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Former Drexel coach Bates leads Princeton men in post-Tierney era

Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 2/3/10
From Press Releases

The 2009 Princeton men’s lacrosse season consisted of a mid-year ranking of No. 1, an Ivy League co-championship, a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals and a pair of losses to Cornell that prevented the Tigers from achieving more.
Princeton went 13-3 in 2009, with a pair of losses to Cornell and a pair of losses at Hofstra (regular season to the Pride, 6-4 to the Big Red in the quarterfinals). And then, with the end of the season, almost everything with Princeton lacrosse changed.
While the end of the 1998 season and the 2003 season saw Princeton basically wiped out by graduation, that is somewhat normal in college athletics. What happened to Princeton between the final whistle of the second Cornell game last year and the start of this preseason goes to a whole different level.
For starters, Bill Tierney resigned as head coach after six NCAA championships, 10 NCAA Final Fours and 14 Ivy League titles in 22 seasons to become the head coach at the University of Denver. David Metzbower, who had been Tierney’s top assistant for the final 20 of those seasons, decided to leave college coaching. Kevin Unterstein, who had been at Princeton for one year, went with Tierney to Denver.
The result is that the 2010 Princeton Tigers will be led by former Philadelphia Wing and Archbishop Ryan coach Chris Bates, who spent the last 10 years at Drexel. Bates is the 10th head coach in Princeton men’s lacrosse history and the sixth since the formation of Ivy League lacrosse in 1957, and the program he inherits has an all-time record of 641-446-19.
Bates, an All-Ivy League attackman at Dartmouth before graduating in 1990, went 70-71 in his decade a Drexel. His breakdown of wins: 15 his first three seasons, 24 his next four, 31 the last three.
Bates brought Greg Raymond back to Princeton after Raymond spent the 2009 season at Drexel and the three before that coaching with Tierney and Metzbower. Stephen Brundage, who was the third member of the Drexel staff a year ago, is in his first season at Princeton. Bryce Chase is the lone holdover on the coaching staff, and he will be back for his 39th year.
While almost all of the focus for Princeton in the off-season centered around the coaching changes, very little centered around the departure of eight seniors, all of whom played significant minutes for the last four years. Of the eight, seven were three-year starters and four were basically four-year starters. Princeton has had deep senior classes before, but it has never had a class where every member contributed as much for so long.
With all that, the 2010 season is clearly the start of a new era of Princeton lacrosse. Yes, there are five returning starters from a year ago, of whom three were All-Americas, but there will be a different feel and look to the team this year.
Even the schedule is completely different, as the Tigers open with Hofstra (first time since 1987), plays at North Carolina (first meeting with the Tar Heels since 1999), plays its Ivy League schedule in a different order (first time since 2002) and with a top four league finish would earn a spot in the first-ever Ivy League men’s lacrosse tournament. There are also three games in NFL stadiums, including participation in the first event ever held at the new Meadowlands Stadium.
The core group of upperclassmen is led by the junior McBride cousins (Jack and Chris) on attack, senior Scott MacKenzie in the midfield and senior captain Jeremy Hirsch on defense.
Princeton’s current sophomore class was the No. 1 ranked freshman class a year ago, and it featured nine of the Top 100 recruits in the country (according to Inside Lacrosse). Still, of that group, only three – G Tyler Fiorito, D Chad Wiedmaier, LSM John Cunningham – made significant contributions, and one of those three (Cunningham) missed nearly half the season due to injury. In addition, Wiedmaier, arguably the best player on the team, will miss the first half of this season with a knee injury.
Now that group of sophomores is ready to make a huge contribution, along with a freshman class that should have a few players see immediate playing time.

A position-by-position look at the 2010 Tigers:
Starter returning – Haverford School graduate and senior Paul Barnes (4-0-4, 145×299)
Starters lost – none
Other letterwinners returning – Zach Drexler (1×6), Peter Smyth (12×25)
Newcomers – none
Barnes gave Princeton something it hadn’t had in a long time, and that was a face-off specialist who could also score, something Barnes did four times, including twice against Johns Hopkins. There are quite a few players who could potentially face-off as well; the two most likely are Peter Smyth, who won almost half of his 25 face-offs last year but may be more of a shortstick D middie, and Zach Drexler. Freshmen Jeff Froccaro, Bobby Lucas and Rob Castelo could also face-off.

