June 3, 2020

PDS Boys’ Lax Had Sights on Another MCT Title Before 2020 Campaign Halted Due to COVID-19

TOUGH TO TAKE: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cal Caputo heads to goal in a game last year. Senior attacker and co-captain Caputo was primed for a big finale as PDS was shooting for a fifth straight Mercer County Tournament title before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Caputo will get to continue his lacrosse career at the next level as he has committed to attend Williams College and play for its men’s lax program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team headed into the second week of preseason this March, Joe Moore sensed that things were coming together for his squad.

“It was going well; in first few weeks, we spend a lot of time filling in the gaps from the guys that left the year earlier,” said second year head coach Moore, who guided PDS to a 13-3 record last spring and the program’s fourth straight Mercer County Tournament title.

“We graduated a lot of guys on offense last year, especially in the midfield, so we were trying in the early part of the season to identify guys who could fill those holes. We were actually getting more and more excited about the season as time went on because we were seeing all of those holes being filled and new guys stepping up.”

With senior stars and co-captains Cal Caputo and Jake Bennett leading the attack, PDS was primed for another championship campaign.

“Without being too cocky about it but for our guys it is an expectation for our team with four counties in a row, especially for guys like Cal and Jake who have been around for four years,” said Moore, whose other senior co-captains included Andrew Ciccarone and Kevin Dougherty.

“They have gotten three so for them to go out and finish on a high note was something that they definitely wanted to do.”

But they won’t get that opportunity as schools were closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the spring sports season was formally canceled in early May.

In wake of being confined to home, the PDS players have been stepping up virtually.

“We have been doing weekly Google hangout meetings; it is not required but most of the guys jump on pretty frequently,” said Moore.

“It is good just to see everybody’s face and have a joke or two before we get serious. When we started that, we had the seniors break the entire program across four different teams and each of our four captains was the head of an individual team. We had small competitions each week – a pushup competition and the sit-up competition, seeing who could do the most in one week. They had a lot of fun with that.”

It was no fun for Moore to deal with those seniors when the season was ultimately canceled.

“It has been deflating with the news when they said schools were definitely done and the spring seasons were done,” added Moore.

“That was a tough blow for the seniors but I think what is most important for us right now is to support the seniors and stay together as much as possible. We are having a virtual yoga session one night; it is good to have the mediation piece in these crazy times.”

In Moore’s view, that senior group which also featured Eyal Yakoby, Josh Rafferty, and Liam Jones in addition to Caputo, Bennett, Ciccarone and Dougherty, had things together even before the school year started.

“Literally the week after the season ended last year, they scheduled a meeting with me and they wanted to grab 10 minutes of my time just talk about what they wanted to do in the offseason and the summer leading into the school year,” recalled Moore, noting that Caputo and Bennett will be continuing their lacrosse careers at the next level as they have committed to attend and play at Williams College and Amherst College, respectively.

“They covered things like equipment, organizing, and what they could do to support me. They covered what they wanted out of our spring trip this year, which is a big piece of our program. They pretty much immediately took a leadership role as a class and that is a huge help for the coaches.”

As he headed into the second year at the helm of the program, Moore was having a good time.

“Going into last year, I was about 100 times more nervous than I was this year,” said Moore.

“I had some big shoes to fill coming in. It was great to get the first year under my belt and I was definitely looking forward to year two as head coach and working especially with this senior class. What I like the most about the program and what attracted me to it is that we are legitimately a family because we are so tight and small. Everybody has their small part that they play in the big picture. They stick to that and everybody feels involved and welcomed.”

When the Panthers finally get back on the field, Moore will be looking forward to see how his returning players grow from the experience of this spring.

“Our message across the board from the coaches to the players has always been to treat every practice and game like it is your last,” said Moore.

“This is a real life situation that sheds light on that saying. I expect our guys to come back next year really excited and fired up. We have a really good group of juniors coming back next year with guys like Gibson Linnehan and Drew McConaughy. Gibby was fired up about this year and was excited to show what he can do; he is committed to Providence so he has some weight off his shoulders. I expect those guys to come back with a headful of steam and ready to go. I assume they won’t miss a beat. We are counting down the days now until next year.”