Playing at Brown last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team got lulled to sleep a little bit.
“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “We didn’t win face-offs and Brown did a good job with long possessions. It was one of those games that was slow and sleepy.”
Bates tried to shake things up in the second half. “It was 6-3 at half and because of how they were playing and the face-offs, we decided to change the tempo,” recalled Bates.
“We did a 10-man ride with the goalie coming out: it is an aggressive play. They got a goal from three-quarters of the field to make it 7-3. It backfired on us and gave them life.”
Despite falling behind 10-5 early in the fourth quarter, Princeton still showed life.
“We stayed poised even when we were down two late,” said Bates. “We needed to make a big stop when it was 10-8. They got their 11th goal from the 18 and that’s one we would like to have back.”
Narrowing the gap to 11-10, Princeton had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation but misfired and Brown held on for the one-goal win.
“We drew up a play with 40 seconds left and Mikey [MacDonald] got a point blank shot but it was from a tough angle,” said Bates.
The loss was a wake-up call for the Tigers, coming one week after they fell behind Yale early on the way to a 16-15 loss.
“At the end of the day we were disappointed but we hope the game can be a catalyst,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League with the setback.
“This is forcing us to change the way we practice. Just about all we have been doing is scrimmaging and focusing on fundamentals. This team always plays hard, we don’t have to worry about that.”
The defeat also led to some soul-searching upon the team’s return to Princeton on Saturday evening.
“It was not a quiet meeting when we got home; we made challenges to the the captains and the leadership,” said Bates, who got three goals from senior captain Tom Schreiber in the defeat with sophomore Jake Froccaro and junior MacDonald chipping in two apiece. “I have to look at myself first to be constructively critical.”
Fueled by the disappointment, the Tigers made a constructive response a day later.
“We came out on a miserable rainy night on Sunday and scrimmaged hard, it was a good practice,” said Bates.
As the Tigers prepare to host Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual battle for the Meistrell Cup, Bates will keep them working hard in training.
“We are having open tryouts at practice,” said Bates. “We are not paying attention to Rutgers yet, we are paying attention to Princeton. We are mixing and matching teams and we are grading them with pluses and minuses. The guys like that.”
In Bates’ view, his players still like their chances to do some big things this spring.
“Nobody is panicking,” said Bates. “We know we can play. We are down but we know we control our destiny. Everybody is becoming closer; we are focusing on the little things.”