Get up to speed: Princeton day school boys lacrosse player Ryan Vandal played on the ice last season. The senior forward breaker is considered a key offensive contributor for the Panthers this winter. The PDS kicks off its 2022-23 season by playing at Bergen Catholic Church on Dec. 8 before hosting Christian Brothers Academy on Dec. 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
The Princeton day school men’s lacrosse team participated in the high-intensity Gordon Conference last winter and made its debut in the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) closed state championship.
The PDS, 6-7-6 overall, finished the season on a slump with a 3-2 loss to St. John’s Vianni in the first round of the non-public state tournament.
As the Panthers prepare for the 2022-23 season, they’ve shown a desire to excel.
“The one thing they all talked about in their individual exit interviews last season was more intense training, more targeted, and so far that’s been pretty obvious,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli ( Scott Bertoli) said. “It’s early and there’s always excitement that comes with it. It’s intentional with the older kids. They admit that in some ways they didn’t play well and we didn’t play well last year.”
In Bertoli’s view, this year’s team can achieve a lot.
“As a program coach, I recognize the opportunity or the window for big success, and I feel like this is one of those things,” Bertoli said. “We really need to emphasize some things, and a lot of them are kids in the exit interviews. the things discussed in the
PDS has a lot of good forwards in a group of seasoned veterans, including senior Rosheen Nissangaratchie, junior Riley Schmidt, junior Liam Jackson, senior Ryan Vandal, senior Oliver Hall, senior Ace Ewanchyna and sophomore Wyatt Ewanchyna.
“That’s where we have depth and where we’ve improved the most,” said Bertoli, whose forward unit will also include senior Nick Bruno, sophomore Colton Simmonds and Brady Logue, Jack Three promising freshmen, Harrison and Philip Kamalski. “We’ve returned a lot of kids and we’ve got very capable strikers. The reality is our fourth line, whatever the end result, is going to be stronger and more talented than our third line last year, which is Encouraging. As a group, they look bigger, they look faster. The intensity and urgency in practice is there. It’s about whether you can stick with it.”
The Ewanchyna brothers embody the sense of urgency Bertoli sees in his players.
“Ace played a lot this summer and looked different than last year; he was the fastest kid on the ice and looked like a dynamic player,” Bertoli said. “I can see him really improving his game, he’s a kid who could probably play in any situation because of his speed. Wyatt is very good. They’re different types of players. He wants to win, He wants to compete, he wants to learn. He plays for a really good club and he’s one of their core. Even as a sophomore, he wants to be our guy. They’re bigger and stronger than last year , faster, which bodes well for themselves and the team.”
Juniors Han Shin and Connor Stratton will join seniors Cole Fenton and Will Brown on the defense.
“Han and Conor played the most minutes because they were power players,” Bertoli said, adding that sophomore Hart Nowakowski, sophomore Max Gooch and freshman Hubert Shin also Time should be seen on the defenders. “We have guys like Cole and Will who pride themselves on being defensive players. They usually pair well with Connor and Han. We encourage them to push the game and they usually complement that with defensive-minded play. “
At goaltending, junior Mason Watson and sophomore Calvin Fenton are battling for playing time.
“Mason is an athletic kid, and when he’s positioned and angled well, it’s hard to get the puck past him,” Bertoli said. “Calvin was just a very athletic kid. He recovered well and always seemed to make second and third saves. As a team you don’t want to get second and third chances but you have one Kids who can do it and make a living doing it. I’m sure they all want to be starters. We’re in a really good position there.”
The PDS kicks off the season by playing at Bergen Catholic on Dec. 8 before hosting the Christian Brothers Academy on Dec. 13, and Bertoli believes a hot start will be crucial for his team.
“To get some success against these top teams and to prove to ourselves that we have the depth and the mentality to play with these top teams that we play night in and day out, night games are key,” Bertoli said. “You look at our schedule, there isn’t a game I can circle and say it’s an opportunity to play with kids that I wouldn’t normally play. Last year we figured it out pretty quickly. That’s no longer impossible Yes, it’s great. I want our kids to be challenged. They finally learn that, given the competition, if you don’t show up, you’re not going to make it.”
If the Panthers can develop that winning mentality early on, they could have a lot of success this winter.
“We recognize the opportunity here, and if things don’t go our way, we bounce back and have some success early on, and we can have some home ice games in the Gordon playoffs and the state playoffs,” Bertoli said. There’s a good chance we’ll be playing until March and have some really, really big games.”