Portland to Princeton: Alex Slusher Sees Mentor in Michael Sowers


Alex Slusher, a 19-year-old from Oregon, tried to learn as much as possible from Michael Sowers.

This article appears in the April 2020 edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. This story was written prior to the cancellation of the 2020 lacrosse season and the postponement of the world championship in Ireland. Don’t get the mag? Head to USLacrosse.org to subscribe.

Alex Slusher has come a long way is his lacrosse journey — both literally and figuratively.

Slusher has emerged as a major offensive threat in college lacrosse and with the U.S. U19 team. But even more impressive is his ascent from Portland. The Oregon Episcopal product grew up playing basketball but quickly realized his size might prevent him from making it big.

Slusher’s athleticism, which ran in the family, would be an asset on the lacrosse field. His father played football at Dartmouth and his older sister, Samantha, plays soccer at Columbia. He quickly became one of the most promising players in the state, often traveling east to compete in recruiting events.

Now Slusher calls Princeton, N.J., home for the school year. As a freshman with the Tigers, who vaulted into the top five in the NCAA Division I rankings early in 2020, Slusher is already making an impact.

Through four games, Slusher had scored six goals as a starting freshman midfielder for Princeton. It’s a positive sign for a player that will suit up for the U.S. U19 team when it heads to Limerick, Ireland, for the world championship in July.

Slusher’s lacrosse career might be taking off on the East Coast, but he remains prideful of his western heritage.

“Lacrosse is growing out in Oregon, but it’s definitely still really small,” he said. “Getting the opportunity to represent Oregon on a team like the U19 team, it’s something I always think about. Any time I show up to a lacrosse event, I’m the kid from Portland. It’s great to be able to represent my state like that.”

Slusher’s work ethic during the U.S. U19 team process earned praise from head coach Nick Myers.

“Slusher is a guy that as a coach, you love,” he said. “He does exactly what you say and does it to the best of his ability.”

The fact that Slusher found lacrosse at all might be considered a major success. His father and grandfather both worked at Nike in Beaverton, Ore., meaning mainstream sports were a major part of Slusher’s life as he grew up. He played basketball, football and lacrosse at a young age, but found his passion for the latter thanks to help from former UC Santa Barbara player Reed Zabel, who worked with Slusher to improve his game.

With his multi-sport influence, Slusher quickly became one of the brightest stars on the West Coast. He committed to Princeton early in his high school career at Oregon Episcopal, where he established a reputation as being a do-it-all offensive threat. That skillset shined as he tried out for Team USA last summer.

Through four events with Team USA, Slusher has emerged as a leader of the offense.

“He communicates, he directs traffic and gets guys into the right spot,” offensive coordinator Pat Myers said. “He sets great picks, he rides hard, he picks up ground balls. He comes from Oregon, so it’s probably a credit to him and all the film he’s watched and studied. It’s something we identified in him early in the process, that he could be a leader and help be our QB on the offensive end.”

Slusher won’t be asked to shoulder the same load while at Princeton this season. That responsibility belongs to Michael Sowers, who went through the same U.S. U19 process in 2016. Slusher lines up with the Tigers midfield, while Sowers operates at X.

Although he’s only had a few months to learn from him, Slusher said he’s picked up a lot from Sowers’ game.

“I am used to playing behind the cage, but when you have someone like Mike Sowers, he will find you,” Slusher told Princeton’s Town Topic. “Literally since the day I got here, he has been the best leader, captain, player I can ask for. He took me under his wing. He showed me what it takes to be that good.”

Slusher, the 19-year-old from Oregon, is hoping to have the same impact on the lacrosse field as the Tewaaraton Award frontrunner. The U.S. U19 team, and Princeton for that matter, would gladly welcome it.

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