December 11, 2013
BOARD MEETING: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Spencer Reynolds, left, battles for the puck along the boards in action last week. Senior forward Reynolds has helped PHS get off to a 3-0 start under new head coach Terence Miller. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOARD MEETING: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Spencer Reynolds, left, battles for the puck along the boards in action last week. Senior forward Reynolds has helped PHS get off to a 3-0 start under new head coach Terence Miller. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High boys’ hockey team mustered only one goal on 15 shots against Hightstown in the first period last Thursday, Spencer Reynolds wasn’t concerned.

“We knew going in that they had a short bench so it was just a matter of wearing them down,” said PHS senior star Reynolds. “I think everything was clicking; we were getting shots on net.”

In the second period, Reynolds got some shots in the back of the net, tallying twice in a span of 3:18 as PHS jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back on the way to a 7-0 win.

“I definitely think that gave us some momentum,” said Reynolds, reflecting on his two tallies. “It got everyone fired up.”

A night later, the Little Tigers kept rolling as they topped Lawrence 5-2 to improve to 3-0.

In Reynolds’ view, getting three wins in the first week of the season has helped get PHS get into a rhythm.

“We can get a feel for each other and get some energy going,” said Reynolds, who scored a goal in the victory over Lawrence. “It is a lot easier coming back to practice when you are winning games. It is pretty tough when you are losing them.”

Reynolds is looking to give the Little Tigers a jolt in his senior year with the program.

“My role is bringing speed and energy,” said Reynolds. “I like to play physical but I like to keep myself in control. This is a last chance to make things happen.”

First-year PHS head coach Terence Miller likes the way Reynolds has been making things happen so far this season.

“Spencer has been skating well for us and has been moving his feet well,” said Miller.

“He was originally a defenseman but we moved him to forward. He has got really good speed and he is a great skater so we try to use his speed and that stuff on the forecheck and let him loose on the wing.”

In reflecting on the win over Hightstown, Miller had a feeling his team would eventually break loose from the Rams.

“As I told their coach, their goalie was lights out in the first period; he really stood on his head there and kept them in it,” said Miller. “We just had to keep pressing and stick to our guns. We weren’t trying to change anything. We just had to keep it simple. I told the guys we just had to get traffic in front of the net and keep firing away.”

Senior star defenseman Patrick McCormick got PHS fired up as he tallied the fourth goal in the win over Hightstown, skating end-to-end through the Rams and then flying through the air after his shot, a la Bobby Orr.

“Patrick brings that to the table,” said Miller. “He is always a threat to attack from the back end. That was a nice goal to help separate us from them there and build up that lead.”

A trio of freshmen, Tooker Callaway, Brendan McCormick, and Eamon McDonald, have gotten off to a nice start for the Little Tigers

“Tooker has done well; he is a big, strong kid,” said Miller. “He is a good skater; he has really helped solidify us on the back end there along the blue line. I think young Brendan McCormick has done well. Eamon McDonald at defenseman is another guy I have been happy with early on here.”

While it is very early in the season, Miller is happy with how PHS is looking. “We have to keep plugging along,” said Miller, whose team is slated to play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink.

“It is going to get tougher and tougher as we go along. We are going to have keep improving and stick to our guns; keeping it simple and playing hard. We have gotten our feet under us in the first two games. It is going to take some more time. We are off to a good start and we are just looking to keep it rolling.”

Reynolds, for his part, believes that the Little Tigers are going to have a good time this winter.

“I think we have just a few minor kinks that we have to work out and we will be able to build up some speed and make some more progress,” said Reynolds.

SISTERLY BOND: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice last winter. Junior star Herring and younger sister, freshman Maggie, should form a potent one-two punch for PHS this season. The Little Tigers open their 2013-14 campaign by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SISTERLY BOND: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice last winter. Junior star Herring and younger sister, freshman Maggie, should form a potent one-two punch for PHS this season. The Little Tigers open their 2013-14 campaign by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christian Herzog doesn’t wait to put his Princeton High girls’ hockey team under pressure.

“I like to start with Mo-Beard,” said PHS head coach Herzog, whose team will get its 2013-14 campaign underway by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11.

“They are at the top of the league and I want the girls to see the best so they know how hard they have to work.”

Herzog is expecting some good work this winter from his top forward line, which includes the Herring sisters, junior Lucy and freshman Maggie, along with sophomore Isabelle Sohn.

“The Herrings are dynamite together; they work well with each other,”said Herzog. “Lucy is looking really strong. I think Maggie is farther along as a freshman than Lucy was at the same point. I have Isabelle Sohn on the first line with them. I like that she is aggressive.”

PHS will need some aggressive play from its other forwards, which include senior Merritt Peck, senior Molly O’Brien, and junior Erin Forden.

“I will have Merritt Peck and Molly O’Brien on the second line, they are both hard workers,” said Herzog. “Erin Forden is also in the mix. I am looking at some others. We need somebody to be a finisher on that line.”

On defense, the Little Tigers can count on aggressive play from senior captain Kate Sohn and junior Julia DiTosto, who is returning to the ice after being sidelined last year due to injury.

“Kate is great for us as a leader,” asserted Herzog. “She gets everyone on the same page. She is very specific on instructions. Julia is looking good; it looks like she never missed a beat. She is a tough player.”

The PHS defensive corps should also include junior Britney Coniglione, sophomore Sophia Corrodi, and junior Marian Hancock-Cerutti.

“Coniglione will be another defenseman,” added Herzog, whose team will hold its home opener on December 13 at Baker Rink against the Portledge School (N.Y.).

“Corrodi plays with Nassau, she can skate. Hancock-Cerutti played some shifts in defense; I am thinking about using her there this year.”

As its last line of defense, PHS will be using sophomore Callie Urisko and senior Breanna Hegarty-Thorne at goalie.

“The goaltenders have both gotten better,” asserted Herzog. “Callie is getting into the butterfly style and she is good on angles. Breanna is aggressive, she will come out and make a run at you.”

Although PHS is coming off a winless campaign, Herzog believes the team can have a good run this winter.

“I don’t use the record to judge the season, the girls are very excited to play,” said Herzog. “I am looking forward to the season. The girls need to keep working hard, we need to keep pushing the envelope. We can’t let in early goals; that hurt us last year.”

While the Princeton High girls’ swimming team wasn’t pushed as it rolled to a 112-58 win over Robbinsville in its season opener last week, Greg Hand still saw the meet as an important test.

“Regardless of the opponent, I will always be looking for a certain few qualities in the team,” said longtime PHS head coach Hand, reflecting on the December 3 contest.

“I think we have made a lot of progress since training began, pulling ourselves together and understanding how we do things. We competed; we were really there for each other.”

Freshman Melinda Tang made a nice debut in the win, earning victories in both 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle. Other victors for PHS in the meet included Jamie Liu in the 200 free, Madeleine Deardorff in the 100 butterfly, Brianna Romaine in the 100 free, and Belinda Liu in the 100 backstroke.

In Hand’s view, his core of senior swimmers will be there for the team all winter.

“We have a great crew of seniors who really understand what we want it to feel like and try to make that happen,” said Hand, whose Class of 2014 includes Belinda Liu, Taylor Chang, Lizzy Till, Kelsey Schwimmer, and Melanie Williams with Chiang, Liu, and Schwimmer serving as team captains for the program which went 13-1 last winter and won its first-ever county title.

“Those kids have been here since the beginning; they get it. It is not that you walk on the deck and say it is a Princeton practice, it is that within the team we know what we are doing better and better everyday we train and in every meet. So in this meet, we did stuff right. There were a lot of kids getting their first chance at high school swimming, regardless of their ability level.”

PHS boasts a solid group of freshman swimmers who are taking advantage of their chance to compete at the high school level.

“We have a really nice freshman class; there is quite a bit of depth,” said Hand, citing newcomers Tang, Jamie Liu, Maddie Troilo, and Maddie Whaley as swimmers who make an impact right away for the Little Tigers.

“Some kids have been club swimming for quite a while now and other kids have been swimming year-round, maybe a little younger in the sport and some kids who are high school only. They seem to be very hard workers and it was nice to see how excited they were about racing. That whole crowd seems really enthusiastic. In a couple of years, that will be the real center of gravity for the team. It is exciting to have that level of enthusiasm.”

It is exciting for PHS to have two sophomore stars in Deardorff and Romaine.

“They are just great competitors,” asserted Hand, whose team topped Lawrence 102-68 last Thursday and will face Hopewell Valley on December 12 in a meet taking place at the Pennington School pool.

“As committed as they are to becoming their best, they really maintain composure. Their nervousness is a positive nervousness. I think the other kids understand, whether they are older or younger, that these are two athletes to whom they can look to learn from on how to approach the sport.”

And based on how PHS approached its opener, the squad appears headed to another positive season.

MAKING WAVES: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Peter Kalibat powers to victory in a race last season. Senior Kalibat and a stellar group of classmates are looking to end their PHS careers with a bang. The Little Tigers, who have won three straight county crowns and five consecutive Public B Central Jersey titles, opened their 2013-14 season with a 131-39 win over Robbinsville last week.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING WAVES: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Peter Kalibat powers to victory in a race last season. Senior Kalibat and a stellar group of classmates are looking to end their PHS careers with a bang. The Little Tigers, who have won three straight county crowns and five consecutive Public B Central Jersey titles, opened their 2013-14 season with a 131-39 win over Robbinsville last week. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2012, a stellar group of seniors helped the Princeton High boys’ swimming team make history as it went undefeated and won the program’s first-ever state title.

That group of seniors, which included such standouts as Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, Harun Filipovic, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, and Victor Honore, ended their careers with a bang, setting eight team records in 11 events as they routed Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the state Public B championship meet.

This winter, PHS boasts another group of seniors who have the potential to make some history of their own.

The team’s Class of 2014 which includes such stalwarts as Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Will Stange, Matt Tam, and Colburn Yu, went 15-1 last year, winning the program’s third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey title.

While PHS head coach Greg Hand isn’t forecasting another state title, he acknowledges that his veterans could do some special things.

“This year is going to test them,” said Hand. “As good as they are, this will be their chance, just as the seniors a couple of years ago had their chance, not to win the championship, I don’t mean the external, that would be great, but to become a kind of team that really produced their very best effort when we needed it.”

Opening its season against Robbinsville last week, PHS produced an outstanding effort as it posted a 131-39 win. The seniors helped lead the way for the Little Tigers as Stange won the 200 individual medley, Purdy placed first in the 500 freestyle, and Tam won the 100 breaststroke. Other victors for PHS included Alex Bank in the 200 free, Alex Petruso in the 50 free, Gabriel Bar-Cohen in the 100 butterfly, and Matthew Shanahan in the 100 backstroke.

“This meet showed some understanding of what the team wants to be about,” said Hand. “Regardless of the opponent, it is a question of do we understand what kind of team we are going to have to be if we have even a shot, even a glimmer of a possibility of being a county champion or a sectional champion, let alone a state champion. So it is really important that these guys show each other that they understand if we get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ll be finished early. I like what I saw today, there was a lot of good positive team spirit.”

