April 19, 2023

Sparked by Rzeczycki’s Leadership, Production, PDS Boys’ Lax Showing Improvement, Now 4-1

TOUGH TO STOP: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Sebastian Rzeczycki, left, controls the ball in a 2022 game. Last Friday, junior star Rzeczycki tallied two goals and six assists as PDS defeated George School (Pa.) 14-1. The Panthers, who moved to 4-1 with a 7-6 loss to Lenape last Monday, host Morristown Beard on April 19 in the opening round of the Prep B state tournament and Delaware Valley on April 20 before playing at St. Peter’s Prep on April 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sebastian Rzeczycki and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team were ready to shine as they hosted George School (Pa.) in a Friday night lights clash.

“It was a great environment,” said PDS junior Rzeczycki of the night game last Friday which culminated Spring weekend festivities. “Even when we walking out, I saw so many people around the field. It was amazing.”

Rzeczycki gave those people plenty to cheer about right from the start, tallying a goal and assisting on a second score as the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“Lacrosse is a game of setting the tone right away,” said attacker/midfielder Rzeczycki. “Setting the tone is big for us, especially this year. We did great, we just kept going after that. Once we got going, we didn’t stop.”

Playing great, the Panthers built a 10-0 halftime lead as a number of players got on the score sheet.

“It is great to have Andrew Ahrens, Ollie Hall, and all of those kids out there,” said Rzeczycki. “Harry Bernardi had a great day. It is great to see all of these guys thrive in the offense. I think coach Nate [Small] finds a way to do everything for us, to balance it out and get everyone the looks. He does a great job and I think we did a great job today.”

Rzeczycki, for his part, looks to follow Small’s lead. “I have always seen myself as more of a leader and stuff like that, I always try to do that part,” said Rzeczycki, who tallied two goals and six assists in the win over George. “I have always echoed coach Nate. Whenever he tells me to do
something, I will echo it to the team. We get it done most of the time, there are always those rough times.”

Coming into this spring, Rzeczycki was looking to spread the ball around a little more.

“Last year was a little bit rough for us, I saw the ball on my stick more times than maybe I should have,” said Rzeczycki. “I was always there to be the guy that dodges. I think it is great this year to have so many guys that I can rely on and not only be a goal scorer but be a feeder and start the offense.”

Rzeczycki has developed an instant connection with freshman standout Ahrens, who had two goals and an assist against George.

“Andy is a great guy to have on the field, I see him a little bit as my mini-me,” said Rzeczycki. “It is nice to nurture him, and I definitely work well with him.”

With PDS getting off to a 4-1 start after going 6-11 in 2022, Rzeczycki believes that some postseason heroics last spring served as a catalyst for the squad’s progress.

“Our run last year in the state tournament set the tone and set the potential, upsetting a No. 1 seed and going to the semifinals is a great thing,” said Rzeczycki. “Coming into this season, I just saw us as ready with so many people returning. I saw the seniors, growing up with them, I sought to look up to them and give them the best I can.”

PDS head coach Joe Moore liked the way his squad set the tone as it jumped on George before the big crowd on hand under the lights.

“I think a night like this is fun for the whole, entire school and the whole community,” said Moore. “I know our guys had a lot of positive energy and I told them to use this environment because as we get into these playoff games, this is what the atmosphere is going to be like.”

In Moore’s view, Rzeczycki has emerged as a positive force for the Panthers.

“His leadership abilities both on and off the field have grown tremendously,” said Moore. “You see it in the way he carries the ball. He is so much more confident, and the guys feed off of his energy.”

The partnership of Rzeczycki and Ahrens on attack has energized PDS.

“Their two-man game is getting better every day in practice and in games,” said Moore. “We let them freelance at this point which is cool because we can let them play the game. They are both big guys, they can throw their weight around and they are smart players. They are starting to get to know where each other are on the field and making the right decisions.”

In the win over George, PDS got contributions all over the field as Bernardi tallied three goals and two assists with Hart Nowakoski also chipping in three goals and two assists, Charlie Hogshire getting one goal and two assists, and Hall contributing seven assists.

“It is nice to have multiple offensive threats — we have six or seven guys who we truly expect to score very game whereas last year or previous years, it has been one or two,” said Moore. “I think the biggest thing about our group is that we are starting to play together. They are breaking that one-on-one mold that they have been used to so our offense is evolving.”

The work of sophomore Asher Lewis in the face-off X has also helped the PDS offense thrive.

“Asher has been great for us,” said Moore. “He has got to continue to develop his game and develop his stick so when he has the ball, he can make the right plays. It is a huge game changer to be able to expect the possession on every face-off.”

The Panthers have also been getting some great play at the defensive end.

“I think our defense is the strong point on our team, they have held multiple teams to five or less this season,” said Moore. “Our defense is awesome, we have seniors down there (Nico Cucchi, Will Brown, Ace Ewanchyna, and Milan Patel) and a freshmen goalie (Jake Harrison), our seniors have really rallied around our goalie. Jake is our guy right now, Charlie [West] is our No. 2 guy. I think collectively our defense is extremely strong. Honestly, I don’t think we have seen them at their full strength so it is exciting to see where they will go.”

In Moore’s view, the Panthers can do some exciting things this spring.

“Last season was used to prepare us for this season in a way; we had a lot of really young guys that were new to the varsity level last year,” said Moore, whose team hosts Morristown Beard on April 19 in the opening round of the Prep B state tournament and Delaware Valley on April 20 before playing at St. Peter’s Prep on April 24.

“Now we were here, everybody understands their role,” said Moore. “We have really good leaders in our program and a lot of positive energy. Outside of that, everybody on an individual level has just gotten better. The talent is really there, we have to continue to learn how to play together. That late run prepared us for what we would like to do this year. Our expectations are extremely high for these guys. We have a lot of seniors and I know they want to go out on a positive note. We have lofty expectations for our group.”

Rzeczycki, though, isn’t about to get carried away by the team’s hot start.

“It is always the next game, we can’t get too happy right away,” said Rzeczycki.

“We just have to look forward to the next game, keep our heads down and keep working.”