Nearly 10 months after falling four goals short of an Ivy League championship, the men’s lacrosse team appears reloaded and ready to chase its first conference tournament title since 2010. The Tigers’ final game last May, a 12-8 loss against Yale, marked the second consecutive year they reached the championship game before falling to the Bulldogs.
Leading up to the disappointing finish, Princeton (9-6 overall, 3-3 Ivy League) had become the league’s second-highest scoring team by churning out 11.5 goals per Ivy game with 28.6 percent shooting accuracy. The Tigers’ potent offense boasted such impressive numbers in large part due to their ability to control the ball: averaging just 15.17 turnovers per game, the team played the most mistake-free brand of lacrosse in the Ivy League.
The squad’s defense had more difficulty finding success, however. Plagued by injury and inexperience (without the ailing junior defenseman Rob Posniewski, the corps comprised of three freshman, two juniors and one sophomore), Princeton posted a below-average 10.2 goals-against figure and trailed the entire conference with six caused turnovers per game. The team fared even worse in penalty situations: Opponents connected on a scorching 48 percent of their man-up shots, making Princeton the worst penalty-killing unit in the Ivy League.
As a whole, the team’s 2014 roster looks deeper, healthier and more experienced than last year’s. After graduating just five seniors, Princeton added 11 freshmen and welcomed back four upperclassmen who missed the 2013 season with injuries. Junior midfielder Will Himler, junior Rob Posniewski, senior midfielder Tucker Shanley and senior midfielder Forest Sonnenfeldt have all returned to full health and should make immediate individual impacts on the team’s performance. During their most recent complete season two years ago, Shanley, Sonnenfeldt and Himler racked up 28, 23 and 15 points, respectively.
In the eyes of three-time All-America senior captain and midfielder Tom Schreiber, the reemergence of these four veterans provides a solution to one of the team’s most troubling problems.
“One of our biggest issues last year was lack of depth, so having those guys back is big,” he said.
Offensively, the most debilitating blow to this year’s roster comes through the loss of graduated middie Jeff Froccaro ’13, whose 46 points last season were third only to Schreiber’s 60 and junior attack Mike MacDonald’s 59. In Froccaro’s absence, junior midfielder Will Rotatori should see an opportunity for increased playing time and point production.
On the other side of the field, freshman defenseman Will Reynolds is expected to earn significant playing time and become a key contributor right away. Schreiber, who was selected first overall in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Draft this January, offered his praises for the rookie’s display of talents this preseason.
“He’s just as college-ready as somebody can get,” he said. “He’s extremely solid, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got a good stick, he covers well, he picks the ball up well. As young as he is, it’s pretty impressive. He’s somebody who I think can even cover the opposing team’s number one guy.”
For Schreiber, whose three consecutive first-team All-Ivy honors have yet to culminate in a league title, the most important facet of this season will be ensuring his team’s level of play remains consistent throughout the course of its 13-plus game schedule. Schreiber pointed out that in both the Ivy League and NCAA tournament, the semifinal and final games call for two contests in just three days. He feels that more than any one tangible facet of his talented roster’s execution, staying focused and avoiding burnout will prove to be the most crucial factor in pushing his team from a second-place finish to a first-place one.
“We’re trying to peak at the right time and not really peak early in the season like the last couple years,” he said. “We’re really trying to take it one week at a time and not get too high or not get too low after a win or a loss.”
Schreiber and his Tigers will have their first chance to begin improving their record this Saturday at 11 a.m., when they host Hofstra at Sherrerd Field.