February 27, 2019

Durbin Savoring Return to Action after Injury, Starring as PU Men’s Lax Falls to Virginia in OT

IN FLIGHT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Charlie Durbin goes up for a shot last Saturday against Virginia. Senior midfielder Durbin matched his career single-game high with four goals, but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 12-11 in overtime to the Cavaliers. The Tigers, now 1-1, host No. 18 Johns Hopkins (1-2) on March 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After being sidelined for the 2018 season due to a knee injury, Charlie Durbin is thrilled to be back in action this spring for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

“Sitting out last year really made me cherish lacrosse a lot more,” said senior midfielder Durbin, who hurt his knee in the fall of 2017.

“For a while, the only thing I really could do was practice shooting. It feels really good to be back out on the field with all of the guys. It makes every game feel a little bit more valuable.”

Durbin hasn’t wasted any time this season showing his value, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton defeated Monmouth 23-7 in its opener on February 16. Last Saturday against visiting Virginia, Durbin’s shooting practice paid dividends as he matched his career single-game high with four goals, but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 12-11 in overtime to the Cavaliers.

“We had a good game plan that coach [Pat] March, our offensive coordinator, drew up,” said Durbin, reflecting on the team’s approach coming into the clash against Virginia.

“I got a lot of chances. [Michael] Sowers saw me; it is really nice playing with him. We came out firing and it definitely gave us a good chance to win down the stretch.”

Although Princeton didn’t come through down the stretch, Durbin liked the way the Tigers competed all afternoon.

“We knew they were going to be a good test for us, they are a super athletic team,” said Durbin, a 6’0, 185-pound native of Newton, Mass.

“I think that showed up today, but we are every bit as good as they are. By and large, we played a great game. It is just a couple of mistakes here and there that were the difference.”

Princeton head coach Matt Madalon concurred, praising his squad for the way it battled the high-powered Cavaliers.

“They are a top team,” said Madalon. “There were a lot of positives today, we did a nice job. I thought we made too many mistakes down the stretch with some stickwork stuff, defensively and offensively, and a couple of mental mistakes. We just need to do a better job of taking care of the ball down the stretch.”

Durbin provided some of the better moments of the game for Princeton with his sharpshooting.

“We missed him last year; he is a superior athlete,” said Madalon of Durbin who tallied 18 goals in 2017. “He was great with his performance today, he was really opportunistic, being in the right spot in our offense. It happened to be his day. We are really happy with him.”

Madalon was happy, as usual, with the play of junior superstar Michael Sowers, who had four goals and two assists, including a brilliant tally with 6:55 remaining in regulation to give Princeton an 11-10 lead.

“He did a nice job, that was a big time play when he put it on them and made that goal,” said Madalon. “That was awesome, it was as good as it gets.”

The defensive unit of Arman Medghlachi, Aran Roberts, and George Baughan did a nice job settling in after a shaky start.

“Arman and Aran played well, Baughan caused five or six turnovers himself,” said Madalon.

“Those guys struggled early clearing, otherwise when it came down to it, they did a nice job. They were prepared on 6-on-6. They defended it well, there were just too many breakdowns.”

Princeton ended up with a 16-10 edge in face-offs as the crew of Philip Thompson, Jack-Henry Vara, and Jake Stevens showed some scrappy play.

“Those guys do a nice job, they were prepared on the 3 vs. 3,” said Madalon. “We approach it as a unit and we were pretty proud of those guys. They did a nice job against a unit that year in, year out has a lot of talent.”

While Madalon was disappointed with the outcome as Princeton’s nation-leading six-game winning streak was snapped, he believes the Tigers will benefit from the experience.

“We have got to keep getting better everyday, that is the message to our guys,” said Madalon. “It would have been nice to come out with a win here obviously. We will learn from it, we will be better for it.”

The Tigers, now 1-1, will need to be better to get a win as they host another perennial power, No. 18 Johns Hopkins (1-2), on March 2.

“We will turn the page quickly, they are going to be a prepared team,” said Madalon. “It is a great coaching staff, it is always a great organization, but we will be ready.”

Durbin, for his part, is confident that Princeton will be ready for that challenge.

“We will be fine moving forward, there is a lot of good stuff to build on,” maintained Durbin. “The nice part is that we get next weekend to turn it around and bounce back strong.”