April 11, 2018

PU Men’s Lax Tops Stony Brook to End Skid, Fueled by Sowers’ Spectacular 9-Point Effort

MIGHTY MIKE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Michael Sowers looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore star attackman Sowers matched his single-game career-high of nine points, tallying four goals and five assists to help Princeton defeat Stony Brook 16-8 and snap a three-game losing streak. The Tigers, who moved to 4-5 with the win, were slated to play at Siena on April 10 before hosting Dartmouth on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though Michael Sowers was playing in just the 24th game of his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team when the Tigers hosted Stony Brook last Saturday, the 5’8, 165-pound dynamo already looms large in program history.

As a freshman, Sowers set a Princeton single-season record with 82 points on 41 goals and 41 assists in 15 appearances.

Through the first eight games of the 2018 season, the native of Dresher, Pa. had tallied 14 goals and a nation-best 31 assists, becoming the fastest Princeton player ever to reach the career century mark in points when he achieved that feat in the fourth game.

Despite Sowers’ heroics, Princeton entered the game against Stony Brook mired in a three-game losing streak.

“We knew we had the talent, we just had to execute the coaches’ plan,” said Sowers, reflecting on Princeton’s mindset as it prepared to face the Seawolves. “It was more of just believing in ourselves and just having confidence.”

The Tigers executed from the get-go on Saturday, jumping out to a 6-2 lead after the first quarter with Sowers contributing a goal and four assists.

“If we were going to come out here and be successful, we had to be flying around,” said Sowers. “We were playing at 100 speed all day, all the time, which is crucial for us.”

Sowers kept flying around the field, ending up with four goals and five assists to match his single-game career-high of nine points as the Tigers cruised to a 16-8 win, improving to 4-5.

“That is just the offense, some days it will be me, some days it will be [Austin] Sims, some days it will be Riley [Thompson].” Coach [Pat] March does a good job of putting us in spots to be successful,” said Sowers, who has now scored nine points in games on four occasions so far in his career.

“I just had to make simple plays, I was lucky to do it. I know that if I just follow coach March’s plan, we are going to be successful. At the end of the day, getting a win is all that matters.”

With the Tigers getting four goals apiece from both Sims and freshman Chris Brown, along with two from freshman Luke Crimmins and one piece from sophomore Philip Robertson and senior Riley Thompson, the Princeton offense displayed plenty of balance.

“You see it in practice all the time and I think for us it was just a matter of coming out and doing it,” said Sowers.

“I don’t think we have put together a full game but I think today was pretty close to it.”

Sowers has looked to do more talking on the field this season in the wake of the graduation of battle-tested stars Gavin McBride and Zach Currier.

“Last year with Gavin [McBride], I didn’t really have to do that; I was able to sit behind him and Zach [Currier],” said Sowers.

“This year with those guys gone, Simsy and I have taken the leadership role, being able to direct guys on the field a little bit.”

Princeton head coach Matt Madalon can’t say enough about what Sowers is doing for the Tigers.

“Michael did a really good job,” said Madalon. “Every game he plays here, he gets better and better. He is a real special one.”

For the Tigers, defeating Stony Brook was really important. “The mindset here was that we wanted to get back in the win column; it was really just execute,” said Madalon.

“We made some mistakes down the stretch against Brown [a 14-13 loss on March 31] that burned our guys. They weren’t going to let that define them. They said we are going to be a team that is going to finish. The message I sent out to our guys today was that it was the best job we have done all year listening and executing. I know the guys hear us but to be able to put it into the execution was very good.”

Madalon was particularly happy to see the execution he got from some of his younger players, including freshmen Brown and Crimmins along with sophomore midfielder Connor McCarthy.

“It is a really good sign to see young guys stepping up, our first two middies this game were a freshman and sophomore in McCarthy and Crimmins,” said Madalon. “We were really happy at their performance.”

Another good sign for Princeton was sharper play on face-offs and clears.

“It was part of the execution; our systems aren’t changing so we are just playing a lot better within them,” said Madalon, whose team won 18-of-27 face-offs and was successful on all 14 clear attempts. “It was good to get back into the win column.”

Madalon is looking for his squad to pile up more wins as it was slated to play at Siena on April 10 before hosting Dartmouth on April 14.

“Losing is tough; it hurts the spirits,” said Madalon. “You get a couple of those losses and you start doubting yourself a little bit. I think it was nice to just have these guys play well; it was good for the guys.”

Sowers, for his part, sees good things ahead for the Tigers. “Stony Brook is a great team, they are always scrappy,” said Sowers. “So to come out here and get a win like this, and put up 16 against that defense and a well-coached team, is definitely a confidence booster. It is a step in the right direction.”