January 31, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 6 Princeton Tigers (MD1)

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Princeton's Tom Schreiber is the returning MacLaughlin Award winner as the top midfielder in NCAA Division I. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Previous: No. 7 Maryland Terrapins


2013 Record: 9-6 (3-3 Ivy League)
Coach: Chris Bates (5th Year)
Record at Princeton: 35-26

Power Rankings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 5
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 2

Top Returner

M Tom Schrieber (Sr.)
The MacLaughlin Award winner as the top midfielder in NCAA Division I a year ago, Schreiber is one of just two Tewaaraton finalists returning for 2014 (Albany's Lyle Thompson being the other). After a 60-point (28 goals, 32 assists) junior year, he is 40 points shy of becoming the fifth Princeton player to crack 200 in a career, where he would join Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess, Ryan Boyle and Kevin Lowe.


FO Justin Murphy (Sr.)
As a team, Princeton struggled at the X a year ago, winning just 47 percent of the time. Murphy was a hair above 50 percent (111-for-218) in taking the lions' share, so if he can bump that number up a few percentage points, it could go along way in helping take pressure off the defense by feeding more possessions to the offense that averaged over 19 goals a game in 2013. 

Tournament Trend

2009 Quarterfinalist
2010 First Round
2011 Did Not Qualify
2012 First Round
Did Not Qualify

What's New?

The cupboard was bare after Bates lost his coaching staff to other programs, but there's plenty of good minds around as usual in Princeton. Former Army standout and Virginia assistant John Walker is the defensive and recruiting coordinator, while 2012 IMLCA Division III Assistant Coach of the Year Matt Madalon takes over working with faceoffs, extra-man and the offense. Brad Conlon comes from DII Pfeiffer, where he was the defensive coordinator and recently an interim head coach.

Telling Number

Man down defense in 2013, 48th nationally out of 61 teams. Since Bates' arrival in 2010, the Tigers have been in the top 15 on man down twice in in the bottom 20 twice. Guess which two years they made the NCAAs?

Behind Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say

"An offense that can compete with anyone. Is this the year they make the jump defensively?...Return a ton of offense. Defense is question mark... Offensively this is as good of a unit as there is anywhere else across the country. Schreiber is a potential Player of the Year candidate just like he was last year. MacDonald, Froccaro, Orban, Sonenfeldt are all very talented and capable sidekicks."

"Basically a new coaching staff coaching the defense and goalies which was an area of concern last year as they were very young, does this staff have the ability to get things going in the right direction, especially in the goal?... If they can get a defensive presence and solid goaltending this team could have a great chance to make Memorial Day weekend."

"Will have a good opportunity in the Ivy League with Cornell not as strong as last year and with Yale losing most of their stingy defense due to graduation... This team has a ton of seniors (15) and that fact cannot be overlooked for leadership purposes... As good a first six on O as there is. Schreiber is the best player I saw last year."

"There is not a better midfielder in the game than Tom Schreiber. His vision is unmatched and he has the speed to match, both his legs and his shot. And how about the transformation of attackman Mike MacDonald from serving solely as a finisher (which he still does very efficiently with 43 goals and a shooting percentage of 46 percent in 2013) to putting pressure on a defense as an accomplished dodger?"

"Aside from the loss of the older Froccaro, most of this team is back and they are the favorite in the Ivy League. The defense, which had to go through a growth phase last year, is in better position although they will be missing Greg Raymond who took off for Geneva, N.Y., to serve as the head coach at Hobart. In the goal, Matt O'Connor started and played well for a majority of his freshman season last year, but he did struggle late in the season. This is not out of the ordinary for a young goalie and he is better prepared this season to be stellar throughout."

"Schreiber is a player of the year candidate. The loss of Froccaro will decrease point production for the Tigers. Tough defense and strong goaltending will help coach Bates lead Princeton to an Ivy League crown."

