From the beginning of his freshman year at Princeton High, Zach Halliday distinguished himself as a savvy midfielder on the soccer field.
Utilizing anticipation, hustle, and ball skills, Halliday quickly became a mainstay for the Little Tigers and has developed into one of the top players in the area.
Transferring those qualities to the lacrosse field, junior Halliday is emerging as a go-to player this spring for PHS.
“I am used to seeing the whole field in soccer so I am able to see the field in lacrosse,” explained Halliday, who also plays midfield in lacrosse. “I am able to distribute and get my teammates involved.”
Last Saturday at Notre Dame, Halliday was involved all over the field, tallying a goal and three assists along with picking up several steals and ground balls.
Halliday’s all-around effort wasn’t enough, though, as PHS fell 11-7 to the Fighting Irish.
While Halliday is proud to be taking a bigger role for the Little Tigers, individual stats are not his primary focus.
“I have been able to contribute more on both offense and the defensive end but really it is all about what the team does and if we win or lose,” said Halliday. “So today overall was a disappointment for me.”
With Halliday picking up an assist and a goal in a one-minute span to help PHS rally to a 5-5 tie with the Fighting Irish midway through the third quarter, he was hoping for a win.
“I was thinking that the team had a chance to come back and make some plays,” recalled Halliday.
“We got a goal and then a man-up opportunity but unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize and make the plays that they did today.”
In Halliday’s view, PHS can take a valuable lesson from the Notre Dame loss in terms of maintaining intensity.
“I think we have to learn to always play hard because if you have a three-minute letdown, your team is going to be put in a hole that you may not be able to recover from,” said Halliday.
PHS has shown the ability to recover collectively, bouncing back from a 0-4 start to win four straight games coming into the contest against the Fighting Irish.
“The coaches really changed things at practice; they really started drilling us and the whole team started buying in,” said Halliday.
“We are taking things one play at a time. I think going step-by-step and keeping things simple helped us get to where we are.”
PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way his squad has stepped up over the past few weeks.
“I feel like we have gotten a lot better,” asserted Stanton, whose team dropped to 5-6 with the defeat to the Fighting Irish.
“The guys have learned to use their teammates and trust their teammates. We move the ball a lot better and we get assisted goals. We have just gotten a lot more cohesive offensively.”
Stanton credits Halliday and senior midfielder Alex Rifkin with helping to jump start the PHS offense.
“Zach is somebody who can play defense; he can get ground balls and he can start transitions,” said Stanton, who got two goals from Rifkin in the loss to Notre Dame with Matt Olentine, Coleman Preziosi, Matt Purdy, and Kevin Halliday chipping in one apiece.
“He understands the game very well; he plays all over the field. Alex has been unbelievable; he has been outstanding.”
In Stanton’s view, the loss to Notre Dame showed that the Little Tigers need to further sharpen their game.
“We have to learn how critical mistakes are,” said Stanton. “We feel that we outplayed them for long stretches at a time. Many of their goals came after we made a bad pass or dropped the ball. They are a very opportunistic team who made us pay for those mistakes.”
With tournament time around the corner, PHS still has the opportunity do some special things this spring.
“We have to know that we are capable of playing better; sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t,” said Stanton, whose team plays at WW/P-S on May 3 before hosting Northern Burlington on May 8. “Today was a day when things didn’t go our way.”
Halliday, for his part, believes things can go the right way for PHS if the team maintains its work ethic.
“To get back on the winning track I think the team is just going to have to take it hard at practice and put this in the back of our heads,” said Halliday. “We need to remember it but try to learn from it and really try to move on.”