January 7, 2015
LOCKED IN: Princeton University wrestler Brett Harner, right, battles a foe in a bout last season. Last week, sophomore Harner took eighth place at 184 pounds in the prestigious Midlands Championships at Northwestern. The Tigers have a pair of home matches on January 9 as they welcome Sacred Heart and Hofstra to Dillon Gym.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LOCKED IN: Princeton University wrestler Brett Harner, right, battles a foe in a bout last season. Last week, sophomore Harner took eighth place at 184 pounds in the prestigious Midlands Championships at Northwestern. The Tigers have a pair of home matches on January 9 as they welcome Sacred Heart and Hofstra to Dillon Gym. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last season, the Princeton University wrestling team produced a remarkable reversal of fortune, posting an 11-4 record after going 2-13 a year before.

The team’s turnaround helped the Tigers rise to a tie with Penn for second in the Ivy League standings and gave the program its first campaign with both double-digit wins and fewer than five losses for the first time since the 1980-81 season.

While ninth-year head coach Chris Ayres was pleased with the team’s breakthrough season, he is not about to rest on last year’s laurels.

“We have totally built on last year,” said Ayres. “As a coach you want things to move quicker. People say you have to take baby steps but I want them to take big boy steps.”

Ayres, who went from a walk-on at Lehigh to an EIWA champion and a sixth-place finisher in the NCAA championships at 157 pounds during his college days, believes Princeton can be a national power.

“The progress has been there; what can be taken from where we are right now is that we can be one of the top programs in the country,” asserted Ayres.

“We are really young, this is the team for the next couple of years. We have been getting consistently stronger. We are getting good guys in and developing them into a program that wins.”

The Tigers have produced some strong efforts since returning from the break, taking 15th at prestigious Midlands Championships at Northwestern last week and then performing well at the F&M Open last Saturday.

“It was a great learning opportunity, we wrestled tight,” said Ayres, reflecting on his team’s performance at the Midlands event. “We didn’t open up. If we open up, we could do really well. At F&M, we took most of the guys who haven’t been starters. We got three guys onto the finals, that was pretty good.”

Junior star Abram Ayala, who took fifth at the Midlands at 197 pounds, is clearly one of Princeton’s top guys.

“Ayala is totally obsessed with being an All-American and national champion,” said Ayres. “He is thinking about it too much. His training plan is to get away from wrestling when he isn’t in the practice room.”

Sophomore Brett Harner, an eighth-place finisher at 184 pounds at Midlands, is good to have in the room.

“Brett is a great leader, he leads by example,” added Ayres. “He is also vocal for a sophomore. He backs it up with how hard he works. He just has a few things to work through to put himself in position to be competitive at the NCAAs.”

Senior Adam Krop (149 pounds), for his part, is working hard for a breakthrough. “He’s been really good, he hasn’t had that marquee match where he beats a first line wrestler,” said Ayres.  “When he beats someone like that, he will be capable of big things.”

Ayres believes that sophomore Jordan Laster is on the verge of big things at 141.

“Laster works so hard; he does the right things in terms of discipline and work ethic,” said Ayres. “He is not getting the results he deserves. He needs to find that system to be more consistent in competition.”

Freshman Jonathan Schleifer (165) has the ability to produce some special results.

“Schleifer is amazing; of all the people I have coached at Lehigh and here, he has the most potential of anyone,” said Ayres.

“It is hard here as a freshman in relation to school, there is a lot going on. He is making progress and doing well with it. He is under the radar, no one has an idea of how good he is.”

Another freshman, Francesco Fabozzi (157), has the potential to be really good.

“Fabozzi been doing well; he needs to be more consistent, it is easy to say, hard to do,” said Ayres.

“At Midlands, he wrestled one of the best matches I have had at Princeton and then he was flat the next day. He needs that consistency in competition. Once he figures that out, the sky is the limit.”

Assessing his squad collectively, Ayres believes there is no limit to what his wrestlers can accomplish.

“All of the guys are on the verge of getting to the next level,” said Ayres. “Ray O’Donnell (285), for example, is on the verge of making a breakthrough. Things move slowly and then something clicks and there is a big jump. I think that’s where he is.”

With Princeton hosting Sacred Heart and Hofstra on January 9 in its last action before a three-week hiatus for exams, Ayres is looking for things to click.

“What I would like to see is their reaction to the things they left at Midlands,” said Ayres.

“You want to see them improve from the next competition. I want to see how some of them react to what they were missing at Midlands.”

UNION JOB: Princeton University women’s hockey player Brianne Mahoney goes after the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman Mahoney helped Princeton top Union 3-0 as the Tigers improved to 8-8-1 overall and 6-5 ECAC Hockey. Princeton was slated to play at No. 5 Quinnipiac on January 6 before hosting Yale on January 9 and Brown on January 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UNION JOB: Princeton University women’s hockey player Brianne Mahoney goes after the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman Mahoney helped Princeton top Union 3-0 as the Tigers improved to 8-8-1 overall and 6-5 ECAC Hockey. Princeton was slated to play at No. 5 Quinnipiac on January 6 before hosting Yale on January 9 and Brown on January 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off the holiday break by playing at Rensselaer last Friday, it quickly became clear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team wasn’t up to speed.

“It was tough because they scored 20 seconds into the game,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team fell behind 2-0 to the Engineers in the first 2:33 of the contest. “Our starts haven’t been the greatest and we dug that hole. We didn’t execute well in that game and they put our mistakes into the net.”

Sophomore forward Hilary Lloyd tallied two straight first period goals to make it a 2-2 game but Rensselaer tacked on a late tally to take a 3-2 lead into the second. Junior Molly Contini tallied for Princeton midway through the second to make it 3-3 but Rensselaer responded with a goal minutes later to forge ahead 4-3 and neither team scored after that.

Kampersal credited Lloyd with helping to turn the contest into a nailbiter. “Hilary was gritty; she is tough to play against,” added Kampersal. “She uses her body and gets position. She kept us in that game.”

A day later, the Tigers played a much better game as they topped Union 3-0.

“The pace and energy were so much better,” said Kampersal, whose team outshot Union 35-16 in the victory which improved Princeton to 8-8-1 overall and 6-5 ECAC Hockey. “We played really well.”

Freshman goalie Alysia DaSilva got a rare start and made the most of it, making 16 saves in earning her first college shutout.

“DaSilva played great, she wasn’t tested a ton but she stepped up and made the saves she needed to make,” said Kampersal.

The pair of star defenseman Brianne Mahoney and sophomore Kelsey Koelzer sparked the Tigers on the blue line. Koelzer assisted on Princeton’s first two goals in the win over Union while Mahoney was on the ice for all three goals.

“They made some good D-to-D passes,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Lloyd, Morgan Sly, and Fiona McKenna against the Dutchwomen. “They are good defenders but they also both like to get into the play. Kelsey is our leading scorer (18 points on 5 goals and 13 assists) so she has been doing well.”

While Kampersal is happy with the scoring he is getting from his top line, he is looking for a more balanced attack.

“The line of Jaimie (McDonnell), Molly (Contini), and Hilary (Lloyd) has been setting the tone,” asserted Kampersal.  “They are playing well but we need secondary scoring.”

The Tigers will need to play well this week as they were slated to play at No. 5 Quinnipiac on January 6 before hosting Yale on January 9 and Brown on January 10.

“We play at Quinnipiac on Tuesday,” said Kampersal. “That is a tough game, they don’t allow many shots or take many penalties. Yale is playing well and Brown is gritty.

With Princeton going on a 16-day hiatus for exams after the Brown game, the team needs to take as many points as possible to keep pace in ECACH action.

“We are ahead in games played right now,” said Kampersal. “We don’t want to fall two or three spots when we come back and everyone is even. We need to get points, losing two points at RPI was tough.”

OPENING BELL: Princeton University men’s basketball player Amir Bell brings the ball up the court in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman guard Bell had 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 80-66 at Wake Forest to drop to 5-9. In upcoming action, the Tigers were slated to host Norfolk State on January 6 before hosting Penn (3-7) on January 10 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING BELL: Princeton University men’s basketball player Amir Bell brings the ball up the court in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman guard Bell had 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 80-66 at Wake Forest to drop to 5-9. In upcoming action, the Tigers were slated to host Norfolk State on January 6 before hosting Penn (3-7) on January 10 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Wake Forest on New Year’s Eve, the Princeton University men’s basketball team was looking to end 2014 on a high note.

The Tigers jumped out to a 14-11 lead against their ACC foe in the contest that was broadcast nationally on ESPN3. The Demon Deacons responded with a 19-4 run as they took a 32-20 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Princeton narrowed the gap to 63-56 on a Steven Cook lay-up with 7:06 remaining in regulation but never got closer as Wake Forest pulled away to an 80-66 victory.

In reflecting on the setback, which dropped the Tigers to 5-9, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson acknowledged that his squad wasn’t at its sharpest.

“Boy were we rusty; Wake Forest had something to do with that,” said Henderson in his post-game interview video on the Princeton Athletics website.

“They were better than us today in a lot of different ways. Everything we did they had an answer. They made some huge shots. I thought both the kid (Cornelius) Hudson and (Mitchell) Wilbekin were answering very nicely what we were doing.”

With Princeton having posted wins over Lipscomb (77-55 on December 19) and Liberty (65-47 on December 22) coming into the game with Wake, Henderson was hoping that his team would continue that nice run.

“I have been pretty pleased with our group, we have been playing pretty well,” said Henderson who got 17 points from sophomore Cook in the defeat with junior Han Brase adding 13 and freshman Amir Bell chipping in 11. “I was a little surprised by us tonight.”

The Tigers will look to play better as they were slated to host Norfolk State on January 6 before hosting Penn (3-7) on January 10 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“It was a tough one for us,” said Henderson, whose team was outrebounded 45-27 by Wake and made just 6-of-12 free throws.

“We are moving on. We have got the league coming up soon so we have to get ready. It comes down to little things, we have got to be really good at those things and right now we are not.”

MAKING HIS POINT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player J.C. Silva goes up for a shot in recent action. Last Monday, senior point guard Silva scored a career-high 16 points to help PHS defeat Morristown 72-64 and improve to 2-2. In upcoming action, PHS plays at Lawrence on January 9 before hosting Steinert on January 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING HIS POINT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player J.C. Silva goes up for a shot in recent action. Last Monday, senior point guard Silva scored a career-high 16 points to help PHS defeat Morristown 72-64 and improve to 2-2. In upcoming action, PHS plays at Lawrence on January 9 before hosting Steinert on January 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, point guard J.C. Silva was focused on setting others up.

“At first I was trying to help my teammates, like Kevin (Kane), Zahrion (Blue) and Matt (Hart), get open,” said Silva.

But as PHS took the court to host Morristown last Monday, Silva was asked to take on a different role.

“Coach (Mark Shelley) was telling me that I need to help score a lot more so I felt in this game, I really took advantage of it,” said the 5’11 Silva.

Silva responded with aplomb, scoring a career-high 16 points to help the Little Tigers post an impressive 72-64 win over the Colonials.

With PHS clinging to a 33-29 lead heading into the second half, Silva helped the Little Tigers seize control of the contest in the third quarter, scoring seven points, relentlessly driving to the basket.

“I felt that when I was going to the hoop instead of dishing out like I am used to,” said Silva of the quarter which saw PHS outscore Morristown 14-8 to build a double-digit cushion heading into the fourth. “I felt like going up strong and it helped us this time.”

The Little Tigers produced a strong effort offensively as they cleaned up some things in the wake of a 52-47 loss at Hillsborough on Saturday.

“We really had to work on our offensive execution,” said Silva. “We felt that on Saturday we were just going a lot of one-on-ones so this game we focused on setting good screens, back cuts, and really working the ball around. I felt that we were all setting screens for each other, everyone was moving, and it was easy to swing the ball.”

PHS head coach Shelley liked the offensive balance his team showed right from the start of the game.

“The coaches and I were saying we didn’t know how we had 33 points in the first half because some of our big guns didn’t go off,” said Shelley. “Zahrion [Blue] scored and then he got in foul trouble. The Moores (Tad and Tommy) were active. Tommy had 11 on the night.”

