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Princeton Brings Powerful Offense, Rebuilt Defense Into 2013 Season

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 02/12/2013
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Jeff Froccaro and the Tigers open the 2013 season at Hofstra on Feb. 23.
Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications

Tom Schreiber, Jeff Froccaro, Mike MacDonald and Tucker Shanley all reached at least 20 goals for the Princeton men's lacrosse team in 2012, and all four are back for 2013.

The last time Princeton had four returning players who each had at least 20 goals the season before, the year was 1998 and their names were Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess, Chris Massey and Lorne Smith.

Any time you equate the second group of four with your current group, then you know you can use the word "exciting" to describe your offense.

Princeton improved by four goals and 40 spots in Division I in scoring offense a year ago, after the injury-ravaged 2011 season gave way to a stable, cohesive offense in 2012.

Now, with those four - led by first-team All-America Schreiber, whose 32 goal and 28 assists last year made him the first Princeton player since Ryan Boyle in 2004 to reach 60 points in a season - and a strong supporting cast, Princeton is ready for another strong year on the offensive side of the field.

And the defense?

That'll be exciting too, just in a different way.

Exciting, as in the excitement of essentially starting over, after the graduation of four players who basically started from Day 1 and a fifth - Rob Castelo - who started every game last year but who will miss 2013 with a knee injury.

Together, that group (Castelo, plus goalie Tyler Fiorito, defensemen Chad Wiedmaier and Jonathan Meyers and longstick midfielder John Cunningham) combined for 11 All-America selections and13 All-Ivy League selections, not to mention 253 games and probably more than 10,000 minutes played.

Princeton ranked fifth last year in Division I in scoring defense with 7.2 goals allowed per game. Where will the 2013 defense be?

The goalie will be a new starter, possibly a freshman. The three starters on defense figure to be a converted longstick midfielder (Derick Raabe), a converted shortstick defensive midfielder who will be playing with a pole for the first time (Nick Fernandez) and either a freshman (Mark Strabo or Brian Pickup) or a returning player who has not yet started a game in his career (Brian Reilly, Rob Posniewski). The longstick midfielder figures to be a sophomore who played in two games last year (Alex Beatty).

The Tigers went 11-5 in 2012, winning the Ivy League with a perfect 6-0 record and advancing to the NCAA tournament. The 2013 season starts Feb. 23 at Hofstra. 

A position-by-position look at the 2013 Princeton men's lacrosse team:

Attack

Starters returning - Jeff Froccaro (27G, 12A, 39 Pts), Mike MacDonald (22-8-30)

Starter lost - Alex Capretta (23-11-34)

Other returning letterwinners - Luke Armour (3-3-6), Brendan DeTommaso, Will Rotatori

Other letterwinners lost - Cliff Larkin

Newcomers - Ryan Ambler, Steffen Gratch, Owen Knights

Jeff Froccaro move from midfield to attack last year as a junior, and the result was a 27-goal season and first-team All-Ivy League recognition. Froccaro, who also faces off, had 39 points last year on attack after having 38 for his first two years combined as a midfielder.

Joining Froccaro last year was Mike MacDonald, who started every game last year as a freshman and set the program record for highest shooting percentage in a season in which he scored at least 20 goals. MacDonald scored 22 in fact, on just 39 shots, for a .564 shooting percentage that would have ranked fourth in Division I had he had the minimum of three shots per game necessary. With a year under his belt, it's unlikely that getting enough shots will be an issue.

Froccaro and MacDonald are entrenched in the lineup. The third attack spot might go to freshman Ryan Ambler, who had an outstanding fall. Ambler is the brother of Colin Ambler, who played for Chris Bates at Drexel and who was part of Bates' first Princeton coaching staff.

Luke Armour is a veteran threat on attack as well. Sophomores Brendan DeTomasso and Will Rotatori could also be in the rotation.

Offensive midfield

Starters returning - Kip Orban (8-3-11), Tom Schreiber (32-28-60)

Starter lost - Mike Grossman (7-8-15)

Other returning letterwinners - Freddy Addy, Hunter deButts (2-4-6), Will Himler (2-13-15), Brendan McGrath (2-0-2), Tucker Shanley (20-8-28), Forest Sonnenfeldt (17-6-23), Paul Zima

Other letterwinners lost - Mark Feild (2-1-3), Ben Reynolds (1-2-3, will miss 2013 season due to injury)

Newcomers - Jake Froccaro, Max Susskind, Bobby Weaver

Tom Schreiber came within two assists last year of becoming the second player in school history to reach 30 goals and 30 assists in the same year (David Tickner in 1976 was the first with 34 goals and 32 assists). Schreiber's 60-point year (32G, 28A) was the first by a Princeton player since Ryan Boyle did so in 2004, and he became a first-team All-America and unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection. He finished the year with two goals and two assists in the 6-5 loss to Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

In both his freshman and sophomore years, Schreiber led the team in goals and assists, something no other player in program history has ever done. Schreiber has been first-team All-Ivy League

Schreiber is much more than an offensive middie, though, and he maybe more than any other middie in the country will benefit from the rule change that requires all subbing to be on the fly, which will open the field up for his two-way defensive ability and his ability to create in transition.

Kip Orban and Tucker Shanley took turns starting alongside Schreiber last year; they figure to be the other two first midfielders this year. Both are big (Orban at 6-2; Shanley at 6-4) and both have powerful shots.

