April 10, 2013
GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ray O’Brien is doing some juggling with his Princeton Day School baseball squad, he is confident things will fall in place as the spring unfolds.

“It is going to be a fun year; we have a bunch of people playing new positions,” said PDS head coach O’Brien who guided the Panthers to a 12-9 record in 2012. “We have a lot of talent but not a lot of depth.”

A lot of that talent is concentrated in the Panthers’ group of sophomores, which features J.P. Radvany, Jake Alu, Cole McManimon, and Ross Colton.

“We had that good freshman class that got a lot of experience last year, both as position players and pitchers,” said O’Brien. “We don’t have a lot of experienced upperclassmen.”

The squad did get a chance to pick up some valuable experience on its annual preseason trip.

“In Florida, we got to look at guys playing a lot of different positions, which was good,” said O’Brien, who is in his fifth year at the helm of the program. “We hit the ball well down there, that is a good sign.”

In the early going up north, there have been more good signs as the Panthers have produced a 3-1 start, edging
Hill 3-2 last Wednesday, falling 12-6 to St. Augustine on Friday, and then beating Gill St. Bernard’s 10-8 last Saturday and blanking Pennington 5-0 on Monday.

O’Brien believes he has some good arms on his pitching staff in senior Greg Auerbach, sophomores McManimon, Alu, and Radvany together with senior Ben Weiner and junior Ford Schneider.

“Greg is our most experienced pitcher; we expect him to be at the top of the rotation,” said O’Brien, who received a superb effort from McManimon in the victory over Pennington as he struck out 11 and gave up six hits.

“He is nursing a shoulder injury but should be back in early April. Cole threw the ball well in Florida, he got some innings last year. Alu and Radvany will also see some time on the mound. We also have Ben Weiner and Ford Schneider who can pitch. The pitchers are not overpowering so they will have to locate the ball well. We have to play good defense behind them.”

The team’s defensive alignment will feature senior Rob Colton at catcher, Radvany at first base, Ross Colton at second, Alu at shortstop, senior Alec Jones, Schneider or freshmen Dom Gasparro and Sam Guarino at third with senior Brad Freid in left field, senior B.J. Dudeck in center and either Jones or Gasparro in right.

PDS has the potential to win games through outslugging its foes. “B.J. has been improving; he has been a consistent hitter for us,” said O’Brien of the Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck.

“He and Radvany will be in the middle of the lineup. We have Ross Colton and Jake Alu at the top of the order. Rob Colton and Fried will be further down in the order. McManimon has been hitting well, he will be at DH and play some first base. We can put seven quality hitters up there; I think offense will be a strong point for us.”

In O’Brien’s view, the Panthers could produce a strong season with some patience and a little luck.

“We have so many kids in new positions that it is going to take a while for us to get settled,” said O’Brien, whose team hosts Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.

“As the season goes on, I think that we can be dangerous if we jell together. We have to stay healthy.”

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Morgan Foster was never able to get into a groove last spring in her freshman season with the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

Hobbled by a groin injury, Foster was sidelined for much of the campaign.

“I played the first few games and the last few games so I missed a majority of the season,” said Foster.

In the offseason, Foster worked hard to get up to speed. “I did a lot of training with Darius [PDS strength coach Darius Young] and a lot of work with Luke [former PDS trainer Luke Hensel],” said Foster.

“I was in the Philly showcase last winter where I was featured as a Fab 40 all star.”

As PDS opened its 2013 campaign last week at Stuart Country Day, it didn’t take long for Foster to emerge as a star.

The sophomore attacker scored the first goal of the game 1:35 into the contest and went on to tally four goals on the day as PDS pulled away to a 16-6 win in the April 2 contest.

Understandably, Foster was chomping at the bit to make an impact after last season’s frustrations.

“I was very excited to get back and get going and help the team,” said Foster.

In reflecting on her big game, Foster credited teamwork with paving the way to the scoring outburst.

“I just saw the ball coming down and my teammates were setting up great opportunities for me, letting me get open,” added Foster. “I was just happy I was able to finish.

After starting the 2012 season 0-5, the Panthers were thrilled to post an opening day victory this spring.

“It was a great way to start the season,” said Foster. “We were all really excited to get out there.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas is excited to have Foster back at full speed. “Morgan is just a great player with a great shot,” said Thomas. “She makes good decisions with the ball.”

The Panther offense made a lot of good decisions as junior Sarah Brennan had three goals and two assists with senior Zeeza Cole scoring three, Corinne Urisko tallying two, and senior Hannah Levy scoring a goal and chipping in three assists.

“I think everyone stepped up,” said Thomas. “You could see there were a lot of nerves in the first game but everybody seemed to step up. We got some good minutes from a lot of people.”

Thomas was also happy with the team’s defensive effort. “I think Trigg stepped up,” said Thomas, referring to senior goalie Sarah Trigg who made nine saves in the win.

“Louise [Hutter] was tough back there as was Cami [McNeely] and Lizzie [Frieder]. They are reading it well, they know when to double, they are making good slides.”

After last season’s tough start, Thomas liked the way her team got out of the gate against Stuart.

“It is a new year so it was a great way to start,” said Thomas, whose team did hit some bumps in the road after the Stuart game as it fell 13-12 to Hill School (Pa.) last Friday and then lost 13-10 to Hopewell Valley on Monday. “They did a great job today.”

Thomas believes the Panthers can make 2013 a special year. “It is a great group of girls to work with, they are a lot of fun,” said Thomas, whose team plays at Pennington on April 12 before hosting Hun on April 16.

“Liz [assistant coach Liz Cook] and I are really enjoying them and we have since the beginning.”

Foster, for her part, is enjoying being on the field with the group. “This team is great; I think we can go really far,” said Foster, who tallied four more goals in the defeat to HoVal.

“Everyone is working so hard. If people keep working hard, I think everyone’s opportunities will open up and everyone will shine.”

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conrad Denise has plenty of experience being around the USA Hockey National Championships.

“I have watched nationals four times when my older brothers played,” said Denise, whose older brothers, John Garret and Will, starred for local club teams and the Princeton Day School boys’ program. “I felt like I was part of their teams.”

Last week, the younger Denise hit the ice for the first time at the nationals as his Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team competed in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division in the Hartford, Conn. area.

“Just getting to the nationals is a huge success for any team,” said Denise, a PDS senior star forward and Princeton resident who helped PYHA sweep the Freeze in a best-of-three series to earn the organization’s first-ever berth in the nationals.

“Our goal was to go up there and enjoy ourselves and do the best we can. There are lot of variables, you have no idea about the teams you might play. We could control our effort. We focused on ourselves and representing the team, Princeton and the PYHA.”

Denise showed his focus right from the start of the tournament as the Tigers topped Weymouth (Mass.) Wildcats 6-2 in its first game of pool play.

“I scored on my first shot, that was a huge confidence builder,” recalled Denise. “I got loose on a breakaway, it was a great pass from Rob Colton. That set a tone.”

PYHA kept up its determined play, losing a 5-4 overtime thriller to Team Ohio and then blanking Milwaukee Phoenix 2-0 to qualify for the national quarterfinals.

While the Tigers ended up falling 9-5 to the Chicago Bruins in the quarterfinals, Denise believed the squad represented itself with aplomb to the end.

“We were sitting in the locker room after second period, down 6-2,” said Denise, who ended up with three goals and five assists in the tourney.

“We had so much support, for the time our parents put in to text messages and e-mails, we said we had to give everything for those people. We scored three goals in the third period; we made it exciting. We had to pull our goalie so they scored two late goals. It was closer than the score indicated. I was proud of everyone.”

The squad developed a closeness over the winter as it made its run to the nationals.

“There was certainly a bond, we had 10 guys from PDS, that helps,” said Denise. “All the guys connected and pulled together. It was one of the closest knit teams I have ever been on.”

For Denise, pulling his weight as a leader became a major focus. “I am not a huge goal scorer; I am lucky to be on a line with [Sean] Timmons and Colton, I know if I grind I will get points,” said Denise, who has previously played for the Mercer Chiefs and Team Comcast club programs.

“I thought I could contribute something else with all of the different experiences I have had with PDS and other club teams. I have had difficult losses.  I understand the different emotions you feel. Losing is the worst feeling but you have to lose to win.”

PYHA head coach Ian McNally credited Denise with helping to spark the team’s run to the national quarters.

“In the Freeze series and the nationals, he was the catalyst on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room,” asserted McNally, a former player at Princeton University who is also the coach of the Hun School boys’ hockey team. “He took it upon himself to put the team on his shoulders.”

McNally realized last summer that he had a special team on his hands. “It was the very first practice in August, I blew the whistle to end the practice and guys went down to one end of the rink to pick up pucks and I saw them in a mass huddle, telling jokes and laughing,” said McNally.

“It was indicative of how the year would go. It was a special group of kids. They noticed it and their parents did too. They felt like they did this together. I have never been a part of a group that was together like that, most teams have some small factions.”

The Tigers were also fueled last week by the support they received from friends and family.

“There was a buzz; people were really taking interest in how we were doing,” said McNally.

“People were coming into town and people were watching on line. I told the players everyday that this was bigger than us. I had them share the texts of support they were getting.”

While PYHA didn’t get the big prize of a national title, it gained special satisfaction from its run.

“It was a great experience,” said McNally. “We lost that last game and there were some long faces in the dressing room. It was tough to take the jersey off for the last time. But afterward, it was all smiles. They realized that we made it past the first round and that was a great place to be. There was red carpet treatment afterward, 40 parents, grandparents, friends taking pictures.”

In McNally’s view, the 18AA team has made an impact that will be felt at the PYHA long past this winter.

“When I started with this group four or five years ago, the goal was to get into the state playoffs and be in the top 4 in the state,” said McNally. “We opened the doors to something bigger. Now the kids are saying let’s go to the nationals.”

Denise, for his part, leaves PYHA with indelible memories of his big week at nationals.

“Coach said to us afterward you will always remember this experience,” said Denise, who is headed to Babson College where he will be playing for the men’s hockey team.

“The nationals patch is sewn on your jersey. You will never forget each other, all the kids’ jersey numbers and who scored the goals. Our motto became champions walk together and we are still state champions. It was great to accomplish so much for the team and PYHA.”

Meanwhile across the country, another local hockey club team, the Princeton Tiger Lilies (PTL) 16U team, was creating some unforgettable moments of its own as the squad competed in the girls’ Tier II 16-and-Under nationals in San Jose, Calf.

For PTL, which finished third in the regular season standings before winning the Atlantic District tournament, getting the chance to head west was special.

“It was a complete shock that we won at the districts,” said Katie Alden, a goalie for the Tiger Lilies (and this reporter’s daughter.)

“That was always the goal but we couldn’t believe that it actually happened. We went from having four girls at tryouts to making the nationals.”

While the Tiger Lilies didn’t make it out of pool play, losing to the San Jose Junior Sharks, the Potsdam (N.Y.) Icestorm, and the Chicago Bruins, teams that all advanced to the quarters with Potsdam making the national title game and San Jose going to the semis, being on the ice with such competition was meaningful.

“At nationals, it was surreal how many good teams there are in the country,” said Alden, a PDS sophomore who also plays for the Panther girls’ hockey program.

“It was uplifting to see how the sport is expanding. Although we might not have done as well as we wanted, it was great to compete against those girls.”

Like the PYHA team, the Tiger Lilies were carried to the nationals by a special team chemistry. “There are often divides among teams, but we didn’t have that,” asserted Alden.

