March 19, 2014
FIRING AWAY: Princeton Day School girls hockey star Robin Linzmayer fires a shot in action this season. Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer was a force at both ends of the ice in her final campaign, helping PDS go 11-8-1 this winter.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRING AWAY: Princeton Day School girls hockey star Robin Linzmayer fires a shot in action this season. Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer was a force at both ends of the ice in her final campaign, helping PDS go 11-8-1 this winter. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last year, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team absorbed a lopsided defeat to the Portledge School (N.Y.) in the WIHLMA semifinals.

This season, the squads met again in the league semis but the game took on an entirely different tone as PDS battled hard before succumbing 1-0.

In the view of Panther head coach Lorna Gifis Cook, the loss was emblematic of the progress the program made this year.

“I think on the way there, we could tell that everyone was confident about our chances, the girls were relaxed and focused,” said Cook.

“We gave up a goal in the first period with a few seconds left on a power play; it was pretty deflating at the time but the girls bounced back and kept going,” said Cook.

“We showed a lot of improvement. Last year we lost 6-1 to them in the semis.”

While Cook was proud of PDS’s final record of 11-8-1, she believes it is not an accurate barometer of the quality hockey displayed by the Panthers this winter.

“It is not representative of how much we improved,” said Cook. “We did have one more win than we had in the last two years. We had some games cancelled that we might have won.”

Cook points to a 3-3 tie at Shady Side Academy which came after a 4-1 loss in a two-game set between the teams on January 11 as a turning point for the
Panthers.

“In the second game we were down 3-1 late and Robin [Linzmayer] takes a  questionable penalty with two minutes left and we get two goals to tie it,” recalled Cook.

“It felt like a win. We got momentum from that game and applied it to the rest of the season.”

The team’s senior group of Linzmayer, Abby Sharer, Mary Travers, Mimi Matthews, and Colby Triolo helped PDS finish strong.

“It has been fun coaching all of them; they have each contributed in unique ways,” asserted Cook.

“We had 72 goals and 81 assists as a team this season and the seniors accounted for 46 goals and 46 assists.”

Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer accounted for a lot of team’s success this season.

“Robin has been the best player on the team for the last three years,” said Cook of Linzmayer, who scored 22 points this winter on 13 goals and nine assists.

“She shoots the puck as hard as anyone, the last two years she brought it lower. She passes hard and skates hard. She finds ways to get into the offense. She is a presence, she is intimidating.”

The quartet of Sharer (1 goal, 9 assists), Travers (13 goals, 9 assists), Matthews (13 goals, 10 assists), and Triolo  (6 goals, 9 assists) also played hard throughout the season.

“I have been coaching hockey for 10 years and I have never seen a player improve as much as Abby, to go from hardly playing to getting a lot of shifts and being in the penalty kill,” said Cook.

“It was so fun to see her improvement. Mary is a gifted athlete with a knack for finishing. Mimi has a good shot, is fast, and she really cares. Colby is as passionate about hockey as anyone I have seen.”

Cook believes the Panthers should have a lot of fun next season with a group of returnees that includes freshman Annika Asplundh, junior Katie Alden, freshman Daphne Stanton, sophomore Emma Stillwaggon,  freshman Kristi Serafin, freshman Ashley Cavuto, and junior Carly King.

“The goalie situation is going to be the same and that is good, they both should come back that much better,” said Cook, who used Asplundh and Alden between the pipes.

“Daphne is positionally sound; we need to work on her confidence in finishing. Emma is scrappy. She had some of our bigger goals, including the tying goal against Shady Side. Everyone has a really high opinion of Kristi, she’ll be really fun to watch over the next three years. She is a true defenseman and we haven’t had that in a while. Ashley has so many tools that people haven’t seen, we need her to step it up. For Carly, it is finding the spots and making sure she is in control. Every team needs players like her, she finds a way to get it done even if it is not pretty at times.”

ANSWERING THE BELL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell prepares to put up a shot in action this winter. Junior guard Bell averaged 7 points and 8 rebounds a game this winter for the Tartans. She helped Stuart post an 8-8 record this season as the Tartans quadrupled their win total from 2012-13 when they went 2-13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ANSWERING THE BELL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell prepares to put up a shot in action this winter. Junior guard Bell averaged 7 points and 8 rebounds a game this winter for the Tartans. She helped Stuart post an 8-8 record this season as the Tartans quadrupled their win total from 2012-13 when they went 2-13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Stuart Country Day School basketball team fell 41-26 to Pennington in the state Prep B quarterfinals, Dana Leary saw her squad’s effort as emblematic of its progress this winter.

“I think one game that really stood out was the Pennington game in the Prep B playoffs,” said second-year Stuart head coach Leary.

“In the first game we played them in the regular season, we were down 22-2 in the first quarter. In the playoffs, we were down by one point in the third quarter and the girls were really fired up. They were intense. Even though we lost, it felt like a win. They left it all on the court and that’s all you can ask.”

The Stuart players gave their all in the season finale as they beat King’s Christian 56-15.

“The girls came out and did a really good job,” said Leary, reflecting on the triumph which gave the Tartans a final record of 8-8.

“We had three girls in double figures, We played hard and executed very well on offense. It was a good performance.”

It was a fitting finish for senior Maggie Walsh. “Maggie Walsh was our one and only senior,” noted Leary.

“She was an important part of the team. She was a good leader and role model for the girls.”

Sophomore forward Kate Walsh, followed her older sister’s lead. “I think Kate really improved since last season,” said Leary of Walsh, who averaged 5.2 points and 10 rebounds a game.

“Towards the end of the season, she started working on a jump shot. She wants to improve and get better. I am excited to watch her develop and grow.”

Another player who grew a lot this winter was junior forward Nneka Onukwugha as she averaged 7 points and 11 rebounds a contest.

“Nneka did a great job rebounding,” said Leary. “She had a bunch of double-doubles for us. We have her coming off the bench, she really brings a spark when she comes in.”

The team’s backcourt pair of sophomore Harley Guzman and junior Harlyn Bell also gave Stuart a spark this winter with Guzman averaging 5.3 points a game and Bell contributing 7 points and 8 rebounds per contest.

“We got much better handling the ball,” asserted Leary. “Harley Guzman did a great job; she became confident with the ball. Harlyn Bell stepped up and handled pressure well. In the beginning of the season, we were looking to attack from the inside with Maggie, Kate, and Nneka. As the season went on, the guards started to look for their shots and attack the basket and that opened things up.”

In Leary’s view, things are looking up for the Tartans. “I am really excited with the direction in which the program is heading,” said Leary, whose team’s eight wins quadrupled its win total from 2012-13 when Stuart posted a 2-13 record.

“The girls really improved. They had a lot more confidence. I am looking forward to next year.”

In order to keep things going in the right direction, Leary has some ambitious offseason plans for her players.

“I had a meeting with the girls after the season,” added Leary. “I am going to encourage them to attend camps. We may compete in a summer league. I am also going to have an open gym once a week. I plan to have it open for two hours. We will work on individual skills and team drills. We will also work on strength and conditioning.”

If the Tartans put in the work, they should be even stronger next season. “I have emphasized the importance of the offseason,” said Leary.

“I told the girls this is where you start preparing for the season. They can’t come in November having not touched the ball and expect to get better. I told them to pick one area of their games and if they put in time, it will add up.”

March 12, 2014
HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Nicole Hung suffered articular cartilage damage to her left knee last winter during her junior campaign with the Princeton University women’s basketball team, her hoops career was in jeopardy.

Undergoing surgery and missing all but five games in 2012-13, Hung started this season hobbled with a brace supporting her left knee, not sure when she would be up to game speed.

Diligently going through rehab, Hung got back on the court and became a key reserve as the Tigers have chased their fifth straight Ivy League title.

As Hung was honored along with classmate Kristen Helmstetter in the program’s annual Senior Night last Saturday, her thoughts turned to the knee injury and the test it has posed.

“In a way I have almost come full circle because I feel in some aspects this year mirrored freshman year for me in some ways, just struggling on the court,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles, Calif.

“My dad is always saying if you are not pushed enough and if you don’t have enough stress driving you forward then you are going to remain stagnant in life, not just in basketball. The injury definitely has pushed me and challenged me, probably more than anything has with it being senior year and wanting to be out there. It has also helped me see that you can contribute in different ways off the court.”

Last weekend, Hung made a major contribution on the court, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later.

The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.

For Hung, coming up big was the product of moving better on her injured knee.

“It has been feeling good for the last couple of months,” said Hung, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance, sharing the accolade with Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich. “It has been feeling a lot better in practice and I guess that is where it starts.”

It has felt good for Hung to serve as a team co-captain with classmate Helmstetter.

“We are very different but we are also similar in some ways,” said Hung, who now has 347 points in her Tiger career. “It meshes well, what I am not good at, she is good at and what she doesn’t like to do, I am OK doing. As captains, we fit perfectly together.”

The pair of seniors were hoping for a perfect ending in their Jadwin finale against the Quakers.

“I think the importance of the Penn game, in my mind, is overriding the fact that it is our last game at Jadwin,” said Hung.

“I am just thinking of the game itself, not what it means when the buzzer sounds and it is over. We are just really focused.”

The Tigers brought a heightened focus into last weekend after suffering a stunning 61-58 loss at Brown to begin March.

“It was their senior night last Saturday and I think emotions are elevated always at anyone’s Senior Night,” said Hung.

“Seeing them celebrate everything after that win, we could hear them from our locker room so we were like no one is doing that to us on our Senior Night. We took Cornell and Columbia as seriously as we take any other opponent. Last weekend was really just a reminder that the Ivy League is crazy. It is so unique compared to any other conference.”

For Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, seeing her team experience its Senior Night triggers mixed emotions.

“Senior Night is always bittersweet; I remember recruiting them, I remember going through the ups and downs with them,” said Banghart.

“You watch them grow as players, people, and leaders so it is always bittersweet and you hope that it is the night that they want. We said before the game that we want the other kids to play in honor of them. These two kids have been all about the program, never about themselves. So it was important to the rest of the team to show them what their hard work has given us, which is a young group that is playing ahead of their years.”

Banghart was particularly pleased to see Hung’s hard work result in a senior weekend to remember.

“I told her in my office about a month ago that it is a matter of time until you come up big,” said Banghart.

“I don’t know when that is going to be. I have been in the league a long time, the league is won by seniors and she played like it this weekend. I think there is a rhythm to playing in games and she wasn’t able to get into that because she was hurt so much. I think now she is just getting longer runs on the court. There is probably an element of I am a senior, I have been here before, I know how this works.”

