Princeton's lacrosse team is on a mission, and Tigers junior goalkeeper Scott Bacigalupo is enjoying the ride.
No. 2 Princeton, sparked by Bacigalupo's 16 saves, turned in a strong defensive effort in the Tigers' 9-6 win over No. 4 Virginia at Loyola's Curley Field.
Because of weather conditions, the game was moved to Loyola's turf field. Neither Princeton (2-0) nor Virginia (3-1) has a field with an artificial surface.
But Bacigalupo seemed right at home. He stopped three point-blank shots in the first period when Princeton's offense was struggling, and two from Virginia ace attackman Kevin Pehlke in the second. He had two more in the third and three more in the fourth.
He simply added to his reputation of being the game's best goalkeeper.
"It's a lot of pressure this season because of the success I had last year," said Bacigalupo, from Towson, who was chosen national player of the year at his position after the 1992 season.
"Actually, I was real fired up to play today because my mother recently had a gallbladder operation and couldn't attend today's game. I told her I was going to have a good one."
"My defensive unit was great today. Those guys in front of me made it all happen out there," said Bacigalupo, who at one time held the Cavaliers scoreless for 31 minutes. "The guys want to prove that last year was no fluke. This was a must game for us."
The Tigers, defending national champions, are treating every non-conference game as a "must-win situation."
The Ivy League has a reputation for being "soft," so Princeton has to make its mark against the Virginias, Johns Hopkins and North Carolinas on the schedule.
"Our Ivy League schedule starts later in the season, so that gives us a lot of big games in March," said Bill Tierney, Princeton's coach. "And if we don't play well, it could hurt our confidence going into a very competitive conference."
The Tigers have beaten Virginia and Johns Hopkins, but they still have to work out a few offensive problems before they meet No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday.
There wasn't much wrong with the defense yesterday. Bacigalupo was superb and defenseman David Morrow pretty much took Pehlke out of the game, except for two assists. Without Pehlke, Virginia looked lost at times.
So did Princeton's offense. But the Tigers, leading 5-4 at the end of the third period, scored the first two goals of the fourth to take control. Princeton midfielder Scott Reinhardt scored 17 seconds into the final quarter, and attackman Jason Buttles gave the Tigers a 7-4 lead 36 seconds later.
Both teams scored in the remaining time, and the Tigers led 9-5 with 1:31 left.