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Men’s lacrosse preview: Princeton looks to make big improvement after injury-filled year

Monday, 20th February 2012

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/20/12
From Press Release

If ever a team needed to turn the page on a season, it was the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team and the year 2011.
Princeton suffered through a nightmare of injury after injury, close loss after close loss, until 16 players had been sidelined and the season ended at 4-8.

After that, tragedy struck the program with the death of Ann Bates, wife of head coach Chris Bates, at the end of November.

While it’s true that Princeton is coming off a 4-8 year, it’s also two years removed from an Ivy League title and a first-round home game in the NCAA tournament. The current senior class is dotted with players who had key roles as freshmen, when Princeton reached the No. 1 ranking in the polls in midseason.

Princeton begins the 2012 season with arguably the nation’s top goalie and top defenseman, not to mention All-Americas at offensive midfield and longstick midfield.

Beyond those four, there is an army of players who gained experience last year, either by design of through all of the injuries, as well as a freshman class that will provide additional competition for playing time.

As always, the schedule is tough, with five of the seven non-league opponents ranked in the top 14 and eight of the 13 regular-season opponents ranked in the top 15.

A position-by-position look at the 2012 Princeton Tigers:

Attack

Starters returning – Luke Armour (9-5-14), Cliff Larkin (3-6-9)

Starters lost – Chris McBride (13-4-17)

Other letterwinners returning – Hunter DeButts (0-1-1), Forest Sonnenfeldt (10-0-10)

Other letterwinners lost – Peter Gudmundsen, Jack McBride (1-0-1), Rob Owen

Newcomers – Brendan DeTomasso, Mike McDonald, Will Rotatori

Offensive Midfield

Starters returning – Jeff Froccaro (13-3-16), Tom Schreiber (16-13-29), Tucker Shanley (5-0-5)

Starters lost – none

Other letterwinners returning – Freddy Addy, Alex Capretta (3-2-5), Mark Feild (2-1-3), Mike Grossman (4-1-5), Will Himler

Other letterwinners lost – Matt Doherty, Tyler Moni (5-2-7), Tim Palmer

Newcomers – Brendan McGrath (Haverford School), Kip Orban, Ben Reynolds, Paul Zima

It might not be worth the time to separate out Princeton’s attack and offensive midfield units, since so many of the pieces are either unsettled or interchangeable.

So let’s start with the knowns.

Four-year starter Chris McBride graduated, as did his cousin Jack, who was injured for almost of the 2011 season.

Other knowns?

Tom Schreiber, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a 2012 preseason first-team All-America, led the Tigers in goals and assists last year, something that no other freshman had ever done. He will definitely be a first-line midfielder.

Junior Jeff Froccaro, who tied for second on the team with 13 goals last year, is the only offensive player who started every game a year ago. Froccaro in his first two years has shown an ability to score big goals in big spots.

Beyond that? Who knows. It’s not just who will be on the field; it’s whether they’ll be attackmen or middies.

One by-product of all the injuries in 2011 was that more players got a chance to contribute than otherwise might have. Now in 2012, there are so many pieces that fitting them together becomes the challenge.

At various times last year, Luke Armour, Mike Grossman, Forest Sonnenfeldt and Cliff Larkin started alongside Chris McBride on attack. Add in Alex Capretta, Hunter DeButts, Will Himler, Mark Feild, Tucker Shanley (game-winner in the fourth OT against Brown) and freshmen Mike McDonald, Brendan McGrath and Kip Orban, almost any of whom could be on attack or midfield – or back and forth – and there are certainly enough options for the Tigers.

Princeton struggled offensively last year, where the injuries hit the hardest. Improving on numbers like 7.1 goals per game and .222 team shooting are essential – and likely.

Shortstick Defensive Midfield

Starters returning – Nick Fernandez, Jack Strabo

Starters lost – none

Other letterwinners returning – Oscar Loynaz, Bobby Lucas, Peter Smyth, Chris White

Other letterwinners lost – Connor Reilly

Newcomers – none

On a team that was crunched by injuries, Nick Fernandez led the Tigers with three – an ankle sprain, concussion and broken arm – and yet came back each time.

Because of the injuries, Princeton threw then-freshman Jack Strabo onto the field, and he responded by being the top shortstick d middie for the Tigers in 2011. Strabo and Fernandez, now sophomores, figure to be the cornerstones of a unit that is both young and yet experienced.

