Men's Lacrosse: Tigers kick off season vs. Canisius
Canisius is viewed as an easy opponent by some, as it plays in the relatively weak Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). But last season, the Golden Griffins gave the Tigers all they could handle for three quarters. With the game tied at six heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers exploded for seven goals and won 13-6. But it was Canisius that went on to qualify for the NCAA tournament, not Princeton.
Head coach Bill Tierney said he is aware of the challenge that lies ahead.
“Canisius is probably one of the two or three most improved programs in the country,” Tierney said. “We’ve got our hands full.”
The Golden Griffin offense is anchored by the tandem of midfielder Adam Jones and attack Nick LoCoco. The reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year, LoCoco finished last season with 12 goals and 34 assists.
LoCoco’s favorite target is Jones, who last season became the Golden Griffins’ first All-American. Jones finished the year with 38 goals, nine assists and 21 ground balls. Over the summer, he earned Most Valuable Player honors at the Under-19 World Lacrosse Championships as a member of the Canadian national team.
Last weekend, Canisius kicked off its season at No. 16 Colgate and lost 15-11. LoCoco finished with a goal and three assists, while Jones posted four goals. Jones has now scored at least three goals in 11 of the 17 games of his college career.
The tandem of Jones and LoCoco will pose a great test for Princeton’s new-look defense. Saturday’s game will be the first in which first-team All-American defenseman Dan Cocoziello ’08 will not be in the starting lineup since the 2004 national semifinal against Navy. Also, first-team All-American goalie Alex Hewit ’08 will not be between the pipes for Princeton for the first time in three years.
Cocoziello will be succeeded by freshman defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, a fellow graduate of the Delbarton School, a high school lacrosse powerhouse. The expectations are high for Wiedmaier, this year’s No. 3 recruit according to the magazine Inside Lacrosse.
Princeton has yet to resolve its goalie situation, with junior Nikhil Ashra and freshman Tyler Fiorito still vying for time between the pipes. Both have been impressive in practices and scrimmages, but neither Ashra nor Fiorito have started a collegiate game.
On the other side of the ball, an experienced Canisius defense will provide a strong but far-from-unbeatable test for a Princeton offense that will see many of its key players from last year return. Canisius defenseman Matt Barkas had 73 ground balls last season.
But experience is only worth so much when facing with raw talent, and Canisius was torched last weekend by Colgate’s All-American attack Brandon Corp, who directed a 15-goal assault on the Golden Griffins, scored five goals and assisted on three. The Tigers will look to do the same.
Princeton returns three of its four top scorers from last season: senior attack Tommy Davis, sophomore attack Jack McBride and junior midfielder Mark Kovler.
While many have already focused their attention on the Tigers’ upcoming matchup in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at No. 5 Johns Hopkins on Feb. 28, Tierney has the Tigers focused on this weekend’s game.
“Anybody who thinks we’re thinking about the following week is crazy,” Tierney said. “If you overlook anybody on our schedule, you’ll get beat by them. We’re concerned with this one [against Canisius]. It’s going to be a tough week of practice, and I hope that our guys are ready to do what we do and do it well.”