With 6:25 left in the fourth quarter of the Mercer County Tournament boys’ lacrosse semifinals, it looked like Princeton High midfielder Zach Halliday was finished for the day,
Chasing a loose ball in a tense battle against Princeton Day School last week, the PHS senior star took a tumble out of bounds and crumpled to the ground in pain after a PDS player landed on him.
“I thought the ball was going out and I was going to be the first one there because it was a shot,” recalled Halliday.
“I didn’t think the guy was going to keep coming and he landed awkwardly on the back of my knee and I rolled the front of my ankle going over on the turf. I was a bit concerned and scared when it happened that it would be worse than I initially thought.”
The crowd at Ewing High was hushed as Halliday writhed on the ground for minutes before getting helped to his feet and gingerly making his way to the bench with assistance and barely putting any weight on his foot.
As third-seeded PDS knotted the May 14 contest against second-seeded PHS at 6-6 late in regulation, Halliday wasn’t about to let the pain keep him out of the fray.
“There was no way I was going to sit and watch this team score on us,” said Halliday. “It hurt when I got back on but once you start running, things like that go away. The monumental game that we had in front of us and everything that we had going for us, I didn’t feel it once I got back on the field.”
Halliday reentered the game and nearly put PHS in front as he scored an apparent goal with 2:14 left in regulation. The tally was waved off and the teams headed to overtime knotted at 6-6.
Seconds into overtime, Halliday came through with a monumental play, whipping a pass to Adam Ainslie, who buried the ball in the top corner of the net for the game winner.
“I saw Adam open, he is the best shooter on our team so I thought I had to find him and he stung it into the top shelf,” said Halliday, who had a goal and two assists in the victory.
“A couple of other looks were open on that play but my faith was in Adam and I knew the big guy would come through.”
It was a big win for PHS which had lost to crosstown rival PDS 8-7 in overtime in the semis of the 2012 MCT.
“There were so many different alumni calling me, Elliott Wilson, Kirby Peck, Coleman Preziosi, and others,” said Halliday, who helped PHS beat top-seeded Allentown 10-4 last Thursday in the MCT championship game, as the program earned its first county crown.
“They were all telling me that you have got to beat this team. You can’t let them do it to us again. It would have been nice to do it on our home turf but beating them in the same fashion they beat us is nice. It is a good thing we are going back and forth and I hope it stays competitive between the two of us for a long time.”
In Halliday’s view, this year’s PHS squad has a really good thing going. “This team is the most unselfish team I have ever played on in lacrosse,” said Halliday, who is headed to Tufts University this fall and will be looking to play for the men’s soccer team.
“It is a great group of guys. We have so many different characters. Everybody understands their role and everybody works to do what they can do. You don’t have people trying to be the all star or trying to score nine goals. We work for a team; we work within a system. We don’t try to go for the individual accolades.”