Junior Bobby Lucas, who also can face-off, has been slowed by injuries both of his first two years. Chris White, another junior, went from a reliable offensive middie to an emergency defensive one last year; he will be back on defense in 2012.

Peter Smyth is a face-off specialist who has played a great deal of shortstick defense in his career. Like many on Princeton’s team, Smyth had a down 2011 after a very strong 2010, when he won 57 of 114 face-offs, turned them into two goals and four assists and was effective playing 6 on 6.

Face-Off

Starters returning – Jeff Froccaro (30×73), Bobby Lucas (30×65), Peter Smythe (22×60)

Starters lost – none

Other letterwinners returning – none

Other letterwinners lost – Zach Drexler (5×16)

Newcomers – Justin Murphy

Princeton won 40% of its face-offs in 2011. A year earlier, Jeff Froccaro, Bobby Lucas and Peter Smythe all won at least 50% of their face-offs.

It might seem a bit simplistic, but Princeton averaged 38.5 shots and just under 10 goals per game in 2010. In 2011, Princeton averaged 31.9 shots per game and just over seven goals per game.

The same three who have taken most of the face-offs the last two years are back. They’re joined by freshman Justin Murphy, who missed most of the fall with an injury and is still a few weeks away from being able to compete.

Longstick Midfield

Starter returning – John Cunningham

Starter lost – none

Other letterwinners returning – Tom Gibbons, Derick Raabe

Other letterwinners lost – Derek Styer

Newcomers – none

John Cunningham is in his second year as a team captain and fourth year as a regular longstick midfielder for the Tigers. Cunningham, selected by the Denver Outlaws in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse draft, is as good as any pole Princeton has had in the last 25 years, and, with six career goals and eight career points, maybe the best Princeton has had in turning defense into offense. He also was second on the team last year with 14 caused turnovers and ground balls with 29.

Derick Raabe played as Cunningham’s backup last year, as well as on close defense, where he started two games. This year, he’s probably going to be strictly an LSM.

Tom Gibbons was thrown into the fire as well last season with all the injuries and showed himself to be a solid option as a pole.

Defense

Starters returning – Jonathan Meyers, Chad Wiedmaier

Starters lost – Long Ellis

Other letterwinners returning – Brandon Bonvino, Travis Boyce, Rob Castelo, Bill Coughlin, Mike Flanagan, Andrew McCall, Rob Posniewski, Brian Reilly

Other letterwinners lost – none

Newcomers – Alex Beatty (Haverford School)

Princeton’s 2011 defense was one of the best in Division I, and even with the loss of Major League Lacrosse player Long Ellis, the 2012 Tigers figure to be up there with any team in Division I – and with some of the great units that the program has had. It starts with Chad Wiedmaier, who could accomplish something that no other Princeton player (and only one other Ivy Leaguer, Cornell’s Max Siebald) has ever done, and that’s be a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection (something that Cornell senior Rob Pannell can also match this year). Wiedmaier, the seventh pick in the 2012 MLL draft, is a top shutdown defenseman who has started every game he’s been healthy for since Day 1 of his freshman year

Jonathan Meyers has played longstick midfield and close defense, and he seems set next to Wiedmaier for his senior year as well. Injury limited Meyers to nine games a year ago, six of which he started on defense.

The third spot last year alongside Wiedmaier and Ellis belonged to Rob Castelo, until he tore his ACL in the second game of the year, at Johns Hopkins (a game that the Tigers won 8-3). Castelo missed the remainder of the season, and he is back as a sophomore again this year.

Bill Coughlin will also push for considerable playing time. Mike Flanagan is a veteran who started two games last year and has played a ton of man-down defense in his career.

Goalie

Starter returning – Tyler Fiorito

Starter lost – none

Other letterwinner returning – Brian Kavanagh

Other letterwinner lost – Christian Blake

Newcomer – Eric Sanschagrin

No matter what went wrong last year, Princeton always had a chance thanks to No. 6, whose performance in 2011 was nothing short of spectacular game-in, game-out. Tyler Fiorito, a three-time All-America and two-time first-team All-Ivy selection, is as good as any goalie in Division I and any who has ever played at Princeton.

A year ago, Fiorito was second in Division I in save percentage (.615) and eighth in Division I in goals-against average (7.53), and he finished the season with an amazing 20-save performance against Cornell.

Fiorito was the 10th pick in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse draft.

Brian Kavanagh and Eric Sanschagrin will compete to be the backup – and to be his replacement next year. This year, it’s all Fiorito.

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