Shelley credited Silva with making the difference in the pivotal stretch during the third quarter.

“J.C. has been getting in the lane but throwing up wild shots; we have talked to him about the jump stop and drawing the contact,” said Shelley of Silva who drained a game-high eight free throws in the win over Morristown.

“He got to the line a lot tonight, he was terrific. He was a really good floor leader. We were able to extend the lead to 12.”

For Shelley, it was a really good sign to see his squad execute well against Morristown.

“They are the most fundamental man-to-man team we see and I schedule them on purpose,” said Shelley, who got a team-high 19 points from junior Matt Hart with sophomore Blue adding 11.

“They make you do everything fundamental to score and that will only get us better. To score 72 against them is good. I felt we had an advantage in the post. We were certainly better on the boards and that was good.”

In addition, PHS was much better at holding a lead. “We didn’t finish at Hillsborough, I thought we learned from that tonight,” said Shelley, whose team plays at Lawrence on January 9 before hosting Steinert on January 12.

“It wasn’t pretty at the end but we won. They were pressing so high that we were able to throw over it for some easy baskets. It was good, you always want some adversity because it shows you what you need to work on.”

Silva, for his part, believes that closing the deal against Morristown was critical for PHS.

“On Saturday, we were up by seven and we blew it at the end,” said Silva. “So it was really important for us to win this one.”

PATRIOTIC MESSAGE: Princeton High wrestling head coach Rashone Johnson, far right, and his squad are all smiles after the recently held Secaucus Patriot Tourney. PHS placed third in the team standings at the event with sophomore James Verbeyst, senior Patrick Sockler, and senior Thomas Miers each placing first in their weight classes. Last Saturday, the Little Tigers went 1-2 in a quad meet, topping Lawrence 57-19 and falling 69-8 to Voorhees and 45-19 to Hopewell Valley.  In upcoming action, PHS hosts Allentown on January 7, Spotswood and Hightstown on January 10, and then wrestles at Robbinsville on January 13.

PATRIOTIC MESSAGE: Princeton High wrestling head coach Rashone Johnson, far right, and his squad are all smiles after the recently held Secaucus Patriot Tourney. PHS placed third in the team standings at the event with sophomore James Verbeyst, senior Patrick Sockler, and senior Thomas Miers each placing first in their weight classes. Last Saturday, the Little Tigers went 1-2 in a quad meet, topping Lawrence 57-19 and falling 69-8 to Voorhees and 45-19 to Hopewell Valley. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Allentown on January 7, Spotswood and Hightstown on January 10, and then wrestles at Robbinsville on January 13.

Although the Princeton High wrestling team absorbed two tough losses as it started the year by hosting a quad meet last Saturday, Rashone Johnson saw a lot of good things.

“Ultimately the guys came out, performed, and wrestled tough,” said PHS head coach Johnson, whose team lost 69-8 to Voorhees and 45-19 to Hopewell Valley while beating Lawrence 57-19 in Saturday’s action.

“It was good to come out with a win over Lawrence. I would have liked to have had a better showing against Voorhees and HoVal but they matched up well against us. We will be better as the season goes on.”

Senior star Tom Miers picked up wins in all three of his bouts Saturday and matches up well against just about anyone.

“Tommy has come a long way,” said Johnson of Miers, who has been wrestling at 138 pounds this season.

“He has put a lot of time into wrestling and it shows. He is a strong kid and a strong wrestler.”

Seniors Patrick Sockler (132 pounds) and Victor Bell (182) have emerged as strong leaders “Sockler and Bell are providing good leadership,” added Johnson. “They are really pushing the guys in the wrestling room at practice.”

Sophomore James Verbeyst (126) is pushing the envelope as he builds on a superb debut season.

“Verbeyst has gotten better; he does a lot of wrestling in the offseason,” said Johnson of Verbeyst, who posted 23 wins last season.

“I am looking for big things from him this season. He is going to grow; he just has to believe in how good he is.”

A trio of veterans in the heavier weights, senior Omar Moustafa (285), junior Noah Ziegler (220), and sophomore Ethan Guerra (195) have been making a big contribution.

“Those guys have been solid; they are coachable,” said Johnson, noting that  junior Dave Beamer is also showing progress at 170 pounds.

“They are doing the things in matches that we have been working on in practice and that is good to see.”

Another good development for PHS has been the progress resulting from a youth movement at the lower weights.

“We have some young guys who have come through,” said Johnson, whose team now has a 3-3 record in dual match action this season. “Will Smith, Noah Deitch, Remington Hebert, and Max Gensib are helping us down low.”

With PHS heading into the thick of the season, Johnson believes the team’s positive attitude should help it succeed.

“We have good guys on our team; it is a good set of kids,” said Johnson, whose team hosts Allentown on January 7, Spotswood and Hightstown on January 10, and then wrestles at Robbinsville on January 13.

“We are looking forward to a strong middle of the season and doing well in the counties.”

BIG MAC: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor McCormick controls the puck in a game last season. On Saturday, senior forward and co-captain McCormick chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Wall 4-2. The Little Tigers, who fell 5-2 to Jackson Memorial on Monday to move to 5-5, play Notre Dame on January 12 and Steinert on January 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG MAC: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor McCormick controls the puck in a game last season. On Saturday, senior forward and co-captain McCormick chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Wall 4-2. The Little Tigers, who fell 5-2 to Jackson Memorial on Monday to move to 5-5, play Notre Dame on January 12 and Steinert on January 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Connor McCormick and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ hockey team realized they had reached a crossroads last Saturday as they trailed Wall 2-0 after two periods.

Having lost three straight games going into the holiday break to drop to 4-4, PHS was in danger of falling below .500 for the season and starting 2015 with a thud.

“We weren’t feeling it but then we came together as a group after the period and coach [Terence] Miller lifted our spirits,” said PHS senior co-captain McCormick.

“He said this period is most of our season. If we want to have a successful season and do well, we need to win this game and get back over .500 so we can make a deep run in the playoffs and the Mercer County Tournament.”

A fired up McCormick took matters into his own hands as he got PHS on the board two minutes into the third period, diving across the ice to put home a rebound of a Jackson Andres shot.

“Jackson was busting down the left side; he usually shoots the puck when he has it and I thought I might as well crash the net,” recalled McCormick.

“He shot the puck and it was going up and the goalie didn’t have it so I just dove and I was able to put it in. There was no way that I was going to miss that puck.”

McCormick slid past the goal on his back, pumping his arms in celebration as the puck hit the back of the net.

The acrobatic tally pumped PHS as it proceeded to score three unanswered goals to pull away to a 4-2 triumph.

“This Wall team is really good, they had three deep lines they kept rolling and they kept coming,” said McCormick.

“We had to muster up a lot of momentum and a lot of speed in the third period to get by them and bury a few goals.”

As a co-captain of the team along with fellow senior John Reid, McCormick is looking to emulate the example of his older brother, Patrick, a 2014 PHS alum who was a star defenseman and strong leader during his superb career with the Little Tigers.

“I just try to help the team out through energy on and off the ice,” said McCormick.

“I am always trying to pick the team up when we are not doing too well. When we have momentum, I try to do as much as I can. Last year Pat would try to do the same thing; he always lifted our team up. I just try to do what I can out there.”

The connection between McCormick and classmates Reid and Andres helps lift PHS. “We have been together since our freshman year; we work well together,” said McCormick, who also works well with younger brother, Brendon, a sophomore
forward for the Little Tigers.

“Even our sophomore year, we were the No. 1 line. We tried really hard out there and we were able to bury a few in the the third.”

PHS head coach Miller likes the work he is getting from McCormick.

“Connor is a heart and soul guy, when Connor is going, the team is going,” said Miller.

“When Connor is up on his front skates and he is moving and he brings energy, that is when he is at his best. We have told Connor to go down and get that first hit, it gets the blood flowing. I think that is almost better for him, he is a big kid and once he gets physical contact, that gets him into the game.”

In Miller’s view, McCormick’s goal changed the tone of the Wall game.

“I just liked the energy,” asserted Miller. “Once we got that first goal, the bench was up and we started playing a little more downhill. I told them after the second that we just had to get that first goal in the third to make it 2-1 and I knew the momentum would swing in our favor.”

Senior star Andres kept the momentum going for PHS as he scored three straight goals over the last 9:10 of the game.

“When Jackson is doing what he needs to do and when he stays disciplined and is playing hard, he is a force,” said Miller.

The Little Tigers got yeoman’s work from sophomore Brendon McCormick along with junior Nathan Drezner and senior Chris Munoz.

“I thought Brendon McCormick really anchored us on that second line,” added Miller.

“I thought both Nathan Drezner and Chris Munoz, they both had quiet solid games. They did what they needed to do. They may not have showed up on the score sheet but they gave us loads of big minutes and helped on the penalty kill as well.”

In Miller’s view, the win over Wall could pay big dividends for the Little Tigers.

“We told our guys, this is a huge, pivotal game for us in so many different aspects,” said Miller, whose squad fell 5-2 to Jackson Memorial on Monday to move to 5-5 and will play Notre Dame on January 12 and Steinert on January 13.

“Coming off the break, we wanted to get the second half of the season right, particularly coming off of three losses. So to fall down 2-0 and come back in the third and bury three and the empty netter and win this game is really a signature win for us. We needed it, we really did.”

McCormick, for his part, liked the character shown by the Little Tigers as they refused to lose.

“I would say we are pretty resilient,” said McCormick. “Even last year against Wall, we were down 5-1 after the second and then we tied it 5-5 in the third. We just didn’t want to lose tonight, we just didn’t have that feeling in our stomachs.”

PURPLE HEART: Hun School boys’ hockey player Frankie ­Vitucci chases down the puck in a game earlier this season. Last week, freshman forward Vitucci helped Hun win the Purple Puck Tournament in the Washington, D.C. area. The Raiders topped host Gonzaga in a shootout in the championship game and Vitucci was named the tournament MVP. Hun, now 10-1-1, plays at St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on January 7 and at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PURPLE HEART: Hun School boys’ hockey player Frankie ­Vitucci chases down the puck in a game earlier this season. Last week, freshman forward Vitucci helped Hun win the Purple Puck Tournament in the Washington, D.C. area. The Raiders topped host Gonzaga in a shootout in the championship game and Vitucci was named the tournament MVP. Hun, now 10-1-1, plays at St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on January 7 and at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally had one major objective for his Hun School boys’ hockey as it competed at the Purple Puck Tournament in the Washington, D.C. area last week.

“The idea of going to the tournament is that you get away on a road trip and build chemistry,” said Hun head coach McNally.

“You have that as a catalyst for the rest of the season rather than taking a long break. We spent a lot of time together down there.”

Hun achieved that goal and a lot more as it made the most of its journey to the Nation’s Capital. The Raiders rebounded from the sting of their first loss of the season, they weathered a physical challenge from a Canadian team in the semifinals, and then they battled from behind to top host Gonzaga (D.C) in the title game which came down to a shootout.

When Hun started the tournament by falling 7-1 to St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) in the opening game of pool play, it looked like the Raiders might be headed for a bad time.

“We had been riding on a bus for three hours and we hadn’t skated in a week,” said McNally.

“The wheels fell off in the second half (games in the tournament were two halves rather than three periods), they have got some pretty skilled players. We got our wrists slapped. We outshot them, we had our chances. We had three breakaways and didn’t capitalize.”

In the next two games, Hun certainly capitalized on its chances as it beat DeMatha Catholic (Md.) 5-0 and then routed St. Albans (D.C.) 10-0.

The win over DeMatha got the Raiders rolling. “They were good, they were physical,” said McNally. “We scored right away. We got on the board, it is a different dynamic. We got up a couple. It is different than when you get 10 shots and no goals, you start to tighten up on the stick. We knew we had to get every point after the St Joseph’s game since they count wins and period points for the standings.”

The pair of sophomore star Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown triggered the Hun offense.

