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Vol. LXII, No. 9
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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BIG MAC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse sophomore Scott MacKenzie looks for room last Saturday in Princeton’s season-opening 13-6 win over visiting Canisius. The 6’5, 210-pound MacKenzie notched his first career goal in the win and added two assists.

MacKenzie Lets Loose for PU Men’s Lax as Tigers Top Canisius, Gird for Hopkins

Bill Alden

Scott MacKenzie tended to tighten up on the field last year in his debut season for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

“I let the game get to me and I started freaking out instead of having a good time on the field and realizing what I have to do,” said the 6’5, 210-pound MacKenzie, who scored just two assists in 12 appearances in 2007 as a freshman.

“One of the guys on the team said ‘Scott when you are happy and having fun out there, you play your best.’ I think he is so right.”

Last Saturday, MacKenzie had a lot of fun as he started his sophomore campaign by scoring a goal and chipping in two assists as Princeton pulled away to a 13-6 season-opening win over gritty Canisius before 626 at a chilly Class of 1952 Stadium.

MacKenzie said afterward that he felt a new comfort level on the field last Saturday. “The nerves have definitely calmed down,” said a grinning MacKenzie, who started at attack. “I was more ready to play and enjoy things.”

Things weren’t so enjoyable early on for Princeton as it struggled to pull away from a tough Canisius team. The Tigers trailed 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3 before a late flurry in the second quarter gave Princeton a 6-4 lead at halftime. The Golden Griffins tied the game at 6-6 late in the third quarter but then Princeton found a rhythm, scoring the game’s last seven goals.

“We had a tough time getting into a rhythm,” said MacKenzie. “We needed to focus on catching and throwing the ball which is what the coaches want us to do. By the beginning of the fourth quarter we began to settle down and figure out what we were doing.”

While MacKenzie was feeling looser on the field, he acknowledged he has plenty of room for improvement.

“I don’t think I had the best game today,” said MacKenize, a Hotchkiss graduate who currently resides in Livingston, Mont. but grew up in Connecticut.

“I didn’t focus on catching the passes on some of those plays. I need to work on that and buckle down. I need to not jog out there.”

Despite his critical self-assessment, MacKenzie will always remember last Saturday as the day he got his first college goal.

“That was a great feeling,” said MacKenzie. “It is all about our offense. I think the other guys cleared out for me and I took care of the goal.”

Princeton head coach Bill Tierney liked the way MacKenzie took care of business. “Scott is a big kid; he’s got a lot of talent,” said Tierney.

“We are trying to force feed him into a role that is a little too much for a kid but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think he was capable of it. He’s going to be in there, he’s a heckuva kid and a heckuva athlete. He made a couple of good plays today.”

Tierney, though, recognized that his team has to start making a lot more good plays, especially with Princeton facing top-ranked and defending national champion Johns Hopkins on March 1 in Baltimore, Md. in the Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Classic.

“It wasn’t very good out there early, it was un-Princeton like,” said Tierney, whose team was outshot 35-32 on the afternoon.

“We’ve got to do better than today; we’ll be down a lot of goals next week if we play like we did today. We have more questions now than we had going into the game.”

The Hall of Fame coach was heartened by the Tigers’ strong finish. “I think what that did was to help them realize what can happen if we do what we do,” said Tierney, who got a career-high four goals from Tommy Davis with Greg Seaman and Mark Kovler adding two apiece and Jack McBride, Rich Sgalardi, Connor Reilly, and Rob Engelke getting one each.

“I think the team was trying a lot of tricky things before that; [Zack] Goldberg making big passes, Danny [Cocoziello] taking three or four shots. That’s OK but we have to figure out things real soon.”

Princeton knows that it needs to be sharper to deal with Hopkins in Baltimore’s M & T Bank Stadium.

“With our schedule coming up, the level of play is going to skyrocket the next week and the next week (a March 8 home game with Virginia),” added Tierney, whose defense was solid in the win over Canisius with senior goalie Alex Hewit recording 17 saves.

“Hopkins is a huge challenge. To see them hold Albany to five goals today means we will be studying a lot of film. It’s always a challenge to score on Hopkins; we have to find ways to do it. That’s why we were trying to push the ball a little more today.”

MacKenzie, for his part, thinks the Princeton attack is up to the challenge.

“I feel like we have a good offense; we can be productive this year,” said MacKenzie.

“Our coaches are some of the best in the country, they prepare us so well so I think we are going to be ready. It’s an awesome atmosphere with a lot of fans. It’s going to be a challenge; we’re going to be ready to go.”

If MacKenzie can keep having fun on the field, he could help Princeton go places this spring.

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