Princeton head coach Chris Bates talks SU LAX

I spoke to Princeton men's lacrosse head coach Chris Bates Wednesday night about his talented offensive unit, the improving defense, freshman goalie Matt O'Connor and what the Tigers need to do in order to steal a win away from the Orange.

What the tape says: Great minds think alike. Coach Bates and coach Desko both stressed how important it was for their teams to make it a half-field game. With talented offenses, both teams want to score early and often.

"[Syracuse] is very balanced offensively," Bates said. "They create offense in a variety of ways: they create in transition, they ride well and they are a really good off ball team. We got our work cut out for us. It's sometimes easier to defend a team that's predictable and I don't think Syracuse is. It's going to be a tough matchup for us to defend, for sure."

Speaking of defense: The word, ‘unit', is the name of the game for the Tigers.

"That word is important," Bates said. "It starts with our ride and our middies getting back on their end and taking care of business. We can't give them any opportunities in transition to score. It's going to be a good matchup to see our defense counter their offense."

Bates on freshman goalie Matt O'Connor:

"He was recruited to play in games like this," Bates said. "That's why he wanted to come to Princeton. He is a gamer-kind-of-kid who wants to play on the big stage. I don't think he gets rattled by it – that's one of his strengths."

Bates continued, "He has a lot of intangibles, a high character kid. [The coaching staff] is confident in his ability to stand tall. Matt tends to get better as the game goes on."

How about that offense:

In transitioning to the offensive side of the ball, Bates preached ‘unit' again and it being a critical word for his team in its matchup against Syracuse and beyond.

On the X: Bates noted the last few games his squad has done well X. Sophomore Justin Murphy has taken the majority of face-offs for the Tigers and has won 51 of 81 (63%) after its last two games after winning just 8 of his first 23 (34.8%). Bates said that he hopes to keep Murphy at the X and limit the amount of reps Jeff Froccaro and Bobby Lucas get considering the work the two do in the midfield. Froccaro has at least one goal in 20 straight games, the sixth longest streak in Division I while Lucas gets play in Princeton's second unit midfield.

"It's always tough to predict," Bates said about the face-off. "You look at the percentages, but come game time, it's a tossup."

Freshman star power: This Princeton team is reaping the benefits of some very talented freshmen. Mark Strabo, Jake Froccaro and Ryan Ambler lead the way on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

When I asked Bates about this freshman class, he quickly piped up on Strabo, stating that "He flies under the radar." The defender has four caused turnovers and 16 ground balls on the season.

Froccaro led the way for the Tigers against Brown with three goals and 11 goals and five assists on the season.

Ambler has already had three five-point games against Villanova, Manhattan and Brown. His 10 goals and 12 assists ranked right up there with the other offensive threats of Tom Schreiber, Mike McDonald, Jeff Froccaro and Kip Orban.

Cuse Nation Top Stories