Vol. LXII, No. 28
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
OUTLAW MAN: Dan Cocoziello wreaks havoc during his career for the Princeton University mens lacrosse team. The recently graduated Cocoziello, who was a first-team All American defenseman this spring for the Tigers, is currently playing for the Denver Outlaws in Major League Lacrosse.
Recently graduated Princeton University mens lacrosse star Dan Cocoziello learned a lot from Tiger head coach Bill Tierney over the last four years.
The burly 60, 230-pound defender started from day one at Princeton, using his athleticism and intensity to master Tierneys defensive system and go down as one of the greatest players in program history.
Now, Cocoziello is getting a chance to get some tutelage from another Tierney as he is playing for the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse whose defensive coordinator is Trevor Tierney, Bills oldest son.
Understandably, Cocoziello was thrilled to get drafted by Denver, which has turned into Princeton West with former PU stars Zach Jungers and Josh Sims already in the fold.
I was really excited; its a first class organization, said Cocoziello, whose classmate, midfielder Peter Striebel, was also chosen by the Outlaws.
They do things right; I was excited and honored that they picked me. It was great going from one coach Tierney to another, they have different personalities. It is also great playing with Zach again; hes a player who makes you better.
Cocoziello knows he will have to get better to keep up with the freewheeling style featured in the MLL.
Its a little faster, you have a shot clock, said Cocoziello, who is commuting from his home in Oldwick, N.J. on the weekends to play for the Outlaws and has made three appearances so far for the club which is off to a 6-2 start.
It is real up and down; the teams are getting in complicated offenses in a hurry. It takes a little while to get used to it. At Princeton, we had an elaborate defense. Here you have to make adjustments as you play. Im still learning the style.
Coping with Princetons disappointing 7-6 season this past spring helped Cocoziello learn how to put things in perspective.
During the season it is so much about the wins and the losses, said Cocoziello, a former star at the Delbarton School who was a tri-captain of the Tigers along with high school classmate Alex Hewit and Bob Schneider.
The team had goals and we didnt meet then. That is frustrating but you are with 48 of your best friends. Some of these guys end up as friends for life; its a real experience. Being a senior, you try to enjoy those little things like hanging out in the locker room.
It was the failure to take care of the little things that helped keep Princeton from making the NCAA tournament in 2008.
What killed us was the way we played on the road; we were not prepared to win on the road, asserted Cocoziello.
We beat Cornell [11-7 on April 19] and then we lost at Brown and Dartmouth. We blew it; things just spiraled on the road. After the Harvard win [before the Cornell game] where we came back on the road, we thought we had figured it out.
As a battle-hardened senior, Cocoziello certainly had things figured out on the Princeton back line.
I had a lot of individual goals, getting a certain number of ground balls, scoring five goals, said Cocoziello, who had two goals and two assists together with 40 ground balls in a spring which saw him put the clamps on such offensive stars as Max Siebald of Cornell, Mike Leveille of Syracuse, and Michael Unterstein of Hofstra.
The one versus one matchups are what its all about. You win that matchup and that holds the other team down. Doing my job well will hopefully help the team win.
Others recognized how well Cocoziello did his job as he culminated his senior season by earning first-team All American honors.
It was a great honor; I was really honored to be chosen by the coaches, said Cocoziello, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2005 and was a four-time All-Ivy selection.
I was second team as a sophomore and a junior so it was great to get over the hump as a senior. It was definitely a nice way to end my career.
The Tigers nine-day tour of Spain and Ireland after graduation was a great way for Cocoziello and his classmates to end their affiliation with the program.
How many guys get to have a trip to Europe with their 48 best friends? added Cocoziello.
It was a great trip, a great experience. It was great to put on the Princeton uniform again. The whole team is obviously close but you put guys on the road and in a foreign country for 24/7 and you get even closer. It is the last time we will be together as seniors. Some of the guys are already starting jobs; you know you are not going to see a lot of the guys for a while.
For Cocoziello, his time at Princeton gave him the chance to get things together on and off the field.
I grew tremendously; I struggled academically in the early stages, said Cocoziello.
I couldnt imagine doing a thesis and then by senior year, Im turning in an 80 page thesis [on the Medici family]. At college, you grow up from freshman to senior year. At Princeton, with the pressure you face, you grow up quicker.
The grown-up Cocoziello figures to make a big impact for a second coach Tierney.
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