April 26, 2017

McDonald Displaying Finishing Touch As PHS Boys’ Lax Girds for Postseason

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Eamonn McDonald heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star attackman McDonald scored four goals in a losing cause as PHS fell 11-10 to Robbinsville in triple overtime. The Little Tigers, who moved to 4-5 with a 16-7 defeat at Lawrenceville last Saturday, play at North Hunterdon on April 26 and host WW/P-North on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last May, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team lost an 11-9 heartbreaker to Robbinsville in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

So when the foes met last Friday in a regular season clash, PHS was primed to turn the tables on the Ravens.

“We were really motivated to come out strong,” said PHS senior attackman Eamonn McDonald.

“Also coming off our past losses to PDS and Summit, we really wanted to come out and play a tough game today.”

PHS got off to a very strong start against the Ravens, roaring out to a 7-2 halftime lead.

“The offense was hot, we were clicking; the defense was doing great,” said McDonald, who scored three goals in the first half.

The tide turned against PHS in the second half as Robbinsville caught fire, outscoring the Little Tigers 8-3 to knot the game at 10-10 and force overtime. The contest turned into a marathon as both teams had good scoring chances in the extra session before the Ravens scored in the third overtime to pull out an 11-10 thriller.

“We really wanted to win, we worked hard,” said McDonald, reflecting on the setback.

“We didn’t come out with it but I feel like we played well. We will definitely be seeing them again in the MCT.”

While McDonald and his teammates were disappointed by the result, they viewed the clash as a dress rehearsal for the upcoming county and state tournaments.

“It was very close, high intensity, and very competitive,” added McDonald, who ended up with four goals in the loss. “It was a good tournament practice game.”

McDonald, who is headed to Montclair State where he will be playing for its men’s lacrosse program, has teamed with classmate Johnny Lopez-Ona to give PHS a very competitive attack unit.

“Johnny is the peanut butter to my jelly; he complements me really well,” said McDonald.

“We have been playing together for eight or nine years. I have been a finisher for as long as I can remember and Johnny has always been there to set me up. He got his 100th goal today.”

PHS head coach Chip Casto knows he can depend on the the pair of McDonald and Lopez-Ona to be in synch.

“Eamonn is lucky; he gets to do the last second work and he does it well,” said Casto.

“Johnny carries the weight of the ball 90 percent of the time. Eamonn gets to finish but Johnny does a lot of the scrappy work. Jake White and Alex Park are good complementary players.”

Even Casto was taken aback by PHS’s dominance in the first half.

“I was shocked when we came out and played so well,” said Casto. “We shut down some of their stuff and then as the game wore on they started shooting and sticking.”

PHS stuck to its guns and picked up some valuable lessons in defeat. “I kept talking about it in overtime; this is a learning experience,” said Casto.

“This is stuff that we are going to need in the counties; this is stuff we are going to need in the states. You guys are feeling that pressure, you are picking up the ball with pressure so it is all good stuff.”

Junior defender Ian Jacobs excelled at both ends of the field for the Little Tigers against Robbinsville, picking up two assists, helping out with face-offs, and delivering some crunching hits.

“Ian is a monster, he plays well,” said Casto. “Pat Jacobs shut down his matchup as well. They are going to turn the corner and get some goals but I thought our defense played well. They were sticking the ball, they were shooting.”

Casto is confident that PHS will play well when it gets into postseason action.

“It starts in about a week,” added Casto, whose team dropped to 4-5 with a 16-7 defeat at Lawrenceville last Saturday and plays at North Hunterdon on April 26 and hosts WW/P-North on April 27. “All we are talking about is getting better every practice and every game.”

In McDonald’s view, the key to a deep tournament run is simple. “I think it is just effort and motivation,” said McDonald. “It really comes down to heart and who wants it more.”