first undefeated season since 1935, the Tigers will receive the top seed in the tournament, including a first-round bye. In search of its fourth national championship, Princeton will have to face a combination of the country's other top teams -- Virginia, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. "I think there are four or five teams in the country who could win this," Tierney said. "I don't look at us and say that we are undefeated, so we are the favorite. We beat Hopkins by one goal in overtime and Virginia by one goal in overtime. I think those teams have improved as we hope we have. It is going to be a tough one." In their most successful season this decade, the Quakers started to gain the respect of other colleges, ending the season ranked 24th in the nation. En route to their fourth place finish in the Ivy League, the Quakers defeated Cornell on March 29, ending their 17-game Ivy League losing streak. Including impressive victories against Dartmouth and Yale, the Quakers suffered the agony of defeat in close losses against Brown and Harvard. "Marc has brought guys into a system that really works," Tierney said. "Penn has a lot of good lacrosse players that are willing to listen to him. There is a lot of respect here and you can see it. They like each other a great deal. That is going to be key. You are going to see Penn battling for the Ivy League championship in another year or two. There is no doubt in my mind." On the offensive end, Cusson, Ward and Ivy League Rookie of the Year Pete Janney, helped lead the Quakers to a successful year. Cusson finished out his college career ranked fifth as in all-time scoring for Penn with 155 points and fourth in career assist with 77. This year, Cusson scored 19 goals and handed out 35 assists, finishing third in the nation with 2.92 assists per game and 15th in the country with 4.5 points per game. As he graduates, Cusson will leave behind him many fond memories. "I am fairly happy with this year," Cusson said. "We won some games in the Ivy League again which has been rare since I have been here at Penn. I think the team is on the upswing. I am excited that I had the chance to work with the new coaching staff and be a part of the resurgence of Penn lacrosse." "Jon took the quarterback role of the team from the first day I talked to him in the summer," Van Arsdale said. "He relished the role and handled it extremely well. He quietly went about his business and kept us in line at the offensive end of the field." Even without scoring a goal in the final game against Princeton, Ward set a Penn record by averaging three goals per game. In scoring 36 goals and 14 assists this season, Ward tied Penn's all-time mark for career goals, set last year by Andy Crofton(109) and reached sixth place on Penn's all-time scoring list with 144 career points. Finishing ninth in the nation in goals scored, Ward hopes to improve next year and continue to lead Penn on its upward moving pace. "It was a good year," Ward said. "I don't think we have anything to hang our heads about. We got better and better each game and each day. I think for next year there should be even higher expectations in the Ivy League and out of conference games." Many new faces added to the success of the Quakers. Starting his first game at Penn, Janney quickly became an important part of this year's team, scoring 27 goals and nine assists. Suffering an injury against Syracuse, Janney was replace by freshman comrade Chris Wolfe whose heroics helped key the Quakers in their win over Yale. In the midfield, Billy Reidy aggressiveness earned him the face-off man position. On defense, the Quakers improved giving up an average 11.4 goals per game compared to last year's 13.2. Junior Joe Siedlecki, sophomore Ziggy Majumdar and Junior Brian Dobson allowed the Quakers to stay in most of the tight matches until the end of the game and did not give up large goal leads. Along with Cusson, the three other senior graduating are Ed Hanover, Al Patton and McGill. In their years here at Penn, the four seniors have seen the program change in many directions. Most important, their leadership was a key factor in the Quakers' improvement this year. "It has been an awfully positive season," Van Arsdale said. "The four seniors poured their hearts out on the field every game." For Van Arsdale, his first year at Penn was one of comparative success. His experience as assistant head coach at Virginia has helped make the Quakers once again competitive in the Ivy League. With the best winning percentage out of Penn's last three coaches, Van Arsdale has brought something to a program that it has not seen in a long time, victories.Comments powered by Disqus
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