“When Jon is on the ice, everyone gets better offensive chances,” said McNally. When it matters, Jon always shows up. Blake works hard for all of his points, he is not flashy and you might not realize how many points he scored. He is among the points leaders again for us.”

Freshman forward Frankie Vitucci has benefitted from playing on the same line with Bendorf and Brown in the absence of injured star Evan Barratt.

“Vitucci has found his way the last couple of weeks; he was named MVP of the tournament,” said McNally. “He has been playing with Jon and Evan and has fit right in. He had more assists than goals at the tournament.”

Hun had to find a way to deal with a tough foe as they edged Auburn Drive High from Nova Scotia 5-3 in the semis.

“They were much more physical than the other teams,” said McNally. “We were able to pull it out at the end but we were rattled at times. I told the guys that it was nothing personal, that is just how they play. They hit everyone and they are chippy. Bendorf scored a goal 28 seconds into the game on the first shift, it set the tone. He had two goals and an assist. They outshot us 21-5 in the second half but we were able to hang on after getting off to a 4-0 lead.”

The win earned Hun a title game rematch with host Gonzaga, who won last year’s championship game 6-0.

“We stayed clear of last year but we have a lot of new guys and some of the other guys couldn’t play,” said McNally. “They were announcing it as a rematch of last year’s final. We have been harping on the kids that if they play the way they are taught and outwork the other teams, we are going to win.”

Working hard and showing resilience, Hun battled Gonzaga to a 4-4 tie through regulation.

“It was a great game, it was very exciting,” said McNally, who got a goal and three assists from senior Bobby Wurster in the title game with junior Kyle Pettoni adding two goals and Brown chipping in a goal and an assist. “We were never leading. Every time we would score, they would answer.

In the ensuing shootout, the Raiders had the right answers. “It went straight to a shootout,” said McNally, who got goals from Bendorf and Pettoni in the shootout while Hun junior goalie Diesel Pelke didn’t let anything past him. “Pelke was awesome, he had four saves. The kids are pretty confident in him.”

Winning the title was an awesome experience for the Raiders. “It was great, the guys were really excited,” said McNally, whose squad improved to 10-1-1 with the victory.

“Before the final we said that we accomplished the goal of chemistry so if we are going to be here and get home late on New Year’s Eve, let’s win this thing. We got home at 10 but it was worth it.”

With Hun playing at St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.) on January 7 and at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 12, McNally is looking for his team to build on what it accomplished at the Purple Puck event.

“Every win is a lesson,” said McNally. “In the Gonzaga game we learned that we can come from behind and win. In most of the other games we have been ahead from the start. It is a confidence builder. You have different things to look at.”

December 31, 2014
Ratcliffe

HAMMER TIME: Princeton University women’s track star Julia Ratcliffe is all smiles after winning the hammer throw this June at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore. Ratcliffe’s victory marked the 43rd straight year that Princeton has produced at least one team or individual national champion. (Photo by Kristy McNeil Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Winds of Change Hit Local Sporting Scene in 2014, As New Faces, Surprising Teams Garnered Headlines

Winds of change swept across the local sporting landscape in 2014. As for Princeton University, a major change came at the top as Mollie Marcoux, a 1991 Princeton alum who starred in ice hockey and soccer for the Tigers, was named in April as the University’s new Ford Family Director of Athletics. She succeeded Gary Walters, who announced in the fall of 2013 that he would be stepping down after leading the athletics program at Princeton for 20 years. Marcoux is the first woman to hold the post.

There were a number of moves among the coaching ranks at Princeton. Bob Prier resigned as the men’s hockey coach and was replaced by Ron Fogarty, the architect of a successful Division 3 program at Adrian College. Longtime women’s soccer coach Julie Shackford announced in the summer that she would be retiring in the fall after 20 seasons at the helm of the program. Sean Wilkinson started his tenure as men’s squash coach, succeeding legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan.

Marcoux

HERE’S MOLLIE: Mollie Marcoux smiles during her press conference this April after being named as Princeton’s new Ford Family Director of Athletics. Marcoux, a 1991 Princeton alum who starred in ice hockey and soccer for the Tigers, is succeeding Gary Walters, who retired after 20 years at the helm. Marcoux is the fifth Director of Athletics in school history and the first female to hold the post. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

In terms of wins and losses, there were some surprising developments. The wrestling program had one of its best seasons in years, posting an 11-4 record after going 2-13 a year earlier. The men’s volleyball team went 16-10, tying a program record for second most wins in a season. Posting a 7-0 mark in Ivy play, the women’s tennis team topped Arizona State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, giving the program its first-ever win in that competition. Sophomore Julia Ratcliffe won the NCAA championship in the hammer throw, becoming the first Tiger women’s track athlete to win an individual national crown. The women’s basketball team saw its Ivy title streak end at four as it finished second to Penn. The Tigers, though, did bounce back to top Virginia Commonwealth in the WNIT to earn the program’s first triumph in postseason play.

On the high school scene, change was also a major theme. Longtime Princeton High swimming and girls’ soccer head coach Greg Hand retired from teaching and coaching. Carly Misiewicz took the helm of the swimming program while former PHS standout Val Rodriguez went from assistant to head coach for girls’ soccer. The Little Tiger girls’ tennis team produced a breakthrough as it won its first Mercer County Tournament team title since 1984. The PHS football team authored a dramatic reversal of fortune, going 8-2 and winning a division crown after going 0-10 in 2013.

Over at Hun, it was musical chairs for coaches. Cheryl Beal took the helm of girls tennis while Hun Hall of Famer Joan Nuse moved from the girls’ program to become the head coach of the boys’ team in place of Todd Loffredo. Haley Sanborn stepped down from guiding the girls’ lacrosse program and was replaced by longtime Princeton Day School assistant Liz Cook. Todd Smith became the new head football coach and led the Raiders to a 7-1 season and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. Two Hun programs produced landmark wins as the girls’ soccer team topped perennial power Pennington in the state Prep A title game, ending its 11-year championship reign, while the boys’ hockey team defeated Notre Dame to win the program’s second-ever county crown.

Across town at Princeton Day School, Rob Tuckman retired as the head coach of the boy’s lacrosse team. Tuckman went out in a blaze of glory, guiding the Panthers to a 10-8 win over Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B title game, giving the program its first state crown since 1996.

On the other side of Great Road at Stuart Country Day School, Justin Leith was named as the new director of athletics, replacing Kim Ciarrocca, who moved to Michigan where her husband coaches for the Western Michigan football team. Leith later took over the basketball program as head coach Dana Leary decided to not come back for a third season.

Winter Wobbles

Princeton women's tennis

PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoys herself on the court this spring. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2014, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. She helped Princeton beat Arizona State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, giving the program its first-ever win in that competition. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Going after a fifth straight Ivy League title, the Princeton University women’s basketball team found itself locked in a tie for first with Penn and hosting the Quakers in the regular season finale. Digging an early hole in the title showdown, coach Courtney Banghart’s team tried to rally but fell short in an 80-64 defeat.

Showing its championship pride, Princeton bounced back by beating Virginia Commonwealth 94-76 in the first round of the WNIT, earning the first postseason win in program history. The Tigers ended the winter with a 21-9 record after they fell 75-74 to Seton Hall in the second round of the WNIT. Senior Kristen Helmstetter capped her career by earning second All-Ivy honors while junior guard Blake Dietrick was a first-team choice and sophomore Alex Wheatley earned honorable mention.

The men’s hoops team was essentially eliminated from Ivy title contention by starting 0-4 in league play. But with senior T.J. Bray putting together one of the better seasons in recent program history, the Tigers won eight of its last 10 games to earn a bid in the CBI. Guard Bray led Princeton in scoring (19.2 points per game), steals (21, 1.5 spg), assists (59, 4.2 apg) and rebounds (5.5 rpg) in earning first-team All-Ivy honors. He also passed the 1,000-point milestone in his career.

Coach Mitch Henderson’s squad posted a final record of 21-9 after falling 72-56 to Fresno State in the CBI quarterfinals.

Over at Baker Rink, the Princeton women’s hockey team returned to the ECAC Hockey playoffs after a one-year absence. Coach Jeff Kampersal’s team was led by a pair of senior forwards, Denna Laing and Sally Butler, who scored 27 and 23 points, respectively. The Tigers were swept by sixth-ranked Cornell in the ECACH best-of-3 quarterfinal series and ended the winter with
a 14-13-4 overall record.

Unable to generate much offense, the Princeton men’s hockey team suffered through a long winter. The Tigers went 6-26 and coach Bob Prier stepped down in May after three seasons at the helm of the program. He was replaced by Ron Fogarty, who came from Adrian College where he guided the program to a 167-23-10 record in seven years and to the NCAA Division 3 championship game in the 2010-11 season.

The men’s squash team welcomed a new coach, Sean Wilkinson, the replacement for Hall of Fame coach Bob Callahan, who retired after 32 seasons at the helm and leading Princeton to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles, and national championships in 1982, 1993, and 2012. The Tigers took their lumps in the transition to the new coach, going 8-7 overall and 3-4 Ivy. Princeton did end the season on a high note as it won the Hoen Cup at the CSA competition for the teams seeded 9-16. Juniors Samuel Kang and Tyler Osborne earned first-team All-America honors while senior Dylan Ward was a second-team choice.

Freshman Maria Elena Ubina made an impact right from the start for the women’s squash team. She earned All-American honors and was named the Ivy Rookie of the Year, helping the Tigers go 11-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy. Coach Gail Ramsay’s team advanced to the quarterfinals of the Howe Cup national championships where it fell in a 5-4 thriller to Yale. Libby Eyre and Nicole Bunyan joined Ubina in earning All-American recognition.

Under the leadership of dynamic head coach Chris Ayres, the Princeton wrestling team continued its rise up the Ivy ladder. The Tigers tied for second in the league, posting an 11-4 record in dual match competition. The program had both double-digit wins and fewer than five losses for the first time since the 1980-81 season. Junior Adam Krop earned second-team All-Ivy League honors, while sophomores Abram Ayala and Kevin Moylan both earned Ivy League honorable mention. Ayala finished fifth at the EIWAs at 197 pounds and went on to the NCAA championships where he fell in the second round of consolation matches.

The Tiger fencing program had another big year, taking second at the NCAA championships. Coach Zoltan Dudas’ squad fell just short of defending their 2013 title as they came within three wins of national champion Penn State.

The men’s team featured three All-Americans, including freshman Pete Pak at saber, sophomore Michael Dodey at foil and sophomore Jack Hudson at epee. On the women’s side, sophomore Gracie Stone and senior Diamond Wheeler earned All-American honors at saber while junior Ambika Singh and junior Sharon Gao were All-Americans at foil. Susannah Scanlan earned her fourth All-American honor epee while junior Katherine Holmes got her third All-American honor in the weapon.

Senior Lisa Boyce ended her women’s swimming career on a high note, wining a ninth Ivy title with a victory in the 100 freestyle at the league championships. Boyce’s heroics weren’t enough as coach Susan Teeter’s team finished second to Harvard. Boyce went on to finish seventh at the NCAA championships in the 100 butterfly, earning her second All-American honor and becoming the first Tiger NCAA finalist since Alicia Aemisegger ‘10, who reached 10 NCAA championship finals.

Tiger men’s swimming saw its streak of five straight Ivy titles come to an end as it was edged by Harvard in the league championship meet. Coach Rob Orr’s squad got an Ivy title from sophomore Teo D’Allesandro in the 200 individual medley while sophomore En-wei Hu-Van Wright set a Princeton record in the 200 back, going 1:43.44 as he placed second in the league meet.

Coach Fred Samara guided the men’s track and field team to a second place finish at the Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championship. It marked the 21st year the Tigers have finished either first or second at the competition.

197 lbs. Abe Ayala, won his bout vs his RU opponent

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala gets his arm raised in triumph after winning a match last season. Ayala starred at 197 pounds, helping Princeton go 11-4. He capped his season by making the NCAA championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

All-Ivy performers for Princeton included sophomore Adam Bragg in the pole vault, senior Tom Hopkins in the 4×400, 500, and long jump, sophomore Jabari Johnson, in the 4×400,senior Daniel McCord, 4×400, freeman Ray Mennin in the 4×400, senior Damon McLean in the triple jump and long jump and junior Stephen Soerens in the heptathlon. McLean won his fourth straight triple jump, becoming just the second athlete in Heps history to sweep the event.