“We all respect each other and play for the person sitting next to us in the locker room as much as we play for ourselves.”

April 3, 2013
FACE TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Justin Murphy heads up the field in recent action. Sophomore Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has given the Tigers a big lift, helping Princeton win three of its last four games as it has improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The No. 7 Tigers, who beat Brown 15-8 last Saturday, host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium on April 6 in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Justin Murphy heads up the field in recent action. Sophomore Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has given the Tigers a big lift, helping Princeton win three of its last four games as it has improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The No. 7 Tigers, who beat Brown 15-8 last Saturday, host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium on April 6 in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Early in his lacrosse career, Justin Murphy seemed destined for obscurity.

“Basically in high school, I was a sophomore trying to make varsity and trying to get on the field any way I could,” said Murphy.

“I wanted to play but I wasn’t good enough. I was going to the Landon School (Md.) and there were a lot of good guys ahead of me.”

But Murphy discovered a talent that put him in the limelight. “They saw that I was small and undersized but they liked how scrappy I was facing off,” added Murphy.

“I was a backup second string and I got a shot to go out there and I started having success and it became the thing that I was going to work at. I decided to make it my goal to be a face-off guy and dedicate my time to that.”

Murphy’s dedication paid off as he joined the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last year as a face-off specialist and he won 15-of-30 draws last year as he saw his first college action.

This spring, Murphy has emerged as a key performer for the Tigers, catching fire in mid-March when he won 12-of-16 face-offs in a 15-2 win over Manhattan.

The 5’9, 160-pound Murphy proceeded to go 15-of-22 in a loss to Penn and then outduel Yale’s Dylan Levings with a 13-of-22 performance in a 10-9 win over the Bulldogs.

Last Saturday, Murphy’s excellence on face-offs helped Princeton top Brown 15-8 as he went 9-of-11 in the first half as the Tigers seized momentum in the contest and led 7-2 at halftime.

In reflecting on his effort against Brown, Murphy credited his practice duels against Princeton’s three other face-off men with honing his skills.

“The good thing about going here is that everyone facing off has a different style,” said Murphy, a native of Vienna, Va.

“We have four different guys, we are all really even and they can throw any of us out there. So in practice I get three different looks with three different guys whether it is Bobby Lucas, Jake Froccaro, or Jeff Froccaro. Having that variety in practice enables me to adapt or change as the game goes on to see what other guys are doing because I have faced a lot of different styles in practice.”

Murphy, though, had to change his style earlier this season to emerge as Princeton’s primary face-off guy.

“After the first couple games, our group and me personally weren’t doing enough,” recalled Murphy.

“We weren’t doing our job necessarily and the coaches came over and said things need to change. So basically I took that and changed up my stance, I used to be going knee down early in the season. The coaches were saying that things need to change. From a coaching standpoint, they were looking at what we were doing so I tried changing my stance. I was accepting the fact that maybe I was being too stubborn so I am standing up now. I think that has actually helped a lot. I did that right before the Manhattan game.”

While Murphy and the Tigers struggled a little bit in the fourth quarter as Brown went on a 5-1 run to narrow the lead to 12-7, Princeton made a last stand and pulled away to the win in improving to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

“I didn’t do the best job in the second half but you can’t worry about the past, you need to focus on the next one,” said Murphy, who is now 60-of-105 on face-offs this season.

“The Ivy League is crazy and anything can happen. So even though we had a lead in the second half, anything can happen. That team has an explosive offense and they could get on a roll. Every game is a must win because we only play each team once in the season.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was thrilled to see his team hold off the Bears.

“It is good that we won this one,” said Bates. “We would rather control our destiny and if we can go get two more and if Cornell holds serve, then we have an opportunity to win an Ivy League championship. At the end of the day, that is the easiest way. We want to win our Ivy tournament and our Ivy championship. We control our own destiny and that’s all you want.”

Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has helped Princeton take control of games.

“It has been the biggest difference for us clearly,” asserted Bates, referring to Murphy’s contribution.

“Early in the games, he has been strong. This week, we thought we would be effective facing off. Brown is not as strong as Yale or Penn. I think Murph was 9-for-11 in the first half and gave us a buffer, gave us an ability to generate some shots and it also gave us ball possession. For a relatively young defense, it is still the less you play, the better. If you are giving up face-offs and giving the defense too much time on the field, offenses at this level are going to score goals. It has been huge for us, he has been great.”

The Tigers got some great offensive production against Brown from the Froccaro family as senior Jeff scored four goals and had an assist while freshmen Jake had three goals.

“Jeff is a leader; he knows where we are supposed to be,” said Bates of the older Froccaro who passed the 100-point mark in his Princeton career with his output on Saturday.

Jake is a young guy; he has figured it out. Obviously he can play.  He has  got a great lacrosse IQ and puts the ball in the back of the net. I think it is good to have a big brother to help you along the way. Both of those guys can play. Jeff is having a good year, he has that knack and desire to put the ball in the back of the net; that’s what he does. Any time Brown got a little momentum today, Jeff stood tall and got one for us.”

The seventh-ranked Tigers have a big game this Saturday as they host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU.

“It is an historical game; there is a tradition to the game that you can’t avoid,” said Bates.

“Even in the locker room the guys were saying it is ‘Cuse week and let’s get ready for it. It is one of those opportunities to get a big out of conference win at this time of the year which is unique. It fits right in our conference schedule which isn’t the norm so to have that opportunity, it is one we get excited for. They are a good team and they came off a tough loss. They rebounded and beat Canisius 17-5. It is big game for them for their playoff chances. I expect it to be a heckuva game.”

Murphy, for his part, is excited to take on the Orange. “Last year I was hurt and the first game that I was actually able to travel to with the team was the Syracuse game,” said Murphy.

“I got to go to the Carrier Dome; I didn’t get in or anything but it was a cool experience to watch. It is such a great rivalry. The first game I ever watched on TV was Princeton-Syracuse.”

Now Murphy will be getting watched by a national television audience as he looks to keep making an impact through his hard-earned face-off skill.

MULTI-TASKING: Princeton University baseball player Mike Ford gets ready to bat in action last weekend. On Sunday, former Hun star Ford excelled on the mound, at the plate, and in the field as Princeton swept a doubleheader against visiting Brown. Princeton, now 5-17 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, plays a single game at Seton Hall on April 3 and then gets back into Ivy action with doubleheaders at Dartmouth on April 6 and at Harvard on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MULTI-TASKING: Princeton University baseball player Mike Ford gets ready to bat in action last weekend. On Sunday, former Hun star Ford excelled on the mound, at the plate, and in the field as Princeton swept a doubleheader against visiting Brown. Princeton, now 5-17 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, plays a single game at Seton Hall on April 3 and then gets back into Ivy action with doubleheaders at Dartmouth on April 6 and at Harvard on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mike Ford showed his flair for multi-tasking on the diamond as the Princeton University baseball team swept visiting Brown in an Easter Sunday doubleheader.

In Game 1, junior Ford, a former Hun School standout, starred on the mound, pitching a seven-inning complete game to help Princeton top the Bears 3-1.

Playing at first base in the nightcap, Ford contributed with his bat and glove as the Tigers completed the sweep with a 3-1 triumph. Ford hit a single and scored a run in the first inning and then had a walk in the seventh as Princeton added another tally. He ended the game by scooping up a one-hopper and starting a sparkling 3-6-3 double play.

The wins gave Princeton a 3-1 Ivy League record as it had split a doubleheader against Yale on Saturday. The solid weekend also proved to be a jolt of confidence for a Tiger team that had struggled through a number of near-misses in going 2-16 this spring before getting into Ivy play.

“We really needed this,” said Ford, a 6’0, 225-pound native of Belle Mead. “I think we had lost nine one-run games to this point.”

Ford gave the Tigers what they needed in the opener Sunday as he struck out five and gave up five hits in outdueling former Hun teammate and Brown pitcher Anthony Galan.

“I felt pretty good; I developed a slider today,” said Ford, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2011 and a two-time All-Ivy performer.

“I guess I have an out pitch now. I had a slider before but it was similar to my other breaking ball. So me and coach [Scott Bradley] have been working hard on trying to develop a sharper one. I changed my grip up because of an extra suggestion by coach’s friend; it really worked today. It was the second time I tried to throw it in a game and it really worked for me.”

Ford’s hard work on the mound is paying off as he is 2-0 this season with a team-leading 1.36 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 33 innings.

“I am just learning how to pitch; I guess it is a learning curve,” said Ford.

“I have always felt that I had the stuff to compete at any level. Just learning how to pitch; I am setting guys up a lot better this year. It has just been a good ride so far on the mound for me.”

Ford is getting in a good groove at the plate as well, hitting .240 with a team-high 15 RBIs.

“I had a bad first week but since then I have been feeling really good and hitting balls hard,” said Ford.

“It will come at some point; it is baseball. Hopefully it comes right now because that would be the right time for it.”

Spending extra time on his hitting since last season has made a difference for Ford.

“I had a real good summer in the Cape Cod League; I tried to get a little more power in my swing,” said Ford, who played for the Cotuit Kettlers and had a batting average of .252 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 32 games.

“After the season last year, I worked on my swing a little bit. The summer was really good for me. I saw a lot of good pitching; it is an awesome league to play in. It was one of the best experiences of my life for sure. I tweaked the swing and did real well this summer. Hopefully it is going to translate. I am not worried about it right now.”

After Princeton fell just short of a Gehrig Division crown last season, Ford and his teammates are hoping for a better experience this spring. “Everyone is hungry after our start, 2-16 isn’t what we want,” said Ford, who will look to keep up his hot play as Princeton plays a single game at Seton Hall on April 3 and then gets back into Ivy action with doubleheaders at Dartmouth on April 6 and at Harvard on April 7.

“It doesn’t really matter until we get into the league but it is still nice to scratch more than two wins in the beginning of the year. I think that kind of fueled everyone too. I think after the second game yesterday, everyone was down because of how we walked over the team in the first game. This time we were upbeat and maintained our focus that was really good. If we win three or four every weekend, then we are golden.”

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads to goal in recent action. Senior midfielder Davis came up big as Princeton topped Columbia 18-7 last Wednesday and then topped No. 12 Cornell 12-10 on Saturday. Davis scored two goals in each game as Princeton extended its winning streak to three and improved to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League. The Tigers, now ranked 14th nationally, play at Yale (6-4 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads to goal in recent action. Senior midfielder Davis came up big as Princeton topped Columbia 18-7 last Wednesday and then topped No. 12 Cornell 12-10 on Saturday. Davis scored two goals in each game as Princeton extended its winning streak to three and improved to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League. The Tigers, now ranked 14th nationally, play at Yale (6-4 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 6.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Charlotte Davis is focused on making her senior season with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team something special.

“I think it has been since 2004 when we won the Ivy regular season title,” said senior midfielder Davis.

“We are really looking forward to doing that this year. As a senior, I am determined to go out with a bang.”

The Tigers have brought some extra determination into this spring after going 8-7 last year and failing to finish in the top four in the Ivy League and qualify for the league tournament.

“We are looking to make a huge change from last year,” said the 5’9 Davis, a native of Alexandria, Va. “We have the talent. We are just looking to really expand on that talent and grow everyday so we can win this league.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Columbia, Davis made a huge play after the Lions scored the first two goals of the second half and cut Princeton’s lead to 9-5. Getting the draw, Davis bulled her way through the crease and fired the ball into the goal to help the Tigers regain the momentum as Princeton pulled away to an 18-7 triumph.

