Princeton, Rutgers make it to the Final Four in college lacrosse; Rutgers for the first time
March Madness may be over, but there is another Final Four that New Jersey residents may be interested in.
Two New Jersey universities are left in the national semifinals in college lacrosse, and they could meet for the championship on Monday.
Princeton has long been a lacrosse powerhouse, with six national titles and 11 trips to the Final Four. But this trip to the tournament is the team’s first in 20 years.
“With our senior class, this is a group that sacrificed a lot through the COVID year and took an entire year off to come back and kinda cherish this opportunity,” says Princeton Coach Matt Madalon.
No one else in the state has been able to keep up. That is until Rutgers advanced to its first-ever Final Four this year. Rutgers is emerging as a contender, thanks in part to star transfers like goalie Colin Kirst.
“All eyes are on Saturday and on Cornell [University],” Kirst says.
Kirst’s brother plays for Cornell. They face off Saturday in the semifinals. The Kirst family is a lacrosse family, with four of the five brothers playing Division 1 lacrosse. Their father was a goalie at Rutgers who died of a heart attack seven years ago. He was 47.
“Every time I’m around Rutgers I think about my dad. It’s definitely special,” Kirst says.
And for the team, it is special to be the first at Rutgers to make it to the semifinals.
“I think all my teammates would tell you I love New Jersey,” says Rutgers player Jack Aimone. “Probably more than anyone on this time. I grew up coming to these games.”
And now he gets to play in them. Rutgers’s matchup with Cornell is a toss-up.
Meanwhile, Princeton is a heavy underdog versus Maryland – a team that is undefeated, making its 28th Final Four.
“Everyone’s saying this team can’t lose and this is the best team to ever play the game of lacrosse,” says Princeton junior Sam English.
“This game will be all about confidence. There’s a lot of talk about Maryland. They’re a very strong team, but so are we,” says Princeton player Alex Vardaro.
Princeton and Rutgers did play against one another during the regular season. Princeton won 16-11.