May 12, 2021

Star Attacker McDonald Saving His Best for Last, Helping to Get PHS Boys’ Lax on Winning Track

TURNING THE CORNER: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Patrick McDonald heads to goal against Robbinsville last week. Senior attackman and co-captain McDonald tallied four goals and three assists in the May 4 contest to help PHS roll to a 14-5 victory. Two days later, McDonald had four goals and an assist as the Tigers defeated WW/P-South 17-5 to post their third straight win and improve to 4-2. PHS hosts Hopewell Valley on May 13 and plays at Notre Dame on May 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Patrick McDonald and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team have been looking to start games strongly but they outdid themselves when they hosted Robbinsville last week.

PHS scored four unanswered goals in the first seven minutes of the game on the way to building an 11-0 halftime lead in the May 4 contest.

“We have really tried to focus on that in our last two games,” said senior attackman and co-captain McDonald, reflecting on getting out of the gate.

“It felt good to get the first face-off, the first ground ball, the first goal. That is how you want to start every game.

The goals kept coming as PHS cruised to a 14-5 win. “Everyone is playing a role in our offense on the team in general and it is starting to click,” said McDonald. “That is a good feeling.”

McDonald is feeling good about playing on the team’s top attack unit along with junior Will Doran and freshman Pat Kenah. In the win over the Ravens, McDonald tallied four goals and three assists with Doran chipping in five goals and an assist and Kenah contributing three goals and two assists.

“This is our first year that all three of us are playing together so it is great,” said McDonald.

“We are just finding chemistry now, it is really great playing with both of them. They are strong on their sticks, they work hard. They are just great teammates, I am happy to be able to play with them.”

As a senior captain, McDonald focuses on being there for his teammates.

“I just try to take care of the ball,” said McDonald. “I try to lead where I can and try to win some games and get some goals.”

With PHS having suffered an 11-8 defeat to Notre Dame on April 22 and a 12-11 setback to Allentown four days later, McDonald believes the squad has turned a corner.

“We definitely had some tough losses, it feels like we are getting into a groove at the right time,” said McDonald, who had four goals and an assist as the Tigers defeated WW/P-South 17-5 last Thursday to post their third straight win and improve to 4-2.

“We get to play a few teams again so that should be fun. In all honesty, we lacked varsity experience on this team. There are a lot of first year guys so the more we can play, the better we will get.”

PHS head coach Chip Casto had a lot of fun watching his team dismantle Robbinsville in the first half.

“We jumped on them, we have talking about starting games better,” said Casto.

“It is interesting in the first three wins we have, I believe we scored first in all three wins and we didn’t in the losses. We are working on pacing the offense, getting a lot of keep going, keep going. They were just clicking today, it is one of those days. You want to save some of these goals.”

Casto likes the way his top attack trio of McDonald, Doran, and Kenah are clicking.

“They are becoming a unit, they are moving the ball, and they are looking for each other,” said Casto.

“They are beginning to see how each other moves. They are reading the situation really well. We have been working a lot with them and giving them freedom to talk things out together and to understand when he does this, you should be doing that. It is just getting the system down better so when the ball moves so they know where each other is and they look for each other.”

The battle-tested McDonald is doing some dirty work to help keep things moving for PHS.

“He is sturdy, he is fantastic off the ball,” added Casto of McDonald.

“He knows when to go to the cage, he knows when to give it up. His real great asset is offensive end ground balls, he picks up everything and just keeps the possession rolling. He is very unselfish, he has been a model senior captain. He knows Will gets it going and he knows how to play off of Will.”

Spearheaded by senior goalie Austin Micale and senior defender Lucas Kirby, the PHS defense has it going as well.

“Austin is starting to come into his own a little bit at goal, he hadn’t played since his sophomore year,” said Casto.

“Lucas loves to take the challenge of playing their best attacker. He is patient, he is disciplined and has done real well.”

In Casto’s view, the Tigers made a statement with their lopsided win over the Ravens.

“It shows that we are going to stick around, we are going to be in games,” said Casto.

“We are going to be a formidable opponent and you have got to prepare for us and the way our attack is playing right now.”

In preparing for the stretch run of the season, the focus will be on honing fundamentals.

“We brought in two new coaches, they bring in new ideas and new drills,” said Casto.

“Coach [Peter] Stanton and I have been really happy with what the other coaches [Josh Nicastro and Anthony Ammirata] have been doing. The practices have been good and intense. We are working on things that we need to work on and getting better at it. We are stressing the basics and the simple stuff over and over and not asking anybody to do anything spectacular, just that good basic play.”

With PHS hosting Hopewell Valley on May 13 and playing at Notre Dame on May 15, Casto is going to keep things simple.

“This success will keep us hammering the basics more,” said Casto.

“It is good positive reinforcement for them to see that the hard work and the practice pays off and what it looks like so they will continue to put in the energy and effort. They want to do big things because they missed last year. We talk about last year’s seniors a lot; you feel bad for them so we are trying to play for them too. They have a little extra zest to them too.”

McDonald and his fellow seniors are feeling good about what they can accomplish this spring.

“We have a big group of senior guys, we are all a tight group, and we have the same goal in mind,” said McDonald.

“We just want to win where we can and really get the most out of this season.”