Princeton men’s lacrosse fans who showed up for last year’s season opener against Hofstra didn’t know what to expect. Few were familiar with new head coach Chris Bates, who took the job after Bill Tierney moved to the University of Denver in June 2009. In addition to losing a Hall of Fame coach, the Tigers graduated three of their top four scorers from a squad that won a share of the Ivy title and went to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2009.
Concerns about the 2010 team proved unwarranted. Princeton scored three goals in the first three minutes against Hofstra and won 17–14, then beat Johns Hopkins 10–9 in overtime the next week. The Tigers went on to a 7–1 start, slumped in April, and recovered to win the first-ever Ivy Tournament with a 10–9 overtime win at Cornell. An 8–5 loss to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament left Princeton with an 11–5 record and a sense that the season had ended too soon. “You want to be playing on the big stage on Memorial Day [the day of the NCAA championship game],” Bates said.
This year’s team, which plays North Carolina in its home opener March 11, may have the talent to do that, and both coach and players will benefit from greater familiarity. “We all speak the same language now,” Bates said. “You could see it in the fall, and it will carry into the spring.”
The adjustment last year was most significant on offense, where Bates employs a distinctive style that relies on off-ball movement and borrows liberally from indoor lacrosse. This season’s Tigers “will have a better sense of the intricacies, and a knowledge of when the system breaks down, why it breaks down, and how to fix it,” Bates said.
Starting attackmen Jack McBride ’11 and cousin Chris McBride ’11 both return, and Bates is looking to Jack, a two-time All-American, to become the quarterback of the offense. Cliff Larkin ’12 and Luke Armour ’13 will compete for the third starting spot.
At midfield, Princeton will miss second-team All-American Mike Chanenchuk ’13, who withdrew from school in December. But Jeff Froccaro ’13 and Tyler Moni ’11 return, and the Tigers add Thomas Schreiber ’14, possibly the best freshman midfielder in the country. Mark Feild ’12, Mike Grossman ’12, Tucker Shanley ’13, and Chris White ’13 will fill out the midfield corps.
Tyler Fiorito ’12 returns in goal, and Chad Wiedmaier ’12, like Fiorito a second-team All-American last year, will anchor the defense. Jonathan Meyers ’12 and Long Ellis ’11 join Wiedmaier on the defensive end, and John Cunningham ’12 returns as the team’s top long-stick defensive midfielder. Freshmen Hunter DeButts and Nick Fernandez join Bobby Lucas ’13, Connor Reilly ’12, and Peter Smyth ’12 as short-stick defensive midfielders.