Junior Will Himler was second on the team in assists last year behind Schreiber. Hunter deButts has played primarily attack in his first two years, and he's shown a great spark when he's not slowed by injury. Luke Armour can play midfield in addition to attack, and freshman Jake Froccaro, Jeff's younger brother, will also get on the field. Those four are the primary candidates for the second midfield group.

Shortstick defensive midfield

Starters returning - Nick Fernandez (2-0-2, 3 CT, 13 GB - position switch to close defense), Jack Strabo (4-1-5, 5 CT, 19 GB)

Starter lost - none

Other returning letterwinners - Bobby Lucas (1 CT, 29 GB), Chris White (2-4-6, 9 CT, 17 GB)

Other letterwinners lost - Oscar Loynaz, Peter Smyth (0-1-1, 2 CT, 8 GB)

Newcomers - Austin deButts

If any position has been impacted by the new rules on substituting, it's the shortstick defensive middie position. No longer will there be horns along the sideline to allow teams to get their defensive unit on, and the goal of the rule change is to promote two-way midfield play.

Pinceton has a strong group of shortsticks, and in fact this group is the most experienced among returning defensive players. The key is to see the way the position evolves as the season goes on.

Jack Strabo has been in the first group since Day 1 of his freshman year, and he will continue to be so. In addition to his role when it's 6-on-6, he's also a great asset to the man-down unit.

Nick Fernandez has moved from shortstick D mid to close defense, but Princeton still has Chris White, a co-captain along with Schreiber, and Bobby Lucas, as well as freshman Austin deButts.

White began his career as an offensive midfielder, so he has two-way skills. Expect him to be on the field often.

Longstick midfield

Starters returning - Derick Raabe (1-0-1, 5 CT, 20 GB - position switch to close defense)

Starter lost - John Cunningham (1-2-3, 5 CT, 53 GB)

Other returning letterwinners - Alex Beatty, Brandon Bonvino, Tom Gibbons (2 GB)

Other letterwinners lost - none

Newcomers - none

John Cunningham, a two-time captain, was the main LSM at Princeton for the last three years, and he's one of the best Princeton has ever had. Derick Raabe, Cunningham's backup last year, moves to close defense.

The No. 1 LSM this year figures to be one of the tallest Tigers ever, the 6-7 Alex Beatty, a sophomore who missed almost all of last year with injuries. Tom Gibbons, a senior, played as Cunningham's backup two years ago when the team was hit by injuries, so he brings considerable experience to the position. Brandon Bonvino could also be in the mix.

Defense

Starters returning - none

Starter lost - Rob Castelo (1-0-1, 11 CT, 20 GB - will miss 2013 season due to injury), Jonathan Meyers (0-1-1, 14 CT, 50 GB), Chad Wiedmaier (0-1-1, 33 CT, 32 GB)

Other returning letterwinners -  Rob Posniweski, Brendan Reilly

Other letterwinners lost - Bill Coughlin, Mike Flanagan

Newcomers - Luke Brugger, Brian Pickup, Mark Strabo

Where do you start? From scratch.

Okay, running it down one more time - Princeton is without Chad Wiedmaier, the only four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection in program history, Jonathan Meyers, who played longstick midfield before becoming a starter on close defense, and even Rob Castelo, who would have been the lone returning starter had he not suffered a season-ending injury prior to the start of practice. For Castelo, it was his second major injury in three years after a torn ACL and MCL at Johns Hopkins in 2011.

With no returning starters, Princeton is relocating two players who have played considerably in their first two years.

Nick Fernandez is a converted shortstick defensive midfielder, and he's also one of the top athletes on the team. Originally ticketed to be a longstick middie, he was moved to close defense after Castelo's injury.

Derick Raabe has been a longstick midfielder and a close defenseman at various times of his first two Princeton seasons. Now he settles in as a starter on defense.

The third spot could belong to a freshman, Mark Strabo, whose brother Jack is a shortstick. Others who could be the third starter and who regardless will push for considerable playing time are Brian Reilly, Rob Posniewski and Brian Pickup.

Goalie

Starters returning - none

Starter lost - Tyler Fiorito (7.07 GAA, .595 save %)

Other returning letterwinners - Brian Kavanagh (11.58 GAA, .500 save %), Eric Sanschagrin (6.71 GAA, .579 save %)

Other letterwinners lost - none

Newcomers - Matt O'Connor

Tyler Fiorito started every game but one the last four years, and he was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection and second-team All-America last year. Like Cunningham at LSM and Wiedmaier on close defense, Fiorito is among the most elite players at his position that Princeton has ever had.

Sophomore Eric Sanschagrin started the one game last year that Fiorito did not, against Manhattan, and he is joined in the race for the starting spot with junior Brian Kavanagh and freshman Matt O'Connor.

Face-off

Starters returning - Jeff Froccaro (23x47), Bobby Lucas (91x164), Justin Murphy (15x30)

Starter lost - Peter Smyth (52x110)

Other returning letterwinners - none

Other letterwinners lost - none

Newcomers - Jake Froccaro

Princeton, with essentially the same players, went from winning 40% of its face-offs in 2011 to winning 51.3% last year. With a rebuilt defense, getting possession and preventing opponents from being able to go on runs will be even more crucial.

Peter Smyth graduated, but Princeton will again have Jeff Froccaro move from attack to take some face-offs. Bobby Lucas, who is also a shortstick defensive midfielder, took more face-offs last year than any other Princeton player and won nearly 56% of them.

Sophomore Justin Murphy was slowed by injury last year but should be a key member of this unit as well. Jake Froccaro can also face off.

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