Samantha Anderson provided a highlight with a win in the pole vault as the Tiger women’s track team took fourth at the Indoor Heps. Coach Peter Farrell’s squad boasted six other All-Ivy performers besides senior Anderson including sophomore Inka Busack in the high jump, freshman Megan Curham in both the 3,000 and 5,000, freshman Allison Harris in the pole vault, senior Beth McKenna in the pentathlon, senior Imani Oliver in the triple jump, and sophomore Julia Ratcliffe in the weight throw.

The men’s volleyball enjoyed a thrilling season, knocking off national power Penn State 3-2 in a regular season match. The Tigers went on to make the EIVA title match where they fell to Penn State. Princeton concluded its season with an overall record of 16-10 under coach Sam Shweisky, tying for the second-most single-season wins in program history since the team earned varsity status in 1997. It was the fourth Tiger team to advance to the EIVA final and it was only the second Princeton team during that time period to defeat Penn State.

Spring Sensations 

22 Schrecker

TOM TERRIFIC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber heads upfield in a game this spring. Senior Schreiber was named as the winner of the Lt. j.g. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award given to the nation’s top midfielder. Four-time All-American Schreiber was the 2013 winner as well, making him just the sixth player — and second Tiger player after Josh Sims — to win it twice. Schreiber had 30 goals and 21 assists in 2014 and ended his career with 200 points on 106 goals and 94 assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sophomore hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe captured headlines all spring long. The New Zealand native went undefeated in regular season meets. She then won the hammer throw title at both the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships and culminated the college season by winning the NCAA title in her event with a throw of 219’5. Her victory extended Princeton’s streak to 43 consecutive years with at least one individual or team national championship. She placed second in the Commonwealth Games in July in Scotland, taking another key step in her drive to represent New Zealand in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Ratcliffe was hardly the only star for coach Peter Farrell and his women’s track team as the Tigers took fifth at the Heps. All-Ivy performers for Princeton besides Ratcliffe included senior Imani Oliver in the long jump and triple jump, senior Samantha Anderson in the pole vault, freshman Megan Curham in the 10,000, and senior Beth McKenna in the Heptathlon. Curham went on to take 11th in the 10,000 at the NCAA championships to earn second-team All-American honors.

The men’s track team fell just short of its fourth straight Heps Outdoor title, placing second to Cornell by less than seven points. Coach Fred Samara’s squad boasted a number of stellar performers. All-Ivy honorees for the team included senior Chris Bendsten in the 10,000, sophomore John Hill in the 100 and 4×100, senior Damon McLean in the triple jump, senior Tom Hopkins in the 400, 200, long jump and 4×100, sophomore Greg Caldwell in the 110 hurdles, junior Stephen Soerens in the decathlon, junior Daniel McCord in the 4×100 and 4×400, sophomore Dre Nelson in the 4×100, freshman Greg Leeper in the 4×400, and freshman Bryant Switzer in the 4×400.

Led by a trio of All-Americans, sophomore goalie Ashleigh Johnson, senior Katie Rigler, and senior Molly McBee, the women’s water polo team enjoyed a record-breaking campaign. Coach Luis Nicolao’s team went 31-2, setting the program mark for most wins and fewest losses. The season did end in disappointment, however, as the Tigers fell 11-10 to Indiana in the CWPA final, just missing out on a bid to the NCAA tournament.

The women’s lacrosse team made the NCAA tournament, earning an at-large bid after a superb regular season and advancing to the Ivy League title game. Coach Chris Sailer’s squad topped Penn State 16-13 in the opening round of the NCAAs as it made the program’s 22nd appearance in the national tournament. The Tiger’s NCAA run ended in the second round when they fell 13-11 to Virginia to end the season with a 12-7 record. The squad boasted four first-team All-Ivy performers in senior midfielder Sarah Lloyd, junior midfielder Erin Slifer, junior attacker Erin McMunn, and senior defender Colleen Smith while sophomore defender Liz Bannantine earned second-team honors.

Senior midfielder Tom Schreiber earned a slew of honors as he wrapped up one of the best careers in the history of the men’s lacrosse program. Schreiber won the Lt. j.g. Donald McLaughlin Jr. Award for the nation’s top midfielder for the second time, was USILA first-team All-America for the third straight year and a four-time first-team All-Ivy selection. He had 30 goals and 21 assists in 2014 and ended his career with 200 points on 106 goals and 94 assists.

Unfortunately, Schreiber’s heroics weren’t enough for coach Chris Bates’ squad to earn a bid in either the Ivy or NCAA tournament as the Tigers went 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy. Princeton lost three games by one goal and two others by two goals. Joining Schreiber on the All-Ivy team were sophomore attackman Ryan Ambler, junior attackman Mike MacDonald, and sophomore midfielder Jake Froccaro, who were second-team selections, while senior longstick midfielder Derick Raabe was named honorable mention.

The women’s open crew team won its second straight Ivy team championship, paced by the first varsity 8, which set an Ivy course record in defeating Brown and Harvard. The performance at the Ivy regatta clinched the program’s 18th straight trip to the NCAA championship regatta, making it one of just three programs along with Brown and Washington to compete in the event every year since is started in 1997.

Princeton, though had mixed results at the national regatta at Eagle Creek Park at Indianapolis, Ind. Coach Lori Dauphiny’s second varsity eight took second place while the first varsity just missed the final and ended up seventh. The team placed sixth overall in the team standings. Seniors Angie Gould and Kelsey Reelick joined junior Faith Richardson on the CRCA 2014 Pocock All-American Team.

Gaining some valuable experience, a young women’s lightweight varsity 8 took fifth in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta. Coach Paul Rassam’s top boat had just two seniors, Maggie Stroebel and Emily Hill, so the future looks bright for the program. One of the returning rowers, junior co-captain Becky Kreutter, was named to the CRCA 2014 Pocock Lightweight All-American Team.

Continuing its climb back to championship level, the men’s open crew enjoyed a solid performance at the IRA championship regatta. Coach Greg Hughes’ varsity 8 placed fourth in the grand final, its best finish in the race since 2006. The second varsity 8 placed second while third varsity 8 took sixth.

Enjoying a superb season that saw them ranked at No. 2 nationally after the regular season, the men’s lightweight varsity 8 placed fifth in the grand final at the IRA national championship regatta. With every rower returning from the top two boats, coach Marty Crotty’s program should continue to be a national title contender.

It was a rough spring for the baseball team as it went 14-26 overall and 8-12 in Ivy play. Coach Scott Bradley’s squad got big years from senior pitcher Mike Fagan (4-2, 2.33 ERA) and senior infielder/outfielder Alec Keller (.327, 48 hits). Keller was named Ivy Player of the Year and first-team All Ivy while Fagan joined him as a first-team All-Ivy selection. Freshman first baseman Zack Belski was an All-Ivy honorable mention choice.

Senior star Kelly Shon ended her career women’s golf team in style, finishing second at the Ivy championship and getting named as the Ivy Player of the Year for the second straight year. Princeton finished second in the team standings at the Ivy event, 21 strokes behind champion Harvard. After the season, head coach Nicki Cutler stepped down after four years guiding the program and was replaced by Erika DeSanty, who spent the last five seasons leading the Williams College women’s golf program. Shon, for her part, achieved LPGA Tour status in December battling through three stages of qualifying.

Like Shon, Greg Jarmas ended his Tiger golf career on a high note. Firing a final round 69 at the Ivy men’s golf championship, Jarmas charged up the leaderboard to tie for ninth and earn second-team All-Ivy honors. Coach Will Green’s squad placed fourth in the Ivy team standings of the competition, which was won by Columbia. After graduation, Jarmas made his pro debut, competing on the eGolf Professional Tour.

Led by Ivy League Player of the Year, junior Lindsay Graff, the women’s tennis team rolled to the league title, going 7-0 in Ivy play. Coach Laura Granville’s squad made program history edging Arizona State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, earning Princeton’s first match win in the national tourney. The Tigers went on to fall 4-2 to Alabama in the second round to finish with a final record of 19-6.

Fighting through an uneven season, the men’s tennis team went 13-11 overall and 3-4 Ivy. Coach Billy Pate’s team featured two All-Ivy performers in junior Zack McCourt and freshman Tom Colautti.

Fall Fun

Fueled by the finishing skill of senior star Cameron Porter, the men’s soccer team enjoyed a terrific season. Coach Jim Barlow’s squad produced a late surge, going 8-0-1 in its last nine games to end the season at 11-3-3 overall and 5-1-1 Ivy. The Tigers shared the Ivy title with Dartmouth but the Big Green got the league’s automatic bid to the tournament by virtue of beating Princeton 2-1 in overtime in regular season play.

The Tigers didn’t receive an at-large bid to the national tourney but the honors kept pouring in for Porter, who was named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year. He was the NCAA leading points scorer with 2.00 points per game and .88 goals per game, and tied for first in total goals with 15 and second in total points with 34. Porter completed his career with 75 points on 31 goals and 13 assists in 67 games. He was also a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar All-America and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Offensive Player of the Year.

Another prolific scorer, sophomore Tyler Lussi, triggered the offense for the women’s soccer team. Lussi, the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, had 18 goals and three assists, tying for the second-most goals in a season in program history as the Tigers went 7-6-3 overall and 3-3-1 Ivy.

Senior Lauren Lazo helped Lussi up front, finishing the year with eight goals and 10 assists, the most assists in the Ivy League this season and the second-most assists in a season in program history behind the 12 from Esmeralda Negron ’05 in 2004. Lazo also finished with 26 career assists, tying her for the program record now shared with Diana Matheson ’08. Lazo finished her career with four All-Ivy League honors and her second first-team all-league recognition, making her the first Tiger since Matheson to earn All-Ivy recognition all four years.

It was the final season for longtime Tiger head coach Julie Shackford, who announced her retirement before the season began. She ended her 20-season tenure with a record of 203-115-29. Her legacy includes six Ivy League championships, eight NCAA tournament appearances (the most by an Ivy women’s soccer coach), a national Division I Coach of the Year Award, three regional Coach of the Year honors and the distinction of having won more games coaching soccer at Princeton than any coach with either the men’s or women’s program. She took her team to the 2004 NCAA College Cup Final Four, something unmatched in Ivy League women’s soccer history.

As for the football team, it was a defensive player, senior linebacker Mike Zeuli, who earned many of the headlines. Zeuli was named as the co-winner of the Bushnell Cup Ivy League defensive Player of the Year along with Harvard’s Zach Hodges and was a third-team All-American. A defensive back-turned-linebacker, Zeuli led the Ivy League with 16.5 tackles for loss, ranked second with 8.7 tackles per game and tied for fifth in sacks with four. He had 16 tackles in his final collegiate game, which moved him over the 200-tackle mark for his career.

Despite Zeuli’s exploits, Princeton ended up in the middle of the Ivy pack with a 5-5 overall record and a 4-3 league mark coming off a title campaign in 2013. Coach Bob Surace’s squad got great work offensively from two of Zeuli’s classmates as senior receivers Matt Costello and Conner Kelley capped their careers in style with big final campaigns. Costello finished his career third on Princeton’s all-time receptions list (154), and he finishes fourth on the all-time receiving yards list (1,721) while Kelley finished seventh in receptions (129) and 11th in receiving yards (1,392).

Working some younger players into the rotation, the field hockey team underwent a transition season. Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s club struggled to a 3-9 start but then caught fire down the stretch as it won four of its last five regular season games to earn the program’s 20th Ivy crown in the last 21 seasons. Princeton edged Monmouth 4-3 in an NCAA play-in game before falling 5-1 to Maryland in a first-round contest as it finished the season at 8-11 overall and 6-1 Ivy. Seniors Sydney Kirby and Allison Evans earned first-team All-Ivy recognition while sophomore Cat Caro, sophomore Annabeth Donovan, and junior Kate Ferrara were second-team selections and freshman Ryan McCarthy earned honorable mention. Kirby was also named as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Led by senior star and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg, the men’s water polo team enjoyed a superb campaign as it was ranked in the top 10 nationally most of the fall. Coach Luis Nicolao’s team won the Southern Division championship and brought a 23-3 record into the CWPA title game against Brown. With a berth to the NCAA tourney on the line, the Tigers fell 7-6 to the Bears. Hoffenberg was named the Southern Player of the Year and was joined on the all-league first team by teammates Vojislav Mitrovic and Thomas Nelson.

