This past weekend, the men’s lacrosse team (1–1) travelled down to Charlottesville, Virginia, to take on the No. 4 lacrosse team University of Virginia (4–0). Unfortunately, the game did not end up going to No. 20 Princeton; they lost 18–15. However, the Tigers certainly cannot be disappointed with their level of play.
Princeton was tied with the Cavaliers 10–10 at the end of the first half, and was able to work a number of their goals out of six-on-six situations, a sign of the Tigers’ offensive strength this season. Princeton’s standout performance of the day came from freshman long-stick midfielder Andrew Song who finished the day with one goal, three ground balls, two caused turnovers, and two face-off wins, and stellar defense on Virginia’s Dox Aitken, an All-American as a freshman last season.
Looking forward to the spring season ahead, Head Coach Matt Madalon described expectations as high. Madalon is entering his second full year as head coach for the team and looks to maintain the offensive production that he brought with him last season, which ranked Princeton second in Division I scoring offense. Madalon has previously been a college and professional goalie, as well as serving as the offensive coordinator at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
A number of key contributors from last year’s team have graduated, including midfielder Zach Currier and attacker Gavin McBride. Both were drafted in the Major League Lacrosse draft by the Denver Outlaws after stellar senior seasons at Princeton. Currier was a first-team All-American, unanimous All-Ivy League selection and stuffed the stat sheet on a regular basis. He led the team last year in ground balls with 130, one shy of the Princeton season record, and caused turnovers with 21. In addition, Currier led Division I midfielders in points and assists with 58 and 34 respectively. McBride was honorable mention All-Ivy League and had an incredible knack for finding the back of the net. He led Division I in goals per game at 3.6, and was second in Division I with 54 goals last season, enough to set the Princeton single season record for goals.
On paper, one would imagine that this kind of offensive firepower would be hard to replace; however, the Tigers are loaded with scorers including senior midfielder Austin Sims, senior midfielder Riley Thompson and sophomore attacker Michael Sowers. Madalon describes Sims as having a “high lacrosse IQ” as well as an “ability to stretch a defense with his shot”. Sims is one of the team’s tri-captains this year along with Thompson and senior midfielder Sam Bonafede. Sims was third in goals last season behind McBride and Sowers. Sowers last season had an unbelievable season setting the Princeton season record for points with 82 (41 goals, 41 assists), was a first-team All-Ivy League selection, and the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Lastly, Madalon has described Thompson as having the “ability to create and make others around him better.” This is clearly evident in Thompson’s 22 assists last season, placing him third on the team behind Sowers and Currier. All this offensive firepower, though, should not overshadow senior goalie Tyler Blaisdell, who was a first-team All-Ivy League selection last season and led the Ivy League in save percentage. He has already shown his importance during the win over Monmouth in the first game of the season.
One thing that Princeton will be looking upon this season is their work at the face-off. Last year Currier led this charge and was able to win 56.4 percent of his face-offs. Early on this season it looks like Bonafede will be taking on this role, something he backed Currier in last season. Last weekend was a tough one for Bonafede who was 7–23 on face-offs. This was a tough matchup for Bonafede going against Virginia’s Justin Schwenk who transferred from Monmouth for this season where he was MAAC Rookie of the Year last year. As a freshman at Monmouth he set the single-season records for face-off winning percentage (51.9 percent), ground balls (77) and face-off wins (164).
A strong season is ahead for the men’s lacrosse team, voted second in the preseason poll behind Yale (1–1). The Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 11 in the Inside Lacrosse Division I rankings. The Tigers were able to come out firing early this season in part due to the bubble over the football stadium this past winter, which Madalon described as an “outstanding resource” which helps “to provide the best student-athlete experience.” Princeton will next be in action when they travel down to Baltimore to take on No. 18 Johns Hopkins this Saturday. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3. The Tigers will next be in action at home on Sherrerd Field on March 6 against NJIT.