In reflecting on Helmstetter’s contribution, Banghart marvels at her adaptability.

“Kristen just does whatever we have asked her to do,” said Banghart. ”She practices at the post and plays at the guard, she practices at guard and plays at the post. She plays wherever you need her in the zone. We have had some practices where we had nine players; she’ll be whatever we need her to be. She is versatile. I am surprised that she is so willing to stand out and be a star, that is so out of her character. It has been critical to this team’s growth.”

In Banghart’s view, the Tigers have grown from the loss to Brown. “We had 59 rebounds tonight; a major characteristic of our last weekend was that we didn’t go to the glass,” said Banghart.

“We haven’t been as relentless on the glass as we want to be. We changed up our looks offensively to be a little more relentless on the glass, giving us better positions. I think their commitment to the rebounding has showed. Those are toughness points. If you have got a title on the line, no one is going to give it to you and I think they were tough this weekend.”

In making it to the cusp of another league crown, Princeton has exhibited a mental toughness.

“This group has really needed me, they needed each other,” said Banghart. “We have had to really work together; we have had to grow. We have had to take some hits, we have had to get through injuries. It’s always fun to see anyone that you love succeed and they are succeeding.”

Hung, for her part, has enjoyed her personal growth process. “I think people joke that my freshman year I didn’t speak my first words until November or something like that so I guess on a verbal level I have opened up more,” said Hung, who will be teaching in Thailand next year and hopes to go to medical school after that.

“Being a captain, especially under coach Banghart, requires a lot of communication. I think that journey of saying my first words in November freshmen year to having to lead a team verbally, especially since I haven’t been on the court as much this year, has developed me as a person and is what I will need later in life.”

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber scored six points for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last Friday against North Carolina but those offensive heroics aren’t what will stick in his mind when he looks back on the contest.

“I don’t think I will ever forget throwing the ball away on our last possession,” said senior All-American midfielder Schreiber, ever the perfectionist, as he reflected on Princeton’s 13-11 loss to the Tar Heels.

While Schreiber was bitterly disappointed by the result, he acknowledged that No. 16 Princeton made strides even as it fell to 2-2.

“Coach [Chris Bates] said we got better today but we are not where we want to be yet,” said Schreiber. “It is progress; it stings that it is a loss. We’ll keep building from there.”

Princeton fought an uphill battle as No. 5 North Carolina built a 4-1 lead midway through the first quarter.

“We have tended to do that at the start of this year and a little bit last year,” said Schreiber, referring to the Tigers’ penchant for slow starts.

“A lot of times the sidelines are saying it is a game of runs and they’ll get a couple, we’ll get a couple. We knew how talented they were and how they like to push the pace. I think that is exactly what we expected and our defense did a great job of covering a really talented offensive team.”

Princeton, though, displayed its offensive talent as it outscored UNC 9-6 from there to make it a 10-10 game going into the fourth quarter.

“There is no quit in this team, that is one thing I can say for sure,” said Schreiber.

“I wasn’t worried at any point. We felt good on our end offensively. I think Justin Murphy and the face-off team did a nice job in the second half getting us the ball. I think we did a nice job coming back and fell a little short. The beauty of our offense is that if you keep doing it and keep doing it correctly things will open up and I think that happened a little bit.”

For the two-time All-American, the night marked another offensive milestone in his glittering career as his first assist on the evening helped him become just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career, joining Jon Hess ’98 (82 goals, 133 assists) and Dave Heubeck ’80 (83 goals, 99 assists) in the 80-80 club.

“It is cool to see it,” said Schreiber, who now has 168 points on 86 goals and 82 assists and is the top scoring midfielder in program history.

“It’s an honor to be considered with those guys. I am just trying to win games at this point. We got a little better so we want to get to the point where we are pulling out wins. I think we’ll peak at the right time.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw plenty of positives even though he was disappointed by the outcome.

I thought there was a ton to build on but we gave away too many plays and we’ve got to find a way to win and minimize those mistakes,” said Bates.

“Defensively we grew up here a little bit. We showed some character, we showed some grit and that’s got to carry over.”

Sophomore goalie Matt O’Connor showed some growth, making 12 saves as he played a whole contest for the first time this year after splitting time with senior Brian Kavanagh in Princeton’s first three games.

“Matt gave us some life,” asserted Bates. “Early on, he was a little shaky. He just gave us some energy plays and he settled in a little bit. I am happy for Matt, he stood tall and he had a pretty good game. He’s a competitor and he’s fought through. He hasn’t played well but at the end of the day, he keeps coming.”

The team’s young defensive unit of freshmen Bear Goldstein and Will Reynolds along with sophomore Mark Strabo came on as well.

“Bear Goldstein shut down Joey Sankey today, Bear showed that he is a primetime kid,” said Bates. “Will Reynolds gets a lot of hype and he is a very good player. Both of those guys, Will and Bear, grew up today, and Mark as well.”

A quartet of veterans provided a steadying presence in the defensive midfield.

“Derick Raabe, Jack Strabo, Fern [Nick Fernandez], and Hunter deButts do the hard work, it goes a little bit unnoticed,” said Bates. “Derick picked up some huge ground balls. Fern, Jack, and Hunter were really stout. That gives us confidence going forward.”

While Princeton’s defenders held their own against the run-and-gun Tar Heels, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers offense needed to be a little sharper.

“We proved to ourselves that we can defend a team like that, we need those other plays to keep them to a few more goals less,” said Bates, whose team opens its Ivy League campaign on March 15 when it hosts No. 11 Penn (3-1). “We need to cash in a few opportunities. Mikey [MacDonald] has one I am sure he wants back. Tom wants the last turnover back, that is the nature of it.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber’s competitive nature drives the Tigers. “Tom is a playmaker and you can just tell that when the game is on the line, his blood pressure is sky high in a good way,” said Bates.

“He helped get us back in the game. There are times where I look at him and say wow, I didn’t coach that. Tom wants to win games like this; he wants a couple of plays back because that is the type of competitor he is and that is what makes him a special player.”

Schreiber, for his part, is looking to write a special final chapter to his Princeton career.

“I am blessed to be here at Princeton to begin with let alone being on the lacrosse team,” said Schreiber.

“I am trying to continue to enjoy myself here. Whether we are winning or losing, I am going to be smiling. I am going to try to get some more Ws.”

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deck appeared to be stacked against the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it headed up to Clarkson last weekend for an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series.

Princeton was seeded 12th while the Golden Knights were seeded sixth and in the history of the ECACH playoffs, a 12th seed had only prevailed twice in such a matchup.

Moreover, the Tigers had struggled mightily against Clarkson, both recently and historically. Princeton was mired in a five-game losing streak against the Golden Knights and trailed 76-28-5 in the all-time series
between the programs. Princeton was 1-6 lifetime against Clarkson in the ECACH playoffs, having never won a postseason game at Cheel Arena.

In looking to reverse those trends, Princeton head coach Bob Prier wanted his team to keep it simple.

“We just wanted to play more in their face,” said Prier. “We wanted to tighten up gaps in the neutral zone and keep our feet moving on defense.”

Following that blueprint, the Tigers nearly dealt Clarkson a stunning exit, winning the opener 3-2 in overtime before falling 4-0 in Game 2 and dropping a 3-2 nailbiter in the decisive Game 3.

“The guys competed pretty hard,” said Prier, whose team ended the winter at 6-26 overall.

“The last game could have gone either way, both teams played hard. I told the guys I was proud of how they competed.”

Senior forward Andrew Ammon stood out as a top competitor for the Tigers, scoring the game-winning goal in the opener.

“He shoots the puck well and works so hard,” said Prier of Ammon, who was named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this season and was the team’s top scorer with 21 points along with classmate Andrew Calof. “He is a playoff player. He is an honest player who shows a lot of emotion.”

Princeton got some good playoff efforts from sophomores Kyle Rankin and Jonathan Liau, among others.

“Rankin and Liau both put up some good numbers,” said Prier, who got a goal and two assists from Liau with Rankin contributing two goals. “I thought Jeremy Goodwin had a really good game last night. They all generally played well.”

While the Tigers played well in defeat, Prier acknowledged that Clarkson had a slight edge in puck possession.

“They won more stick battles,” said Prier. “They had the puck a little more than we did and that gave them a few more power plays.”

Prier was proud of how his seniors battled to the end. “The class we lose is a considerable group, the record doesn’t always reflect how much a senior class has put into a team,” said Prier of the team’s Class of 2014 which includes two-time captain Jack Berger, Sean Bonar, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, Alec Rush, Ammon, and Calof. “They are outstanding young men.”

In assessing why Princeton didn’t post the record it had hoped, Prier said a rash of injuries held the Tigers back.

“It was hard to have combative practices with the number of injuries that we had and the guys who were playing through pain,” said Prier.

“You play how you practice. Up until a month ago, we couldn’t scrimmage in practice, we just didn’t have the bodies. If you can’t get the intensity in practices, you are not prepared for the intensity you face in games.”

With such returning players as Ryan Siiro, Tucker Brockett, Tyler Maugeri, Tommy Davis, Mike Ambrosia, Aaron Kesselman, Ben Foster, Quin Pompi, Marlon Sabo, Colton Phinney, along with Liau and Rankin, Princeton hopes to inflict some pain on its foes next winter.

“I think we have some pretty good players coming back,” said Prier. “We have a good group coming in. It is a 12-month commitment to be a Division I athlete. They need to train more to be more explosive and stronger physically.”

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It wasn’t exactly a field of dreams but it helped the Princeton University softball team out of an early season nightmare.

After a long-scheduled tournament appearance in Maryland was cancelled due to poor field conditions and a last-minute invite to a tourney in Salem, Va. got iced out due to a Thursday snowstorm down south, Princeton was able to transform its Finney-Campbell field turf facility into a makeshift diamond for a doubleheader Saturday against the University of Hartford.

The program had to jump through some hoops to make the twinbill a reality. “We went into the administration and said is this possible?,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney.

“Thank goodness for the athletics department, so many people had to step in. The facilities people and the administration were such a big help.”

While there wasn’t any dirt or grass in sight, the teams made the best of the facility.

“It was great, we had benches for our “dugouts,” we had stands,” said Sweeney.

“Hartford has a lot of girls from this general area and they had a lot of parents come. We had a lot of students who came down before the women’s basketball game. It felt like a real game; both teams really liked it.”

Sweeney liked the way her team competed as it lost the opener 6-5 in eight innings and then came back and posted a 4-1 victory in the night cap to earn its first victory of the spring.

In reflecting on Game 1, Sweeney credited her pitcher, Claire Klausner, with battling hard in striking out six and walking three on a day when she didn’t have her best stuff.

