- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

— Idleness during May a year ago - prompted by a premature departure from the NCAA tournament - led Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni to text-message midfielder Max Seibald.

He had a simple demand: We can’t let this happen again.

“I don’t plan on it,” Seibald responded instantly.

The senior star and the rest of the Big Red fulfilled that promise Saturday in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, albeit in unusual fashion. Fifth-seeded Cornell outlasted fourth-seeded Princeton 6-4 at Shuart Stadium, clinching the second final four appearance in three years for the Big Red.

Rocco Romero scored twice for Cornell (12-3), including an insurance goal early in the fourth quarter of a contest that matched the lowest-scoring game in tournament history.



“It was nothing short of a slugfest out there,” Tambroni said.

The Big Red will meet the winner of Sunday’s Virginia-Johns Hopkins game in next weekend’s semifinals in Foxborough, Mass. And when they arrive in New England in pursuit of their first title since 1977, they would be wise to repeat the sterling defensive performance that clinched a place in the final four.

Cornell bolted to a 5-1 lead at the half, then held off the Tigers (13-3) with exceptional stinginess during man-up opportunities. Princeton, which was denied its first final four trip since 2004, was 1-for-7 on the extra-man, including two fruitless opportunities in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t look at it as if we were totally stifled,” Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. “We had our chances. Either the goalie stepped up or they knocked one down. The last one we just threw out on our own. It’s frustrating when we score one out of seven man-up. It’s a huge part of the game.”

So too were a pair of pivotal plays in the middle of the second half. Princeton’s Mark Kovler appeared to pull the Tigers within 5-4 as the third quarter ended, but officials ruled he shot after time expired. The Tigers then generated a transition opportunity off the fourth-quarter faceoff, but Jake Myers (five saves) stuffed Chris McBride’s point-blank try.

Romero’s goal with 7:36 remaining bumped the lead to 6-3, leaving Cornell to continue with its afternoon-long theme - handing things over to a group that held Princeton to its smallest offensive output in 42 NCAA tournament games.

“We know our defense is there and is going to be consistent and is going to make great plays throughout the game,” Seibald said. “They were there definitely the entire game, especially the second half.”

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