April 3, 2019

With Senior Leaders Setting Positive Tone PHS Boys’ Lax Creating Family Feeling

PARK AVENUE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Alex Park heads to goal in recent action. Last Thursday, senior attacker and Williams College-bound Park tallied four points on two goals and to assists at PHS edged WW/P-South 7-5 in its season opener. The Tigers, who moved to 1-2 with a 17-3 loss to Princeton Day School last Monday, will look to get back on the winning track as they host North Hunterdon on April 4 and Scotch Plains-Fanwood on April 6 before playing at Hopewell Valley on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team coming off disappointing 5-12 campaign in 2018, Alex Park and his fellow veterans on the squad were determined to bring about an attitude adjustment around the program this spring.

“There is a lot of hunger and we just focused on being positive,” said senior attackman and tri-captain Park.

“We are creating a new culture here and it has really taken root. We are all being positive, we are all getting up for each other. We can see it already that it is working.”

The upbeat approach manifested itself last Wednesday in the season opener at WW/P-South as PHS jumped to a 3-0 lead over the Pirates six minutes into the contest.

“We are sharing the ball. It was all ball movement and just looking for the another guy and looking for the one more pass,” said Park.

“It all started with our defense though. Our goalies (Sam Brandt and Joe O’Donnell) had some stellar saves; the defense was totally solid.”

Park proved to be the beneficiary that passing, ending up with four points on two goals and two assists as PHS went on to edge WW/P-S 7-5.

“I can attribute that to the sharing the ball and the positivity,” said Park. “It was a team effort.”

PHS showed a positive attitude down the stretch, holding off a Pirate rally after building a 6-1 lead midway through the third quarter.

“They came back on us and we were able to stick it out and just grind through it,” said Park. “We kept our heads about us, that was the most important thing.”

Along with co-captains Carson Giles and Dylan Westerman, Park is stressing the importance of creating bonds that will last beyond this spring.

“I am really just trying to build a positive base under me; I think all of our captains are doing the same thing,” said the Williams College-bound Park.

“We have a very senior-heavy team. We are focusing on all the work we have put into four years and bringing up the younger guys and making it a family more than a team.”

PHS head coach Chip Casto senses a family feeling developing around this year’s squad.

“Carson, Alex, and Dylan have set an entirely different tone, it is very positive, very upbeat,” said Casto.

“It is a different culture. When a team can run itself in certain phases, it is very beneficiary and they are doing that now. They love each other and it is a great team.”

Casto liked the way the PHS set the tone against WW/P-S with its early 3-0 run. “It was very nice way to start, I think you could see that our conditioning faded a little in the second half,” said Casto. “It is opening day, it is a scrappy day.”

Holding off a scrappy WW/P-S team was another good sign for the Tigers.

“We talked about just being calm and running all of the things that we run and not going off the agenda at all,” said Casto. “We tried to keep tight on that and possess the ball.”

The emphasis on ball possession led to a number of players getting on the scoresheet.

“There was a lot of balance, we are hoping for Alex to do the scoring and feeding,” said Casto, who got two goals apiece from sophomores Charles Hamit and Patrick McDonald against the Pirates.

“Patrick is really intelligent out there. Will Doran is a freshman but plays like a much older guy. Dylan can shoot the ball.”

Junior midfielder Ben Quinones sparked the defense, scooping up 12 ground balls.

“Ben just owned the middle of the field, he is a legit D-I player; he is terrific,” said Casto.

“We are plugging some holes from Ian [Jacobs] and Patrick [Jacobs] going to Cornell and guys are stepping up.”

While PHS suffered losses to Notre Dame (14-3 on March 30) and Princeton Day School (17-3 on April 1) after the opening day triumph, Casto expects his players to keep plugging away.

“Without question, I have seen progress from last year in just the culture alone,” said Casto, whose team will look to get back on the winning track as it hosts North Hunterdon on April 4 and Scotch Plains-Fanwood on April 6 before playing at Hopewell Valley on April 9. “We deal with mistakes and problems a lot better.”

Park, for his part, believes that PHS will stick together this spring, no matter what.

“We definitely have some stuff to work on but it was good seeing our offseason work being put to the test,” said Park.

“We are being positive for our teammates, it is really about the team more than any one individual.”