June 21, 2017

PDS Lacrosse Standouts Tuckman, Mills Emerged as Top Performers of Spring Season

ON FIRE: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Elon Tuckman, left, heads to goal in a game this spring. Junior star Tuckman was the offensive catalyst for PDS as it went 14-2, winning both the state Prep B and Mercer County Tournament titles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In his first two seasons with the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team, Elon Tuckman served as the squad’s young gun.

In the spring of 2015, he set a PDS program record for most points by a freshman.

A year later, he was a key part of the supporting cast when older brother, Jonah Tuckman ’16 and his classmates helped lead the Panthers to a season for the ages as PDS went 15-1, winning the state Prep B title and the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament crown.

This spring, the younger Tuckman was primed to assume the top gun role.

“I am not the little brother on the team any more,” said Tuckman.

“It was known that graduating Connor [Fletcher], Jonah, and Joey [Levine], all those seniors, that it is definitely a different offense. Coach [Rich D’Andrea] said some guys need to step up. I am looking to that role, trying to be a leader on this team, filling the spots that we need.”

Emerging as the go-to player for the PDS attack, Tuckman proved to be an offensive catalyst from the get-go. He picked up three assists in the season opener as PDS pulled out a 9-8 double overtime thriller over local rival Hun.

Over the course of the spring, Tuckman came up big, time and time again. He had three goals and three assists in a 10-5 win over Robbinsville, four goals and an assist in a 14-2 rout of Hopewell Valley, five goals and two assists in an 11-2 victory over Peddie, and four goals and two assists in a 14-6 win over Albany Academy (N.Y.).

When postseason play rolled around, Tuckman took his game to a higher level.

In the MCT, Tuckman had two goals and five assists in a 19-3 win over Pennington in the quarterfinals, four goals and two assists in an 11-4 win over Notre Dame in the semis, with three goals and three assists as PDS topped Princeton High 9-5 in the final to win its second straight county title.

Tuckman also starred as the Panthers rolled to a second straight Prep B title. He tallied two goals and three assists in a 10-2 win over Newark Academy in the Prep B semis and four goals and two assists in an 11-2 triumph over Rutgers Prep in the championship game.

In reflecting on PDS’s success this spring, Tuckman said it was a group effort.

“We can’t focus on the personal things, it has got to be the team mentality,” said Tuckman.

“It can’t be who has the most points. We are stressing pass, pass, dodge. It has got to be just moving it and getting the team goals.”

Tuckman did end up leading the team in scoring, tallying 83 points on 46 goals and 37 assists.

PDS head coach D’Andrea, though, made it clear that Tuckman was integral in getting the team moving.

“Elon has been one of our most valuable pieces here in terms of in-game presence,” said D’Andrea.

“He knows where to be; he knows when to slow things down, he knows when to speed things up and he is just phenomenally talented. You look at how complete a player he is, he is a coach’s kid and he is one of the most intelligent kids. He gets it and he is vital to what we do.”

For thriving in his new role as top gun and leading the Panthers to another title double, Tuckman is the choice as the Town Topics top male performer of the spring season.

Top Female Performer

It didn’t take long for Morgan Mills to pick up the game of lacrosse.

Having only played the sport for one year before she came to Princeton Day School in 2013 from London, Mills emerged as a star by her sophomore season for the Panthers. The athletic midfielder Mills, a cross country runner in the fall, helped PDS win the state Prep B championship in 2015, tallying five goals and an assist as the Panthers defeated Pennington 18-11 in the title game.

By her junior year, Mills had committed to go across town to Princeton University and join its storied women’s lacrosse program. She ended that spring by tallying four goals as PDS defeated Pennington 18-11 to win its second straight Prep B crown.

This year, Mills was one of two seniors on the PDS squad along with star defender Abby Atkeson, and they helped keep the Panthers on the same page.

“With everyone on the team, we have a great chemistry, “ said Mills.

“It is a testament to all of the team bonding that we do, both on the field and off that we really trust one another to be there. I think that this year we are a very, very close team. We are friends, both in the hallways and on the field during practice. Sometimes there can be a little bit of disconnect between the upperclassmen because there are only two of us, we have to make sure that we did a good job connecting with them all.”

On the field, Mills helped keep the Panther attack connecting, tallying 94 points on 50 goals and a team-high 44 assists.

Mills saved her best for last, sparking PDS to a Prep B title three-peat. In the semis, Mills contributed four goals and five assists as the Panthers rolled to a 15-6 win over Morristown-Beard. The Panthers defeated Montclair Kimberley 19-13 in the championship game with Mills dominating the contest, tallying 10 points on eight goals and two assists.

For Mills, it was a memorable finale. “It feels incredible, especially in my last game,” said Mills, reflecting on her performance as the Panthers finished the spring with a 10-4 record.

“PDS has given me so much so I am glad I can give a little back to the lacrosse program and be able to finish on such a high.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas was thrilled to see Mills go out in a blaze of glory.

“It is really awesome for Morgan, what a way for her to go out,” said Thomas.

Mills’ development into a leader and high-powered playmaker earns her the nod as the Town Topics top female star this spring.

Top Newcomers

After getting into the pole vault as a middle schooler in Switzerland, Simon Schenk moved to Princeton last summer.

Looking to make an impact in his freshman year with the Princeton High boys’ track team, Schenk went to school on his event, going to four pole vault clinics and working with personal coach Frank Harrison to refine his skills.

This winter, Schenk served notice that he was a rising star, winning the pole vault at the indoor Mercer County Championships with a leap of 12’6.

That was a harbinger of things to come in the spring season.

After a subpar outing at the outdoor county meet, Schenk made history as he placed first at the sectional meet with a school record leap of 14’7.

