Slusher Produces Memorable Collegiate Debut, Tallying 4 Points as PU Men’s Lax Tops Monmouth
SUDDEN IMPACT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Alex Slusher eludes a Monmouth defender last Saturday in the Tigers’ season opener. Freshman midfielder Slusher enjoyed a superb college debut, tallying three goals and an assist as Princeton pulled away to a 20-9 win over the Hawks. In upcoming action, the Tigers play at second-ranked and defending national champion Virginia on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Coming all the way from Oregon to play for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, Alex Slusher experienced some butterflies as he made his college debut last Saturday against Monmouth.
“Ever since I committed to play lacrosse here, this is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” said Slusher, a 5’10, 170-pound native of Portland, Ore. “I was really nervous.”
It didn’t take long for Slusher to shake off his nerves as he tallied Princeton’s first goal of 2020, finding the back of the net 1:31 into the contest.
“Catching that first pass from Mike [Sowers], he set me up perfectly and all I had to do was tap it in,” said Slusher. “He made it pretty easy.”
Minutes later, Slusher picked up an assist on Princeton’s second goal, passing to Chris Brown in the crease area, who whipped the ball home.
“Our coaches say, just hit singles, make the simple play and everything will come to you,” said Slusher. “I saw that he was open and I hit him.”
Princeton kept hitting shots all day, cruising to a 20-9 win over the Hawks before a hardy crowd of 746 at Class of 1952 Stadium, braving temperatures hovering in the low 30s.
Having been switched to midfield from his customary attack spot, Slusher is keeping things simple.
“It was a little different, I am used to playing behind the cage but when you have someone like Mike Sowers, he will find you,” said Slusher, a three-time high school All-American who has been named to USA U-19 32-man training roster for world championship next summer in Ireland.
“Offense is offense. You are still running by guys and shooting at the same goal. It is a little bit different but that is just another thing that I have had to adjust to since I got here.”
Bonding with senior superstar and team captain Sowers has helped speed Slusher’s adjustment to the college game.
“Literally since the day I got here, he has been the best leader, captain, player I can ask for,” said Slusher, who tallied two goals in the second half to give him three goals and an assist on the day.
“He took me under his wing. He showed me what it takes to be that good. In the fall, we were up every morning at 6:00 for a lift, getting extra shots. He has been an amazing leader, I can’t say enough positive things about him.”
Slusher is looking to have an amazing experience at Princeton on and off the field.
“I always wanted to go somewhere where I could compete for a national championship and go to the best possible academic school,” said Slusher.
“You can see it right here (pointing to the program’s six national championship banners hanging on one end of the field) it has been a little time but this is a goal we still have. If I could compete for a national championship and go to the best school in the world that is an opportunity, I couldn’t really turn down.”
Princeton head coach Matt Madalon liked what he saw from Slusher in his college debut.
“We are going to move him around all year,” said Madalon. “He is just a really dynamic dodger, he can create matchups for us all over the field. We are really happy with his
production, four points is a great debut.”
Jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first 12 minutes of the opener helped Princeton get into a good rhythm.
“It was our first game; we were fortunate to get a lead, it took the temperature down for us a little bit,” said Madalon.
“It was letting our guys play a little more comfortable. In your first game of the year, you don’t feel very comfortable going into the game. That just gave us a little comfort. We hit some really nice shots, we got a couple of really good bounces.”
Sowers had a really nice game, tying his own program record for most points in a game with 11 on four goals and seven assists.
“He is awesome, he knows how to capitalize in the right spots,” said Madalon of Sowers, who came into the season already holding the program mark for most career points and now has 266 (109 goals, 157 assists) after his performance against Monmouth.
“He does a good job of getting everyone involved. We were very happy with his performance.”
Anther senior captain, Philip Robertson, got involved in the scoring, tallying five goals on seven shots.
“Philip does what he does very well, he is great at finding the seams, he is great at playing off Michael Sowers,” said Madalon. “If he has an opportunity to dodge, he will. He is a very opportunistic player.”
At defensive end, junior Andrew Song starred at longstick midfield, getting four ground balls and causing one turnover.
“Song does a great job off the wing, he did a great job bringing some younger guys with him,” said Madalon.
“His communication is great. Jacob Stoebner (1 ground ball, 2 caused turnovers) and Ben Finlay got their first starts down there, they played well. Sammy English (5 ground balls, 2 caused turnovers) did well in his first start in the midfield, he is a really athletic kid. We are excited to see him grow.”
With Princeton slated to host Colgate (0-2) on February 18 before heading south to play at second-ranked and defending national champion Virginia (2-0) on February 22, Madalon knows his team needs to be much sharper to keep on the winning track.
“We still have to clean some things up, we have a ton to work on,” said Madalon.
“It is the early season, we made a lot of mistakes. They made us pay a couple of times and then we were lucky a handful of times. That is a good team. We need to work on the in-between the lines stuff, organization, subbing, transition. The things that you only really get to experience in the game. It is buttoning things up, a lot of them.”
Slusher, for his part, is looking to build on the experience he gained in his debut.
“There is a lot we can learn from today after we watch the film,” said Slusher.
“It is definitely nice to get the first one out of my system, now it is just the second game. We are focused on Colgate right now, we don’t want to look past them. Going down to Charlottesville is an amazing opportunity. When it comes time to focus on that game, we are going to give it all of our attention and hopefully we can pull off an upset.”