“We have been really working hard on being threatening on attack,” said Davis, reflecting on her tally.

“I think we had just come for a timeout and our coach had said something. We came off of that timeout really strong and I think the flow started going better after that.”

Coming off an impressive 10-7 win over nationally ranked Johns Hopkins on March 23, the Tigers were looking to keep things flowing in the right direction against Columbia.

“That was one of the first games where our defense and offense played really well together all across the field,” said Davis, referring to the win over Hopkins.

“We have to continue to build on that and I think that is what we accomplished tonight.”

As a midfielder, Davis is looking to make an impact all over the field. “It is a definitely two-way role; I have to be on both ends of the field,” said Davis, who ended up with two goals and a ground ball in the win over Columbia. “It has been a great year; I am really enjoying playing midfield.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer enjoyed seeing her team’s sharp play in the Columbia game.

“I think this was the first game where we shot better than 50 percent,” said Sailer.

“We want to be shooting 50 percent (18-of-35); we were 3-for-3 on our eight meters which was huge; we have been having some issues on our 8 meters lately. I think this is the fewest turnovers we have ever had; only six turnovers in a lax game is really pretty good.”

The Tigers looked very good over the latter stages of the first half when they reeled off a six unanswered goals run to build a 9-3 halftime lead.

“We did have a good run at the end of that first half,” said Sailer, whose team kept up its good run of play as it topped No. 12 Cornell 12-10 last Saturday to win its third straight game and improve to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy.

“I think we started winning more draws and we started shooting better. We are still trying to work on getting off to better starts, getting better possessions, better looks initially. So far we have been a team that has to get into the flow and figure out the keeper. Luckily we did that at the end of the first half.”

Freshman Alexandra Bruno got into the flow in the Columbia game as she tallied a career-high six goals.

“Bruno is a finisher; I think she hit a few posts early but when you get her the ball in front of the cage and when she can take her dodge and go, she is a deadly kid,” said Sailer, who got nine points on six goals and three assists from sophomore star Erin McMunn, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week.

“She has a really good release and is able to find  the net. It was a good night for her. Hopefully this will give her some good confidence as she heads into the next game.”

Having senior star Davis patrolling the midfield gives Princeton a lot of confidence.

“Charlotte made a really nice dodge and a great shot and it was off to the races from there,” said Sailer, referring to Davis’ second half goal.

“She has been solid; she has been a key player since she came to Princeton.  She is always good for a few goals and she is going to fight in the midfield. We need to rely on her more this year; she has had some good experience and her goals are really important to us. Losing Cassie Pyle from last year and all her firepower on the midfield and Jaci Gassaway not being in a normal position, a kid like Charlotte becomes even more critical for you. She has to put in a few each game.”

The Tiger defense also played a critical role in the win. “I thought the defense did a really good job, especially when we started double-teaming behind on No. 23 [Kacie Johnson],” said Sailer, whose junior goalie Caroline Franke earned Ivy Defensive Player of the Week honors after making eight saves against Columbia and then posting nine in the win over Cornell.

“In the second half, we forced them into a few turnovers. I thought Liz Bannantine once again was phenomenal. We had a freshman on their senior, one of the top players in the league, and I thought she did a really great job on her.”

It was important for Princeton to follow up the Columbia game with a great win against Cornell.

“Obviously, this is a big, big game for us,” said Sailer, whose team has climbed to No. 14 in the Inside Lacrosse national poll and plays at Yale (6-4 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 6.

“They are going to be one of the top teams in the league. It is going to be a big challenge for us and a great test for us to really see how we stack up right now against one of the league’s top teams.”

Davis, for her part, looked forward to the Cornell game as a way for the Tigers to show that they are one of the top teams in the league.

“Ivy League games are huge for us; it is going to get more and more challenging,” said Davis, who now has 16 points this season on 12 goals and four assists.

“We are looking forward to expanding on our game. Cornell is going to be a huge challenge and a huge step for us.”

GETTING THE UPPER HAND: Princeton University women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny congratulates Gabby Cole, right, after a race last year. Last Saturday, senior star Cole helped the Princeton first varsity boat start the season in style as it topped Ohio State and Brown to win its opening regatta and claim the Class of 1987 Trophy. The Tigers are next in action when they row against Columbia on April 6 at Ridgefield Park, N.J.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

GETTING THE UPPER HAND: Princeton University women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny congratulates Gabby Cole, right, after a race last year. Last Saturday, senior star Cole helped the Princeton first varsity boat start the season in style as it topped Ohio State and Brown to win its opening regatta and claim the Class of 1987 Trophy. The Tigers are next in action when they row against Columbia on April 6 at Ridgefield Park, N.J. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open crew first varsity faced a good test last weekend in its season-opening regatta.

Hosting Ohio State and longtime Ivy League rival Brown on Lake Carnegie last Saturday, the first boat was pushed hard. The three foes were within a length of each other for most of the race before Princeton pulled ahead at the end. The Tigers posted a time of 6:40.7 over the 2,000-meter course to win the Class of 1987 Trophy with Ohio State second in 6:43.8 and Brown just behind in 6:44.5.

“We went against really good competition,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny, noting that Ohio State and Brown both did well at the 2102 NCAA championship regatta.

“The first varsity had a great race on Saturday, it was really close. Ohio State and Brown were dead level for most of the race and we were ¾ of a length ahead. They were all overlapping, it was nerve-wracking.”

While the tight race may have been stomach churning for Dauphiny, she realizes that her rowers benefitted from the close call.

“There was a lot of experience to be gained,” said Dauphiny. “I am glad the first varsity had such an intense race. We learned some valuable information. It is not just the start and shift. It was the middle of the race and what happens when you are level with the other boats. We learn more when we have racing like that.”

The Tigers are learning a lot on a daily basis as the program’s stockpile of talent makes for spirited training sessions.

“I think one thing we do have this year is depth; we have been working on that for a few years and I think depth is a strength of the team,” said Dauphiny, whose second varsity placed second behind Ohio State on Saturday while the varsity four took third and the third varsity 8 and the varsity 4 ‘B’ both posted victories.

“It is a good competition; they push each but in a very supportive way. We race each other side by side, we have seat races, we ERG together. I tell them this  is what makes you faster and how you get better.”

With Princeton racing against Columbia on April 6 at Ridgefield Park, N.J., Dauphiny will be looking for her rowers to get faster.

“We do have a lot to work on, the progress we make is going to be key,” said Dauphiny, noting that the addition of new assistant coaches Kate Maxim and former Tiger men’s star Steve Coppola ’06 has given the program a jolt of energy.

“I didn’t know that much about the boats, I know a lot about the individual rowers. We’ll see how it comes together over the next few weeks.”

PURDY GOOD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Matt Purdy heads to goal last season. Junior attacker Purdy figures to be a key weapon for PHS this spring. The Little Tigers were slated to start their 2013 campaign with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PURDY GOOD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Matt Purdy heads to goal last season. Junior attacker Purdy figures to be a key weapon for PHS this spring. The Little Tigers were slated to start their 2013 campaign with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While things have been unsettled for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team in the preseason, Peter Stanton is confident things will come together for the squad as the weather warms up.

“We have a number of injuries and the kids are involved in a number of activities that overlap, like hockey and soccer tournaments, the lead in the musical, EMT certification, all admirable things,” said PHS head coach Stanton, who is entering his 18th season at the helm of the program and guided the team to a 10-9 record in 2012.

“We don’t always have the same group on the field. Once we get the pieces in line, we really hope that when we come to the month of May, we can contend for a county title and win some games in states.”

The Little Tigers boasts two good pieces at attack in senior Matt Purdy and junior Will Hare.

“Matt Purdy is exceptionally dedicated, he worked extremely hard in the fall,” said Stanton, whose team was slated to get regular season play underway with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9.

“He was in as often as he could in the winter with his swimming. He stays after practice, working on his shooting. Will Hare was with us as a freshman and he was in California last year. He is back with us. He is extremely crafty and a player with a really good knowledge of the game.”

Stanton has some others with offensive game in senior Adam Ainslie, junior Matt Corrado, and sophomore Stephen Clark.

“Adam Ainslie is an interesting story, he was a goalie as a freshman and he stopped playing,” said Stanton.

“He came back and is trying attack. He is the lead in the school play so we won’t have him full-time. Matt Corrado can play attack and midfield; Clark can also play both attack and midfield.”

The PHS midfield will be spearheaded by senior star Zach Halliday. “Zach is everything you would expect and more; we marvel at how one can get so much out of oneself and never hit the ceiling,” said Stanton of Halliday, who also stars for the PHS boys’ soccer team and helped the Little Tigers to a share of the Group III state title last fall.

Halliday’s younger brother, junior star Kevin, will also help in the midfield along with juniors Pat McCormick and Dalton Sekelsky and a trio of sophomores Chase Ealy, Joseph Hawes, and Chris Diver.

“Zach and Kevin will be leading the way; Kevin is resting an ankle right now,” said Stanton. “Pat McCormick works really well with Zach and Kevin. Chase Ealy is also in the mix. Sekelsky will also get a good look. Hawes is developing nicely as is Diver. Corrado and Clark can go back and forth from attack to midfield.”

The PHS defense features a nice mix of talent and experience with sophomore Jackson Andres, senior Matt DiTosto, senior Jack Persico, sophomore Colin Buckley, and junior Spencer Reynolds.

“Jackson is the guy who gets your attention, he can impact a game by disrupting the other team,” said Stanton.

“Matt is a senior and has good skills, he is good with hits and clearing. Persico is big and strong and was dedicated in the offseason. Buckley is a transfer from Cranbury, he is going to be good. Spencer Reynolds is somebody else who has improved a lot.”

In order to be a title contender, the Little Tigers will need sophomore neophyte Kenan Glasgold to improve rapidly in goal.

“Kenan Glasgold has never played goalie before, he is new to the position,” said Stanton.

“He has gone out of his way to learn about the position. He has learned as much as he can in a short period. He is physically courageous. You would expect somebody in his position to be extremely nervous but he shows a certain level of poise.”

Stanton is confident his squad will display poise collectively as it looks to live up to expectations.

“It is a mixture of leadership and youth,” said Stanton “Some of it is going to depend on how the young players develop. We are balanced on both sides of the field; we need to get the younger kids up to speed, especially in the midfield. We have some good leaders.”

FAST MOVER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder Smith figures to be a catalyst this spring for PHS. The  Little Tigers get their 2013 season underway this week as they play at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3, and at WW/P-N on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FAST MOVER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder Smith figures to be a catalyst this spring for PHS. The Little Tigers get their 2013 season underway this week as they play at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3, and at WW/P-N on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Kelsey O’Gorman to feel comfortable in her role as the new head coach of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team.

“I was an assistant coach last year so I already had a relationship with them; I didn’t have to learn who they are,” said O’Gorman, the replacement for Christie Cooper who led PHS to a 14-4 mark last spring.

“I teach here. The school is my home. I have done the paperwork and the other things to get ready for the season and now it’s time for lacrosse. This is the first time I have been a head coach and I like how it feels. I like the competitive aspect and the girls are highly coachable.”

The team’s core of veterans has aided O’Gorman in the transition. “They have stepped up, they are taking the underclassmen under their wing and instilling the traditions of the program” said O’Gorman, citing the efforts of her trio of senior team co-captains, Ciara Celestin, Olivia Kelly, and Madison Luther. “They are responding, I am running the program more strictly.”

In order to maintain the program’s winning tradition, O’Gorman is emphasizing versatility.