Coming up big when it counted most, junior Michael Sublette produced a second-place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country championships to help Princeton win the men’s team title. Senior Sam Pons followed in third place with seniors Eddie Owens and Matt McDonald sixth and seventh, respectively for coach Jason Vigilante’s squad.

Megan Curham set the pace all fall long for the women’s cross country team. She placed first individually at the Heps championships to help Peter Farrell’s squad take second in the team standings at the meet. Curham took 18th place at the NCAA championships to earn All-American honors.

Junior Kendall Peterkin produced 423 kills, eighth-most in program history, to help women’s volleyball take third place outright in the Ivy standings. Coach Sabrina King’s squad finished the season with a 14-10 overall record and a 9-5 league mark. Peterkin and senior Nicole Kincade earned first-team All-Ivy honors with sophomore Brittany Ptak earning honorable mention.

Hun

2 Maziarz

AMAZING JOURNEY: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz dribbles a ball in a game this fall. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Maziarz helped Hun produce a historic triumph as the Raiders stunned perennial champion Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A title game, ending its 11-year championship reign. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A trio of freshman forwards, Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown, helped transform the Hun School boys’ hockey team into a power. With the so-called Killer B’s line comprised of the three freshmen supplying much of the firepower, the Raiders won the program’s second Mercer County Tournament title and its second straight Independence Hockey League (IHL) crown.

Coach Ian McNally’s squad finished the winter with a 20-7 record. Each of the freshman phenoms tallied at least 60 points with Barratt scoring 61 points on 28 goals and 33 assists, Bendorf adding 66 on 36 goals and 30 assists and Brown contributing 60 on 32 goals and 28 assists.

It was a season of near misses for the Hun boys’ basketball team. Coach Jon Stone’s squad posted an 8-13 record, advancing to the semis of both the state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tourneys.

Going through some growing pains with a young lineup and getting hampered by an injury to senior star Johnnah Johnson that sidelined her for much of the season, the Hun girls’ hoops team took its lumps. Coach Bill Holup’s team went 10-11. Johnson did return late in the season and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her career.

Fueled by a blend of talented newcomers and some battle-tested veterans, the Hun boys’ lacrosse team enjoyed a terrific campaign. Coach MV Whitlow’s squad went 13-7 and advanced to the state Prep A title game where it fell to perennial power Lawrenceville. The squad’s attack was bolstered by transfers Drake Roy, Jon Levine and Cole West while veterans Tucker Stevenson, Brendan Black, and Owen Black provided production and leadership.

Senior star and Syracuse-bound Brianna Barratt produced a superb final campaign to provide a highlight in a rough spring for the Hun girls’ lax team. Coach Haley Sanborn’s team posted a 1-11 record. Sanborn stepped down after the season and was replaced by longtime Princeton Day School assistant coach Liz Cook.

Sparked by shortstop Julia Blake, the Hun softball team proved to be competitive. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 9-8 and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.

It was an uneven spring for the Hun baseball team as coach Bill McQuade’s squad produced moments of brilliance but was inconsistent. The Raiders went 8-12 as the program underwent a youth movement.

Continuing its rebuilding efforts, the Hun boys’ tennis team placed 11th of 17 teams at the MCT under coach Todd Loffredo. After the season, Loffredo stepped aside and was replaced by Joan Nuse, a Hun Hall of Fame girls’ tennis coach.

Building on a late surge in the 2013 campaign, the Hun girls’ soccer team took things to the next level and made history. Coach Joanna Hallac’s team posted wins over such formidable foes as Princeton Day School, Pennington, East Brunswick, Hill School (Pa.) in regular season play.

Led by senior co-captains Ashley Maziarz and Jess Sacco, the Raiders saved their best for last, stunning perennial champion Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A title game, ending its 11-year championship reign. Maziarz scored a first half goal on a brilliant free kick and freshman Kara Borden added a late tally to seal the historic win, which was witnessed by a throng of around 1,000 ringing the field. Hun ended the fall with a 14-4-1 record.

34 Zeuli

IRON MIKE: Princeton University linebacker Mike Zeuli heads up the field in a game this fall. Senior star Zeuli was named as the co-winner of the Bushnell Cup Ivy League defensive Player of the Year along with Harvard’s Zach Hodges and was a third-team All-American. A defensive back-turned-linebacker, Zeuli led the Ivy League with 16.5 tackles for loss, ranked second with 8.7 tackles per game and tied for fifth in sacks with four. He had 16 tackles in his final collegiate game, which moved him over the 200-tackle mark for his career. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The arrival of new head coach Todd Smith gave the Hun football program a major shot in the arm. Led by running back Chris Sharp and quarterback Simon Vadas, the Raiders offense became a juggernaut, averaging more than 46 points a game on the way to a 7-1 record and an undefeated MAPL campaign. The Hun defense, which was sparked by Kyle Horihan, Cameren Kitchen, and Jordan McGriff, stymied the opposition as the Raiders only gave up 121 points all fall.

A trio of stellar seniors, goalie Reina Kern, midfielder Julia Blake and forward Vicki Leach, led the way as the Hun field hockey team enjoyed a solid season. Coach Kathy Quirk’s squad posted an 8-11 record and advanced to the state Prep A semis and the MCT quarters.

Cheryl Beal took the helm of the girls’ tennis team and guided the Raiders to sixth place of 18 schools in the team standings at the MCT. The second doubles team of Olivia Hartman and Nina Yao took fourth in their flight to lead the way at the county tournament.

PDS

Led by a group of overachieving seniors, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team won the state Prep title. Coach Scott Bertoli’s squad edged Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the championship game as seniors Sean Timmons, Lewie Blackburn, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman rose to the occasion. The Panthers also produced another major highlight, topping Lawrenceville 6-3 in January to post their first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. The Panthers finished the winter with a 14-7-2 record.

Lifted by its quintet of seniors, Robin Linzmayer, Mary Travers, Mimi Mathews, Colby Triolo, and Abby Sharer the girls’ hockey team placed in the top 4 of the WIHLMA standings, earning a spot in the league ‘A’ bracket for the playoffs. Coach Lorna Cook’s team fell in the semis and ended the season with a record of 11-8-1.

Seniors Langston Glaude, Deante Cole, Chris Okorodudu, and Ford Schneider each averaged in double figures in scoring as the boys’ hoops program underwent a transition season. Coach Paris McLean’s team posted an 8-14 record, leaving the seniors with 58 wins in their career after they helped the program posts 15, 16, and 19 victories in their first three campaigns.

Kamau Bailey took the helm of the girls’ basketball team and helped a young squad gain valuable experience as it went 2-11.

7 Fletcher

DOUBLE THREAT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Connor Fletcher heads up the field in a game this spring. Fletcher helped both the PDS boys’ lacrosse and hockey teams win state Prep crowns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was coach Rob Tuckman’s last year guiding the boys’ lacrosse team and he went out in a blaze of glory as the Panthers topped perennial champion and nemesis Rutgers Prep 10-8 in the championship game. PDS was sparked by Connor Fletcher, Jonah Tuckman, Chris Azzarello, Ben Levine and Culver Duquette as it ended the spring with a record of 13-3. Tuckman will be succeeded by assistant Rich D’Andrea.

Hope Anhut, Lucy Linville and Morgan Foster starred for the girls’ lacrosse team. Coach Jill Thomas’s squad went 6-5 on the spring.

Hurt by an early season injury to junior pitching ace Cole McManimon, the baseball team struggled. Fellow juniors J.P. Radvany and Jake Alu had big years to keep the Panthers competitive as they posted a record of 4-12 for coach Ray O’Brien.

Senior Neeraj Devulapalli and sophomore Scott Altmeyer won state Prep B titles at second and third singles, respectively to help the boys’ tennis team win the team title for the second straight year. Coach Will Asch’s squad won nine of 10 matches on the first day of the Prep B tourney to clinch the title before the finals were even played.

After winning the county title in 2013, the girls’ soccer team added another championship as it won the state Prep B crown. Coach Pat Trombetta’s team edged Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the title game to end the season at 12-4-3. The team’s senior class of Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Murray, Kelly Tarcza, Jamie Thomas, and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stef, is leaving a championship legacy. Boasting such returning stars as Allison Klei, Abby Atkeson, Madison Coyne, Hannah Bunce, and Grace Barbara, the program should continue to be a title contender.

With seniors Maria Martinovich and Emily Dyckman winning titles at second singles and third singles, respectively, the girls tennis team won the Prep B title for the third year in a row. Coach Ed Tseng’s squad also had strong showing at the MCT, taking fourth of 18 schools in the team standings.

Bouncing back from a 3-11-3 record in 2013, seniors Marco Pinheiro and Oscar Vik led the way as the Panthers went 11-6-2. Coach Malcolm Murphy’s team advanced to the state prep B semis and MCT quarterfinals. Pinheiro and Vik were both named as first-team All-Prep B performers.

With a roster stocked with freshmen and sophomores, the field hockey team underwent a rebuilding season. Coach Tracey Arndt’s squad went 2-15 as senior goalie Katie Alden held down the fort. Alden was named a first-team All-Prep B performer with junior star Rowan Schomburg getting honorable mention notice.

The trio of John Gudgel, Kevin Sun, and Peter Klein helped the boys’ cross country team place fifth at the state Prep B meet. Junior Gudgel placed 27th for coach Merrell Noden’s squad with sophomore Sun and junior Klein right behind, finishing 28th and 29th, respectively. As for the PDS girls’ team, junior Emma Sharer was the top finisher at the Prep meet, taking 22nd. The boys’ team was hurt by injuries to sophomore star Ian Moini while girls’ standout Morgan Mills was also hampered by injury after setting the pace in the early going.

PHS

PHS rejoice after their win

BACK ON TOP: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after they beat Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament championship game in November. PHS went on to win the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and advance to the state championship game where they fell 4-3 to South Plainfield. The Little Tigers ended the fall at 18-3-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For most of the winter, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team looked unbeatable. Led by a stellar group of seniors in Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Matt Purdy, Avery Soong, and Scott MacKenzie, the Little Tigers roared through the regular season without a loss. They went on to win their fourth straight county title and a sixth straight Public B Central Jersey sectional title. Advancing to the Public B state championship meet, coach Greg Hand’s squad met its match in Moorestown, falling 87-83 to finish with a final record of 13-1.

Paced by a pair of standout juniors, Maddie Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, the girls’ swimming team also proved to be dominant. The squad went undefeated in regular season meets, won its second straight country title, and then defeated Lawrence to win the Public B Central Jersey sectional title. Coach Hand’s team finally tasted defeat when it lost 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semis.

The squad finished the season with a 12-1 record.

Coach Hand

GUIDING HAND: Greg Hand enjoying the moment at a Princeton High swim meet this past winter. Hand, the longtime head coach of the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming teams and the girls’ soccer program, announced in June that he was retiring from teaching and coaching. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the season, the program suffered a major loss as longtime mentor Hand retired from teaching and coaching, leaving a special legacy as his boys’ squad has gone 202-46-3 with seven county crowns, 12 sectional titles, five appearances in the state finals, and a New Jersey Public B championship in 2012 while the Little Tiger girls’ team has posted a record of 152-63-2 with two county crowns, seven sectional titles, and four appearances in the Public B championship meet. He was succeeded by assistant coach Carly Misiewicz, a former Rider University swimming star.

A new head coach, Terence Miller, kept the boys’ hockey team on the winning track. Miller guided the Little Tigers to a 14-6-2 record as the team advanced to the county semis and the second round of the state Public B tourney. Senior star defenseman Patrick McCormick provided leadership and production to help lead PHS to the superb campaign.

