Starting the week in dominant fashion, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team dismantled Villanova.
Dominating at both ends of the field in the March 18 contest at Villanova, Princeton jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back on the way to a 14-6 triumph.
As a result, the Tigers brought a lot of confidence into their Ivy League showdown at Yale last Saturday.
But Princeton got off to a shaky start before the crowd of 1,650 at Reese Stadium, falling behind the Bulldogs 4-0.
“I was a little surprised at how Saturday went,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.
“I thought we were clicking on all cylinders. We dug ourselves a ditch but we did claw out of it. We were up 7-6 at half.”
The Tigers kept scratching and clawing for the rest of the afternoon but they could never gain the upper hand as they fell 16-15 to drop to 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy.
“We struggled on face-offs and transition defense on the face-offs, that is a double whammy,” said Bates, noting that Princeton’s top face-off specialist Justin Murphy was unavailable Saturday due to injury.
“We didn’t play as physically as we had planned; we talked about taking the body more. We didn’t get as many ground balls. We weren’t as gritty as we needed to be.”
In falling to Yale, No. 14 Princeton squandered a performance for the ages as sophomore midfielder Jake Froccaro scored 10 goals, tying a 63-year-old single-game program record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers.
“It was something to behold, he kept scoring,” said Bates of Froccaro who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his outburst.
“Nobody was keeping count and then you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and it was oh my gosh. We were surprised that Yale shortsticked him and didn’t slide to him, they kept with the strategy. I feel badly that we couldn’t reward him with a win, he couldn’t really celebrate.”
But the Princeton defense wasn’t strategically sound and that came back to haunt the Tigers in the defeat to Yale, now ranked No. 11.
“We couldn’t find a way to get defensive stops,” lamented Bates. “I am disappointed with our defensive midfield group, they are a veteran group and I am usually the first to sing their praises. The young guys take their lead from them. They had breakdowns in communication and breakdowns in attention to detail from the scouting report. Yale is a good team, the way they know themselves is impressive.”
As Princeton plays at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29, Bates believes his team needs to focus on detail to get back on the winning track.
“We are kicking ourselves watching the film; we had so many opportunities,” said Bates.
“The clear positive is that the goals we gave up are correctible. We just need to take the next step. We have got to lick our wounds from the weekend and concentrate on ourselves. We had a great practice tonight, the guys battled hard and competed. It is an Ivy test, they are a very good team. We are not in a position to look ahead.”