Princeton's Boyle plays mind games

College lacrosse: The former Gilman star is in a league of his own when it comes to thinking on - and off - his feet.

March 06, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Princeton associate coach David Metzbower is considered one of the top offensive minds in lacrosse, but even he is apt to listen to the occasional suggestion from Tigers senior attackman Ryan Boyle.

Sometimes, he has no choice.

There are mornings when Boyle will burst into Metzbower's office, just dying to tell the coach of his latest idea on how to beat a defense.

And in video sessions, Boyle's acute analysis can be dizzying to the rest of his teammates.

"Ryan will come in and he'll have a slew of plays that he probably thought of in his sleep," said Tigers junior attackman Jason Doneger. "He'll even be talking about why the play will work against a specific defense."

There's no doubt Boyle's mind has been in overdrive this week in preparing to lead his fourth-ranked Tigers into Homewood Field today to take on top-ranked Johns Hopkins at 1 p.m. in Channel 2's Game of the Week.

Three years ago, Boyle, a three-sport standout at Gilman, made his much-hyped collegiate debut at Homewood Field and recorded four assists.

He returns as a three-time All-American and carrying credentials as one of the best players ever to wear a Princeton uniform.

With another typical Boyle season - he has averaged 55 points the past three years and could become just the second player to lead the Tigers in scoring four straight years - the senior from Hunt Valley would graduate as the second-leading point man and assist man in Princeton history.

"I think I give hope to people that aren't very fast, not very strong and don't really shoot that hard," said Boyle, who is 5 feet 11, 180 pounds. "If you see me on a consistent basis, it's about making good decisions, getting the ball to teammates in a position to succeed and just knowing the game."

It's always been that way. While a two-time All-Metro quarterback for Gilman, Boyle made short work in practice of intricate defenses that Greyhounds assistant and former Baltimore Colt Stan White had designed with the sole intention of rattling him.

Boyle was also a point guard on Gilman's basketball team, a task he compared to the one he has in running the Princeton offense.

"Some athletes are gifted with physical attributes, but Ryan's gift is really between the ears," said Gilman lacrosse coach Dave Allan, whose Greyhounds won two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference titles, with Boyle, The Sun's 2000 All-Metro Player of the Year, orchestrating the offense.

"From the time I remember him, he was always the smartest player on the field. He definitely isn't the biggest, the fastest or the hardest shot, but he is the person that knows what's going on the most."

Boyle was named the top recruit in the country in 2000 by Inside Lacrosse, even ahead of Syracuse phenom Michael Powell, whose career has run parallel to Boyle's, though the Princeton star laughs at the comparison.

"It's more of a compliment to me than it is to him," said Boyle, who was a teammate of Powell's on the U.S. team that won a gold medal at the 2002 world championships in Perth, Australia. "We play such different games. He can do stuff on the lacrosse field that nobody can."

So strong was Boyle's first impression when he arrived at Princeton that coach Bill Tierney dropped his son, Brendan, out of the starting lineup and moved senior Matt Striebel, the Tigers' leading feeder for two years, back to midfield - all to open a spot on attack for Boyle.

The reward came a couple of months later in Boyle's freshman season when he fed B.J. Prager in overtime to give the Tigers a 10-9 win over Syracuse and Tierney's sixth national championship.

Tierney calls Boyle the smartest player he has ever coached. Not exactly a novice to lacrosse X's and O's, the Princeton coach has observed some of Boyle's and Metzbower's conversations, and admits they often "boggle" his mind.

Boyle usually doesn't want to hear from Metzbower where he has to be on a certain play unless it's followed by an explanation of why he has to be there.

"Too often you see robots out there," said Boyle, 22, who has a scored a point in every game of his Princeton career. "But in a game, not everything goes according to plan, and if you understand why you have to be somewhere, you're able to make certain adjustments."

Of Boyle's 172 career points, 123 are assists. On his way to leading the nation in points per game last year (4.54 a game), he tied Jon Hess' single-season record with 48 assists and twice had seven assists in a game.

"I think it's a misnomer that I don't look to score," said Boyle, who said a hamstring injury last season contributed to his career low of 10 goals. "I always look to score, but I'm going to take what the defense gives me."

Finishers like Brad Dumont, Sean Hartofilis and Josh White have graduated, leaving the Tigers with a glut of inexperience around Boyle and Doneger on offense. But Boyle has approached this season as any other.

In the Tigers' season-opening, 19-10 blowout of Quinnipiac, Boyle had two goals and five assists.

Tierney described it as a quiet seven points. In other words, it was a typical Boyle performance.

"He's a talented shooter and a talented feeder, but sometimes he does amaze you with some of the things he can do without being fancy," Tierney said. "It's always by the book. A highlight tape of Ryan Boyle would be pretty generic, but very effective."

Piling up the points

Senior attackman Ryan Boyle has led Princeton in scoring for three straight seasons and could become just the second player to lead the Tigers for four straight.

Year G A Pts.

2001 16 37 53

2002 21 33 54

2003 10 48 58

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