“We have two freshman pitchers and one of them, Claire Klausner, got the start,” said Sweeney.

“She had a tough first inning and we told her it is important to make adjustments. She grinded through eight innings when she wasn’t feeling her best and found a way. She put the team in a spot to win Game 1.”

The Tigers fell short of the win as they were doomed by some sloppy play. “We made a few mistakes that came back to bite us; we had three outs at third, that is never a good stat,” lamented Sweeney.

“We made some base running mistakes. The first game was a good indicator of growth and getting better from game to game.”

Princeton got better in the second game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning on a grand slam by Marissa Reynolds.

“Marissa has a big presence at the plate, the team trusts her in the box,” said Sweeney. “We were waiting for the first big hit from somebody and that gave us a huge lift.”

In winning its first game of the season after six straight losses, the Tigers got some big hits from veterans Rachel Rendina, Alyssa Schmidt, and Cara Worden.

“Rendina, Schmidt, and Worden all had good at-bats in Florida but they all came up short and felt they could do better,” said Sweeney.

“How they perform at the plate sets the tone. They can be sparks for us and they embrace that role. We were more relaxed in the box overall.”

The pitching trio of Meredith Brown, Shanna Christian, and Erica Noel combined to give up just four hits with Christian getting the victory.

“We split time between three pitchers because we wanted to get all the pitchers some work and one had gone 8 innings in the first game,” said Sweeney.

“They knew they were going to split time. It is an adjustment for college pitchers to learn the relief role since most of them were starters in high school.”

In Sweeney’s view, the hard work Princeton has put in to this point will pay dividends down the road.

“I am happy that we are going to be underestimated,” said Sweeney. “I have uncompromising optimism that we are going to be consistently improving. We have a young team with a lot of new faces so we are going to have growing pains. I think we will keep getting better and peak at the right time for our Ivy games.”

A key step in the process will come next week when the Tigers head west for their annual California swing.

“It will be great for team bonding,” added Sweeney, whose team plays in the San Jose Tournament from March 15-16, has doubleheaders at Sacramento State on March 18 and at Pacific on March 19, and then wraps up the jaunt with the Santa Clara Tournament from March 21-23.

“We have 13 games scheduled and it will be an opportunity to get better everyday. We have a lot of people competing for positions. Everyone is competing with each other but still being good teammates. We are mixing up things and giving people the opportunity to play and show what they can do.”

After guiding the Tigers to a solid 27-19 campaign last spring in her first season at the helm of the program, Sweeney is looking for her players to show a lot in 2014.

“Last year was a get-to-know-you process and about sorting out things,” said Sweeney.

“The seniors are dedicated to improving the program. We have challenged the girls to raise the bar for themselves and the program. Everyone is on board.”

SHOWING HART: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart drives to the hoop in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Hart enjoyed a big season, averaging a team-high 11.9 points a game as the Little Tigers posted a final record of 6-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHOWING HART: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart drives to the hoop in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Hart enjoyed a big season, averaging a team-high 11.9 points a game as the Little Tigers posted a final record of 6-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley emphasizes sharing the ball, he acknowledged that his squad could have used a go-to scoring threat this winter.

In posting a final record 6-15 this season, PHS dropped several nailbiters where it didn’t generate the offensive firepower to get over the hump.

“I think we had some very solid role players but we didn’t have one guy who could just score one-on-one by himself,” said Shelley.

“Last year in big wins we would have three guys around 15 points, this year we only had two and that hurt us in those six or seven close losses.”

The Little Tigers ended the season with a tough loss as it fell 58-50 to crosstown rival Princeton Day School in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game.

In the wake of the defeat, Shelley wanted his players to focus on what they could learn from the frustrating campaign rather than what went wrong against PDS.

“I think my experience has been when the season is over is that you don’t dwell on the Xs and Os; we didn’t make enough shots or play well enough to win,” said Shelley.

“I think about the bigger message and the bigger picture. Some of the most defining moments of life start when we have disappointments.”

Shelley was disappointed to see his group of seniors move on. “It was special for me, when I took over the JV program they were my core players so I have been coaching them for three years,” said Shelley of the team’s Class of 2014 which included Matt Vasseur, Paul Murray, Andrew Braverman, Louis Capon, Callahan O’Meara, Matt Donahue, Robbie Von Der Schmidt, and Peter Mahotiere.

“They are hard-working kids. When I talk to other coaches they say we have so many interchangeable kids who play hard.”

O’Meara and Mahotiere stepped into leading roles in their final campaign, scoring 143 points and 218 points, respectively, this winter. “Cal and Peter were at the core of the team,” asserted Shelley.

“Peter made himself into a very good player, he was relentless in the weight room and he worked hard on his shot. Cal’s attitude has improved. He’s become a good leader in a positive way. It is great to see kids develop like that.”

Shelley is depending on junior Kevin Kane and sophomore Matt Hart to take leading roles next winter. Kane averaged 9.7 points a game this winter while Hart led the Little Tigers with 11.9 per game.

“Kevin and Matt are guys that have to score a good bit,” said Shelley. “Matt Hart will go a long way. His points per game was better in the second half of the season than it was in the first half. Going forward, he is going to be a tough player for us. He has a good outside shot and he is coachable. He is going to do stuff with us over the summer and he is also going to do stuff with some elite camps.”

PHS also has some young talent making its way through the ranks. “We have some JV players who can step in and fill in down low and help us with rebounding,” said Shelley.

“We have a strong freshman group, they went 15-2. They don’t have a superstar but they have five, six, or seven players who play so well together. We want to keep that chemistry.”

In order for PHS to play better next winter, Shelley is looking for his players to keep their noses to the grindstone over the offseason.

“We talk about the importance of weightlifting; Peter has volunteered to help us with that,” said Shelley.

“We have three different things planned. We are going to do the Princeton University team camp, that is good because you get a lot of games in that weekend and then we’ll play in the Princeton summer men’s hoops league and a JV league in Hillsborough where you play people you don’t see all the time like Piscataway, Hillsborough, Montgomery. We will have three open gyms a week, sometimes that involves scrimmages, other times we work on drills and run plays.”

COLE-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Deante Cole fired a pass in a game this season. Senior guard Cole scored 19 points in his final game for PDS as the Panthers topped Princeton High 58-50 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. Cole averaged 13.0 points a game this winter for the Panthers, who posted a final record of 8-14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COLE-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Deante Cole fired a pass in a game this season. Senior guard Cole scored 19 points in his final game for PDS as the Panthers topped Princeton High 58-50 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. Cole averaged 13.0 points a game this winter for the Panthers, who posted a final record of 8-14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having culminated the last two seasons by advancing to the state Prep B title game, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team wasn’t looking to end this winter by playing a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.

But topping crosstown rival Princeton High 58-50 in the MCT consolation game on February 17 left PDS head coach Paris McLean and his players with a warm memory to end a tough winter.

“It was an unbelievable way to go out; the past two years we lost in the Prep B state final and it was a locker room full of upset players and tears,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 8-14.

“This time there was joy and excitement in the locker room. The seniors passed the torch in a great way. It was special to end with a win.”

The PDS seniors went out with a bang in the victory over PHS as senior Deante Cole scored 19 points with classmates Langston Glaude and Chris Okorodudu each getting 11 and classmate Ford Schneider posting a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

“We had multiple contributors; we had four guys in double figures and that is what we did all year,” said McLean who got 13.0 points a game from Cole this winter with Glaude averaging 13.2 points, Okorodudu chipping in 10.5 points a contest, and Schneider averaging 11.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

“I think we were the only team in the county to have four guys average in double figures.”

Although PDS didn’t hit double figures in wins, the players never hung their heads.

“By some accounts, the season was a little disappointing,” said McLean. “The boys wanted more wins and so did the staff but the players really impressed me with the way they showed up and worked hard everyday. I didn’t know how the season was going to go and whether the boys would keep their morale. The motto was are we getting better everyday and I think we did that.”

McLean is impressed by what his group of seniors have contributed in their time with the program.

“On senior night, I said they need to look at their body of work,” said McLean, whose senior group included Zack Banks, Brandon Glover, Jake Hall, Dan Lee, and Ben Levine along with Cole, Glaude, Okorodudu, and Schneider.

“While some people would say it isn’t where you start it is where you finished. They need to look at what they accomplished over their four years. We had 15, 16, 19, and 8 wins; 58 wins in four seasons is a lot. They showed great leadership, they were role models on and off the court. We are losing nine seniors and that is a big hit in numbers and talent.”

The seniors have set a good example for the program’s returning players. “We have Chase Lewis, Josiah Meekins, and J.P. Radvany coming back, they are three capable players and they will need to step up,” said McLean.

“Chase has a bright future; he really stepped up this year. We have a strong JV and freshman program. It will be a transition for them; the game is faster at the varsity level but the players will be prepared. The opportunity will be there and I have learned that these kids are opportunistic.”

Even if that transition proves to be rocky at times, those kids will be getting an opportunity to be part of something special.

“We have had successful seasons most of the years I have been here in terms of wins and losses but this is about more than wins and losses and this season reaffirmed that for me,” said McLean, a former PDS basketball and football star.

“It is about playing for your school and giving your all. You get a special camaraderie from team sports and I feel good about this team and what we did. They have made lifelong friendships.”

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Anhut helped a youthful Panthers squad make progress under new head coach Kamau Bailey. After losing its first five games, PDS ended the season with a 3-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Anhut helped a youthful Panthers squad make progress under new head coach Kamau Bailey. After losing its first five games, PDS ended the season with a 3-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Kamau Bailey took the helm of the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team this winter, he faced a big challenge.

With a roster comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores and no returning varsity players, PDS was undoubtedly going to experience some growing pains.

While the Panthers posted a 3-11 record, Bailey views the season as a success.

“I think even though the win-loss record doesn’t show it, we had a huge season,” asserted Bailey.

“We accomplished what we were looking to achieve at the beginning of the season. The team got better as the season went on and the girls individually got better.”

After starting the season with five straight losses, PDS won three of its last nine games, posting victories over Villa Victoria, King’s Christian, and Foundation Charter.

“They were huge confidence builders,” said Bailey, referring to the three triumphs. “A lot of people counted us out and thought we weren’t going to win any games.”

The team even gained confidence in some of its defeats. “We lost to Stuart by 27 (48-21) in the opener and then it was a four point game (33-29) the next time we played; that was a marker that the girls were starting to understand the game,” said Bailey.

“The teams we played twice, stomped us in the first game and then it was much closer in the second game. The Pennington coach took me aside after our second game and told me how much better the team had gotten. They battled some really good varsity teams.”

