Greg Hand knew that his Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced a big challenge as it took on Ocean City last Wednesday in the program’s first appearance in the Public B state semifinals since 2011.
While PHS produced its usual highly spirited effort, the Little Tigers suffered their first and only loss of the season as they fell 96-74 at the Neptune Aquatics Center.
“They swam about as fast as we anticipated,” said Hand of Ocean City. “I thought we had a real fine team this year and I thought we gave them a great meet. I felt we earned this spot. Ocean City is just a terrific team and they have quality depth throughout the lineup. We were just beaten by a very strong opponent.”
PHS’s sophomore standouts, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, showed their quality as Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly while Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.
“Our girls were great,” said Hand, whose team also won the 400 free relay with the quartet of Deardorff, Romaine and a pair of freshmen, Jamie Liu and Melinda Tang.
“As far as center lane swimming, Brianna had some real challenging matchups there and did an incredible job. She got her personal best in the freestyle again, having come off a great county meet. She had a lights-out kind of day. Likewise, Maddie Deardorff had a terrific day competitively.”
The PHS swimmers in the outside lanes also stepped up. “Across the board it went that way,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 12-1 record.
“Taylor Chiang, a senior, had a wonderful day with a personal record. But it’s not just about the PRs but the nature of the competitiveness and grit the kids showed. That indicated to me that we were going out the right way, win or lose.”
While the loss and its finality stung, the Little Tigers are clearly heading in the right direction.
“We are graduating a wonderful senior class,” said Hand. “But we know there are some kids coming up from the eighth grade from Cranbury and Princeton. And the kids who are here do have this experience and will have the background that other kids will feed off of.”