Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 25
 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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WORTHY SUCCESSOR: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star Neil Karandikar displays his form this spring. Following in the footsteps of the graduated PDS superstar David Holland, Karandikar won the state Prep B and Mercer County Tournament crowns at first singles. He also helped the Panthers win their fifth straight Prep B team title.

PDS Tennis’ Karandikar, Hun Lax Star Godfrey Get Nod as Town Topics’ Top Spring Performers

Bill Alden

Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neil Karandikar carried the weight of responsibility on his shoulders as he came into this spring.

After having played second singles in his first two seasons with the Panthers, Karandikar moved up to first singles this year, following in the considerable footsteps of the graduated Dave Holland, one of the best players in program history.

With Holland having won four straight state Prep B individual titles and three consecutive Mercer County Tournament crowns, Karandikar felt pressure to continue those streaks.

Moreover, with PDS featuring a younger team, the soft-spoken Karandikar knew he had to become more of a vocal team leader.

As he prepared to play in the MCT in late April, Karandikar knew there was a bull’s eye planted squarely on his back as the No. 1 seed in first singles.

“I was excited but I definitely felt a lot of pressure because I think most people expected me to win,” said Karandikar.

“There was an article that said I was the heavy favorite; I read that and I was like OK, let me try to do that.”

The wiry junior proved up to the task as he won the title without losing a set, gutting out a 7-6, 7-6 win over Hun’s Chris Seitz in the championship match.

Later in the season, Karandikar matched another one of Holland’s achievements as he swept to the Prep B first singles title without losing a set.

Karandikar’s heroics proved crucial as PDS tied Montclair Kimberley and Gill St. Bernard’s for the team title, making it five straight crowns for the Panthers.

PDS head coach Rome Campbell appreciated the way Karandikar handled his new responsibilities this spring.

“The rest of the players looked up to Dave Holland and they look up to Neil Karandikar as a good role model and someone to emulate,” said Campbell.

“He surely sets the example as far as sportsmanship, character, and how to conduct himself as a young student-athlete.”

Karandikar, for his part, saw the support from his teammates and coaches as a key factor in his win at the MCT.

“I think that what made this special for me was playing in this kind of atmosphere with the crowd and people cheering,” said Karandikar.

“Hearing your coaches, teammates, and friends supporting you even when I was down or when I had to leave. It was a tough match so it feels great to win.”

Karandikar’s combination of mental toughness and brilliant shotmaking make him the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the spring high school season.

Top Female Performer

It was a raw early spring day when the Hun School girls’ lacrosse season opened its 2009 season by playing at rival Princeton Day School.

The temperature hovered in the 40s and an intermittent cold rain pelted the players.

The harsh conditions, though, didn’t dampen Hun senior star Addie Godfrey.

Displaying her competitive fire and all-around skills, the elusive Godfrey was all over the field that afternoon as she carried the team.

She scored five goals and assisted on two others, having a hand in each Hun score as the Raiders fell 11-7.

As the spring unfolded, Godfrey continued to take Hun on her back, producing a string of amazing performances.

Along the way, she scored nine points against Academy of New Church (5 goals, 4 assists), eight against Stuart (5 goals, 3 assists), and six points against Lawrenceville (2 goals, 4 assists).

The Lafayette-bound Godfrey’s most prolific outburst came in the MCT quarterfinals in a 15-11 win over WW/P-N. Godfrey shredded the Northern Knight defense for 14 points on eight goals and six assists.

In reflecting on Hun’s 11-5 season, Raider head coach Jon Stone said there was no way to underestimate Godfrey’s impact.

“Addie had as good a year as anybody in this area; she has been tremendous,” said Stone of Godfrey who scored more than 80 points this spring.

“She just does so many things. This program will really miss her, there is no question about that.”

For carrying Hun on her shoulders from the opening draw of the season to the final whistle, Godfrey gets the nod as the Town Topics top female performer this spring.

Top Male Newcomer

When people analyzed the contenders for the boys’ tennis first singles title at this spring’s Mercer County Tournament, the Hun School’s Chris Seitz was an afterthought.

The unheralded freshman was seeded sixth and didn’t figure to make it past the second round of the competition.

But Seitz was in no hurry to leave, topping No. 3 (Demetri Vrahnos of WW/P-S) and No. 2 (Kevin Cen of Princeton High) on the way to a title matchup against top-seeded Neil Karandikar of Princeton Day School.

Things looked bleak for Seitz with Karandikar having won the MCT title at second singles the last two years and having breezed to the first singles finals losing only three games in six sets.

Rising to the occasion, Seitz displayed his solid ground strokes and poise as he battled Karandikar hard. Although Seitz ended up losing 7-6, 7-6, he served notice that he was a force to be reckoned with.

