April 6, 2022

Rebounding from Disappointing Defeat to Yale, PU Men’s Lax Looks Sharp in 17-9 Win at Brown

BIG BEN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ben Finlay guards the crease area in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Finlay helped key a superb defensive effort as Princeton defeated Brown 17-9. The third-ranked Tigers, now 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, will wrap up non-conference play this week as they were slated to host Marist (3-6) on April 5 and No. 13 Boston University (8-1) on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, its 14-12 loss at Yale in late March proved to be a bit of a wake-up call.

“Yale is a great team and not to take anything away from that game, we didn’t play our brand of Princeton lacrosse,” said Princeton head coach Matt Madalon. “We had a few too many mistakes, both in the nature of the game and mental mistakes as well. We learned from the film and went back to work. We pretty much understood as a program that we had to play a little better. We needed more discipline in certain parts of the game and play a little more physical when the ball is on the ground.”

The Tigers were looking to apply those lessons last Saturday as they played at nemesis Brown, a team they had lost to in five of their last six meetings and had not beaten in Providence, R.I., since 2012.

“It was a good opportunity; you go up to Brown, they are a great team and we haven’t won up there in a long time,” said Madalon. “They are a big, strong, fast, well-coached team.”

True to form, the rivals were locked in a tough battle at halftime with the Tigers clinging to a 7-5 lead.

“It was a really tight game in the first half,” said Madalon. “We were getting some offensive looks but they were doing a good job, going back and forth from zone to man to man trying to keep us on our heels. There wasn’t a ton of flow to the first half, there were a lot of penalties on both sides of the ball. We had a pretty fortunate start to the third quarter, we got off and running.”

Princeton junior star attacker Slusher went off in the third quarter, scoring four goals in the period as the Tigers built a 13-5 lead on the way to a 17-9 win, improving to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

“We are just so impressed with his compete level and his toughness,” said Madalon of Slusher, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. “He made some great individual plays, he made some great plays within the framework of the offense. He finished some plays on the backside. It was just an incredibly tough and an incredibly needed performance. We just needed a little spark and he kind of opened it up. He took a little of that weight off of everyone’s shoulders, put a couple in, and then we started rolling after that.”

Continuing his stellar senior season, Chris Brown tallied two goals and three assists in the win over the Bears.

“He gets better every single day,” said Madalon of Brown who has a team-high 38 points on 22 goals and 16 assists. “He is big, tough kid and has such great poise on game day. He is always in control. He is our leader of the offense, he is just an incredibly talented young guy.”

The Tiger offense has been balanced all season long with midfielders Jake Stevens (16 goals, 1 assist in 2022), Alexander Vardaro (15 goals, 10 assists), and Sammy English (12 goals, 10 assists) complementing attackers Slusher (29 goals, 5 assists), Brown, Coulter Mackesy (10 goals, 8 assists) and Christian Ronda (11 goals, 2 assists).

“The top six are really an impressive group,” said Madalon.

“Jake is kind of like that seventh guy that plays on the first line and on the wing. He is really such a do-it-all midfielder. We have been really fortunate, if one guy has been sputtering a little bit, another guy will step up. It is really nice to see. They are very complimentary of each other, they are very unselfish. We are at a good spot to keep developing and get better.”

At the defensive end, Princeton produced a nice effort in stifling Brown.

“[Erik] Peters racks up another 15 saves which is outstanding, his consistency is going to continue to help us,” said Madalon of his senior goalie. “George Baughan and Ben Finlay have been mainstays down on close defense. We made a change with Colin Mulshine starting down there and moved Pace Billings up to handle the pole assignments on some big, athletic Brown midfielders. Those guys did a wonderful job. Our shortstick midfielders in Beau Peterson and Luke Crimmins, we think they are some of the best in the country. Young guys like Marquez White and Joe Juengerkes were awesome.”

In reflecting on his squad’s 6-2 start, Madalon credits his players with doing a great job on a consistent basis.

“We are really just happy about how our guys show up to practice every day,” said Madalon. “These guys show up with a great energy and an edge. They want to work and get better. To be 6-2, we are just happy for these guys. We have got a lot of season left.”

With Princeton, now ranked third nationally in the Inside Lacrosse media poll, wrapping up non-conference play this week as it was slated to host Marist (3-6) on April 5 and No. 13 Boston University (8-1) on April 9, Madalon is looking to see his team tune up for the Ivy stretch drive.

“We are really hoping to just stay focused and use these two games to prepare for the rest of our Ivy League season,” said Madalon. “It is a busy week. BU is a great team, they face-off well, they have a great offense, and they have a great coaching staff. We expect a really big game Saturday. All of our focus is on Marist right now.”