The Princeton men’s lacrosse team concluded its 2018 season with five straight wins, the last a 14-8 pasting of eventual NCAA quarterfinalist Cornell, and that finish led media and coaches to rank the Tigers 17th in preseason polls. The squad has the talent to exceed those expectations but will have to find a new face-off man and goalie and rebuild its first midfield to compete with Ivy League rivals Yale, a team capable of repeating last year’s NCAA championship, and Cornell, which has Final Four aspirations.
Princeton is led by one of the best players in the sport in Michael Sowers ’20. The attackman has scored 165 points in his first two seasons; at that pace he would break Kevin Lowe ’94’s school record of 247 in late April. Sowers is equally comfortable passing and shooting and has two highly competent linemates in Chris Brown ’21 and Phillip Robertson ’20.
The Tigers return two starters on defense: George Baughan ’21, a second-team All-Ivy defenseman last year, and Arman Medghalchi ’21, who started every game last year. Graduated starter Daniel Winschuh ’18 will likely be replaced by Aran Roberts ’19, Dave Sturtz ’20, or Andrew Song ’21, who started last year as a long-stick defensive midfielder. If Song moves to close defense, Nick Bauer ’20, Luciano Lazzaretto ’22, Terrell Seabrooks ’21, or Charlie Tarry ’20 will take his spot at defensive midfield; all four should see at least some time regardless.
The Tigers’ top short-stick defensive midfielder, Chase Williams ’20, a safety on last fall’s undefeated football team, has been a key contributor for the lacrosse team since walking on as a freshman. Mike Morean ’19 and Strib Walker ’20 will fill out the unit. Princeton should also benefit from coaching continuity on defense, as Jeremy Hirsch ’10 is the first assistant on that side of the field to return for a second year since 2013.
The Tigers are less settled elsewhere. Tyler Blaisdell ’18 started in goal for four years and will replaced by Ben Churchill ’21, Jon Levine ’20, or Eric Peters ’21. Said head coach Matt Madalon in early February, “We have a great goalie battle going on right now. As those guys continue to compete, one will emerge into a starter. We’re happy with the talent we have there.”
Sam Bonafide ’18 took two-thirds of the team’s faceoffs in 2018; Ralph Chrappa ’20, Philip Thompson ’20, and Jack-Henry Vara ’21 took the rest, winning 44 percent of their draws; they will vie for more time this year.
There also will be changes at midfield, where Austin Sims ’18, the team’s second-leading scorer, and Riley Thompson ’18, its fifth-leading scorer, are gone. Connor McCarthy ’20, their running mate on the first midfield, comes back, as does Charlie Durbin ’19, who lost last year to injury. Sophomores Jamie Atkinson ’21, Luke Crimmins ’21, and Carter Zavitz ’21 should see significant playing time, with freshmen Luc Anderson, Nicholas Bond, Will Kusnierek, Beau Pederson, Jake Stevens, and Alexander Vardaro vying to join them. Some of the freshmen may also see time at short-stick defensive midfield.
The Tigers have a demanding schedule. “We try to put the best schedule in the country together. We’ll play anyone, anywhere, anytime,” Madalon said. “That allows to give your program a chance to enter the NCAA tournament in more than one way.”
In addition to its Ivy League rivals, Princeton faces Virginia, Johns Hopkins, and Denver, which will come to Class of 1952 Field in Pioneers head coach Bill Tierney’s first game against Princeton, the program he led for 22 years and with which he won six NCAA titles.