“I am trying to make it a strong unit, where each player has an important role,” said O’Gorman, whose team is on the road in the first week of the season as it plays at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3 and at WW/P-N on April 8.

“It is not just strong offense or strong defense; I want them working all over the field. I want the girls to learn to be versatile. I want the low defenders to be able to attack and the attackers to defend. I want to improve their lax IQ.”

PHS features a smart one-two offensive punch in juniors Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs, who have already committed to play their college lax at Penn and Dartmouth, respectively.

“They are looking strong; they are known for their offense and have won a lot of awards and honors for that,” said O’Gorman, who also sees sophomore Gabbie Gibbons, junior Dana Smith, junior Krysta Holman, and freshman Allie Callaway as offensive threats. “We have them working on their defense and improving their feeding.”

In O’Gorman’s view, Smith should fuel the Little Tiger midfield. “Dana Smith can do it all and never gets in the limelight,” said O’Gorman, noting that Smith has committed to Lafayette. “She sees off-ball movement like a college player; she is a natural athlete.”

That unit should keep things moving in the right direction. “Liz Jacobs is on the draw, Lopez-Ona and Smith are there, they go for everything around the circle,” said O’Gorman.

“Taylor Lis is really strong, the girls really like having her on the circle. Taylor Chiang can also help us there.”

The pair of Luther and junior Krisit DeMilt will help lead the PHS defense. “Luther is a big key and DeMilt is a strong player,” said O’Gorman.

The Little Tigers are expecting big things from sophomore goalie Mira Shane, who starred last spring as a freshman.

“Shane in goal is a strong player,” asserted O’Gorman. “She is a well-rounded person but playing lacrosse and being a goalie is a big priority for her.”

Winning is a priority for the Little Tigers and O’Gorman believes the squad can have a big spring.

“I really think they have the potential to do well; I think we can have an even stronger record than last year,” asserted O’Gorman.

“We need to keep going hard in practice. We are putting in a variety of new plays and they need to build a high lacrosse IQ. We need to have a strong bench; we need to develop the other players. We need to have a strong second line. We need well-rounded players who can fill in where needed.”

RECORD PLAYER: Princeton High softball star Marisa ­Gonzalez strokes the ball in a game last spring. Senior outfielder ­Gonzalez comes into the season with a program-record 112 hits and figures to again be one of the top batters in the area. PHS gets its 2013 season going this week with a busy slate which will see the Little Tigers host Hopewell Valley on April 2, Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun School on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PLAYER: Princeton High softball star Marisa ­Gonzalez strokes the ball in a game last spring. Senior outfielder ­Gonzalez comes into the season with a program-record 112 hits and figures to again be one of the top batters in the area. PHS gets its 2013 season going this week with a busy slate which will see the Little Tigers host Hopewell Valley on April 2, Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun School on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last spring, the Princeton High softball team took some major steps in the right direction.

The Little Tigers matched the program record for single-season victories with nine and won a game in the Mercer County Tournament for the first time in recent memory, if ever.

As a result, PHS head coach Dave Boehm is looking forward to his second year at the helm.

“I have more confidence in this team, we have six seniors returning and all of them saw a lot of playing time last year,” said Boehm, who guided the Little Tigers to a 9-14 record in 2012.

“We have four freshmen who are going to make the team. We have a good mix of the old guard and newcomers; they seem to be getting along well.”

The PHS pitching staff will reflect that mix as sophomore Sarah Eisenach and freshman Julia Tarantino will be the top starters with senior Charlotte Gray and freshman Emily DiLella also seeing action in the circle.

“Sarah Eisenach is going to throw a lot of innings; she is going to be our No. 1 starter,” said Boehm, whose team will be busy in the first week of the 2013 campaign as it was slated to play at Hopewell Valley on April 2 and then host Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8.

“Sarah is smarter on the mound; she worked on her stuff in Hamilton with some of the former Steinert pitchers. Julia is going to be the 1A starter. Charlotte Gray will get some innings. Emily is a lefty and she can be tricky.”

PHS will be depending on senior star Marisa Gonzalez to get things going offensively in the lead-off spot.

“Marisa already has the program hit record, she is coming into the season with 112 hits,” said Boehm.

“She is going for 150. She hit over .500 last year. I am going to start her at leadoff. We had her at third last year and teams would walk her. I want her up top where she can get on base and use her speed and be the player she is.”

The Little Tigers will need the rest of the order to step up if the team is going to make the best use of Gonzalez’s production.

“Hannah Gutierrez is going to bat No. 2 and I am going to use Kelli Swedish at the No. 3 spot,” said Boehm.

“I am looking for Maddie Cahill-Sanidas to have a big year. Charlotte Heller had a good year last season. We need Helen Eisenach to pick it up. Sarah Eisenach has a big swing and it goes far when she makes contact. Helen Eisenach is more of a line drive hitter.”

Boehm believes his defense has the ability to pick the ball. PHS will feature senior Cahill-Sanidas at catcher, senior Heller at first base, junior Jessica Campisi at second, senior Helen Eisenach and freshman Stephanie Wu at shortstop, and senior Gutierrez at third with freshman Swedish in left field, Gonzalez in center, and senior Gray in right.

In Boehm’s view, PHS could produce a breakthrough season if it sharpens things up a bit.

“I really believe we can get into double digits in wins,” said Boehm. “We have never had that; we need to get over the hump. We have to play more consistently. We need to cut down on walks. If we can get the other teams to hit it to our fielders and we play consistently defensively, we should do well.”

CO-PILOT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo, right, heads to goal in a 2-12 game. The Lehigh-bound senior midfielder Triolo will be setting the tone this season for the Panthers as they look to challenge for the state Prep B and county titles. PDS is slated to start its 2013 campaign by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CO-PILOT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo, right, heads to goal in a 2-12 game. The Lehigh-bound senior midfielder Triolo will be setting the tone this season for the Panthers as they look to challenge for the state Prep B and county titles. PDS is slated to start its 2013 campaign by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Rob Tuckman didn’t want to leave anyone behind when he took his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team to Hilton Head, S.C. in mid-March for its annual preseason trip.

“I brought 41 kids, we have a range of talent from D-I in Cody Triolo to kids who are new to the game,” said PDS head coach Tuckman.

“We came down here and it is all lacrosse, all the time. We get a lot of field time and a lot of bonding. From Saturday when we arrive to the end, it is a complete and total transformation of the program and that’s why we come down here. I bring everyone who wants to come because it is eight hours a day on the field; improving skills and getting to know the guys.”

Last spring, the program continued its transformation into one of the elite programs in the area, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament title game.

While the Panthers were disappointed to lose to Hopewell Valley in the county final, the squad gained a lot from the experience.

“One of the things that defines a champion is a team that knows how to get there and knows how to finish,” said Tuckman, who guided the Panthers to a 10-7 record in 2012.

“We proved we can get there last year and we had a good shot of winning. We have an understanding of what it takes; we know we can’t peak at the end of April, we need to peak at the end of May.”

The presence of Lehigh-bound senior star Triolo in the midfield makes PDS a championship contender.

“Cody is an absolute star, off the field he is an incredible captain and leader,” asserted Tuckman, whose team was slated to start the season by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against
Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8.

“We have 24 freshmen in the program and to have a guy like Cody setting the tone is great. He creates the rhythm for the rest of the program.”

The rest of the Panther midfield should be a strength as it features such battle-tested performers as seniors Taran Auslander and Ed Meyercord together with juniors Connor Bitterman and Lewis Blackburn and promising freshmen Connor Fletcher and Jonah Tuckman (the coach’s son).

“We have more depth in the midfield than any team I have had,” said Tuckman.

“We have a very strong midfield with Auslander, Meyercord, Bitterman, and Blackburn. Jonah Tuckman and Connor Fletcher should also see time.”

The PDS defense looks to be another strong point for the squad with a group that features senior Derek Bell, sophomore Christian Vik, sophomore Kevin Towle, and junior Ben Levine.

“Derek is a leader back there, he is going off to play at Colorado College,” said Tuckman.

“Christian Vik is one of our poles, he is an outstanding, smart and aggressive defender, showing leadership. Kevin Towle stepped up and worked hard in the offseason; he is making great strides. Levine is stepping in and has also looked good. I am really confident in our defense; we have speed and toughness back there.”

As the last line of defense, junior Nelson Garrymore will be the starting goalie with junior Culver Duquette serving as the back-up.

“Nelson ended up playing six or seven games last year and really controlled the net when he was in there,” said Tuckman.

“He came into the season honed in on his skills. He is an incredible ball stopper; I am excited about what we are seeing from him. Culver started as a midfielder on JV and the goalie broke his hand and he stepped in. He fell in love with the position in the off-season; he trained and trained. He has become a good ball stopper.”

Tuckman is expecting some exciting moments from his attack unit which will include sophomore Jacob Shavel, senior Bump Lisk, and sophomore Chris Azzerello together with freshmen Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine.

“I do think Jacob is going to do some good things,” said Tuckman. “Bump is back and he is a senior leader. Chris Azzerello brings that experience. Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine are freshman, they have some skill and they are going to see a considerable amount of time.”

The Panthers have the pieces in place to enjoy considerable success this spring.

“After going to the MCT final last year, no one is going to take us lightly and that is the way we want it,” said Tuckman.

“It is a very talented group. My expectations are pretty high. We have the potential for a good run in the states and a good run in the counties. As long as we stay healthy, we should be good. Our seniors have to do what they do best, which is to play the game and lead the team. The freshmen need to make plays, they don’t have to be stars. They need to find a role and fill it.”

ZACH ATTACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho heads up the field last Thursday in Hun’s season opener against visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.). Senior midfielder and co-captain Bicho won numerous face-offs for the Raiders in the contest but it wasn’t enough as they fell 11-3 to SCH. Hun will look to get on the winning track as it hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ZACH ATTACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho heads up the field last Thursday in Hun’s season opener against visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.). Senior midfielder and co-captain Bicho won numerous face-offs for the Raiders in the contest but it wasn’t enough as they fell 11-3 to SCH. Hun will look to get on the winning track as it hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Opening the season against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.) and playing its first game under new head coach M.V. Whitlow, the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team showed a stingy defense at the outset.

Hun held the Blue Devils to three goals in the first half of the March 28 contest.

New coach Whitlow liked the intensity his team displayed from the opening whistle.

“I thought that we came out strong; we came out focused,” said Whitlow, a former assistant coach at Lawrenceville who is replacing Don Green at the helm of the program after he guided Hun to a 7-11 record in 2012. “We came out matching tempo.”

But Hun couldn’t develop a tempo at the offensive end of the field and found itself trailing 3-1 at halftime.

We hit a couple of pipes in the first quarter, which made a big difference in the game,” said Whitlow. “Shooting has been an emphasis for us; it is a good thing to know that we got the looks. We have just got to execute a little better.”

Things got away from the Raiders in the second half as the Blue devils started the half with a 4-0 run and never looked back from the on the way to an 11-3 win.

“The first five minutes of the third quarter made the difference, it was 3-1 at half and then it was 7-1,” said Whitlow. “That changes the complexion of the game, it flips the switch for us.”

While Whitlow was disappointed with the loss, he saw it as a valuable learning experience.

“I knew these guys were tough and they were going to come to play,” said Whitlow.

“I think with a young team, the challenge is always putting four quarters together. That’s my job as a coach to figure out how to get them to put four quarters together.”