"You're going to have to score every time you touch the ball against them.. They've got the best college player on the planet right now [in senior midfielder Tom Schreiber]. He brings 10 wins in his travel bag. They're going to be scary."

2013 Recap

A win percentage bump for Justin Murphy could help the Tigers chances tremendously. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

In a Nutshell: Things started strong for Princeton, which rolled out to three straight wins over Hofstra, rival Johns Hopkins and Villanova. One-goal losses to North Carolina and Penn on the road were sandwiched around a rout of Manhattan, and wins over Yale and Brown had the Tigers looking very good at 6-2 as March came to a close. April wasn't as kind, as they went 2-3 with one-goal losses to Syracuse and Dartmouth followed by a harsh regular-season end against Cornell at the Big City Classic, closing the month with a six-goal loss. Firmly on the bubble, the Tigers both kept alive their Ivy AQ bid and bolstered their at-large NCAA resume by edging Cornell in the league semifinals, but the bubble burst when Yale handed them their second loss by more than a goal on the year in the Ivy finals.

High Point: Less than a week after suffering their worst loss of the season against Cornell, the Tigers got some revenge with an OT win in the Ivy League semifinals. Mike McDonald had seven goals and two assists, including the feed on Kip Orban's game winner in extra time to put an end to a crazy finish that saw six goals in the final four minutes of regulation. The win kept the Tigers in the hunt for the NCAA tournament, but the hopes were dashed by a loss to Yale in the tournament finals.

Low Point: The 17-11 loss to Cornell on April 27. Up to the game against the rival Big Red at last year's Big City Classic in the Meadowlands, the Tigers' four losses were each by one goal. But eventual Tewaaraton winner Rob Pannell scored the game's first two goals on the way to a monster nine-point afternoon, helping Cornell jump to an 8-1 lead and never looking back in the route.

2014 Preview

Best Case: With four of its first five games at home, Princeton stands in a good place to get off to a good start, with rival Johns Hopkins still potentially re-tooling in a new offensive system and a strong North Carolina team having to deal with early March weather in New Jersey. If the Tigers are solid in the early-going and take a key road game in mid-March against defending Ivy champ Yale, they will be in the drivers seat for top seeding in the Ivy tournament, not to mention strong on their at-large merits as they enter the stretch run.

Worst Case: If a team has a proven offense and a defense that needs some young players to mature and come together as a unit, the early season can be fraught with peril. You can never count out a Seth Tierney team in a season opener, and Penn dealt the Tigers and early Ivy loss a year ago, so with that and the Blue Jays and Tar Heels in the early going, things could be over for Bates and Co. before they even get started.

Self Examination: Chris Bates on...

M Tom Schreiber (Sr.)
"Tom is just a unique young man. I think you can see that talent on the field — he's an explosive player, but his best attribute is his selflessness. He wants the ball when it's a critical moment, but he's such a glue guy for the rest of the team. Tom has a lot of pride in who he is and has high goals for himself and the team. It's interesting to see somebody who has so much publicity carry himself with such a self-effacing manner. He's a true gentleman and represents Princeton University and Princeton lacrosse as well as anybody possibly could."

D Will Reynolds (Fr.)
"Will is a guy that you'll see early — he's going to be a foundation player for us. He's a big, strong guy but also has a very good lacrosse IQ and he plays with poise and confidence. His father played football at Princeton, his mother went to Princeton, and he had two brothers go there, one played football, the other lacrosse. It's great to see him get here and we expect to see him matched up against some of the best attackmen in the country. He's a guy that's going to represent this program well."

SSDMs Jack Strabo (Sr.), Hunter deButts (Sr.) and Nick Fernandez (Sr.)
"We've got three pretty special young men playing short-stick defense. You're not going to get wowed by them when you watch, but they all really understand the team concepts and are okay with it not being the glamor position and help the team gel on that end of the field. They're going to be a key in critical moments — they're all athletic and can create a threat in transition. They're going to keep other team's offensive middies on the field, and all three of them can run all day."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.

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