Catching fire at the right time, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team enjoyed an inspiring run last spring, winning the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title and advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.
As longtime PHS head coach Peter Stanton looks ahead to the 2014 season, he believes the team’s veterans learned some valuable lessons from last year’s run.
“Our older players, particularly our captains (Matt Purdy, Matt Corrado, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick), know what it takes to be a champion,” said Stanton. “You need to be unselfish, sacrifice and buy into the team concept.”
The Little Tigers strengthened their team chemistry earlier this month when they went on a preseason trip to Florida.
“The trip was good fun,” said Stanton, who led PHS to a 16-4 record last spring as he passed the 200-win milestone in his tenure.
“We spent a lot of time together off the field and that is as valuable as the time on the field. We experimented a lot; we tried different lineups. We learned a lot of things very quickly. They are bright kids, they are willing to learn and work together.”
PHS should get good work from two of those senior captains, Purdy and Corrado, on attack.
“Matt was our leading goal scorer last year; he is definitely someone we will look to be an outstanding finisher,” said Stanton, whose squad opens the 2014 season by playing at Hightstown on March 27.
“We want him to be more of a creator this year; last year he was finishing up the work of his teammates. We also expect a lot from Matt Corrado. They are our two senior captains on attack and we know they are solid.”
Stanton has some other solid performers on attack in senior Adam Durner, freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona, and junior Connor McCormick.
“We will mix and match with Durner and Lopez Ona,” added Stanton. “We are also looking at Connor McCormick at attack. He played midfielder last year and he showed in Florida that he has a capable stick.”
The pair of Kevin Halliday and Patrick McCormick give the Little Tigers a very capable one-two punch in the midfield.
“We have Kevin and Pat there, they are great kids,” said Stanton. “Of all of our players, Kevin can run by a defender the best. He is so fast and he has great vision and awareness. Pat is outstanding at both ends of the field. He is a tough defender and he is very capable offensively. He is good in transition.”
Filling out the midfield will be senior Dalton Sekelsky, sophomore Rory Helstrom, sophomore Nick Halliday, and sophomore Luis Lazo.
“Sekelsky is a guy who has learned the game in a hurry, he first started playing last year and he looks like a veteran out there this year,” said Stanton.
“Rory Helstrom is also very athletic. He brings the unsung hero mentality. He plays good defense, picks up ground balls, starts transition. He is thrilled to be on the field. Luis Lazo and Nick Halliday are two sophomores who are looking to get on the field.”
On defense, the pair of junior stars Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres, are looking good along with senior Spencer Reynolds, junior Joe Hawes, and sophomore Harry Dyevich.
“Those two guys are very skilled and alert players; they are very big and very strong,” asserted Stanton, referring to Buckley and Andres.
“Spencer Reynolds has worked really hard for the four years he has been in the program. Last year he was a role player, a back up longstick midfielder and on the man-down. He has earned a spot on the defense. Joe Hawes was a middie last year. Out of need and interest, he started playing with the longstick, he is a big, strong kid. Harry Dyevich will get some playing time, he is a physical player but he doesn’t have the experience.”
While the Little Tigers don’t boast experience at goalie with junior Kenan Glasgold and freshman Sawyer Peck, Stanton has confidence in both performers.
“Kenan Glasgold started playing goalie last year; he has worked hard in the offseason to play the position and he has really improved,” said Stanton.
“Sawyer has learned a lot from his brothers (former PHS stars Kirby Peck and Griffin Peck) and ice hockey. He has been playing goalie for a while. It is great when you see somebody making strides and both of these guys are making strides. It is too early to say who will be the starter. I am not fond of a rotation. We will go with the guy who is playing the best at the time.”
Stanton is confident that PHS can progress into something special this spring. “This is a good team that has the potential to be a very good team,” said Stanton.
“It is a nice mixture of older kids and young talent. I am most interested in how we finish the season. I think we could do well in the playoffs. I think the offensive key is making defenses guard all six of our offensive players. All six need to be involved in creating defense; we can’t rely on one guy. On defense, we need to work really hard at playing as a team.”