Three for Three for Three A fierce attack has led Princeton to 29 straight wins and two NCAA titles in a row

March 09, 1998

You see a lot of them this time of year, trudging lethargically
from eating club to library. Or slogging forlornly up and down
Nassau Street, in search of enlightenment or, in this bedroom
community, a bar that serves anything stiffer than coffee.
Seniors. Sullen seniors. Sullen, overworked seniors.

At Princeton, that esteemed bastion of higher learning in the
New Jersey hinterlands, you cannot graduate until you have
written a senior thesis--80 or so weighty pages of intensive
research that is worth about one third of your grade. "I'm
taking a course right now called History of Terror," says Jon
Hess, whose thesis is enticingly entitled The Economic Impact of
the Southern Secession Movement. "I see terror everywhere I look
these days."

Especially when he looks into the eyes of lacrosse opponents.
Hess and fellow seniors (and roommates) Jesse Hubbard and Chris
Massey make up the most frightening attack in collegiate
lacrosse and the best to ever take the field at Old Nassau. In
last Saturday's season opener, the trio led the two-time
defending national champion Tigers to a 17-10 win at
fourth-ranked Johns Hopkins. The victory was Princeton's 29th in
a row, a streak that began two years ago. Thirteen more wins and
the Tigers would tie Cornell for the longest streak in college
lacrosse history (42, from 1976 to '78). Princeton's 14th
consecutive win would come on May 25 in the NCAA championship
game at Rutgers, and it could very well happen: The Tigers have
won four of the last six NCAA titles.

When asked if the streak is a frequent topic of discussion in
the attackmen's dorm room, Hess has a quick answer. "Never," he
says. "I'm superstitious to a fault."

Though the least physically imposing of the trio at 5'10", 158
pounds, Hess is the most lethal member of the attack. Last year
he set single-season school records for assists (48) and points
(74) and won the Turnbull Award as the nation's top attackman.
"I fit perfectly into our system," says Hess modestly. "It's
very disciplined."

Just like Hess, who spent many a high school Friday night in
Upper Nyack, N.Y., perfecting his shot. "We had a goal in my
backyard, and I tightened the net on it so that shots would
rebound to me," says Hess. "I'd shoot 100 shots righty, 50
lefty, then repeat. I was such a loser."

Massey, whose three goals against Johns Hopkins extended his
consecutive-game goal streak to 36 (another school record),
would certainly agree. He's just as comfortable with a surfboard
as he is with his lacrosse stick. Posted on the wall near his
phone is the number for the Jersey Shore wave report, which
Massey dials every morning. If the surf's up, he piles his board
into a 1986 Jeep Wagoneer--known among the trio as the
Woolly--and drives an hour east to the beach to punch holes in
an Ivy League stereotype. "I don't surf every day," Massey
explains. "Not when it's snowing. And not when the waves suck."

Of the three, Hubbard, whose older brother Andrew was a
midfielder for Princeton's 1992 and '94 champions, walks (and
talks) softest and thus is obligated to carry the biggest stick.
His five goals last Saturday made him the Princeton career
leader, with 122. (Massey has 115.) "Jesse has the hardest shot
on the team," says Hess, "but when we started playing together,
he was shy about taking it. Finally, during a game in our
freshman year, I told him that we needed him to shoot."

Three years ago Tigers coach Bill Tierney urged Hubbard, Hess
and Massey to step up. Moments before a game against Delaware,
he pulled them aside and ordered up a dynasty. "We had just lost
at Cornell, a miserable loss," says Hess. "The whole team was
down, but as underclassmen we felt it was not our place to say
something." Tierney looked them in the eyes and, as he
remembers, told them, "Princeton is in your hands now."

Since then the Tigers have a 34-2 record, and the attack isn't
the only thing entrusted to the skilled hands of Hess, Hubbard
and Massey. They also string the mesh on just about every
teammate's stick simply because, like scoring, they are more
proficient at it than their teammates. "We take pride in every
little detail," says Hess.

That includes the streak, though all three are careful to never
mention it. Yet in the dorm room they share with senior
midfielder Seamus Grooms, they have inscribed in black ink--and
hidden behind a banner--a phrase, a promise to themselves,
really. It reads simply, NEVER LOSING AGAIN.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS "I see terror everywhere I look," says Hess, part of the most frightening attack in lacrosse.[Jon Hess in game]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)