In recent years, the annual boys’ lacrosse clash between Princeton Day School and the Hun School squads has produced a series of nailbiters.
When the foes met last week for the latest installment of the crosstown rivalry, it looked like Hun may flip the script as it jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one quarter.
But with PDS settling down and taking advantage of some man-up opportunities, the April 8 contest developed into a cliffhanger befitting a matchup of teams who both advanced to state Prep title games (PDS in Prep B and Hun in Prep A) last spring.
With junior Chris Azzarello and sophomore Jonah Tuckman finding the back of the net, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 5-3 at halftime. Another Azzarello tally plus goals from sophomore Connor Fletcher and senior Zack Banks knotted the game at 6-6 late in the third quarter.
Hun forged ahead 8-6 early in the fourth but Azzarello answered to make it 8-7 with 5:05 remaining in regulation. The Panthers did have two possessions with a chance to tie but couldn’t come up with another tally as they fell 8-7.
Afterward, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman tipped his hat to both of the combatants.
“It was a good battle, we started out a little flat but credit to this team, we chipped away and got out of that hole,” said Tuckman.
“You got a Division I goalie in there (Hun’s Jon Levine, a Princeton University recruit) and we hit him every which way. He’s outstanding and he played an outstanding game. They beat us because they were just a little bit better than we were today.”
Tuckman did see some flashes of outstanding play from his offensive unit, with Fletcher scoring two goals and Azzarello ending up with three tallies on the afternoon.
“What Connor does is that he draws attention, he is a strong, fast kid,” said Tuckman, whose team turned heads on Thursday as it posted an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep with Azzarello leading the way with four goals and an assist and Fletcher chipping in a goal and four assists.
“We are a six-man offense this year. Connor played really well but his support staff was there doing some great stuff too. We had some great finishes today. Chris had a great game. Zack Banks had that great finish. Jonah had that one from up top. Jacob Shavel played a strong game. We have to remember that these guys are being defensed up by some solid guys.”
PDS’ last line of defense, senior goalie Culver Duquette, came up big with 14 saves, several of them on point blank shots.
“I think Culver came out and he needed that first save to get his wits about him and then he was able to settle in and he made some outstanding saves,” added Tuckman. “Today was a great defensive and goalie exhibition. There was some good physical play.”
In Tuckman’s view, the game could have gone either way. “I think the positives are that we don’t roll over and die regardless of the score,” said Tuckman
“Lacrosse is a game of runs. We kept in it; we had our chances. We had a couple of mistakes at the end that could have gone differently and had it gone differently, you never know.”
Based on last week’s efforts, it looks like PDS, now 3-1, has a chance to produce a special spring.
“Moving forward we take from it that we are going to make a mark this year,” said Tuckman, whose squad plays at Phillipsburg on April 16, hosts Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then plays at Pennington on April 21.
“It is a great team. We are young and we are getting better and better every game and that’s what you hope for. We have some work to do and we’ll get that work done and I think we’ll have some fun come May.”