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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

TWICE AS NICE: The Princeton University women's lacrosse team celebrates its 5-3 win over Loyola in the NCAA semifinals in mid-May. The Tigers went on to beat Virginia 8-7 in overtime in the championship game to win their second straight national title.
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Year End Review

Tiger Sports Sees Year of the Women in 2003; Area High Schoolers Achieve Key Breakthroughs

By Bill Alden

Some 31 years after the passage of Title IX, the law barring sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, women athletes at Princeton University showed how far they have come as they produced most of the top highlights of the 2003 year in Tiger athletics.

In the meantime, local high school athletes made breakthroughs of their own, as both individuals and teams battled to produce titles never or rarely ever achieved at their schools

Winter Wonders

The first stop in Princeton's year of the women is the pool where the Tiger women's swimming and diving team put in another dominant season. Princeton won its fourth straight Ivy League championship, going undefeated in dual meets and stretching its winning streak in such competitions to 41.

In late November, coach Susan Teeter's group made school history when it topped Binghamton to win its 44th straight dual meet, thereby eclipsing the previous Princeton top streak of 43 achieved by the men's tennis team in the late 1970s.

The Princeton men swimmers narrowly lost the Ivy crown to Harvard but ended up placing 19th in the NCAA championship meet, as senior stars Jesse Gage, Garth Fealey, Carl Hessler, and Jamie Leahy ended their careers in style.

On the ice, the women's ice hockey team, coached by Princeton alum Jeff Kampersal '92, put together one of the best seasons in program history, winning 20 games for the first time. The squad, which was led by senior standouts Andrea Kilbourne, Nikola Holmes, and Annamarie Holmes, advanced to the ECAC semifinals.

Coming all the way from Egypt, freshman squash star Yasser El-Halaby produced one of the more astonishing debut seasons in recent Princeton history as he won the national individual title and helped lead the Tigers to the Five-Man title and another Ivy crown.

As El-Halaby was bursting on the scene, Greg Parker capped one of the most brilliant wrestling careers in Princeton history by making it to the NCAA quarterfinals in the 184-pound category. The two-time All-American had been a 2002 NCAA runner-up in the 174-pound class as a junior.

The men's basketball team produced one of the most dramatic moments of the year as Ed Persia's 85-foot heave at the buzzer gave Princeton a win over Monmouth. The Tigers, however, were on the wrong side of other drama in a season that saw them finish third in the league and miss out on post-season play for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign.

Spring Titles

The spring season saw the women's lacrosse team and women's lightweight crew teams both repeat as national champions although in radically different fashion.

Early in the spring, Chris Sailer's women's lacrosse team got off to a 1-3 start and looked like it might have trouble even qualifying for the NCAA tourney, let alone defending its national title. Led by senior defender Rachael Becker, however, the Tigers tightened things up and won 15 of their next 16 games, culminating with a dramatic 8-7 overtime win against Virginia in the national championship game on a goal by Theresa Sherry.

Becker, a star in field hockey as well, ended her career as one of the most decorated athletes in Princeton history. Her haul of accolades included being named the MVP of the NCAA tourney, the Ivy League Player of the Year, the winner of the Teewaraton Trophy given to the outstanding player of the year, and the Honda Sports Award for lacrosse. Becker was no slouch off the field as she earned Academic All-American honors as well through her career.

The women's crew team, on the other hand, had a much easier ride to its national title as coach Heather Smith's boat cruised to an undefeated season, topping Harvard/Radcliffe by three seconds in the grand final race of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships in late May. The national title was the fifth straight for the program which has only lost three races in the last six seasons.

For the men's crew program, the freshman heavyweight boat reigned supreme as it ran the table going undefeated and cruising to titles in the Eastern Sprints and the IRA championships in the process. Coach Greg Hughes' boat culminated its magical campaign by going across the Atlantic in July where it beat the Princeton men's lightweight boat to win the Temple Challenge Cup at the prestigious Henley Regatta in England.