PHS is expecting some positive contributions from a crop of promising freshman swimmers.

“Alex Petruso, Will Kinney, Gabriel Bar-Cohen are three kids who are serious club swimmers,” said Hand. “Jaime Schettini has been in club for a little while now. Club says a lot, it shows how much you love the sport and how committed you are to taking the time necessary. If you come to the high school environment, valuing the team, which all of these guys are doing, then good things are going to happen.”

The committed group of seniors is determined to do big things in their final campaign.

“We couldn’t have a better set of role models than the experienced guys,” asserted Hand, whose team topped Lawrence 117-53 last Thursday and will face Hopewell Valley on December 12 in a meet taking place at the Pennington School pool.

“The thing about the seniors is that everybody has improved, everybody has been working hard, and I mean for the last nine months. We have four captains in Stange, Kalibat, Purdy, and Tam. Matt Tam is such a contributor to this team, he swam a PR in the breaststroke tonight. There are meets in which that wouldn’t necessarily score but he won it tonight. What he brings is an absolutely indomitable spirit, a positive approach to things, and a willingness to be enthusiastic when other people might be a little bit timid about it. It is a huge ingredient in our success I think.”

Featuring those seniors along with some precocious newcomers, PHS should enjoy huge success this winter.

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton looks for an opening in action last weekend at the program’s Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Clayton came up big as PDS topped Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 in the title game. It was the third straight title for the Panthers at the event.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton looks for an opening in action last weekend at the program’s Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Clayton came up big as PDS topped Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 in the title game. It was the third straight title for the Panthers at the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team posted a 6-4 win over Rye Country Day (N.Y.) last Friday in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink, the Panthers weren’t pleased with their performance.

“Coach [Scott Bertoli] gave it to us a little after yesterday’s game, saying that we are not playing to our potential at all right now,” said PDS star senior defenseman and assistant captain Andrew Clayton.

“When we play better teams we play up. The opposite is true as well; I think we played down to the other team a little bit yesterday. When you play less competitive teams, you get away from the simple things and you try to do too much which ends up hurting you a lot.”

A day later, the Panthers displayed plenty of competitive fire as they defeated Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 to earn their third straight title at the event, which is in its 44th year.

“It was so much different, we played with energy and passion,” said Clayton, reflecting on the team’s performance which saw it outshoot Moses Brown 43-18 and break the game open with three goals in the second period.

“Yesterday, we were just flat, we played terrible in our defensive zone. Today was much better. When you are playing for a championship, there is extra motivation. We were just better all the way around.”

PDS brought special motivation into the title game as they wanted to please the legendary Rulon-Miller, a former Panther coach and rink manager, who was a constant presence at the tourney all weekend long.

“We always seem to not play too great in the first game and then we come back,” said Clayton.

“We want to win for Harry, he is great for the school and he does everything for us. It means a lot for us to win.”

Clayton wants to perpetuate the program’s storied tradition.

“I have been on this team for a while now; we have been so successful so you want to keep that going,” said Clayton.

“No matter who we have out there, we know we can compete with anyone and win games. When you see kids from last year, they really do still care. They come back and they text us after every game, asking us how we are doing. It’s not just for us, it’s for the alumni who have played in the past.”

Clayton has raised the level of his game. “I think I am just more confident with the puck,” said Clayton, who had two goals in the win over Rye and added an assist in the title game.

“The coaches have faith in me and that always helps. I am better with the tempo and being able to skate with the puck.”

PDS head coach Bertoli liked the tempo he saw from his players in the title game.

“I was pretty critical of the performance yesterday and this was a complete 180, I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played,” said Bertoli, who got two goals apiece from senior Lewie Blackburn and junior Will Wright in the victory over Moses Brown.

“You are always happy with a result that ends up in your favor but I think the way we went about our business, the way we played, the way we competed to play at that level this early is exciting. Hopefully, it bodes well.”

The Panthers played better as a unit against Moses Brown. “I thought that we got a little selfish yesterday,” said Bertoli.

“We tried to do too many things individually and played one-on-one. I thought we made a conscious effort today of just simplifying it and supporting one another and playing hard hockey; winning 50/50 battles.”

Bertoli was proud of the effort he got from unsung heroes Wright and Blackburn.

“Some guys stepped up and scored goals who hadn’t scored goals before,” noted Bertoli.

“Will Wright scored two goals and those are his first two high school goals. He is usually on third line. Today with Kyle Weller not here, he steps in and plays on the top line and they really don’t miss a beat. Lewie has also stepped up, I think those were his first two goals of the year. His line has been great. Connor Fletcher, Johnny Egner, and Lewie play the way they need to play. They grind it out, they get involved in the cycle down low. They are all talented enough to score goals. It was nice to see them get rewarded like that.”

The Panthers got nice defensive play from its defensive unit, led by Clayton and classmate C.J. Young.

“The defense was getting way too involved in the offense and today I think  they simplified and supported each other,” said Bertoli.

“Our breakouts and defense-to-defense play, the way we made decisions leaving the zone was completely different from yesterday. It allows our forwards to handle pucks in the middle of the rink and create offensive opportunities. Andrew and C.J. are the two guys that we count on to lead the way, they were good today as were the other four guys.”

Freshman goalie Logan Kramsky handled himself well between the pipes in the title game, making 18 saves to earn the shutout.

“The kid in net makes timely saves when he needs to,” said Bertoli of Kramsky.

“He didn’t get tested a lot but there were points in the game and in every game where you rely on those guys to make critical saves and keep momentum going in your favor. He did that again today. He’s good. He plays a high level of travel hockey. You can tell that he has been well coached. Fundamentally, the kid is flawless. He competes like heck and he wants to be in there.”

Drawing inspiration from Rulon-Miller, the Panthers displayed the brand of hockey that could make them a force in the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) which includes Lawrenceville, Hill School (Pa.), Portledge School (N.Y.), LaSalle College High (Pa.), and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).

“Harry is a fixture around here; he means everything to this hockey program and this school and we were proud to not only win but to play the way we did today,” said Bertoli, whose team improved to 3-0 and hosts Morristown High on December 12 and Bishop Eustace School on December 17.

“It’s not that I don’t care about the result but I am more concerned about the process and how we played at the end of the day. Playing the important games in our league and the tournaments that we have ahead of us, we need to elevate the level of our play to compete against these top schools. I was happy to see, not only that we won and got a piece of hardware, but we played the right way.”

Clayton, for his part, knows that the Panthers will have to compete hard every game in order get more hardware.

“Our schedule is about to ramp up and get a lot tougher,” said Clayton. “We know how we played today and we know how we need to play to be successful. We just need to do that a little more consistently and not every other game or  every third game. We need to bring that energy to every game.”

ROCKING ROBIN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Robin Linzmayer controls the puck in action last weekend in the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink. On Sunday, senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer scored two goals as PDS defeated the Princeton Tiger Lilies 5-1 to win the tournament. The Panthers, now 3-0, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Pingry on December 11 and play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROCKING ROBIN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Robin Linzmayer controls the puck in action last weekend in the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink. On Sunday, senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer scored two goals as PDS defeated the Princeton Tiger Lilies 5-1 to win the tournament. The Panthers, now 3-0, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Pingry on December 11 and play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team hadn’t won its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational since 2002, a drought that Robin Linzmayer and her senior classmates were determined to end.

“I have been on this team for four years and every year all of the seniors say we are going to win this year because we haven’t won it for so long,” said star defenseman and team captain Linzmayer.

“We are the seniors this year so we were the ones that were — OK we are winning. This is our last chance.”

After defeating the Quarry Cats 4-0 in the opening round on Saturday, PDS had its chance for the title as it faced the Princeton Tiger Lilies in the championship game on Sunday morning at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink.

But with the elusive crown in sight, the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the second period. But picking up its game, PDS responded with goals by Carly King and Linzmayer to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.

“You could tell as a group that we really wanted to win, especially between the second and third period when we came into the locker room,” said Linzmayer, whose fellow seniors include Mary Travers, Abby Sharer, Mimi Matthews, and Colby Triolo.

“We all went around talking about what we thought we could improve on in the game. You could definitely see the shift in the way the girls skated faster, went harder to the puck, and just put in that extra bit of effort to make it happen.”

The Panthers made things happen in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away to a 5-1 triumph.

The breakthrough prompted a raucous post-game celebration as the PDS players hugged on the ice and posed for multiple team pictures in front of their goal with their hard earned trophy.

“I am really excited,” said a grinning Linzmayer “It took the team 11, 12 years and it took us three but I am glad we ended it on this note. I hope the underclassmen can keep it up and maybe it will be we haven’t lost in 10 years.”

Linzmayer strives to keep the team’s intensity up when she is on the ice.

“As a defenseman I am looking to be positive,” explained Linzmayer. “If I keep my feet moving, others will do the same. How I see it working in sports is that there is a lot of momentum shift from player to player. So if I can set the standard and get kids going, that is awesome because that is exactly what I am looking to do.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook knows exactly what she is going to get from Linzmayer on a daily basis.

“Robin is consistent, she always comes and plays hard,” said Cook. “We have been working to get all the forwards helping out with our defense so the defenseman can be more aggressive in the offensive zone. I thought we did a good job of that today, which allowed Robin to take more control.”

Cook acknowledged that it took a while for the Panthers to take control of the title contest against a gritty Tiger Lilies squad.

“We were fortunate that we escaped the first period still scoreless,” said Cook.

“I think we came out flat. The girls were so excited that it took a little while to get things cooking. Carly picking up that first goal was huge, just to get one past her and get that momentum going and then getting the power play goal after that. The flurry of goals in the third period was great to see. Once they felt more comfortable working the puck around the offensive zone, they created more chances and got more shots.”

PDS got some great contributions across the board in the victory. “I thought Kristi [Serafin] did a better job towards the end of the game moving the puck on the rush,” said Cook, who got good goalie play from freshman Annika Asplundh along with junior Katie Alden, the PDS recipient of the Christopher Reeve Sportsmanship Award for the tournament

“Colby [Triolo] and Mary [Travers] did a good job as wingers getting up the ice. Daphne [Stanton] is always impressive, she is always so positionally sound. Emma [Stillwaggon] is dealing with an injury and took a stick to the neck. She is always beat up because of the way she plays; she is smaller and she plays tough. She battles hard and she did a really good job covering for our defense. She had a goal, that was a big one.”

It was big for the Panthers to finally achieve their breakthrough at the invitational. “It is great; the boys winning last year and this year puts some extra pressure on us,” said Cook, whose team improved to 3-0 with the win on Sunday.

“It is really nice to come away with a win. I thought the past two years, they have played really well in the tournament so it has been close. It is really nice to finally seal the deal today.”

In assessing her team’s hot start, Cook sees progress on and off the ice.

“Aside from the first period and a half today, they have looked really good,” said Cook, whose team hosts Pingry on December 11 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16.

“They have created a lot of chances; they have moved the puck well. They are a really close team and you can see that in practices and games. We have really high expectations for this group. It is a lot of pressure but it is a lot of fun.”

