Senior-led Redbirds’ lacrosse team aims for postseason success

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By Wayne Witkowski

Senior defenders Jason Rider and Jeremy Kleinwaks are looking to end their careers as four-year starters for Allentown High School’s boys’ lacrosse team the way they started: in the championship game of the Mercer County Tournament.

With 12 of 21 players back from last season, the team is looking to qualify for and advance in the state tournament as well.

“They’re all playing with a little chip on their shoulder,” coach Carl Schubauer said. “There are a lot of seniors, and they’re a strong group. They know what they’ve done right and wrong, and they focus on details. They know what they have to do to make a change from last year. They fell short last year but not by much. They’re a tight group, good friends.”

Allentown had a misleading 6-9 record with many close losses in a very strong schedule with some of the top teams in the state. It suffered one-goal losses to Notre Dame High School and to Robbinsville High School in the quarterfinals of the Mercer Country Tournament.

Allentown competes in the Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Robbinsville and Hightstown High School.

The team has shown sharp stickhandling, which has been well appreciated by goalkeeper Zack Powdermaker when Allentown makes the defensive stops and mounts a counter attack. He and Rider are committed to college careers at Pace University.

“This year, our ball movement is 100 times better,” Powdermaker said. “We’ve been playing together since third grade, so we know how to play. But last year, we were selfish with ball movement. I was guilty of that, too.”

“He’s our driving force,” Schubauer said of Powdermaker. “He is knowledgeable directing everybody and gets the team going as a unit.”

Schubauer said the team exemplifies the intangibles of playing with heart and playing for each other, which reflects in their performance.

The Redbirds were scheduled to open at home March 29 against Princeton High School.

James Neebling, another senior who played as a freshman in the Mercer County Tournament finals, is the leading middie.

“We expect big things from him,” Schubauer said.

Senior Nick Stagnitti and Jared Jordan, who played a lot as a freshman last year, look like the other midfield starters.

They’ll look to get the ball up to attackmen Connor Provost, a senior who figures to be one of the top scorers and has drawn a lot of interest from colleges, and Dan Drew and Mike Surace, who are also seniors.

“Their ballhandling and stick skills all are top notch,” Schubauer said.

Anthony Amico moves up to varsity assistant after serving as freshman coach, and former head coach Michael Kays is freshman coach for this season.

Schubauer feels the program will continue to make strides in future seasons with lacrosse programs established at Millstone Township Middle School and Stone Bridge Middle School — the latter starting a team last year.