After playing defensive midfield for Princeton men’s lacrosse in his freshman year, Austin Sims ’18 jumped to offensive midfield and became an offensive force. As a sophomore, he finished second on the team in goals. He was third last year despite missing five games due to injuries. And through the first eight games this year, he led the Tigers with 18 goals and was second on the team in points behind Michael Sowers ’20.
His output this season comes in spite of increased attention from opposing defenses after Princeton graduated two of its top three scorers — Gavin McBride ’17 and Zach Currier ’17 — and lost another key offensive threat, Charlie Durbin ’19, to injury. Sims stepped up to score a season-high five goals, including the tying and game-winning tallies, in a 15–14 overtime win over then-No. 13 Rutgers March 10 — the Tigers’ most impressive win to that point in the season. After a disappointing 0–3 start in Ivy League play, Princeton beat Dartmouth and Harvard to stay in contention for one of the four Ivy Tournament bids.
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t expect that every single day,” head coach Matt Madalon said of Sims’ productivity on the field. “He’s just that type of player. He does it every day in practice. He comes out of the Rutgers game with five goals, but I’m not sure we were super surprised. We were so used to watching him kick butt that we take it for granted at times.”
In the last four seasons, the Tigers have witnessed the midfielder mature from being the youngest freshman on the team to a senior captain. “I think his biggest area of growing up is his ability to lead and understand how to lead,” Madalon said.
Just 17 when he arrived at Princeton, Sims never looked younger than his classmates. He was just as big if not bigger than his peers. Over his four years, he’s grown even bigger and stronger, and his leadership has become more noticeable.
“As you do it more and more, it becomes easier to be a voice on the field, and you make sure you’re picking the younger guys up,” said Sims, who shares captain duties with Sam Bonafede ’18 and Riley Thompson ’18.
“It’s really the seniors’ team and we’ve drawn a lot of help from the senior class, especially guys like J.T. Caputo and Danny Winschuh on the defensive end,” Sims said. “We’ve leaned on those guys to take control of the defensive end and set a good example for the young guys on the team.”
Sims served as co-captain for the United States under-19 men’s national team that won the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in 2016.
“That was really my first experience being a true captain,” Sims said. “It definitely was difficult at first. I came off my sophomore year at Princeton after playing offensive midfield and I went back to playing defensive midfield for Team USA. It showed me that you have to do whatever you can to make the team better.”
Now, as a leading scorer, Sims shares the credit for his goals, emphasizing the teamwork that leads to good shots. “I’ve been lucky enough to be put in a situation where the ball falls in my stick to take the shot a lot of the time,” Sims said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They’re the ones dodging hard down the alleys, drawing the slides.”