Linzmayer, for her part, is looking forward to having a lot more fun this winter. “We get along really well; I am sure we are going to grow closer as the season goes along,” said Linzmayer.

“The seniors and the upperclassmen in general are all doing a great job bringing the team together. We have a lot of talent on the team, we have got a lot of work ethic. It looks like we are going to have a good season.”

FORD FOCUS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider dribbles upcourt in a game last winter. Shooting guard Schneider is one of nine seniors on the PDS squad who will be looking to end their careers with a bang. The Panthers, who opened their season with a 65-46 loss to Pennington on Monday, are next in action when they compete in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORD FOCUS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider dribbles upcourt in a game last winter. Shooting guard Schneider is one of nine seniors on the PDS squad who will be looking to end their careers with a bang. The Panthers, who opened their season with a 65-46 loss to Pennington on Monday, are next in action when they compete in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having ended his Princeton Day School boys’ basketball career last winter with a program record 2,102 points, Davon Reed can’t be replaced.

But while superstar guard Reed, who is currently starring at the University of Miami, will be sorely missed by the Panthers, he has left a legacy of success that PDS plans to build on this winter.

“Obviously when you lose a player like Davon, there is going to be a void to fill,” said PDS head coach Paris McLean of Reed, who helped the Panthers go 19-8 last winter and make their second straight appearance in the state Prep B title game.

“The players returning have played two or three years of varsity ball, they are ready for their moment and they deserve their moment. Davon will tell you and the returners will tell you that our program is not one player.”

The Panthers boast two talented and battle-tested players at guard in seniors Langston Glaude and Deante Cole.

“Langston and Deante both came in bigger, stronger, and faster; they had great summers and are really showing good leadership,” said McLean, whose team started the 2013-14 season by losing 65-46 to Pennington last Monday. “They have been looking as great as a two guard combination. Langston has a mid-range game and can attack the rim. Deante has really improved as a facilitator and handling game management.”

The Panthers have some other veterans in the backcourt who can handle themselves in a trio of seniors, Ford Schneider, Zach Banks, and Brandon Glover along with junior Josiah Meekins.

“Ford Schneider has been fantastic, he had some great games last year and he is building off of his junior year,” said McLean. “Zach has been great, he is going to have a role, we will need him to relieve Langston and Deante. He knows our system. Meekins and Glover are similar players but they have a different dynamic.”

Freshman Chase Lewis figures to be a dynamic newcomer this winter. “Chase Lewis is ready to step in and play,” said McLean. “He has a great outside shot and he can finish. He has a good confidence, he doesn’t get deterred like some young players do. He really wants to learn and has been taking the opportunity to learn from our senior leaders.”

McLean is looking for two seniors, Chris Okorodudu and Dan Lee, to be leaders in the frontcourt.

“We need Chris to step up,” said McLean. “He can shoot and finish at the rim. He is long on defense and can disrupt passing lanes. With some consistency, he can be a force. Dan Lee has looked good in the preseason. He is attacking the basket more. He is learning that less is more and to do straight drives. He can get on the glass.”

Two newcomers to the varsity team, junior J.P. Radvany and senior Ben Levine, should give the Panthers additional strength on the glass.

“J.P. Radvany is a great addition; he played his first year and then took sophomore year off to concentrate on baseball,” said McLean.

“He is around 6’4 and 200 pounds. He has the ability to get out and run in the open court. He is not afraid to mix it up. He will do the dirty work and the little things. Ben Levine has worked his way through the program, he will give us minutes off the bench. He is physical and will block people out.”

In McLean’s view, PDS has the ability to do some good things this winter.

“This is a group that can produce a lot,” said McLean, whose team is next in action when it competes in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15.

“We need to play a team-oriented game. We need to take better care of the ball on offense, we need to limit teams to one shot and control the defensive boards. I think we are going to surprise some people. We have nine seniors, this is their moment. They have worked hard to reach this point. It has been a great three years and they can end with a great fourth year. They want to finish what they have started.”

PASSING GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell passes the ball in action last winter. Junior guard Bell figures be a key performer for Stuart this winter as the Tartans look to improve on the 2-13 record they posted last season. Stuart tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell passes the ball in action last winter. Junior guard Bell figures be a key performer for Stuart this winter as the Tartans look to improve on the 2-13 record they posted last season. Stuart tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Dana Leary heads into her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School basketball team, she feels that the program is headed in the right direction.

“We are still in a period of rebuilding; we are starting further ahead than we were last year,” said Leary, who guided the Tartans to a 2-13 record last winter in her debut campaign.

“I have six returners; they understand my system and they understand the expectations. I am expecting more progress this year from us.”

Leary is expecting big things from her frontcourt trio of senior Maggie Walsh, junior Nneka Onukwugha, and sophomore Kate Walsh, Maggie’s younger sister.

“Maggie Walsh is a senior, she is a great leader and role model,” said Leary. “She is very fundamentally sound offensively and defensively. We are working with her to be more aggressive offensively. Nneka and Kate give us an inside presence. They provide great height and strong post play, Kate has showed a lot of growth and improvement. She is more aggressive offensively, she is looking to attack the basket.”

In the backcourt, sophomore Harley Guzman has shown a lot of growth at point guard.

“In the middle of last season she took over the role of point guard and did a good job,” said Leary, whose team opens the 2013-14 season by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11.

“She embraced it last year and stepped up. She is familiar with the position now and has improved offensively and defensively. She has developed into a point guard. She can handle the ball well and we have talked to her about improving her decision-making. She is more confident this year.”

Leary has confidence in two other veterans at guard, junior Harlyn Bell and sophomore Rose Tetnowski. “Harlyn Bell has emerged as a leader this year,” said Leary, who will also be using a quartet of freshmen Milan Kainer, Julia Kahn, Ally McGowen, and Vanessa Williams in the backcourt.

“She plays mostly as guard but she has the ability to give us depth in the post. She is a player who I think is really going to step up for us this year. Rose Tetnowski is versatile, she can play both guard positions. I want to see her more in the ‘2’ role this year.”

Stuart will look to play sharper this winter. “We emphasize developing the fundamentals and understanding of the game on a daily basis,” said Leary.

“We need to take better care of the ball on offense and we need to be more aggressive defensively. We played mainly zone last year, this year we want to have more options and give our opponents different looks.”

In Leary’s view, her players possess the mentality to apply those lessons. “It is a very coachable team, they have a desire to learn,” said Leary. “They have great team spirit; they are good teammates to one another.”

December 4, 2013
ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team opened its season last month, T.J. Bray cut a forlorn figure.

The senior captain and star guard was sidelined due to a fractured hand suffered during the preseason and sat grim-faced  on the bench wearing a cast.

Despite being out of action, Bray was able to stay sharp as he recovered from the injury. “I did a lot of conditioning with our strength and conditioning coach when I had my cast on,” said Bray.

“I got my cast off a couple of Wednesdays ago and I was able to start slowly doing things then. I have probably been playing 1-on-0 for about a week now. In terms of live stuff, it has been less than a week. I put a lot of time in over the summer so I didn’t lose too much of that.”

Bray returned to action for limited duty in a 70-56 win over Rice on November 23 and then showed a hot hand three days later in a 71-66 victory over visiting George Mason. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray hit on 7-of-10 shots for a team-high 18 points.

“It was obviously one of my better games as a player here,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc.  who passed for a career-high 10 assists in the victory over the Patriots and had six rebounds and no turnovers in the win as he achieved his first career double-double.

“My teammates were great too, they were knocking down shots which makes my job easy. I know if I throw it to them, they are going to catch it and make a good play. They help me out so much.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no bones about how much it helps the Tigers to have Bray back on the court. “I thought he was just terrific,” said Henderson of Bray, who scored 15 points and had a career-high nine rebounds in a 66-53 win at Bucknell last Saturday and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“Once again he had a line that I would have dreamed of having as a player here. I always wanted to have lots of assists and no turnovers. This is a helluva of a line including the last shot to put us up four which I thought was just huge. We missed T.J. in our first few games and I am really happy to have him back.”

In assessing Bray’s strengths, Henderson pointed to his versatility. “T.J. is taking the ball out of bounds; he has got energy to play another half or two,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 5-1 with the win over Bucknell and will look to extend a four-game winning streak when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.

“He is coming up with huge rebounds, he is telling everybody what to do. He makes a huge shot going to his right off the glass and he is a lefty. He just does a little bit of everything and I am glad he is on our team.”

Bray’s court vision is possibly his best attribute, in Henderson’s opinion. “He sees the game, he sees things,” said Henderson. “I don’t think you have to teach somebody that, I think you just show them what to look for.”

Henderson liked what he saw from his team collectively as it held off a George Mason charge that saw the visitors tie the game at 66-66 after trailing 40-23 at halftime. “I am never comfortable with a lead, I knew they were going to come at us,” said Henderson, who got offensive balance against the Patriots as Ben Hazel scored 14 points with Hans Brase adding 12 and Denton Koon chipping in 10.

“They just started going to the rim. I think with the way the games are called now, you have got to be prepared for that. We got into some foul trouble with Hans and all of a sudden the lead starts to chip away. I really liked that we maintained some aggressiveness. One team becomes very aggressive and the other team has to match that aggressiveness and I thought we did that nicely at the end of the game, including making a huge couple of stops there defensively.”

Bray, for his part, sensed that Princeton could outfight George Mason in crunch time.

“I have played in enough games here that it has happened before,” said Bray. “It was nice that we were able to come out on top. I knew that we had to keep battling and that’s what we did. We were able to get some nice buckets inside. Coach drew up some great plays. If we just kept battling, I knew we would be on the right side of things at the end of the game.”

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Alex Wheatley, moving into the starting lineup for the Princeton University women’s basketball team this winter has given her an increased sense of urgency.

“That is different, that is fun,” said the 6’2 sophomore from Upper Holland. Pa. reflecting on her promotion which comes in the wake of a freshman season that saw her come off the bench in all 29 of her appearances. “It makes you be ready for when the whistle first blows.”

Wheatley and her four classmates on the team put in extra time as they prepared to make a bigger contribution this winter.

“We all worked a lot over the summer and really tried to get stronger in preparation for this year,” said Wheatley, whose fellow sophomores include Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, and Taylor Williams.

“Just mentally, not being freshman, I think it helps to be able to run the plays and to understand the game a little bit better on defense. I am really trying to bring something new to the team.”

Last week, Wheatley brought a lot to the Tigers in a 74-65 loss to St. Joseph’s as she scored a team-high 14 points and contributed three rebounds and two assists.

“I was happier with how I played,” said Wheatley. “I have a lot more to work on, but just like the game for the team, I thought it was a step forward for me.”

Wheatley acknowledged that the Tigers need to step things up at the defensive end. “I think defensively we need to communicate more,” said Wheatley. “St. Joe’s is a very good team. They shot really well, they are very good at moving on offense with screens and all of that. We were learning as we went.”

The Tigers have been good learners as they strive to get on the right page in the wake of losing four starters to graduation.

“I think we are getting better with every practice,” said Wheatley. “I think we have good chemistry. I love my teammates.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart saw improvement in her squad against St. Joe’s, even in defeat.