The progress made by freshman Morgan Mills exemplified the team’s collective improvement.

“Morgan had never played basketball, she came from England and had played net ball there,” said Bailey. “She ended up as a starter by the end of the season.”

Freshman point guard Shayla Stevenson ended up gaining some valuable lessons this winter.

“Shayla made a lot of progress; she had a tough role,” said Bailey. “She was our best ball-handler and our most talented player offensively. The other teams would see this and key on her. She would get trapped and pressed in the backcourt. She was using up her energy to get up the court and that affected her scoring. She had a couple of huge games, she had a 20-point, 11-assist game in one of our victories.”

Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord enjoyed some huge games, emerging as a force for the Panthers.

“Isabel didn’t start off the season with us because she had an an ankle injury,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord.

“She started playing two games into the season. She is very agile for her size and she can go up and down the court. Some coaches would put her in the post but I want her to bring the ball up the court and shoot from the outside. I want her to be our Kevin Durant. She had a 33-point game and a 20-point game.”

Bailey sees a big upside for gritty sophomore guard/forward Alexis Davis.

“Alexis is going to be one of our better players; she has a natural ability to track the ball,” said Bailey.

“Every night she came and rebounded. I would put her on other team’s best offensive player because she was scrappy and aggressive. She is a good soccer player and that helps her with basketball. She also has the ability to dribble the ball.”

For Bailey, stepping up to the varsity level turned out to be a very good
experience.

“It is a great group of girls; I am excited about the future,” asserted Bailey. “I was a little nervous at first, it is much different going from middle school to high school varsity. Once I had the girls in front of me, it was great. They took off and set a nice groundwork and foundation for the future.”

In addition, the players had a nice time in the process as Bailey strove to create a positive culture around the program.

“The other goal was for them to have fun,” said Bailey. “The parents were telling me that with a such a challenging season, the girls came home happy and excited every night. I think the confidence that I wanted to bring is taking hold.”

 

POINT OF EMPHASIS: Hun School boys’ basketball head coach Jon Stone makes a point during a timeout this season. Stone guided Hun to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis and an 8-13 record this winter.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POINT OF EMPHASIS: Hun School boys’ basketball head coach Jon Stone makes a point during a timeout this season. Stone guided Hun to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis and an 8-13 record this winter. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, its loss to the Hill School (Pa.) in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis mirrored its up-and-down campaign.

“We had some good moments against Hill,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone whose team dropped the contest 49-31.

“We did get it to two points before half but we struggled to score in the second half and they played well.”

Hun struggled to find a rhythm this winter as it was one step forward, one step back in an 8-13 season.

“I think as a group we learned and the guys got better,” said Stone, reflecting on the campaign. “We would have loved to have some of those close games back.”

The Raiders did enjoy some memorable games in their learning process. “We beat Hill in the regular season and they ended up winning MAPL and their state championship,” said Stone “We beat Trenton Catholic (the eventual county champion) and they were a very good team.”

Hun was led by a good core of seniors which included Michael Bourke, Jason Geter, Daniel Osley, Taylor Heilman, Josh McGilvray, Xin Li, and Remi Janicot.

“It was a good group, the ones who have been with us for a long time really grew as players,” asserted Stone of the program’s Class of 2014.

Point guard Bourke starred as he grew into the team’s catalyst. “Bourke led us in scoring (13.4 points a game), assists (45), and steals (26); any time you lead a team in all three of those, you are doing well,” said Stone. “He led us in scoring more than 50 percent of the time.”

Along with Bourke, Hun got some good contributions from the two other senior guards, Geter (6.0 points a game) and Osley (3.2 points a game).

“Geter was at the school seven years and got better every season,” said Stone.

“He shot 53 percent from field and 47 percent from 3-point range which is ridiculous for a guard. Osley got better every day and played his best basketball at the end of the season.”

In the frontcourt, seniors Heilman (2.2 points a game), McGilvray (7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds), Li (3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds), and Janicot (5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds) played well.

“Taylor Heilman hadn’t played a lot before this season and gave us some valuable minutes,” said Stone.

“McGilvray did so much for us, particularly on defense. He played against some really good big men and held them to relatively low outputs; he played them hard. Li was a crowd favorite and had some great moments. He was another guy who got better and better. Remi dominated some games and when he did, we usually won.”

In Stone’s view, his trio of junior returners, Eric Williams (7.2 points), Kyle Borden (3.2 points), and Tucker Stevenson, have the potential to enjoy some great moments next winter.

“Williams had a good year, he was third leading scorer as a junior and made a lot of 3s,” said Stone.

“Borden gave us some really good minutes. He had been out for a year and a half so it was just good for him to be healthy and out there. Tucker is a great athlete; it helps a team to have a three-sport athlete. He got a lot better, he had the ability to compete and play hard.”

MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup was brimming with optimism about his Hun School girls’ basketball team as he looked ahead to the winter.

“Going into the season I was expecting some big things,” said longtime Hun head coach Holup.  “I thought we would win 15 or 16 games.”

But with senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injuring her knee in December and missing 12 games, the Raiders had to battle to keep their heads above water, finishing the winter at 10-11.

“I am really not disappointed with 10-11,” said Holup. “The girls stuck together and we did as well as we could under the circumstances. I know that success is measured by the wins and losses but based on the effort and how they stuck together, I look at this season as a success.”

Hun ended the season battling hard in a 72-50 loss to Blair in the state Prep A semifinals.

“It was a one-point game with 1½ minutes left in the first half, our game plan was going well,” recalled Holup.

“Unfortunately a few things went Blair’s way, they hit a three and they were up six or seven points at the half. We knew we were going to get a punch from Blair in the second half, we talked about that at halftime. We did get a punch and we weren’t able to withstand it. We called a couple of timeouts but we couldn’t get back into it. We put up a fight. Blair had to play well to beat us. We made a terrific effort.”

Johnson ended up enjoying a terrific career, getting back on the court in the last week of the season to help the Raiders advance to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League semifinals.

“It was nice to see her come back and get 1,000 points,” said Holup. “It was a tough loss when she went out. She is a D-I basketball player. Offensively and defensively she was imposing in the post, starting with her freshman year.”

It will be tough for Hun to do without senior Erica Brown next winter. “Erica came in as a junior and she is going to be extremely difficult to replace; just her personality, she is always fun to be around,” said Holup.

“You could count on her to raise the girls’ confidence. On court, she could guard guards and guard forwards. She could rebound and take it up the court.”

Hun got a nice contribution in the backcourt from two four-year performers, Anajha Burnett and Bella Cura.

“Naj will be missed; she was someone who gave us time off the bench in her first three years and started when we needed,” said Holup.

“This year she was a starter and did any role we asked. Bella is a three-sport athlete. She didn’t get major minutes but she was a terrific player to have on the team with her athleticism, spirit, and positivity.”

Hun’s core of returning players, juniors Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen, sophomores Amber Bourke and Jess Johnson, and freshman Clare Moloney, have the potential to do a lot of positive things next winter.

“They are just hardworking individuals,” asserted Holup. “All of them improved and that is what you want. They love the sport and they love being on the court. I am looking forward to next year.”

March 5, 2014
FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ryan Ambler and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team liked their chances as they headed into the second quarter of their clash with Johns Hopkins last Saturday.

The rivals were locked in a 4-4 tie after the one period with Princeton holding a 12-7 edge in shots.

“We were moving the ball well, there was good ebb and flow to the game,” said sophomore attackman Ambler. “We made some stops on defense; they made a little bit of a run but so did we.”

But in the second quarter, Hopkins embarked on a decisive run that changed the course of the game. The Blue Jays outscored Princeton 5-1 in the period and extended their lead to 12-5 by midway through the third.

While the Tigers got back on track, responding to the 8-1 run by outscoring Hopkins 4-3 from there, it was not nearly enough as the Blue Jays posted a 15-9 win before 2,540 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In assessing Hopkins’ surge, Ambler acknowledged that Princeton didn’t have much room for error.

“I think that they just got a couple more possessions than we did,” said Ambler.

“I think they capitalized in the second quarter more than we did, it came down to that. We knew that they were a good team. They shot the ball really well, they shared the ball really well. There were some times collectively that we had a lapse as a team.”

In the latter stages of the third quarter, Princeton did capitalize, reeling off three straight goals.

“I had a lot of faith in our defense, offense, and face-off guys, all around the field; the same thing happened with Hofstra,” said Amber, referring to a late rally which saw Princeton go on an 8-2 run to pull out a 12-10 win on February 22. “We knew that we were going to get our run, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t keep it going.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Rydal, Pa. has it going this spring, with 12 points already on three goals and a team-high nine assists.

“I am just a year older and hopefully, a little wiser,” said Ambler, who matched his career single-game high in the Hopkins loss with five points on two goals and three assists.

“The guys on the team do a great job finishing the ball, we move the ball really well. I have got to give credit to the guys finishing the goals. They cut to the ball, I feed them and they finish.”

Ambler has developed a comfort level with senior midfielder Tom Schreiber and junior attackman Mike MacDonald.

“We have a great feel for each other and we are great buddies,” said Ambler.

“We understand the flow of the offense as does the rest of the offense. I think everyone has got a great feel to the offense that we run. We just capitalize on some good plays. I am fortunate to play within this offense.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knew that the Hopkins offense posed some challenges for his young defense which starts a sophomore [Mark Strabo] and two freshmen [Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein].

“Coming into this game, I knew Hopkins is very different offensively this season,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 2-1 with the defeat.

“Some of the things they have shown that they are going to do were going to cause some problems for us. It was not a surprise to me.”

In assessing Hopkins’ decisive run, Bates noted that Princeton was doomed by a number of problems.

“We didn’t have the ball,” said Bates. “It is a game of momentum; we turned it over a few times and we didn’t face off well. I knew coming in if we were forced to play a lot of defense that we were going to give up quality shots and that was the case during that run. Honestly, we needed another save or two to get the ball back and give us a little life, to give us a little momentum and we didn’t get that. We didn’t get the critical plays at critical moments to get it back in our favor.”

Bates credited Ambler with giving Princeton life at the offensive end. “Ryan is playing with confidence; he is strong on the ball, he has such great vision,” said Bates.

“It is nice when the pieces of our offense play together, it is pretty to watch. You just see the ball move around and guys are unselfish. Ryan is unselfish but  he is confident enough to take advantage of his opportunities. You love guys that have equal goals and assists, that’s the way the game should be played. It is nice to see his development.”

Responding with a grimace, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers need their goalies to develop some consistency.

