Its no secret that the Princeton Tigers have always had a strong defensive unit. That unit is always backed by a strong goalie and heading into the 2011 season the gameplan will be no different.
With junior Tyler Fiorito in goal, the Tigers will once again be a force to be reckon with in the Ivy League Conference. The Baltimore, Md. native and former Baltimore Metro player of the year, Fiorito will be the backbone of a defensive unit that has given up just over eight goals a game in the two years since Fiorito arrived to the campus of Princeton University.
A 2010 second team All-American, and 2011 pre-season second team All-American pick, the goalie talked with College Crosse as he spoke about the 2010 season, playing in big time venues like M&T Bank Stadium and The New Meadowlands, and gave us a quick preview of some of the guys who will be helping him shut down opposing offenses in 2011.
College Crosse: How exciting is it to be part of the Big City Classic and games like those in front of a large audience at a major sporting venue like The New Meadowlands Stadium?
Tyler Fiorito: The Big City Classic and the Faceoff Classic in Baltimore are always an amazing experience. I grew up watching incredible athletes playing football every Sunday in Ravens Stadium, and now I have the chance to play on the same field as them. Dressing in the same locker room as the Jets and the Ravens, walking down the same tunnel, competing on the same field is a special opportunity that very few people get to experience. Not only is the venue great, but the event attracts 20,000-24,000 people, which creates an atmosphere that will help prepare our team for games in the Final Four. I was a part of the first event ever held in the New Meadowlands Stadium, and that is something that will stick with me.
CC: On that note, what happened in the 13-3 loss to Syracuse at the New Meadowlands?
TF: Syracuse played a great game and we came out slow. Syracuse is great year in and year out and you need to bring your best stuff every game or you don’t have a chance. You have to give credit to the entire team, but John Galloway and the defense had a great game and stymied our offense. The main difference between my freshman and sophomore year, was our inability to control the pace of the game. Syracuse likes to run up and down the field and we didn’t do a great job of preventing transition and it hurt us. We were embarrassed last year and everyone on our team is excited to play them again this year at home in front of our fans.
CC: Tell us a little bit about the 2011 Princeton Tigers? What can we expect? Anything you think will surpise people about this years team
TF: The 2011 Tigers are one of the most athletic teams in the nation, capable of playing that run and gun style while also slowing the tempo of the game down when it is necessary. We had a great fall this year, ending in scrimmages with Georgetown and UVA. This was a great test for us to see where we stood as a team and I think everyone left encouraged and excited to work in the offseason after realizing our potential. The coaches have done a great job recruiting not only great athletes but also a great group of guys. We have a great group of upperclassmen that expect nothing but a trip to the final four. Anything else will be a disappointment.
The biggest surprise might be our athleticism and the run and gun game we are capable of playing. The scrimmage against UVA showed us that we were able to get transition off saves and really push the tempo to get easier goals in transition.
CC: Who did you try to mirror your game after when you were growing up?
TF: To be honest, I watched goalies growing up but I never tried to model my game off of one single person. I couldn’t tell you whose game my game reflects, you’d have to ask someone that has watched a lot more lacrosse than I have. But I would watch a lot of goalies and learn little things here and there that I liked. Such as the positioning of hands, the positioning in goal, or even basic things about stance. I believe there is no one way to play goalie, and each goalie is different. My coaches worked with me throughout high school, but the large majority of my development came through playing. Realizing what worked and what didn’t and feeling comfortable in the goal. When I got to college I was able to talk to Coach T and Metz about past Princeton goalies and think there are some similarities between my game and Trevor Tierney’s.
CC: Talk a bit about the 2011 Ivy League. We saw a bit of a revival last year in the Ivy League, especially with the first ever Ivy Championship. Who do you see as your toughest competition in ’11?
TF: Last year, everyone saw the parity amongst the teams in the Ivy League and I think you will see the same thing again this year. The rivalry between Cornell and Princeton is one of the best in the nation and each game is a battle. Not only is it a battle of teams, but I believe it features one of the best individual matchups in the nation between Chad Wiedmaier and Rob Pannell. These two go at each other for 48 minutes. Yale and Brown both return a solid core after last year’s regular season four-way tie. Harvard was young last year and was able to beat us for the first time in over 20 years. Their players have all matured another year and will be a tough test. PENN has played us to one-goal games in each of the last two years and Dartmouth has a great goalie in Fergus Campbell and was able to defeat Cornell last year at Gillette Stadium. The Ivy League will continue to be the most competitive conference in the nation. Every game is a fight and you can lose on any given day.
CC: Tell us a little bit about the guys in front of you, especially your long pole guys?
TF: Our Defense is one of the best in the nation. Each person brings a different aspect to the defense. Chad is one of the best cover men in the game. He doesn’t do anything fancy but he moves his feet well and can take away a team’s best dodger or feeder. Long is our best takeaway guy and if we need the ball, he will get it.Jonathon Meyers is one of the best athletes on the team and matches up well with any attackman no matter size or speed. John Cunningham will have a great year this year at longstick because he is both strong and fast. He will be a catalyst to our transition game as well. Lastly, our short stick d-middies, Peter Smyth, Nick Fernandez, and Connor Reilly know the system and work well within it. We have some other players vying for minutes, but it is clear our defense will again be our strength in 2011.
CC: Lastly, toughest offense you will face during the 2011 season?
TF: There are a lot of great offenses this year. Hofstra will be a tough first opponent as they have a lot of Canadian players and look to outscore their opponents. Then you have Syracuse and UNC that have some of the best players at their positions. Both teams score 10+ goals on us last year and will be tough again this year.