“I like where we are today based on where we were on Saturday,” said Banghart. “We were much better at getting the ball inside. We were much more aggressive off the dribble. We are getting the ball out in transition better. They have made major steps from last Saturday and last Tuesday’s games.”

The Tigers do have to get much better on defense. “Defensively, there is not a lot of trust yet,” said Banghart.

“It starts with yourself, trusting that you can guard off the dribble and then next to that is trusting that your teammates will be there. We are just not there defensively yet but I would rather know that now. There is lots of time to fix it and they have to see it.”

Banghart acknowledges that she has yet to figure out her best lineup. “I would say we are still trying to find the right combinations,” said Banghart, whose team headed to Oregon last weekend where it topped Portland State 94-76 in Saturday before falling 110-90 to the University of Oregon a day later in moving to 3-4.

“We are still trying to find what the matchups are. We don’t have our fighting eight, we are kind of a fighting vague 10.”

Although the Tigers may be still be trying to find themselves, they haven’t lost the fighting spirit that has helped the program win four straight Ivy League titles.

“I think there is a little bit of a heavy heart because they don’t like to lose,” said Banghart of the Tigers who will stay on the road as they play at Navy on December 6.

“I think fortunately with this group, that hunger to get better overrides the heavy heart. This is no reason to hang your heads. I told them if you wanted to win a guaranteed 20 games, I should have scheduled differently. I care about being really good in January with a really young team.”

Wheatley, for her part, isn’t fazed by the challenging slate of non-conference games.

“I think, like coach is saying, our schedule is one that give us experience, not necessarily wins,” said Wheatley.

“They are meant to be tough games and we are supposed to get better after every one. We still have games left in the preseason and we are going to give them our all.”

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University men’s water polo team had the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship tournament in late November circled on its calendar from day one.

“We were excited; our whole season is geared to those three days,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team entered the tourney, formerly known as the Eastern Championship, seeded sixth and ranked 18th nationally.

The Tigers produced an exciting opening day at the competition held at Brown University as they topped Iona 16-12 and then edged Harvard 9-7 to reach the semifinals.

“The Iona win was good; we had two games that day and we wanted to get an early lead so we could play some of our other guys and give the top 10 players a rest,” said Nicolao, who got nine goals on the day from sophomore star Thomas Nelson and a total of four from junior standout and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg.

“We knew we were in for a dogfight in the second game; Harvard played really well. We were flat in the first half; our shots weren’t going in. I give Harvard credit, that was due to the way they were playing. We started playing better in the second half and we were able to pull it out.”

In the semis, the Tigers faced a nemesis in third-seeded Navy, who had topped Princeton 12-10 in the semifinals of the Southern Championship.

“There were five to eight teams that could win the title and Navy was one of them,” said Nicolao, a former Navy star.

“They had a great weekend at Southerns. They are a deep team and they are good swimmers. It was the fourth time we played them and we were 2-1.”

With Nelson tallying four goals, including the game winner, the Tigers were able to edge the Midshipmen 9-8.

“We wanted to control tempo and keep them from getting into their run and gun game,” said Nicolao. “The fourth quarter could have gone either way and we were lucky to get out of that.”

Princeton’s luck ran out in the final against St. Francis College Brooklyn as the Tigers lost 11-9, falling short of earning the NCAA berth at stake in the contest.

“That was just a battle; they shoot the ball so well and they have one of the best goalies in the country,” said Nicolao, who got two goals from Nelson in the final with Hoffenberg adding a goal and two assists and freshman Jovan Jeremic tallying three goals.

“We wanted to keep it a low-scoring game and have it even in the second half and then hope to wear them down with our conditioning. It was 9-9 with three and a half minutes left, whoever got the next goal was going to win. We made a mistake and they capitalized.”

While Princeton ended the tournament on a down note, Nicolao had high praise for his players.

“I am really proud of our guys,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the fall with a 22-6 record.

“Our goal each year is to get to the eastern championship game and play for the NCAA bid. We know anything can happen when you get to that game. We just came up just a little short this time.”

The team’s group of seniors, co-captain Kurt Buchbinder, Matt Pugliese, A.J. Galainena, Alex Rafter, Constantine Nakos, Ben Dearborn, and Tyler Amina, have made some good things happen for Princeton over their careers.

“We have a large number of them and they won a championship and played in two finals,” said Nicolao, reflecting on his senior class. “They did a lot for the program. Kurt was a great leader, he was a positive kid.”

With such returning players as Nelson, Hoffenberg, Kayj Shannon, Sam Butler, Jovan Jeremic, Jamie Kuprenas, Curtis Fink, and Alex Gow, the Tigers have the potential to do some great things in the future.

“I am really excited,” said Nicolao, who has guided the Tigers to three Eastern titles (2004, 2009, 2011).

“In the years past when we won the title it was precede by a tough loss in the finals. I am hoping we can springboard this to a title. We just need to do that little extra.”

BROTHER ACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor ­McCormick, left, waits for the puck in action last season. The junior star is one of three McCormick bothers on the team along with senior Patrick and freshman Brendan. The ­McCormick brothers helped the Little Tigers get off to a good start last Monday under new head coach Terence Miller as PHS opened the season with a 11-0 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers are next in action when they face Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BROTHER ACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor ­McCormick, left, waits for the puck in action last season. The junior star is one of three McCormick bothers on the team along with senior Patrick and freshman Brendan. The ­McCormick brothers helped the Little Tigers get off to a good start last Monday under new head coach Terence Miller as PHS opened the season with a 11-0 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers are next in action when they face Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Terence Miller boasts a wealth of experience around the Princeton High boys’ hockey team as he takes the helm of the program this winter.

“I have been an assistant coach for six of the last seven years,” said new PHS head coach Miller, who is succeeding Tim Campbell.

“I know all the guys. I played for the program; it really makes it special. I am familiar with the school, program, and the CVC.”

As a result of Miller’s ties to the program, the transition has been smooth.

“It is a good group,” said Miller, who guided the Little Tigers to a 11-0 win over Nottingham last Monday in his debut as PHS looks to build on the 10-9-1 record posted last season.

“They know my coaching style. They know what we expect. PHS has a strong tradition in the CVC; we take pride in playing the game the right way.”

PHS features some strong offensive threats at forward in junior John Reid, junior Jackson Andres, freshman Brendan McCormick, sophomore Nathan Drezner, and senior Spencer Reynolds.

“John Reid will be depended on to contribute as well as Jackson Andres,” said Miller, who will also be using Chris Munoz and Anthony Trainer at forward.

“Brendan McCormick will be a good player for us. Nathan Drezner is bigger and better, he will be a top six forward for us. Spencer Reynolds will be in the mix. He played defenseman before and is a strong, fast skater.”

The older McCormick brothers, senior Patrick and junior Connor, will spearhead the PHS defense.

“We had to move Connor McCormick to defense because we lost Harrison Naylor; he will be paired with his brother Patrick,” said Miller, whose team faces Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park.

“Patrick is our engine, he is a four-year starter, He is a good leader, he is our quarterback. He can get into the rush, I am looking for him to give us a Brian Leetch or Bobby Orr imitation.”

Miller will also be using a pair of freshmen, Tooker Callaway and Eamon McDonald on the blue line.

“Tooker Callaway is third on the depth chart, he will see some minutes,” added Miller. “He is a big kid. Eamon McDonald is the fourth defenseman.”

At goalie, the Little Tigers will feature a tandem of senior Robert Quinn and freshman Sawyer Peck.

“Robert is looking good; he has gotten better,” said Miller. “He doesn’t have years of goalie experience so he is a little raw. He is a very good athlete. Peck is right there with him; they are neck and neck right now. That is probably my biggest decision. Robert is a senior but we want to get Sawyer as many minutes as possible as he is the goalie of the future for us.”

With his deep ties to the program, Miller will be looking to maintain the hallmarks of the PHS style.

“We will play a defensive-type of system; we are not going to be run and gun,” said Miller.

“We will be a tight checking team. We will pick our spots offensively and look to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes. We will defend as a unit. We will try to keep the games tight. We want to play disciplined. We have never been the biggest team. We usually have two lines, two-three good defensemen and a scrappy goalie; that is our identity.”

TON OF FUN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton goes after a puck in a game last season. PDS will be looking to senior defenseman Clayton to be a key performer this winter. The Panthers, who went 21-3-1 last year and shared the state Prep championship, were slated to start their season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then host the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TON OF FUN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton goes after a puck in a game last season. PDS will be looking to senior defenseman Clayton to be a key performer this winter. The Panthers, who went 21-3-1 last year and shared the state Prep championship, were slated to start their season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then host the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, a stellar group of nine seniors sparked the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey to a memorable campaign as the Panthers went 21-3-1 and shared the state Prep championship.

While PDS will miss its Class of 2013, those players have left a legacy that should benefit the program this winter.

“They did some terrific things for the program,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, referring to last year’s seniors.

“The most important thing was that they created a culture of winning. It is up to juniors and seniors to continue that and take ownership. The seniors last year were not only great on the ice, they were good in the dressing room. They were good chemistry guys and exemplary student athletes.”

Bertoli believes that his quartet of current senior leaders, captain Sean Timmons and alternate captains Andrew Clayton, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman can keep that culture of winning intact.

“They are good kids, they have been varsity players for the last three years so they have experienced a lot of success,” said Bertoli, whose team was slated to start the season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then hosting its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7.

“I think we were something like 39-8-1 over the last two years. They were a big part of it and they know what it takes to be successful.”

Battle-tested forward Timmons should be a big gun for the Panthers this winter.

“Timmons has scored and produced for us over the last three years,” said Bertoli.

“He has played in every situation; he has gotten stronger. I really like the way his game is developing. I fully expect him to lead the way for us.”

Bitterman and sophomore Kyle Weller are also developing into offensive threats.

“Bitterman is always the fastest player on the ice; he is the most improved player in the program over the last three years,” said Bertoli, who will also be using Egner, senior Lewie Blackburn, sophomore Connor Fletcher, junior Mason Ward, freshman Keith Asplundh, sophomore Harrison Latham, senior Gabe Castagna, senior Hap Ammidon, and junior Will Wright at forward.

“He is understanding how to utilize his speed. His skills have developed and improved. Weller is extremely talented. He is healthy this year and has grown three-four inches. I look for him to do very well.”

On defense, Bertoli is expecting seniors Clayton and C.J. Young to do very well.

“Andrew Clayton got lost in the shuffle at times last year but when he played, he was outstanding at decision-making and distributing the puck,” said Bertoli.

“C.J. Young is a year round Tier 1 hockey player; he handles the puck well. They are going to log a lot of minutes and be out there in every situation.”

Junior Will Garrymore and sophomore Chris Hemlinger will see a lot of time as well along the blue line.

“Garrymore was in the mix at times last year, he understands our system and is a skilled player,” said Bertoli, whose defensive unit will also include freshman Gianluca Travia and senior Nelson Garrymore.

