Princeton Announces 2011 Men's Lacrosse Schedule

A year ago, the Princeton men's lacrosse team opened its season using orange balls, made necessary by a major snowfall two days beforehand that left white balls harder to see against the drifts that lined the field. The season ended on a perfect spring afternoon, with temperatures in the 70s and fans dressed in shorts and t-shirts.

It's the nature of lacrosse season, to begin in winter and play as the weather improves. The goal for every team is to still be playing when the temperatures reach the 80s or even higher on Memorial Day weekend, at the NCAA Final Four.

It's a realistic goal for maybe 15 teams or so, and both Princeton and several of the schools that dot the Tigers' 2011 schedule fit into that category. The Tigers open and close the 2011 regular-season against teams that certainly can be thinking about playing to Memorial Day, and there are quite a few in the middle who will enter the season dreaming big as well.

Princeton's 2011 schedule begins on Feb. 26 at Hofstra. Between that game and the regular-season finale two months and four days later at Cornell, Princeton will face five teams who played in the NCAA tournament a year ago, its six Ivy League opponents, one opponent is has played basically every year since the early 1920s and another team it has only played three times despite being located an hour apart.

If all goes well for the Tigers, the season will continue into May with the second Ivy League tournament - Princeton won the first one a year ago - and then ultimately the NCAA tournament.

Princeton returns seven starters from the team that went 11-5 a year ago and finished in a four-way tie for the league championship with Cornell, Yale and Brown. Princeton then defeated Yale and Cornell (on Jack McBride's overtime goal) to win the first Ivy tournament before falling in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to Scott Rodgers and Notre Dame, who would go to overtime in the championship game before falling to Duke.

Princeton opened with a 17-14 win over Hofstra a year ago, when both teams reached the NCAA tournament. A host of returning talent is joined by two key transfers to make this a likely matchup of preseason Top 10 teams.

From there, Princeton does something it hasn't done in five years - play Johns Hopkins on one of the school's campuses. After the teams split the last four games at M&T Bank Stadium as part of the Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Classic, they will meet at Homewood Field on March 5.

Princeton's home opener will be on Friday night March 11 against North Carolina, a team with as good a chance as any to win the 2011 national title. Princeton and Carolina played a great game in Chapel Hill a year ago before the Tar Heels won 12-11.

Villanova, a team the Tigers played in 1987, 1988 and 1989 but never before or since, comes to Princeton as well for a midweek, mid-March game. Princeton won all three meetings, though the seniors on both current teams were just being born around then.

The Ivy League opener is at Penn, a team that Princeton has beaten 21 straight times, though each of the last two went into overtime after Penn had built big leads. Princeton's Ivy schedule goes at Penn, home against Yale and Brown, a game at Gillette Stadium against Dartmouth, home with Harvard and then at Cornell.

The only breaks from the league schedule after it begins are a pair of games four days apart against two huge rivals. The first is a home game on Saturday, April 9, against probable preseason No. 1 Syracuse, which is followed three days later with a game at Rutgers. Princeton and Syracuse have developed one of the best rivalries in all of college lacrosse, while Princeton and Rutgers have met every year since 1922 except for the World War II years of 1944 and 1945.

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