April 3, 2024

As Taylor Takes the Helm of PDS Boys’ Lacrosse, Panthers Determined to Maintain Winning Tradition

ON THE STICK: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Sebastian Rzeczycki, left, looks for an opening in a game last season. Senior star and Marist College commit Rzeczycki, who scored a team-high 108 points on 66 goals and 42 assists in 2023, figures to be the offensive catalyst again for the Panthers this spring. PDS, which is being guided by new head coach Nick Taylor, was slated to host Lawrence High on April 2 in its season opener and then play at WW/P-South on April 4 before hosting the Peddie School on April 5 and Lawrenceville on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Nick Taylor has taken the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse program, he has aimed to develop an upbeat atmosphere around the squad.

“Our focus was in the meeting with assistant coaches before the season was, all right, let’s keep it fresh, let’s keep it fun, let’s keep it simple,” said Taylor, who previously served as the head coach of the Haverford College men’s lax team and is succeeding Joe Moore. “Looking back at our first week, I am really happy with what we were able to accomplish because we hit those benchmarks.”

The Panther players have responded well to that positive approach.

“It has been a lot of fun for the guys, the energy has been high,” said Taylor, who is taking over a squad that went 15-7 last spring, winning the Prep B state title and advancing to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B state final.

“The guys are out early to practice, guys are staying after practice. I think they are soaking it up. I think that is the beauty of the culture of lacrosse at PDS, it has such a great history with so many great head coaches before me and so many good players who have come through. We really wanted to lean into that and make sure that it is a great experience for the guys this spring.”

Senior star and Marist College commit Sebastian Rzeczycki brings energy and production to the PDS offense.

“Sebastian is a very hard worker, he is very humble,” said Taylor of Rzeczycki, who scored a team-high 108 points on 66 goals and 42 assists in 2023. “It shows, not only in the way he plays but the way he leads. It has been great for us to have him in the program and to showcase his qualities to the entire team. That is the beauty of his versatility — we can get him to places that we think are going to allow him to be most successful.”

Senior Matt Whittaker (12 goals, 11 assists in 2023) will also be a key to success for the Panthers this spring.

“Matt is committed to play for Vassar next year,” said Taylor. “He is super skilled, he is a really high IQ guy. He was out of the lineup last year for a time due to some transfer stuff. He is excited to have a full year with the team, he will be a staple at attack for sure.”

Taylor is also excited by the play of junior Hart Nowakoski (17 goals, 15 assists).

“Hart is similar to Sebastian, if Seb is playing attack, Hart might play midfield or vice versa,” said Taylor. “Hart’s game is very smooth. He is a smart lacrosse player, he is a smart student and works hard at his craft. You love to coach guys like that.”

A pair of veterans, senior Charlie Hogshire (14 goals, 21 assists) and junior Colton Simonds (2 goals), provide depth on attack also with freshman Tucker Seamens.

“Charlie will be floating through that group; Colton is hopefully a guy who will be back for us, I know he has played a good role on both sides of the offense,” said Taylor. “Tucker is a left-handed attacker who has had a really good first week. I would like to see him progress, he has shown some really good promise. He is definitely a lacrosse-first guy so we love to have him.”

In the midfield, sophomore Ethan Mack (1 goal) and junior Asher Lewis (2 goals, 1 assist, 237-of-383 face-offs) have been making progress.

“A lot of those guys will flex back and forth,” said Taylor. “A guy who played a lot of two-way midfield and showed some really good promise offensively is Ethan. He plays the game the right way, he plays with a really high motor. He cares deeply about being there for his teammates. He is an incredible young man that I think is really primed to have a breakout year. Asher was mostly a face-off guy last year, we will really lean on him to take the majority of our face-offs. I would expect him to see some time on both offense and defense.”

On defense, the quartet of junior Oren Yakoby, junior Wyatt Ewanchyna, senior Han Shin, and junior Griff Carmody will be leading way on the back line.

“We did graduate some great players and great leaders in that spot,” said Taylor. “We are fortunate that Oren is back, he will be a big contributor for us. Wyatt is going to play longstick midfield — we are really going to lean into his athleticism to create some havoc in that position. That is where a lot of our hockey guys shine too. Han was one of the captains for hockey. He has shown really nice promise with the long pole. Griff is a soccer, lacrosse guy and will see some time.”

At goalie, sophomore Jake Harrison will be looking to build on a superb freshman campaign that saw him make 197 saves and allow just 6.8 goals a game.

“Jake was a pleasant surprise for everyone, he was newer to the position and he had a monster year,” said Taylor, who has sophomore Charlie West and freshman Marshall Matyszczak serving as back-up goalies. “We are looking for him to be our guy as we move through the season. Jake is such a great athlete. That is the thing with his position, it takes a lot of skill but where Jake makes up with is his athleticism. He is such a good athlete, that has really helped.”

With PDS slated to host Lawrence High on April 2 in its season opener and then play at WW/P-South on April 4 before hosting the Peddie School on April 5 and Lawrenceville on April 9, Taylor realizes that it will take some time for the Panthers to get into a groove.

“It is a lot of new for the guys, brand new coaches and a new voice,” said Taylor. “Any time you come into a situation that is new, you have to recognize that there is going to be some growing pains. The end goal is to be the best version of ourselves come May and June. It just takes time to mesh. Even as coaches you go in with a plan, people get injured or teams are playing it different than you thought they would and you have to adjust. It is a constant evaluation. There are going to be some ups and downs, so it is trying to remain present and playing our best lacrosse.”