By David Marcus ’92
The Princeton men’s lacrosse team fell to 2-1 with a 10-8 loss on March 2 to Johns Hopkins, currently the second-ranked team in the country, but the Tigers’ first three games suggest that they’re primed to overcome the offensive difficulties that plagued them last year in a difficult 4-8 season.
In 2011, the lone bright spot on an offense that averaged only 7.1 goals a game (55th among the 61 schools that play Division I lacrosse), was midfielder Tom Schreiber ’14, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Princeton’s leader in goals and assists. Schreiber is an exceptionally gifted passer, and head coach Chris Bates has made him the centerpiece of this year’s offense. Bates tries to keep him on the field as much as possible by playing him at attack rather than midfield.
Schreiber rewarded that confidence Feb. 25 with four goals and three assists in a 12-6 season-opening win over Hofstra. He added four more goals and an assist in a 13-7 win over Manhattan three days later. But Johns Hopkins defenseman Tucker Durkin, like Schreiber a preseason first-team All-American, held him to a goal and two assists.
Bates also moved Jeff Froccaro ’13 to attack from midfield, where he’s started since his freshman year. That’s an unorthodox move, but Froccaro is skilled at getting open for close-range shots, a valuable skill in Bates’ offense, which emphasizes off-ball movement. Froccaro has five goals and an assist so far this season and has been able to create his own shot by beating his defenders. He also won five straight face-offs in the fourth quarter of the Johns Hopkins game after Bobby Lucas ’13 and Peter Smyth ’12 struggled on face-offs against the Blue Jays.
Schreiber and Froccaro are supported by a group of teammates who have played well for most of the first three games. Canadian Mike MacDonald ’15 is the third starting attackman and has five goals this season, including three against Hofstra. As is often the case with Canadian players who grow up playing hockey and "box" or indoor lacrosse, he has excellent stick skills and an ability to get open. Going into the season, Bates said midfielder Tucker Shanley ’13 had significant potential, and he too has scored five times while providing an outside shooting threat. Mike Grossman ’12, who was an attackman in high school but now plays midfield, has four goals and three assists.
After strong efforts against Hofstra and Manhattan, Princeton’s offense struggled against Johns Hopkins. The Tigers scored only once during one 36-minute stretch and turned the ball over several times on poor passes but played with greater urgency in the last 20 minutes of the game, during which they cut a 6-2 deficit to 10-8.
Princeton’s defense is good enough that eight goals will often be enough to win, but that wasn’t the case on Friday against a Johns Hopkins team that was missing two of its best offensive players and had been struggling on offense. Goalie Tyler Fiorito ’12 made only nine saves while allowing 10 goals and let in two or three shots that he ordinarily stops with ease. Princeton also had to play more aggressively on defense after falling behind 6-2, which created more opportunities for Hopkins.
The Tigers, now ranked 14th in the USILA poll, face No. 8 North Carolina at 11 a.m. March 10 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, then play at No. 12 Villanova March 13 and return home for a game against Penn at 2 p.m. March 17. Princeton lost all three of those games last year and never recovered. The stretch could be equally critical for the 2012 team.
David Marcus ’92 is a frequent PAW contributor.