(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
TOMMY GUN: Princeton sophomore men's lacrosse attackman Tommy Davis, right, heads to goal last Saturday in Princeton's 18-7 win over Canisius in the season opener for both teams. Davis scored a career high seven points on two goals and five assists to help ignite the Tiger offense.
A dislocated shoulder stunted Tommy Davis' progress last spring in his freshman season with the Princeton University men's lacrosse team.
After missing six games, Davis returned in the postseason and showed a glimpse of his potential as he scored a total of five goals in two games to help Princeton advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Last Saturday, Davis demonstrated that he will be shouldering more of the burden for the Tigers as he tallied a career-high seven points on two goals and five assists as Princeton cruised to an 18-7 win over Canisius in the season opener for both teams.
Davis enjoyed getting the chance to play the set-up role last Saturday. "I've been playing more on the outside as opposed to last year when I was on the inside," explained Davis, an attacker who had 15 goals and one assist as a freshman. "Now I have an expanded role but today is a result of me being in the right spot to make a pass and guys finishing."
While the Tigers understandably had some opening day kinks, Davis was pleased with how they finished things.
"It wasn't a perfect game but we did what we needed to do to win the game," said Davis, who assisted on three goals in the third period as the Tigers outscored the Griffins 5-1 in the period to break open the game.
"We came out with a win which is always good, that's what really matters. We made some mistakes but we were able to adjust. We got the job done."
By getting the job done, Princeton moved up to the top spot in the Nike/Inside lacrosse national poll. The Tigers will take on No. 7 Johns Hopkins this Saturday in the inaugural Face Off Classic at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore which will also include a match-up between defending national champion Virginia and perennial power Syracuse.
The 5'10, 185-pound Davis, a native of Levittown, N.Y., will be looking to keep up his progress as the Tigers battle the Blue Jays this Saturday.
"With a year under my belt, the game has slowed down a lot," explained Davis, who said he concentrated on strengthening his shoulder in the offseason. "I know what to expect a little more than I knew coming into last year. You know what someone is going to do and what you will do off of that. Confidence is the main thing, that's what lacrosse is about in general."
The Tigers are employing a more freewheeling offensive style this year which Davis believes will suit the club just fine.
"We have a lot of good players and for the most part all of us have played with each other for a full year now," said Davis, whose younger brother, Jimmy, is a freshman attacker for the Tigers.
"We know the tendencies of the individual players. It's easy to play without huge structure and just read where the other player goes."
Princeton head coach Bill Tierney was pleased with how his team performed offensively as he got three goals apiece from senior Peter Trombino, junior Alex Haynie, and freshman Rob Engelke.
"Our facing off with Alex and Mike was fabulous," said Tierney, whose team won 18-of-26 faceoffs and outshot Canisius 48-23. "We had a lot of good movement on offense and we shot the ball pretty well today. The young guys played well."
Tierney certainly thought Davis played well. "Tommy is one of those guys who doesn't attract attention by his size, by his stick, he just gets the job done," said Tierney.
"Once he gets his confidence, things are going to start dropping for him. I think that a lot of it today had to do with Scott Sowanick; he created a lot of that motion. I thought that Tommy made some great plays on his own too."
With Princeton's vaunted defense showing some lapses last Saturday, Tierney knows his team has to tighten things up for the clash with Johns Hopkins.
"I thought we were awful, particularly in that second quarter," said Tierney, whose team was matched 4-4 by Canisius in that period. "We can't play that way next week or we'll get blown out of the water. Canisius had two or three really good players, next week we are playing against six great ones."
In a season which has already seen the other teams in the Face Off Classic taste defeat with Drexel upending Virginia, Albany topping Hopkins, and Army stunning Syracuse, the Tigers know that being ranked No. 1 is a mixed blessing.
"I can't figure it out; it's going to be one of those years," said Tierney. "D-1 lacrosse is not growing college-wise but it is growing exponentially in the number of players that are going to different schools. The Albanys, Drexels, and Armys can win on any given day. It's hard on the teams ranked so high, you can't forget that you have a target on your back."
If Princeton can emulate the effort it showed in the third period against Canisius, it should be ready for just about any challenge.
"I liked the way we came back," asserted Tierney. "I thought we played with intensity on the defensive end and we came back on the offensive end and did a good job. We got a couple of goals early and that was good to see."
Davis, for his part, believes the Tigers will maintain their intensity. "You've just got to go out and play your game; you can't worry about the other teams," said Davis.
"In lacrosse any team can beat any other team. We know what we're going into against Hopkins. It doesn't matter if they lost; they are still a great team. We know that we have to play the same regardless of what happened today."
If Davis keeps up the same play he showed last Saturday, Princeton has a chance to be a great team.
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