A defense-first mentality and a deep roster propel boys lacrosse

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photo by Amy Wang

Clear communication and a powerful defense are the two key components needed to ensure a bold start to the lacrosse season and to help balance the talent springing from the offense.

“We decided early on in the season [that] we’re going to be a defense-first team, so we’ve spent a lot of time on defense, defense concepts, terminology … so the defense seems to be a little bit ahead,” said Head Coach Chip Casto.

Co-Captain and leading defenseman Norman Tooker Callaway ’17 realizes that taking advantage of practice time is crucial for the team to develop these strategies and to improve on their overall communication and cohesion.

Callaway and two other leading defensemen, Ian Jacobs ’18 and Patrick Jacobs ’18, have been working together on the field since last season, making both their chemistry and cohesiveness on the field stronger. As a defense unit, they use multiple strategical tactics in order to beat their opponents more effectively.

“We are throwing less checks in general, but the ones that we do throw are more accurate and purposeful in terms of disruption,” Patrick Jacobs said. “Using our feet more effectively this year is a huge goal for us because when we are able to match [an attacker’s] pace or even force him where we want him to go, that is when we are at our best.”

The defense also relies on the senior goalie duo of Leo Godefroy ’17 and Sawyer Peck ’17 to prevent the opposition from scoring.

“If we can force the opposing team to take a shot that we know our goalies can save or force a turnover, we are putting our team in a position to succeed and transition to attack,” Patrick Jacobs said.

Kicking off their season with a 3–1 record, the Little Tigers beat West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, Allentown High School, and Hightstown High School by significant margins before falling to Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School 6–5, a team they beat last year by a single goal. The team lost only two seniors from last season’s lineup, Nick Halliday ’16 and Rory Helstrom ’16, and have about 13 seniors currently returning, including other Co-Captain Johnny Lopez-Ona ’17, who runs the offense as an attackman, and goalies Godefroy and Peck. Also, with junior Ryan Farrell ’18 and talented underclassmen on the team, including Dylan Westerman ’19, Alex Park ’19, and Evan Fillion ’19, Casto and Assistant Coach Peter Stanton are confident in their players’ ability to make an impact as a cohesive unit.

“We’re not necessarily looking for one guy to really stand out,” Casto said. “Lots of people are going to put in a lot of time, so we’re hopeful that these guys get better and better as the season goes and can contribute.”

Callaway and the players have bought into a strong emphasis on communication.

“If we become more of a unit, I think we will do a better job stopping other teams, threatening players and set plays that they have. I think that if we’re more vocal [and if] we all get on the same page, we can really communicate and work through the games better,” Callaway said.

Currently, the team holds a record of 4-5.  The Tigers are on a four-game losing streak, with  losses against local rival Princeton Day School and conference rival Summit High School.  But, the most impressive buildings must have a strong base, a clear construction plan, and time to build. Thus, there is a greater emphasis on the process it takes to accomplish a winning season, rather than being too concerned about the current record.

“We’re trying to take it day by day, and if we can do that and build the structure and foundation, I think when playoffs come and big tournaments come we will be able to show our growth and show what we have,” Callaway said.

“The best thing about this team is that they’ve embraced really the best title to have is that we have improved every day,” Casto said. “We’re trying not to talk about championships and such, not even who we’re playing that much, just about us getting better and putting in really a championship effort, so we talk about effort and focus every time you step on the practice field.”

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