There were tears mixed with smiles as the seniors on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team embraced their younger teammates one by one last week after the Panthers lost in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament.
The bonds that sustained the squad were evident in the post-game exchange which took place on the Ewing High track in the wake of the disappointing setback that saw the Panthers battle eventual county champion Princeton High tooth-and-nail before falling 7-6 in overtime.
A subdued PDS head coach Rob Tuckman acknowledged that his team was drained after a 14-day stretch that saw the Panthers go 6-2, advancing to the state Prep B title game as well as the county semis.
“We have just played a lot of lacrosse in two weeks,” said Tuckman, whose team had edged PHS 8-7 in overtime on the MCT semis last year.
“There are tired legs, banged up legs but this is the time of the season when everybody has them. Princeton High is a great rivalry for us. We stole it from them last year and they stole it from us this year. It is good lacrosse.”
The clash between third-seeded PDS and second-seeded PHS proved to be a very good lacrosse game as the Panthers battled back from deficits of 2-0, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5 to force overtime after senior Cody Triolo scored the tying goal with 3:30 left in regulation.
In Tuckman’s view, the tenacity his team displayed against PHS was a microcosm of its play all season long.
“I think we are a team that has just gritted it out and have put it out in the line every game,” said Tuckman, who got three goals from Jacob Shavel and two from Bump Lisk in the defeat which left the Panthers with a final record of 11-6.
“I am not sure there is any one particular thing. It is a game that could have gone either way. I think Pete [PHS head coach Pete Stanton] does an outstanding job with his program and this was just two teams that matched up well and fought hard together.”
Tuckman credited his senior class with setting an outstanding example this spring. “It starts with our senior class and it just goes from there,” said Tuckman, whose Class of 2013 includes Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brenden Shannon, Andrew Phipps, and Tucker Triolo in addition to Lisk and Cody Triolo.
“This senior class has really set a tone and an expectation for what we looked to accomplish for the 10 years that I have been a part of this program.”
Those seniors have left a legacy that will impact the program for years to come.
“I think that this is just a start,” asserted Tuckman, who returns such talented players as juniors Nelson Garrymore, Ben Levine, Connor Bitterman, and Lewis Blackburn together with sophomores Shavel, Chris Azzarello, Christian Vik, and Kevin Towle.
“We have a talented junior group; we have a talented sophomore group. We have a talented freshman group. We have got some talent coming in so it is going to continue to build and continue to push. I think this year nobody took us lightly and nobody should.”
Tuckman, for his part, enjoyed guiding the Panthers this year. “Watching this team go from the beginning of our season where we were just trying to find our way to where we are at the end of the season, which is playing a real team offense, a team defense, I think that’s the highlight,” said Tuckman.
“Watching these kids develop into lacrosse players, that’s what makes this so much fun as a coach.”
And the fun the players had this spring should spark memories that will outlive the disappointment felt last week.