When Hofstra and Princeton met on a New Jersey lacrosse field last February, the Tigers emerged from a snowstorm with a two-goal win in a season that would be marked by many tight losses for Hofstra.
“There were four or five inches of snow,” Princeton coach Chris Bates said. “ . . . That was a game for the ages.”
The air wasn’t as crisp and the sky was colored blue over Shuart Stadium on Saturday for the series renewal with the Tigers. This Hofstra season indeed is off to a very sunny start.
After upsetting then-No. 5 North Carolina by five goals at Chapel Hill in the opener, the 12th-ranked Pride passed its first tight test. Josh Byrne scored his fifth goal of the game 14 seconds into sudden death and Hofstra emerged with an 11-10 win, snapping a four-game skid against Princeton.
“I am so proud of the guys in the white jerseys today that I cannot put it into words and do it justice,” Pride coach Seth Tierney said. “We told them coming back from the University of North Carolina that this week was going to be a huge week for our program. How were we going to handle success?”
After a somewhat slow start, they handled it well enough to have a 2-0 beginning after a 5-9 ending last season, including 0-7 in games decided by one or two goals.
“There was a summer of not sleeping,” Tierney said. “It’s just not what we are. There were a bunch of people who thought we were the number 40th team in the country. It hurt a little bit. All those things have fueled our fire.”
Tanner Griffin assisted on Byrne’s winning goal. The impressive Nassau Community College transfer beat Tyler Blaisdell from about 8 yards out.
“To think that all this hard work comes down to maybe one play, and all of a sudden, you see the smiles on everybody’s faces, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Byrne said.
Jack Concannon had a big 15-save game, but Bobby Weaver beat Hofstra’s sophomore goalie for the second time with 5:20 left in regulation, and Gavin McBride scored his third with 3:42 left. The Pride’s 10-8 lead, capped by Brian von Bargen’s second goal of the fourth quarter, was gone.
“We had the momentum and then to give those up, we lost it a little bit,” Concannon said. “But I didn’t give up faith.”
The Tigers (1-1) led 3-0, but Hofstra, which owned a 45-28 advantage in ground balls, tied it before the end of the first quarter.
“That’s a good team,” Bates said of Hofstra. “ . . . They face off well. I think the goalie is the real deal. Defensively, they’re solid, and offensively, they’ve got some weapons.”
Princeton led 6-5 at halftime. Dylan Alderman and Sam Llinares sandwiched Hofstra goals around one by Ryan Ambler, so it was 7-7 headed for the fourth.
“You got to want it,” von Bargen said. “Everyone’s bought in, and I think that’s the difference.”