Game Rewind: Princeton vs Duke in 1997 NCAA Semifinals

(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Athletics)

When the Princeton Tigers and Duke Blue Devils met in front of 30,580 fans on May 24th, 1997 at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. for the NCAA the semifinals it was practically a matchup between two squads on polar opposite ends of the totem pole.

Bill Tierney and his Princeton squad were looking to keep their perfect season alive and get back to the national title game to claim their second consecutive and fourth overall title. The Duke Blue Devils, led by head coach Mike Pressler, were entering their first-ever semifinals contest in lacrosse and looking to prove their worth against the team of the 90s.

Watch the full game here


 Duke came into the contest leaning on their big, physical defense, which was anchored by Joe Kirsner in cage. Princeton featured one of the best attack lines that the game has ever seen with Jon Hess, Chris Massey, and Jesse Hubbard, in addition to their playmakers at the midfield spot. 

Princeton came out firing on all cylinders, scoring three straight before John Fay scored on a fast break of the faceoff to give Duke their first goal of the game. The Tigers continued to pile on offensively, taking a 6-1 lead at the end of the first. However, Duke shook off those Final Four jitters in between quarters, as the Blue Devils owned the second quarter. The size and physicality of the Duke defense started to show as they held the Tigers scoreless the entire second quarter. Duke also got their offense going, tying things up at 6-6 heading into halftime. 

Starting the second half with a man-up opportunity, Jon Hess put Princeton back in front just 43 seconds into the third. After that Hess goal, the defenses on both ends really started to file their muscle. Duke was able to get hot again, as they went on a three-goal run late in the quarter that ended with John Fay feeding Ed Fay for a goal with just two seconds left in the quarter. 

Princeton’s offense came alive once again late in the fourth, as Jason Osier, Todd Eichelberger, and Chris Massey scored three straight in 98-seconds to put the Tigers in front, 10-9, with 4:50 on the clock. Princeton was able to control the game and run out the clock in the final four minutes of the game to secure the win and punch their ticket to the title game, where they eventually beat Maryland 19-7.

The Game Within The Game

As usual, the game within the game came at the goalie spot. Princeton’s Patrick Cairns and Duke’s Joe Kirmser had been playing stellar in between the pipes all season and continued to do so in this semifinal matchup. Both made multiple highlight-reel saves during the contest, including a few fastbreak stops and saves from shots right on the doorstep. 

Cairns ended the game with 11 saves and Kirmser ended the game with six saves. 

The Stars

Princeton: While the entire Princeton offensive showed that they knew how to share the sugar in this contest, it was Chris Massey that really shined. The attackman ended the game with three goals, including the game-winner off of a feed from Jon Hess. 

Duke: John Fay was, undoubtedly, the shining star for the Blue Devils in this contest. Leading with three goals, Fay took the reins of the offense and kept his foot on the gas until the very end. 

Play of The Game

Chris Massey is able to get a step on Duke’s Greg Ehrnman, throws a one-handed fake, and then shoots and scores on the one-handed hook shot as he comes across the face of the goal.

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