June 21, 2013

PDS Lax Star Triolo, PHS Standout Lopez-Ona Get Nod as Town Topics’ Top Spring Performers

TRIGGER POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo unloads the ball in action this spring. The Lehigh-bound midfielder ended his PDS career on a high note, tallying 57 points on 38 goals and 19 assists to help the Panthers go 11-6 and advance to the state Prep B title game and the Mercer County Tournament semis. Triolo finished with 149 career points on 80 goals and 69 assists and earned first-team All-Prep, first-team All-Bianchi, second-team All-State honors this spring.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIGGER POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo unloads the ball in action this spring. The Lehigh-bound midfielder ended his PDS career on a high note, tallying 57 points on 38 goals and 19 assists to help the Panthers go 11-6 and advance to the state Prep B title game and the Mercer County Tournament semis. Triolo finished with 149 career points on 80 goals and 69 assists and earned first-team All-Prep, first-team All-Bianchi, second-team All-State honors this spring. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2010, Cody Triolo showed promise as a freshman midfielder for a Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team that struggled to a 6-10 record.

A year later, Triolo emerged as a star, helping the Panthers to a winning mark of 10-5.

By his junior season, Triolo was firmly established as one of the more productive players in the area. He tallied 39 points in 24 goals and 15 assists as PDS advanced to the Mercer County Tournament title game and the state Prep B semis.

Coming into this spring, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was expecting a lot from the Lehigh-bound Triolo.

“Cody is an absolute star, off the field he is an
incredible captain and leader,” asserted Tuckman.

“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.”

Cementing his status as one of the greatest players in the program’s history, Triolo helped PDS get in a winning rhythm. After a season-opening loss to eventual prep B champion Rutgers Prep, the Panthers won the next four games to get rolling.

Not letting a sore achilles tendon deter him, Triolo gave a graphic demonstration of his skill and leadership in a 12-11 win over the Hill School (Pa.) in early May, tallying three goals and two assists as the Panthers rallied from an 8-5 deficit to pull out the victory.

In reflecting on his performance that day, Triolo deflected attention from his play.

“I think we all just play together and make our runs together,” said Triolo,

“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.”

The Panthers displayed their chemistry as they went on to produce another stirring postseason run, advancing to the Prep B title game and playing in the MCT semis where they dropped an overtime heartbreaker to eventual champion Princeton High.

In Triolo’s view, PDS brought a special sense of urgency to the final weeks of the season.

“I think we have definitely got the drive and the want to play for each other and the school,” said Triolo, who ended the season with 57 points on 38 goals and 19 assists to help PDS post a final record of 11-6.

“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.”

Tuckman, for his part, saw Triolo as the engine pushing PDS to excellence.

“He is a leader, both in his style of play and in his intensity,” said Tuckman of Triolo, who ended up with 149 career points on 80 goals and 69 assists and earned first team All-Prep, first team All-Bianchi, and second team All-State honors this spring.

“While I think it is a complete and total team effort, Cody sets the tone for everybody to play to and I think they do. They play up to it.”

For supplying leadership and triggering the offense as PDS solidified its status as one of the premier programs in the area, Triolo is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the spring season.

Top Female Performer

Emilia Lopez-Ona’s shooting prowess helped the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse standout turn heads well beyond Mercer County.

The attacker committed to join the University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team while she was just a sophomore at PHS.

But coming into this spring, new Little Tiger head coach Kelsey O’Gorman challenged her junior star to diversify her game, looking for more defense and feeding from Lopez-Ona.

The competitive Lopez-Ona responded with aplomb, using her sprinter’s speed and savvy to be a force at both ends of the field. She started the season with a total of 12 goals in the first games and kept rolling.

In an early season 16-12 win at WW/P-S, Lopez-Ona was at her dominating best, forcing turnovers on the defensive end while tallying eight goals and two assists on her offensive forays.

“With my shot, I feel it is a lot about composure and staying with the fundamentals,” said Lopez-Ona in assessing her performance against the Pirates.

“I feel I started out the game pretty focused and I didn’t get frazzled. I was pretty happy I came out strong because they were marking me pretty tight. I have been watching a lot of film when girls are getting marked out and doing stuff like using the crease, popping out, and being physical. They have great defenders on me and I was happy with the way I was rubbing them off.”

Lopez-Ona’s outburst, though, came in the flow of the Little Tiger offense. “Today we were working for good shots and we were working for good possessions,” said Lopez-Ona.

“I feel like after this game we will be pretty confident with how we can play the end of the game on offense with our stall with the whole team getting involved there.”

The Little Tigers got more and more confident as the season went on, advancing to the county semis and then ending the spring by topping Scotch Plains, West Morris, and Sparta on the way to the North Jersey Group III sectional title game where they fell to powerful Mendham.

Lopez-Ona tallied 18 goals and nine assists in the state tourney run, giving her grand total this season of 163 points on 111 goals and 52 assists and making her the No. 2 scorer in the state.

In the process, Lopez-Ona gave PHS a lot more than points in helping it go 18-4.

“Emilia is just a great leader, on and off the field,” asserted O’Gorman. “You know she is always going to be pumping everyone up in the huddle; she is always psyched up for her team.”

Lopez-Ona’s production and intensity in all facets of the game earn her the nod as the top female performer of the spring.

Top Newcomers

It looked like it was going to be another sad spring for the Princeton High baseball team as it started 1-10 coming off a 4-18 campaign in 2012.

But looking to spark the team, PHS head coach Dave Roberts moved freshman Hayden Reyes to shortstop.

Playing solid defense and providing some clutch hitting, Reyes helped the Little Tigers enjoy one of their most positive seasons in recent memory as PHS caught fire down the stretch to finish at 9-15.

