Vol. LXI, No. 23
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
Coming into last week's state Group II semifinal clash as West Morris Central, the Princeton High boys' lacrosse team had the sense that it hadn't yet produced its 'A-game' this spring.
Rising to the occasion under the pressure of the playoffs, fourth-seeded PHS took its game to a higher level, going full throttle from the opening faceoff. The Little Tigers jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first quarter. At half, the teams were knotted at 4-4.
The Little Tigers were outscored 3-2 in the third quarter but pulled even at 8-8. With a minute left in the fourth quarter, PHS had possession and planned to play for the last shot, seeing overtime as the worst-case scenario. West Morris, though, forced a turnover and set up a play which resulted in the winning tally with 16 seconds left.
Although disappointed by the outcome, PHS head coach Peter Stanton thought his team put together its most complete performance of the season.
"It was a very tense 48 minutes," said Stanton, who got three goals from senior star Tyler Moni and two from Garrett Riley as the team finished the season with a 10-6 record. "That was probably the best 48 minutes we have played all year. The game could have truly gone either way."
Seeing it go the wrong way for his team left Stanton ruing what might have been. "It was a real heartbreak," said Stanton, whose team was outshot 22-20 in the defeat. "In reality they made a few more plays than we did. We had a lot of opportunities and we just missed on a few of them. It took courage on the part of our guys to play their hearts out like that."
Stanton expected no less from his gritty bunch. "It was a pretty typical Princeton High lacrosse team," said Stanton, whose team dropped a nailbiter to Montgomery last spring in the state semis.
"When I talk to other coaches after our games, they always remark on what a hard-working team we are. This group lived up to that. They were scrappy; they were close and they supported each other."
The impetus for PHS' feistiness this season came, in large part, from its battle-hardened senior class which featured such standouts as Moni, Casey Rahn, Jesse Mostoller, Adam Jeevaratnam, Mike Lynch, Chad Pinto, Albert Lam, and Jake Irving
"Tyler, Casey, Jesse all earned letters as freshmen," said Stanton, whose team advanced to the state semis last year. "They got to play a lot and we went 5-17. They really pushed hard to make a team that was capable of competing for a state championship. We are losing a lot, essentially half a team. Casey and Tyler will be playing Division I lacrosse next year (Rahn at UMass and Moni at Princeton.)"
PHS has some young guns on hand who should be able to fill the void left by the exit of the seniors. "Brandon [Polakoff] was no surprise, he's a big strong kid with skills and ability," asserted Stanton, who also cited the progress made this spring by Chas Neumeyer, Jon Yi, Luke Brunskill, and Mike Olentine.
"Garrett Riley came in and played a little bit last year. He really grew into an effective player this spring. Team sports are a funny thing, so much is built on trust. Garret's teammates looked to him as someone who can carry us, an attacker who can shake off a defender."
The Little Tigers gained at lot of trust in their new goalie, Jeff Goeke, who had the considerable task of following All-State goalie Sam Finnell.
"Jeff was someone the team rallied around," said Stanton of his sophomore netminder who recorded nine saves in the loss to West Morris. "When a team knows that a goalie is working as hard as he did then they try harder."
Stanton, for his part, is confident his core of returners will emulate the work ethic the team showed in the loss to West Morris and all spring.
"One of the myths about lacrosse is that it takes a long time to improve," said Stanton. "On our teams we've typically had four of five guys who have played the game for a long time and the rest of the guys come to the game in high school. We have been able to develop them into good lacrosse players."
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