Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 13
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
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DEFENSIVE STAND: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Michael Irving races up the field in a game last season. Star defenseman and senior co-captain Irving figures to be a key player this spring as PHS looks to maintain its winning ways. Last year, the Little Tigers went 17-5 and advanced to the Group II state championship game. PHS opens its 2011 campaign by hosting WW/P-N on April 1.

Featuring Talented, Battle-Tested Defensive Unit; PHS Boys’ Lax Aims to Maintain Winning Ways

Bill Alden

Utilizing a high-octane offense, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team simply overpowered most of its foes last spring.

Featuring an attack unit of Doug Bryant, Mike Olentine, and Joe Sandford together with prolific midfielder Allen Bryant, PHS went 17-5 and advanced to the Group II state championship game.

PHS head coach Peter Stanton acknowledges that the graduation of that quartet of stars will make his life more difficult this spring.

“They made so many things look so easy and simple,” said Stanton. “We didn’t worry about scoring goals; we knew we were going to be scoring a lot.”

While Stanton realizes that his team won’t be lighting up the scoreboard this spring, he believes his squad has the ability to keep foes from finding the back of the net.

“Defense is the strength of this team,” said Stanton, whose club opens its 2011 season by hosting WW/P-N on April 1.

“Griffin Peck [senior goalie] put it best the other day. He said last year the defense was trying to be the reason that we didn’t lose and this year we are trying to be the reason that we win.”

Stanton believes Peck could be the reason behind plenty of wins this spring. “I have had a lot of good goalies here but I have never seen a guy improve as much from his junior year to senior year as Griffin,” asserted Stanton, who will be using Elliot Wilson as his back-up goalie.

“He has a lot more confidence and he is more vocal on the field. He can really lead our defense. He has improved his clearing and his hands are quicker.”

The Little Tiger defensive unit will be spearheaded by two of the team’s quickest players, senior co-captains Michael Irving and Robby Dowers.

“Irving is doing a good job,” said Stanton of the four-year starter who missed much of last season due to a knee injury.

“He has knowledge and perception on the field. He is skilled with his stickhandling and hands. Dowers has also been playing varsity since he was a freshman. He was a role player at first and then he started guarding the other team’s third attacker. Each year has he gotten better and better. We are thinking he can dominate at times this year.”

PHS boasts some other defenders who have gotten better over the years in seniors Dean DiTosto and Jack Miller.

“Dean is back; he took to lacrosse as a sophomore and really had a breakthrough last year,” said Stanton.

“He is continuing to make progress. Jack Miller is the healthiest and fittest he has been; he has dealt with some injuries over the years. He has really contributed.

Stanton will be looking to fit in some of his defensive talent up the field. “Tom Sacchetti and Nate File will also contribute at longstick middie; they can also go to shortstick middie,” added Stanton.

“We are looking at moving some of the defensive guys up the field and they have been fine with that.”

Senior star Mike Hellstern should get things moving in the PHS midfield. “Mike is big, strong, and fast,” said Stanton.

“He has the challenge this year to fill the void left by Allen Bryant. He had the chance to play with him last year; Allen drew a lot of attention and that opened things up for Mike. This year, he will be the focal point of the opposing defense.”

Hellstern will have plenty of help in the midfield with such players as junior Kirby Peck, junior Will Kister, junior Alex Rifkin, sophomore Zach Halliday, and sophomore Colin Lamb.

“Kirby Peck has been solid offensively and defensively,” said Stanton. “We are looking for Will Kister to be productive. Alex Rifkin will be another offensive midfielder. Zach Halliday and Colin Lamb will be in the defensive midfield. They are both good soccer players; they are gritty guys. They are physically very courageous and mentally alert.”

Stanton is working to get his new attack unit on the same page mentally. “Pat Lynch could be a leader there for us,” said Stanton of the scrappy senior.

“Basel Hashem, Coleman Preziosi, and Nick Sandford will also be playing attack. They have their own strengths. We are figuring out what to do to get them to play their best. We are looking at different combinations and offensive sets.”

If PHS can find the right combinations, it could emerge as a formidable squad.

“We really don’t know what this team’s potential is yet,” said Stanton.

“Last year we knew we had a chance to play for a state championship. I wouldn’t rule it out for these guys. Our offense needs to find a rhythm; we need to maintain our depth.”

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