Cody Triolo fell to his knees on the sideline to catch his breath early in the fourth quarter as the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team found itself in a tight battle with the Hill School.
But as PDS got the ball into its offensive zone, Triolo sprang to his feet and raced into the game.
Moments later, the senior star and Lehigh-bound midfielder buggy-whipped the ball into the net to give the Panthers an 11-9 lead.
That tally proved critical as PDS went on to a 12-11 win over Hill, culminating a gritty rally that saw the Panthers overcome an 8-5 deficit early in the third quarter.
In Triolo’s view, the win was a product of PDS’s team unity. “We actually played pretty sloppy as a team in the first half; what was really great about it was that we stuck together,” said Triolo.
“We came in at halftime and said this isn’t us. They score two goals in the beginning of the second half. After they pump those in, we could have folded. It just shows where our team is at in terms of bonds and brotherhood to come together and get those goals back and get back in that game.”
While Triolo contributed an assist and a goal to help narrow the gap to 8-7 and ended the afternoon with three goals and two assists, he doesn’t see himself as a catalyst for PDS.
“I think we all just play together and make our runs together,” said Triolo, who scored a goal on Monday as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in overtime in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13.
“Everybody takes turns making their dodges. We have a great system with cuts and pops and everything. Honestly our team chemistry on offense right now is unreal. It is spreading the wealth.”
In addition to developing chemistry, the Panthers are showing character. “One of the big things our coaches really challenge us with is being real and dealing with gut check time,” said Triolo.
“You are going to face adversity, not only in lacrosse but it translates into life. That’s one of the things they have been pushing. I was really happy to see the team face adversity and come through with a big win. That was definitely tough.”
It is tough for Triolo to be wrapping up his PDS career. “It is kind of scary; it is flying by,” said Triolo, who also starred for the PDS boys’ hockey team and helped it earn a share of the state Prep title this past winter.
“It seems like the preseason trip to Hilton Head was last week. We are really remembering this and taking it all in. It is awesome. At the same time, you want to leave everything you have on the line. These are some of the last high school games we will ever play.”
PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was proud of how his team played hard and came through on a day when it wasn’t at its sharpest.
“I think we play our best when we just settle down; we went through a period of about four minutes where we got frazzled and started making mistakes,” said Tuckman.
“I think all day we struggled technically but the kids gutted it out and that’s the most important thing.”
The PDS defense showed some guts as it held the fort down the stretch. “When a mistake was made with 43 seconds left and caused the ball to go down to the defensive side of the field, the defense knew that they had to step up and play a role and I think they did that,” said Tuckman.
“Nelson had some really great saves. I think our defense has been solid throughout and that’s been a nice thing for us.”
Another nice thing for Tuckman is the balance he has been getting on the offensive end.
“I thought Taran Auslander had a great game today,” said Tuckman of the senior star who scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Mo-Beard as the Panthers improved to 8-4.
“Jacob Shavel had three goals and two assists, that’s five points for him. We had good balance and that is what has really been the mark of this team.”
While PDS benefits from spreading the wealth, Tuckman credits Triolo with being the team’s catalyst.
“Cody sets the tone, he really does,” said Tuckman, whose team was seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11.
“He is a leader, both in his style of play and in his intensity. While I think it is complete and total team effort, Cody sets the one for everybody to play to and I think they do. They play up to it.”
Triolo, for his part, believes the Panthers are up for a big postseason run. “I think we have definitely got the drive and we want to play for each other and the school,” said Triolo.
“I am excited to play in the tournaments. Lacrosse is a game of runs and you have to keep your cool when they are on a run and you have to keep pushing when you are on your run.”