Hanover Park, last season's Group 2 runner-up, will come to The Pit for the first time in program history on Wednesday, Feb. 4. The match is one of two that had yet to be added, while coach Dave Post finalized another independent date with his 'Liners traveling to Raritan on Saturday, Feb. 7.
Post said the match against Hanover Park was confirmed on Thursday. The Hornets are coached by former three-time New Jersey state champion James LaValle. Post said he previously contacted assistant coach Tyler Branham, the former Kittatinny star, about getting the teams together at The Pit.
"We're pretty excited about it," said Post, who guided P'burg to its second Group 4 championship in three seasons last February. "They've got one heck of a team coming back -- 11 starters [including two-time state champ Anthony Cefolo and qualifiers Lou Raimo and Christian Bassolino]. We wanted to make sure we got a lot of the top teams [on the schedule] or ones we think will be quality and competitive."
P'burg is still looking to fill one independent date for Saturday, Jan. 31. Post said he has reached out to Paramus, coached by former Wilson (Pa.) state champ Steve Klass to fill that date. Post said a potential match with Roxbury fell through since both schools could not find a mutually acceptable date. He's hopeful that a match with the Gaels will happen for 2015-16.
"We need one more [match] to sure it up. We're not really interested in a team that's not going to be competitive," Post said. "It's tough because the good teams don't have many open dates to begin with and you have to work quick to fill those indy dates."
Post said that LaValle really wanted to make a match happen, so much so that Hanover Park may have shuffled its schedule to accommodate it. The Hornets went 19-4 last season and dropped a heartbreaker in the Group 2 final -- 34-33 to High Point, which pulled out a thrilling victory with pins in the final four bouts. The 'Liners will also host the Wildcats on Jan. 24.
"[LaValle] was really flexible. We gave them two dates and either one was fine for them," Post said. "We got to see them at Ironhorse last year. They're a good, tough team with tough kids. We wanted to get a team that wouldn't be overwhelmed by the environment [at The Pit]. James is really excited about having his kids experience The Pit."
Though the start of the high school season is still months away, there is already a buzz surrounding what is traditionally a very tough P'burg schedule that just got a little more challenging. The summer schedule is in full force as the 'Liners will attend the Hunterdon Duals on June 8.
"We're excited to get going," Post said. "The kids are excited for the opportunity."
Phillipsburg's schedule for 2014-15
Dec. 20-21 -- at Beast of the East Tournament in Newark, Del.
Dec. 23 -- at Howell
Dec. 28-29 -- at Bethlehem (Pa.) Holiday Classic (Liberty High School)
Jan. 2 -- West Morris
Jan. 3 -- Northampton (Pa.)
Jan. 5 -- at North Hunterdon
Jan. 7 -- Kittatinny
Jan. 9-10 -- Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament (at Hopatcong)
Jan. 14 -- at Delaware Valley
Jan. 16 -- at Voorhees
Jan. 17 -- Easton (Pa.)
Jan. 21 -- Bound Brook
Jan. 23 -- Parkland (Pa.)
Jan. 24 -- High Point
Jan. 28 -- Hunterdon Central
Jan. 29 -- Warren Hills
Feb. 4 -- Hanover Park
Feb. 7 -- at Raritan
Feb. 11 -- Sectional semifinals
Feb. 13 -- Sectional finals
Feb. 15 -- Group championships at Toms River North
Feb. 20-21 -- District 1 Tournament at Mount Olive
Feb. 25, 27-28 -- Region 1 Tournament at Wallkill Valley
March 6-8 -- State Tournament at Atlantic City