(NOTE: The following story includes a correction of the version published in the April 28, 2010, edition of PAW.)
The men’s lacrosse team fared worse in its third game in an NFL stadium this spring than it did in its first two. Princeton beat Johns Hopkins 11–10 in overtime at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium March 6 and topped Brown 9–7 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., April 3. But Syracuse dismantled the Tigers 13–4 at the new Meadowlands Stadium April 10 to leave Princeton, ranked fifth in the national polls, with a 7–2 record. The two-time defending national champion Orange have lost only once this year and seem primed to become the first team to win three straight NCAA Division I lacrosse titles since Princeton did so between 1996 and 1998.
Still, first-year Princeton head coach Chris Bates was displeased with his team’s performance against Syracuse in the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, a lacrosse showcase that featured four of the nation’s top five teams. “It’s a little bit humbling,” Bates said after the game, citing Syracuse’s significant advantage in ground balls and his team’s failure to cash in on extra-man opportunities. “We haven’t had great weeks of practice, and the guys have known it.”
Bates pointed out that his team is young, with only three seniors who start. That youth may have caught up with Princeton against the Orange, but it has served the Tigers well in a season where Bates has played a more aggressive style on offense than his predecessor, Bill Tierney, who moved to the University of Denver last June. Two freshmen in particular have stood out by helping to replace All-American midfielders Mark Kovler ’09 and Rich Sgalardi ’09.
Jeff Froccaro ’13 has taken most of Princeton’s faceoffs this season and won the two most important — the draws to begin overtime against Hopkins and against the University of Pennsylvania March 20. Neither opponent’s offense saw the ball again. Against Hopkins, the Tigers worked the ball to Jack McBride ’11, who found an open Scott MacKenzie ’10 for the winner. In addition to winning 10 of 17 faceoffs in Baltimore, Froccaro scored four goals. Against Penn he added two more goals, including the game-winner. Princeton trailed 9–5 midway through the fourth quarter but scored four times in 80 seconds to tie and took a 10–9 lead on a score by Mike Chanenchuk ’13 with a little over a minute to go. Penn answered, but Froccaro won the faceoff to start overtime and after a three-minute Princeton possession beat his man from the right wing to end the game. The next week, he scored another game-winner with 37 seconds left in a 7–6 victory at Yale.
Froccaro “doesn’t back down from any situation,” said Bates after the Penn game. During a timeout in the overtime, the coach said, “He wanted the ball in the huddle. He’s a freshman, and he wants the ball in overtime.”
Chanenchuk has been just as impressive with 16 goals and five assists, good for second on the team in goals behind starting attackman Jack McBride and third in points after McBride and his linemate Rob Engelke ’10. A quick midfielder with a deceptive underhand release on his shot, Chanenchuk scored five goals in a 13–8 win at Manhattan College March 9 and three more in a 12–11 loss at third-ranked University of North Carolina March 16.
Princeton is more experienced on defense, but the loss of preseason first-team All-American defenseman Chad Wiedmaier ’12 for the first six games of the year left the unit struggling. No one felt his absence more keenly than goalie Tyler Fiorito ’12. An honorable mention All-American last year, Fiorito saved 11 shots in a 17–14 season-opening win over Hofstra and eight against Hopkins, but he made just four saves each in the North Carolina and Penn games. He returned to form with 15 stops at Yale and 17 against Brown and held his own against Syracuse, which features the game’s best offense.
The Syracuse loss left Princeton to regroup before the final month of the regular season, which ends with the Ivy League’s inaugural tournament May 7 and 9.
For the record: The score of the Princeton-Brown lacrosse match was reported incorrectly in the April 28, 2010, edition of PAW.
David Marcus ’92 is a frequent PAW contributor.