Scott Bacigalupo appears at Cap & Gown, his Princeton eating club, rumpled and unshaven, not quite what you would expect from the Frank Merriwell of Tiger lacrosse, but O.K. for an economics major who has just pulled an all-nighter. "I've been writing my junior paper," says Bacigalupo, an All-America goalie. "It's about the effects of insider trading on stock returns."
Lately Bacigalupo's inside moves have been reaping huge dividends for Princeton, the defending national champion. With him in the crease, the Tigers are 12-1 and seeded second in the NCAA tournament, which started last weekend. He leads the nation's top-ranked lacrosse programs with a gaudy 5.92 goals-against average and is third in save percentage among major schools, with .675. No Ivy League school has ever scored in double figures against him.
Bacigalupo (pronounced BAH-chuh-guh-LOO-po) prepares for games the way Ivan Boesky used to analyze stocks, relying on privileged information supplied by cronies. "I always try to make a few phone calls to my friends on other teams," he says. "Lacrosse is like high finance—a small, closed community."
Before Bacigalupo's senior high school season he was offered free rides by perennial lacrosse powers Johns Hopkins. North Carolina and Virginia. He chose Princeton even though the Tigers had never qualified for postseason play and the cost to his folks would come to more than $20,000 a year. "The Hopkins coach really chewed me out," says Bacigalupo. "He told me his guys were going to cream Princeton in the season opener that year." And cream Princeton they did—to the tune of 20-8. Bacigalupo watched his future team from the stands with his father, Charles, a stockbroker. Scott said, "Princeton is horrible! What have I done, Dad?"
May 23, 1993
Dad said, "Just stick with them, son."
In his freshman year Princeton again opened against Hopkins and, with Bacigalupo in goal, stuck it to the Blue Jays by the score of 15-10. The Tigers finished the season 12-3 but lost their first game in the NCAA tournament, to Towson State in triple overtime. "I still remember the midfielder's uniform number and facial expression as he scored the winning goal," says Bacigalupo. "That day I vowed I'd never lose in OT again."
True to his word, Bacigalupo has since played in three sudden deaths, winning every time. Most remarkable was last year's NCAA title game against Syracuse. Using a deliberate, possession game, Princeton ran up a 6-0 lead and held the high-scoring Orangemen to their first scoreless quarter in 23 games. But with less than a minute to go in regulation, Bacigalupo bobbled a loose ball, enabling Syracuse to tie the score. "At first I wanted to hang myself," he recalls. "By the time overtime began, though, I just wanted to prove myself again."
Increasingly confident, Bacigalupo turned back three close-range shots, Princeton went on to win 10-9 in the second overtime, and Bacigalupo was named tournament MVP. But can the Tigers make it to the finals in College Park, Md., on Memorial Day and repeat as champs? Here's a tip from the ultimate insider: "We'll win."