Froccaro Brothers' Play Flourishes at Villanova
A year ago, when he was recovering from an early-season concussion suffered while playing for the Princeton Tigers, Jake Froccaro knew he was done for the season, yet he had a plan.
Froccaro withdrew from school, requested a medical redshirt, and aimed to return to the field this season for Princeton. There, he would be joined by his brother, incoming freshman Joey Froccaro, thus continuing a family connection that included older brother Jeff, a former All-American attackman who graduated from Princeton in 2013.
That plan changed for both Jake and Joey Froccaro, who are still together in 2016, but at a place they didn't figure on a year ago.
Joey Froccaro de-committed to Princeton and signed with Villanova. Jake Froccaro decided to rethink his strategy, and the idea of transferring to 'Nova made good sense. Besides being able to reunite with Joey, their sister, Jackie Froccaro, the Big East Attacker of the Year in 2015, is playing her final season with the Villanova women's lacrosse team as a graduate student.
The Froccaros' decision to relocate already is reaping major rewards for Villanova. The Wildcats are off to a 5-1 start under 10th-year coach Mike Corrado, have risen to No. 8 in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine rankings, and jumped to an all-time high of No. 6 in the USILA Coaches Poll.
And Villanova largely owes its five-game winning streak to an explosive offense that has received huge injections from the Froccaro brothers.
Jake Froccaro, a redshirt junior, arrived on the Philadelphia campus with a well-deserved reputation as a skillful scorer, and he has been better than advertised at attack. His 27 goals and 4.5 goals per game average lead Division I.
Joey Froccaro (nine goals, two assists) has been instrumental as well, primarily as a second-line midfielder who has done everything for the Wildcats. He has helped Villanova on offense and defense, has been a faceoff wing and has been used on the crease with the extra-man unit. He also has given star faceoff man Luke Palmadesso a break by taking occasional draws.
"Villanova has been a perfect fit," Jake Froccaro said. "There was a sense of nervousness when I got here in the fall. I knew some of the guys from playing in the summer, but it's still a new situation. I could tell pretty quickly that we have a very tight-knit group in the locker room."
"At the end of the day, our guys really want to win and so do the Froccaros," Corrado said. "That makes it an easy match."
Jake Froccaro had been an accomplished midfielder at Princeton, which has suffered without the Froccaros during its 2-4 start in 2016.
At Princeton, he became only the second freshman ever to record at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a season. As a sophomore in 2014, he was second on the team with 27 goals. He was injured against Maryland in last season's second game.
The Wildcats played Jake Froccaro at midfield for much of last fall, but ultimately decided he was too valuable not to have on the field for the full game.
Jake Froccaro's early dividends include an eight-goal day in a 19-9 rout of Penn State – his first win as a Wildcat – and a seven-goal game in a 16-8 blowout of Penn on March 12. Both performances earned him Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors.
"We knew we were bringing in two really good players. Those two have fit in here seamlessly," said Simon Connor, Villanova's offensive coordinator.
"Jake is our best shooter. He's smart. He enjoys the freedom to probe defenses from behind the goal, from up top with a downhill dodge or the wings. Joey is just exceptional. On the practice field, he might be our best all-around player. His lacrosse IQ is high."
"I know where Jake is going to be. He knows where I'm going to be," Joey Froccaro said. "Sometimes it feels like we're back playing in our back yard."
Clearly, the Wildcats are not playing around. Villanova is averaging 16 goals per game, second-best in the nation.
Attackmen Devin McNamara (15g, 7a) and Christian Cuccinello (11g, 8a) have been excellent as finishers and feeders. Jack Curran (19 points) has led the first midfield. Joey Froccaro is one of four, second-line midfielders who have combined to score 24 goals.
"I thought our coaches did a great adjusting our game plan in the preseason," Jake Froccaro said. "After we lost scrimmages to Stony Brook and Yale, they wanted us to push the tempo more, take more shots."
With Palmadesso (.678) ranked sixth in the NCAA in faceoff winning percentage, the Wildcats have shown shades of Big East rival Denver with their ability to generate huge scoring runs. Witness their 23-13 destruction of Delaware on March 5, featuring a combined eight goals and four assists from the Froccaro brothers.
The Wildcats are angling for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and their third trip overall. A week before their league opener at Marquette, and two weeks before a date with visiting, top-ranked Denver, Nova will try to extend its five-game winning streak on Saturday against visiting Fairfield.
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