Another men's team that turned in a memorable spring was Scott Bradley's Ivy winning baseball squad. Led by flamethrowing reliever Thomas Pauly, the Ivy Pitcher of the Year who is now in the Cincinnati Reds' organization, the Tigers bested Harvard in a dramatic three-game series to win the school's 14th league crown and advance to the NCAA tourney.

The Princeton softball team won its second straight Ivy crown, paced by freshman pitcher Erin Snyder, the Ivy Rookie of the Year, and sophomore Melissa Finley, the Ivy Player of the Year.

The spring's traditional showcase program, men's lacrosse, had a disappointing year as a senior-laden team was only able to finish in a three-way tie for the Ivy title. While the title was the ninth straight for the Tigers, any joy from that accomplishment was erased when Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney saw his club routed 15-5 by Syracuse in the NCAA quarterfinals. The loss to the Orangemen snapped Princeton's streak of three straight appearances in the NCAA title game.

Autumn Leaders

Cross country star Emily Kroshus' run to glory was a major highlight of the fall campaign. Plagued with injuries earlier in her Princeton career, the senior from Calgary, Alberta saved her best for last as she won the Heptagonal Cross Country Championships and then finished eighth as the NCAA championship meet in Waterloo, Iowa. Kroshus' superb effort helped lead the Tigers to a ninth place finish at the NCAA meet.

Field hockey welcomed new head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, who promptly led the Tigers to their tenth straight Ivy title. Princeton was led by senior co-captain Claire Miller, who was named the Ivy Player of the Year for a season which saw her score 15 points on six goals and three assists.

Women's soccer failed to win its fourth straight Ivy crown but the league runners-up did make a fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. Coach Julie Shackford and her Tigers boasted an Ivy Player of the Year of their own in junior striker Esmeralda Negron, who tied the school single-season record with 13 goals.

Jim Barlow saw his men's soccer team struggle in the middle of the Ivy pack but senior defender and co-captain Jeff Hare was a major bright spot as he earned First-Team All-Ivy recognition for the third straight season.

The Princeton football team hit the depths as it started 0-4 for the first time in the 134 years of Tiger football. Coach Roger Hughes' team ended 2-8 in a season of frustration which saw the Tigers lose contests to Columbia, Harvard, and Yale on the last play of the game. Senior defensive ends Joe Weiss and co-captain Tim Kirby distinguished themselves on and off the gridiron as they both made the First-Team All-Ivy football team and Academic All-Ivy.

The fall did see excellent performances from the men's water polo and women's volleyball squads. Coach Luis Nicolao guided the water polo team to a 23-4 mark and a second place finish in the Easterns. The women's volleyball team, coached by Glenn Nelson, made a dramatic late season run for the Ivy title but came up just short as it went 17-6 and finished just behind first-place Penn.

Hun School

On the high school scene, the Hun School 's basketball programs warmed up many a gym last winter. The boys' team, coached by Jon Stone, went 13-10 and made it to the state Prep A semifinals. Led by Mingus Murray, Noah Savage, and Nate Fritsch, the Raiders produced some of the season's most memorable clashes as they battled such national powers as the Blair Academy, St. Anthony's, and St. Benedict's.

Coach Bill Holup led his senior-laden girls' squad to the state Prep A semis. Seniors Natalie Brunone, Angela Hawkins, and Erin Sanderson showed savvy and skill in leading the Raiders to a 16-9 mark.

Hun's spring campaign was highlighted by some outstanding individual efforts. Sophomore lefty pitcher Steve Garrison was practically unbeatable as Hun fought through an up-and-down 8-9 campaign under longtime coach Bill McQuade. As for softball, Kathy Quirk's club found an ace in sophomore hurler Emily Rosenthal, who carried the team to the state Prep A semifinals.

Eric Kemp's debut as head coach of the Hun boys' lacrosse program went smoothly as the team posted an 11-5 mark. Alex Green tallied 72 points for the Raiders while freshman sensation Matt Loy scored 56.

The Hun girls' tennis team provided one of the major highlights of the fall as coach Joan Nuse guided her team to the program's first-ever state Prep A title. Led by Angela DiPastina at first singles and the first doubles team of Ann Wright and Nina Licciardello, the Raiders also won their third straight Mercer County Championship on the way to a sparkling 12-1 record.