“This was a good test; they are high velocity, high accuracy shooters and we didn’t catch up with balls today,” said Bates, who has been rotating senior Brian Kavanagh and sophomore Matt O’Connor between the pipes.

“We didn’t look like we were on the ball, that is a concern. That is an area that is going to continue to stay under the microscope. I don’t know if you solve it today or next week or when you do. To be where we want to be, we need more consistency and we need the answer there.”

The answer could come, in part, by being more deliberate with the ball. “We still have to do a better job of managing the game on the offensive end,” said Bates.

“In some instances, when you are facing a dynamic offense like Hopkins, you have got to keep it out out of their hands. It is only a matter of time. They are just so slick and so skilled, they know each other really well. We have got to be able to withstand that and tilt the field the other way.”

The Tigers know they are going to have to withstand another high-powered attack as they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.

“We have Carolina coming in here Friday, it is another big-time opponent,” noted Bates.

“You learn lessons and you take the next steps. I really feel like this team is going to be much different at the end of April than it is in the beginning of March. We have to hold on to that thought. It doesn’t feel good right now. I have done this long enough where I have got to remind myself and remind my guys of that. They are not happy right now and I don’t blame them but we have to keep it in perspective.”

Ambler, for his part, is taking a long-range perspective. “We understand that it is March 1, we have plenty of time,” said Ambler.

“Hopkins was a great test, UNC is going to be another great test. All we can do is look forward to one game at a time and that is what we are going to do. We hate losing; we are going to take what we have from that loss and we are going to progress forward, the key word is progress.”

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Hompe struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first two games of her career with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The highly touted freshman attacker from New Canaan, Conn. tallied just one assist as the Tigers started this season 1-1.

Last Saturday against visiting Georgetown, Hompe found the back of the net for the first time in her college career, tallying a first half goal.

“I was really excited to hear my goal song playing,” said a grinning Hompe. “It was definitely a good way to start the game. I think that the pace of our attack was definitely heightened in this game from past games.”

As the game unfolded, Hompe picked up the pace, ending the day with three goals and three assists in a losing cause as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to the No. 14 Hoyas.

For Hompe, assuming a playmaking role came in the flow of the attack. “I think that we had a lot of open girls; our offense was cutting and moving so well that it was really a matter of finding who was open and getting them the ball,” said Hompe. “We shot very well so that was great.”

With Princeton trailing 16-15 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Hompe found junior star Erin McMunn in the crease area and fed her for the game-tying goal.

“She was just open in front of the net,” said Hompe. “You could just see it in her eyes when she knows she is open and I just knew I had to get it to her.

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t get anything in overtime as the Hoyas scored the only goal in the six minute extra session.

“I think a big part of OT was getting the draw controls,” said Hompe. “We didn’t come up with those which was disappointing but our defense worked incredibly hard to hold them to just one goal. We almost came back a couple of times, six minutes isn’t that long.”

Going through an overtime contest should pay dividends down the road for the Tigers.

“I think this was a good game for us to get under our belts early on,” said Hompe.

“I think it gave us a lot of experience, particularly going into overtime. Myself and a lot of the younger girls haven’t had that experience so I think there are a lot of positives to take from the game.”

Breaking out with six points has Hompe feeling more positive about her role on the Princeton offense.

“I think I found a different level of comfort in the offense and found where I can look for shots and where I am looking to feed,” said Hompe. “I think it was nice to finally strike that balance.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled to see Hompe reach a higher level.

“We have been looking for that from her; she was a little slow starting in her first two games,” said Sailer.

“I think she was just getting used to what the real competition is like and then today she was really on fire. Her eyes were up, she was seeing things really well. She was finishing really well. It was a breakout game for her. I really hope that she is going to run with this and know that she is an incredible player and capable of so much.”

Sailer was proud of how her players responded to Georgetown’s runs, which saw the Hoyas build leads of 9-5, 14-10, and 16-14.

“I thought we really showed our fight today, getting down 9-5 and coming back and tying it up,” said Sailer.

“Then after Colleen [Smith] scored the goal at 10 and they came back and had four straight, that could have been really defeating and deflating. We kept fighting to even the score. I just think the kids showed a ton of heart and a ton of fight today.”

In Sailer’s view, senior defender Smith exemplified Princeton’s fighting spirit.

“Colleen Smith was unbelievable; she had a goal and an assist today,” said Sailer, who also got four goals from Alexandra Bruno with Anya Gersoff chipping in two goals and Erin Slifer contributing one goal and two assists.

“Her draw controls were great. She is just a player who doesn’t stop, and her heart is amazing.”

In the overtime, the Tigers were unable to take control as they never had the ball.

“We had our play ready to go and we never had an attack possession but we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Sailer.

“I think the last thing I said before we went out for overtime was no yellow cards and then we had two of them. We played four of the six minutes a man down and we didn’t win the draw so we never had the ball in overtime. Having said that, the kids fought to the end. We have to not make the mental mistakes that hurt us in the end.”

While the result was disappointing, Sailer saw a lot of good things from her club.

“I think we have grown so much in just the last week from the Loyola game [a 15-10 loss] to the Rutgers game [an 11-4 win] to this game,” asserted Sailer.

“I am really excited about how the kids played today and where we are moving forward. We saw a lot about the character and the heart of this group and the talent of this group.”

Princeton will be looking to regroup when it opens its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.

“It will be great to open the Ivy season at Brown, they should be tough,” said Sailer.

“Last year they finished their season within an overtime of beating Penn. They are getting better every single year so we are going to be focused this week, just like we were this
past week in practice.”

Hompe, for her part, is confident that the Tigers are going to get better and better.

“I learned a lot about the resilience of our team,” said Hompe. “We are not going to give up and I think the way we acted in this game just shows how we are going to act over the season. This is just one more obstacle for us.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two seasons, Yale has been a major thorn in the side for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Last year, Yale swept Princeton in the rivals’ two meetings as the Tigers finished second to league champions Harvard by one game.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs edged Princeton 66-65 in overtime to hand the Tigers a fifth league loss and extinguish any glimmering hope of contending for a league title.

When the teams met last Friday at Jadwin Gym before a crowd of 2,730, Princeton turned the tables, topping Yale 57-46 to deal a critical blow to its title hopes, dropping the Bulldogs two games behind league-leading Harvard with three games to go.

For Princeton senior star T.J. Bray, getting some payback against Yale was sweet.

“They kind of spoiled our season last year with the sweep and this year, they got us at their place,” said Bray, who scored a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and two assists.

“It feels nice to beat them. It is always a great game; they are very physical. We knew we had to come out and be physical tonight.”

The Tigers came out with intensity on the defensive end, limiting Yale to 29.4 percent shooting from the field (15-of-51) and forcing 16 turnovers and making eight steals.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson appreciated his team’s work at the defensive end in the win over the Bulldogs.

“The credit goes to these guys; they followed the plan,” said Henderson.

“I thought we did a nice job moving our feet. It is a simple game when you move your feet. Our defense has been good in our last six games so I am pleased with that.”

Another good sign for Princeton was outscoring Yale 19-3 in points off of turnovers.

“We happened to get loose balls and long rebounds,” said Henderson. “Those are the plays that make you win and that we didn’t make up at their place.”

Bray exemplified the Princeton defensive effort as he locked down on Yale star Justin Sears, stifling him in the second half.

“T.J. showed us the way with Sears, 19 in the first half, three in the second and then Hans [Brase] stepped into T.J.’s role,” said
Henderson.

“I thought we were able to control him a little bit, not that you can do that completely.”

Bray has been showing the  way offensively as well, averaging 17.9 points a game along with 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

“The consistency of T.J. has been amazing,” said Henderson of Bray, who had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and six assists a night later to help Princeton defeat Brown 69-64 and ended up being chosen as the Ivy Player of the Week.

“That is a really good thing when you can point to one person and say every single night you can count on that number of points and rebounds.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz has become a player that the Tigers can count on. “I think that Spencer is separating himself in some good ways going forward because he is showing some leadership qualities,” said Henderson of Weisz, who tallied 14 points in the win over Yale and then contributed 13 in the victory over Brown and was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“I still think Spencer shouldn’t turn the ball over with as good as a passer and how smart he is. I would like to see that four be a zero but he has been really key for us.”

While Henderson would prefer to see the Tigers, now 17-8 overall, 5-6 Ivy, contending for an Ivy title, he is looking for quality efforts from his squad as it wraps up the regular season.

“We are not in the position we would like to be in,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.

“We have got four losses that were right there, no one is feeling sorry for us because of where we are. I think it is just basketball, games can swing really quickly against you or for you. We have four games left so we are going to milk those.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will take the right approach notwithstanding being stuck in the middle of the Ivy pack in fifth place.

“It is fun to just come and compete,” said Bray. “Whatever role we are in, we are going to compete everyday. Our practices have been great these last couple of weeks. It is unfortunate that we are playing spoiler but if that’s our role we are going to do it well.”

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team ended the season with a whimper, getting swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend by No. 5 Cornell.

But on the ice, the Tigers banged heads with Big Red from beginning to end, battling to the final whistle in two nailbiters that saw Cornell prevail 3-2 and 5-3.

“We played well; we had offensive chances, some we took advantage of, some we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team finished the winter with a final record of 14-13-4. “I am overall proud of the team, they never quit when they faced adversity.”

In the series opener on Friday, Princeton played with pride taking a 2-0 lead on second period goals by Sally Butler and Hilary Lloyd. But Cornell handled that adversity by scoring three unanswered tallies in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“We were up 2-0 in the first game and Kim [Newell] made two huge saves and we had five scoring chances after that in the second but we just didn’t put them in,” lamented Kampersal.

“If we had been up 3-0, it would have been tougher. They have two unbelievable players who played 80 percent of third period and they were so fast. They ended up cashing in their chances; they come at you fast with flurries.”

In Game 2 a day later, the Tigers started fast, jumping out to a 1-0 lead after one period. The Big Red responded with three straight goals and then held a late Princeton rally.

“Our first five minutes was solid and our first period was solid,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Butler, Denna Laing, and Cassidy Tucker in the defeat.

“They started to turn things up and they got ahead 3-1. We fought to get it back to 3-2 and 4-3. There was a weird, awkward bounce on their fourth goal.”

While things didn’t turn out last weekend as Kampersal would have wanted, he enjoyed the journey this winter.

“It is the kind of year that you don’t want to end,” asserted Kampersal. “The kids were great, it was a lot of fun to coach this team. We talked about desire, toughness, being competitive, and being grateful, those were our four core values.”

Kampersal credited his senior group of Katie Jones, Gabie Figueroa, Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, Butler, and Laing with exemplifying those values.

