Focusing on Tweaking Offensive, Defensive Systems, Princeton Men’s Lax Excited to Start 2019 Campaign
ON TARGET: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Philip Robertson unloads the ball in a game last spring. Junior attackman Robertson, who scored 33 goals in 2018 and led Division I with .635 shooting percentage, figures to be a key offensive weapon for the Tigers this season. Princeton, ranked 17th by the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, opens its 2019 season by playing at Monmouth on February 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
While the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team is bringing a nation’s best five-game winning streak into the 2019 season, Matt Madalon is putting that late season surge in the rear view mirror.
“It was nice to end the season like that, but win streaks are never really our goal,” said Princeton head coach Madalon, whose team went 8-5 overall and 3-3 Ivy League last spring but just missed qualifying for the Ivy postseason tourney.
“We are just trying to make sure our systems are buttoned up. It has been a quick preseason. We have some guys in different spots. We are tweaking our systems a little bit.”
The Tigers boast a top guy on attack in junior superstar and team co-captain Michael Sowers, who scored 27 goals and 56 assists in 2018, setting school records for assists and points and leading Division I in assists per game and points per game.
“Michael is looking great, he had a nice fall and he is having a nice preseason; he is an impressive guy,” said Madalon, who is also welcoming back sophomore Chris Brown (23 goals, 15 assists in 2018), junior Philip Robertson (33 goals, 3 assists and the Division I leader with a .635 shooting percentage), and senior Emmet Cordrey (7 goals, 1 assist) on attack.
“It is a nice unit that returns; they keep developing chemistry. Everyone keeps getting better. I am really happy with this group. They should be able to make a lot of plays on the offensive end this year.”
While Princeton is losing two key playmakers in the midfield with the graduation of Austin Sim and Riley Thompson, who both had more than 100 career points, Madalon is hoping that junior Connor McCarthy (14 goals, 5 assists) can fill that void along with senior Charlie Durbin, sophomore Luke Crimmins (8 goals, 2 assists), and senior captain Strib Walker (2 goals).
“We are looking for Connor to fill a big role; Charlie Durbin is back from injury and should fit very nicely up in there,” said Madalon.
“Luke Crimmins is going to do a really nice job for us up there. Strib Walker is a senior, he is playing a little bit of that two-way middie role.”
Madalon will be looking for some new faces to fill out the midfield unit.
“We have a really nice influx of freshmen guys like Alex Vardaro, Will Kusnierek, Jake Stevens, Luc Anderson, and Beau Pederson; they have all really done a nice job,” said Madalon.
In the defensive midfield, sophomore Andrew Song (2 goals, 48 ground balls), junior Chase Williams (14 ground balls), senior Mike Morean (3 ground balls), senior Charlie Tarry (12 ground balls), junior Nick Bauer (8 ground balls), and freshman Luciano Lazzaretto figure to play prominent roles.
“Chase Williams and Mike Morean return with the most experience,” said Madalon.
“Andrew Song is staying at the longstick. He did a really nice job in his freshman year and he is continuing to build on that.. We are looking forward to watching him grow up as a sophomore and doing a nice job off the wing. Charlie Tarry is up there as a longstick doing a really nice job, and then a freshman who has done a really nice job is Luciano Lazzaretto.”
The Tiger defense will be anchored by sophomore George Baughan (1 goal, 24 ground balls), junior Arman Medghalchi (21 ground balls), senior Aran Roberts (17 ground balls), junior David Sturtz, and junior Nick Bauer (8 ground balls).
“George and Arman are doing a nice job,” said Madalon.
“David Sturtz and Aran Roberts are both doing a nice job down there as well. Nick Bauer adds some depth.”
At goalie, there is a heated competition between three returning back-ups, junior Jon Levine, a former Hun School standout (16.14 goals against average, .414 save percentage), along with sophomores Erik Peters and Ben Churchill to fill the spot left by the graduation of three-year starter Tyler Blaisdell.
“It is a really nice battle this fall; Jon Levine returns with the most experience,” said Madalon.
“He was kind of leading the pack this fall and this preseason. Right behind him is Erik Peters and right behind him is Ben Churchill. We haven’t named a starter; it is still a goalie battle.”
At the face-off spot, junior Ralph Chrappa (13-of-24 face offs), junior Philip Thomson (5-of-16), and sophomore Jack-Henry Vara (33-of-76) are vying to succeed the graduated Sam Bonafede.
“It is the same thing as with the goalie, we have a really good battle,” said Madalon.
“Those are three guys with different strengths. We are going to go by committee and see who emerges through the first couple of games. We approach it as a face-off unit more than as a face-off guy.”
As Madalon looks ahead to the 2019 campaign, he wants the Tigers to play as a unit all over the field.
“For us, we just have to keep learning our systems, mastering the fundamentals, and continuing to play the game faster,” said Madalon, whose team was ranked 17th by the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll.
“We are asking a lot of our guys, getting up and down the field. We want to make sure that guys are conditioned well enough and their sticks are dialed in enough.”
Heading across the state to Monmouth on February 16 for the season opener, Princeton will have to be dialed in to come away with a win over the Hawks.
“It is a really, really strong team year in, year out; they took us to the limit last year,” said Madalon, whose squad edged Monmouth 9-8 in double overtime in the 2018 season opener.
“That program continues to get better. We are going to play them away, we are excited to get our boys on the road and put two teams up against each other. We are really looking forward to it.”