Individually, senior cross country star Morgan Seybert was a revelation as he raced to the school's first-ever boys' title at the Mercer County Cross Country championship and placed first in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship race and second in the state Prep A championships.

The Hun boys' soccer team caught fire late as it rebounded from a 1-3 start to make it to the state Prep A championship game. Coach Chris Kingston's club finished with a 10-8 record, getting strong seasons from Matt Miller, Scott Loesser, Matt Care and Chris Russo.

Led by the passing of Dom Natale and the rushing of Emir Davis and Junior Jabbie, the Hun football team had one of its best seasons in years as it posted a 7-2 mark. Although coach Dave Dudeck's team fell short of a MAPL crown, the Raiders' 13-5 record over the last two seasons shows that the program is on solid footing.

Princeton Day School

The winter season for Princeton Day School was highlighted by the boys' ice hockey team taking yet another state prep B title. The Panthers, coached by Chris Barcless, blanked Montclair-Kimberley 7-0 in February to win their sixth straight Prep B title. PDS, which got big years from senior Andy Latyszonek, junior Will Denise, and sophomore Keith Nelson, went 17-7 as it also won its own season-ending invitational event.

While the girls' hockey team didn't fare as well as the boys, it did make it to the state Prep semifinals where it fell to Morristown-Beard 6-5 in overtime. Senior Blair Lamb, junior Heidi Morse, and sophomore Meg Kerwin all had big years for PDS, which ended with an 8-9 mark.

While the Panthers don't have a swim team, PDS senior Stefan Hirniak produced one of the best performances on the local high school swimming circuit as he won both the 200 and 500 freestyle races as the Mercer County Championships in February, setting meet records in both events and being named as the boys' Most Valuable Swimmer.

The spring season was highlighted by the exploits of PDS golfers. Junior Kathryn Batchelor won the state prep girls' individual championship. Batchelor, who also played on the boys' team, was a key contributor to that squad's third-place finish in the state Prep B tournament.

The PDS boys' lacrosse team showed improvement as coach Pete Higgins' squad tripled its win total from 2002 and made it to the state Prep B semifinals.

Led by seniors Alyssa Briody, Emily Hamlin, Allison Marshall, and Katie Weber, the Panther girls' lacrosse team nearly pulled one of the upsets of the spring as it lost an 8-7 heartbreaker to Lawrenceville in the state Prep quarterfinals. With Briody scoring 40 goals and Weber tallying 38, the team posted a 7-7 mark for coach Jill Thomas.

Coming into the fall, the PDS field hockey team was hoping that four blue-chip freshmen, Kate Briody, Ali Zindman and twins Nina and Allie Crouse, would gradually develop into key contributors. Feeding off the leadership of Betsy Welsh, back on the team after being sidelined for a year due to Hodgkin's disease, the precocious freshmen starred from game one. PDS caught fire late in the season and made it to the state Prep finals where it fell 2-1 to powerful Lawrenceville.

The girls' soccer team, the defending Prep B champions, moved up to the Prep A level and made an immediate impact. Paced by high-scoring junior Lauren Hinkel and fiery senior Carly Berger, PDS upended defending state champion Peddie in the opening round of the Prep A playoffs. While the Panthers fell 2-0 in the semis to eventual state Prep A co-champion Lawrenceville, coach Ted Harrington was left proud of the way his 12-7 team responded to the challenge of moving up a level.

Princeton High

The Little Tigers started 2003 by making waves in the pool. Powered by such stars as Jesse Applegate, Pete Hand, Mark Fisher, and Yoshi Deligne, the PHS boys' swim team methodically dominated the local swimming scene.

The Little Tigers cruised to their second straight Mercer County in February and later advanced to their second straight Public B state final where they narrowly fell to Mainland. Greg Hand's squad ended the season with a 14-1 mark and no regrets as it produced some of its finest work in the state final notwithstanding the final result.

