By JOHN WOLFE
After moving up to No. 7 in the nation with its 15-8 thrashing of Brown last weekend, the men’s lacrosse team will take on No. 8 Syracuse at Princeton Stadium on Saturday.
The Orange (6-2, 2-1 Big East) and the Orange and Black (6-2 overall, 2-1 Ivy League) have experienced eerily similar seasons thus far; they sport identical overall and conference records and neither squad has lost a game by more than one goal all year. In fact, both teams fell to the exact same losing scores in their only two defeats: 11-10 and 16-15.
The offensive and defensive abilities of the two powerhouse programs are nearly indistinguishable on paper, with Syracuse scoring 101 goals compared to Princeton’s 100 and allowing 70 compared to Princeton’s 72. The Tigers and the Orange have capitalized on 39 and 36 percent of their extra man opportunities respectively, while their man-down units have conceded scores 39 and 45 percent of the time.
In a game involving two teams nearly deadlocked in every major statistical category, the possession battle will play a large role in determining who takes the upper hand. When the two squads met last season, the faceoff contest could not have been any closer — Princeton won with a 12-11 advantage but lost the game 10-9. This year, the Tigers have taken 51 percent of their face-offs while the Orange have taken only 42 percent.
Much of Princeton’s success at midfield can be attributed to the drastically increased workload awarded to sophomore faceoff specialist Justin Murphy, who has already taken 106 draws compared to the 30 he finished with last year. He currently leads the Tigers with a winning percentage of 58, while Syracuse’s most used and most effective faceoff man, junior midfielder Chris Daddio, has won 49 percent of his 130 attempts.
Offensively, Princeton will look to extend their streak of double-digit scoring performances, the second longest in school history, to nine games. The Tigers’ ability to create shooting opportunities will rely heavily on senior attackman Jeff Froccaro, who managed to rip off 10 attempts against Syracuse’s stingy defense last year — five more than any other Tiger. Froccaro, who has tallied a team second-best 20 goals thus far, earned Ivy League co-Player of the Week honors for his four-goal, one-assist performance at Brown on Saturday. Through 59 shots this year, he has maintained a shot-on-goal percentage of 53 while also winning 55 percent of his 29 faceoffs.
Senior attackman Luke Armour, who will be staging his long-awaited return to action this weekend following a concussion in early March, has praised Froccaro’s work ethic all season long.
“Jeff is performing at an all-time high both on the field and in the classroom,” he said. “On April Fool’s Day, he submitted two theses: one thesis of his own work and one thesis on how to write a thesis.”
Froccaro and the rest of the Tigers will look to exact revenge against a team they have not beaten since 2009. The contest is the only one that will take place in Princeton Stadium this season, and — as Armour suggested — should be a treat for fans to watch.
“[Froccaro] is planning on doing a full front-flip while in the game on Saturday. You can’t miss it,” he said.
The two teams square off at 5 p.m. this Saturday, and ESPNU camera crews will be present.