No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse lost to Princeton 16-12 Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) struggled to find an offensive rhythm, as senior attacker Michael Sowers led the Tigers (3-0, 0-0 Ivy League) to the upset victory.
A back-and-forth opening quarter began with Princeton junior attacker Chris Brown finishing a feed from Sowers just over four minutes into the contest. Virginia responded 22 seconds later when senior attacker Michael Kraus scored after a face-off win from sophomore faceoff man Petey LaSalla.
The first period ended with a score of 4-4, as the Cavaliers found an answer to each of Princeton’s goals, including two consecutive scores from senior midfielder Dox Aitken and freshman midfielder Peter Garno to close the quarter.
After the Tigers took a lead off goals from Brown and Sowers, Virginia once again answered, but this time with three straight scores. Junior attackers Ian Laviano and Matt Moore each contributed one before LaSalla won the face-off and delivered a quick strike to give the Cavaliers a 7-6 advantage.
However, Princeton closed the half with two more goals from Sowers and Brown — with Brown’s coming with only 10 seconds remaining — to head to the locker room with an 8-7 lead.
As the score indicated, the two sides went to break with an almost equal number of shots and ground balls — a 25-24 and 24-23 Virginia advantage respectively.
The Tigers opened the second half on the crucial run that ultimately helped them secure the win. After Kraus answered another Sowers goal with 10:18 left in the third quarter, Princeton reeled off three consecutive goals with contributions from Brown, senior attacker Phillip Robertson and senior midfielder Connor McCarthy.
This capped off a 6-1 run beginning in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 12-8 lead.
The Cavaliers then closed the deficit to one on the strength of a 4-1 run ending with a Laviano goal with 8:54 left in the game. The offensive burst also included scores from redshirt freshman attacker Payton Cormier, Aitken and Moore.
Virginia had several chances to draw even, but Princeton junior goalkeeper Erik Peters made several key saves on shots from Laviano, Kraus and sophomore midfielder Chris Merle. The Tigers turned the last of those saves into a breakaway goal from Robertson with 5:11 remaining.
Robertson’s goal was the first of three consecutive goals for Princeton to close out the game — giving them the 16-12 win.
On the day, Sowers added to his already nation-leading numbers with four goals and four assists — giving him an incredible 33 total points in only three games. Brown and Robertson also chipped in four goals each for the Tigers.
“I think we're just starting to realize Princeton isn't just a one-man team,” Coach Lars Tiffany said. “Michael Sowers is an incredible player, the leader in the Tewaaraton [Trophy] hunt right now, but the people around him are going hard to the goal.”
The Cavaliers were led by Laviano with three goals and one assist, as well as Moore and Kraus, who each contributed two goals and two assists.
Defensively, this was the first time Virginia allowed double-digit goals this season after stifling two ranked opponents. In fact, 16 goals are the most given up by the Cavaliers since last year’s season opener against Loyola.
“I love how quickly Princeton moves and plays their transition offense and how quickly they got the ball up off the ground,” Tiffany said. “That's a heck of an opponent we just faced today.”
Virginia will look to get back on track Tuesday against High Point — who accounted for one of the Cavaliers’ three losses in 2019. The home game at Klockner Stadium is set to start at 5 p.m., and it will be televised on ESPNU.