Starters returning – Chris McBride (18-6-24), Jack McBride (35-7-42, second-team All-America)
Starters lost – Tommy Davis (27-17-44, honorable mention All-America)
Other letterwinners returning – Alex Capretta (1-0-1), Rob Engelke (9-4-13), Mike Grossman (0-0-0), Peter Gudmundsen (0-0-0), Cliff Larkin (1-0-1)
Other letterwinners lost – none
Newcomers – Luke Armour, Forest Sonnenfeldt
Jack McBride is a preseason first-team All-America and on pace to be one of the great goals-scorers in school history; Chris McBride had an outstanding season in his first year as a starter and figures to improve this year. The big question is who takes over for four-year starter Tommy Davis as the third member of the attack unit, and there is no shortage of candidates. It could be senior Rob Engelke, who played mostly in extra-man situations a year ago, or sophomore Alex Capretta, who played more than any other member of his class on offense a year ago, though mostly in the midfield. Sophomore Mike Grossman was hurt almost all of last year but is a big scoring threat. If you’re looking for a really big scoring threat, try 6-6, 250-pound freshman Forest Sonnenfeldt; fellow freshman Luke Armour and sophomore Cliff Larkin might also see the field.

Offensive Midfield
Starters returning – Scott MacKenzie (13-16-29)
Starters lost – Mark Kovler (34-9-43, first-team All-America), Rich Sgalardi (18-24-42, honorable mention All-America)
Other letterwinners returning – Matt Doherty (0-0-0), Mark Feild (0-0-0), Sam Hayes (0-0-0), David Marshall (0-1-1), Tyler Moni (2-1-3), Ryan Morrell (0-0-0), Rob Owen (injured for 2009), Tim Palmer (0-0-0)
Other letterwinners lost – Greg Seaman (5-0-5)
Newcomers – Mike Chanenchuk (injured for 2009), Jeff Froccaro, Bobby Lucas, Tucker Shanley, Chris White
Princeton graduated first-team All-America Mark Kovler, who was a starter for four years, and honorable mention All-America Rich Sgalardi, whose senior year of 18 goals and 24 assists for 42 points more than doubled his career total prior to last season. The last time Princeton graduated two All-America middies, one of whom had been first-team? How about 1994, when Scott Reinhardt was first-team and Paul Murphy was honorable mention. The time before that? Kenneth Miller (first-team) and Howard Fish (third-team) in 1952. In other words, it’s not something that happens too often. And of course it leaves a gaping hole in Princeton’s first midfield unit. There is an army of players hoping to step in to join the lone holdover, Scott MacKenzie, who had a 29-point junior season. Tyler Moni and Alex Capretta played on the second midfield a year ago, though Capretta is more of an attackman. Seniors Ryan Morrell, David Marshall and Sam Hayes are hoping to capture Sgalardi’s magic, but to do so, they’ll have to earn playing time over some strong young players. Mike Chanenchuk was a highly regarded freshman a year ago before a back injury wiped out his entire year; he is back this year with four years of eligibility. Jeff Froccaro is another freshman with great potential, though he is coming off a knee injury. Chris White and Tucker Shanley are also first-year players who could see significant playing time.

