With Currier Emerging as Potent Midfield Force, Tiger Men’s Lax Tops Manhattan 14-4 in Opener
Hailing from Canada, Zach Currier felt at home as snow fell throughout the second half when the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Manhattan last Saturday.
Noting that Princeton had started its preseason with a practice at midnight on February 1 in 19 degree chill, Currier said the Tigers weren’t fazed by the wintry blast.
“We are used to playing in the snow,” said sophomore midfielder Currier, a native of Petersborough, Ontario. “A couple of days ago we had a blizzard in practice; we have played in worse before.”
Breaking into the starting lineup, Currier played well, scoring two goals as Princeton cruised to a 14-4 win over the Jaspers.
“It is always nice to get one off the bat and then just keep going on from there,” said Currier.
Looking to play a more deliberate offensive style this season, the Tigers got into a nice rhythm.
“We have put in a new offense this year and I feel like we executed it pretty well,” said Currier.
“We are trying to get the ball around a couple of times to get settled and get the defense moving more and set them up where we want them.”
In Currier’s view, Princeton executed well all over the field against the Jaspers.
“I don’t think we had any lapses,” said Currier. “They got a few goals off a few bad bounces but we played really well defensively. We faced off really well. I think we out ground-balled them and obviously we scored a bunch of goals.”
With a season of college lax under his belt, Currier believes he can become a consistent goal scorer for the Tigers.
“Confidence is definitely one of the biggest issues,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Currier, who had 10 points in 2014 on six goals and four assists.
“Coming in as a freshman and playing along (Tom) Schreiber, (Jeff) Froccaro and all those big guys who had already been starting obviously you are going to be a little timid. I eventually settled in with their help. By the end of the year, I just started playing my own game and it carried over into this season. I don’t think I scored a goal outside five yards last year. I am starting to go from 9-10 yards.”
The graduation of four-time All American midfielder Schreiber has led to a shift in the Princeton offensive approach.
“Obviously Tom was a huge part of our offense last year,” said Currier. “I think this year our main focus is more team oriented, getting everyone touches where last year we wanted the ball on his stick a lot because he could do special things.”
Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with how his offense handled things in the win over Manhattan.
“I thought we played within ourselves and executed,” said Bates. “We knew they were going to come and try to slow it down with a zone and control the pace. I thought we played under control. We were patient, we didn’t try to force plays, which I was happy with.”
Bates was particularly happy with the play of his 1-2 punch of junior Ryan Amber and senior Mike MacDonald as Ambler scored four goals while MacDonald chipped in two goals and three assists.
“Those two have such good lacrosse IQs that they see an entire defense,” said Bates.
“You watch them dodge, they are not worried about their man. They are worried about a defensive rotation and just see through defense so well. They both have such great vision. Those two play so well together, it is fun to watch.”
It has been fun for Bates to watch Currier’s progress. “He picks up ground balls on the wing, he does some things that nobody teaches,” said Bates.
“He is so crafty. We are asking a lot of him, he is playing some defense, he is on the wings. He complements those other guys very well. If you put a shortstick on him in space, he is a very tough matchup. We knew coming in that he had talent and going out at the end of his freshman year, we started to see it more and more. Our guys know he is a playmaker. He can be a big-time guy.”
The Princeton defense made some big plays on Saturday as it held the Jaspers to two goals through the first 57:51 minutes of the contest.
“They didn’t create a whole lot of opportunities, we got the ball off the ground,” said Bates. “It was a good one for those guys to get their feet under them and communicate.”
It was good for Princeton to work through some opening day kinks. “We just got one under our belt,” added Bates. “With a two-week preseason, we knew it was going to be a little sloppy. We wanted to focus on us and play through it the best we can. We did a good job.”
On Friday, Princeton faces a good test as it hosts a perennially tough Hofstra team.
“I think the group knows because of the focus we put on the day to day preparation, we have still got to think about us,” said Bates.
“Hofstra is a well coached team, it is always a big game for them. At the end of the day, it is a good next step for us. We have got to take next steps and execute. I like this group. It is a group that is pretty dialed in, there is a good feeling with their work rate and leadership.”
Currier believes the Tigers are dialed in as they look ahead to the clash against Hofstra.
“We are going to play our game,” said Currier. “Hopefully we will get our shots and execute our game plan.”