February 5, 2011

Princeton Looks to Blend Newbies, Returnees

from press release

Chris Bates sat under a tent at Class of 1952 Stadium on a sun-drenched, warm May afternoon. Minutes earlier, his first season as the head men's lacrosse coach at Princeton had ended with an 8-5 loss to Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and now Bates was being asked about the abrupt end to his first year as the Tigers' head coach.

"The finality," he said, "is difficult to stomach."

Eventually, enough days and weeks went by, and the finality of 2010 vanished into the promise of 2011.

Now, eight months later, it's time for a new season to begin. The Princeton team that will take the field in 2011 is one with experienced, quality players all over the lineup, blended with an intriguing mix of newcomers and players who have been in the program for a year or two or three who will make greatly increased contributions.

Princeton returns six starters from a team that went 11-5 a year ago while winning a share of the Ivy League championship and then the first Ivy League tournament championship. Looking at it more in-depth, Princeton returns two starters on attack, one from its first offensive midfield, three from its second offensive midfield, three of its top four defensive shortsticks, all three of its face-off men, its top four longstick midfielders, two of its three starters on defense and its goalie.

Princeton will play 12 regular season games in 2011, including six in the Ivy League (three against ranked teams) and six outside the league (five ranked teams and longtime rival Rutgers). In all, Princeton will play the No. 2 (Syracuse), No. 3 (North Carolina), No. 8 (Cornell), No. 9 (Hofstra), No. 11 (Johns Hopkins), No. 19 (Yale) and No. 20 (Brown) teams in the first USILA coaches' poll. Villanova, another Princeton opponent, is unranked by the coaches but ranked 20th by the media.

The season doesn't get off to an easy start, with games at Hofstra and Hopkins followed by home dates against North Carolina and Villanova before the Ivy season begins.

The 2011 Tigers, position-by-position:

Attack

Starters returning - Chris McBride (16-8-24), Jack McBride (35-16-51)

Starters lost - Rob Engelke (17-21-38)

Other letterwinners returning -Luke Armour (1-0-1), Alex Capretta (4-0-4), Peter Gudmundson (0-0-0), Cliff Larkin (0-0-0), Forest Sonnenfeldt (4-1-5)

Newcomer - Will Himler

Jack McBride enters his senior season off back-to-back 35-goal seasons; equaling that number this year would leave him fourth all-time in goals at Princeton. McBride needs 11 to become the ninth 100-goal scorer in program history, and he ended his junior year with 114 points, 21st best all-time at Princeton.

McBride had a great postseason last year, with three goals against both Yale and Cornell in the Ivy League tournament - including the game-winning goal in overtime in the final against the Big Red - and then a two-goal, three-assist performance against Notre Dame as he helped account for all of Princeton's goals in the 8-5 loss.

Jack is not the only McBride who will be a senior captain on attack this year for the Tigers, as his cousin Chris will also be one. Chris McBride had 24 points as a sophomore and 24 more as a junior and is a reliable, proven scorer.

The third attack spot a year ago belonged to Rob Engelke, who gave Princeton its best pure feeder since Ryan Boyle. Engelke's graduation opens up at least one spot alongside the McBrides, and there are some high quality options, including two players who have lasers for shots, junior Alex Capretta and sophomore Forest Sonnenfeldt, as well as senior Peter Gudmundson, junior Cliff Larkin and sophomore Luke Armour - who scored his first career goal in the Ivy League tournament final.

Offensive Midfield

Starters returning - Jeff Froccaro (15-7-22)

Starters lost - Mike Chanenchuk (28-8-36), Scott MacKenzie (10-11-21)

Other letterwinners returning - Matt Doherty (0-0-0), Mark Feild (0-0-0), Mike Grossman (4-3-7), Tyler Moni (8-1-7), Tim Palmer (0-0-0), Rob Owen (0-0-0), Tucker Shanley (2-0-2), Chris White (2-0-2)

Other letterwinners lost - Paul Barnes (4-0-4), Sam Hayes (0-0-0), David Marshall (0-0-0), Ryan Morrell (0-0-0)

Newcomers - Freddy Addy, Hunter DeButts, Tom Schreiber, Jack Strabo

Senior captain Tyler Moni was off to a big offensive start a year ago before moving to defensive midfield for the final two-thirds of the season. This year, Moni, who was on the second offensive midfield unit as a sophomore before playing offense and defense last year, figures to finally be a full-time first-line midfielder.

The lone returning starter is sophomore Jeff Froccaro, who had a big freshman year, one that included an overtime goal against Penn and the game-winning goal against Yale. He figured to be one of two returning sophomores in the midfield, but instead he finds himself as the highest scoring returning offensive middie.

Princeton graduated Scott MacKenzie, a steady veteran presence who was in the first midfield for three years, and Mike Chanenchuk, the 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year after a 28-goal freshman season, withdrew from school for the spring of 2011.

Still, Princeton has all kinds of options in the midfield, not to mention some interchangeable parts that could be moved from attack. Junior Mike Grossman started much of the year at midfield, and sophomores Tucker Shanley and Chris White played more and more as last year went on. Junior Mark Feild was just starting to get his chance when he broke his jaw last year, and he is back healthy this time. The freshman class is deep at this position, with a group of six that includes one of the top newcomers in Division I lacrosse, Tom Schreiber.