The PHS girls' team continued its steady improvement, qualifying for the Public B state tournament and unveiling freshman sensation Nina Rossi. The versatile Rossi emerged as one of the top swimmers in the area last winter, winning the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly at the Mercer County Swimming Championships where she was named as the meet's Most Valuable Swimmer on the girls' side.

On the ice, both PHS hockey programs made progress. Veteran coach Paul Merrow led the boys' team to an 11-8-3 mark as they made it back into the state tournament. The girls' club, coached by Matt Becan, rode the outstanding goaltending of senior Britney Russell to post a program-best record of 9-5-2.

The spring season featured some outstanding team and individual performances. The boys' lacrosse team made it into the state playoffs led by senior attacker Bennett Murphy, who ended his career as the program's all-time points leader. Coach Peter Stanton also got fine years from other members of his Class of 2003 including James Kadar, Chris Lalli, Alex Hobson, Robby Polakoff and Justin Strasburger.

The boys' tennis team, coached by Dave Black, nearly made it two straight Group III state championships as it advanced to the state final only to lose a nailbiter to Milburn. The squad's top doubles pair of Chad Maisel and Nate Abraham made it to the state semifinals of the NJSIAA Doubles Tournament.

In track, Allison Crowley emerged as a top performer, winning the 100 hurdles and the triple jump at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and ultimately qualified for the prestigious Meet of Champions in both events.

The fall saw PHS teams play their first competition on the school's new AstroPlay artificial turf surface. The field of dreams was christened on October 11 when the football team posted a valiant 16-3 loss to WW/P-N. Coach Steve Everette's team would go on to win two games, including a 20-0 shutout of WW/P-S on the new surface, in doubling its win total from 2002.

The boys' soccer team seemed to get the biggest boost from the new field as it rebounded from a mediocre 3-5-1 start to reel off 12 straight wins. In the process, coach Wayne Sutcliffe's squad won the Mercer County Tournament and just the second Central Jersey Group III title in program history.

Although the Little Tigers fell 1-0 to eventual state champion Ocean City in the Group III semis, Sutcliffe was justifiably proud of his team which rode the scoring of Nicholas Devine and Dion Privett together with the midfield play of Owen Nichols, Carlos Espichan, Scott Callahan and defensive work of Phil Francois, Kevin Wagner, Graham McDonald and goalie Peter Abram to a 15-6-1 mark.

Senior distance star Meaghan Lynch helped pace the girls' cross country team to the program's first-ever Central Jersey Group III sectional title. Lynch finished third in the Mercer County Cross Country Championships and fourth at the sectionals.

Stuart Country Day

The winter season for the Tartans was highlighted by the brilliance of goalie Lindsay Grabowski, who carried the ice hockey team to a 6-6-1 mark. Coach Greg Bugge's club made program history as it won a game in the state prep tournament for the first time.

In the water, Tara Erwin won the 500 free and took second in the 200 free at the Mercer County Swimming Championships.

The Stuart track team repeated history in the spring as it won its second straight Prep B state title. Coach Tom Harrington's squad romped to the title, utilizing its depth to overcome the competition. The Tartans' individual state champions included Chloe Pollack-Robbins (100-yard hurdles and 400 hurdles), Laura Brienza (800, 1,600), Emily Driscoll (3,200) and Maya Thompson (javelin).

The Tartans lacrosse team struggled but Tracy Statter ended her splendid Stuart athletic career in style as she fired in 63 goals, by far the highest total among Mercer County high school players. Statter, a star in field hockey and ice hockey, played for the University of Pennsylvania field hockey team this past fall.

Harrington guided Stuart runners to another crown in the fall as his cross country team won the Prep B championship meet in early October. It was the fourth state title in six years for the program. Brienza took third in the state meet, followed by Driscoll in fourth, Catherine Currie in fifth, and Caroline Cancelosi in ninth.

Coach Missy Bruvik's field hockey team fell short of a second straight state Prep title but had an outstanding season by any measure. Led by seniors Kelly Fitzpatrick and Angela Harrington, the Tartans went 12-3-4 and made it to the state Prep semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament finals.

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