“He will be relied on in the power play and penalty kill. Chris Hemlinger was the seventh guy last year, now he is fourth. He has played a high level of travel hockey; he has a big body and he has been waiting for his opportunity and now it is here.”

At goalie, three players, sophomores Mark Anarumo and Colin Burgess together with freshman Logan Kramsky will get opportunities.

“Between the three of them, there is a lot of talent,” said Bertoli. “The three of them will compete and we are very confident with any one of them in there. It is a little early to tell who will be the starter. We have a scrimmage and some practices before the opener so we will see.”

The Panthers will be seeing some tough competition as it will participate in the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) along with Lawrenceville and Hill School (Pa.), Portledge School (N.Y.), LaSalle College High (Pa.), and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).

“These are schools that we didn’t play four years ago but have played the last two or three years and have had success,” said Bertoli.

“They are the schools that we want to compete with and be at the same level. We know that some are boarding schools and have post-grads and that gives them an inherent advantage. I want the kids to compete on a higher level and be challenged. As athletes and hockey players, you gain so much more from that.”

While it may take a while for this year’s squad to reach a high level, Bertoli is confident the program will maintain its winning tradition. “We need to establish who this team is and what our identity is going to be,” said Bertoli.

“Last year, we had 17 returning players and we knew who we were. We have guys taking bigger roles and more responsibility. It will take time to evolve and find out who we are and what allows us to be the most effective. We have enough talent to be successful from the start. We are going to be different; we are not going to put up four or five goals in the first period. These are proud kids, they take a lot of pride in the program and the success we have had in recent years. They want to continue that.”

Kamau Bailey is a basketball lifer.

Bailey was a high school hoops star in Denver, Colo. before going on to play at NYU. After graduation, he worked for the New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, and San Antonio Spurs in various capacities.

In recent years, he has directed the Philadelphia 76ers summer camp in Princeton and started
a player development
business.

This winter, Bailey will be looking to impart his vast basketball knowledge to a new group of students as he takes the helm of the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball program.

With a roster comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores, Bailey is starting from square one as he succeeds Mika Ryan, who led the Panthers to an 8-14 record last winter and is now coaching the WW/P-S girls’ squad.

“One of the things I have been working on with the girls is teaching them the fundamentals,” said Bailey.
“I am teaching them to play the game; it is basketball 101.”

That same approach paid dividends for Bailey last winter as he coached the PDS 6th/7th grade squad.

“We had a very successful middle school team,” said Bailey. “We went undefeated.”

In Bailey’s view, his current charges are exhibiting a similar learning curve
so far.

“We are starting from scratch and they have already made a lot of progress,” said Bailey, whose team opens the season by hosting Villa Victoria Academy on December 10.

“Freshman Shayla Stevenson is a 5’7 point guard. She can shoot and dribbles the ball well. She has great court awareness. Devika Kumar and Helen Healey are returning players and they give us some help in the paint.”

While Bailey is taking a serious approach as he passes on the lessons of a lifetime, he hasn’t lost sight of the essence of hoops.

“Basketball is a fun sport and sometimes we get away from that and it becomes too serious,” said Bailey.

“We will be doing some running and gunning, that is the style I like. They need to keep working hard and stay focused.”

COOL CUSTOMER: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mary Travers controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward Travers is coming off a 10-goal season and should be a primary offensive threat for the Panthers in her final campaign with the program. PDS starts the season by playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 4 and then hosting its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 7-8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COOL CUSTOMER: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mary Travers controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward Travers is coming off a 10-goal season and should be a primary offensive threat for the Panthers in her final campaign with the program. PDS starts the season by playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 4 and then hosting its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 7-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team has established itself as a solid program, Lorna Gifis Cook is setting the bar higher for her squad this winter.

“I think we can be in the top four of WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic),” said Cook, who guided the Panthers to a 10-8 record last year, the team’s second straight 10-win season. “The girls always work hard, the focus needs to be there.”

Cook is expecting to get some good work from a pair of senior forwards, Mimi Mathews (2 goals and 9 assists in 2012-13) and Mary Travers (10 goals, 5 assists).

“We are fortunate to have Mimi back at forward; she gives us a lot of speed and has good instincts,” said Cook, whose team starts its 2013-14 campaign with a game at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 4 and then hosts its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 7-8.

“Mimi and Mary go out there and work hard. They have a good read of each other on the ice. They shoot to score and they have good habits when they enter the offensive zone.”

Senior Colby Triolo is emerging as a force in the offensive zone for the Panthers.

“Colby is looking good,” said Cook of Triolo, who tallied four goals and seven assists last winter. “We moved her from defense to offense last year and she did well. It looks like she picked up where she left off.”

The trio of sophomore Emma Stillwaggon, freshman Daphne Stanton, and junior Carly King figures to pick up some points for PDS.

“Emma looks a lot better, she runs cross country and that has her in better condition,” said Cook, who will also use junior Sophie Ward, junior Sophie Jensen, and senior Abby Sharer at forward.

“She is a grinder and creates chances for her linemates. Daphne has looked really strong; positionally she is sound. I think she is going to give us reliability. Carly definitely improved over the course of the season. She is competitive on the ice and she makes sure that everyone is going to have fun.”

One of PDS top competitors is senior captain and star defenseman Robin Linzmayer. “Robin has a lot of speed; she can recover quickly in the defensive zone,” said Cook of Linzmayer, an All-WIHLMA performer last winter who led PDS in scoring with 19 goals and seven assists.

“She has a great shot and has done a good job of keeping it low. She plays offense for her club team. She always plays hard.”

A pair of freshmen, Christi Serafin and Ashley Cavuto, should make an immediate impact for the Panthers along the blue line.

“The girls are definitely impressed with Christi, they think she is going to be a star in the league,” said Cook, who will also be using sophomore Caroline Okun at defense.

“She has so much potential. There are things we can work on with her but her instincts are so good. Ashley will sneak up on you. She is not flashy but she is consistent. She has a really good shot. I have seen in practice that she can put it on the corners. She is excited about playing defense.”

Cook is excited about her goalie tandem of junior Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] and freshman Annika Asplundh.

“Katie has really been impressive so far, she is much improved over last season,” said Cook.

“The girls are talking about it and I think it has given her confidence. She is more sure of herself. Annika plays on a boys’ club team so she will need to make an adjustment to the girls’ game. I think it is going to be a really good thing to have two goalies competing for ice time. They are both committed to being there and it helps our practices.”

In Cook’s view, a commitment to scoring goals combined with a growing team chemistry could make PDS a force this winter.

“With our defense being solid, it will be a matter of how productive our forwards can be,” said Cook.

“The girls have fun with each other, they already seem to becoming a close team.”

MAKING A BID: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Bidwell chases down the puck in a game last year. Senior forward Bidwell figures to be a key performer for Hun this winter as it looks to defend its Independence Hockey League (IHL) title. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A BID: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Bidwell chases down the puck in a game last year. Senior forward Bidwell figures to be a key performer for Hun this winter as it looks to defend its Independence Hockey League (IHL) title. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Hun School boys’ hockey team is experiencing some major roster turnover, Ian McNally is bringing a lot of confidence into the winter.

“We lost seven seniors, two post-graduates, and three or four other kids,” said Hun head coach McNally, who guided the Raiders toa 16-5-4 record and the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title last winter. “We have a lot of kids who never played but we should be even stronger.”

McNally’s optimism is fueled, in part, by the upbeat attitude he sees around the team.

“There is a positive hunger, we have an influx of new kids who don’t know any better,” said McNally, whose team starts the season by playing at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 4.

“It is infectious for older kids to have that youthful energy. There is a good buzz around the team at the rink and around school. We have taken another step in the chemistry; it was already upbeat.”

Hun will be looking for senior forwards Alec Karanikolas, Spy Avgoustiniatos, and Alex Bidwell to step up.

“Alec, Spy, and Alex Bidwell are seniors and are the biggest and strongest kids but none of them have led us in scoring,” said McNally. “They are going to give us a lot of ice time.”

A pair of freshman forwards, Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, figure to be productive scorers for the Raiders.

“Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf have pretty dynamic offensive abilities,” said McNally. “We had a scrimmage with Holy Ghost and they accounted for three of our four goals. We put them together with Bidwell and that seemed to work well.”

On defense, McNally is expecting some good work from battle-tested senior Brad Stern.

“Brad Stern is an offensive guy,” said McNally. “He was injured for half the season last year with thumb and wrist and he couldn’t get into a rhythm. He played a short midget season this fall and he is looking good.”

Joining Stern along the blue line will be a pair of juniors, converted forward Chris Rossi and Bobby Wurster.

“Rossi is going to be on defense this year,” said McNally. “He plays defense for his junior team and I said we could use some defensemen and he stepped up. Billy Wurster was in middle school, left for two years and is back as a junior; he will log a lot of time. Rossi, Stern, and Wooster will carry a lot of the load.”

At goalie, senior standout Devin Cheifetz will continue to carry a big share of the load for Hun.

“Devin has started all four years; he has been our guy since he got here,” said McNally.

“We have gotten better every year since he has been here. We would like to send him out with a great senior year. He has put on a little size, filling out as a 17-18 year old. He looks big in the net; he has a lot of confidence. His strength is  his ability to play the puck into the break, he is like a third defenseman.”

In McNally’s view, the Raiders are poised to have a big winter. “I think we can be even better than we were last year,” said McNally.

“We have been bounced early in the preps, it would be nice to string together some wins in that. I think we can compete with everybody on our schedule. It would help to not have injuries, we don’t have a lot of depth. We have high-end talent. We will have five or six freshmen playing regularly; a third of the team is freshmen. They are not going to be on the fourth line so it will make a big difference if they can step in right away and produce.”

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball player Josh McGilvray looks to to pass the ball in a game last season. The 6’8 senior center figures to be a key player for Hun as it looks to build on last winter’s success which saw it win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and post a 20-6 record. The Raiders tip off their 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball player Josh McGilvray looks to to pass the ball in a game last season. The 6’8 senior center figures to be a key player for Hun as it looks to build on last winter’s success which saw it win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and post a 20-6 record. The Raiders tip off their 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming together at the right time, the Hun School boys’ basketball team produced a memorable stretch drive last winter.

The Raiders won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and advanced to the championship game in the state Prep A tourney, ending the winter with a 20-6 record.

As Hun gets ready to tip off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5, Raider head coach Jon Stone is seeing some carry over from last year’s success.

“I think some guys got good experience last year and they will be taking it into this year,” said Stone, who welcomes back six returning players. “We did some good things last year and I think we can build on them.”

A chief building block for the Raiders this year will be senior Josh McGilvray, an imposing 6’8 center.

“Josh is doing well, he has continued to grow and develop,” said Stone, who is in his 14th year at the helm of the Hun program. “He is strong on defense and I think we are really going to need that.”

The Raiders have some other strong options in the frontcourt with post-graduate forward Remi Janicot, senior David Li, and senior Taylor Heilman.

“Remi is going to have a big role,” said Stone. “David Li continues to grow. He brings energy and he has the ability to score. Taylor didn’t get a lot of minutes last year, we are looking for him to play a bigger role.”

