One year ago in Baltimore, Md., a young team with only two games under its belt put on one of the greatest performances in recent Princeton men’s lacrosse memory as they beat the then-No. 3 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays by an 11-8 margin.
No. 9 men’s lacrosse (2-1) failed to repeat such a bold performance this time around. No. 5 Johns Hopkins put together a convincing 15-9 win at the Class of 1952 Stadium’s Sherrerd Field, pulling away with an 8-1 scoring run during the middle two quarters. A trio of Princeton goals near the end of the third period made it a 12-8 game going into the final 15 minutes. The Blue Jays scored early to pull away, with Ryan Brown notching the contest’s final goal with 8:36 to play. Brown found the net five times and added three assists for a game-high eight points.
Senior captain and midfielder Jack Strabo, who features heavily in the Princeton defensive rotation, noted that managing the pace of play was essential in a competitive first period. After the first quarter, Hopkins was more or less able to dictate play.
“In the first quarter we did a good job of controlling possessions,” Strabo said. “They got a bunch of penalties, and we capitalized on some of our man-up advantages, which was good. We were pretty solid at the faceoff X too.”
Remarkably, this marks the sixth consecutive time this matchup has gone to the visitor — the 2009 and 2010 iterations were billed as Konica Minolta Face-off Classics and were played in Baltimore at the Raven’s M&T Bank Stadium. This rivalry features two of the great college lacrosse programs and perennially pits talented rosters against each other.
Then freshman Matt O’Connor added game-ball-worthy performance to his team’s winning effort last year. Now a sophomore, O’Connor occupies a goalie limbo with senior Brian Kavanagh. In each of Princeton’s three games, the two have split halves but neither player has quite distinguished himself as a clear starter.
No goaltender has been quite able to fill the hole left in the cage with the graduation of thrice first-team All-Ivy star Tyler Fiorito ’12. John Hopkins’ Eric Schneider recorded 13 saves on the day in an outstanding outing for the senior.
Senior midfielder Schreiber continued his seemingly unstoppable 35-game scoring streak. His three goals led the team. Sophomore attackman Ryan Ambler led his side in points with two goals and three assists.
Although this year’s squad is replete with talented players, Strabo emphasized that any team success will have to come by means of a team effort.
“When we play well, it’s when everyone on the field plays well,” he explained. “That’s the most important thing for us and what we’ve been focusing on.”
Otherwise noteworthy was freshman defenseman Will Reynolds’ individual showdown with John Hopkins’ Wells Stanwick. The athletic underclassman kept pace with one of the nation’s greatest players. Reynolds’ play and refusal to be beaten one-on-one, however, was not quite enough to shut Stanwick down, as the superstar managed five points on three goals and two assists.
“Will’s a stud. He’s been great so far,” Strabo said. “It’s really tough to come out as a freshman and start, obviously, and that’s why not very many people do it. But he and Bear Goldstein, our other freshman who’s starting, have dealt with a big adjustment from high school to college. It’s a lot faster, and everyone’s a lot better. But I think that he did a great job covering Wells. He was on an island more or less, so we weren’t sliding to him a ton.”
Coaches’ national rankings have yet to be released at the time of publication, but it is likely that the No. 9 Tigers will slip out of the top 10. This Friday, the Class of 1952 Stadium will host the currently No. 3 Tar Heels of UNC. The light blue side cruised past early season opponents but fell this past weekend to Notre Dame in overtime. If Princeton defensemen thought they had their hands full with Wells Stanwick, star UNC attackman Jimmy Bitter will cause fits for coaches and players alike. Strabo said his team will have to “turn the page quickly” to prepare for this matchup on a short week.
“It’s very early in the season. We’re not trying to be the best team on March 1,” the senior captain explained. “We’re trying to be the best team on May 1 and later on in the season. So I think this was a good test for us early on. Hopkins is a very good team, and they played very well. But there definitely were some positives that we can draw from the game. I think that playing in an environment like that and in front of a big crowd against a big opponent was our first big test. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to our potential. But I think that having that experience and having that loss adds a little bit of an extra edge and extra motivation.”