March 12, 2003: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column
in the hunt
By David Marcus 92
The Princeton mens lacrosse team last year achieved typical results in an atypical way. Though the squad dropped its first Ivy League game since 1995, the Tigers earned their 10th league crown since 1992. And despite losing four games in March 2002 for the first time since 1989, Princeton played in its ninth N.C.A.A. Final Four in 11 years, but lost 1312 to Syracuse in the final. With most of its key players back, Princeton seems primed to make another run at the N.C.A.A. title this spring.
In 2002 the Tigers pushed the ball on offense in situations where coach Bill Tierneys teams historically have preferred patience, a trend that should continue. The loss of creaseman B. J. Prager 02 will mean a different look for Princetons attack, but shooter Sean Hartofilis 03 and feeder Ryan Boyle 04, last years Ivy League player of the year, return.
The third starter on attack will be Jason Doneger 05, whose brother Adam is a returning first-team All-America midfielder at Johns Hopkins. Jasons not like anybody weve had, Tierney says. He can play inside, but hes not a pure crease attackman. He plays attack like a midfielder, very much like his brother. Hes a bull in a china shop.
In contrast, Princeton will benefit from three senior midfielders who came to Princeton as attackmen Will MacColl, Matt Trevenen, and Josh White. Theyll be complemented by several more conventional middies. Brad Dumont 03 was a second-team All-American last year and emerged as a significant outside shooting threat. His high school classmate Owen Daly 03 is a four-year starter at midfield and one of the teams few middies who plays often on both sides of the ball.
Drew Casino 04, who took most of Princetons draws last year, will see more time on the field. Hell split face-off duties with Ryan Schoenig 06 and Anthony Perna 03, who will lead the short-stick defensive midfield. Mac Bryson 05 is also expected to be in the rotation. Tierney says the group is strong but lacks game experience compared to last seasons group. Last year, we felt we had 10 middies we could go to any time, he says.
Princetons defense was unusually suspect last year, when the team allowed 8.7 goals a game, the highest average since 1990. A years experience should help reduce that figure. At close defense, starters Damien Davis 03, a two-time second-team All-American, and Brian Lieberman 03 return. Ricky Schultz 04, who saw significant playing time as an underclassman, will replace Scott Farrell 02.
Ricky likes to pick off passes, says Davis, a three-year starter. Hes a little quicker than Farrell, but not as physical. When Farrell came to slide, people tried to get out of the way.
Joe Rosenbaum 03 is back as the long-stick midfield and will be spelled by Tony Vita 06, whom Tierney anointed as the next great one here. Hes one of the best learners Ive ever had here. He doesnt make the same mistake twice.
Julian Gould 03 returns in goal, but he will be pushed by Dave Law 06, the nations most highly recruited high school netminder last year. Matt Larkin 05 will also challenge for playing time. Though Gould improved during the 2002 season, he was less consistent than Tierney might have preferred. Either Julian is going to be a better goalie, or one of those guys is going to beat him out, Tierney says. Thus far, its been the former. His year of experience has given him some savvy. Its been his job to lose, and hes solidified it.
Princeton will have its toughest regular season tests this month. In their first four games, the Tigers face Johns Hopkins (March 1), the University of Virginia (March 8), Hofstra (March 15), and Syracuse (March 22), squads ranked fourth, third, 10th, and first, respectively, in a preseason coaches poll. Princeton is ranked second.
After running that gauntlet, Princeton moves into its Ivy League schedule, where the strongest competition should come from Cornell and Yale, which last year ended the Tigers 37-game Ivy League win streak. But neither school should keep Princeton from another Ivy title.
Princetons seniors hope to end their career where they began it their freshman year, in Baltimore. But while they played their first game at Johns Hopkins, winning 1511, theyd like to get the same result at a larger venue: Ravens Stadium, the site of this years Final Four.
David Marcus 92 writes frequently for PAW.