March 28, 2011

Monday Morning Midfielder: Could Princeton's Woes Get Any Worse?

by Matt DaSilva | | Blog Update: False Alarm?

Princeton will likely learn Monday if Jack McBride (groin) will return at all this season. McBride's injury has been the most visible in a rash of injuries that have contributed to the Tigers' 1-5 start.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Chris Bates inherited a dream house. He came to Princeton two years ago to take over a men's lacrosse team that Bill Tierney left chock full of talent. In year two of the Bates era, however, the Tigers have become lacrosse's version of "The Money Pit."

A rash of injuries to star players and their supporting cast have left Princeton perilously thin and in the throes of a four-game losing streak. What's worse, Bates said, he expects to hear Monday afternoon about another injury to a key player "that will boggle your mind." He stopped short of identifying that player in a phone interview Monday morning, only to say that "we may have lost another starter to a freak injury."

(Blog Update: False Alarm?)

At this point, nothing would surprise Bates. Princeton has walked under more ladders, broken more mirrors and seen more black cats than any team in recent memory.

It started in the fall when Mike Chanenchuk, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, broke his collarbone and then withdrew from the university due to academics. "You can't fall behind here," Bates said.

It continued in the Tigers' season-opening loss at Hofstra, where All-American attackman Jack McBride aggravated a groin injury that could keep him shelved for the rest of the season. "Jack's not playing here in the short term. He's still rehabbing," Bates said. "Until we make an announcement that may come later today, he's got to make some decisions."

Even in the Tigers' only win of the season at Johns Hopkins, starting defenseman Rob Castelo caught his foot in the Homewood Field turf, tore two knee ligaments and broke a kneecap. "Right in front of the bench," Bates said. "Geez, that's the prototype right there."

It's a prototype of misfortune. Starting midfielder Tom Schreiber and starting defenseman Jonathan Meyers (hamstring) both returned from injuries to play Saturday against Yale, only to see short stick defensive midfielder Nick Fernandez join the walking wounded with a broken wrist. "He trips on his own foot," Bates said in disbelief, "and breaks his radius."

It was Fernandez's third injury this year after a preseason ankle injury and a concussion against Hopkins. It would have potentially opened up a playing opportunity for Oscar Loynaz, had he not separated his shoulder -- pushing a car in the snow.

Princeton's bad luck has not been relegated solely to injuries, either. By all accounts Saturday, the Tigers should have beaten the 19th-ranked Bulldogs. Princeton was up 6-2 in the third quarter before it unraveled like a "Final Destination" sequence. Matt Miller's man-up goal that brought Yale within 6-5 in the third quarter actually rang in off the pipe. "How many 17-yard shots go in against Tyler Fiorito?" Bates asked. "You shake your head and say, 'Wow.'"

A furious finish saw the Bulldogs tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Then they sealed their first win over the Tigers since 2005 -- a week after Penn beat Princeton for the first time since 1989 -- on a Brandon Mangan goal in overtime that hit a stick in front, bounced off the far pipe and caromed into the goal behind Fiorito.

"That's our lot in life right now," Bates said Monday. "We've got to dig ourselves out."

The loss came on the heels of what Bates called Princeton's best week of practice this season. The Tigers are 1-5 and in last place (0-2) in the Ivy League halfway through the 2011 season. The second-half stretch goes like this: Brown, Syracuse, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Harvard and Cornell.

"This team needs a win. We need to feel good about ourselves," Bates said. "There's a mental and physical rut that's inevitable when you get on a skid like this. We thought this last Saturday was it, and we get punched between the eyes and say, 'Wow, that just happened.'"

Weekend's Best

Player: David Hawley, Brown

Keeping with an Ivy League theme, you don't get much better than what Hawley did Saturday, scoring six goals -- including the eventual game-winner with 4:21 remaining -- in the Bears' 12-10 comeback win over Vermont. Hawley makes the Bears dangerous in this unpredictable Ivy race. The former Division III stud from Williams is their top threat in the midfield.

Honorable mention: Nicky Galasso, North Carolina; Jordan Wolf, Duke; Lee Coppersmith, Johns Hopkins; John Antoinades, Hofstra; Fergus Campbell, Dartmouth; Peter Burke, Bucknell.

Game: Dartmouth 9, Harvard 8

The Ivy League intrigue took on some controversy. Officials added 2.2 seconds to the clock before an endline restart, which proved crucial as Nikki Dysenchuk took the ball from behind the net and attacked from the right side. He blew past the defender, and fired a low line drive that beat the goalie as time expired.

Honorable mention: Johns Hopkins 12, Virginia 11; Delaware 9, Towson 8; Yale 8, Princeton 7 (OT); Cornell 13, Penn 12 (OT); Syracuse 5, Villanova 4

Quote: Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins

Petro's post-game press conference interactions with players are priceless. After Pierce Bassett revealed Hopkins' code word for the zone defense that helped the Blue Jays stop Virginia on the final possession of a 12-11 win, Pietramala chimed, "We're giving away names? Now I have to change it, right?"

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