Driven by senior star Doran’s sensational season, PHS Boys’ Lax fought hard, reinforcing positive culture

IMPOSES HIS WILL: Princeton High men’s lacrosse star Will Doran hits goal in a game this spring. Senior star Doran produced one of the best seasons in the program’s history, scoring 128 points out of 55 goals and 73 assists to lead the state in scoring. PHS finished the season with a 9-7 record, advancing to the quarter-finals of the Mercer County Tournament along the way. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming in the spring, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team aspired to win the Mercer County Tournament title and have a deep run in the state tournament.

But suffering from some premature injuries and illnesses, PHS ended up falling to Allentown 18-15 in the MCT quarter-finals and losing 14-9 to Mt. Olive in the first round of North Jersey, Group 3 section.

Although Tiger Chip manager Casto acknowledged that his team did not get what he hoped for, he still saw important progress on the program.

“We didn’t live up to our achievement goals, but we surpassed our process and culture goals,” said Casto, whose team posted a final record of 9-7.

“These seniors have been exceptional this year and for the previous three. Will Doran and Will Erickson exemplified what we do. Be a solid student in the classroom and then commit to helping make our team the best it can be. They really helped the freshman and like 10-11 new sophomores understand who we are, how we do things, how we talk and how we treat each other. It was a great team to be out and about every day. “

Stellar striker Doran produced an incredible senior campaign, scoring 128 points out of 55 goals and 73 assists to lead the state in total points.

“When was the last time a CVC guy led the state in scoring?” Casto said of Doran, who ended his career with 119 goals and 119 assists in just three seasons since the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic. “It was one of the greatest seasons in the history of the show. In fact, he was second highest behind Mike Olentine ’10 (140 points out of 67 goals and 73 assists). “

Williams College-related Doran played great games in the defeat as well, contributing two goals and seven assists in the defeat to Allentown in the MCT and two goals and six assists in the defeat to Mt. Olive in the opening state.

“What a crazy game; we went down great, like 8-1; it’s back to 9-12, “said Casto, reflecting on the defeat to Allentown in the MCT.” We understood some things in the second and third quarters, but we didn’t have enough strength to catch them late. We felt we were basically even with Mt. Olive, but they had improved – as did us – but the big change was that they were now playing a zone and sometimes they had three players going to Will Doran. So let’s calculate the zone a bit and take a run to maybe 8-11 and then again without steam. They are well trained and play a lot “.

PHS has been playing hard this spring from start to finish. “We were really in every game – most of the losses were four or less,” said Casto. Will Erickson did everything for us in defense and played like a guy who wants to win and improve. John O’Donnell was having a terrible year before his knee. He was a key senior who continued to convey the process and work message throughout the season even as he showed up on crutches and joined the staff.

Casto credited the senior group of the team with delivering the right message on a daily basis.

“They really helped establish the program as one that really helps the student-athlete understand what that term means and to begin to understand that the process is far more important and valuable than the results,” Casto said. “The seniors talked about working to win the MCT, but when we failed they showed up the next day ready to move the process to the next goal of winning the best state seeding matches. It was non-stop. They spoke to the team every day with the same strong message. “

The squad’s young guns are set to give the Tigers a strong game in the future as second year Patrick Kenah has scored 53 goals and 38 assists this season with freshman Brendan Beatty scoring 23 goals and 25 assists and freshman Braden Barlag who contributed 19 goals and two assists.

“Patrick Kenah will direct the show and also realize how good Will Doran was and how Will made Patrick’s life a little bit easy at times,” said Casto. “He will have a young team to work with, but he and Braden Barlag will do well together. Brendan Beatty will keep getting better and will be our downhill dodger. Brendan and Braden came forward as freshmen, we got a lot of time and production from them. We consider them as building blocks for the future “.

Another key player for the Tigers is goalkeeper Rory Dobson, who made 105 saves this spring in his second season.

“Rory outdid our book,” Casto said. “He is really dedicating himself to stopping the ball; he needs to improve in the clearing game. But it’s nice to know the next two years are solid in the cage. “

Year two Archer Ayers improved his role as the team’s salary specialist, winning 156 out of 259 salaries.

“It’s an important piece next year because we won’t be as efficient in attack,” said Casto. “Archer can control a match if he starts to control the X of the engagement a little more.”

Looking ahead to next year, Casto believes strengthening the team’s positive culture this spring will yield dividends in the future.

“We have a great team of sophomores and juniors on the rise (like 21) who are ready to return next year and carry on traditions and win some games, ”said Casto.

“We know these PHS guys have so many interests and talents that we help them find opportunities to play lacrosse or just to hold a club in their hands.”