March 1, 2013

Princeton's Kids Are All Right, Beat Johns Hopkins

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Princeton freshman Jake Froccaro had two goals and two assists Friday night against No. 3 Johns Hopkins.

BALTIMORE — Princeton coach Chris Bates was understandably concerned. His 12th-ranked Tigers were on the road, playing in just their second game of the season, with four freshmen in the starting lineup and only six seniors on their entire roster.

And their assignment was to manufacture a victory at Homewood Field against a significantly more experienced opponent in third-ranked, unbeaten Johns Hopkins.

But on Friday night, in a nationally televised game, there was Princeton, acting like the older guys.

There was Princeton, withstanding a barrage of Hopkins shots in the first half and taking a slim lead at halftime. There was Princeton, absorbing an inevitable Hopkins run in the second half and answering with impressive counterpunches. There was Princeton, playing with cool and smarts in the fourth quarter, before getting out of Baltimore with a huge, early-season win.

In their 11-8 victory over Hopkins, the Tigers (2-1) brought their experience to bear. Senior attackman Jeff Froccaro scored three goals and four points, while junior midfielder Tom Schreiber added three goals and senior defensive midfielder Chris White ended the game's scoring with 5:40 left by finishing a fast break that followed an unforced Hopkins turnover.

But the kids were all right as well for Princeton, as freshman midfielder Jake Froccaro hurt the Blue Jays with two goals and two assists and freshman goalie Matt O'Connor (10 saves) out-played Hopkins senior Pierce Bassett (seven). Sophomore attackman Mike MacDonald also had two goals.

"I thought we played with a lot of poise, and I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised by it," Bates said. "Hopkins is a heck of a team and they're going to be awfully good, but I thought we managed the game extremely well. That really impressed me."

Before 2,352 on a chilly, breezy evening, the Tigers handed Hopkins (3-1) its first defeat because Princeton was neater and cleaner at key times than the Blue Jays, who shot 4-for-27 in the first half, committed 15 turnovers, broke down too much defensively, and got no offensive production out of their first midfield.

Junior attackman Brandon Benn led Hopkins with four goals. Freshman second-line midfielder Holden Cattoni scored two goals. Senior attackman Zach Palmer and junior Wells Stanwick chipped in one goal each. Senior midfielder Lee Coppersmith also highlighted the second group with the first three assists of his career.

For the Blue Jays, it was a night of wasted chances, during which senior Mike Poppleton was dominant again (15-for-22) at the faceoff X. Hopkins out-shot Princeton, 27-17, in the first half, yet trailed at halftime by a 5-4 count. The Blue Jays also went 1-for-4 in extra-man situations.

"We were poor in the fundamentals. We shared the ball and got some good looks [at the goal]. But we didn't make the plays we needed to make. [Princeton] did," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said.

"We haven't been forced to play that much defense since the season started, and we had to keep [Schreiber and Jeff Frocarro] out of the middle of the field. We didn't. We wasted a really good effort [by Poppleton]."

It would have helped if Hopkins had done something with its first midfield, which was missing junior Rob Guida (undisclosed injury) for the second straight game. Seniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and junior Rex Sanders shot a combined, 0-for-11.

"The younger guys played older than they are."

— Princeton midfielder Tom Schreiber

But it was Princeton's poise that carried the night. Despite starting four freshmen and rolling out a rebuilt defense, the Tigers shot better, did a great job of pressuring the Hopkins midfield and never made mistakes that killed them – unlike Hopkins, which had a series of dropped passes that led to unforced turnovers.

Hopkins shined the most during a three-minute stretch early in the third quarter, in which the Blue Jays scored three goals — two by Cattoni on nice, catch-and-shoot plays and a garbage goal by Palmer — to take a 7-6 lead with 9:23 left. But the Blue Jays would manage just one goal over the remaining 24:23.

Jeff Frocarro, who was handful for senior, first-team All-American defenseman Tucker Durkin to guard, beat Durkin to the middle and buried a 10-yarder to tie it at 7-7. Then, with 3:31 left, MacDonald finished a pretty, five-pass sequence by scoring from on top of the crease to give the Tigers an 8-7 lead.

Hopkins' frustration mounted at the start of the fourth quarter, when Sanders got open, received a perfect pass about seven yards from the net and hit O'Connor in the chest. About a minute later, Schreiber made it 9-7 on a step-down, 12-yard bullet. Then, with 8:13 left in the game, MacDonald dodged from behind, got to the right side of the crease, and made it 10-7.

"I thought we were a little anxious in the fourth quarter," Durkin said. "We started pressing out a little bit and worrying about the score."

It showed in crunch time. After Benn scored his fourth goal following Coppersmith's third assist to cut the Princeton lead to 10-8, Bassett came up with a nice, one-on-save to deny MacDonald. But on the ensuing possession, Benn dropped a pass on the wing, and the resulting turnover was disastrous.

White scooped up the loose ball, streaked down the middle of the field, and completed his own fast break by beating Bassett from about 16 yards out to make it 11-8 with 5:40 left. Ballgame.

"We took advantage of certain things," Schreiber said. "The younger guys played older than they are."


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