By David Marcus ’92
Chris Bates was clear in early February about the challenges facing the Princeton men’s lacrosse team. The offense, which was very good last year, would have to be even better, the head coach said, because the squad had to replace a starting defensive unit that allowed a paltry 7.25 goals a game; there was bound to be a drop-off. There has been. Excluding a 15-2 win over Manhattan College on March 12, the Tigers have given up an average of 10 goals a game, putting them in the middle of the Division-I pack. But they’ve scored an average of 12.5 goals a game, up from 11.2 last year and tied for ninth in the country. Thanks in large part to that performance, Princeton enters Saturday’s game against Syracuse with a 6-2 record and a solid chance to defend its Ivy League title and return to the NCAA Tournament.
Princeton and Syracuse have played some of the sport’s most memorable games since they met at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field in the 1992 national championship, a game that the Tigers won 10-9 in double overtime. Ten of their contests have come in the NCAA playoffs, and this year’s regular-season game could have similar importance when the tournament selection committee meets the first weekend in May, since both teams have solid but not overwhelming résumés. Syracuse, also 6-2, has beaten Johns Hopkins and Virginia but lost to Albany and Villanova. Princeton has lost by a goal to North Carolina and Penn and defeated Johns Hopkins, Hofstra, and Yale.
“The Syracuse game offers a great opportunity to get a good win against a traditional rival,” said Bates, who added that the game’s playoff implications “puts pressure on both teams given where we were. It’ll have an air of a big-time game.” The teams are evenly matched, though Syracuse has more depth than Princeton, which in turn has done much better at facing off. The Orangemen have won only 42 percent of their faceoffs this year, while Princeton’s Justin Murphy ’16 is winning 57 percent of his draws, which means more possessions for a potent Tiger offense.
For two years, Tom Schreiber ’14 has been Princeton’s best player on that side of the ball, and he is again in 2013. A first-team All-American midfielder last year, he has 17 goals and 16 assists despite being the focus of every opposing team’s game plan. Schreiber leads the offense, but he hasn’t carried it. Jeff Froccaro ’13 has 20 goals, including four each in a 15-8 win over Brown on March 30 and a 16-15 loss at North Carolina on March 9. His brother, midfielder Jake Froccaro ’16, runs on the first midfield with Schreiber and Kip Orban ’15 and has acquitted himself well with 11 goals. Jake is part of a strong freshman class that includes four starters, among them attackman Ryan Ambler ’16, who is second on the team in assists with 12.