Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 16
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
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BREAKING OUT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro looks for an opening in recent action. Last week, sophomore midfielder Froccaro came up big as the Tigers posted a 11-10 win over Rutgers on April 12 and then beat Dartmouth 8-4 last Saturday. He scored three goals in the win over the Scarlet knights and then matched his career high with four goals against the Big Green. Coming into the week, Froccaro had scored a total of five goals in the Tigers’ first eight games. Princeton, now 4-6 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League play, hosts Harvard (7-5 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on April 23.

PU Men’s Lax Tops Rutgers, Dartmouth; Primed for Pivotal Clash Against Harvard

Bill Alden

Things looked bleak on several levels for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team as it played at local rival Rutgers last week.

To begin with, the game was moved to a football practice field due to a downpour and was then suspended for 45 minutes when the area was hit with thunder and lightning.

On the field, the Tigers were getting dumped on as they found themselves trailing 8-3 with 10:24 left in the third quarter and in grave danger of dropping to 2-7 on the season.

With the sky falling on his team, Princeton head coach Chris Bates called a timeout to read the riot act to his players.

“It was a funky set of circumstances with the lightning and about 12 people in the stands; it was different than what we are used to,” said Bates.

“Rutgers played with a sense of urgency; there was not much you can do standing on the sidelines. We called a timeout and said it is not about the Xs and Os; we challenged them.”

The Tigers proved up to the challenge, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 8-3 the rest of the game to pull out an improbable 11-10 win as Tom Schreiber, Chris McBride, and Jeff Froccaro each scored two goals in the rally.

“I hope it is a sign of good things to come,” said Bates whose team was outshot 42-21 and lost 18-of-23 faceoffs but was still able to beat Rutgers for the 23rd time in the last 24 years, earning the Meistrell Cup given to the winner of the Garden State rivalry.

“The Syracuse game [a 7-5 loss] gave us a sense of hope; I was really proud of our team that day but we really needed that win against Rutgers. You are dealing with guys who are 19, 20, 21 years old and they can be fragile in some ways and they needed that reward.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers had their maturity tested again as they were knotted 2-2 against Dartmouth at half despite outshooting the Big Green 24-16 over the first 30 minutes of the contest.

“We could have been saying what is going on; we were dominating that game and the goalie was standing on his head,” said Bates.

“We had generated a lot of offense and we just needed to solve him. We didn’t make any adjustments. We just told them to keep doing what you are doing and the shots will fall.”

In the second half, the shots did fall for the Tigers as they outscored the Big Green 6-2 to pull away to an 8-4 triumph in moving to 4-6 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League play. Princeton is currently in fourth place in the league standings and very much in the hunt to make the Ivy tournament which will include the top four teams in the conference.

“I give our guys credit; they played hard and they played well,” said Bates, who got four goals from Froccaro in the win over Dartmouth with Schreiber chipping in a goal and three assists. “We played terrific defense the whole game.”

Princeton has been getting terrific play all season long from precocious freshman midfielder Schreiber, who leads the team in goals (14) and assists (13).

“You are seeing a guy grow up in front of your eyes,” asserted Bates of Schreiber, who was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season.

“He shows passion and leadership. We talk about the NHL playoff games and tell the guys to watch the players give up their bodies to get the puck or lay on the ice to block a shot. Tom shows that kind of toughness; he can spark a team. We don’t want to put him on a pedestal but the other guys can learn from him.”

The play of sophomore midfielder Froccaro last week provided a big spark for the Tigers as he scored seven goals in the two wins after getting just five in Princeton’s first eight games.

“Jeff has loosened up and got his hands free,” said Bates of the 5’11, 185-pound Froccaro, who now has 15 points on the season with 12 goals and three assists.

“He hasn’t been getting the same production he got last year or in the past. We told him he had to keep playing hard and doing the little things and the production will come. He was gripping the stick too tight. He needed to get some to fall to break through and relax.”

The Tigers got a breakthrough moment and some comic relief from senior defenseman Long Ellis in the win over Dartmouth when he scored a man-down goal to give Princeton a 6-3 lead.

“Long is such a competitor; it was like an offensive lineman scoring a touchdown,” said Bates. “He did a Tiger Woods fist pump after the goal and then stubbed his toe and stumbled.”

Bates knows that Princeton will be facing a tough competitor this Saturday when it hosts a Harvard squad desperate to stay in the race for the league tourney.

“They play fast and free; they generate a lot of shots and opportunities off of transition and faceoffs,” said Bates of the Crimson, who are 7-5 overall and 1-3 in Ivy action.

“They have free rein to be aggressive. Gibbons [senior attackman Dean Gibbons] is an All-Ivy player. The others aren’t as much ball carriers but they are putting up good numbers.”

Riding its first two-game winning streak of the season and having won three of its last four games, the Tigers are primed for another good result.

“We have got to slow them down and solve the goalie and the defense,” said Bates.

“Harvard beat us last year. We know the importance of this game and we would like to send them home. We are feeling good, we are hoping that our best lacrosse is in front of us.”

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