“The seniors gave great leadership, they battled all the way to the end,” said Kampersal.

“They were hockey players, they cared, and they were committed. They left a great impression on the rookies.”

Going forward, Kampersal is looking for a similar commitment from his returning players.

“We need to step up in terms of conditioning, they need to approach the spring like it is the middle of the season,” said Kampersal.

“We have seven freshmen and Jaimie McDonnell who was playing her first season. They played quite a lot and they were a big part of things for us. They are skilled hockey players. They can only get better. They need to get physically stronger and build up their endurance.”

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the Public B state tournament, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team brought a chip on its shoulder.

“When the seedings came out and we were No. 21 we thought we might have been slighted,” said first-year PHS head coach Terence Miller.

“We told the boys that we had to go on the road and beat some good northern Jersey teams to show that.”

Earning respect, PHS topped 12th-seeded Nutley 3-0 last Wednesday in the first round and nearly toppled No. 5 Summit, losing 5-4 in overtime.

In the win over Nutley, the Little Tigers showed their growing maturity. “It was a one-goal battle until the last eight minutes of the game,” recalled Miller.

“We maintained our discipline when Nutley picked up the physical play. We were on the power play of the last half of the third period.”

Freshman goalie Sawyer Peck showed his discipline, making 28 saves in earning the shutout.

“It speaks volumes about Sawyer that he went up on the road in his first state game and got a shutout,” said Miller.

“He’s calm, he’s collected. He has a lot of good poise for a ninth grader. His progress this season speaks to his skill and attributes as a goalie. He rose to the occasion when more was asked of him.”

Two days later, PHS rose to the occasion, battling Summit tooth and nail, as the game was knotted at 1-1 after one period and saw the Little Tigers trailing 3-2 heading into the third. After falling behind 4-2 early in the third, PHS got goals from Patrick McCormick and Jackson Andres in a 12-second span late in regulation to send the game into overtime.

“It was up at Union Sports Arena; the place was filled to the rafters,

it was a great atmosphere for a tournament game,” said Miller, whose team finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.

“Summit is a perennial power, they won the state title in 2012. We outshot them and lost by one goal.”

Senior defenseman and team captain Patrick McCormick took the team on his broad shoulders in the state run.

“Patrick played 42 minutes of 45 against Nutley,” said Miller of McCormick, who had two assists in the win over Nutley and tallied two goals in the loss to Summit.

“He played 52 of 52 minutes in the Summit game, that pretty much says it all about what type of a player he is. He has energy, skill, and the highest work rate on the team that makes for the ideal captain.”

After PHS hit a rough patch in the middle of the season when it had three losses and a tie in the span of a few weeks, the team produced some of its best work of the season down the stretch.

“We found our stride in late January and had a strong push coming into the tournaments,” said Miller.

“We made it to the county semis where we ran into the No. 1 seed, Notre Dame. We were able to regroup in the states and go on the road and beat the No. 12 seed and come within a goal of beating the No. 5 seed. I wish we had won that game, it would have been really special to make it to the state quarters.”

Miller tipped his hat to his two senior stalwarts, Patrick McCormick and Spencer Reynolds.

“They came in the year we won MCT and had 18 wins,” said Miller, whose senior group also included Robert Quinn and Tim Podgalsky.

“They got a taste of what PHS and CVC hockey was about and they jumped right in it. To go out with the senior season like they did shows that they did a good job. The state run speaks to how they contributed.”

With such returning performers as John Reid, Chris Munoz, Nathan Drezner, Tooker Callaway, Eamonn McDonald, the two younger McCormick brothers, Connor and Brendon, together with Andres and Peck, the Little Tigers are well placed for some future playoff runs.

“We have loads of talent coming back and they played a lot of minutes,” said Miller. “They got loads of experience this season and I think that is really going to help us. We are in a good place.”

It was a good experience for Miller, a former PHS hockey standout himself, to take the helm at his alma mater.

“I could not have asked for a better first year; I was an assistant for five years but it is so different being the head coach, the buck stops with you,” said Miller.

“You are responsible for how the team performs. I learned a lot this year, I was lucky to have talented players and two good assistant coaches, my brother, Peter Miller, and Shane Leuck. They played at PHS and understand the program and local hockey. I could trust them, they know the game, and they communicated well with the players.”

Miller will bring a greater understanding to the table next winter. “We played hard and prepared well but sometimes you had to wipe the slate clean,” said Miller.

“We made a lot of adjustments; we switched up lines and did different forechecks and systems. You have to work on the Xs and Os and the organization and how to have the kids prepared mentally for the tough teams.”

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player  Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player
Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Dan Van Hise, seeing his Princeton High girls’ basketball team defeat Lawrence High 35-24 in its season finale was a case of better late than never.

“They finally played the way I wanted them to,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, reflecting on the victory which came in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.

“I told the girls this is going to be it, let’s go out and play basketball the right way, I want 100 percent effort. We blitzed them from the start, it was good to see. Julia Ryan played well, she got a lot of free throws at the end to get 16 points. Mira Shane and Haley Bodden did a great job defensively. We were very intense and very determined.”

With PHS ending the winter at 3-16, Van Hise rued what might have been. “I think, like any coach, I would say we left a few on the table,” said Van Hise. “We won that buzzer beater against Nottingham and we lost our way a little bit after that. There were a few games that we should have won that we didn’t. I was hoping for more progress in terms of wins and losses.”

In Van Hise’s view, the team made a lot of progress when it came to intangibles.

“In terms of our motto, establish the culture, I think we did that,” said Van Hise.

“Anyone who saw our Lawrence game would know that. We were all over the floor, we were diving for the ball, we were sharing the ball. We talked afterward and the girls thought we had done what we wanted to turn this into a positive thing. What we found is that Princeton girls can play tough, we don’t have to be anyone’s doormat.”

Van Hise credited seniors Liz Jacobs and Stephanie Hauer with impacting the culture.

“Liz was a presence inside, for a lacrosse player playing basketball, she did what she could do,” said Van Hise.

“Steph knew she wasn’t going to play much and she was a great team captain and team leader. She did hit two shots in our last game so that was nice to see.”

As he looks ahead to the offseason, Van Hise wants his girls to play a lot more basketball.

“We are saying that we established a culture but we won’t really know until we show up next December,” said Van Hise.

“If we are the same players, then nothing will have really changed. We are going to have open gyms and we are hoping to go to Princeton’s team camp.

I know a lot of the girls play other sports but they need to stay connected to basketball. We want to hit the ground running next December.”

With six seniors returning, Van Hise believes his players will have a good connection with each other.

“I couldn’t be more excited for next year,” asserted Van Hise, whose group of rising seniors includes Mary Sutton, Mira Shane, Catherine Curran-Groome, Bryanna Blue, Mia Levy, and Ellie Maltby.

“I think the chemistry is going to be off the charts with girls like Mary, Mira, and Catherine. I am expecting them to show a lot of leadership. Julia [Ryan] will be a junior and a three-year starter. I really think that we can improve.”

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School boys’ hockey team found itself tied 3-3 with Academy of New Church (Pa.) after two periods in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game last week, it experienced a sense of déjà vu.

Just five days earlier, Hun had entered the third period of the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game tied 2-2 with Notre Dame. On that evening, Hun responded by dominating the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory and the MCT crown.

The Raiders followed a similar script against ANC in the February 25 contest at the Ice Land Skating Center, outscoring the Lions 3-1 in the third period to earn a 6-4 win and the program’s second straight IHL title.

“It was kind of the same thing as the Notre Dame game; we got a goal right away in the third period,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on the win over ANC.

“They got another goal but then we got a two-goal lead; we were never comfortable before that.”

The Raiders were feeling more than comfortable as they celebrated the crown on their home ice.

“The emotions were very high and positive,” said McNally, a former Princeton University hockey player who is in his third year guiding the Hun program.

“To be a senior in your last game and win a title, not everybody gets to do that. They were up for it. There were a lot of thank you’s and goodbyes.”

Over the last few seasons, the Hun program has certainly been moving up in local hockey circles.

“Last year, we won one title and this year we won two; the program is getting better every year,” said McNally, whose team posted a final record of 20-7.

“The expectations were higher coming into the year. Last year, we hoped to win our league, this year we expected to win our league. The biggest difference was in how we viewed ourselves.”

In the view of McNally, his senior group of Spy Avgoustiniatos, Alec Karanikolas, Alex Bidwell, Devin Cheifetz, Brad Stern, and Natty Bayona, has played a major role in the Raiders’ progress.

“They were pretty instrumental in our progress; a lot of it was due to their dedication and abilities,” said McNally.

“Spy had a good offensive year; he came a long way as a player. Each of the senior forwards [Avgoustiniatos -10 goals, 10 assists; Bidwell -16 goals, 22 assists; Karanikolas -10 goals, 10 assists] reached double figures in goals. Devin was a starter in goal all four years. You knew what you were going to get from him; he had another steady year. He has been there so long you almost take him for granted. Brad doubled his points [3 goals, 21 assists] from last year and made all-league; he was a top defenseman.”

The trio of freshman forwards, Jon Bendorf [36 goals, 30 assists], Blake Brown [28 goals, 32 assists], Evan Barratt [23 goals, 38 assists], along with freshman defenseman Tanner Preston [3 goals, 28 assists], gives Hun the foundation to remain one of the top teams in the area.

“With this group of freshmen, the hopes are high for the future,” said McNally.

“The freshmen forwards were 1-2-3 in scoring. We said last week that we had no more practices left, only playoff games. We said that big players show up in big games and they did that. We had 10 goals in two title games and Barratt had 10 points.”

The team’s big season has turned heads on the Hun campus “Success breeds success,” said McNally.

“Around school, there is a good energy. Against Notre Dame in the county final, we had the biggest crowd of Hun students and staff I have seen at one of our games since I have been here. The buzz is definitely there.”

February 26, 2014
MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its season opener Saturday against visiting Hofstra, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was looking to its highly touted offense to set the tone.

But it was an unheralded defense, featuring two freshman starters and a senior making his first career start, that kept ninth-ranked Princeton close in a first half that saw the Tigers commit 10 turnovers and trailing 6-4 by intermission.

Junior attacker Mike MacDonald acknowledged that the Tigers misfired in the crease area.

“I am not sure what it was, maybe first game jitters,” said MacDonald. “We knew at halftime that we were costing the team the game at that point and we needed to step up. The coaches said they are not winning the game, we are losing the game.”

Things got worse for the Tigers in the third quarter as they fell behind 8-4 and took a timeout with 7:34 remaining in the period.

