No. 2 men’s lacrosse set to face Princeton

The Cavaliers look to continue their strong start to the season against another solid opponent

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Junior attacker Ian Laviano netted the decider against Princeton last year, scoring in overtime for his fourth goal of the game. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse is set to play Princeton Saturday in the 27th meeting between the storied programs. The Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) will seek their third consecutive home win this season against another solid opponent in the Tigers (2-0, 0-0 Ivy League), along with their 150th all-time win at Klockner Stadium.

The two programs met last year in New Jersey in a game that went into overtime with Virginia’s now-junior attacker Ian Laviano finding the back of the net to give the Cavaliers a 12-11 golden-goal victory.

This year, Virginia has posted two strong games to start the season against No. 14 Loyola and No. 18 Lehigh, especially on the defensive end. Led by junior goalkeeper Alex Rode’s average of 15 saves per game, the Cavaliers have yet to allow an opponent to reach double-digit goals, helping to make up for early inconsistency on the other side of the field.

Offensively, Virginia scored 12 goals in both games with junior attacker Matt Moore and senior attacker Michael Kraus leading the way with a combined 17 points. However, after strong starts in both games, the Cavaliers’ offense has sputtered at times during the second half, allowing the opponent to gain momentum and trim the lead.

The Opponent

Despite being unranked, Princeton is among the teams receiving votes in both the USILA coaches and Inside Lacrosse media polls after two convincing victories over Monmouth and Colgate.

The Tigers have started the season hot offensively, scoring 20 goals in each of their first two games, while limiting their opponents to a combined 20 goals.

Princeton has been led by senior attacker Michael Sowers who leads the nation in both total points and assists, 25 and 18 respectively. In the Tigers’ game against Colgate, Sowers set a new Ivy League record of 14 points, with 11 of them coming from assists. 

In goals, senior attacker Phillip Robertson paces Princeton with eight goals over two games. 

Between the posts, junior goalkeeper Erik Peters has played the majority of minutes — tallying 16 saves against 19 allowed goals. Princeton has done well to help Peters by limiting their opponent to only 39 shots on goal — far fewer than the Tiger offense’s 69.

Keys to the Game

Consistency on offense

Playing against Princeton’s high-powered offense will put more pressure on Virginia’s attack to maintain a high level of play throughout the entirety of the game. Against Colgate, the Tigers turned an 8-7 lead at the beginning of the second half into a 16-7 advantage by the end of the third quarter — demonstrating an elite ability to score in droves. 

Offensive droughts by the Cavaliers, which occurred during their first two outings — evidenced by scoring only one goal in a 27-minute stretch against Lehigh and only one goal in the final 23 minutes against Loyola — are likely to be more costly against the Tigers elite attack. As a result, consistent production on the attacking end of the field will prove crucial to a Virginia win. 

Slowing down Princeton’s attack

After allowing 55 shots in the season opener to Loyola, the Cavaliers did a significantly better job limiting Lehigh’s chances, conceding only 28 shots. Continuing excellent defense against Princeton, who amassed over 100 shots in their first two contests, will be critical in controlling the game.

Specifically, keeping the ball away from Sowers will likely help limit opportunities for the Tigers. If Virginia can limit Princeton’s shots and Rode continues his exceptional play, the reigning national champions will be in a strong position to come away with a victory. 

Opening face-off is set for 12 p.m. at Klockner Stadium Saturday afternoon. The game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network. 

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