Hun had some players who were up to the challenge in the opener. “I thought Owen Black played very well, it is his first game as a freshman, he had a strong game,” said Whitlow, who got goals from Phil Gursahaney, Owen Black, and Matteo Favalaro.

“I thought Greg Flood was clearly a presence on defense. I think Cam Dudeck played a good game against their top attacker. I think Zach Bicho did well, it is a different game if he doesn’t get as many face-offs as he did.”

Whitlow is confident his team will make its presence felt as the spring unfolds.

“They have worked real hard, I don’t think that score is indicative of the statistics of that game,” said Whitlow, whose team hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9.

“I think if you look at the shots, they were pretty even. It came down to us hitting some posts in the first half and that stretch in the third quarter. These guys will stay focused; they are great kids. They will come out and practice hard on Monday.”

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Francesca ­Bello tracks down the ball in action last season. Hun is looking for junior star Bello to be a key offensive weapon this spring. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Francesca ­Bello tracks down the ball in action last season. Hun is looking for junior star Bello to be a key offensive weapon this spring. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After serving as an assistant coach for the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team the last two years, Haley Sanborn is enjoying a smooth transition in taking the helm of the program this spring.

“I was really excited when they asked me to step up,” said Sanborn, who is replacing Beth Loffredo after she guided the Raiders to a 5-6 record in 2012. “It is a great opportunity; it is a great group of girls.”

Sanborn is looking to provide her players with a great experience on and off the field.

“Playing at the varsity level, winning is the priority but I also want the kids to come out of the season with life lessons,” said Sanborn, whose team opens the season by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3.

“Athletics provides a lot of lessons and they can learn a lot from the experience. We want them to become better players and better people. We want to win but how we handle adversity can teach a lot. Positive affirmation is important.”

Hun should have one of the better attacks in the area, led by Boston College-bound senior star Kate Weeks together with juniors Brianna Barratt and junior Francesca Bello.

“Weeks is a great player, she is incredible,” asserted Sanborn. “She is also a great leader, she is one of our captains and she makes sure the team feels like a team. Bello and Barratt are juniors and they are both very good. The three of them play very well together. It is not just a one-person team, they feed well off of each other. In the past three years, they have learned a lot from each other.”

The Raiders feature good offensive balance with senior Maddie Schade, sophomore Erica Dwyer, and freshman twins Emma and Katie Consoli.

“Maddie Schade is another scorer; she is going to Hobart/William Smith to play lacrosse,” added Sanborn.

“Erica Dwyer is a sophomore and is a very good athlete. She is a very good attack player. Emma and Katie Consoli are twins and they are incredible athletes, they are committed to the sport.”

In the midfield, Hun boasts several good options. “We have Maura Kelly, she is very quick and has skilled stickwork,” said Sanborn, noting that Weeks, Bello, and Dwyer will also see time in the midfield. “Amanda Barbour is a sophomore. She is great on transition; she is a great runner.”

Senior Lauren Apuzzi will be running the show for the Raider defense. “Apuzzi is great as a captain; she leads by example,” said Sanborn.

“She tells people where to go and what to do back there. She is essentially the captain of the defense. She is an all-around great kid, her character and sportsmanship speak volumes. Lucy Morgan is hard core, she is a raw athlete. She always gives 110 percent and whatever the team needs, she does. Shannon Graham had an injury in the fall, she is a soccer player and she is just coming back. She is very quick and very agile. I will be happy when she is back. Taylor Nehlig and Mariesa Cay are also in the mix.”

At goalie, Sanborn is looking for sophomore Reina Kern to step up as she plays her first season of high school lacrosse after starring the last two falls in the cage for the Raider field hockey team.

“Kern has played lacrosse before, back in middle school,” said Sanborn. “She has the goalie mentality; she is a phenomenal field hockey goalie. She has a few habits from that that she needs to break; that is our biggest challenge right now. She is a hard worker and is the epitome of the scholar-athlete. She is making good progress.”

In Sanborn’s view, Hun should make a lot of progress collectively this spring.

“It is a matter of experience and jelling as a team,” said Sanborn. “We have a lot of driven athletes. They want to be out there and they have a great time together. It is a pleasure to work with them.”

March 27, 2013
LAST DANCE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed heads to the hoop in recent action. Last Sunday, senior star Rasheed closed out her brilliant career by scoring nine points and getting nine rebounds as ninth-seeded Princeton fell 60-44 to eighth-seeded Florida State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The loss left the Tigers with a final record of 22-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST DANCE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed heads to the hoop in recent action. Last Sunday, senior star Rasheed closed out her brilliant career by scoring nine points and getting nine rebounds as ninth-seeded Princeton fell 60-44 to eighth-seeded Florida State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The loss left the Tigers with a final record of 22-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Courtney Banghart experienced an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu as her Princeton University women’s basketball team trailed Florida State 31-19 at halftime last Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“It was like the Harvard game, we just couldn’t hit a shot,” said Princeton head coach Banghart, referring to her team’s 58-55 loss to the Crimson on March 1 which saw Princeton hit just 25.8 percent (16-of-62) of its shots.

Going into the dressing room on Sunday in Waco, Texas, the ninth-seeded Tigers had shot a dismal 20.6 percent (7-of-34) while the eighth-seeded Seminoles hit on 14-of-28 shots in building their halftime cushion.

Despite the ice-cold shooting and the deficit, Banghart was far from discouraged as she spoke to her players at intermission.

“Basically I told them we could not have played worse and we were still in the game,” recalled Banghart.

“I told them your toughness, relentlessness, and competitive fire was what kept you in the game and you had to start making shots. I told them to be the Princeton team we brought here.”

Princeton showed its trademark fire in the second half, going on a 10-0 run to narrow the Florida State margin to 38-37 with 11:07 remaining in regulation.

“I was thinking we might be able to steal it,” said Banghart, acknowledging that her team still wasn’t in a groove despite the surge.

But Princeton never got closer as the Seminoles went on a 16-2 run on the way to a 60-44 triumph.

In reflecting on the defeat, which left Princeton with a final record of 22-7, Banghart said the numbers just didn’t add up for the Tigers.

“When you make 19 turnovers, shoot 25 percent (17-of-67) from the field and 40 percent (4-of-10) from the line, you don’t give yourself the chance to win, especially in the NCAA where there are 64 very good teams,” said Banghart, who got nine points and nine rebounds from senior star Niveen Rasheed with sophomore Blake Dietrick scoring nine and freshman Michelle Miller adding eight points.

The loss ended a very good run for the Princeton seniors, who helped Princeton win four straight Ivy titles and go 96-20 overall and 54-2 Ivy over their careers.

“In life, you are not judged on one day,” said Banghart, whose Class of 2013 included two-time Ivy Player of the Year Rasheed, three-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Polansky, together with Megan Bowen, and Kate Miller.

“The seniors have a lot to be proud of, with the way they have treated everyday. I would have liked us to play better, it is a memory that will be with us forever.”

While those seniors won’t have a memory of an NCAA win, they have sparked some key breakthroughs for the program.

“I think when you are in the NCAA, you have a shot,” said Banghart. “To be in the Top 30 RPI) Ratings Percentage Index) the last two years, that is getting over a hump. Getting to the point where you have won four straight Ivy titles, that is getting over the hump.”

Drawing a player like Rasheed certainly helped Princeton get over the hump. “We knew we were getting an impactful player, what we didn’t know about was the charisma, infectious energy and commitment to getting better that she also brought,” said Banghart of Rasheed who ended her career with 1,617 points, the fourth-most in program history.

“She has left a legacy. She brought attention to the league and handled herself so well in the process.”

Rasheed, for her part, tipped her hat to Florida State. “I think they did a great job, but honestly when it came down to it, we just didn’t make our shots and we just took ourselves out of the game,” said Rasheed in the postgame quotes statement issued by the NCAA.

“They played great. They were long and aggressive just like we expected but nothing we couldn’t handle. It’s kind of unfortunate that it came down to us just letting ourselves down.”

While the loss was a downer, Rasheed believes Princeton will remain on the upswing.

“I can definitely see this program not taking a downturn at all, reloading every year,” said Rasheed.

“It makes us feel better that we built this program to what it is, and not letting it go to waste.”

Banghart, for her part, feels good about the future for the Tigers. “With Nicole [Hung] and Kristen [Helmstetter] coming back as seniors, the sophomores like Blake [Dietrick] and Mariah [Smith] who improved so much this year and the spirit of the freshman class [Michelle Miller, Alex Wheatley, Annie Tarakchian, Amanda Berntsen, and Taylor Williams], I like the foundation,” said Banghart.

“Those freshman kids came early to practice everyday, looking to get better. If we had to rebuild, the seniors wouldn’t be doing their job. They are leaving a legacy that extends beyond them. As Niveen said in the press conference, the team is in good hands.”

While Kristen Helmstetter and Blake Dietrick were both in uniform when the Princeton University women’s basketball fell to Kansas State in the NCAA tournament last March, neither of them saw any action in the contest.

As ninth-seeded Princeton prepared to face eighth-seeded Florida State in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tourney last Sunday, junior forward Helmstetter and sophomore guard Dietrick knew they both would have a chance to shine on the national stage.

Helmstetter broke into the starting lineup in late November due to an knee injury suffered by Nicole Hung and emerged as a second-team All Ivy League performer, averaging 9.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Dietrick, for her part, saw extra playing time due to senior Lauren Polansky’s struggles with foot problems and became a key perimeter threat, averaging 8.0 points a game and leading the Tigers in three-pointers with 52.

In reflecting on the matchup against Florida State, Helmstetter drew on what she gained from last year’s trip to the NCAAs.

“The tournament is a great experience, no matter what, whether you play or not,” said the 6’0 Helmstetter, a Jersey native from nearby Bridgewater.

“Just going in there and seeing how hard our team played last year. To get to be a part of it this year hopefully, to play with so much heart and get on the court and make a difference is really important.”

For Dietrick, the chance to get into the fray at March Madness stirred her emotions. “I didn’t feel that the loss last year hit me as hard as it did the upperclassmen which makes sense because they were more invested in terms of time because they had been there so long,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, a native of Wellesley, Mass.

“It was my first year and I was so new to the the program. I am ready to feel that emotion and be that passionate about this game and want it that badly.”

While the Florida State game didn’t turn out well for Princeton as the Tigers lost 60-44, both Helmstetter and Dietrick made solid contributions. Helmstetter scored four points and had a team-high nine rebounds along with senior Niveen Rasheed. Dietrick tied Rasheed for the team-high in points with nine, banging in a trio of three-pointers.

Helmstetter’s performance exemplified the progress she has made this winter. “I think this season gave me a lot more confidence in myself and my game,” maintained Helmstetter.

“Our teammates are so supportive in helping each other and working together on the court. I think we have gotten a lot better since the beginning of the year. I am definitely excited to get out there and contribute.

The effort by Dietrick against the Seminoles likewise reflected the growth in her game. “I think I have definitely tried to expand my game and not just be a three-point shooter which is what my role was last year,” said Dietrick.

“I think with LP [Polansky] being injured a little bit in the middle of the season that definitely helped me to take on more of that point guard role and not play as much as a two guard so I am excited to get my teammates involved, push the pace, do all the things that a point guard is expected to do and hopefully defend as well as LP does when I am in there.”

In Helmstetter’s view, the Tigers were excited to give their all against Florida State for seniors Meg Bowen, Kate Miller, Rasheed, and Polansky.

“Most definitely, I think a lot of this is about our senior class,” said Helmstetter.