“Our captains, Tom Schreiber, Jack Strabo, and Derick Raabe talked before the coaches and they said listen guys, we are going to be fine, no one panic,” said MacDonald, recalling the message during the break.

“I think we just looked at each other and decided that we needed to step up, it was our time. The defense was doing everything that they could. When they got stops, we weren’t getting them goals at the other end.”

Princeton started getting goals in bunches, scoring four unanswered goals to knot the game at 8-8. After Hofstra scored a goal late in the quarter to regain the lead, the Tigers answered with a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter and never looked back in a 12-10 triumph before a crowd of 1,231 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I think we made better shooting decisions,” said MacDonald, in reflecting on Princeton’s comeback which saw him assist on the seventh goal and then score the first two goals of the fourth quarter. “It started with Tom Schreiber making a big play and we just built off of that.”

MacDonald is looking to build on the promise he has shown in his first two years with the Tigers.

“This year, I just think I have a little more confidence with the ball to start the season,” said MacDonald, who scored a total of 65 goals in his first two seasons, the third highest total in program history coming into a junior campaign.

“Last year, I was a little bit timid. I am not as quick to just pass it to the next guy and let him do the work. I want to contribute a little more.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Georgetown, Ontario, enjoys working with sophomore Ryan Ambler, who had five assists in the win, including two on MacDonald tallies.

“Ryan and I have a very good connection, we are both lefties so we share that side of the field a lot,” explained MacDonald, who ended the day with four goals and an assist.

“We are pretty much interchangeable with what we do. He can go down low and I can go on the wing. It works out really well; we have a lot of chemistry.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates pointed to MacDonald as a key catalyst in the Princeton rally.

“I said to my assistant coach, we have to get Mike into the flow,” said Bates, who also got three goals and two assists from senior star midfielder Schreiber.

“We were trying to initiate below goal line with Ryan and Will [Rotatori] a little bit. We changed our offense completely from the first half to the second and it was a point of emphasis to try to get him the ball because he is such a playmaker. He’s a gamer, he’s tough, he scored some big goals and we started to loosen up as a result.”

Bates credited his trio of defensive middies, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter
deButts, with igniting things.

“We needed some big ground balls and I think that was the difference,” said Bates.

“Jack Strabo played a really good game, he is just so unsung. Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts also did well. Those guys give us a very good look and then we got uncorked offensively.

The goalie rotation, which saw senior Brian Kavanagh make his first career start and sophomore Matt O’Connor coming on in relief to handle the second half, looked good.

“I have great faith in Brian, he played great,” asserted Bates, who got 10 saves from Kavanagh in the first half as he faced a barrage of shots from Hofstra.

“He has earned the right to face 27 shots and he stood tall and the team rallied around him and he played as we expected. Matt earned the right to play the second half and I thought that made sense. Those guys are great, they root for each other. They understand the coach’s perspective. At the end of the day, those were the first two guys we gave a shout out to.”

By the end of the game, the Tiger close defense, which included freshmen Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein along with sophomore Mark Strabo, made strides.

“I said it last night at the team dinner, you guys are going to make mistakes, let’s understand that is the nature of this,” said Bates.

“Part of it came from not communicating, which is to be expected. Hofstra is  well coached and they are smart inside and we didn’t switch, that means you are not communicating. That comes from nerves, from lack of experience. They settled in and I thought we kept our composure and poise which was huge for us. Those guys grew up a little bit and they had a good second half.”

All in all, the comeback win over the Pride was a good first step for a Princeton squad that is facing a major challenge when it welcomes seventh-ranked Johns Hopkins (3-0) to Class of 1952 Stadium this Saturday.

“Hofstra is a hard team to play, they are tough, they are physical,” said Bates, whose team was slated to play a mid-week game at Manhattan on February 25.

“They have something to prove every time out. I have coached against coach [Seth] Tierney and Hofstra for years and years. They lost a game last week that they didn’t want to lose so we knew that we were going to get a team on fire. We let them be on fire a little bit but we handled that. At the end of the day, I think we grew up. I got a few more gray hairs and it wasn’t an easy one but I think it was a good one for us. We grew up as a result and we became a little closer, a little tougher.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes that overcoming Hofstra was a key growth experience for the Tigers.

“That game turned out exactly how we needed it to,” said MacDonald. “We faced some adversity and I think that is the best thing that could have happened to us. We know that we can battle back now if we are down. We are not going to get down on each other and we are just going to keep going.”

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Pete Miller’s performance mirrored how things went for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday.

In the first half, the freshman forward scored five points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-24 halftime lead over the Ivy League frontrunner and defending champion Crimson before a throng of 4,306 at Jadwin Gym.

“I came in and I thought I would be as aggressive as I possibly could,” said the 6’10, 225-pound Miller, a native of Winchester, Mass.

“I think I had a couple of layups, one on a nice pass from T.J. [Bray], and then rebounding, take care of the ball. I think I did a good job in the first half.”

Over the last 20 minutes of the contest, however, Harvard took care of the Tigers, pulling away to a 59-47 win.

“In the second half there were a lot of things I can improve on for the future, not just these next five games but for the rest of my career here,” said Miller, who had two points and no rebounds in the second half.

While Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw some good things, he acknowledged that the Tigers faltered at critical points.

“It was another tough loss for us,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy.

“I thought the game hinged two moments — our inability to pull away in the first half because I thought we really came out and approached the game the right way; I thought we had a tough missed dunk [in the second half] that resulted in a made three pointer going the other way. We never reclaimed the lead, it seemed to really shift the momentum. Those are the kind of plays that stick out in my mind.”

After holding Harvard to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, Princeton lost its way in the second half as the Crimson shot at a 54.2 percent clip and outscored the Tigers 35-18.

“Defensively I thought we were sharp in the first half; we stuck to things,” said Henderson.

“They made a couple of huge shots in the second half, I don’t think it was a lack of total defensive presence. [Kyle] Casey made a shot with T.J.’s hand in his face and [Wesley] Saunders made a big shot. Once those shots go in, you have to kind of adjust and make some reactions. I don’t think we did a good job of that. Our inability to score on offense contributed in some ways to some easy run outs. Offensively, we were a little stuck, we just have to get unstuck.”

Bray, for his part, echoed Henderson’s sentiments, seeing lapses at both ends of the court.

“In the second half, we just got a little lazy on offense and defense,” said Bray, who ended the evening with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds and two assists.

“We weren’t cutting as sharp on offense. We got a few back door layups in the first half and that kind of opened the game for us and we weren’t able to get those in the second half. Defensively, they went to a little more ball screen action and we didn’t handle that well. Our weak-side help wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, that was kind of the key to the game.”

With Princeton hosting Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later, Henderson is looking for Miller and his fellow freshmen, Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz, to get some valuable experience down the stretch.

“I thought our freshmen were very good; I am hard on Pete sometimes but I think 7 points and 5 rebounds are what we are counting on him for,” said Henderson.

“We have to keep going to him because he is doing some really good things. I thought both Steven and Spencer were very good. I just think we are searching for some other pieces so we have got to keep going here.”

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Berger got his final weekend of action at Baker Rink for the Princeton University men’s hockey team off to a good start.

The senior star forward and team captain scored a second period goal last Friday as the Tigers drew to within 2-1 of visiting Colgate.

“Mike Ambrosia made a real good play getting it into the zone and then Alec Rush did a great job getting it down low and moving his feet,” said Berger, reflecting on his tally.

“I was able to get open our front and Rush made a great pass and I tried to bang it in five-hole and it went in for me.”

But things went south from there for Princeton as the Tigers fell 6-1 to the 19th-ranked Raiders.

“I think we felt pretty good through the first two periods, I thought we could have brought it a little more than we did but we were happy with it,” said Berger.

“We wanted to come out and have a good third but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted but we will be ready to go tomorrow and have another good effort.”

Princeton made a valiant effort on Saturday on the program’s annual Senior Day but fell short, losing 4-1 to No. 13 Cornell in the home finale, dropping to 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey.

While the senior weekend didn’t go as planned, Berger has enjoyed his Princeton experience.

“I have been really lucky to have so many great opportunities here and I have loved every minute,” said Berger, whose classmates on the squad include Andrew Ammon, Sean Bonar, Andrew Calof, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, and Rush.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been able to wear that jersey so many times.”

Berger is also thankful to have had the rare chance to serve as a two-time team captain.

“It has been great, it has been really humbling and I have learned a lot about myself,” said Berger, a 6’3, 210-pound native of St. Louis, Mo., who has 53 points on 20 goals and 33 assists in 122 games for the Tigers.

“It has been a great experience, I have been really thankful to have had that opportunity and be able to work with such a great group of guys.”

With Princeton playing at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1 before hitting the road for a first-round ECACH series, Berger is determined to keep working hard to the end.

“Obviously you want to be really thankful to get to play every game but at the same time I don’t want to be too nostalgic,” said Berger.

“I want to come out and treat it like any other game and give it everything I got and try to get a ‘W.’ At the end of the day, we want to be ready for the playoffs and playing our best hockey then.”

FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Stange opened the Public B state championship meet for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team by doing the backstroke leg in the 200 medley relay.

Stange’s swim proved to be the first salvo as PHS and Moorestown engaged in a furious battle at The College of New Jersey pool over the next hour that saw the Little Tigers trailing 79-77 when senior star Stange got ready for the final swim of his high school career and the meet, the anchor leg in the 400 freestyle relay.

“We knew what we had to do” said Stange. “All of us went in and talked behind the block. We knew we had to win it in order to win the meet.”

PHS led through the first half but by the time Stange dove into the water  with the fans packing the pool in an uproar, the Little Tigers trailed the Quakers. Giving his all, Stange gained on the Moorestown foe in the next lane but could not catch him as the Little Tigers lost 87-83.

“We went all out but couldn’t get it, that’s alright,” said Stange, who placed first in the 100 backstroke and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS be in position for victory.

While Stange was disappointed to see PHS fall 2.38 seconds short in the relay, he was proud of how the squad competed from beginning to end. “We swam as best a meet as we could here but unfortunately they just got us,” said Stange.

Despite the loss, Stange feels fortunate to have developed a deep bond with his classmates as they have won a state title, four sectional crowns, and four county championships over the last four years.

“We have been good friends through thick and thin and it is great to go out here rather than anywhere else,” said Stange, whose classmates include Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Matt Tam, Avery Soong, and Colburn Yu. “We had an incredible run.”

Afterward, PHS head coach Greg Hand lauded his great senior group. “They went out just the way they came in with a full effort,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 13-1 record.

