Michael Sowers ’20 is a budding legend.
Jerry Price, who directs Princeton’s athletic communications office and has covered Tiger men’s lacrosse for more than 30 years, compares Sowers to all-time Princeton greats like Jesse Hubbard ’98, Kevin Lowe ’94, Ryan Boyle ’04, and recent grad Tom Schreiber ’14, last year’s Major League Lacrosse MVP.
“He is similar to Schreiber in a lot of ways,” Price says. “They both have great field vision. They both can use their left hand as well as their right hand. They both make everyone around them better. So you’re comparing him to Schreiber, and right now it’s very likely that Schreiber is the best player in the world.”
Sowers set Princeton’s program record with 82 points on 41 goals and 41 assists in his first year. He is on pace to break Lowe’s 247 career-points record.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sowers says. “I think that just to be mentioned in the same sentences as some of those guys, who are probably some of the greatest to ever pick up a stick, it’s truly an honor. Those guys did things that will never be matched in the program.”
Only twice before had Princeton players managed 30 goals and 30 assists in a season. Only four other Ivy League players have had a 40–40 season, and just one other freshman in the country has had a 40–40 season.
“We as a coaching staff aren’t super-surprised with how well he’s done because we see it on a day-to-day basis,” says Tigers head coach Matt Madalon. “How he operates in practice, how he operates in the weight room and film sessions, and outside of all that stuff — he’s a very humble and prepared individual.”
Sowers is 5-foot-8 and weighs 170 pounds, but he has remarkable toughness on the field, instilled by playing football in high school. His quick change of direction and field vision stand out. He elevated Princeton’s attack from averaging 10 goals per game last year to 14.7 this year. Gavin McBride ’17 had 50 goals in the previous two seasons combined before setting the program’s single-season record this year with 54.
“What impressed me most is his ability to make people around him better,” Madalon says of Sowers. “His ability to feed the ball is impressive. A lot of guys can score goals, and you can score goals in a lot of different ways. But in order to be able to feed the ball and truly quarterback an offense, there’s a level of understanding and lacrosse IQ that you have to have.”
Sowers had seven points in his college debut. A month later, when Yale held him to two assists, he pointed teammates to openings that led to 13 goals. Against Penn, the Ivy’s second-ranked defense, he scored five goals and had four assists.
Sowers credits his high-scoring teammates, including McBride, Zach Currier ’17, and Austin Sims ’18, for his success this year. “[A defense] can only cover so many people,” Sowers says. “When you’re worried about those guys ... stretching the defense, it kind of spreads the attention out, and it allows things to open up more.”
Sowers, the Ivy Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-Ivy selection, is focused on improving his athleticism in the offseason, and he’s adamant about improving the Tigers’ team results. Princeton jumped from 5–8 in 2016 to 9–5 and a second-place tie in the Ivy standings this spring, but missed out on the NCAA Tournament after falling to Brown in the Ivy Tournament semifinals May 5.
Speaking of the Princeton greats who came before him, Sowers says, “A lot of those guys won a national championship and a lot of those guys won Ivy League championships. As a player, that’s the greatest thing you can accomplish — to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”