April 17, 2019

PHS Boys’ Lax Gets on Winning Track As Quinones Spearheads Defensive Unit

BIG BEN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Ben Quinones carries the ball up the field in recent action. Junior defender Quinones has emerged as leader on the PHS back line this season. Last Saturday, Quinones chipped in a goal and an assist and scooped up six ground balls to help PHS defeat South Brunswick 12-6 and post its second straight victory. The Tigers, now 3-5, host WW/P-N on April 18 and Hightstown on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mired in a five-game losing streak coming into its game against visiting Robbinsville last Thursday, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was looking for a fresh start.

“It was ‘take it like the first game of the season and just play with fire,’” said PHS junior defender Ben Quinones. “We wanted to come out calm and collected but intense.”

Displaying intensity at both ends of the field, the Tigers jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Ravens nearly 15 minutes into the contest.

“It is not something we have been accustomed to this season; it was something we were all excited to see happen,” said Quinones.

“It was a weight off our shoulders. Our stuff was working, so let’s take a deep breath and let’s win this game.”

The Tigers went on to win the game, holding off a charge from the Ravens to prevail 7-3.

“One thing we have talked about since out first day of preseason was dealing with adversity,” said Quinones, who scooped up five ground balls in the win.

“We go up early, they get two goals back and it is how we are going to put our heads down and get a couple of more. We have words that we use as a team and they are always to represent fighting through, staying strong.”

PHS got a strong performance from goalie Sam Brandt as he made 18 saves against Robbinsville.

“Sam was phenomenal,” said Quinones. “That is the Sam that we know and we needed.”

The Tiger defense has worked on knowing where to be around the crease.

“Our biggest thing was just communication. We have young guys on defense and we have a few returning guys,” said Quinones. “So it is talk through everything, play with each other and really work together.”

Quinones is finding his voice, emerging as a force on the PHS back line.

“Last year as a sophomore, I was a shortstick, a longstick, I was moving all over,” said Quinones. “I think it is getting comfortable, trying to lead vocally. Carson [Giles], our captain is a phenomenal leader. I am learning from him and taking a leadership role.”

In the view of Quinones, the team’s veteran leadership helped the keep season from going south.

“It was a new leaf for our team. Robbinsville is always a rivalry; it went to double overtime last year,” said Quinones, who chipped in a goal and an assist and scooped up six ground balls to help PHS defeat South Brunswick 12-6 last Saturday and post its second straight victory.

“It is nice to know that we are still here. We felt like the season was getting on the edge, but now it is ‘we are still here and we are ready to play.’”

PHS head coach Chip Casto sensed that his players were ready for a breakout win.

“This team has been working, staying together, working hard, and talking to each other,” said Casto.

“The captains are not letting them hang their heads. The CVC is funny this year, everybody can beat anybody on any day.”

Casto liked the way PHS closed the deal against Robbbinsville. “We have been talking about that it would be great if we have a lead but you still have to scrap like we were behind,” said Casto.

“The mentality is really good with this squad. The leadership are staying on them, they are using words like humble, grateful, family, love. It is all about the emphasizing the positives.”

The play of goalie Brant was a big positive in the win  “Sam Brandt was terrific; he made some hot saves, which shows, they got shots,” said Casto. “They could have gotten back in the game.”

PHS is also getting terrific play from Quinones. “We are putting him wherever we need him,” said Casto, who also praised the play of co-captain Giles and a pair of sophomores Lucas Kirby and Simon Sheppard on the back line.

“He played man-up at the end of the game because we knew if we turned it over, we need him on the field. He is turning into probably the most valuable player that we have. He is picking up the ball, he playing the wing on face-offs.”

The attack unit of sophomores Patrick McDonald and Charles Hamit along with senior co-captain Alex Park picked things up against
the Ravens.

“They are starting to connect with each other; Patrick is coming to the sport late, he was coming here as a freshman to play baseball,” said Casto, who got two goals and two assists from McDonald with Hamit chipping in three goals and and assist and Park contributing two goals and assist.

“He is coming off an injury in hockey so he is ready to ramp it up a little. Charles has athleticism and brings goal scoring. Park is solid with the ball so we need him to be a senior and hold the ball at the end of the game.”

Casto believes that the Tigers are poised to ramp things up collectively.

“We have been trying to get better everyday, that is the philosophy, there haven’t been many days where we got worse,” said Casto, whose squad, now 3-5, hosts WW/P-N on April 18 and Hightstown on April 23.

“In the Hopewell game (a 15-2 loss on April 9) we got worse but most of the days have been positive. We acknowledge that, we talk about that. It is a great team. They are really into it and it is really nice to be around them.”

Quinones, for his part, feels that the team’s diligence and positive approach will pay dividends.

“We have to look past this because we have great opponents coming up,” said Quinones. “We have confidence. It is just working as hard as we can going forward.”