March 12, 2003: Sports

Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column

Damien Davis ’03 leads a defense that ranked 19th nationally in 2002. (Beverly Schaefer)

Tigers in the hunt
Men’s lacrosse ready for another title run

By David Marcus ’92

The Princeton men’s 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 13—12 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 Tierney’s teams historically have preferred patience, a trend that should continue. The loss of creaseman B. J. Prager ’02 will mean a different look for Princeton’s attack, but shooter Sean Hartofilis ’03 and feeder Ryan Boyle ’04, last year’s 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. “Jason’s not like anybody we’ve had,” Tierney says. “He can play inside, but he’s not a pure crease attackman. He plays attack like a midfielder, very much like his brother. He’s 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. They’ll 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 team’s few middies who plays often on both sides of the ball.

Drew Casino ’04, who took most of Princeton’s draws last year, will see more time on the field. He’ll 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 season’s group. “Last year, we felt we had 10 middies we could go to any time,” he says.

Princeton’s defense was unusually suspect last year, when the team allowed 8.7 goals a game, the highest average since 1990. A year’s 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. “He’s 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. He’s one of the best learners I’ve ever had here. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”

Julian Gould ’03 returns in goal, but he will be pushed by Dave Law ’06, the nation’s 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, it’s been the former. His year of experience has given him some savvy. It’s been his job to lose, and he’s 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.

Princeton’s 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 15—11, they’d like to get the same result at a larger venue: Ravens Stadium, the site of this year’s Final Four.

David Marcus ’92 writes frequently for PAW.

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