Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Spotlight Shines On Chris Massey

Chris Massey stands in the middle of the picture, the center of attention for once.

He's surrounded on both sides by three teammates, a total of six men in the 30s who together dominated the world of college lacrosse as Princeton undergraduates in a way that has not been duplicated since.

TigerBlog took one look at the picture and immediately recognized the faces. He could run down the considerable list of achievements for all the men in the picture, and he was going to do just that until he remembered, for once, it's all about Chris Massey.

TigerBlog thinks that Chris Massey is the most underrated player he's seen in the 24 years he's been around Princeton lacrosse.

Massey is the second leading goal scorer in Princeton history with 146. Sean Hartofilis, who TB thinks is the second most underrated player he's seen here, is third with 126.

Massey holds the school record with at least one goal in 46 straight games. He scored 31 goals in 11 NCAA tournament games, a total that ranked ninth all-time when he graduated.  His 192 points are fifth all-time at Princeton.

So how can he be underrated?

It's because of some of the other people in the picture. Especially the one two in from the left (Jon Hess) and all the way to the right (Jesse Hubbard).

Princeton's attack unit back then was always Hess, Hubbard and Massey. Never Massey, Hubbard and Hess.

Hubbard was one who wowed people with the power of his game and his sheer physical presence. Hess was the one who wowed people with his finesse and vision, and he was clearly the spokesman for the group.

Massey? He was steady. All he did was show up game after game after game and score goal after goal after goal, often in huge spots.

And he never got the attention of the other two. Which was fine with him. Hey, he was never even a first-team All-America, something that is ridiculous, given that Massey is as good a lacrosse player who played anywhere from 1995-98.

All of that is why it was a bit rare for him to be the center of attention the way he was this past Saturday night, when he was inducted into the Long Island Lacrosse Hall of Fame, by the U.S. Lacrosse Long Island/Metropolitan New York chapter.

Getting into the Long Island Hall of Fame for lacrosse is like getting into the Texas Hall of Fame for high school football or the Jersey Shore Hall of Fame for beaches.

Massey won championships in high school (Garden City) and professionally (Long Island Lizards) on Long Island. His greatest moments in lacrosse came at Princeton.

Okay, TigerBlog will include two Hess-Hubbard-Massey numbers, because even though the spotlight was on Chris Massey, it's hard to ignore what the three of them did together, including:

* 618 points in 60 games
* 121 points in 11 NCAA tournament games

Princeton averaged 15.7 goals per game in 1996, 14.9 in 1997 and 14.5 in 1998.

The current Tigers don't approach those numbers, but the current 11.7 goals per game would be the most by a Princeton team since the 2002 team averaged 12.1.

Princeton is off to a great start at 3-0, with three very impressive wins.

The first, at Hofstra, was the debut of the completely rebuilt Tigers. The second, at Johns Hopkins, was, well, at Johns Hopkins, which speaks for itself.

Most recently, Princeton exploded past Villanova in the fourth quarter of a 14-11 win Tuesday night. After trailing 10-7 in the third, Princeton scored seven of the last eight goals.

These Tigers are exciting, that's for sure. The attack unit of Ryan Ambler, Jeff Froccaro and Mike MacDonald and the first midfield of Tom Schreiber, Kip Orban and Jake Froccaro share the ball well and play at a fast, aggressive tempo.

The rules changes that were intended to push the pace of the game have certainly favored Princeton, which wants to play that way. The defense and goalie, completely overhauled since last year, have been impressive.

Next up for Princeton is a game Saturday at North Carolina. The Tar Heels are 2-2, with three straight one-goal games (losses to Notre Dame and UMass with a win over Fairfield), but UNC's roster is stocked with explosive talent everywhere.

It'll be a big test for Princeton, who has the short turnaround after the game against 'Nova and the long bus ride to Chapel Hill, plus an early start Saturday (noon).

Still, it's been a great few weeks for Princeton lacrosse. The Tigers aren't alone among Ivy League teams that have gotten out of the gate quickly, but perhaps no team in the country has been more impressive in the early going relative to what was expected after the massive graduation losses from last year and key injuries from this year.

These Tigers are definitely fun to watch.

And it's early yet.

Saturday is a good test, but it's not even midterm week yet. On the field or off.

So far, though, Princeton gets a solid A.

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