The Princeton men’s lacrosse team had a difficult season last year, but it is now looking for a fresh start with a new coaching administration and some exciting new additions to the team.
Last year, the team experienced a tough loss when former coach Chris Bates was fired. In his seven seasons as head coach at Princeton, Bates compiled a record of 53 wins and 42 losses, and he coached the Tigers to three Ivy League championships and two NCAA tournament appearances. The University decided to let Bates go after he elbowed Brown University’s John Yozzo-Scaperrotta as he left the field during a game in Providence, R.I.
Bates’ dismissal took a toll on the team’s spirit, but his replacement for head coach, former offensive coordinator Matt Madalon, seems to have re-established the team’s drive and energy. Said sophomore midfielder Charlie Durbin, “Madalon has been around, so we were all happy when he got the job because we all liked him and were rooting for him.”
Madalon, who also worked as the interim head coach in the immediate days after Bates’ initial probation, is a former college and professional goalie. Prior to his three years at Princeton, he spent seven seasons on the staff at Stevens Tech, helping the Ducks to the Division III top 10 and NCAA tournament. According to sophomore attackman, “The new coaching staff has given us a great new direction. This year we will play a lot faster, take more chances, and get up and down the field more. It’s a much more exciting style to play and watch."
Other additions to the coaching staff are defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt, assistant coach Pat March, and volunteer assistant coach Justin Tuma. Durbin noted that “March, Bernhardt, Tuma are all really young, high-energy, cool guys who have been fun to play for.”
With the loss of their head coach and a losing record, last year didn’t quite end the way the team had hoped. However, the team has high expectations for this year. “Heading into to this season, our goals remain the same of winning the Ivy League and making a push for the NCAA championship,” commented McKenzie.
Fortunately, last year’s graduating class was pretty small, so the team didn’t lose too much talent. The team will definitely miss attackman Ryan Ambler, but is excited for their new freshmen, notably Michael Sowers, Connor McCarthy, and Arman Medghalchi. Sowers is an attackman from Dresher, Pa., who led the USA U19 Lacrosse team in points last year and was named to All World Attack. Named 2015 USA Today Massachusetts Player of the year and member of all state team, McCarthy is a midfielder from Sudbury, Mass. On the defensive end, Medghalchi, who is from Baltimore, Md., is expected to have a big impact on the team’s play.
The players are excited for some new games on the schedule this year, as well as matchups with tradition rival competitors. McKenzie noted, “This year’s schedule will be fun. We added a few more games which gives us a lot of opportunity to get after it, which is something I think everyone is excited for.” Durbin reflected that the team’s two toughest non-conference games are most likely to be against Johns Hopkins and Rutgers, and within the Ivy League, Brown and Yale have both been ranked preseason top 10 teams. The Tigers hope to beat at least two or three of these teams in the regular season.
With new goals, coaches, and players, the men’s lacrosse program as a whole is excited and optimistic for a fresh start and a winning season. The team has already played some scrimmages, but its first official game will be at home on Sherrerd Field at the Class of 1952 Stadium on Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. The Tigers will host the NJIT Highlanders, and the game will be available to watch on the Ivy League Digital Network.