Princeton Cautiously Optimistic for 2011 Season

Chris Bates sat under a tent at Class of 1952 Stadium on a sun-drenched, warm May afternoon. Minutes earlier, his first season as the head men's lacrosse coach at Princeton had ended with an 8-5 loss to Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and now Bates was being asked about the abrupt end to his first year as the Tigers' head coach.

"The finality," he said, "is difficult to stomach."

Eventually, enough days and weeks went by, and the finality of 2010 vanished into the promise of 2011.

Now, eight months later, it's time for a new season to begin. The Princeton team that will take the field in 2011 is one with experienced, quality players all over the lineup, blended with an intriguing mix of newcomers and players who have been in the program for a year or two or three who will make greatly increased contributions.

Princeton returns six starters from a team that went 11-5 a year ago while winning a share of the Ivy League championship and then the first Ivy League tournament championship. Looking at it more in-depth, Princeton returns two starters on attack, one from its first offensive midfield, three from its second offensive midfield, three of its top four defensive shortsticks, all three of its face-off men, its top four longstick midfielders, two of its three starters on defense and its goalie.

Princeton will play 12 regular season games in 2011, including six in the Ivy League (three against ranked teams) and six outside the league (five ranked teams and longtime rival Rutgers). In all, Princeton will play the No. 2 (Syracuse), No. 3 (North Carolina), No. 8 (Cornell), No. 9 (Hofstra), No. 11 (Johns Hopkins), No. 19 (Yale) and No. 20 (Brown) teams in the first USILA coaches' poll. Villanova, another Princeton opponent, is unranked by the coaches but ranked 20th by the media.

The season doesn't get off to an easy start, with games at Hofstra and Hopkins followed by home dates against North Carolina and Villanova before the Ivy season begins.

The 2011 Tigers, position-by-position:


Starters returning - Chris McBride (16-8-24), Jack McBride (35-16-51)

Starters lost - Rob Engelke (17-21-38)

Other letterwinners returning -Luke Armour (1-0-1), Alex Capretta (4-0-4), Peter Gudmundson (0-0-0), Cliff Larkin (0-0-0), Forest Sonnenfeldt (4-1-5)

Newcomer - Will Himler

Jack McBride enters his senior season off back-to-back 35-goal seasons; equaling that number this year would leave him fourth all-time in goals at Princeton. McBride needs 11 to become the ninth 100-goal scorer in program history, and he ended his junior year with 114 points, 21st best all-time at Princeton.

McBride had a great postseason last year, with three goals against both Yale and Cornell in the Ivy League tournament - including the game-winning goal in overtime in the final against the Big Red - and then a two-goal, three-assist performance against Notre Dame as he helped account for all of Princeton's goals in the 8-5 loss.

Jack is not the only McBride who will be a senior captain on attack this year for the Tigers, as his cousin Chris will also be one. Chris McBride had 24 points as a sophomore and 24 more as a junior and is a reliable, proven scorer.

The third attack spot a year ago belonged to Rob Engelke, who gave Princeton its best pure feeder since Ryan Boyle. Engelke's graduation opens up at least one spot alongside the McBrides, and there are some high quality options, including two players who have lasers for shots, junior Alex Capretta and sophomore Forest Sonnenfeldt, as well as senior Peter Gudmundson, junior Cliff Larkin and sophomore Luke Armour - who scored his first career goal in the Ivy League tournament final.

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