The one-two punch of the Herring sisters, junior Lucy and freshman Maggie, helped the girls’ hockey team make progress. Coach Christian Herzog’s squad went 2-11 as the Herrings provided much of the offense.

The girls’ hoops program started a new era as Dan Van Hise took the helm as head coach. Guards Mary Sutton and Julia Ryan starred as the team struggled early but improved as the season went on, finishing with a 3-16 record.

A pair of guards, Matt Hart and Kevin Kane, had good seasons but the boys’ basketball team took its lumps, dropping a number of close games. Coach Mark Shelley’s team went 5-16 and did end the winter on a high note by beating PDS in a county tournament consolation game in its season finale.

Boasting more depth than in recent years, the wrestling team enjoyed one of its best seasons in years, going 11-9 in dual match competition. Coach Rashone Johnson’s squad got solid performances from Patrick Sockler, Tom Miers, Victor Bell, James Verbeyst, and Noah Ziegler.

Senior stars Kevin Halliday and Matt Purdy triggered the attack while junior Jackson Andres spearheaded the defense as the boys’ lacrosse team produced another championship campaign. Coach Peter Stanton’s team won the county title in an 11-10 overtime thriller against Allentown and then advanced to the sectional semis where it fell 10-8 to top-seeded Shawnee. The squad finished the spring at 16-4.

The girls’ lacrosse team also had a big season, riding the offensive prowess of senior stars Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs along with junior Gabby Gibbons. Coach Kelsey O’Gorman’s squad made it to the finals of both the county tournament and the sectional tourney as it went 17-4.

Sophomores Hayden Reyes and Colin Taylor along with junior John Reid starred for the baseball team. Coach Dave Roberts’ team posted a final record of 9-14.

With a number of younger players assuming prominent roles, the softball team also found the going tough as it lost 12 of its first 15 games. Coach Dave Boehm’s squad went 4-4 down the stretch to finish 7-16 and welcomes back such stars as Kayla Volante, Sarah Eisenach, Stephanie Wu, Kelli Swedish, and Nancy Gray.

A girl, senior star Laura Burke, was top player for the PHS boys’ golf team. Burke placed in the boys’ country tourney was consistently the low scorer for coach Sheryl Severance’s team.

3 Hellstrom

ROARING AGAIN: Princeton High football player Rory Helstrom breaks through the defense in a game this fall. Junior running back Helstrom rushed for more than 1,000 yards as PHS produced one of the top turnarounds of 2014, going 8-2 after posting a 0-10 record in 2013. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conor Donahue and Joe Gray starred for the boys’ track. Gray placed third in the 400 at the sectional meet while Donahue took second in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600. The 4×400 relay placed second. Coach Rashone Johnson’s squad ended up 10th of 18 schools in the team standings at the sectionals.

Senior throwing star Michelle Bazile produced one of the finest campaigns in the history of the girls’ track program. She won both the discus and the shot put at the sectional meet as coach Jim Smirk’s PHS placed 10th of 20 schools in the team standings. The Brown-bound Bazile went on to win the shot put at the Meet of Champions, producing a school-record heave of 43’6.25 in taking the title.

It was a banner fall for PHS athletics. One of the school’s most storied programs, the boys’ soccer team, regained its championship form. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team won division, county, and sectional titles. It advanced to its third Group 3 state title game in the last six seasons, dropping a 4-3 heartbreaker to South Plainfield in the finales. Senior Chase Ealy triggered the attack for the Little Tigers while junior defender Chris Harla and senior goalie Laurenz Reimitz solidified the defense as PHS ended the fall at 18-3-2.

Led by junior superstar Christina Rosca and senior standouts, Rory Lewis, Zhenia Dementyeva, and Katelyn Hojeibane, the girls’ tennis team had another big season. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s team won the county title for the first time since 1984 and then won the sectional title. The team advanced to its second straight state final, where it fell to perennial power Millburn. It ended the fall with a 19-3 record.

The girls’ cross country team placed second in the county, won the sectional meet, and then took second in the state Group 3 meet to earn a spot in the prestigious Meet of Champions for the first time since 2010. Espousing a pack mentality, coach Jim Smirk’s team saw seniors Mary Sutton, Julie Bond and Paige Metzheiser along with juniors Lou Mialhe and Emma Eikelberner stick together among the leaders in most races.

Producing the most remarkable turnaround of the fall, the football team went from a dismal 0-10 campaign in 2013 to a remarkable 8-2 season. Coach Charlie Gallagher’s team was led by senior stars Sam Smallzman, Colin Buckley and Joe Hawes along with juniors Rory Helstrom and David Beamer. The Little Tigers won the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title and made the state tournament for the first time since 2009.

A core of battle-tested veterans, Julia DiTosto, Lucy Herring, Campbell McDonald and Trish Reilly, set the tone as the field hockey team solidified its place among the elite teams in the area. Coach Heather Serverson’s squad won a division title, placed second in the MCT, and advanced to the sectional quarterfinals and ended the fall with an 18-4 record.

A season-ending leg injury to senior star striker Shannon Pawlak hampered the girls’ soccer team. But with Pawlak’s twin sister, senior defender Emily, having a big year, the Little Tigers remained competitive under first year head coach Val Rodriguez. The squad finished with a 9-7-2 record and advanced to the second round of the state tournament.

The boys’ cross country team was also slowed by injury as two of its top performers, senior Jacob Rist and sophomore Alex Roth, were sidelined for much of the fall. With some younger runners stepping up, coach Mark Shelley’s team placed fifth in the county meet, second in the sectionals, and 13th in the Group 3 state meets.

Stuart

2 Hannah

HITTING HER STRIDE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah dribbles the ball upfield this fall. Junior ­Hannah, a first-team All Prep B performer along with classmate Sam Servis, helped Stuart make strides this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Quadrupling its win total, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team posted an 8-8 record after going 2-13 in the 2012-13 campaign. Coach Dana Leary’s squad featured a potent inside-out attack with Kate Walsh and Nneka Onukwugha providing punch in the paint with guards Harlyn Bell and Harley Guzman starring on the perimeter. Leary left the program after the season and was succeeded by the school’s new athletics director, Justin Leith.

With an attack paced by senior Amy Hallowell and sophomore stars Sam Servis, Julia Maser, and Tori Hannah along with rock-solid goalie play from Harlyn Bell, the lacrosse team enjoyed a solid campaign. Coach Caitlin Grant’s team won its last four games to end the spring at 8-6, the program’s first winning season in seven years.

The pair of Servis and Hannah triggered the offense for the field hockey team as they both earned first-team All-Prep B honors. Coach Missy Bruvik’s squad showed progress, going 2-2-1 down the stretch to post a 6-14-1 record.

Casey Nelson set the pace as Stuart placed fifth in the state Prep B championship. Sophomore Nelson placed 12th individually while junior Lindsay Craig finished 16th and senior Emily Morgan took 19th for coach Len Klepack’s squad.

Senior co-captain Maya Huang and Julia Rourke provided solid leadership and play as the tennis team went 4-6 in dual match action. Coach Katherine Stoltenberg’s squad finished 10th of 18 teams at the Mercer County Tournament.

 

Princeton track Sam Howell Invitational

ROAD TO OXFORD: Princeton University runner Rachel ­Skokowski heads around the track in a race for the Tigers. In addition to competing for the Princeton cross country and track teams, Skokowski has set quite a pace in the classroom. A member of Phi Beta Kappa who has won a slew of academic honors, Skokowski was named as a 2015 Rhodes Scholarship winner last month. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

It has always been hard to keep up with Rachel Skokowski.

Before she could even walk, she was known for doing laps around tables on her knees.

As a grade schooler, Skokowski took up running and later starred for the cross country and track teams at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Calif.

Skokowski came across the country to Princeton University in 2011 and made the Tiger cross country and track teams as a walk-on.

She has set quite a pace in the classroom as well, making Phi Beta Kappa and earning the R. Percy Alden Memorial Prize in French her junior year and the Haarlow Prize, awarded by the Council of the Humanities, as a sophomore. She also served as a member of the Council’s Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows.

Last month, Skokowski received the ultimate college accolade, being named as a 2015 Rhodes Scholarship winner.

For Skokowski, a big part of the joy of winning the Rhodes derives from how it reflects on the Tiger cross country and track programs.

“My teammates were so excited,” recalled Skokowski. “One of the first people I told was coach (Peter Farrell). He said he had a few other Rhodes Scholars in the program. It is great to add to the legacy of the program.”

A great part of Skokowski’s Princeton experience has been the daily interaction with her teammates.

“We have a really big team with people from different parts of country and different backgrounds,” said Skokowski.

“It feels like a family, you come down and see these people everyday. As coach says, you leave everything behind at school and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. It is taking a couple of hours away from the pressure of school. While there is stress in competing, it is a refreshing break that helps you concentrate when you get back to your studies.”

Skokowski did experience some stress in becoming a part of the Tiger running program as she had to earn a spot through walking on.

“I won everything I could in my league but my times weren’t as fast as the recruited athletes,” said Skokowski, whose father is a masters runner and encouraged her to take up the sport.

“I was between Division 1 and Division 3 and I really wanted to get on a D-1 program. Princeton was the most welcoming to walk-ons. I loved meeting with coach Farrell.”

Skokowski’s love of the sport helped her become a solid contributor. “My best season in cross country was freshman year,” said Skokowski.

“I wanted so badly to prove myself. I trained so hard over the summer and improved a lot. I made the Heps team; it was great. After freshman year, I switched to the 800. I train with cross country but only ran one race.”

Farrell, for his part, sensed early on that Skokowski would be a good fit for his program.

“When I met in my office with Rachel and her mother, she said she wanted to run if she got into to Princeton,” recalled Farrell.

“Her times were on the fringe but I was impressed with her as a person. It is good to have people like that in your program. I like taking walk-ons, they ask for nothing, they are appreciative and grateful for the opportunity. She is terrific.”

While Skokowski hasn’t been a star for the Tigers, she brings something special on a daily basis.

“She keeps that positive attitude; she keeps everyone upbeat,” added Farrell. “She keeps spirits up. I have never seen her have a bad day or a bad moment.”

Skokowski’s Rhodes Scholarship is a huge positive for the Tiger track program.

“The women’s track team had been around since 1977 and Rachel is our fourth Rhodes Scholar, that is a good number,” said Farrell.

“It speaks volumes about the culture of the program that we have people like this on the team. We have true scholar athletes. She is a role model who comes down every day and is a part of it and has achieved so much in other areas.”

Skokowski’s scholarly pursuits headed in a new direction when she was exposed to art history at Princeton.

“I tried a painting class but that wasn’t for me,” said Skokowski. “I became interested in art history and working in museums. Italian Renaissance painting was my first art history course.”

Combining her blossoming love for art with French helped Skokowski put together a program that accommodated her many interests.

“I never thought I would be majoring in French; my high school had a wonderful languages program so I was able to jump into literature and philosophy,” said Skokowski, who is majoring in French and Italian with a focus on French and art history.

“I found that the French department was a good place to do interdisciplinary research, combining literature and art, philosophy and art; there are so many different courses.”

During her junior year, Skokowski started the course that resulted in the Rhodes Scholarship.

“I have always been interested to going to the U.K. to study after college,” said Skokowski, noting that both of her parents studied at Oxford.

“I went to an informations session with the fellowship office as a junior and I saw it was a possibility. I started working on the application in June and I worked on it all summer.”

In the fall, Skokowski finalized her application, getting support from Princeton.

“You have to be endorsed by your school so I submitted the application to Princeton at the end of August,” said Skokowski, noting that she was in contact all summer with Deirdre Moloney, the Princeton director of fellowship advising, often via Skype due to studying in Europe.

“Once I was endorsed by Princeton, I entered the national competition in September. I found out that I got an interview in November.”

As an applicant from the California-North district, Skokowski headed out to San Francisco on the weekend before Thanksgiving for the final step of the Rhodes process, an interview before a panel of judges deciding who would get the coveted scholarships.

