March 28, 2012

PHS Boys’ Lax Undergoing Youth Movement; Success Depends on Learning the Game Quickly

DAY BREAK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Zach Halliday breaks into the open last week in a preseason scrimmage. Junior midfielder Halliday figures to be a key offensive force for the Little Tigers this spring. PHS opens the 2012 season by playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Peter Stanton, coaching the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team this spring is giving him plenty of teaching moments.

Losing a core of 10 players to graduation who led PHS to a 15-5-1 record in 2011 and an appearance in the Group III state quarterfinals, the Little Tigers are going with a bevy of untested performers.

“There is a genuine humility with this group of boys,” said Stanton, who is entering his 17th season at the helm of the PHS program.

“They know that they don’t know everything; they know they have a lot to learn.”

PHS will be expecting a lot from senior attackman Coleman Preziosi, who has learned to diversify his game.

“Coleman was a player for us last year who could shoot lefthanded,” said Stanton, whose team opens the 2012 season by playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31.

“He was the recipient of some great passes and he was a reliable finisher. This year, he can create a lot more. He has improved his dodging; he is a more complete player.”

Stanton believes he will see improved play from the rest of his attack unit which will include senior Nick Sandford, sophomore Matt Purdy, and junior Matt Olentine.

“Nick [Sandford] and Matt [Purdy] are doing a pretty nice job; they are sound players,” said Stanton. “Matt Olentine will get opportunities. We will mix and match.”

In the midfield, few can match the all-around contribution of senior star Kirby Peck.

“Kirby does a pretty good job on face-offs and he can defend,” said Stanton.

“He can create opportunities in transition and he is a good shooter. He is also giving us more leadership.”

The Little Tigers are also depending on senior Alex Rifkin and junior Zach Halliday to lead the way in the midfield.

“Alex Rifkin scored some crucial goals for us last year; he is a very good dodger,” said Stanton, who will also be using Pat McCormick, Matt Corrado, and Tyler Nkati in the midfield.

“He has improved his defending; he is better at riding and clearing. He is a more complete player. Zach has been the dirty work player for us in the past; he will be contributing more on offense this year.”

The PHS defense is a work in progress with the graduation of such stars as Dean DiTosto, Robby Dowers, Jack Miller, and Michael Irving.

“Jack Persico is doing a good job,” added Stanton. “Jackson Andres will also be involved. We have Jonah Glasgold, Anthony Tang, and Matt DiTosto back there.”

Stanton likes what he is seeing from senior goalie Elliot Wilson as he takes over for Griffin Peck.

“Elliot was really good in our scrimmage against Bergen Catholic,” said Stanton. “He has really good hand speed. He is also very fast, he can come out and get loose balls.”

If PHS is to maintain its winning ways, its young players will have to be fast learners.

“We have been pretty pleased with how we have done in scrimmages; we have competed favorably against some pretty good teams,” said Stanton.

“We don’t really know what this team’s potential is; it is a wait-and-see approach. The work rate is good; there is a steep learning curve. The boys are excited to learn the game together. We have to overcome experience; you do that with effort.”