Sowers enters this spring as one of the most heralded players in the country, but if the Tigers are to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, coach Matt Madalon will have to fill a number of holes left by graduation and injury.
Men’s Lacrosse Preview
Two of those spots are on attack: Gavin McBride ’17 graduated after scoring 54 goals and 17 assists last year, and Madalon hopes to move Riley Thompson ’18 to midfield. “We’re still trying to figure out who will be around Sowers,” Madalon said. The leading candidates are sophomores Andrew Bowman and Phillip Robertson, neither one of whom played much last year. Juniors Carter Flaig and Emmet Cordrey could also compete for time, as could Chris Brown ’21, even though he played midfield in high school.
At midfield, the Tigers lost the astonishingly versatile Zach Currier ’17, who took the bulk of the team’s faceoffs, picked up 130 ground balls, and was third on the team in points with 24 goals and 34 assists. “We’re not going to replace him with one guy,” Madalon said. “We will replace him with a number of different people.” Charlie Durbin ’20, who tied for fifth on the team in goals last year with 18, will miss this season with an injury.
That leaves Austin Sims ’18 as the lone returning starter at midfield. Sims, a member of the under-19 U.S. world championships team in 2016, has a ferocious shot. He scored 27 goals last year in only 10 games, including six in an 18-7 pasting of Johns Hopkins. “He’s got the ability to stretch a defense,” said Madalon. Braedon Gait ’18, Connor McCarthy ’20, Dawson McKenzie ’19, and Strib Walker ’19 could see time. So could Sam Bonafede ’18, a faceoff specialist his first three years who may also head a faceoff corps that includes sophomores Ralph Chrappa and Philip Thompson and freshman Jack-Henry Vara.
Princeton allowed an average of 11.4 goals a game last year and will look to improve under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Hirsch ’10, the sixth man to hold that position in the last six years. Hirsch will be coaching an experienced group of players. J.P. Caputo ’18, Mike Morean ’19, and Chase Williams ’20 return at defensive midfield, where Jasper Arnold ’20 will join the rotation.
The Tigers return two of their three starters at close defense in Arman Medghalchi ’20 and Daniel Winschuh ’18, as well as longstick defensive midfielders Nick Bauer ’20 and Charlie Tarry ’19, all of whom will competing for time with George Baughn ’21, Aran Roberts ’19, Andrew Song ’21, and David Sturtz ’20. In goal, Tyler Blaisdell ’18, a first-team All-Ivy League selection last year, returns. The Tigers struggled at times last year in the clearing game, which Madalon said has been a point of focus for the team since the fall.
Princeton, which opens at home vs. Monmouth Feb. 17, will play the Virginia, Johns Hopkins, and Rutgers early in the season before starting Ivy League play. Should the Tigers qualify for the Ivy tournament, they’ll head to New York City to play at Columbia’s Robert Kraft Field, the first time in the tournament’s 9-year history that it has been held at a neutral site. (Columbia does not have a varsity men’s lacrosse team.) By David Marcus ’92
Preseason forecasts say otherwise: Princeton received 11 of 16 first-place votes in the Ivy League media poll, beating out rival Penn for the top spot. And in the IWLCA preseason poll, the Tigers ranked No. 9, just two spots below their final ranking last year.
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To meet those high expectations, Princeton will hope to sustain the Ivy’s most prolific offense (14.5 goals per game), a responsibility that will be spread among many players. Head coach Chris Sailer, in the team’s season-preview video, said, “We’re not going to be heavily relying on one person. We’re going to need multiple people who want the ball in crunch time and who can make plays.”
High on that list of playmakers are attacker Tess D’Orsi ’20, who scored 38 goals (second-best on the team) in her freshman season, and midfielder Colby Chanenchuk ’18, last year’s assists leader. Elizabeth George ’19, Ellie McNulty ’18, Kathryn Hallett ’19, and Allie Rogers ’19 should be key contributors as well — that foursome combined for 85 goals and 36 assists last year. George and McNulty are Princeton’s draw specialists.
Kyla Sears ’21, the national high school player of the year last spring, will also figure into the Tigers’ plans at attack. She leads a recruiting class that was ranked second in the country by Inside Lacrosse, behind North Carolina and one spot ahead of reigning national-champion Maryland. Other heralded freshmen on Princeton’s roster include defender Marge Donovan and goalie Sam Fish.
On defense, Alex Argo ’19 is the lone returning starter. Three players — Mary Kate McDonough ’18, Winnie Brandfield-Harvey ’20, and Fish — will vie to fill DeGarmo’s spot in goal.
Princeton’s schedule is challenging, as usual, with nonconference games against five top-25 teams — Maryland, Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia, and Loyola. Penn and Cornell look like the Tigers’ top challengers in the Ivy title race. Princeton defeated both in the league tournament last May, and topped Cornell in the NCAA Tournament as well. The Tigers open the season Feb. 17 at Temple and begin their home slate Feb. 24 against Virginia. By B.T.