Boys lacrosse fights to meet high expectations after winning the MCT last year

The bar has been set high for the members of the boys lacrosse team, who last year clinched their Mercer County Tournament championship in a season in which they went 12–2 and lost in overtime at the state championships. The team started off this season winning its first six games and is currently 7–1.

The program recognizes the added pressure that comes with winning last year’s MCT for the first time in Princeton High School’s history. Co-Captain Matt Purdy ’14 hopes the team’s training ethic and the support from the community will help the team meet these expectations and continue its success.

“I would say there’s pressure to perform,” said Purdy. “I think it’s important to have something for the high school to look after and look forward to—specifically with the competition being strong and having all sorts of different teams, [such as] our rivals, [Princeton Day School], in the tournament.”

“Just having that thought in your mind that we’ve [won the MCT] before [and] we can do it again is always comforting,” said Co-Captain Kevin Halliday ’14.

The team also looks to perform well in some of its non-league games, most notably against high-ranked Summit High School. Head Coach Peter Stanton hopes that games against challenging teams like this one can prepare the boys for the road to the MCT. Already this year the team has made improvements, defeating Allentown and Notre Dame—both of which the boys lost to last year.

“[People are] impressed [with] just how awesome it is that this early in the season we’ve been able to accomplish things that we were never able to do last year. It’s an awesome feeling,” said Co-Captain Matt Corrado ’14.

In order to keep their momentum, the team will focus on drills and plays they can use during games. It hopes that a return to basic skills can help the young players improve, as well as refine the skills that the older players already have.

“We’re not really focusing on fitness that much in training, [because] we assume people work on fitness in the offseason,” said Halliday.

“We’re focusing more on team [tactics], like riding, clearing, six-on-six offense and defense, and really the fundamentals of the game.”
As co-captains, Corrado, Halliday, Purdy and Patrick McCormick ’14 have set out a series of goals that they hope to achieve this season.

“Our main three goals are [to] go further in the state tournament than we did last year, win the MCT again, and win the [Colonial Valley Conference] outright. [Last year], we shared [the CVC title] with Hopewell [Valley Central High School], [so] we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen again,” said Corrado.

The team has had the added benefit of retaining most of its major players, such as Purdy and Halliday, who last year were able to score a combined 77 goals. New faces, such as Johnny Lopez-Ona ’17 and backup goalie Sawyer Peck ’17, have started to contribute to the team early in the season, with Lopez-Ona already racking up seven goals.

A sense of camaraderie has emerged between the new players and the returning veterans, which Purdy thinks can help the team win. The relationship between the players goes beyond the playing field and, according to Purdy, ultimately adds to the strength of the unit.
“All of us aren’t just teammates, we’re friends,” said Purdy. “The biggest thing is to interact outside of the field and out of practice.”

For a bonding and training experience, the team traveled to Florida over spring break. There, the boys were able to focus on becoming a cohesive unit and work toward an off-the-field relationship with all the players and coaches.

“[I] think other than on-the-field [interactions], we’ve been coming together off the field, especially with our Florida trip,” said Halliday.

“Our four captains are four good friends, so the chemistry is built in right away … They’re tremendous leaders and they’ve done tremendous things,” said Assistant Coach Chip Casto. “They work hard and they set the tone for the team.”

Even with its 7–1 season and experienced players, the team recognizes its weaknesses and knows where it can improve. These weaknesses were exposed in the first loss of the season against Lawrence, and Halliday hopes the team can work toward improvement for future challenging teams.

“Between the boxes, our transition offense and defense is where we need to improve the most right now because good teams that can exploit transition mistakes can cause us to lose,” said Halliday.

Purdy thinks that if the team were to capitalize on the friendship the players share, it could improve communication on the field and ensure success. “[If we] can communicate on the field and understand where people are, [we’re] just going to have a better bond as a team and have a better connection,” said Purdy.

Overall, the cohesive effort of the team and each of the player’s attitudes under pressure will determine the success the team seeks for this season.

“Having had the experience of winning the [MCT] last year, the guys know how good it felt,” said Stanton. “The guys realize the possibility [of winning it again], but also understand it’s a bit of a challenge.”