PU Men’s Lax Stifled in 11-4 Loss to Maryland, Determined to Rebound in Ivy Opener at Penn
It was a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object when the 10th-ranked Princeton University men’s lacrosse team played at No. 9 Maryland last Saturday.
Coming into the day, high-powered Princeton was averaging 14.7 goals a game and leading the nation with 10 assists per contest.
The Terps, for their part, were surrendering just 5.25 goals per game, the top goals against average in the country. The Maryland goalie, Kyle Bernlohr, led the nation in goals against average and save percentage.
As the game unfolded, it became clear that stingy defense was destined to rule the day. Maryland led 3-2 at half and then outscored the Tigers 6-1 in the third quarter to break the game open on the way to an 11-4 win.
In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Chris Bates acknowledged that his team misfired.
“Honestly we didn’t feel like we executed well on the offensive end,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 3-1 with the loss.
“Credit Maryland, they are really good defensively. We needed six guys to be moving the ball. Ultimately we never got in rhythm. We had problems with shot selection and sharing the ball. The goalie played really well; they were even better on defense in person than they were on film.”
Bates won’t enjoy watching the film of the third quarter, which saw Maryland win seven of nine face-offs and end the period by scoring five unanswered goals.
“The wheels fell off in the third,” said Bates. “We didn’t touch the ball, they dominated on face-offs. I think we had the ball three times in the quarter. That is when they pulled away.”
Falling flat at Maryland could be a blessing in disguise for Princeton as it girds for the challenges ahead.
“It is a good lesson; leadership has to take charge on the field,” said Bates, whose team didn’t have an assist on the day. “We need to do a better job as coaches but there is only so much we can do. We challenged the leadership to make sure the team is executing. That is why we schedule teams like Hopkins and Maryland.”
The return of junior midfielder Jake Froccaro from injury and the continued progress of sophomore longstick midfielder Sam Gravitte were bright spots on a dark day for the Tigers.
“Froccaro did a good job, he gave us a spark,” said Bates of Froccaro who scored one goal on the day along with Gavin McBride, Bear Altemus, and Gravitte. “He logged a lot of minutes on defense with Austin Sims out. We will need him to help us on face-offs. Sam is taking the next step. He is a better team defender. He is showing on-ball energy, he is making progress.”
In Bates’ view, his team won’t let the loss on Saturday impede the progress it has been making this spring.
“The group was sufficiently humbled; we had a really good practice today,” said Bates.
“I like this group a lot, they are not afraid to work. There was no finger pointing. We told them to look at themselves individually and then hold each other accountable. I think this group is on a good path. I think they will learn from that experience.”
Princeton, now ranked 12th nationally, will start on what it hopes is the path to an Ivy League title when it plays at Penn on March 14 in the league opener for both teams.
“Penn rides well, they are good between the lines,” said Bates. “They create offense from their transition game. They have a lot of 2-way guys. We need to work on getting up and down the field. Everyone is 0-0 now and it doesn’t matter what your record is. It is easy to get the guys excited for this.”