Hun boasts plenty of ability in the backcourt with the quartet of senior Michael Bourke, senior Jason Geter, junior Eric Williams, and post-grad Daniel Osley.

“We are looking for Bourke to be a mainstay for us,” asserted Stone. “Geter had been a starter for a year, he is a glue guy for us. Williams has improved a ton. Osley should help a lot. He is 6’3 and a slasher. He is long and can be a playmaker.”

Stone is confident that his squad can improve as the season unfolds. “We have good balance and good depth; we have a different personality than last year and that is fine,” said Stone.

“We are competing at a high level, we always play a tough schedule and I think it is even tougher this year. Like other years, I think we have a lot of potential, we have a lot of nice pieces. We need to bring it together and develop chemistry and see leadership.”

UP-TEMPO: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown races up the court in a game last season. Senior forward Brown gives Hun versatility in the frontcourt with her speed and inside-out game. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UP-TEMPO: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown races up the court in a game last season. Senior forward Brown gives Hun versatility in the frontcourt with her speed and inside-out game. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The hurry-up offense has become the rage at all levels of football and the Hun School girls’ basketball team is planning to take a page out of the gridiron playbook this winter.

“I want us to really push the ball and try to score a lot on transition,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 14-11 record last year and is entering his 15th season at the helm of the program.

“We have a lot of girls who can handle the ball and run the court. We have speed and we need to utilize it. We have girls who can get up and down the floor.”

Holup is looking for senior guard Anajha Burnett to be a floor general for the Raiders.

“Anajha is a leader by example,” said Holup, whose team tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4.

“She had games last year where she really stepped up. She had a big game against Mercersburg where she had 12 assists. She is accepting of her role, whether it is coming off the bench or starting.”

A pair of juniors, Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen, should play a big role for the Raiders this winter.

“Erica is a three-year starter; she has really matured over the last two years,” said Holup.

“She has started since she was a freshman. She has the ability to hit shots. She is unselfish. She has a lot of experience. Janelle has ability on offense and she causes matchup problems on defense. She is long and can guard either small or big guards. On a zone, she causes problems with her long arms. She has the ability to get set and hit long shots.”

The Raiders has three sophomore guards with ability in Amber Bourke, Jess Johnson, and Maura Kelly along with senior Bella Cura.

“Amber played for Mt. St. Mary’s last year; she can push the ball up the floor and attack the basket,” said Holup. “She can shoot the 3. She will be seeing stronger competition than she has in the past so she will have to get used to that. Jess is coming off a good soccer season. She has a fractured wrist right now and is seeing the doctor on December 1 or 2 so we hope she gets cleared then. Bella is in her fourth year and she is much more aggressive. She is putting up her shot.”

In the frontcourt, Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson will provide plenty of aggressiveness in the paint.

“Johnnah is all set for college so she can go out and just play basketball,” said Holup. “She has more of a midrange jumper this year. She is a senior and has been has been working out for four years; her strength is  tremendous. She is a legit D-1 basketball player. She is more aggressive on rebounding and she is smarter on the fouls. Last year, she realized that it was better for her to be on the court and she was much better on not getting in foul trouble.”

Senior Erica Brown will give Hun’s foes plenty of problems with her all-around game. “Erica Brown has the ability to put the ball on the floor,” said Holup. “She can really run the floor in transition and lead the fast break. She has an inside-out game and she is versatile. She is also unselfish. She is a smart player with a high basketball IQ.”

Hun has two other inside options in 6’3 freshman Clare Maloney and sophomore Maura Kelly.

“Clare Maloney has talent right now; she gives us good size,” said Holup. “She is raw but she has played AAU ball so she has experience. She gives us a lot of size, she will help us a lot. Maura Kelly is coming off of field hockey; she is an athlete. She will complement the other girls, she will get on the boards, both offensively and defensively.”

In Holup’s view, the Raiders can have a good winter if they complement each other across the board.

“The girls need to be on the same page,” said Holup. “We have talent but they need to stick together and play together. I am very optimistic that we can have a strong season. I am happy with the kids we have; they are working hard. We need to use the talent that we have in the best way.”

November 27, 2013

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 21-0 at Dartmouth last Saturday, it wasn’t fazed.

After all, Princeton had rallied from a 17-0 deficit at Brown in October and roared back for a 39-17 win and had dug a 16-0 hole against Penn at Franklin Field in early November only to thump the Quakers 38-26.

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Tigers’ ability to score in bunches through its hurry-up, no-huddle offense had thrust Princeton into the limelight as it had already amassed an Ivy League record 413 points and clinched a share of the league crown coming into the contest against the Big Green at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, for his part, was confident that another eruption was forthcoming.

“We had our best Wednesday of the year,” said Surace, whose team came into the game ranked 19th nationally among FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs.

“As the week progressed, I thought we were really peaking. We were hoping to play our best game of the year.”

Sure enough, Princeton started to chip away, narrowing the deficit to 21-14 at halftime as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter and then did a one-yard quarterback plunge for a score in the waning seconds of the half.

On the Tigers’ second possession in the third quarter  Epperly found Matt Costello for a 30-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 21-21.

Surace had a sense of deja vu at that point. “We needed to get moving forward; we were off on third down conversions,” said Surace. “But like the Brown and Penn games, we got on a roll. We got it to 21-21 and it looked like we were going to do it again.”

But this time, Dartmouth stemmed the tide, regaining the lead late in the third quarter as quarterback Dalyn Williams raced 17 yards for a touchdown. Princeton responded with a field goal midway through the fourth quarter but as a snow squall hit the field, the Tigers went cold and ended up losing 28-24.

The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

In analyzing the defeat, Surace said it came down to big plays. “They had four really long explosive runs; they had 150 yards on four runs,” said Surace whose team was outgained 239 yards to 140 on the ground.

“They also had a 56-yard TD pass. We had 55 plays of terrific defense, a few decent ones, and five bad ones. Offensively, we struggled to get chunk yardage plays. We had bad field position. We grinded out a lot of first downs.

On Princeton’s last possession, the Tigers couldn’t overcome bad field position as an Epperly pass was intercepted with 24 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Big Green.

“We had punted it to them deep in their territory,” said Surace. “They hadn’t gotten a first down in a while but they were able to get it to our 20. We got it at the 20 and there was a blizzard at that time. We needed some luck; it was tough sledding with the weather.”

While the defeat was a tough way to end the fall, Surace went out of his way in his post-game comments to focus on what had been accomplished in a special season as the program won its first league crown since 2006.

“We gathered them together and told them how proud we were of the season,” said Surace, a Princeton alum who became just the third person to ever win an Ivy League title as a player (1989) and a head coach along with his counterpart on Saturday, Buddy Teevens, who accomplished the feat for Dartmouth as a player in 1978 and as the Big Green’s head coach in 1990 and 1991, and Dartmouth’s Jake Crouthamel, a player for the 1958 championship team and a head coach with three Ivy championships for the Big Green from 1971-73.

“We thanked the seniors for all that they have done. They will never play for Princeton again and it was the last football game for most of them. It is a disappointing way to end but we came into the season with three goals to win the Big 3 (beating Harvard and Yale), win the Ivy, and get nationally ranked. The last one might be hard now but we accomplished the other two. We had two tough losses but we had eight wins in between and we have to remember those games. It is a long time since we have won the title and we have to be proud of that.”

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s success this fall came down to a collective effort.

“For me, what sticks out is how many people contributed to this,” said Surace.

“We have some players like Caraun [Reid] and a few others who are going to get some accolades but there were so many guys who stepped up. It really was a team thing. They do things the right way.”

With a good foundation in place, the Tigers are headed in the right direction. “Last year, all the games were battles that went down to the wire,” said Surace.

“This year we were lucky enough to get some separation in some games. We showed that we could compete with the Browns, Penns, and Harvards, week in, week out. We will give the players a week off and then after Thanksgiving, we will start getting ready for 2014. It is great to get this title in a league that is so good where there is such parity.”

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colton Phinney faced a big challenge last Friday as he made the third start of his career for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.

The freshman goalie was between the pipes as the Tigers hosted a No. 5 Quinnipiac squad that came into Baker Rink riding an 11-0-1 unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats put Phinney under the gun from the opening face-off, generating 13 shots in the first period. The 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J. was up to the challenge, turning away all the shots as the teams headed into the second period knotted in a scoreless tie.

“I was definitely excited,” said Phinney, reflecting on his mindset heading into the contest. “We were ready to go. We came out well, it was a 0-0 game. It was tough but we battled. I felt more comfortable as the game went on.”

In the second period, Phinney and the Tigers had a bad 30-second stretch as Quinnipiac scored a power play goal with 11:38 left and then added a second tally with 11:08 left. Princeton kept battling but ended up falling 3-0 as the Bobcats added a third period tally.

“You can’t be giving up two in a row,” said Phinney, who made 31 saves on the evening.

“We did a good job of settling down and keeping it 2-0. We had a good third period and they just had a another power play goal, I thought we battled hard.”

A night later as Princeton played at Quinnipiac in the home-and-home series between ECAC Hockey rivals, the Tigers showed a battling spirit, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a dramatic 4-3 win and snap the Bobcats‘ unbeaten streak. Phinney stood tall in the net again, making 32 saves to earn his first college victory.

“The whole game is a battle, every single play,” said Phinney in assessing the biggest challenges he has faced in moving up to the college level.

“Anything can happen. You blink once and it is in the back of the net. It is battling from the first minute to the last minute; you have to keep focused.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier liked the way Phinney stayed focused against the Bobcats.

“Colton had a good game; he was composed,” said Prier. “I thought he held on to a lot of the pucks that were shot from the outside. I thought he kept it simple. He didn’t have to make too many big saves; I thought he controlled his rebounds pretty well.”

The Tigers kept Quinnipiac under control for most of the contest. “We got better defensively through the week and tonight,” said Prier. “Our defense did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice. It is something to build on.”

In the wake of the loss on Friday, Prier was optimistic heading into the Saturday rematch.

“I was proud of the way the guys battled and hopefully we will continue to make strides here; I thought that was one of our better games,” said Prier, who got goals from Eric Carlson, Jack Berger, Mike Ambrosia, and Andrew Ammon in the triumph on Saturday as the Tigers improved to 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECACH.

“We just have to have a good practice in the morning and make a couple of adjustments and get after them tomorrow night.”

In Prier’s view, Princeton needs to keep getting after it. “The guys are playing hard; we still have some instances where we overskated pucks and didn’t stop the puck,” said Prier, whose team plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. “Things like that have to be sharpened; those habits have to be constant.”

Phinney, for his part, is getting sharper through competing on a daily basis against senior goalie Sean Bonar.

“It definitely makes me better, having to go hard every day in practice,” said Phinney. “He is unbelievable, so trying to compete with him has made me better. It makes it fun too.”

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ben Hazel and the Princeton University men’s basketball team got off to a slow start last Wednesday against visiting Lafayette.

Princeton trailed the Leopards 36-31 at halftime as junior guard Hazel was held scoreless in 12 minutes of action with only a turnover and a missed shot on his stat line.