“They have earned this. It is their fourth trip and for them to go out with a win would mean the most in the entire world to us and to them.”

Although the Tigers didn’t get that win, the play of Helmstetter and Dietrick could result in more trips to the NCAA for Princeton.

PAIN CONTROL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Jaci Gassaway controls the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-7 win over visiting Johns Hopkins. Playing through a serious knee injury, Gassaway scored three goals in the victory as the Tigers overcame a 7-4 second half deficit. Princeton, now 4-3 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, hosts Columbia (1-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on March 27 before playing at 12th-ranked Cornell (6-2 overall, 2-1 Ivy) on March 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAIN CONTROL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Jaci Gassaway controls the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-7 win over visiting Johns Hopkins. Playing through a serious knee injury, Gassaway scored three goals in the victory as the Tigers overcame a 7-4 second half deficit. Princeton, now 4-3 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, hosts Columbia (1-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on March 27 before playing at 12th-ranked Cornell (6-2 overall, 2-1 Ivy) on March 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jaci Gassaway was primed for a big senior season with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as the Tigers’ top returning goal scorer and a co-captain.

But a month before the season opener, the star attacker’s hopes for a stirring finale seemed dashed as Gassaway tore the ACL in her left knee.

If Gassaway had the surgery she needed to repair the injury, she would be out for the season.

With her senior campaign hanging in the balance, Gassaway decided to not rush into anything.

“I wasn’t sure if I could play. I was considering taking the semester off,” said Gassaway. “I decided to see if it would get feel better.”

Trying a large black brace on her knee, Gassaway found that she could navigate the field. She was in uniform for the season opener against Villanova on February 23 but didn’t see action. In Princeton’s next game at Georgetown, the 5’9 native of Severna Park, Md. did come in off the bench but didn’t get a shot.

Two days later, Gassaway saw action against Southern California and scored two goals. She then added two goals in a loss to Virginia on March 16 and a tally in a defeat at Rutgers three days later.

While Gassaway wasn’t close to full speed, she has adjusted her game in order to be a factor for the Tigers.

“I have learned what I can do and what I can’t do,” said Gassaway, who has 12 points on the season with nine goals and three assists. “I can’t go behind the net, I play more in the middle now.

Last Saturday, Gassaway was in the middle of the action as the Tigers rallied from a 7-4 second half deficit against No. 16 Johns Hopkins] and score six unanswered goals to stun the Blue Jays 10-7 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

Displaying her finishing touch, Gassaway scored three goals in that stretch to help spark the comeback as the Tigers improved to 4-3 overall.

“I think it was more the offense was moving better so I was getting open and I took advantage of that,” said Gassaway.

Gassaway acknowledged that the Tiger attack needed to pick things up as Princeton trailed 4-3 at halftime.

“The defense was playing great,” said Gassaway. “Offensively we had outshot them but we weren’t finishing so the focus was to get the ball in the net and do a much better job of that in the second half.”

With Princeton coming off tough losses at Virginia and Rutgers, the Tigers were focused on getting back on the winning track.

“It was definitely a critical game, especially going into our Ivy season,” said Gassaway, reflecting on the league campaign which will see Princeton host Columbia (1-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on March 27 before playing at 12th-ranked Cornell (6-2 overall, 2-1 Ivy) on March 30.

“We have had one Ivy game (an 18-11 win over Brown on March 9).We just wanted to put it all on the line.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer believes the win over Hopkins should help her team down the line.

“Whatever happens you move forward but I think getting this win against a good team, a ranked team with a lot of good players on it, is just going to do a lot for our confidence,” asserted Sailer.

Princeton drew confidence early on from a superb defensive effort that saw the Tigers hold the high-powered Blue Jays to four goals in the first half, a big plus considering that Hopkins came into the day averaging 13.75 goals a game.

“The defense was phenomenal in the first half; I don’t know that I can remember a better half of defense,” said Sailer.

“We had some great stands, [Caroline] Franke made some key saves. The job that Liz Bannantine did on Taylor D’Amore was just phenomenal. The whole defense just played so well in that first half.”

In the second half, the Princeton offense stepped up, producing a 7-1 run after it fell behind 6-3 with 25 minutes left in regulation.

“We were taking quick shots and we weren’t changing our levels,” said Sailer.

“Our possessions were just so short so we challenged them at halftime and said look we had to win this game on the attack end, we had to take the pressure off the defense. We did that.”

Princeton started putting the pressure on the Blue Jays when sophomore star Erin McMunn took over draw control duties.

“I think the big factor in the game was second half draw controls,” said Sailer of McMunn, who helped Princeton win nine of 12 draws down the stretch of the game.

“We put McMunn on the draw control and she was phenomenal. The whole team was really scrapping for the ground balls off the draws; that really turned it around.”

Having Gassaway on the field, even in a limited role, has made a big difference for Princeton.

“I am just so thankful for Jaci; the things that she has been able to do are really just amazing,” said Sailer.

“She was huge for us. The kids know that she will handle those balls inside and she was able to put them away.”

Sailer liked the patience her team showed in putting away the Blue Jays down the stretch.

“We knew when we got that two-goal lead that it would help us if we could kill some clock and possess the ball a little bit,” said Sailer, who got two goals from freshman Alexandra Bruno with McMunn chipping in a goal and two assists and senior Mary-Kate Sivilli contributing a goal and two assists.

“They have some talented kids so we knew that we had to take the air out of the ball a little bit and get them out of what they were in as well. Offensively, I thought our kids did a good job of controlling the ball. We haven’t been in that situation that much where we have had to hold the lead and expand it.”

As Princeton heads into the thick of its Ivy schedule, Sailer is hoping her team will take keep playing from the lead.

“I think the kids feel really good about how they performed today,” said Sailer.

“I think it really was a full team effort with the attack and the changes we made in the second half.”

Gassaway, for her part, is feeling really good about being able to contribute.

“It means so much to me to be out there,” said Gassaway.

“I told my teammates I would be happy to play one game with them, now that I have played six I am so excited.”

GOAL GETTER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads up the field last Friday against Yale. Sophomore attacker MacDonald scored three goals in the contest, including the game-winner, as Princeton edged the Bulldogs 10-9. MacDonald leads the Tigers in goals this season with 19. The eighth-ranked Tigers, now 5-2 overall and 1-1 Ivy League, host No. 20 Brown (5-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 30.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOAL GETTER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads up the field last Friday against Yale. Sophomore attacker MacDonald scored three goals in the contest, including the game-winner, as Princeton edged the Bulldogs 10-9. MacDonald leads the Tigers in goals this season with 19. The eighth-ranked Tigers, now 5-2 overall and 1-1 Ivy League, host No. 20 Brown (5-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 30.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mike MacDonald established himself as scoring threat last spring in his freshman season on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

The 6’1, 190-pound attackman scored 30 points on 22 goals and eight assists in his debut campaign.

But MacDonald knew he had to diversify his game this spring to become even more effective.

“I think this year more than last year, I have been dodging more and getting a little more involved in the offense,” said MacDonald.

“Tom Schreiber assisted most of my goals last year; I am getting more on the outside and not as many on the inside, which is a nice transition.”

Last Friday against visiting Yale, MacDonald displayed his versatility, scoring three goals as the Tigers edged the Bulldogs 10-9. His second goal helped the Tigers seize momentum in the third quarter and his final tally put Princeton ahead 10-7 with 8:57 left in regulation and proved to be the game-winner.

With Princeton knotted in a 4-4 tie at halftime, the Tigers were looking to be sharper with the ball in the second half.

“We came in at half and said that we really needed to step it up offensively,” said MacDonald, a native of Georgetown, Ontario who now has a team-high 19 goals this season.

“I think we built off the third quarter. The third quarter was probably a little bit better but we played smart in the fourth quarter.”

The play of sophomore Justin Murphy on face-offs helped things go better for Princeton in the second half as he won 13-of-22 on the game.

“Their face-off guy [Dylan Levings] came in with one of the best percentages in the country,” said MacDonald.

“Justin Murphy just stepped in there and played his heart out; he got us a lot of extra possessions.”

MacDonald took advantage of a Yale misstep on the winning tally. “I think my guy just slipped up and I was just dodging and I shot it,” recalled MacDonald

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knew his team could ill afford a slip up against Yale as it was coming off a tough 11-10 loss at Penn in its Ivy opener.

“This team needed a win, I think we were on our heels a little bit after last weekend,” said Bates, reflecting on the victory which lifted Princeton to 5-2 overall and 1-1 Ivy. “We knew it was going to be a tough, close game and it was.”

Murphy’s tough play helped pave the way to the Princeton win. “Justin Murphy gave us a huge lift, I just thought, all game long,” asserted Bates.

“He gave us the ball. He was 13-of-22 and no one does that against that kid.  He’s a pure face-off guy, he’s so focused on that as his craft. He takes great pride in in it. He is such a hard-working, tough kid, it is so nice to see him do well, you hear the cheers. That was the difference in a lot of ways.”

Taking advantage of the possession gained from Murphy’s stellar effort, the Princeton offense drew cheers with its sharp play.

“I thought we just moved the ball well, shared it, and got our hands free,” said Bates, who got two goals apiece from freshman Ryan Ambler and sophomore Kip Orban with junior star Schreiber contributing a goal and three assists.

“We get a little bit loose and feel good, we get a little in the flow. Again it goes back to the face-off; when you have the ball, you are not pressing as much.”

Bates likes the way MacDonald is helping things flow for the Tigers. “Mike is comfortable carrying the ball that much more,” said Bates.

“Last year, he relied on Tom finding him off ball. We are calling his number too and giving him the opportunity to dodge. He is tough to stop going top side. If you bring a pick to him, he is going to use it well. He just turns the corner. He has got a knack. When he gets his hands free, he is going to finish as well as anybody.”

After having lost to Yale 15-7 last spring in the Ivy championship game, Princeton was primed to fight to the finish last Friday.

“Yale is Yale; we wanted to beat them,” said Bates, whose team in now ranked eight nationally and hosts No. 20 Brown (5-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 30.

“They beat us here so there is no doubt that was in our minds.  They celebrate and they do this and they do that. For us, we just said go back to business. I thought we were a tough team today, we were a tough team on the ground. I thought we were tough on ball, we got to the front of the cage. Hopefully it is good sign for us going forward. We are kind of finding ourselves and getting a little grittier and coming together that much more.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes the Tigers can be even sharper going forward.

“It is good to have a one-goal win rather than a one-goal loss obviously,” said MacDonald.

“I think we are going to build off of that. I don’t think we played our best game today; we can play a lot better, taking care of small things.”

As Charlie Gallagher takes the helm of the Princeton High football program, he has some good coaching role models around him.

“We have a lot of great programs at high school, the swimming with Greg Hand and the soccer with Wayne Sutcliffe and Greg Hand, and the lacrosse with Peter Stanton,” said Gallagher, an assistant for PHS, who is taking over for Joe Gargione after he posted a 5-25 record guiding the Little Tigers over the last three seasons.

“Winning programs attract the kids. We need to create a culture of winning. We need to start winning games.”

Having spent five seasons as an assistant at PHS and a stint with the Princeton University sprint football team, Gallagher felt he was ready for the promotion to head coach.

“I have a really good rapport with the football players; I have a good foundation for football,” said Gallagher, who teaches television/filmmaking and multi-media at PHS.

“I have coached the freshman team the last three years. A lot of those kids didn’t have much or any experience. I have experience on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively. I have also coached all defensive backs and wide receivers for the varsity team.”

