Men's Lacrosse: Spearheading offense, cousins step up
To a certain degree, Jack McBride and Chris McBride are known commodities. You know they’re cousins. You know they attended lacrosse powerhouse Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J. You know they’re more than capable of putting points on the scoreboard, as their first two years at Princeton have shown. But what remains unknown, and what will be revealed this season, is how the pair of junior attackmen will adopt a veteran leadership role when joined together on the Tigers’ first offensive line.
The face of Princeton lacrosse has changed considerably since 2009. Head coach Chris Bates took over the reigns when Hall-of-Famer Bill Tierney headed west, and the newcomer has transformed the team’s style of play by implementing a revamped offensive scheme. The Tigers lost some of their most important personnel on the field as well, and they can no longer depend on the dynamism of three-time All-American Mark Kovler ’09, the decision-making capacity of Tommy Davis ’09 and the scrappiness of Rich Sgalardi ’09. Perhaps most important, the burden to come up big when it matters most will likely be transferred to the attack, as the scoring engine that was last year’s midfield has been seriously depleted.
But both McBrides welcome the added challenge that will fall on their shoulders this season.
“I don’t think [I feel] pressure,” Jack said. “I’m excited. You try to get to that position. As an athlete, as a competitor, you want the ball in your stick.”
Calling Jack “tough to stop,” Bates cited Jack’s self-awareness of the role he will take on, hinting that making smart decisions will play a huge factor in both his and the attack’s success.
“Jack’s going to be a marked man, and he knows that,” Bates said. “With that comes responsibility to do the right thing with the ball and make his teammates better.”
Last season, Jack led the team in scoring with 35 goals and tied for third in total points with 42. The first-team All-Ivy League selection and Tewaaraton nominee is a physical, explosive player with an uncanny knack for finding the cage. But he might find himself dishing the ball to his teammates more often this season, given the heightened attention he will likely see from opposing defenses.
Chris echoed his cousin’s sentiments about the leadership role they will adopt this season, which he said he is prepared to embrace.
“You want the ball in crunch time,” Chris said. “To tell you the truth, that’s something I’ve been looking forward to. I think I’ve reached that spot, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.”
After spending most of his rookie year in the midfield, Chris made the transition to attack last spring and truly came into his own. When then-No. 5 Princeton faced then–sixth-ranked University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the third contest of the season, Chris netted two goals at the start and end of the third quarter, propelling the Tigers to a 6-5 win. He also helped Princeton keep its mid-season six-game winning streak alive against Harvard, when he scored three goals and an assist.
Bates identified Chris’ speed, field vision and ability to find open space as his strongest attributes, which should complement those of his cousin well. The most crucial component, however, to the McBrides’ success this season will be fully regaining the chemistry they cultivated in high school, traces of which they have already exhibited in preseason practices.
In addition to having the ability to read each other’s body language and anticipate each other’s next move, communication is a key element of this chemistry.
“He knows when to tune me out,” Jack joked.
Chris laughed and nodded, but he remarked that one of the duo’s best attributes is taking constructive criticism from one another in order to make their play more seamless.
As both players well know, leadership on the field must extend into the locker room, and thus far the McBrides have made a concerted effort to step up as veterans.
“You have to always know that you have to lead by example,” Jack said. “I’m by no means perfect — I don’t think anyone is — but I’m trying. If you do [what’s right], hopefully some younger kids will look up and follow suit.”
The extra effort put forth by both players has not been lost on their teammates, whether younger or older.
“Both of them have been great mentors to me, not only as a freshman, but also as a younger attackman,” freshman attack Luke Armour said. “I know the other freshmen also view Jack and Chris as always willing to give advice or hang out.”
Senior attack Rob Engelke placed emphasis on the McBrides’ willingness to give it their all during practice, during conditioning and in the weight room, noting that their desire for daily improvement has infected the rest of the team.
As outstanding players, and perhaps even better faces for Princeton lacrosse — Bates likes to have potential Tigers stay with Jack and Chris during recruiting visits — the McBrides are confident as they look forward to what could be a break-out year for the pair, as this will be the first at Princeton during which they will have the chance to show what they can do together on the field.
But amid the uncertainties that might surround a team with a new coach, a new offense and a new outlook, the one element that remains certain — and paramount — is the connection they have to each other.
“In coming to a school like Princeton,” Jack said, “it’s good to have someone you know you can rely on, and no matter what, that’s not going to change.”