Hazel acknowledged that it wasn’t the best half for the Tigers. “I definitely feel like we were sleepwalking, especially in the first half,” said Hazel, who was making his third career start after taking a year off from Princeton in 2012-13.

“We weren’t talking, we had missed communication and mental lapses, giving up open shots. That is more stuff that we need to correct than our offense. They made shots but we didn’t make it as tough as we should have.”

Hazel and the Tigers woke up in the second half. The 6’5, 181-pound native of Bowie, Md. scored 11 points in a 2:29 span to help the Tigers go from trailing 45-43 to up by 54-51.

Princeton built its lead to 66-57 before Lafayette rallied to force overtime with the teams knotted at 68-68 at the end of regulation. In the extra session, the Tigers forged ahead 77-72 and were able to hold on for an 81-80 win.

Hazel, who ended the evening with a career-high 14 points, was more focused on the team’s success than his breakthrough performance.

“I don’t really think it means so much for myself; it was a good win,” said Hazel, who produced another good effort last Saturday, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 to improve to 3-1.

“My team called on me to make a few more shots so that is just what I tried to do in the second half. It is more of a team win than  just me shooting the ball. Guys contributed throughout the second half.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t surprised that Hazel made a big contribution in the win over Lafayette.

“In all the shooting stuff that we do in practice, Ben is one of our top guys,” said Henderson. “He’s got a good feel for the game. I think that going forward, this is the third game in almost two years. Unfortunately I am not cutting him any slack for that. I have high expectations for Ben, I think he can be a very good player. I expect to see improvement game to game.”

Henderson expects to see the Tigers bring more passion to the court than they displayed in their uneven effort against Lafayette.

“I think we were very fortunate tonight,” said Henderson. “That’s a huge understatement. I think we were a little bit happy with the way that we played on the road against a Butler team. A really good Lafayette team had us and we were very fortunate to get the victory. That’s where I am going to leave it. There were some positives on our end but for the most part, we just didn’t approach the game the right way.”

Princeton is getting a positive contribution from freshman Spencer Weisz, who had 14 points in the win over Lafayette and then chipped in eight points and six rebounds in the victory over Rice.

“I think Spencer has an understanding, a feel for the game,” said Henderson.

“We really work hard on that and Spencer does that naturally, making reads, making the right plays. I like the way he talks, he can talk to these guys and tell them what he thinks and what he sees. That is important for us and I don’t care if he is a freshman. There are freshmen all over the country playing well. If he is good enough, which he is, he is going to play.

With senior guard T.J. Bray having been sidelined for the first three games due to a hand injury, other players have gotten the chance to show their game.

“It is a huge opportunity; I see it as a huge positive for us,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Bucknell on November 30.

“T.J. does so many things that we rely on and that’s taken away from you so what are you going to do when you really need a basket or you really need to come together and you really need someone to step up and say this what we are doing and this is how we are going to do it. I’d like to think there have been some really good positives from it.”

Hazel, for his part, has honed his shooting touch so that he can do well when offense is needed.

“I have been working pretty hard on it in practice and the offseason so when the time does come I am able to step up and do what I have to do to help the team win,” said Hazel.

It didn’t take long for things to go awry when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted No. 8 Clarkson last Friday.

The Tigers yielded a goal 29 seconds into the contest and found themselves trailing 4-0 after the first period. Things didn’t get much better after that with Princeton falling 7-0 as their five-game unbeaten streak was snapped.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal didn’t mince words.

“We didn’t show up to compete whatsoever,” said Kampersal. “We were bugs and Clarkson was the windshield. They basically crushed us from the opening shift on.”

As a result, Kampersal viewed the game against visiting St. Lawrence on Saturday as a referendum on his team’s character.

“Today was a test to see if we could bounce back and I think we did play hard,” said Kampersal.

While the Tigers trailed the Saints 1-0 in the early going on Saturday, they fought back to knot the contest at 1-1 on a goal by freshman forward Cassidy Tucker with 11:26 left in the first period. But St. Lawrence responded with a go-ahead goal 10 minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory.

Although Kampersal was happy with the resolve shown by his team, he was disappointed to see his players whistled for seven penalties on the afternoon.

“We showed heart today,” said Kampersal, whose team was outshot 31-28 by the Saints.

“We need to play a little bit smarter; we need to be better disciplined. We had too many penalties.”

The Tigers surrendered two power play goals as playing shorthanded seemed to wear them down.

“The penalty killing was not good so we need to figure that out,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who dropped to 5-4-1 overall and 4-4 ECAC Hockey with the loss to St. Lawrence.

“Most teams score on scrums in front of the net on us. Somehow the puck ends up in the back of our net. We need to do a better job of clearing out and just being tough in general.

Princeton also needs to do a better job on the offensive end. “We had a couple of good chances here or there,” said Kampersal.

“I don’t know what happened; we just need to be a little bit stronger on the puck and more opportunistic.

As the Tigers look to get back on the winning track, the focus will be on being strong mentally and physically.

“They have to be tough, they have to be disciplined and they have to be competitive,” said Kampersal.

“So today, we were competitive but we weren’t very tough or disciplined. Yesterday, we were none of the three.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to display all three qualities in abundance as they play a two-game set on November 30 and December 1 at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (15-1).

“They are incredible, they had an incredible streak there (winning 62 straight games) and it should probably get more publicity than it did,” said Kampersal.

“They are obviously very well coached and they have great players. It will be a great rink with great fans. It will be a fun atmosphere to play hockey in.”

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University field hockey team had a bull’s eye on its back this fall as defending national champions, the players didn’t view that as a burden.

“They are not fazed by pressure; they have so much pressure in the classroom that field hockey is an outlet,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“They have the right perspective, they are into it but they are not consumed by what other teams are doing. They go on their own path and it doesn’t seem to be important what’s happening externally.”

While that path included ups and downs this fall as the Tigers dealt with injuries and struggled to find the best combination, the players kept on task as the program won its ninth straight Ivy League title.

“They kept working throughout the process,” said Holmes-Winn. “We had injuries and other things that didn’t allow us to put our best team out there. It is about playing your best hockey at the end of the season. You have to be rested and ready to put everything into it.”

Riding a seven-game winning streak coming into the NCAA tournament, Princeton started its title defense facing a Penn State team that handed the Tigers a tough regular season loss.

Showing skill and resilience as Princeton All-American senior star Julia Reinprecht got knocked out of the game with a head injury, the Tigers prevailed 5-4 to avenge the regular season setback.

“As we prepared for the second game against Penn State, we realized there was nothing we could extract or gain from the first one because we had totally changed,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from senior star Amanda Bird in the win over the Nittany Lions with Allison Evans, Cat Caro and former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland adding one apiece.

“We were able to put out our very best lineup. We thought we would match up well and we did. We peaked at the right time. We really improved in the front third, that reflected the work of the girls and the coaches.”

In its quarterfinal matchup against host and top-ranked Maryland, the Tigers fought hard to overcome the loss of Reinprecht but fell just short. Princeton led the Terps 1-0 and 2-1 before falling 3-2.

“When you take Julia out, we had to move a striker into the midfield; she is so influential at both ends of the field and on our corners,” said Holmes-Winn, who got goals from Evans and Sydney Kirby in the defeat as the Tigers ended the season with a 14-5 overall record.

“The team really rallied. I think the girls were inspired to get through the weekend so Julia would get to play again. Julia talked to the team and told them to believe, that they could do this. It is a marker of her character and who she is as a sportsman that she put the team first even though she was suffering. In order to compete effectively against Maryland, every single player had to lift her game.”

Holmes-Winn was proud of how her team lifted its game as it dealt with a regular season schedule that included eventual national champion Connecticut along with such other national powers as Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse, Penn Sate, and Maryland.

“The season put us in a position to play our best,” said Holmes-Winn. “They were focused at each phase and stayed in the moment. Every player gave her best effort in practice and in training.”

Princeton’s group of seniors, which included Allegra Mango, Michelle Cesan, Kelsey Byrne, and Christina Maida in addition to Bird and Reinprecht, gave a great effort over their stellar careers.

“They are irreplaceable in many ways, as a class they balance each other positionally and from a leadership perspective,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Each handles a different piece. Some are more off field leaders, others lead by their work rate on the field, others raise their voices, and some are more connected to the freshmen. It was great that the underclassmen got to learn from such a special group.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, her group of returning players has the chance to do some special things.

“I think we have a lot of exciting playmakers; we have speed from top to bottom,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They just need to be more comfortable with the ball. When that happens, they can take information under pressure and assimilate it in games. If we can get that taken care of over spring and summer, we can be up at the level we want.”

STROKES OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand on the way to taking the title at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore Rosca went on to win the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship, earning the first state singles crown in program history.

STROKES OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand on the way to taking the title at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore Rosca went on to win the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship, earning the first state singles crown in program history.

Christina Rosca made quite a splash during the fall of 2012 in her freshman season on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team.

The precocious Rosca placed second at first singles in the Mercer County Tournament and advanced to the semifinals of the NJSIAA state singles competition. Along the way, she led PHS to the state Group III team championship match.

Rosca’s accomplishments during her debut campaign, though, were only a harbinger for things to come this fall.

In late September, Rosca rolled to the MCT first singles title without losing a set. In the championship match, Rosca posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S.

Rosca was thrilled to reach the top of the singles ladder in the county.

“Last year, I was a little disappointed that I lost but there was no shame in losing to Sam [former Princeton Day School star and current Wake Forest player Samantha Asch] because she was an exceptional player,” said Rosca. “I am definitely happy that I was able to play well and do it.”

Three weeks later, Rosca proved that she is exceptional in her own right as she rallied from a set down to defeat Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover  3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the NJSIAA girls’ singles final to earn the first state singles crown in program history.

In reflecting on the win, Rosca attributed it to a more mature mentality on the court. “I think my mental state and attitude made a really big difference,” said Rosca, who had rallied after losing the first set in the semifinals to make the title match.

“That is something I have improved a lot on. A year ago or a half a year ago I think I would have lost those matches because I would have let my emotions get the better of me. Staying calm really helps. As time progressed, starting last year from the state tournament, I saw sometimes in matches, it is not a difference of strokes or technique but rather it is a difference of how you play the important points and your mental attitude.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert lauded the skill and attitude that Rosca brought to the court.

“Chris has continued to work hard,” said Hibbert, whose team again advanced to the state Group III team championship match.

“She has really upped all aspects of her game. She can put a lot of pace on the ball but she does have other options to fall back on as well. She is a team player as well. She enjoys being out there, rooting for the other girls. She wins her matches and she doesn’t take off. Instead she goes around and sees who else is playing which is really nice.”

For rising to the top of both the county and state singles ladder and making history in the process, Rosca is the choice as the Town Topics’ top female performer this fall.

Top Male Performer

When the Willingboro High band accidentally left its banner on the field after performing at halftime of the Princeton High-Willingboro football game in mid-October, PHS star Liam Helstrom gathered it up and ran it over to the musicians.

That moment was emblematic of a fall during which senior receiver/linebacker Helstrom did everything for the Little Tigers.