Gallagher is looking forward to the experience of leading the Little Tigers. “I told the players when I met with them that it is a dream come true,” said Gallagher.

“I am terribly excited. I am forever indebted to John Miranda [Athletics Director] and Gary Snyder [PHS Principal] to be given an opportunity like this. I want to take the bull by the horns.”

With PHS coming off a 2-8 season, Gallagher is hitting the ground running.

“We have 10-12 guys in the weight room this spring, which is good, but I would like to have more,” said Gallagher.

“I may institute some morning workouts. Some of the spring sports guys have come to me saying they would be excited to lift. We are getting the playbook together. It is pretty extensive. It is good to get it started in March, putting it on paper is good.”

Another item on Gallagher’s to-do list is putting his coaching staff together. “Scott Goldsmith will stay on the staff,” said Gallagher. “We are looking outside for some good football coaches with character.”

While the Little Tigers have displayed plenty of character over the years, Gallagher knows his players have to execute better on both sides of the ball to get back on the winning track.

“One of the things we need to do is to score more points; we need to get after the quarterback on defense,” said Gallagher.

“We scored about 100 points last season and gave up around 300. I am more of a triple option guy on offense, I think it is a big threat with three guys who could get the ball. We will still do power football with traps, dives and off tackle plays. I am not sure what our defense will look like. I have an idea; I like the 50-front. Most high school teams run first so we need to be able to stop the run.”

In order to bolster the PHS program, Gallagher knows he has to get out in the community to spark interest.

“I am focused on the high school but I need to be a liaison, an ambassador of football in Princeton,” said Gallagher.

“We need more kids on the middle school playing football. Even if they are not playing in Princeton, they can play in Montgomery, Millstone, or wherever. We need more kids playing in seventh and eight grades.”

Getting more kids playing on the varsity is a key priority for Gallagher.

“We had 41 kids at our preseason meeting,” said Gallagher.

“If we can keep those kids and get 10-15 freshmen in here that would be good. We need 22 to have a full offense and defense. We aren’t going to have that in the near future so the expectations are that a lot of kids are going to have to go both ways. We want to change that eventually.”

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High baseball team has struggled in recent years, its players are excited for the 2013 season.

“There is a lot of renewed enthusiasm,” said Princeton head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 4-18 record last year.

“A lot of the guys love baseball and really focus on it. They play a lot in the summer and in the fall.”

Roberts has a lot of arms at his disposal to handle the pitching duties this spring with senior Mike Dunlap, senior Rohit Chawla, junior Ben Gross, senior Andrew Frain, junior Jeff Gleason, and junior Austin Taylor.

“Mike Dunlap will return as a starter; Rohit pitched 35-40 innings last year,” said Roberts, whose team opens the season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2.

“Gross is a welcome addition. Frain will round out the rotation. We can use four different starters depending on the week. Gleason and Taylor will be first out of the gate in weeks where we need relievers. I think the staff is very good. It is one of our strengths. They have a lot of experience and lot of talent in the junior class.”

The Little Tigers will need to use experience and creativity to manufacture runs. PHS will feature seniors Ellis Bloom and Zach DiGregorio at the top of the order with juniors Zach Tesone, Gross, senior Frain, and junior Colin Frawley providing punch in the middle.

“We will rely on Bloom and DiGregorio to be the tablesetters,” said Roberts.

“Tesone and Gross will be in three or four, they can get the ball to the gaps. Frain or Frawley in the five spot. We are going to need singles, stolen bases and sacrifice bunts to get runs.”

Around the diamond, the PHS defensive alignment will include Frawley and John Reid at catcher, Tesone and Taylor at first base, senior Matt Farinick at second, Chawla and Gleason at shortstop, Bloom at third with Christian Giles, DiGregorio, Gross, and Frain in the outfield.

The PHS players are hoping that their love of the game will translate to more wins this spring.

“We talked about goals the other day,” said Roberts. “They think of themselves as a .500 team and I tend to agree. If we could get to 10 wins, that would be a great step forward. They have more lofty goals this year.”

In order to achieve those goals, the Little Tigers have to execute better than they have in recent years.

“We need to win the games we are supposed to win or think we should win,” said Roberts.

“We have to close out one-run games; we lost five one-run games last year. If we steal a couple of those, that would be a big help. We need to prevent the bad inning.”

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of a disappointing 2012 season, Bill McQuade senses a renewed hunger around his Hun School baseball team this spring.

“They think they could have done better,” said Hun head coach McQuade, whose squad went 9-14 last spring after surging to the state Prep A title in 2011.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t have enough pitching depth and that hurt us. This team has a different feel. We have five or six newcomers who can really play. This is shaking the cobwebs off because people know they could lose their position. We are going to be as good as we can be as a team, not individuals.”

McQuade believes that this year’s team boasts a powerful one-two pitching punch in Wagner College-bound senior star Austin Goeke and sophomore Jason Applegate.

“Goeke is terrific, he looked great in Florida,” said McQuade, who took his team on its annual spring training trip earlier this month in preparation for his 43rd season at the helm of the program.

“Jason Applegate is a kid who has made a big jump. He really opened some eyes in Florida. He is vastly improved, his control and curveball are much better.”

The Raiders have plenty of arms to back up Goeke and Applegate. “We are still figuring out the rest of the staff,” said McQuade, whose team opens the 2013 season by playing at the Lawrenceville School on March 27.

“Mike Manfredi is not a power pitcher but he throws strikes. The freshmen, George Revock and Rob Huselid, throw strikes. Andy Douglas has a funky motion but he is effective. Brett Ender had some shoulder problems and was rehabbing in the fall. He can get it over 90 m.p.h. so he could be another power pitcher for us. If I had to say what our strength is, I would say it is depth on the mound.”

The Raiders have some depth around the diamond to provide defensive support for its pitchers.

“We have multiple people who can play multiple positions,” said McQuade. “It is causing the coaches a dilemma. We have a couple of people for each position and we may need to make cuts. We have a lot of moving parts.”

McQuade should have the ability to make a lot of moves defensively. “We have Stevie Wells at first, Shane Adams at second, Devon Birch at shortstop, and Eddie Paparella at third when he is healthy; we will have Nick Perez and Douglas at third for now,” said McQuade.

“In the outfield, we have Applegate, Manfredi, Douglas, Zach Roberson, and Bailey Hammer. We have five or six guys who could play in the infield and four or five in the outfield.”

The Raiders also have depth at catcher as Mike Edenzon, Gideon Friedberg, and Ryan Hayes are vying for time behind the plate.

“All are better than the other in one area, hitting, throwing, or blocking pitches,” said McQuade in analyzing his catching situation. “We have to figure out who will be the catcher.”

Hun’s batting order boasts a good balance of speed and punch that figures to give its foes fits.

“Birch and Adams can both lead off, they are identical to each other, they are both special players with a lot of speed,” said McQuade.

“Wells gives us a lot of power. It is a mistake to pitch him inside so we have him working on going to the opposite field. We just need him to get singles or doubles to left to keep the line moving. Applegate is better and Manfredi has a good bat. Paparella at third is a special player, a lot of college scouts were looking at him last year. When he gets healthy, he will bat third. He is a switch hitter.”

In order to rebound this spring, the Hun players will have to come together as a unit.

“If we can get the right people in the right places and work together, we could be good,” said McQuade.

“The kids can’t worry about individual statistics. We have a lot of kids going on to play in college but it is about what are you going to do now. Some kids may have to play different positions if that is what is best for the team. These are the little things that we have to do well and we talk about them everyday.”

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk didn’t have to wait until this spring to see something special in her Hun School softball team.

“They did a weightlifting program over the winter with our new trainer,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk.

“The kids are pumped up. The three seniors [Carey Million, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal] are good leaders on and off the field. They were getting people to come in for the weightlifting.”

Quirk is confident she has two starting pitchers in freshman Alexis Goeke and Beal who will get a lot of people out this spring.

“Goeke is going to help us,” asserted Quirk, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.

“She is strong and young and can only get better. She wants to be out there, she is a competitor. Beal pitched well in Florida. We are going to use both of them. They complement each other and are supportive of each other.”

The Raiders should be able to provide good defensive support to the pitchers. Hun will feature Elon University-bound Million at catcher with sophomore Caitlin Hoagland at first base backed up by Goeke and junior Kameron McNair, Crivelli at second, sophomore star Julia Blake at shortstop, and Beal at third. Across the outfield, Quirk will use junior Alexa Fares in left, junior Kristen Manochio in center, and junior Lauren Moonan in right.

Over its recent preseason trip down south, Hun showed some hitting punch that impressed Quirk.

“In Florida we were hitting very well, we swung the bats as well as I have seen us do down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-7 in 2012 and advanced to the state Prep A semis. “We will lead off with Blake, followed by Beal, Goeke, Million, and Manochio.”

The Raiders will be relying on its trio of seniors to take the lead this spring. “They have the desire,” said Quirk.

“Our seniors have been in the semis or the finals the past few years and we have lost by a run or in extra innings. They have to believe in themselves and that they can do it.”

Quirk, for her part, believes the squad can do some special things this spring. “I have high hopes, I hope they meet my expectations of going for Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state championships,” said Quirk.

“We have to stay focused. We won all seven games in Florida. I know it wasn’t the greatest competition. We have to take that experience and build on it and get better.”

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling to a 0-5 start last spring, the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team caught fire and ended with a 9-9 record.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas believes her team can build on last season’s late surge.

“We want to start where we left off last year and work on getting better everyday,” said Thomas, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Stuart County Day School on April 2.

Thomas believes her corps of nine seniors will make sure that the team works hard on a daily basis.

“These seniors are bound and determined, “ asserted Thomas, whose Class of 2013 includes Ellen Bartolino, Zeeza Cole, Lizzie Frieder, Louise Hutter, Carolyn Kossow, Hannah Levy, Cami McNeely, Sarah Trigg, and Corinne Urisko.

“They have really brought the group together. The juniors have responded really well.”

Thomas likes the way her offense is coming together. “We have six guys who will be on attack or midfield,” said Thomas.

“Hannah Levy had almost 100 points last year and she is looking good. She is heading to MIT, I think she will be a star there. Corinne Urisko is building on last year; she has got a shot that just rips the net. Lucy Linville had a good offseason; she has worked really hard. Sarah Brennan is looking good in the midfield; she will score goals. Kirsten Kuzmicz will be key in the midfield. Morgan Foster is 100 percent and she is looking fine. We have a lot of balance.”

The Panthers feature some battle-tested veterans at the other end of the field.

“The low defense will be Louise Hutter, Cami McNeely, and Lizzie Frieder,” said Thomas. “Zeeza Cole will move between midfield and defense.”

Senior goalie Sarah Trigg is looking good as PDS’ last line of defense. “Sarah gets better everyday; she is committed to going out on top,” added Thomas.

The Panthers will look to start the season at top speed, having displayed their commitment to excellence by going to Florida earlier this month for a preseason trip.

“We have already had two weeks of preseason up here,” said Thomas. “The trip is a good opportunity to get things going. It is an exciting group; it is going to be a lot of fun.”

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Caitlin Grant, things are running like clockwork in her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team.

“I think last year was a lot of learning for me and the players,” said Grant, who guided Stuart to a 4-11 record last spring.

“This year there is no messing around. At 3:15, the kids are ready to go and run laps. The captains took it upon themselves to have captain’s practices before the season so that was a big help.”

In Grant’s view, her team should get some big help from its group of freshmen.

