April 24, 2019

Sparked by Caputo’s Sizzling Finishing Touch, PDS Boys’ Lacrosse Primed for Postseason Run

HOT HAND: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cal Caputo heads upfield in a 2018 game. Last Thursday, junior attacker Caputo tallied three goals to help PDS defeat the Hill School (Pa.) 9-6. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 7-2, host Robbinsville on April 24, Pennington on April 25 and Notre Dame on April 27. In addition, PDS will be starting play in the state Prep A tournament, where it is seeded third and playing at second-seeded Lawrenceville in a semifinal contest on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having played seven of its first eight games on the road, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was excited to be at the friendly confines of Baker Field as it hosted the Hill School (Pa.) last Thursday.

Giving their fans something to cheer about early, the Panthers tallied three unanswered goals in the first 1:09 of the contest.

“We were hyped up to get a home game and we came out firing and ready to go,” said PDS junior attacker Cal Caputo.

In assessing the hot start, Caputo pointed to controlling the face-off as a key factor.

“Trevor Mackles, our freshman face-off guy, has been winning them all year,” said Caputo.

“He just won them and then we got quick offense. When you score right away, the goalie was not seeing it so we were able to get a few in early.”

In the second quarter, Caputo displayed his scoring touch, tallying three straight goals for PDS as the Panthers built a 6-2 halftime lead.

“Once you stick a couple, you get some confidence,” said Caputo, who made slick behind-the-back moves on two of his goals.

“I started feeling myself so I kept shooting and they were going in. With coach Nate [Small] coming in, we have a new offense. and it has opened up the inside.”

Pulling away to a 9-6 victory over Hill, the Panthers showed a balanced offense as junior Jake Bennett had two goals and an assist while sophomore Drew McConaughy chipped in two goals, senior Jimmy O’Connor tallied a goal and two assists and senior Coby Auslander contributed one goal and one assist.

“Last year, we had Elon Tuckman, who was one of the best players in the area. He was great but the ball is more balanced now,” said Caputo.

“When everyone is getting involved, it is tougher to cover up the inside and somebody is getting open in there. With that many guys, somebody is going to have a matchup somehow.”

In improving to 7-2, PDS had to hold off a late charge from Hill that saw it reel off a three-goal run to make it an 8-6 game halfway through the fourth quarter.

“We have got a lot of heart and we are going to fight to the end of every game,” said Caputo.

“It got a little chippy there; we weren’t happy with some of the calls. We take that personally if someone is getting hit or there is a flag we don’t like. It motivates us to finish the game.”

Caputo’s finishing has reached a new level this spring as he had scored six goals in each of the three previous games heading into the Hill game.

“It was a lot of offseason work, shooting, working out, and all of that,” said Caputo, reflecting on his progress.

“With a small school, the team has been close every year, but we never had a team this close, we never has this chemistry. It is great; a lot that was because of our preseason trip to Florida. Everyone is looking for me, everyone knows their strengths.”

First-year PDS head coach Joe Moore was happy to see his team’s strong start against Hill.

“That is our approach to every game, get out early as fast as we can,” said Moore.

“We have Trevor at X and Gibby [Gibson Linnehan] has been picking up every single ground ball in the area. He has been really contributing to the offensive side of the ball.”

Caputo’s offensive contribution has been a big plus for the Panthers.

“Cal is feeling it right now, he is really putting it in the back of the net,” said Moore. “A lot of stuff that he does looks fancy. But a lot of it is really smart plays, like increasing his angle with the behind the back shot. We encourage that and we have him practice that stuff. He has been great for us, especially in the last few games.”

The PDS defense stepped up down the stretch in the win, snuffing out the Hill rally.

“Defensively on our man-down, we played with composure,” said Moore. “I was really proud of our third slide. We got that squared away which was the first time we have been able to do that. I thought they played their best game today.”

Moore sees depth and versatility as tow of the best things he is seeing from his squad.

“We have got a lot of people contributing on the field on both sides of the ball and between the lines with transition,” said Moore.

“I am really proud of the fact that we have a lot of players that aren’t specifically offensive middies or defensive middies, they can play on both sides of the ball. That was one of my goals going into the season, creating lacrosse players rather than offensive middies or defensive middies who are specialist players.”

Having rebounded from early season defeats to Hun (13-5 on March 28) and Lawrenceville (15-12 on April 3), PDS is primed for a big postseason run.

“We are super close, adversity creates opportunities to be super close,” said Moore, whose team hosts Robbinsville on April 24, Pennington on April 25, and Notre Dame on April 27 and then starts play in the state Prep A tournament where it is seeded third and plays at second-seeded Lawrenceville in a semifinal contest on April 29.

“Those losses and having a new coach forces our kids to come together and bond. They have a great job of doing that.”

Caputo, for his part, believes that unity has prompted the team’s recent surge which has seen the Panthers post five straight wins.

“At the start of the season, I don’t think we were all on the same page,” said Caputo.

“But now that we are on the same page, everything is starting to come together. That is how we are finding success.”