“I definitely think he caught people by surprise,” said Hun head coach Todd Loffredo in reflecting on Seitz’s performance at the MCT.

“I think everybody likes to see an underdog win; there was no pressure on him. It came down to how consistent he was with his ground strokes and his serve. He is just very consistent.”

While Hun struggled down the stretch, Seitz’s consistency was a constant for the squad and he was chosen as its MVP.

Seitz’s emergence as a title contender out of nowhere earns him the nod as the Town Topics top male newcomer of the spring.

Top Female Newcomer

In most years, the Princeton High girls’ track team has struggled when it goes against Trenton High, unable to match the Tornadoes’ dominance in the sprints.

But with the addition of precocious freshman Bryell Wheeler to its sprinting corps, it became clear that things were different this year for the Little Tigers.

In its annual matchup with Trenton, PHS prevailed 76-63 as Wheeler won the 100-meter dash and helped the Little Tigers to victory in the 4 x 400 relay.

PHS head coach Jim Smirk was thrilled to have Wheeler aboard. “Bryell has great physical talent; she is really young and is still working on understanding about competing,” said Smirk.

“There is a lot more there; she is learning what it means to push and what is required to compete at a higher level.”

By the time the Little Tigers reached the state competition, Wheeler showed that she could take things to a higher level.

Wheeler won the 100-meter dash and took third in the long jump in the NJSIAA Group III Central Jersey sectional meet.

A week later, Wheeler handled the pressure of the NJSIAA Group III state championship meet with aplomb, taking fifth in both the 100 (12.79) and long jump (16’6).

At the Meet of Champions, Wheeler placed 11th in the 100 and 16th in the long jump.

For bursting on the track scene with championship performances, Wheeler is the pick as the Town Topics top female newcomer this spring.

Top Coaches

For the last 25 years or so, Bill Quirk had spent his springs helping to coach the Hun School softball team.

This year, Quirk threw everyone a changeup when he agreed to take over the Hun boys’ lacrosse program after the departure of Greg Provenzano, who guided the team to a 11-9 record in 2008.

For Quirk, the strength of Hun’s senior players made the challenge of his new role less daunting.

“One of the reasons I took this job is that I enjoy the seniors,” maintained Quirk.

“I have been watching some of them since middle school. When they were sophomores, I told them they would have to step up a year early and they did last year as juniors on a team with only three seniors.”

One of the first steps Quirk took after agreeing to coach lacrosse was to seek out the advice of Princeton University men’s lacrosse head coach Bill Tierney.

“He was telling me to be realistic; you have to adapt to the talent you have,” said Quirk.

“It isn’t like college where you have kids with a lot of experience. You have to try to keep things basic. You can’t worry about running the elaborate play, you have to make sure they can pass and catch.”

With Quirk running a tight ship and keeping his players focused on the basics, Hun piled up win after win.

One of the team’s key seniors, defenseman Chris Loy, saw Quirk’s approach as a key to the team’s success as he reflected on a big win over Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals.

“It’s not just that he knows the sport, he is able to see the bigger picture,” asserted Loy.

“Kyle [Stiefel] was running around for them and he was able to see that before the play happened and call that out and stop it. It just amazing how he is able to see all of that.”

Quirk saw the Raiders through to a title as they rebounded from a loss to Lawrenceville in the Prep A championship game to beat Voorhees 14-9 in the season finale and clinch the Bianchi-Curcio Division crown.

In assessing the team’s 14-1 campaign, Quirk lauded the contribution of his seniors.

“It is one of the most fun years I have had,” said Quirk. “The record is not mine; it belongs to the Class of 2009. They take it with them. For me, it was great to be around this group. There was mutual respect. I couldn’t ask for more from them; they gave me their heart and soul this season.”

For getting the most out of the Raiders in his debut season at the helm, Quirk is the choice as the top coach of a male team this spring.

Coming off an up-and-down 11-7 season in 2008, Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse head coach Jill Thomas was looking to keep things simple this spring.

“I want them to keep working hard and developing their skills individually and as a team,” said Thomas. “They need to be working hard everyday, not just on some days.”

With senior stars Cammie Linville and Mariel Jenkins providing daily inspiration, the Panthers developed into a formidable team.

The Panthers started the spring by reeling off 10 straight victories, producing some memorable wins over such rivals as Hun, Stuart Country Day, and Lawrenceville.

While PDS fell to Peddie in the Prep A semis to suffer its first defeat of the spring, it rebounded to make its third straight Mercer County Tournament championship game.

The Panthers ended up losing to powerful Hopewell Valley in the MCT title game but they never stopped working hard.

“I am very proud of them; I am very proud of the season we had,” said Thomas, whose team ended the spring with a 13-2 record. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s good stuff.”

Thomas’ role in sparking the good stuff produced by PDS this spring earns her the nod as the top coach among female programs.

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