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Vol. LXV, No. 8
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
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>ON THE MONI: Princeton University men’s lacrosse midfielder Tyler Moni heads up the field in action last spring. The Tigers will be relying on the versatility of senior co-captain Moni, a former Princeton High standout who scored eight goals in 2010 and played both offensive and defensive midfield.

No. 7 PU Men’s Lax Opening at No. 8 Hofstra; Seeking More Consistency at Both Ends of Field

Bill Alden

Chris Bates didn’t give a glowing review to the preseason college men’s lacrosse show that recently aired on ESPN.

“I saw the preview show and Princeton doesn’t get mentioned at all,” said Tiger men’s lax head coach Bates. “We are under the radar and that’s alright.”

With seventh-ranked Princeton starting its 2011 campaign by playing at No. 8 Hofstra (2-0) on February 26, Bates believes his team will ultimately draw plenty of attention.

“I think if we can stay healthy, stay together and catch some breaks, we can be as good as anybody out there,” said Bates, who guided Princeton to an 11-5 record last year in his debut season at the helm of the program.

“We have the dial set the same way, we are looking to be playing late into May.”

Princeton’s early exit last May which saw the Tigers fall 8-5 to eventual national runner-up Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament has fueled the Tigers in their preparation for this spring.

“We are keeping last year in the past; that has not served as motivation outwardly,” said Bates. “But with the talent level here, they think they should go farther so that has sharpened the blade a little bit.”

With Bates in his second year guiding the program, he believes his team should look sharper from the start.

“We can hit the ground running; we have a common language,” said Bates. “We can be more efficient and make progress quicker. Last year, it was about teaching the system. This year, we are breaking down the system and adding layers.”

The success of the offensive system could depend on the McBride cousins, Jack and Chris. The senior co-captains both had big years in 2010 with Jack scoring 51 points on 35 goals and 16 assists and Chris contributing 24 points on 16 goals and eight assists.

“Jack will be behind the cage more; Chris will be all over because we can put him in midfield as well,” said Bates. “They have missed most of preseason but I expect them back for the opener. They are gamers and senior captains so that says a lot.”

Bates has some other good attack options in sophomore Forest Sonnenfeldt, junior Cliff Larkin, sophomore Luke Armour, and junior Alex Capretta.

“Sonnenfelt has been very good; he is in much better shape and his stickwork has improved,” added Bates.

“Larkin and Armour have been starters the first three weeks of the preseason; they are making it difficult to take them off the field. They are good attackmen. We have six good guys; the hard part will be to divide up minutes. They can all play midfield; we have good interchangeability with our system.”

In the midfield, Bates will be relying on the versatility of senior co-captain Tyler Moni, a former Princeton High standout.

“Tyler Moni is a good two-way midfielder; he should be a big part of things for us,” asserted Bates of Moni, who scored eight goals in 2010 and played both offensive and defensive midfield.

“He is one of our captains; that is a testament to what his teammates and coaches think about the way he goes about things. We are asking a lot of him; there is lot on his plate.”

Princeton is hoping to get a lot of offense at midfield from powerful sophomore Jeff Froccaro, who had 22 points last spring on 15 goals and seven assists.

“It is nice to have Froccaro in shape; he was coming off knee injury last year,” said Bates. “He worked hard; I see a difference in him.”

Others who could make a difference in the midfield include freshman Tom Schreiber, junior Mike Grossman, sophomore Chris White, and sophomore Tucker Shanley.

“We don’t have a lot of experience,” said Bates, who plans to use Peter Smyth and Connor Reilly as his main defensive midfielders.

“Schreiber is in the top eight. He makes people around him better. He has good vision and goes hard to the cage. Grossman had a good year last season. He has matured; he is not flashy but he understands our system. Chris White played some last season. Tucker Shanley was a heralded guy out of high school; injuries have kept him from prospering.”

The Tigers should prosper at longstick midfield with the combination of junior standout and co-captain John Cunningham and rapidly improving sophomore Rob Castelo.

“Cunningham is a captain; he is dynamic on defense and as an offensive threat,” added Bates. “As a captain, he has facilitated unity on the defensive unit which is important. Castelo has solidified himself as the No 2 pole.”

Princeton has some dynamic defensemen in junior All-America Chad Weidmaier, senior Long Ellis, and athletic junior Jonathan Meyers, a highly recruited high school football star.

“It is nice to have Weidmaier from the beginning,” said Bates, noting that Weidmaier missed the first six games last season due to a knee injury.

“Ellis is an all around defenseman. He is a really good defender, ground ball, and cover guy. Having him and Chad is like having two lockdown corners in football. Meyers is a very pensive kid; he has started to understand the nuances of the game.”

Having junior All-American Tyler Fiorito at goalie gives the Tigers one of the top netminders in the college game.

“If you start with anybody on our team, you start with Tyler,” maintained Bates of Fiorito, who has started every game in his career and posted an 8.58 goals against average in 2010.

“We think building out from the goalie, he is one of the best in the country. He’s evolved as a leader and is in great shape. He was in a bit of a slump at the beginning of last year. Some of it was due to Weidmaier not being there; he saw more and tougher shots but he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is. We are not seeing that this year, he is very consistent.”

If the Tigers are to get firmly on the national radar, they need to be more consistent at both ends of the field.

“A lot depends on how well our defense jells; individually, we are really good but we won’t have a good defense unless we play well as a unit,” said Bates.

“Offensively, we need to be able to make adjustments. Last year, we relied on one system and a few goal scorers. We got in trouble when they got stopped; we need Plan B and Plan C. We have to be more dynamic.”

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