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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

YOUNG GUN: Princeton High lacrosse star Tyler Moni, left, celebrates with Luke Hammond after a goal last season. Moni, a sophomore, is PHS' leading returning scorer. Moni and the Little Tigers will look to get their 2005 season off on a winning note as they host Lawrence on April 1 and then play at Ewing on April 4.
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PHS Boys' Lax Focusing on Basics As It Aims to Resume Winning Ways

By Bill Alden

The Princeton High boys' lacrosse team took a step up in class last year and saw its record take a major step backward.

Moving up to the "A" Pitt Division from the "C" Bianchi Division, the Little Tigers suffered through a 5-12 campaign, a marked decline from the 13-5 mark they posted in 2003.

As PHS heads into the 2005 season looking to rebound, head coach Peter Stanton vows to get back to the basics.

"We have to do everything from the ground up," said Stanton, who is in his 10th year at the helm of the PHS program. "We have to start with a sound defensive game. We have to be more patient on offense and work harder for our shots."

Stanton believes he has a particularly sound last line of defense in junior goaltender Sam Finnell. "We've been spoiled by a great line of goalies from Eric Krieger to Chris Lalli and now Sam Finnell," asserted Stanton of the multi-talented Finnell, who was one of the leading scorers this past winter for the PHS boys' hockey team. "Sam is very athletic and he's technically sound. He's going to be a great player for us. He should be the backbone of the team."

Playing in front of Finnell, the Little Tigers will feature a trio of athletic defenders in junior Taylor Vickers-Annis and sophomores Casey Rahn and Jesse Mostoller. "There is no leader back there, they are equally good," said Stanton referring to his three top defenders. "They play together very well. They hold it down back there for us."

Others in the defensive mix for PHS include senior Sal Baldino and sophomore Adam Nachamkin. The Little Tigers should also get defensive help from long stick midfielders, junior Kris Bleach and sophomore Chad Pinto.

PHS has another solid trio of veterans spearheading the midfield in senior Mike Vieten and Effrian Barrientos and junior Karl Fries.

"Mike does everything well," said Stanton, referring to the stocky Vieten. "He faces off well, he plays hard on defense. He makes things happen. Karl is a very smart player. He's a good athlete who does the little things. Effrain is a very aggressive, gritty kid. He can create shots."

The PHS midfield should also include juniors Kyle Novak, Noah Gaynor, James Cornell, Stuart Blair, and Alex Johnston together with sophomores Michael Lynch, Adam Jeevaratnam, and Jacob Irving.

Up front, the Little Tigers will be relying on sophomore star Tyler Moni, senior Mike Moseley, and junior David Giancola. "Tyler is our leading returning scorer and he continues to improve," said Stanton. "Mike is playing attack after having moved from midfield. David didn't get to play much last year due to injury and he should help us this season."

Others who figure to see time at attack include juniors Chris Moll and Justin Hughes together with freshman Brandon Polakoff.

With PHS scheduled to start its season by hosting Lawrence on April 1 and then playing at Ewing on April 4, Stanton acknowledges that his team's offense has some catching up to do.

"Our defense is ahead of the offense," said Stanton, whose club spent last week in Florida tuning up with preseason scrimmages against some tough foes from different regions of the country. "It's going to take some time for the offense to come but it will."

While that process may include some bumps in the road, Stanton believes his team is headed in the right direction. "We're excited," said Stanton, noting that the Colonial Valley Conference will be crowning a champion for the first time. "We're a young team but I've seen a willingness to work harder. We've definitely learned some lessons from last year.

Stanton is primed to help his players learn some more valuable lessons this spring. "The fun of coaching is working with a team to help them be more competitive and strive for goals that are hard to achieve," maintained Stanton. "It's fun to have a team that's willing to work hard. The team is responding."

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