Rob Tuckman didn’t want to leave anyone behind when he took his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team to Hilton Head, S.C. in mid-March for its annual preseason trip.
“I brought 41 kids, we have a range of talent from D-I in Cody Triolo to kids who are new to the game,” said PDS head coach Tuckman.
“We came down here and it is all lacrosse, all the time. We get a lot of field time and a lot of bonding. From Saturday when we arrive to the end, it is a complete and total transformation of the program and that’s why we come down here. I bring everyone who wants to come because it is eight hours a day on the field; improving skills and getting to know the guys.”
Last spring, the program continued its transformation into one of the elite programs in the area, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament title game.
While the Panthers were disappointed to lose to Hopewell Valley in the county final, the squad gained a lot from the experience.
“One of the things that defines a champion is a team that knows how to get there and knows how to finish,” said Tuckman, who guided the Panthers to a 10-7 record in 2012.
“We proved we can get there last year and we had a good shot of winning. We have an understanding of what it takes; we know we can’t peak at the end of April, we need to peak at the end of May.”
The presence of Lehigh-bound senior star Triolo in the midfield makes PDS a championship contender.
“Cody is an absolute star, off the field he is an incredible captain and leader,” asserted Tuckman, whose team was slated to start the season by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against
Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8.
“We have 24 freshmen in the program and to have a guy like Cody setting the tone is great. He creates the rhythm for the rest of the program.”
The rest of the Panther midfield should be a strength as it features such battle-tested performers as seniors Taran Auslander and Ed Meyercord together with juniors Connor Bitterman and Lewis Blackburn and promising freshmen Connor Fletcher and Jonah Tuckman (the coach’s son).
“We have more depth in the midfield than any team I have had,” said Tuckman.
“We have a very strong midfield with Auslander, Meyercord, Bitterman, and Blackburn. Jonah Tuckman and Connor Fletcher should also see time.”
The PDS defense looks to be another strong point for the squad with a group that features senior Derek Bell, sophomore Christian Vik, sophomore Kevin Towle, and junior Ben Levine.
“Derek is a leader back there, he is going off to play at Colorado College,” said Tuckman.
“Christian Vik is one of our poles, he is an outstanding, smart and aggressive defender, showing leadership. Kevin Towle stepped up and worked hard in the offseason; he is making great strides. Levine is stepping in and has also looked good. I am really confident in our defense; we have speed and toughness back there.”
As the last line of defense, junior Nelson Garrymore will be the starting goalie with junior Culver Duquette serving as the back-up.
“Nelson ended up playing six or seven games last year and really controlled the net when he was in there,” said Tuckman.
“He came into the season honed in on his skills. He is an incredible ball stopper; I am excited about what we are seeing from him. Culver started as a midfielder on JV and the goalie broke his hand and he stepped in. He fell in love with the position in the off-season; he trained and trained. He has become a good ball stopper.”
Tuckman is expecting some exciting moments from his attack unit which will include sophomore Jacob Shavel, senior Bump Lisk, and sophomore Chris Azzerello together with freshmen Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine.
“I do think Jacob is going to do some good things,” said Tuckman. “Bump is back and he is a senior leader. Chris Azzerello brings that experience. Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine are freshman, they have some skill and they are going to see a considerable amount of time.”
The Panthers have the pieces in place to enjoy considerable success this spring.
“After going to the MCT final last year, no one is going to take us lightly and that is the way we want it,” said Tuckman.
“It is a very talented group. My expectations are pretty high. We have the potential for a good run in the states and a good run in the counties. As long as we stay healthy, we should be good. Our seniors have to do what they do best, which is to play the game and lead the team. The freshmen need to make plays, they don’t have to be stars. They need to find a role and fill it.”