“Last year none of the freshmen had played lacrosse,” said Grant, whose squad hosts Princeton Day School on April 2 in its season opener.

“This year we have five freshmen who have played outside lacrosse before. We have two freshmen who are new to the game but are picking it up so quickly that I can’t believe it.”

Grant is confident the Tartans will pick it up offensively this spring. “Isabel Soto played well last year and is at attack again,” said Grant.

“Amy Hallowell is always going to be a good one for us. We have three freshmen, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser and Sam Servis, who are doing well and are going to be really good. Rose Tetnowski is also doing well.”

The Stuart defense will be spearheaded by two veterans. “Isabel Lapuerta and Meghan Shannon are the two starters coming back there,” said Grant.

Sophomore Harlyn Bell came on strong last year at goalie and Grant is expecting her to be even better in 2013.

“Harlyn just tried out for a travel team and made it; she played over the summer too,” said Grant. “She is really quick and is able to clear the ball a long way down the field.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans have the potential to come a long way this spring. “I think this group is going to do well,” asserted Grant.

“We are young but we are going to be tough to beat. They push each other hard in practice and hold each other accountable. I am really excited for the season.”

March 20, 2013
TEXAS TWO STEP: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team jump for joy after they learned their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament in a selection show party at the Triumph Brewing Company. The Tigers (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) were seeded ninth and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TEXAS TWO STEP: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team jump for joy after they learned their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament in a selection show party at the Triumph Brewing Company. The Tigers (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) were seeded ninth and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last March, the Princeton University women’s basketball team took a ninth seed into the NCAA tournament and lost a 67-64 heartbreaker to No. 8 Kansas State.

On Monday evening, four-time Ivy League champion Princeton (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) learned that it has earned a ninth-seed in the NCAA tourney for the second straight year and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional. The winner of that game will likely face defending national champion Baylor (32-1) in the next round as the No. 1 Bears are heavily favored to defeat 16 seed Prairie View (17-14) in their NCAA opener.

Senior forward Kate Miller, for her part, believes that last year’s disappointment has laid the foundation for success this March.

“Going in as a nine seed last year and playing the 8-9 matchup and losing by three, although it is a heartbreaker, it definitely gives us a ton of confidence going forward,” said Miller.

“Coming off the loss last year, that’s where we were and that’s where we want to be. I think that is the best seed we can ask for.”

In Miller’s view, having suffered a loss in Ivy play this winter for the first time since February, 2011 along with surviving a couple of close calls should help the Tigers.

“We had the loss against Harvard, we had the tough games against Penn and Dartmouth; to not just breeze through like we have been, that’s been great prep for us,” said Miller, a 6’0 native of Rumson, N.J. who is averaging 5.8 points and 3.4 rebounds a game this season.

“I think what we learned from the past three trips to the tournament is that it is not going to be an Ivy League game. You have to remind yourself how it feels to play from behind and to value every possession. That is something that we lose sight of once we get out of the preseason; we have had those tough games.”

With Princeton having lost in its previous three trips to the Big Dance, Miller believes it needs to be tougher mentally to prevail this time. “We need to be poised and treat it like any other game,” said Miller.

“You know we are going to be playing far from home so we are not going to have the fan group we are used to but to just treat it like it is nothing different.  One thing our coach has been telling us is execute first and emotion second. I think that is going to be huge. It is such a big stage and there is so much excitement going into it. If we let that take us out of our stuff, it is not going to go the way we want. I think we need to get down there and get settled the first two days we are there and then really just focus on us.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart likewise believes that tasting defeat in Ivy play and going 9-5 in a challenging non-conference slate will work to Princeton’s advantage.

“We are not going to be winning by 20 at half, I promise you that,” said Banghart.

“So to have played in close environments and close games, I think that will help us. I told this team at the end of the Penn game, we are more battle-tested than we have been and we are deeper and those two things are important in the NCAA tournament.”

The Tigers will face a deep and talented team in Florida State. “They are pretty guard-oriented; they are pretty senior-oriented,” said Banghart in assessing the Seminoles who is coached by Sue Semrau and features three All-ACC performers in senior guards Alexa Deluzio and Leonor Rodriguez and junior forward Natasha Howard.

“Their two leading scorers are guards. Their coach is one of the best in our game. You are not going to get a bad team in the NCAA tournament and they are certainly no exception.”

In the wake of Princeton’s season-ending 60-44 win over Penn on March 12, the Tigers have been focusing on speeding up their offense. “We have worked entirely on the pace of our offense,” noted Banghart.

“I thought we were playing too slow the last two weeks of the season so we worked on getting the east and west side of the court to play together and improve our pace. We have to just make sure that we don’t get going too fast now.”

Banghart knows her team can’t afford to get carried away emotionally when it returns to the big stage of March Madness.

“I thought when we played the home Harvard game, I wrote on the board, let’s execute first and be emotional second,” said Banghart.

“I think that is an important thing to carry into the tournament. The emotions are natural but we have to execute well. We are not going to change who we are, we don’t execute perfectly. We are going to play hard, we are going to defend, we are going to share the ball, we are going to celebrate each other. We are going to try to make some plays.”

Princeton is looking for some big plays from its corps of seniors which includes two-time Ivy Player of the Year Niveen Rasheed,  three-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Polansky, and Meg Bowen, together with Miller.

“I think the athletic mortality of seniors is something that can’t be overstated,” asserted Banghart.

“It is win or go home now for the seniors; I hope I can manage it well with them. I think what they took away from it last year is that some of their best friends were done. That’s hard, that it is over for you.”

Miller, for her part, doesn’t think things are going to end on Sunday for her and fellow seniors.

“This is it,” said Miller. “We have our preseason meetings and we set our goals and the No. 1 thing now is no longer just getting to the tournament, it is getting that first round win. I know for us seniors there is so much pride, heart, and dedication. We put four long years into this team, to go in with this much confidence, to get the win is the only outcome we are going to push for.”

ANCHORMAN: Princeton University men’s track star Peter Callahan sprints to the finish in a race earlier in his career. Earlier this month, senior Callahan produced a blistering 1,600-meter anchor leg to help the Tigers win the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

ANCHORMAN: Princeton University men’s track star Peter Callahan sprints to the finish in a race earlier in his career. Earlier this month, senior Callahan produced a blistering 1,600-meter anchor leg to help the Tigers win the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

As Peter Callahan waited to get the baton for his 1,600-meter anchor leg in the distance medley relay (DMR) earlier this month at the NCAA Indoor Championships, he went through a mental checklist.

“What is important for me is that I have so much faith in the other guys; I am just trying to stay loose and look up a few times to keep up on the race,” said senior star Callahan.

“You have five and a half minutes, it is stressful. I just focus on my race strategy and my plan. What is unique is that you don’t know where you are going to be when you get the baton. In an individual race, you have control over where you are. You try to prepare for all the possibilities in the relay and then you just go and race hard.”

Once Callahan got the baton on the track at the University of Arkansas, he went hard and produced a blistering kick that gave the Princeton quartet the national title.

Princeton was in third when Callahan took off on his anchor leg. He kicked into high gear in the last 300 to pull out the win, running a 4:01.11 split as the Tigers finished at 9:33.01, with Penn State placing second in 9:34.00 and Minnesota taking third at 9:34.21

For Callahan, winning the title, Princeton’s first at the national indoor meet in 11 years, was extra special because he got to share it with teammates Michael Williams (1,200 meter leg), senior Austin Hollimon (400 meters), and senior Russell Dinkins (800 meters).

“I went to the meet as an individual last year and that was great,” said Callahan, who took sixth in the mile at the 2012 NCAA indoor meet.

“This is a whole other level. You are racing for something more than yourself. You are racing for the three other guys and for the team and you are racing for the whole school. It is something the four of us will share forever as a group.”

Callahan’s chances of racing to an NCAA title this winter were nearly dashed by injury. Suffering from problems in his left ankle and foot, Callahan was sidelined the last two springs and skipped cross country this past fall to concentrate on training himself back to health.

“I took a gradual approach this fall, I didn’t worry about cross country,” said Callahan, who sprained the ankle as a sophomore and later suffered a stress fracture and tendinitis in the foot.

“I stayed consistent over the fall. From the beginning of the year, we had sat down with Coach Vig (head cross country and distance coach Jason Vigilante) and set a goal of doing well in the DMR at the NCAA meet. I had that inside my head when I was training in the fall. It gave me a focus on what I needed to be doing.”

That plan paid dividends at the Indoor Heps as Callahan won the mile and anchored the DMR to victory to get named the co-Most Outstanding Track Performer at the meet.

“I didn’t know what to expect; I had faith in my coaches and faith in my training,” said Callahan, reflecting on the Heps.

“There is pressure to put up big times early for the NCAA. My fastest time was 4:18, 20 seconds off of what I did last year.  Coach Vig was very confident; he said we have a plan and we are sticking to it. It was big for me to be able to come out with wins and race well. It was a confidence builder.”

Coming to Princeton in 2009 from North Shore Country Day School in Evanston, Ill., it took a while for Callahan to develop confidence on the college level.

“For me, the biggest challenge was the training load and trying to balance academics and athletics at a different level,” said Callahan.

“Coming from a very small school where we had a strong team and then go into this bigger group with all these great runners, it can be a tough environment. All of a sudden, you are traveling to races. Every freshman is trying to prove himself.”

The transition was eased by the help of the Tiger veteran runners. “It can be competitive but it was collaborative,” said Callahan.

“The upperclassmen were very helpful, they wanted you to do well. I am running with 25 great runners everyday and learning from them. I found everybody very open and willing to help each other.”

Callahan experienced a key breakthrough in the Indoor Heps during his freshman campaign.

“When I won the individual title in the Indoor Heps at the 800; I was thinking I can do this college thing,” said Callahan. “It is still running. You put on your spikes and get out and try to run as hard as you can.”

That progress nearly got derailed, however, when Callahan sprained his left ankle before the Indoor Heps the next winter.

“I taped it up before Indoor Heps sophomore year,” recalled Callahan. “After those three races, I had to shut it down, I had tendinitis and then it turned into a stress fracture.”

Despite spend a lot of time rehabbing in the pool and on the bike over the next two years, Callahan was able to achieve a memorable milestone in his junior year as he ran two sub-4 minute miles.

“As a miler, that is the dream,“ said Callahan, who ran a 3:58.86 mile at the Sykes-Sabock Meet at Penn State on February 4, 2012 and then came back a week later to clock a 3:58.76 in the Husky Invitational in Seattle, Wash.

“That has been my goal for years. I have been spending time on the bike and in the pool all spring. I was watching everyone else do well and I was excited for them. I was gratified to be able to get out there and get the two sub-4s in a week. I had always hoped it would happen. I ran with my teammates in the races and had good competition.”

Things came together just in time for Callahan and his DMR teammates this winter as they qualified for the NCAA meet with a Princeton and Ivy record of 9:27.74 at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame on March 1 before their NCAA triumph a week later.

“We were seeded as a ‘B’ squad at the Alex Wilson meet but that didn’t bother us,” said Callahan.

“At the NCAAs, we were seeded second. When the gun goes off, the seeds and predictions go out the window and it is all about competing. You are racing to try to beat the guy next to you, you have to show up on race day. All four of us were confident.”

Callahan is confident he can keep racing well as he heads into his final spring season at Princeton.

“You always have goals,” said Callahan, who plans to keep competing after graduation. “But for me, first and foremost, I want to stay healthy and do consistent training. If I do that, I will be able to do some good things.”