June 12, 2019

While Key Injuries Derailed PHS Boys’ Lax, Young Players Got Opportunity to Shine

EYE ON THE BALL: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Sam Brandt tracks the ball in a game this season as he prepares to make a save. Junior Brandt produced a solid campaign in the cage as PHS posted a 6-9 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although having some key veterans sidelined this spring kept the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team from reaching its potential, that misfortune allowed some new faces to get valuable playing time.

“We took a step forward because unfortunately we had three seniors getting injured,” said PHS head coach Chip Casto, who lost seniors Ben Drezner and Evan Filion to leg injuries before the season due to injury and then had tri-captain Alex Park sidelined early in the season.

“All of the young guys had to play. Out of this difficult year, going 6-9, came tremendous opportunity for the young guys. A lot of them took advantage of it and got better.”

PHS showed its progress in the season finale, putting together one of its better efforts as it posted a 12-9 win over Allentown.

“At the end of the the third quarter, we said where has this been boys,” said Casto, who got two goals and two assists from sophomore Charles Hamit in the win with freshman Will Doran contributing two goals.

“It was the way we have always talked about playing. They had no pressure on them and we had a couple of guys back.”

In Casto’s view, senior captains Park (14 goals, 7 assists in 2019), Dylan Westerman (17 goals, 8 assists), and Carson Giles (1 goal, 2 assists, 80 ground balls) led the way in fostering an upbeat culture around the program.

“It was a great year for that, the captains were outstanding,” said Casto. “They got to send the messages they wanted and they feel they did a really good job, which they did.”

On the field, the trio set an example of resilience with some gritty play. “Dylan was injured but he got as healthy as he could and ended up the season pretty strong,” said Casto.

“Alex unfortunately got hurt halfway. He is a player, he is going to Williams College to play there. Carson was a physical leader and a spiritual leader. He was really the voice of the team. He did a lot of work in the locker room and on the practice field.”

PHS features a strong cast of returners at the offensive end in Hamit (12 goals, 6 assists), Doran (13 goals, 6 assists), sophomore Patrick McDonald (15 goals, 8 assists), and sophomore Chris Sockler (2 goals, 1 assist, 41 ground balls).

“Charles (12 goals, 6 assists) is going to be a key player; we have two years of him, he will rack up numbers,” said Casto.

“Will is a freshman and he ended up running our offense, he carried a lot of weight on his shoulders. Patrick is a tremendous potential talent; we are very excited to have him coming back. Chris was a bright spot at the face-off X.”

On defense, the Tigers will welcome back some key pieces in junior Ben Quinones (2 goals, 1 assist, 78 ground balls), senior James Wert, and junior goalie Sam Brandt (124 saves).

“Ben is a monster; he is probably our best player all around,” added Casto.

“He does so many things for us, he is a bright spot. He will do anything, he will take a short stick and go on defense. James is going to be a senior and we are looking for him to step in the long pole spot. Sam was a pretty solid stopper. We want to work on his game outside of the cage as well, clearing the ball with a little more confidence. Now that there will be no senior looming over him, I think he might relax a little and really have a good year.”

Looking ahead, Casto wants his young players to apply the lessons they learned this spring from the team’s senior class.

“The kids have their heads up, they worked hard,” said Casto.

“The seniors talked all year about learning the culture and the process. They had a great message on how to carry yourself through the season and working hard every day. You can’t ask for more than that. We are hoping they will carry it on.”