May 8, 2019

Senior Star O’Connor Saving Best for Last As PDS Boys’ Lax Rolls into MCT Semis

OH MY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jimmy O’Connor races upfield in a game last spring. Last Saturday, senior attacker O’Connor tallied three goals and seven assists to help top-seeded and three-time defending champion PDS defeat eighth-seeded PHS 18-3 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. The Panthers, who improved 11-3 with the win, were slated to face fifth-seeded Robbinsville in the semis on May 7 with victor advancing to the title game on May 9 at WW/P-North. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming off a heartbreaking 12-11 loss to Lawrenceville in the state Prep A semis early last week, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was primed to turn the page as it started action in the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday.

Hosting eighth-seeded Princeton High in the MCT quarterfinals, three-time defending champion and top-seeded PDS didn’t waste any time taking control of the contest, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

“Coming into this one we just knew MCTs is something that has been a big part of our season the last four years,” said Panther senior attack man Jimmy O’Connor.

“We are just looking to capitalize again and this was a good way to just bounce back from it. They hopped into a zone at the beginning of the game and people were just finding each other.”

O’Connor piled up seven assists in the first half as the Panthers jumped out to a 16-1 lead on the way to an 18-3 triumph as they improved to 11-3.

“Every time I had the ball, people were just cutting well and getting open,” said O’Connor, who totaled three goals and seven assists in the win. “It was all them getting open and I just saw them.”

With PDS standout Coby Auslander ineligible to play in the MCT as a fifth-year senior, O’Connor was primed to assume more responsibility on attack.

“Everybody on the offense has to step up with him being out for this tournament,” said O‘Connor. “I know this is my last one so I want to go out in a good way.”

The Panthers have been stepping up as they have gotten on the same page with first-year head coach Joe Moore.

“It was great having coach Joe as an assistant last year; he saw what we did and he took it onto himself and made it his own,” said O’Connor.

“We also have coach Nate Small and coach Josh Frechette; they really understand our team and the way we want to play. It is really working out right now.”

O’Connor has worked hard to become a star for the Panthers. “I didn’t see a lot of the field my sophomore year and I started to see more time my junior year,” said O’Connor, who will be attending Trinity College this fall and playing for its men’s lax program. “Now I want to finish this season strong. This was our last game here; it is awesome to get a win.”

PDS head coach Joe Moore liked the strong effort he got from his players in the win over PHS.

“We still had a bad taste in our mouth from the Lawrenceville game on Monday,” said Moore.

“It was good for us to get a chance to get back on the field and play together, relieve that negative energy, and get it out of us.”

It was also good for the Panthers to spread the wealth offensively without Auslander in the lineup.

“We can’t play with Coby so we have been playing with new sets and new personnel; I asked guys to be prepared to step up,” said Moore as Liam Jones tallied four goals in the win with Willem Albert and Drew McConaughy scoring three apiece.

Moore was happy with how O’Connor stepped up. “I am working with him to help get him prepared for the college level,” said Moore.

“I am trying to get him to work on the shot on the run and he had a really good shot on the run today. I am proud of him. Guys were moving for him, for sure. They are playing as a team, which is where we want to be right now at this point of the season.”

PDS showed good teamwork at the other end of the field. “Our defense is young and our younger guys are learning from the older guys like Sam Bernardi and even Greenie [senior goalie Connor Green], he is a big vocal guy,” said Moore.

“We are exactly where we want to be on the defensive side. Guys are making plays and I am most proud of how were pushing transition once we get the ball.”

With PDS slated to face fifth-seeded Robbinsville in the county semis on May 7 and the victor advancing to the title game on May 9 at WW/P-North, Moore knows the Panthers will be pushed hard as they go for the four-peat. 

“We know the situation exactly, we know we have a huge target on our back, especially with these higher level teams and nobody is going to take it easy,” said Moore. “They are going to get up for us so we have got to be ready for it.”

O’Connor and his teammates are more than ready for that challenge.

“There is lot of pressure associated with it but it is something that we are really looking forward to it,” said O’Connor. “We can’t with until next week.”