“It was challenging; I have had interviews for fellowships but they were one-on-one or two-on-one,” noted Skokowski.

“This is a panel of six-to-10 people who are former Rhodes Scholars and very intelligent people. The fellowship department gave us a mock interview with previous Princeton Rhodes scholars and professors. One of the questions they asked was the same as one I was asked in the actual interview.”

Utilizing the endurance from her running background, Skokowski made it through the grueling final days of the process.

“You have a reception Friday night which is not an interview but it is, you don’t want to make a faux pas,” said Skokowski.

“The interviews are only 25 minutes, there are slots from 8:30 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. Once interviews are over they make the applicants wait in a room while the judges deliberate. It was about four and a half hours. They bring us all in and announce the winners. They announced my name second so that added to the drama. I was so, so excited; it didn’t hit me until my parents hugged me.”

At Oxford, Skokowski will be studying in its European Enlightenment Program, working toward a MPhil in Modern Languages.

“It will be similar to what I have been doing at Princeton, it is a masters in modern languages in an interdisciplinary program,” said Skokowski.

“I get to work with the curator of the Wallace Collection in London, which has the biggest collection of French enlightenment art.”

Skokowski’s career aspirations center on pushing the boundaries of art curation.

“I want to help art outreach, getting people to see the value of art through exciting exhibits and interdisciplinary programs,” asserted Skokowski, who has curated or interned at the Morgan Library and Museum, the Princeton Art Museum, and for the Santa Fe Arts Commission. “Art museums need to be more tech savvy, with more use of interactive and digital platforms.”

While Skokowski will undoubtedly be busy with her studies in England, she plans to keep up with her running.

“I do expect to compete,” said Skokowski. “Oxford is a good place to run. Grad students can compete for the team, there are all sorts of levels. I look forward to running for fun, without the competitive pressure over here.”

 

sports3

HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney guards the net in a game last winter. Over the weekend, sophomore Phinney starred in a losing cause as Princeton lost 2-0 to Quinnipiac on Saturday and then fell 1-0 to the Bobcats a day later in a two-game set between the ECAC Hockey rivals. The Tigers, now 2-12-1 overall and 1-9 ECACH, host the Russian Red Stars on January 3 in an exhibition contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colton Phinney has been a busy man for the Princeton University men’s hockey team so far this winter,

The sophomore goalie averaged more than 35 saves a game in his first 12 appearances this season.

While Phinney has definitely been under the gun much of the time, he likes being in the middle of the action.

“It has been tiring at times, for sure, but I prefer that,” said Phinney, a 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J.

“Those are the easiest games to play. When they are shooting pucks at you the whole game, you get a chance to feel it. I would rather have that than seeing 15 shots a game. It is tough if you give up a goal in that type of game. Now if I give up a goal, I still have some some saves and we can get back into it and feel better.”

Last weekend, Phinney was sharp but not harried as the Tigers faced ECAC Hockey foe and 14th-ranked Quinnipiac in a two-game set. On Saturday, Phinney made 22 saves as the Tigers fell 2-0 at Quinnipiac. A day later, he recorded 24 saves in a 1-0 defeat to the Bobcats at Baker Rink.

“It was the easiest weekend I have had,” said Phinney. “We didn’t give up many chances. I can’t think of any Grade A chances that we gave up where I had to come up with a really big save. We were definitely better in the d-zone. We created a lot of chances. At the end of the second period we almost had a goal. Yesterday we had a couple go through his legs and hit the post.”

In Sunday’s game, a sequence early in the third period when Princeton got whistled for a 5-minute penalty while Quinnipiac received a 2-minute penalty after a scuffle proved decisive as the Bobcats cashed in with the game’s lone goal on their power play.

“I thought it was a tough call,” said Phinney. “We came away with a five and they came away with a two. I thought it was going to be even up but they end up scoring on the power play. It was tough but we definitely bounced back.”

The Tigers kept fighting, generating a number of chances, including a David Hallisey shot that hit the post in the waning moments of the contest.

“We played well,” said Phinney. “We were resilient tonight, we played 60 minutes of hockey and one power play goal won it. They have an unbelievable power play. It was definitely a building  weekend. I think this is our best weekend overall, other than maybe Michigan State, but I think these were better games.”

In reflecting on his sophomore campaign, Phinney noted that he is working on building his game.

“I have had some good games but I have also struggled a bit at times,” said Phinney, who currently has a 3.20 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

“I guess that is going to happen. It is pretty easy for me, there have been a lot of outside shots so I don’t have to make too many big saves. It goes to the coaches having guys in front so I can just worry about the first shot.”

With a season under his belt, Phinney is feeling a greater comfort level on the ice.

“I have seen every single team in the league now so that helps,” said Phinney. “Last year I didn’t see Dartmouth or Cornell and now I have seen them. It helps knowing who these guys are and what their systems are. I had a good idea about Quinnipiac’s power play and who their top guns were. I think that is probably the biggest thing, just knowing the league better and feeling more comfortable each night.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty sees Phinney as a top goalie. “He is our most valuable player; we just need him to continue what he is doing,” said Fogarty, whose team moved to 2-12-1 overall and 1-9 ECACH with the defeat on Sunday.

In Fogarty’s view, the Tigers are doing better and better on defense as the season has gone on.

“I am not seeing as much time in our defensive zone as last month, that is a great stride,” said Fogarty.

“We are not expending a lot of energy chasing the puck. We are jumping quicker to stop any cycles. We only gave up 49 shots in two games this weekend. Earlier this season, we had given up 49 shots in some games. That shows that a structure is in place.”

In the wake of Sunday’s loss, Fogarty acknowledged that emotions were raw after coming so close to the win.

“It is so disheartening, you want the team and the guys to win,” said Fogarty. “They worked that hard, you want to see the tangible results. I feel really bad for the guys after that effort, they are working so hard. I want them to enjoy a night after that type of work.”

Fogarty, though, is heartened by his team’s work rate and believes it will start paying dividends.

“You saw 60 minutes of focus,” said Fogarty, whose squad is next in action when it hosts the Russian Red Stars on January 3 in an exhibition contest.

“Hallisey hits the pipe with the goalie pulled at the end, we have had a lot of work on that part of the game. Our guys have been very attentive and detail-oriented. I thought our guys played well throughout the game. You want to get the first goal. We had the chance with seconds to go on the second period, it bounces over (Ben) Foster’s stick. You just have to keep mining. We are bringing up coal right now and we will start bringing up that gold very soon.”

Phinney, for his part, sees some golden moments on the horizon. “We can turn things around,” asserted Phinney.

“You give up three goals this weekend against a team like this, you can definitely win games. Today was a game that could have gone either way. If we play like this every weekend, we can do some damage.”

 

sports5

HOLIDAY CHEER: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player J.P. Radvany accepts congratulations in a game last winter. Over the weekend, senior forward Radvany played well as PDS made it to the final of the Wardlaw-Hartridge Tournament. He scored 10 points as the Panthers edged Keyport 43-41 in the opening round last Friday. PDS went on to fall 39-28 to North Warren in the title game a day later. The Panthers now 2-4, host Hamilton on January 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing its first three games this season, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team found the formula for success when it edged George School (Pa.) 39-32 on December 18.

“In the George game they saw that if they focus on defense for 32 minutes, they could pull out a win,” said PDS head coach Paris McLean.

“It made me happy to see them happy. We know how hard they work in practice, in the weight room, and watching film. They were rewarded with a victory that they earned.”

Last weekend at the Wardlaw-Hartridge Tournament, the Panthers displayed their defensive intensity and work ethic. On Friday, they rallied to edge Keyport 43-41 in an opening round contest.

“We called a timeout with six minutes left in the game when we were down by six,” recalled McLean. “We told them they were acting like the game was over even though there was a lot of time left. They came out and made three stops and got three baskets. Then Chase (Lewis) hit a runner to win the game.”

McLean liked the way his players built on the George win. “It was a great team effort,” said McLean, who got 19 points from Lewis with seniors J.P. Radvany and Josiah Meekins, scoring 10 and nine, respectively. “They had a 6’6 center and we did a good job on him.”

In the title game, the Panthers went cold offensively but didn’t lose their defensive focus in a 39-28 defeat to North Warren.

“The offense sputtered a bit; I think we were a little gassed from the game before and playing on back-to-back nights,” said McLean. “The defense held up. The shots aren’t always going to fall but you can have that tenacious defense.”

With only three returning players from last year, defense is going to be a calling card for the young, inexperienced Panthers.

“The scoring will come; it takes a little longer for the offense to jell,” said McLean. “If we continue to be focused on the defensive end, we will stay in games. People talk about going on 8-0 runs. We are looking at the 0 part of that and getting three stops in a row to have defensive runs. You can always be disciplined on defense.”

McLean sees good things on the horizon for his squad. “We just need to keep getting better and getting experience,” added McLean, whose team starts the 2015 portion of the season by hosting Hamilton on January 5. “It is a lot of teaching but it is a lot of fun.”

Two girls’ teams, Princeton High and Stuart Country Day, stayed home to play during the holidays and had plenty of fun. Stuart hosted a Christmas Tournament last weekend and crosstown rival PHS was one of the four participants.

The Little Tigers fell 44-36 to Germantown Friends (Pa.) in the first round on Saturday but rebounded a day later to defeat the Doane Academy 58-23 in a consolation contest. Three seniors led the way for PHS against Doane as it improved to 2-2 with Mira Shane scoring 12 points and classmates Catherine Curran-Groome adding nine and Mia Levy chipping in eight. The Little Tigers are next in action when they play at Florence on January 5 and at Ewing on January 6.

Stuart, for its part, started things with a bang, topping Doane 44-31 in an opening round contest on Saturday as senior Kate Walsh poured in 24 points and classmate Harlyn Bell contributed 10. The Tartans, though, fell in the title game as Germantown Friends posted a 45-17 victory. Stuart, now 6-4, plays at Hightstown on January 2.

 

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A TAD BETTER: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Tad Moore gets inside position last week against WW/P-S. Senior forward Moore contributed six points in the contest to help PHS rally to a 75-71 win over the Pirates. PHS, now 1-1, plays at Hillsborough on January 3 before hosting Morristown on January 5 and Ewing on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked like the Princeton High boys’ basketball team was headed to a 0-2 start as it played at WW/P-S on December 22.

After falling 67-55 to Hamilton in its season opener three days earlier, PHS  found itself down by nine points in the third quarter against the Pirates.

But sticking with its man-to-man defense and making some clutch plays on the offensive, PHS clawed back and pulled out a 75-71 victory.

“What I liked is that we played man almost the whole game; sometimes we play zone or trap, especially when we get down,” said PHS head coach Mark Shelley.

“We stayed the course; we played solid man. We made some big shots to make it close early in the fourth quarter and then we had another big run to take the lead.”

The one-two punch of senior Kevin Kane and junior Matt Hart led the way as Kane poured in a game-high 27 points and Hart chipped in 17.

“Kane had a big game,” said Shelley. “When a team presses us, we put Kevin in the corner. He is really good at driving on the baseline. He was drawing foul after foul against South. Hart was a little off, his shots weren’t falling but he didn’t get selfish.”

When Hart scored 27 in the opening day loss to Hamilton and Kane added 15 but nobody else had more than five, Shelley called for others to help carry the offensive load.

“After the game, we talked about a couple of years ago when Lior (Levy) and Scotty (Bechler) would score 20 points and nobody else scored in double figures we would lose,” said Shelley. “We need a third person in double figures, that means that the ball is moving better.”

Against WW/P-S, sophomore forward Zahrion Blue proved to be that vital third option, tallying 11 points.

Blue, though, wasn’t the only member of PHS’s supporting cast who came up big in the victory over the Pirates.

“We got a lot of good contributions,” asserted Shelley. “John Morelli hit a 3 to give us the lead. They were playing back in the zone and he pulled up at the top of the key. Sam Serxner played a stretch of good defense. Tad and Tommy Moore each had six points and were active on the boards.”

With PHS playing at Hillsborough on January 3 before hosting Morristown on January 5 and Ewing on January 6, Shelley is hoping his team can build on its effort against WW/P-S.

