PRINCETON, N.J. -- One of the first signs of disrespect was the preseason United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. Syracuse was No. 1. Princeton, the defending national champion, was No. 2.
"In the preseason, I remember reading about how we won the championship, but it wasn't the usual stuff," said David Morrow, Princeton's senior defenseman. "In the past, you read about how great that team was and all the great players they had.
"I thought after last year we legitimized ourselves, but I guess we didn't," said Morrow. "We're still out to get respect. We want to show people that last year was no fluke and we should be mentioned with Syracuse and North Carolina all the time now."
It's no longer a desire for Princeton to be mentioned with the traditional greats, but an obsession. The Tigers talk about it before and after games, at social functions and even on dates.
No. 2 Princeton (13-1) will meet No. 3 Syracuse (10-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Byrd Stadium in the NCAA Division I semifinals, but the Tigers don't believe a win over the Orangemen will be enough. They think they have to win another championship.
"People don't believe we won it last year, that it was a fluke," said Scott Bacigalupo, the Tigers' junior goalkeeper. "We have to prove that we're here to stay."
Actually, Princeton's Bill Tierney has convinced a lot of people to believe in the Tigers since he became the head coach six years ago. The Tigers went from Ivy League doormat to NCAA champion in five years.
The Tigers have a 48-11 record the past four years and have won 25 of their last 28 games. But the lack of publicity may be a result of Tierney's coaching style. He believes in substance, not flash.
The Tigers run a deliberate, control-type offense. Once Princeton gets a two- to three-goal lead, the Tigers slow it down ever more.
Their best attackman is junior Kevin Lowe, who has more assists (43) than goals (16).
And Princeton's wins don't always come easily.
During the Tigers' 1992 playoff drive, they beat Maryland, 11-10, in the quarterfinals, North Carolina, 16-14, in the semifinals and Syracuse, 10-9, in double overtime in the championship.
Now, compare that to the run-and-gun style of Syracuse.
"That's Coach Tierney's method," said Morrow. "He has about eight defenses and 100 offenses, something for each situation. I guess other teams are more fun to watch, but that's not to say we don't have fun winning, and don't have great players."
Princeton has three of the best players at their respective positions. Lowe is nearly unmatched, with the possible exception of Syracuse's Jamie Archer, as a playmaker. Morrow draws and has shut down some of the game's best attackmen.
And Bacigalupo is generally regarded as the best keeper in the game.
But . . .
No flash. Almost no emotion.
"Maybe we are too businesslike," said Morrow. "After a big game, we've got some guys that just say, 'Nice game,' that's it. We don't have any head cases."
But that doesn't stop the Tigers from reading newspapers or paying attention to polls. The Ivy League was not strong this season, so a number of people felt the Tigers didn't deserve the No. 2 seed even though they beat No. 4 Johns Hopkins and No. 5 Virginia and lost 7-5 to No. 1 North Carolina in the first three weeks of the season. Princeton closed out its regular season by beating No. 6 Hofstra.
When North Carolina lost to Virginia, 13-12, on April 10, the Tar Heels were co-No. 1 with Princeton in The Baltimore Sun's poll released a day later, but North Carolina remained in the sole possession of No. 1 in the USILA poll.
"That just says what they they think about the Ivy League," said Lowe. "But I don't mind. I kind of like it. I think this team likes that underdog role."
Morrow said a writer for Lacrosse Magazine wrote "only an act of God would keep Syracuse and North Carolina out of the finals."
"They didn't say anything about us," said Morrow. "Not one word. I couldn't believe that."
Tierney said: "I used to get angry, now I laugh. Let's face it, the world of lacrosse doesn't revolve around Central New Jersey. I don't use that as motivation anymore, but it's hard to get inside a young kid's head. But I really don't mind. There's a lot of emotion in every game and that just adds to ours."
Coach: Bill Tierney (56-32 in six years)
AScoring leaders: Junior Kevin Lowe (16 goals, 43 assists), junior attackman Taylor Simmers (17, 16), senior midfielder Torr Marro (21, 5) and sophomore attackman Scott Conklin (18, 6).
Faceoff specialist: Junior midfielder Paul Murphy (225-108, 48 percent)
Goalie: Junior Scott Bacigalupo (160 saves, 77 goals, .675 percentage)
Last Final Four appearance: 1992 (beat North Carolina in semifinals, 16-14)
NCAA title: 1992 (beat Syracuse, 10-9 in double OT)
'1993 results (13-1) 13 .. .. Johns Hopkins .. .. .. 11
.. .. .. Virginia .. .. .. .. .6
5 .. .. ..North Carolina .. .. ..7
.. .. .. .. Rutgers .. .. .. .7
11 .. .. .. .. ..Yale .. .. .. ..7
6 .. .. .. .. Pennsylvania .. .. 5
9 .. .. .. .. .. Brown .. .. .. .7
16 .. .. .. .. Harvard .. .. .. .5
18 .. .. .. .. Stony Brook.. .. .7
13 .. .. .. .. .. Cornell .. .. .8
19 .. .. .. .. .. Dartmouth .. ..8
19 .. .. .. .. .. Bucknell .. .. 2
9 .. .. .. .. .. .Hofstra .. .. .6
19 x-Loyola 8