Defensive Midfield

Starters returning - Peter Smyth (2-4-6)

Starters lost - Tyler Moni (moved back to offense)

Other letterwinners returning - Bobby Lucas (0-0-0), Connor Reilly (0-0-0)

Other letterwinners lost - Chris Chandler, (0-0-0), Jimmy Davis (0-2-2), Oscar Loynaz (junior who is out for the season due to shoulder injury)

Newcomer - Nick Fernandez

Princeton used four shortsticks primarily last year, of whom three are back, though only two may play defense. With senior captain Tyler Moni back on offense, the two returnees are juniors Peter Smyth and Connor Reilly; Smyth and Moni were the top pair for the second half of last year, while Reilly saw considerable time as well. With a season-ending injury to junior Oscar Loynaz, Princeton will also rely on sophomore Bobby Lucas (who also faces off) and freshman Nick Fernandez.

Longstick Midfield

Starter returning - John Cunningham (5-0-5, 54 GBs, 13 caused turnovers)

Other letterwinners returning - Rob Castelo (0-0-0), Tom Gibbons (0-0-0), Derek Styer (1-0-1, 4 GBs, 2 caused turnovers)

Other letterwinners lost - none

Newcomers - Brandon Bonvino

Princeton has had some great longstick midfielders through the years, but current pole John Cunningham is as good as any of them, especially in transition and as a goal-scorer. Cunningham last year scored five goals, the most by a Princeton longstick in at least the last 30 years and maybe ever. Cunningham, a team captain though only a junior, was off to a strong start his freshman year when a broken jaw cost him half his season, but he came back last year as a sophomore to make a national name for himself.

Jonathan Meyers moved from close defense to LSM last year after Chad Wiedmaier came back from injury, but Meyers will be back at close defense this year. Senior Derek Styer was the No. 2 pole while Meyers was on defense, and sophomore Rob Castelo played well in a limited role a year ago.

Defense

Starters returning - Long Ellis (0-0-0, 26 GBs, 22 caused turnovers), Chad Wiedmaier (0-0-0, 12 GBs, 12 caused turnovers)

Starters lost - Jeremy Hirsch (0-1-1, 15 GBs, nine caused turnovers)

Other letterwinners returning - Bill Coughlin (0-0-0, 2 caused turnovers), Mike Flanagan (0-0-0, 2 caused turnovers), Jonathan Meyers (0-0-0, 25 GBs, 11 caused turnovers)

Other letterwinners lost - Peter Niehaus (0-0-0), Tim Novick (0-0-0)

Newcomers - Rob Posniewski, Derick Raabe, Brian Reilly

Through its history, Princeton has had some great defensive units; the 2011 version has the potential to join that elite list. The close defensive unit starts with a preseason first-team All-America and includes a three-year starter and another two-year starter.

The main man is junior Chad Wiedmaier, a preseason first-team All-America who was a second-team All-America and first-team All-Ivy selection last year despite missing the first six games due to an off-season knee injury. Wiedmaier, a dynamic defender who has thrown blankets over some of the top attackmen in Division I, is already one of the best at his position in program history, and he has two full seasons to go.

Joining Wiedmaier is senior Long Ellis, who has been a mainstay each of the last two seasons. A year ago, Ellis led the team with 22 caused turnovers, and he is big, strong and fast. Jonathan Meyers, who started on defense last year when Wiedmaier was hurt and then played longstick midfield the rest of the way, is bigger, stronger and faster, and he gives Princeton a third defenseman who has played significant minutes at a high level in his career. Beyond those three, Mike Flanagan continues to push to be on the field; Flanagan was a member of the man-down unit last year. Junior Bill Coughlin and freshmen Rob Posniewski, Brian Reilly and Derick Raabe could also find minutes.

Goalie

Starter returning - Tyler Fiorito (8.58 GAA, .569 save %)

Other letterwinner returning - Christian Blake (9.29 GAA, .400 save %)

Letterwinners lost - Nikhil Ashra (missed 2010 due to injury), Yuri Larrabee (14.01 GAA, .000 save %)

Newcomer - Brian Kavanagh

Tyler Fiorito has already done something that only one other goalie in Princeton history has done - start every game as a freshman and sophomore. The other was Scott Bacigalupo, who recently entered the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Now an experienced junior, Fiorito has been everything he was billed to be when he arrived two years ago, and he is as good as any goalie in Division I. He is equally as dangerous stopping the ball as he is starting it the other way, as his assist to Jack McBride on a 70-yard pass against Rutgers a year ago showed. Senior Christian Blake and freshman Brian Kavanagh will back up Fiorito.

Faceoff

Starters returning - Jeff Froccaro (90x177, .508, 44 GBs), Peter Smyth (57x114, .500, 25 GBs)

Other letterwinners returning - Zach Drexler (no stats in 2010), Bobby Lucas (25x48, .521, 14 GBs)

Princeton won four more face-offs than it lost in 2010, winning 176 while losing 172. While that might not seem like much, it represented a +26 swing from a year earlier, when Princeton lost 22 more than it won. In fact, Princeton's top three face-off men - Jeff Froccaro, Peter Smyth, Bobby Lucas - all were at least .500.

Froccaro, an offensive middie, took the most face-offs with 177, including wins to start overtimes against Johns Hopkins and Penn, both of which became Princeton wins on the first OT possession. Smyth, a defensive shortstick, took 114, winning half. Lucas was off to a strong start early in the season, going 25 for 48 before a back injury ended his year. Zach Drexler, who was out of school last year, is another option.


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