May 25, 2022

PDS Girls’ Lacrosse Edges MKA in Prep B Final, Now On Track for Title Double, Winning Non-Public Opener

DOUBLE TAKE: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Elle Anhut heads to goal last Monday as PDS hosted Morris Catholic in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B tournament. Senior star Anhut tallied a goal and three assists to help the Panthers post a 13-1 win over 16th-seeded Morris Catholic. PDS, now 11-8, will host eighth-seeded St. Elizabeth in the quarterfinals on May 26. The Panthers are seeking a title double, having won the Prep B state tournament final last Friday when they rallied for a 13-12 win over Montclair-Kimberley Academy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Elle Anhut and her teammates on the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team looked ahead to the homestretch of this season, they were determined to give retiring coach Jill Thomas a special farewell tour.

The goal was to send out New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Famer Thomas with a pair of state titles, starting with the Prep B state tournament, to honor her impact on the program and players.

“She pushes you to be your best, you might not know you can give it,” said senior star midfielder and tri-captain Anhut, reflecting on the experience of playing for Thomas. “She knows what you can give and she is pushing it from you. It may seem like a bit at times but she is pushing you to be your best and take on certain roles. She believes in you.”

With the Panthers trailing MKA 12-9 in the state Prep B final, the players kept believing, reeling off a four-goal run to pull out a dramatic 13-12 win and earn the program’s first Prep title since 2017.

“I think as a team we worked the best that we have the entire season, everybody was in it the entire time,” said Anhut, who had four assists in the final with Sophie Jaffe tallying five goals and an assist and Tessa Caputo chipping in four goals and an assist.

“Everybody is proud of how they played. We played super well, super strong, especially against a North Jersey team too. It felt awesome because my freshman year, we lost in the semi.”

Getting the Prep B crown was worth the wait. “It was huge, I know the captains and were feeling it, we were freshman on varsity that first year,” said Anhut, who is a team captain along with classmates Ali Surace and Maggie Zarish-Yasunas.

“It was everything we could have wished for that is something we have been trying to get her since freshman year. We were super excited for us but also for coach Thomas because we wanted to win it for her. To be able to get that trophy was amazing. We gave her the game ball and to see the smile on her face was awesome.”

Last Monday, PDS took the first step to a second title as the top-seeded Panthers defeated 16th-seeded Morris Catholic 13-1  in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B tournament, improving to 11-8.

“We were ecstatic, coming off a win we were trying to stay focused and not thinking we are so good,” said Anhut, reflecting on the program’s debut in the Non-Public competition.

“We are ranked No. 1 in this tournament but we didn’t want that get to our heads.”

Showing that focus, PDS jumped out to a 10-1 lead 12 minutes into the contest and cruised from there.

“On both sides of the field we were clicking better,” said Anhut. “Coming off that win Friday, it felt really, really good. It was a good win for us. We were able to battle back, it was definitely a confidence booster for us.”

Anhut assisted on three goals by sophomore star Caputo in that early run.

“We have a pretty good connection, we work well together,” said Anhut, who ended up with a goal and three assists in the victory. “We find each other off of the cuts, that is something that has been working well. We want to expand that to other parts of the field.”

Coach Thomas, for her part, was proud of the way her team worked in its rally against MKA in the Prep B final.

“They called a timeout with 6:38 to go and all I said was one at a time, and we have to have the draw,” said Thomas, crediting Surace and Jaffe for their work in the draw circle down the stretch.

“To go to North Jersey twice and win (PDS topped Morristown Beard 14-10 in the Prep B semis) is huge. It is a whole different game up there, they can knock you down, they can do everything. To be able to go twice and do it for the girls, that is a statement game to be tough and not back down.”

In the view of Thomas, her three senior captains have set that winning tone.

“They want it; we have had some challenges, we had COVID, we had issues, we had all of those things,” said Thomas. “They have always come back and been there. It is just win it and that meant including everybody.”

Coming into the Non-Public opener, Thomas was a bit apprehensive despite the Prep B run.

“I was nervous, it was such a high on Friday,” said Thomas. “We didn’t practice over the weekend, I gave them off. I came in here today and told them Friday is over but you never know, it is Monday.”

The Panthers, though, didn’t look like they had missed a beat as their attack was sharp from the opening draw against Morris Catholic. They will now host eighth-seeded St. Elizabeth in the quarterfinals on May 26.

“The transition game was beautiful,” said Thomas, who got four goals apiece from Caputo and Paige Gardner in the win with Surace chipping in three assists as she passed the 100-point mark in her career. “We are getting there, it is huge. It is take it one at a time.”

As the Panthers pursue the title double in her final campaign, Anhut is having the time of her life.

“The whole mentality for this year is team over me,” said Anhut, who is headed to Cal where she will be playing for its women’s lacrosse program. “This is one of the closest teams I gave been part of. It has been the best senior season I could wish for and the other seniors would say the same.”