After emerging as a star midfielder for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team over the last three years, Matt Corrado has moved up to attack for his senior campaign.
Despite his on-field experience and offensive skills, Corrado initially struggled to find a comfort level in his new spot.
“So far it has been a little difficult but I think I have my head on my shoulders now,” said Corrado.
“I am used to dodging against guys with shortsticks so the long poles kind of scare me.”
Last week, Corrado showed that he will be someone to fear on attack, tallying three goals and an assist as PHS topped Allentown 9-6.
In reflecting on his performance, Corrado said it was a product of the team’s offensive balance.
“We have been playing together for a long time and we haven been working on the offense against some really good teams in spring break,” said Corrado.
“I think we are really prepared for this season. We have guys that can go either way, left or right and just the chemistry that has been there for the past couple of years has kept growing.”
Having topped Allentown last May in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, the Little Tigers knew they were in for a battle last week.
“We were a little nervous coming into this game since beating them in the county title game last year,” said Corrado.
“I think the nerves were there and we knew they were gunning for us. We worked a lot in practice trying to make sure that we got all those jitters out and just played our game.”
PHS has also benefited from working on team unity this spring. “Going to Florida this year was definitely beneficial; it is clearly seen on the field,” asserted Corrado.
“Honestly everyone has just been very supportive of each other so far. We had a lot of team bonding with going to and from Florida and hanging out in the airport with each other can build a lot.”
As one of the team’s four captains, along with classmates Matt Purdy, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick, Corrado has assumed more responsibility on the field.
“I think just vocal communication,” said Corrado. “The four of us have been on the field a long time so we know each other. Everybody knows how to play off of us. It has definitely been difficult how to learn how to be vocal, these first games have been very telling for me just in how difficult it can be.”
Little Tiger head coach Peter Stanton thought Corrado’s performance in the win over Allentown was telling. “We are so thrilled for Matt today,” asserted Stanton.
“Matt is a guy who is extremely dedicated in the offseason. He attended so many workouts; he worked so hard to get his stick skills. He hasn’t played as well as he is capable of playing. Today when we were struggling and we had some good opportunities, he was the guy that stepped up and buried them. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Stanton was happy with the way his team controlled the tempo offensively.
“We know that they are a team that is very good in transition and we wanted to shorten the game a little bit,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Kevin Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in the win over Allentown with Matt Purdy and Chris Diver chipping in one each.
“If we could hold the ball and attack the goal wisely that gives them less opportunities to get running. We got a lot of guys involved. Guys being involved isn’t necessarily guys scoring goals or getting assists but having all six guys active and part of the offense and spreading the field.”
Freshman Lopez-Ona hasn’t wasted any time getting involved in the PHS attack.
“He is a crafty little guy,” said Stanton of the wiry Lopez-Ona. “We put him in situations where we are not going to ask him to do too much. We keep it simple and basic with him and he is effective. Physically he is playing above his pay grade right now because he is playing against bigger, stronger, faster kids. His experience and skill make him effective for us and we are patching him around guys that can play.”
Stanton saw the contest with Allentown as a big early test for his guys. “We had two battles with this squad last year and we felt like we won the more important one,” said Stanton.
“We know that they are a program that has championship aspirations and expectations and we know they are going to try to play at that level so we were excited for the challenge.”
With the Little Tigers having produced a hot start, Stanton is excited about his team’s ability to be in the mix for championships.
“We feel like we have got a lot left in the tank and that is early and there is room for growth,” said Stanton, whose team topped Rancocas Valley 10-6 on Monday to improve to 5-0 and will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14.
“Our boys want to work hard; they are not settling for the easy accomplishment.”
Corrado, for his part, believes the Little Tigers can accomplish a lot this spring.
“We have a couple of tough games coming up; we are really looking forward to Lawrenceville and this year we have the pleasure of playing Summit so that is a big one,” said Corrado.
“That will definitely prepare us for the county championship but a lot of these guys have been there before. I think it is just working out the jitters and trying to find the guys who didn’t get as much playing time last year and getting them acclimated to our system and then just hammering it home when the county tournament comes.”