Moorestown shows PHS lax the look of champion

Defending state champions hand Little Tigers 15-11 loss

By: Justin Feil
   After two straight seasons have ended in the state quarterfinals, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team is hoping to advance beyond that round this season. In order to do so, the Little Tigers have to get used to playing the best teams in the state.
   Despite a 15-11 loss to defending state champion Moorestown on Tuesday, PHS feels it is headed in the right direction.
   "There’s a reason we played (Moorestown). This is the caliber of team we want to be able to beat at the end of the season," said Little Tiger head coach Peter Stanton, whose team dropped to 0-1 heading into Thursday’s scheduled game with Columbia. "I’d rather open up with a loss than end the season with a loss."
   Tuesday’s game was the first step in filling the holes left after winning a second straight Bianchi Division crown while going 15-5 overall last season.
   "Today was about experience," Stanton said Tuesday. "We started Brian Cohen, Dan Krauss, David Mostoller and Skip Sweemer. It was Alex Hobson’s first game as a captain. They’re the defending state champions. I think that experience showed. They had a little mental toughness over us."
   Moorestown jumped out to a 3-1 lead by the end of the first quarter, but PHS fought back to tie it, 4-4, on a goal by Nick Wright midway through the second quarter. The goal seemed to ignite Moorestown, which closed the half with a 5-2 run to take a 9-6 halftime lead.
   "We changed our matchups a little bit defensively," Stanton explained of the initial second-quarter turnaround. "They surprised us a little with some of the things they did in the beginning of the game. We didn’t communicate a lot on defense. We did a better job of that as the game went along."
   Princeton’s best defensive series of the day still ended in a Moorestown goal. Moorestown opened the half by holding the ball for nearly four minutes before it scored what seemed to be a back-breaker. But the Little Tigers came back with a goal 20 seconds later to make it 10-7.
   "We were really pleased with that defensive sequence," Stanton said. "If we could make them every time they scored take a good four minutes, we’d love that."
   The third quarter ended evenly played, but PHS still trailed, 11-8. Princeton came within two goals, 11-9, early in the fourth quarter before Moorestown scored four straight goals to take a 15-9 lead.
   "They had the kids that have won a state championship," Stanton said. "Those kids made the plays for them."
   PHS also had some playmakers, none bigger than Whitney Hayes, who picked up from last year’s All-American season. The senior attack ended the game with three goals and four assists and was a couple drops away from registering two or three more assists. Bennett Murphy was on the receiving end of a pair of Hayes’ assists and the junior ended with four goals.
   Most encouraging to the Little Tigers was that they didn’t back down from the defending state champions. Moorestown was the team that ended the PHS season last year in the state quarterfinals.
   "It was hugely different this time," Stanton said. "Last year, we were intimidated by them quite honestly. This year, there was no backing down.
   "Our kids are tough. They want to come back and work hard tomorrow."
   The Little Tigers will play at Hillsborough Monday and host Voorhees Tuesday.
   "We expect Columbia to be tough," Stanton said. "We like that. We don’t want to have to take any vacations or breaks. We want to work hard all season."
   Tuesday was just a start against the state’s top competition. Stanton and PHS hope that the hard work won’t end until after they’ve reached the state finals and maybe set up a rematch with Moorestown.