“I was not expecting that, coach Harrison was there and he said we are jumping 14 feet today and I said yeah, sure, right,” recalled Schenk.

“It was amazing, I made 13’6 on the first try. Then we went to 14 and I made that one. It was joy to realize that all of the work you have put in over the years has paid off. It is just incredible. I couldn’t imagine that I would have those heights. I had the technique but I didn’t have the experience. with the higher poles.”

Schenk took seventh at the state Group 4 meet with a best of 13’0, later earning a wild card entry to the Meet of Champions. He finished a special freshman campaign by taking 12th at the MOC with a best of 13’6.

Schenk’s record-setting freshman season makes him the choice as the top male newcomer.

As Princeton High girls’ lacrosse head coach Sara Doran took the helm of the program, she sensed that freshman Shaylah Marciano could make an immediate impact.

“I have known Shaylah since she was a little girl and in PG Lax; I have coached her before so I am well aware of her talents,” said Doran.

“She is a great lacrosse player, always has been, and just a great athlete really.”

Marciano proved to be a great addition to PHS, piling up 71 points on 31 goals and a team-high 40 assists as the Little Tigers went 14-8 and advanced to the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group 4 Tournament.

“I think she has great potential and she really proved that this season, jumping right in to the varsity team as a freshman and working her way into a starting position and really being an impact player.”

In Doran’s view, midfielder Marciano brings a special skill set to the game.

“She just has great field sense, she is a phenomenal athlete who can go to goal and scores with ease,” said Doran.

“She sees the field well, she knows when to drive and when to pass it off. She is a very reliable assister, she feeds the ball in with great accuracy and precision.”

Marciano got better and better as the spring went on. “As the season progressed, she had success and that built her confidence,” said Doran.

“That was reflected in the last few weeks and I think that is an indicator of what is to come.”

Marciano’s emergence as an impact player in her debut campaign earns her the nod as the top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

Rich D’Andrea faced a challenge this spring with his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team.

Losing seven seniors to graduation from a 2016 squad that went 15-1, winning the state Prep B title and the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament crown, PDS head coach D’Andrea had to put new faces in new places in going for an encore performance.

Saying goodbye to a lot of offensive firepower, the Panthers emphasized a more deliberate approach on attack and a rock-solid defense.

Early on, it became clear that the revamped Panthers were going to be a force to be reckoned with again. PDS opened the season with a 9-8 overtime win at powerful Hun and got off to a 7-1 start.

After suffering an 8-7 loss to Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) in late April, the Panthers never lost again. PDS stormed to its second straight MCT crown, outscoring foes 39-12 in three games, culminating with a 9-5 over crosstown rival Princeton High in the championship game.

D’Andrea acknowledged that it took a while for this year’s squad to find its identity.

“I think this team felt a lot of that pressure coming into this season,” said D’Andrea.

“It is neat seeing guys change and the roles shift from year to year. This senior class has started to find their voice; they are comfortable with who they are. They have really taken ownership over this thing. I think the challenge for any team and any coach is to have their kids take ownership over the program and make it theirs.”

In the Prep B tournament, the Panthers were similarly dominant in defending their title, topping Newark Academy 10-2 in the semis and stifling Rutgers Prep 11-2 in the championship game.

Accomplishing its title double for the second straight season, PDS ended up with a sparking final record of 14-2.

In the view of D’Andrea, the Panther program is developing a special tradition.

“You look at lasting power and it is the testament of the program,” said D’Andrea.

“I think our program is confident but humble, the players have really developed a winning mentality. That is prevalent in the middle school and it had found its way up. At this point we have strung together some really talented classes back to back to back here. That is important and the kids buy into it. Every team is a little bit different but they are part of this common thread, they love each other, and they are part of this brotherhood.”

For keeping PDS on its championship track with another sterling campaign, D’Andrea is the choice as the top coach of a male team this spring.

Things ended on a down note for the Hun School softball team in 2016.

After winning the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title in regular season play, Hun fell 7-0 to perennial nemesis Peddie in the state Prep A semis, leaving a bitter taste in their mouths  despite the success experienced over the course of a 13-3 campaign.

Before the team even played its first game in 2017, Kathy Quirk sensed that something special was brewing with her squad as it took its annual preseason training jaunt to Florida.

“The trip went very well; we did well and we have a great bunch of kids,” said Quirk, who was in her 42nd season at the helm of the program.

“It is probably one of the best trips I have had. We have to carry over what we did in Florida back here. We have to come back with that strong mentality that we can hit anybody that pitches to us and I am big on basics everyday.”

After losing its season opener 2-0 to Blair, the Raiders caught fire, reeling off 12 wins in a row.

With junior transfer Alanna Pearson emerging as a star pitcher and senior catcher Julie Fassl, sophomore third baseman Meghan Donohue, junior first baseman Julia Revock and precocious freshman shortstop Gigi Venizelos triggering a potent batting attack, Hun steamrolled most of its opponents.

In reflecting on her team’s run-scoring prowess, Quirk credited the team’s daily drilling.

“We practice hitting every day,” said Quirk. “We practice with heavy balls, we practice with wiffle balls. I have been telling them, we just can’t go through the motions. You are at bat to hit a ball.”

Bouncing back from a 1-0 loss to Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) in the regular season finale, Hun rolled to the Prep A title, beating rival Peddie 5-2 in the semis and then winning a rubber match with Blair in the title game, jumping out to a 4-0 first inning lead on the way to a 7-0 triumph.

In earning its first Prep A title since 2004, Hun finished the spring with a 14-2 record.

In Quirk’s view, that crown was the product of intangibles.

“They just work hard, they work together, and they support each other,” said Quirk.

For guiding Hun to a banner campaign which culminated in a Prep A crown, Quirk is the pick as the top coach of a female team