By David Marcus ’92
Under former head coach Bill Tierney, the Princeton men's lacrosse team won games by confusing opponents with a unique defensive style. Tierney's successor, Chris Bates, is doing the same thing with offense. The Tigers beat Johns Hopkins 11-10 in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore March 6, a week after opening their season with a 17-14 victory at home over Hofstra. Princeton's impressive offensive production stems from Bates's free-flowing system, and it comes despite the loss of three of the team's top four scorers last year.
Jack McBride ’11 (Photo by Beverly Schaefer)
"They're a challenging group to defend because of the way they play offense, a hybrid of box [indoor] lacrosse and basketball," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala after Saturday's game. "They try to confuse you and force you to jump in and out of a defense. They're slick off the ball. They're unselfish."
The change is evident even in Princeton's best offensive player, preseason first-team All-American Jack McBride ’11, who scored many of his 35 goals last year by beating defensemen one-on-one. This year, McBride is moving more without the ball, and he's quicker to pass.
In overtime against Hopkins, McBride drew a double-team and pushed the ball to an open Scott Mackenzie ’10, who buried the shot for the win. All three of McBride's goals on the day were assisted, with the first two feeds coming from Mike Chanenchuk ’13, who's taken a spot on the first midfield, and the final one courtesy of Rob Engelke ’10, a role player in his first three years who's starting on attack and had a goal and seven assists in Princeton's first two games. Midfielder Tyler Moni ’11 has emerged as well, with two goals in each of the first two games.
The most impressive new face is that of midfielder Jeff Froccaro ’13, who scored four times against Hopkins and won 10 of 17 faceoffs against the Blue Jays, including the draw to start overtime. He also notched three goals against Hofstra.
"I love the offense," Froccaro said after the Hopkins game. He described the reason for his success in a sentence that recalled the offensive style of legendary Princeton basketball coach Pete Carril: "You just have to backdoor [cut] and finish it."
Bates is equally pleased with his team's development. "We preach pace and patience at the same time," he said. "I see light bulbs going on."