In assessing his team’s late surge, Roberts credited Reyes with giving the Little Tigers a big lift.

“The addition of Hayden Reyes as a freshman has been amazing,” said Roberts. “He had a seven-game hitting streak and he is up over .300 as a freshman.”

For emerging as a catalyst for PHS in his debut campaign, Reyes is the pick as the top male newcomer this spring.

Alexis Goeke just started pitching in middle school but she wasn’t fazed to step in as the ace for the Hun School softball team this spring as a freshman.

“It doesn’t feel like I have a lot of pressure on my hands but I have a lot to prove,” said Goeke.

“With the upperclassmen’s help, it makes it much easier on me. All I want is to be in the circle. As a freshman, it feels good to have that opportunity to be out there and pitching.”

Goeke didn’t wait long to make the most of that opportunity in her debut against the Hill School (Pa.), striking out 12 and giving up two hits in a 9-0 win.

As the spring went on, Goeke recorded a number of double-digit strikeout games, pitching Hun to the state Prep A championship game where it fell to Peddie to finish with an 11-7 record.

In addition, Goeke emerged as a solid hitter in the middle of the Raider lineup, helping herself with the bat.

“I like both parts; a lot of people say pitchers can’t bat but I really think the opposite,” said Goeke. “It is a great break. You get off the field and you go hit.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk knew it was her great fortune to have a freshman like Goeke in the fold.

“I am very impressed with her,” said Quirk. “I think she is a very composed freshman and she wants to be out there. She knows what her role is, she knows what her job is. She doesn’t say to herself I have to strike everyone out. She knows she has good fielders behind her and she depends on them and if she gets a strikeout, she gets it.”

Goeke’s coolness under fire and her precocious play make her the choice as the top female newcomer of the spring.

Top Coaches

Things were a bit unsettled as the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team hit the field to get ready for the 2013 campaign.

“We have a number of injuries and the kids are involved in a number of activities that overlap, like hockey and soccer tournaments, the lead in the musical, EMT certification, all admirable things,” said PHS head coach Peter Stanton.

“We don’t always have the same group on the field. Once we get the pieces in line, we really hope that when we come to the month of May, we can contend for a county title and win some games in states.”

After an early season loss to Allentown, PHS caught fire, bringing a 10-3 record into the county tournament. Featuring a balanced offense paced by Adam Ainslie, Matt Purdy, Zach Halliday, Kevin Halliday, Patrick McCormick, Matt Corrado, and Will Hare together with a rugged defense spearheaded by Matt DiTosto, Jack Persico, Jackson Andres, Colin Buckley and goalie Gabe MacGregor, the Little Tigers advanced to the MCT title game against Allentown.

Exacting some sweet revenge for the earlier loss, PHS jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the way to a 10-4 victory over the Redbirds and the program’s first-ever county crown.

“If you look at our team you might not be wow those guys are so nasty,” said Stanton, reflecting on the win over Allentown.

“The sum is greater than the parts; the behavior, the attitude, the work ethic, and our guys just always doing the right things. That’s the difference. That is a team of guys that did the right things for a long time.”

The title was a long time coming for Stanton, who hit the 200-win mark in his PHS career with the Little Tigers’ 7-6 overtime victory against Princeton Day School in the county semis.

“It is a fantastic experience for this group of boys,” asserted Stanton. “In high school sports, it’s all about the now. It’s all about where these kids are now. Just look at the faces on these kids, they are ecstatic. It just means a whole bunch of happiness.”

Building on its MCT success, PHS kept rolling in the state tournament as it advanced to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals, where it fell to powerful Shawnee 5-4 in overtime.

“If you want to make a deep run, it is really a test of stamina and a test of will,” said Stanton, whose team posted a final record of 16-4.

“It is really challenging, coming down to the end of the school year, prom and all these kinds of things and I am just so pleased that our boys really want to play lacrosse.”

For getting his players to play some great lacrosse as they produced a memorable postseason run, Stanton is the pick as the top coach of a male team this spring.

Kelsey O’Gorman was fired up to become head coach of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program this spring.

“I was an assistant coach last year so I already had a relationship with them; I didn’t have to learn who they are,” said O’Gorman, the replacement for Christie Cooper.

“I teach here. The school is my home. I have done the paperwork and the other things to get ready for the season and now it’s time for lacrosse. This is the first time I have been a head coach and I like how it feels. I like the competitive aspect and the girls are highly coachable.”

The former College of New Jersey defender sought to get her players to take a more sophisticated approach to the game as she took the helm.

“I am trying to make it a strong unit, where each player has an important role,” said O’Gorman.

“It is not just strong offense or strong defense; I want them working all over the field. I want the girls to learn to be versatile. I want the low defenders to be able to attack and the attackers to defend. I want to improve their lax IQ.”

Applying O’Gorman’s approach, the Little Tigers displayed a smart and aggressive brand of lacrosse as they rolled through the regular season with just two losses. Although PHS was disappointed to fall to WW/P-N in the MCT semifinals, the Little Tigers were undeterred as they started play in the North Jersey Group III sectional.

PHS topped Scotch Plains 17-5, West Morris 14-11 and Sparta 12-9 as it advanced to the sectional title game at powerful Mendham.

While the second-seeded Little Tigers ended up falling 16-8 to top-seeded Mendham, O’Gorman liked the way her team competed to the end.

“I am so proud of the girls; I really think they did believe in each other,” said O’Gorman, who guided the Little Tigers to an 18-4 record.

“They did have faith in one another and that is what got them this far. Just because we didn’t come out with a win today, it doesn’t take away from the competition we have put forth this far. We really gave teams battles, even Mendham.”

O’Gorman’s influence in getting PHS to raise the level of its play and enjoy a superb campaign earns her the nod as the top coach of a female team this spring.