With Standout Goalie Green Coming Up Big, PDS Boys’ Lax Rallies to Win 4th MCT Crown
STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse goalie Connor Green, middle, gets ready to clear the ball against Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday. Senior goalie Green made 10 saves to help PDS rally from a halftime deficit to edge the Irish 7-6 and win its fourth straight county crown. PDS ended the spring with a 13-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Connor Green found himself in an unfamiliar position as the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team faced Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday evening.
With PDS having rolled to victory in the last three MCT finals, senior goalie Green yielded three unanswered goal to start the game as upset-minded Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
“Literally everything that could have gone wrong for us went wrong, and everything that could have gone right for them went right,” said Green. “This is a situation we haven’t really been in before, being down in a championship game.”
While the top-seeded Panthers rallied to knot the contest at 3-3 early in the second quarter, they were outscored 3-1 by the Irish over the last 9:02 of the quarter to fall behind 6-4 at intermission in the game played at WW/P-North.
“The message at halftime was calm down,” recalled Green. “It is a two-goal game, nothing went right for us, let’s have things go right for us and the ball will fall our way in this half. We had the sense in the second half, that OK, they punched us in the mouth, now it is up to us. We know we are a better team. We can know we can do these things correctly.”
With the PDS defense doing everything right, the Panthers held the Irish scoreless in the second and tallied three unanswered goals to pull out a thrilling 7-6 win and finish the spring at 13-3.
“We were able to make the adjustments we needed to,” said Green, who ended up with 10 saves in the game. “That could not have been done without the coaching staff we assembled or the players we have on this field.”
When Green assumed the starting role as goalie as a freshman, he could not have imagined ending his career with four county crowns.
“It has just been a year by year thing; our freshman year was our first-ever MCT championship and we just wanted to win,” said Green.
“We didn’t have too many expectations; we always just take it a game at a time. This year going into it, we said we have a really special opportunity here. But each year we have done it, it has been ‘let’s win this one for our seniors’ and then it has just kind of steamrolled into four in a row. We have had some fantastic senior classes that have been able to lead us.”
As senior captain this season, Green assumed responsibility to lead the defense along with classmate and star defender Sam Bernardi.
“Sam and I are the two senior members of the defense so we knew we had this weight on us,” said Green.
“This is the first year we really didn’t know our lineup going into it. Years prior, we knew the guys and we would drill it in the fall.”
The revamped lineup got up to speed as the Panthers tweaked their defensive scheme.
“We knew we had to do new things this year because we had been doing the same thing for three years before that and it got figured out,” said Green. “Our coaches put in some new stuff and we were able to adapt quickly.”
Green is looking forward to a new experience this spring, heading to Stevens Institute of Technology to play for its men’s lax program
“If I play or if I don’t, I am just excited for what is ahead,” said Green. “I am super excited to be playing at that next level. It is something that I wanted to to ever since I started playing. The opportunity to play close at home in such an amazing city like Hoboken really helps.”
PDS first-year head coach Joe Moore has been excited to have Green in goal.
“Connor is our guy,” said Moore, soaking from taking a Gatorade bath in the post game celebration. “He is a great captain, he is a great leader. He does everything. He has a great future ahead next year at Stevens; they are lucky to get him.”
Moore, though, didn’t feel lucky in the early stages of the title contest as Notre Dame seized the momentum.
“I am not going to lie, I was definitely concerned,” said Moore. “We were faced with adversity. We were hoping to go out with a quick start. All of the respect to Notre Dame, they rattled us right off the bat. We had to make a lot adjustments on the fly.”
Those adjustments centered on tightening things up at the defensive end. “It was just matchups, figuring out their personnel; we talk about “KYP” a lot, know your personnel,” said Moore.
“We just tried to make their big guys uncomfortable so Sam Bernardi and Gibby [Gibson Linnehan] went in and did what they needed to do to get them out of their comfort zone.”
The PDS dense controlled its zone in the last 24 minutes of the contest, holding the Irish without a goal in the second half.
“It was unbelievable,” said Moore in assessing the second half effort. “I have been saying it all year that these guys are a young defensive group. Going into next year, we are super excited about out defense and that side of the ball. They came together and they played together as a group.”
Junior star attackers Jake Bennett and Cal Caputo sparked the PDS attack as Bennett tallied three goals and as assist while Caputo chipped in two goals.
“They finally got going a little bit,” said Moore. “When those two guys get going, they are really tough to stop. I have been telling them to just play their two-man game and just freelance all year. They finally did that. In the huddle at the end, they said just ‘let us do our thing and we will figure it out’ and that is kind of what they did. It was great to see them do that.
It was great for Moore to guide the program to hits fourth straight county crown in his debut campaign at the helm after succeeding head coach Rich D’Andrea.
“Hats off to Rich, he laid the foundation; I had some huge shoes to fill,” said Moore.
“I have the ultimate respect for Rich and what he has done for this program. It is a goal I had since I stepped into this program to continue winning the Mercer County Tournament. It is a weight off of my shoulders to get this win. It really comes down to my coaching staff and these kids. They have played their butts off all year and they deserve every piece of this.”
Former Syracuse standout Moore relishes the community feeling around the Panther program. “The thing I most like is that we are tiny and we really are a family and we play together,” said Moore. “It is a winning tradition.”
For Green, his love of the game was nurtured by that PDS family. “This school literally brought me to lacrosse; I started in the middle school with coach [Peter] Higgins,” said Green.
“The instruction and the time people have taken out of their lives to help me as a player has been extremely meaningful. I obviously wouldn’t be here without them, people like Higgins, Joe Moore, and Rich D’Andrea.”