March 22, 2017

After Rolling to 17-8 Win Over Penn in Ivy Opener, PU Men’s Lax Primed for Showdown Against Yale

IN PLAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Gavin McBride prepares to unload the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star McBride tallied a career-high five goals to help No. 15 Princeton top No. 19 Penn 17-8 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 5-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, host Yale (3-3 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Princeton University men’s lacrosse team hosted Penn last spring, it fell behind 9-3 at halftime on the way to a 20-10 drubbing at the hands of the Quakers.

Coming off a 16-11 loss to No. 5 Rutgers last Wednesday evening in arctic conditions with a temperature of 24 degrees and a wind chill of four at game time, Princeton came out on fire when it renewed its rivalry with Penn last Saturday at Franklin Field in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

The 15th-ranked Tigers raced out to a 5-1 first quarter lead and never looked back on the way to a 17-8 triumph over the No. 19 Quakers, improving to 5-2 overall.

“It was a big game for us just to start Ivy play; we had a good, quiet focused warmup and then our guys got off to a good jump,” said Princeton head coach Matt Madalon.

“We had a couple of wrinkles that allowed us to get going offensively. We made a couple saves early. We were able to get a couple of faceoffs too so everything just kind of clicked for us early. Once we put a couple on the board, our guys seemed to loosen up a little bit and they seemed to tighten up a little bit. We kind of got rolling from there.”

Building on an 8-3 halftime lead, the Tigers outscored the Quakers 6-1 in the third quarter to seal the deal.

“They ran a little zone so that actually slowed the pace it took us a minute or two to sort it out,” said Madalon. “Our guys did a good job of executing.”

Freshman phenom Michael Sowers took his offensive execution to a new level in the win over Penn, tallying a career-high nine points on five goals and four assists.

“He is really impressive, he stepped up big for us,” said Madalon of Sowers who was later named both the Ivy Player and Rookie of the Week and now has 40 points (19 goals and 21 assists) in his first seven games.

“They just struggled covering him one versus one. He took advantage of some matchups, made some really smart plays. He was able to finish shots that he created for himself and he was able to make other guys around him a heck of a lot better.”

One of the guys who benefitted from Sowers’ playmaking was senior co-captain Gavin McBride, who tallied a career-high five goals against the Quakers.

“Gavin is a really smart player; he is really consistent,” said Madalon of McBride, who now has 19 goals on the season, tying him with Sowers for the team lead.

“He keeps doing a nice job. He does it every day in practice and we are really happy with how he is playing.”

Madalon was happy with the scoring balance the Tigers displayed as junior attackman Riley Thompson chipped in three goals and two assists while sophomore midfielder Charlie Durbin contributed two goals and and an assist.

“It was nice; we got some good complementary scoring,” said Madalon. “Riley put in a couple; Durbin put a couple in. It is good any time you can give Austin Sims and Zach Currier a little bit of a breather and have some other guys step up. It is nice to spread it out.”

It was nice for the Tigers to bounce back from the Rutgers setback with an impressive win in the league opener.

“It was important for us because we take the motto that it is important because it is the next one,” said Madalon.

“It was great to start with an Ivy win but it is only one game and we were happy to rebound. It was a good performance for our guys. We were really happy with how they played.”

The next one is big as Princeton hosts Yale (3-3 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 24.

“It is a big test for us on Friday; Yale is a well coached team, they are well organized,” said Madalon.

“Ben Reeves is a really special player for them. He is finding a groove right now. He started off the season a little slow. I think he has put up an average of six or seven points the last three games so he is going to be a focus for us coming in. They are always a good program and they have been the team to beat in the Ivy the last couple of years so we hope to be ready for them.”

In order to defeat the Bulldogs, Princeton will need to bring the focus it exhibited from the opening whistle against Penn.

“It is just playing our game, making sure that we execute,” added Madalon. “We are struggling a little bit in the clear so we are going to try to make sure that will be buttoned up for the game. It is really just focusing on what we are doing offensively, defensively, and between the lines.”