Starters returning – Jeremy Hirsch (started every game in 2008 and 2009, 25 GB, 10 CT), Chad Wiedmaier (1-1-2, 29 GB, 24 CT, started every game in 2009, second-team All-America)
Starters lost – Chris Peyser (21 GB, 17 CT, started every game last three seasons, third-team All-America)
Other letterwinners returning – Travis Boyce, Bill Coughlin, Long Ellis, Mike Flanagan, Jonathan Meyers, Peter Niehaus, Tim Novick
Newcomers – none
One of the team’s strengths has a serious question mark as sophomore All-America Chad Wiedmaier is out until at least mid-season with a knee injury. Wiedmaier started every game a year ago and was also a first-team All-Ivy League selection, as well as a dynamic presence on the field. Princeton knew it would be without the graduated Chris Peyser, a third-team All-America last year who started every game the last three years. The lone returning starter ready for opening day will be senior captain Jeremy Hirsch, who like Peyser a year ago comes into his senior season having started every game as a sophomore and junior. As for the two players who will start with Hirsch, at least until Wiedmaier is healthy, again, there are many possible combinations. Sophomore Jonathan Meyers gave up football to concentrate on lacrosse after his playing time increased over the second half of his freshman year; he appears ready for one starting spot. Long Ellis has played close defense, longstick midfield and shortstick defensive midfield, often in the same game, and he can play anywhere on the defensive end. The rest of the defense is mostly untested, and there are several players who could play longstick midfield or defense.

Starter returning – Tyler Fiorito (.587 save %, 7.40 GAA, honorable mention All-America)
Other letterwinners returning – Nikhil Ashra (.471 save %, 8.29 GAA), Christian Blake (.667 save %, 15.38 GAA)
Other letterwinners lost – none
Newcomers – none
Midway through the first quarter of a scrimmage game against the English national team last October, Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito reached high on his off-hand side to snag a rocket shot just before it got into the net. Even though it was a meaningless game on a cold night in the pouring rain, the message was clear: Beating Fiorito is not easy to do. Fiorito a year ago became the first Princeton freshman to start every game in goal since the legendary Scott Bacigalupo in 1991, and Fiorito finished fourth in Division I with a 7.40 goals-against average. He also had some spectacular games, including a 15-save performance against Syracuse that earned him Division I Player of the Week honors. Nikhil Ashra, a senior, was the backup to Fiorito last year and All-America Alex Hewit the two before that, but Ashra is a more-than-capable goalie who has played some big minutes in the past and put up some outstanding performances.

Longstick midfield
Starter returning – John Cunningham (1-1-2, 23 GB, 13 CT, missed six games due to injury)
Starter lost – Charlie Kolkin (19 GB, 18 CT, started for four years)
Other letterwinners returning – Derek Styer
Other letterwinners lost – none
Newcomers – Rob Castelo, Tom Gibbons
John Cunningham was off to a great start a year ago before a broken jaw wiped out the middle of his season. This year, he is entrenched as the No. 1 LSM for Princeton, and he should be among the best in Division I at the position. Princeton graduated Charlie Kolkin, who played every game but one during his four years, and so there is a spot for a complement to Cunningham. Among the contenders for the position are junior Derek Styer and freshman Rob Castelo. Junior Long Ellis would be the No. 2 LSM if he doesn’t play close defense.

Defensive Shortstick Midfield
Starters returning – none
Starters lost – Josh Lesko (6-2-8, 38 GB, 8 CT), Brendan Reilly (1-2-3, 18 GB, 3 CT)
Other letterwinners returning – Chris Chandler, Jimmy Davis (0-1-1, 6 GB, 4 CT), Oscar Loynaz, Connor Reilly (0-1-1, injured for last 12 games of 2009 and fall of 2009), Peter Smyth
Other letterwinners lost – none
Newcomers – none
While it’s easy to point to the offensive trio of Mark Kovler, Rich Sgalardi and Tommy Davis or longsticks Chris Peyser and Charlie Kolkin as the big graduation losses, in reality the hardest players to replace might be the two shortstick defensive middies, Josh Lesko and Brendan Reilly. Reilly was a four-year contributor at the position, and he teamed with converted offensive middie Lesko last year to form one of the best tandems Princeton has ever had. Chris Chandler, a senior, had his best season two years ago, when he teamed with Kolkin at longstick midfield, but he will be playing with a shortstick this year. Jimmy Davis, Tommy’s brother, was finally healthy last year after being slowed by injuries his first two years, and he put together a solid performance as the backup to Lesko and Reilly. Peter Smyth, who mostly was a face-off man his freshman year, could have a greatly expanded role this year as a SSDM, while Connor Reilly (Brendan’s brother) could play here if he is healthy after having missed the final 12 games a year ago due to injury. Sophomore Oscar Loynaz had a big fall and put himself into position to get on the field.



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