The 6’2, 190-pound Helstrom stood out on both sides of the ball even as PHS struggled to an 0-10 campaign.

On offense, Helstrom, grabbed 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns. He was equally dominating on defense, making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

While Helstrom was disappointed by the steady diet of losing this fall, he never lost his hunger to perform.

“I am out there to play football; it is my senior year,” said Helstrom. “Even when I am down, I am still busting hard.”

Things were made harder for Helstrom as he switched positions on both offense and defense, going from tight end to wide receiver and from defensive end to linebacker.

“Playing tight end taught me a lot about using my hands, plus going into the weight room and thinking about going up against these big 250-pound guys, I had to lift a lot more,” said Helstrom, noting that he bench presses 285 pounds.

“Now I am out here against 150-pound kids running track. I have what they call deceptive speed.”

Helstrom also utilized his power and speed on defense. “They moved me to linebacker,” said Helstrom.

“I always thought of myself as more of a defensive end. So there are holes and cutback lanes that I find. Sam [Smallzman] is telling me what to do; he is a real good linebacker.”

Helstrom produced some monster games as the losses piled up. In a 27-14 loss to WW/P-S, he made seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown to go with 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Helstrom exploded for eight receptions, 185 yards, and two touchdowns in a 57-14 loss to Trenton. Against Lawrence, he made six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. In his career finale in a 28-21 loss to Marlboro in an NJSIAA consolation contest, Helstrom ended on a high note with five catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher noted that Helstrom turned a lot of heads this fall.

“You look at a kid like Liam Helstrom, he is out here having fun, he is out here playing football,” said Gallagher.

“I keep getting complimented by the refs, saying my God, your guys are fighting. Liam is a great football player, he loves playing football.”

For providing such production and spirit in the face of a winless campaign, Helstrom gets the nod as the top male performer this fall.

Top Newcomers

Before Princeton Day School cross country coach Merrill Noden even met freshman runner Morgan Mills, he had the feeling she might be something special.

“Morgan Mills moved here from London,” said Noden “She ran for a school there, St Paul’s, and the Thames Valley Harriers. I knew that if she ran for Thames Valley, she must be good.”

Mills turned out to be very good this fall for the Panthers. With Mills asserting herself as the team’s top runner from day one, the Panthers posted dual meet wins over Pennington, Hun, Stuart, Rutgers Prep, and Hamilton and placed eighth in the Varsity E girls’ race at the Shore Coaches Invitational. Mills placed 18th in the Shore meet, clocking a time of 21:55 on the 3.1 mile course at Holmdel.

Mills then placed 35th in the Mercer County Championships with a time of 20:59 to help the Panthers take ninth in the team standings. The precocious Mills ended the fall by placing 10th in the individual standings at the state Prep B championship meet, posting a time of 20:40.50 over the 3.1 mile course at Blair as PDS took third overall.

“She is very competitive; she does most of her training with our boy runners,” said Noden of Mills. “She is also a very good competitive swimmer.”

For utilizing that competitiveness to get PDS on the right track, Mills is the pick as the top female newcomer this fall.

As he took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ cross country program this fall, Mark Shelley exercised caution with his freshman runners.

“I am really focused on daily development,” said Shelley. “We really, really try for a developmental approach: we try to not put pressure on the runners.”

One of Shelley’s freshmen, Alex Roth, though, proved to be up to the pressure of running near the front of the varsity pack.

Roth took 18th in the Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational held in Holmdel in a time of 17:37 in early October as PHS placed third in the team standings. He took 16th with a time of 17:11 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help the Little Tigers place second. Roth ended the season by finishing 51st at the state Group III in 17:16 as PHS took 11th overall.

“Alex has taken off tremendously, he has been in the low 17s,” said Shelley.

“He is so unflappable. He works hard and doesn’t seem to get too excited. We have been careful with his mileage and training.”

Roth’s instant impact for PHS makes him the choice as the top male newcomer.

Top Coaches

For the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer program, the 2012 season proved to be a nightmare.

Hampered by injuries and internal dissension, the Panthers slipped to a disappointing 4-9-4 record.

As a result, PDS head coach Pat Trombetta concentrated on getting the players on the same page.

“The team chemistry is excellent this year; that is due a lot to our leadership from the captains and the upperclassmen,” said Trombetta.

“Overall we have a strong upperclassmen group and they know with nine freshmen on the squad, they are taking them under their wings and being very good mentors and so forth. I like the way the girls are working together. It is a very close-knit group.”

As PDS got off to a sizzling 11-0-1 start, senior co-captain Britt Murray attributed the turnaround to team unity as much as skill.

“I think last year, our chemistry was not there,” said Murray. “We have tried to do a lot of team bonding; we are all just on the same page I think. On the field we always want to work for each other and not individually. No one is fighting or arguing; we just want to be like one team.”

Playing together, PDS proceeded to produce a dream run in postseason action. Getting seeded first in both the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney, PDS lived up to its billing.

In the MCT, the Panthers survived a scare in the first round, topping 16th-seeded Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. PDS gathered momentum from there, topping ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the quarters and then rallying for a 2-1 win over fourth-seed Princeton High in the semis to earn a shot at second-seeded Hopewell Valley in the title contest.

Before an overflow crowd at Rider University on hand for the championship contest, PDS broke open a scoreless nailbiter with two late goals to earn a 2-0 victory and the program’s first-ever county crown.

“This is for all the teams out there, the small schools that nobody looks at,” said Trombetta, during the raucous on-field celebration after the title game.

“The girls that might not be academy-type players but if you have a bunch of girls who have great team chemistry, it goes a long way. They have got so much heart and determination.”

In the Prep B tournament, PDS topped Rutgers Prep 3-0 in the semis. Facing Morristown-Bread less than 24 hours after their MCT triumph, PDS ran out of gas and just missed a title double as they fell 2-0 to the Crimson.

While Trombetta was disappointed by that result, the pluses far outweighed the minuses.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the performance of these girls and the team as a whole and the way they stuck together,” said Trombetta, whose squad posted a final record of 17-2-1.

“I told the seniors, regardless of how this stings, what you did this year, no other PDS team did. I am very happy for the seniors to go out this way.”

For getting his players on the same page and guiding them to a reversal of fortune that resulted in a championship campaign, Trombetta is the choice as top coach of a female team this fall.

Even after the Hun School boys’ soccer team fell 3-2 to Pennington in late September to fall to 1-4, Pat Quirk saw cause for optimism.

“I thought we played extremely well; it was a well-played game of soccer,” said Hun head coach Quirk.

“We did what we have been preaching to them which was to get creative around the goal and not just trying to settle on long balls. This is a team that is never going to give up and that stems from the seniors in the middle, Felix [Dalstein] and Bailey [Hammer].”

As Quirk left the field that day, he asserted his belief that Hun had the potential to do some damage in the Mercer County Tournament.

When the MCT rolled around in late October, not many shared Quirk’s view as his team was seeded 11th.

Getting matched in the opening round against No. 6 Princeton High, the defending Group III state co-champion and a perennial MCT finalist, it looked like the Raiders were headed for an early exit. But showing its grit, Hun prevailed 1-0 in overtime on a goal by Alex Semler.

In the quarters, the Cinderella ride continued as Hun edged third-seeded and eventual 2013 Group III state co-champion Allentown 2-1 in overtime on goals by Patrick Nally and Felix Dalstein.

Facing second-seeded Hightstown in the MCT semis, Hun was in position for another upset as the game was knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime. But the Rams were able to score two late goals and the Raiders’ valiant run ended with a 2-0 defeat.

“We couldn’t finish but we never gave up and that’s been the story of this team all season,” said Quirk, whose team ended the fall with a 7-12 record.

“I had a good feeling coming into the tournament. We started playing well together. We started making some combinations and we had that whole never give up thing. The first two games in the tournament we won in overtime. No one really expected us to do anything and we were able to prove some people wrong.”

Quirk’s role in driving his team to exceed expectations makes him the top coach of a male team.

PASSING LANE: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to pass in a game this fall. Sophomore Beamer made a lot of progress as he moved into a starting role, hitting on 73 of 165 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING LANE: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to pass in a game this fall. Sophomore Beamer made a lot of progress as he moved into a starting role, hitting on 73 of 165 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost all nine regular season games and getting outscored 373-79 in the process, the Princeton High football team could have been discouraged as it prepared for an NJSIAA consolation contest.

But as PHS got ready to play at Marlboro High for the finale on November 16, the Little Tiger players were upbeat.

“The kids had a good week of practice,” said PHS first year head coach Charlie Gallagher.

“They were still having fun playing football and the morale was still high. They were still excited to be out there.”

The Little Tigers produced an exciting performance, building a 21-7 lead over the Mustangs. Unfortunately, PHS couldn’t hold on as Marlboro rallied for a 28-21 victory.

“We unraveled in the fourth quarter,” said Gallagher. “The football gods weren’t looking out for us. We turned the ball over a couple of times. We struggled to run the ball. We didn’t have our fullback, Colin Buckley, and that hurt us.”

While the Little Tigers struggled this fall, Gallagher believes the program has a good foundation in place.

“The biggest positive is that we are young,” said Gallagher. “The quarterback (Dave Beamer) is a sophomore, all the defensive backs are sophomores. We have some sophomores on the line. We have some nice juniors.”

A big positive for PHS this year was the two-way brilliance of senior star receiver/linebacker Liam Helstrom.

“Liam has a lot of fun on the football field,” said Gallagher, whose group of seniors also included Tom Forrey, Chris Harisiades, Will Harrison, and Papakojo Kuranche in addition to Helstrom.

“He is a free spirit and he just enjoys playing the game. He gives his all and he is a coachable kid. He wanted to win but he took the season in stride. The kids carried him off the field after our last game. It was his team and I think the kids took on his personality; they went out there and had fun playing football.”

Gallagher acknowledges that the program needs more kids to get on the winning track.

“We are having a football interest meeting this week; we do need to get the numbers up,” said Gallagher.

“I think that would cut down on injuries. We could give guys playing both ways some rest so they are fresher at the end of games. I want to keep football in the foreground, not the background.”

As Gallagher looks ahead to next fall, he is depending on rising senior Sam Smallzman to bounce back from a knee injury and take a leading role.

“Sam Smallzman went out with an ACL, he will be a leader of the program next year,” said Gallagher. “He is a determined individual and I want the team to take a little of his personality. We have an opportunity to win some games.”

In the meantime, the players are going to get the chance to lick their wounds before starting their off-season program.

“We are going to give the kids some time off to enjoy the rest of the fall,” said Gallagher.

“The offseason is going to be more structured. We are going to get into 7-on-7s, which we didn’t do last summer. We need to give Dave the opportunity to throw the ball more.”

For Gallagher, getting the opportunity to be head coach has been something he has relished.

“I was learning everyday on the job,” said Gallagher. “It was a great experience; it was very humbling. I loved being there for the kids everyday and developing relationships. I never looked at it as a team that didn’t win a game. We prepared hard each week and the kids were focused. As an assistant you have ideas and sometimes you get to try them. As a head coach, you can make that happen.”