“That’s not just in the pool in a tough meet but it really applies to the way they have trained throughout their swimming career and the kind of passion they  bring to high school swimming. I admire it so much. They are role models for everybody younger. They keep things in perspective. Today when we needed to swim fast and not back down, that was a piece of keeping things in perspective. It is not a perspective that says things like this don’t matter. It says that things like this do matter so do everything that you can about it and live with what you get.”

Hand singled out Stange and Kalibat as doing everything they could to make PHS a championship team.

“They are two guys who have great character, they are impressive young men,” asserted Hand.

“They are kind and yet they demand a lot of themselves and the kids that they work with. It is always positive to create an environment in which people want to try harder and are willing to press themselves to see what they are capable of. I don’t think you could ask for two better kids in a high school environment than they have been.”

In Hand’s view, his swimmers tried as hard as they could in the battle with Moorestown. “We were very together as a team today,” asserted Hand, who saw Purdy win the 50 freestyle and take third place in the 100 free with Kalibat finishing second in both the 200 and 500 free, Yu placing second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley, and Soong taking second in the 200 IM and third in the 500 free.

“One guy after another stepped up and gave us a great effort. We did a lot of fast swimming today. Moorestown was, when it is all said and done, just slightly faster through 11 events. It was as tight as you can get, everybody worked for every place that we got today. We didn’t give them anything. The swims that we did to get places below first were quality swims. We had personal bests all over the place today, really impressive personal bests.”

Even when PHS fell behind early in the meet, the Little Tigers didn’t give in. “We had a sense of where we would be picking up points and where they would be getting quite a few so the whole thing was to keep fighting and race every lane,” said Hand.

“I thought we had that from the very beginning to the very end. You could see the excitement on the bulk deck from the guys that were about to swim and the side of the pool from the guys who were pulling for them.”

In the wake of the tough loss, Hand let his guys know how much he appreciated them.

“I just told them how proud I was of today’s effort and of all the effort they make in their training, and how much they care for each other,” said Hand.

The Cornell-bound Stange, for his part, cared deeply for this PHS squad. “I love this team as much as any other, probably more than any other,” said Stange.

“It is just such a close-knit group that we have. It is going to be hard next year not to be with them.”

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand knew that his Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced a big challenge as it took on Ocean City last Wednesday in the program’s first appearance in the Public B state semifinals since 2011.

While PHS produced its usual highly spirited effort, the Little Tigers suffered their first and only loss of the season as they fell 96-74 at the Neptune Aquatics Center.

“They swam about as fast as we anticipated,” said Hand of Ocean City. “I thought we had a real fine team this year and I thought we gave them a great meet. I felt we earned this spot. Ocean City is just a terrific team and they have quality depth throughout the lineup. We were just beaten by a very strong opponent.”

PHS’s sophomore standouts, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, showed their quality as Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly while Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

“Our girls were great,” said Hand, whose team also won the 400 free relay with the quartet of Deardorff, Romaine and a pair of freshmen, Jamie Liu and Melinda Tang.

“As far as center lane swimming, Brianna had some real challenging matchups there and did an incredible job. She got her personal best in the freestyle again, having come off a great county meet. She had a lights-out kind of day. Likewise, Maddie Deardorff had a terrific day competitively.”

The PHS swimmers in the outside lanes also stepped up. “Across the board it went that way,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 12-1 record.

“Taylor Chiang, a senior, had a wonderful day with a personal record. But it’s not just about the PRs but the nature of the competitiveness and grit the kids showed. That indicated to me that we were going out the right way, win or lose.”

While the loss and its finality stung, the Little Tigers are clearly heading in the right direction.

“We are graduating a wonderful senior class,” said Hand. “But we know there are some kids coming up from the eighth grade from Cranbury and Princeton. And the kids who are here do have this experience and will have the background that other kids will feed off of.”

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing top-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday, the fifth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team dug itself an early 2-0 hole.

While underdog PHS could have folded, the Little Tigers replied with a goal by Connor McCormick to make it a 2-1 game after one period.

Notre Dame then scored the first two goals of the second period and PHS once again fought back as Spencer Reynolds found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 4-2. But PHS ran out of gas at that point as the Irish pulled away to 7-2 victory.

While Little Tiger head coach Terence Miller was frustrated by the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“I told my guys you came up against a good team, they have had a good season, they were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and I can’t be upset with the effort,” said Miller, whose team dropped to 13-5-2 with the setback.

“I thought we played to the end and we showed some pride. Obviously, it is a disappointing result but at the end of the day, all I can do is congratulate the other team; they deserved it tonight. As a group, I like the way we fought. We battled to the end and that is really the most important thing.”

In Miller’s view the gap is narrowing between his club and perennial power Notre Dame, who beat PHS 8-2 in the teams’ regular season meeting.

“It is a bounce here or a bounce there and it is a different game if we pull it back to 5-3,” said Miller.

“We had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers in our own zone that landed in the back of our net. That is completely demoralizing and deflates the whole team. We have got some young guys that are out there in big spots. They will learn; they will get better from this.”

Junior forward Jackson Andres gave PHS a big effort against Notre Dame, assisting on both Little Tiger goals and throwing his body all over the ice.

“When he stays within himself, he is an effective player,” said Miller of Andres. “He is a big strong kid. When he is churning and doing things the right way, he can really help carry us. He was a big factor for us tonight. He brings a lot of energy with some physical play.”

With PHS playing at Nutley in the opening round of the state tournament on February 26, the Little Tigers will be hitting the ice with plenty of energy as they look to build on their good showing in the MCT.

“We have been playing well, we are looking forward to the state tournament and doing some damage there,” said Miller.

“We are the 21st seed and they are the 12th but I think it is a winnable game for us. It is new life, a new tournament here so we are excited about that.”

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team looking to add to a 3-1 lead over visiting Morristown-Beard in the second period of the state Prep championship game last week, John Egner was in the right place at the right time.

The puck caromed off the Mo-Beard goalie and PDS senior forward Egner banged it home to give the Panthers a 4-1 lead in the February 18 contest at McGraw Rink.

“That was a great play by Fletch [Connor Fletcher] in the corner, he walked out and took the shot,” said Egner.

“The puck just bounced up and I saw it going behind the goalie and I crashed the net and luckily I got to slam it in there. It was a pretty easy one because my linemates made the play happen.”

Egner’s tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS held off a Mo-Beard rally to earn a 4-3 win and the program’s first outright Prep crown since 2011.

For Egner, being the scorer of the deciding goal came as a bit of a surprise.  “I just try to use my speed to get the puck deep,” said Egner.

“Definitely our line, me, Fletcher, and [Lewie] Blackburn, has had to step up this year and play against some top lines. I know I am not going to score a lot of goals really but when I do, I take advantage of it. It is really to just play hard and that’s what I work on, being the hardest working one out there.”

PDS knew it faced a tough test in Mo-Beard, which had tied the Panthers 2-2 in the Prep title game last year and had posted a 3-0 win this January in the regular season clash between the rivals.

“In the past couple of years, we have started a little rivalry against them and it is definitely special to play them,” said Egner.

“Everybody remembered the game last year; we definitely didn’t like the way it ended and so this year was kind of a redemption year. We knew they had a really good team coming in; we played them a couple of times during the season and both were really good games.”

The Panthers came out firing, jumping out to a 3-1 first period advantage. “That was big; we knew we had to get a great start,” said Egner. “We knew that we couldn’t sit back and let them take control of the game. To get a 3-1 lead in the beginning was big.”

After Mo-Beard narrowed the gap to 4-3 heading into the third period, PDS had to regain control of the contest.

“Coach [Scott Bertoli] told us to play our game, we are in the right spot right now,” recalled Egner.

“We took it to them in those two periods and just had to go out in the third and keep it going and get on the board first and try to hold them back.”

While PDS didn’t get on the board in the third, it stifled the Crimson to earn the title.

“The third period was good, we played shutdown defense,” said Egner. “Logan [freshman goalie Logan Kramsky] played great, it was a whole team effort in the third. Everyone played great.”

Afterward, the Panthers had a great time, lingering on the ice to celebrate with the trophy and take pictures with friends and family.

“I just can’t believe, it went by so fast,” said Egner. “It is crazy. It means a lot, definitely to all the seniors and everyone in the locker room, the whole team really. We wanted to win for our coaches and go out with a bang here and luckily we got that done.”

PDS head coach Bertoli liked the way his gritty team has gotten things done this winter. “It is a completely different group from last year,” said Bertoli, who got two goals and two assists from senior star Sean Timmons in the win over Mo-beard with Connor Bitterman adding one goal.

“Last year, we were offensively dynamic and this group just grinds it out, they are willing to be patient and they do a lot of the little things. As a coach, it is so much more gratifying watching this team compete.”

Bertoli got the sense that this year’s group had a special competitive spirit in December when it fought hard in the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts.

“We played some good New England competition and we were up there without two or three of our top guys,” said Bertoli.

“We just saw some of the role players from last year’s group like the Blackburns, the Egners, the Bittermans, just elevate their game for no other reason or choice. If they weren’t willing to compete and take their game to another level then we weren’t going to be successful, not only up there but moving forward throughout this season. They are big time players and big time competitors, you saw it tonight, these guys score goals when we need to score goals.”

When PDS found itself locked in a tight battle with Mo-Beard, Bertoli was confident that his team would get it done.

“We have been in playoff-type games for the last month and a half and we find ways to win,” said Bertoli.

“It is not pretty at times but it is effective and that’s the composition of this group. We are not going to blow teams out, we understand that. They are going to battle through adversity. I don’t think last year’s group was trailed more than 30 minutes the entire season. We trailed in the Lawrenceville game back and forth and we trailed Mo-Beard until we turned it around in the regular season. This group has trailed in six or eight games and has come back and won. That is a sign of a really good team.”

In Bertoli’s view, another sign pointing to PDS’s success this winter was the work ethic displayed by the Panthers.

“To me personally, what is most rewarding and gratifying is knowing how hard this group had to work,” said Bertoli, whose team ended the season with a 15-7-2 record after dropping three tight games last weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Invitational at the Hill School (Pa.).

“As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that this group has exceeded expectations this year, not to take anything away from them at the start of the year and to downplay what our outlook was. It was just to improve on a daily basis and get better and not look at the big picture and take it day by day and it blows me away to think that this group would be as decorated as they are.”

Enjoying the big finale at McGraw Rink was certainly a rewarding experience for Egner.

“There are a lot of memories, this one is definitely up there now,” said Egner.

“I have had so many great times, I have met so many great people. My best friends in my whole life are in this rink and some of the greatest moments I have ever had have been here. I am going to cherish this game and remember it and just think back to all the great times that I have had here.”