You see a lot of them this time of year, trudging lethargically from eating club to library. Or slogging forlornly up and down Nassau Street, in search of enlightenment or, in this bedroom community, a bar that serves anything stiffer than coffee. Seniors. Sullen seniors. Sullen, overworked seniors.
At Princeton, that esteemed bastion of higher learning in the New Jersey hinterlands, you cannot graduate until you have written a senior thesis—80 or so weighty pages of intensive research that is worth about one third of your grade. "I'm taking a course right now called History of Terror," says Jon Hess, whose thesis is enticingly entitled The Economic Impact of the Southern Secession Movement. "I see terror everywhere I look these days."
Especially when he looks into the eyes of lacrosse opponents. Hess and fellow seniors (and roommates) Jesse Hubbard and Chris Massey make up the most frightening attack in collegiate lacrosse and the best to ever take the field at Old Nassau. In last Saturday's season opener, the trio led the two-time defending national champion Tigers to a 17-10 win at fourth-ranked Johns Hopkins. The victory was Princeton's 29th in a row, a streak that began two years ago. Thirteen more wins and the Tigers would tie Cornell for the longest streak in college lacrosse history (42, from 1976 to 78). Princeton's 14th consecutive win would come on May 25 in the NCAA championship game at Rutgers, and it could very well happen: The Tigers have won four of the last six NCAA titles.
When asked if the streak is a frequent topic of discussion in the attackmen's dorm room, Hess has a quick answer. "Never," he says. "I'm superstitious to a fault."
Though the least physically imposing of the trio at 5'10", 158 pounds, Hess is the most lethal member of the attack. Last year he set single-season school records for assists (48) and points (74) and won the Turnbull Award as the nation's top attack-man. "I fit perfectly into our system," says Hess modestly. "It's very disciplined."
Just like Hess, who spent many a high school Friday night in Upper Nyack, N.Y., perfecting his shot. "We had a goal in my backyard, and I tightened the net on it so that shots would rebound to me," says Hess. "I'd shoot 100 shots righty, 50 lefty, then repeat. I was such a loser."
Massey, whose three goals against Johns Hopkins extended his consecutive-game goal streak to 36 (another school record), would certainly agree. He's just as comfortable with a surfboard as he is with his lacrosse stick. Posted on the wall near his phone is the number for the Jersey Shore wave report, which Massey dials every morning. If the surf's up, he piles his board into a 1986 Jeep Wagoneer—known among the trio as the Woolly—and drives an hour east to the beach to punch holes in an Ivy League stereotype. "I don't surf every day," Massey explains. "Not when it's snowing. And not when the waves suck."
Of the three, Hubbard, whose older brother Andrew was a midfielder for Princeton's 1992 and '94 champions, walks (and talks) softest and thus is obligated to carry the biggest stick. His five goals last Saturday made him the Princeton career leader, with 122. (Massey has 115.) "Jesse has the hardest shot on the team," says Hess, "but when we started playing together, he was shy about taking it. Finally, during a game in our freshman year, I told him that we needed him to shoot."
Three years ago Tigers coach Bill Tierney urged Hubbard, Hess and Massey to step up. Moments before a game against Delaware, he pulled them aside and ordered up a dynasty. "We had just lost at Cornell, a miserable loss," says Hess. "The whole team was down, but as underclassmen we felt it was not our place to say something." Tierney looked them in the eyes and. as he remembers, told them, " Princeton is in your hands now."
Since then the Tigers have a 34-2 record, and the attack isn't the only thing entrusted to the skilled hands of Hess, Hubbard and Massey. They also string the mesh on just about every teammate's stick simply because, like scoring, they are more proficient at it than their teammates. "We take pride in every little detail," says Hess.