“I am so proud of the boys,” said Shelley. “Every win is a confidence builder but to win on the road against a strong team and come from nine down in the third quarter and staying the course is great. We hadn’t beat South in five or six years. They are very good and they are always a very good shooting team. Going into their gym, especially after losing the first game, was tough. We have five tough games to start and we needed to get a win somewhere.”

 

December 24, 2014
BENCHMARK: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Wilson tallied a career-high 19 points off the bench to help Princeton top Lipscomb 77-55. On Monday, he hit a three-pointer as the Tigers topped Liberty 65-47 to improve to 5-8 and won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Wake Forest on December 31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENCHMARK: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Wilson tallied a career-high 19 points off the bench to help Princeton top Lipscomb 77-55. On Monday, he hit a three-pointer as the Tigers topped Liberty 65-47 to improve to 5-8 and won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Wake Forest on December 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having squandered a 10-point lead in a loss to California earlier this month, the Princeton University men’s basketball team wasn’t taking anything for granted when it jumped out to a 44-27 halftime advantage over visiting Lipscomb last Friday.

“We were up at halftime against Cal too,” said Princeton senior guard Clay Wilson. “We really talked about coming out strong in the second half, that it was a 0-0 game and trying to get 20 more minutes and putting it together.”

With Wilson putting on a career-best display of sharpshooting, Princeton pulled away to 77-55 win over Lipscomb.

“It was huge; that was probably the first game where we put a full 40 minutes together,” said Wilson, who scored a career-high 19 points, making 5-of-6 three-pointers along the way in 26 minutes of action off the bench. “That is something we have been really focusing on as a team and it was good to come away with the win.”

Coming off the bench five minutes into the game with Princeton trailing 8-4, Wilson was looking to give the Tigers a spark. “Tonight I felt there wasn’t much energy at the beginning,” said Wilson. “It is Christmas break, there wasn’t too many people there. We were kind of sluggish to start so I felt like I needed to bring the energy tonight. I took a charge at the beginning.”

Wilson put a charge into the crowd with his shooting. “I am pretty confident in my shot and whenever I get the chance coach tells me to shoot it,” said Wilson, who is now 23-of-50 from three-point range this season. “The team believes in me; they were putting me in the right situations tonight.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was happy with the way Wilson came through in some key situations in the win over Lipscomb.

“I thought Clay was really good today,” said Henderson. “His first three really made a big difference for us. Then he made a huge one to make it maybe 17 (at 67-50 with 5:02 remaining in regulation), it was a big three for us down the stretch.”

The 6’3, 170-pound Wilson, a native of Tulsa, Okla., figures to keep getting big minutes in his reserve role for the Tigers.

“It is so nice to bring someone off the bench who knows what they are doing and makes shots,” said Henderson.

“I have talked to Clay; I want him to continue to work on his defense because he is in there. He is going to be in there. He has to keep concentrating on it because he just does so many things for us. It is the calmness which makes a difference with this group.”

In Henderson’s view, the win over Lipscomb was a good step forward for his group.

“I am really happy for this one; we have been on the road and it has been a rough schedule for us,” said Henderson, whose team made it two wins in a row for the first time this season with a 65-47 win over Liberty last Monday in improving to 5-8 before the holiday break.

“We finally defended and held a team to less than 40 percent (36.2%) from the field. That is something we have really been talking about and trying to concentrate on.”

Sophomore Spencer Weisz showed concentration at both ends of the court against Lipscomb, scoring 13 points and contributing four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

“I don’t think that Spencer has a particularly pretty game in general,” said Henderson. “He ripped the ball right out of 52’s (Malcolm Smith) hands under the basket. He had that and 1 (to make it 30-19) when we really needed something, he made that big a pass to Hans (Brase) for a 3 (as Princeton went up 60-42). I see all of those things everyday and I think our guys do too.”

Henderson wants his guys to communicate
better on the court. “The main thing is that these guys have to continue to talk to each other in the right way,” said Henderson.

“Clay is a big part of that; Spencer is a big part of that. As long as we understand that we have just got to be about work, we are going to be fine.”

Freshman guard Amir Bell gave Princeton some good work in the win over Lipscomb, scoring 11 points with six rebounds and five assists.

“I thought Amir was really good tonight,” said Henderson. “We really need that. I thought he was aggressive at the right times. He tied up two people there at the end defensively. He had six rebounds. I certainly think this is a reflection of what he is going to be like as a Princeton basketball player because he was very good tonight.”

With Princeton’s Ivy League opener against Penn on January 10 looming on the horizon, Henderson believes the Tigers are on the right track.

“In literally every practice something good happens and it is like another step forward for this group,” said Henderson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Wake Forest on December 31.

“I am not counting down the days, we will get there when we get there. I have seen all of the good signs that I need to see and now it is learning how to put it together. The nice thing is that we get a chance to be at home here a little bit for a stretch of a month.”

Wilson, for his part, is looking to keep up his good work off the bench.

“I am just trying to do what the team needs,” said Wilson. “We need some scoring coming off the bench and that is what coach put my role as. I do whatever I can to help the team. Winning is the best part and we need to try to keep that going.”

DOUBLE TAKE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Annie Tarakchian dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior forward Tarakchian posted two double-doubles over the weekend, scored 16 points with 11 rebounds in a 104-33 win over Portland State on Friday and then contributing 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds last Sunday in an 84-53 victory at Monmouth. She was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Cornell’s Nia Marshall. The Tigers, now 13-0, are next in action when they take part in the Fordham Holiday Classic on December 29-30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOUBLE TAKE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Annie Tarakchian dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior forward Tarakchian posted two double-doubles over the weekend, scored 16 points with 11 rebounds in a 104-33 win over Portland State on Friday and then contributing 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds last Sunday in an 84-53 victory at Monmouth. She was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Cornell’s Nia Marshall. The Tigers, now 13-0, are next in action when they take part in the Fordham Holiday Classic on December 29-30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton University women’s basketball team was never challenged as it routed Portland State 104-33 last Friday night, Annie Tarakchian still got a lot out of the contest.

“Everyone is out there, trying to get better each and every day and playing for each other,” said Princeton junior forward Tarakchian, who scored 16 points and had 11 rebounds in the victory.

“That is what we really pride ourselves on, we play hard for our teammates  and our coaches. Obviously, we always look to get the W. In games like this I think we focus on what we need to progress on, looking further down the line when we play league and postseason games.”

The Tigers did achieve a milestone in the lopsided win as they hit the 100-point mark for the first time in program history.

“I think our freshman year we got to 99,” said Tarakchian, a 6’0 native of West Hills, Calif. “It is always fun to see triple digits up there.”

Tarakchian is having a lot of fun this winter, having nearly doubling her scoring and rebounding averages from last year, getting 11.0 points and 9.1 rebounds a game this season after averaging 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds as a sophomore.

“I can’t really put a finger on it, I am playing the game that I love to play,” said Tarakchian, who scored 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds last Sunday in an 84-53 win at Monmouth as the Tigers improved to 13-0. “Whether I score three points a game or 15, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as we get the W.”

Tarakchian’s increased scoring production this winter is the product of some hard work over the offseason.

“I did train a lot this summer working on my shot, diversifying my shot because I play both post and guard,” said Tarakchian, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Cornell’s Nia Marshall. “I am just glad to see the ball go in and I hope it continues.”

In reflecting on her rebounding prowess, Tarakchian does what comes naturally.

“I just crash the boards every time and try to see where the ball goes,” said Tarakchian. “I get after it and a lot of times it comes to me, I don’t know why.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart knows that she is getting some major production from Tarakchian.

“Annie is playing with a lot of confidence on the offensive end, she is having a lot of fun out there,” said Banghart.

“I still want more from her defensively. I don’t think she played her best game defensively today and we need her on both sides of the ball as we go into our run here. She is doing what we recruited her to do and that is to play fearlessly on offense, to rebound the ball, and to grow defensively. She is actually doing all of those three things really well.”

Banghart liked the way her team handled things as it surpassed the 100-point mark.

“I was pleased; it was pretty much a landslide most of the game and I thought our kids stayed pretty engaged,” said Banghart.

“It is not easy to do when you are up by 60. We were engaged, we had good energy on the defensive end. That is the sign of a good team.”

The win over Portland also marked a personal landmark for Banghart as it was the 150th win of her Princeton tenure.

“I was just saying I had no idea, I would have dressed up a little nicer,” said a grinning Banghart, whose record improved to 151-66 with the win over Monmouth.

“I didn’t know but as I think about it, it means that I am getting old. I probably remember the losses more.”

When asked whether her team was trying to make a statement to national pollsters with the margin of victory over Portland State, Banghart said that wasn’t part of her thinking.

“These are college kids, what they are supposed to be doing is playing for each other and the program and getting better,” said Banghart, whose squad is unranked nationally but is receiving votes in the AP poll.

“All I care about is did we get better every game. Delaware (an 87-59 win on December 16) was a challenging environment and without (Alex) Wheatley, we had to get deeper so we are getting better. When we play against a team in Portland that doesn’t give us any energy back, we have to dictate the tempo. We showed that we could tonight so I just like the growth that this young team is having.”

Tarakchian, for her part, feels that Princeton could grow into something very special this winter.

“The team goes out to fight every night,” said Tarakchian. “We are looking to grow offensively and defensively, individually and collectively. We have a really good group and it is a lot of fun to play with them and I am excited to see what comes.”

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary Sutton brings the ball up the court last Friday in PHS’s 40-21 win over Hamilton in its season opener. Last Monday, senior point guard and co-captain Sutton scored a team-high 15 points but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 39-32 to WW/P-S.  In upcoming action, the Little Tigers will take part in the Stuart Country Day School Christmas Tournament on December 27-28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary Sutton brings the ball up the court last Friday in PHS’s 40-21 win over Hamilton in its season opener. Last Monday, senior point guard and co-captain Sutton scored a team-high 15 points but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 39-32 to WW/P-S. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers will take part in the Stuart Country Day School Christmas Tournament on December 27-28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off an impressive 40-21 opening day victory over Hamilton, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team seemed on track to make it a 2-0 start as it hosted WW/P-S last Monday.

Utilizing a stingy defense and opportunistic offense, PHS jumped out to an 18-9 halftime lead over the Pirates.

“We came out strong,” said PHS senior guard and co-captain Mary Sutton. “We get pretty nervous in the first quarter so if we can score the first couple of baskets and just control things and calm things down a little bit, we’ll be fine for the rest of the quarter and the rest of the half. We were moving the ball really well in the first half and getting back on defense and getting stops. We were talking. We had lots of energy on the floor and the bench. It was overall a really big team effort.”

But in the second half, WW/P-S had a burst of energy, outscoring the Little Tigers 30-14 to pull away to a 39-32 victory.

“When South picked up the intensity and the toughness, we didn’t get defensive rebounds,” said Sutton. “They were getting offensive boards and they were able to put them up for baskets. That killed us.”

While PHS knows it let a win slip away, Sutton believes the team will be better for the experience.

“We could have had that one but we needed to stay positive,” said Sutton, who had seven points in the third quarter on the way to a team-high 15 points. “I think by the end of the season we will be tougher and better than we are now.”

Sutton and her four fellow seniors on the team, Mira Shane, Mia Levy, Briana Blue, and Catherine Curran-Groome, are looking to end things on a high note this winter.

“Some of us have played with each other since the 5th grade with coach Clarence White on travel basketball,” said Sutton.

“They are my right and left hand girls. They are awesome. It is just wonderful being able to play with them for four years in a row and finish strong.”

PHS head coach Dan Van Hise liked his team’s strong start on Monday. “We tried to switch things up defensively a little bit more this year, trying to stay ahead of things,” said second-year head coach Van Hise.

“We came out in our man and then we made some substitutions to get some more athletic girls in and run some zone press and fall back into a little bit of a matchup zone. I think that really worked. I mentioned after the game that we should really hang our hats on that as one of the positives. That is a good way to get some of the bench girls involved. We will do that more and more.”

Van Hise tipped his hat to WW/P-S for playing sharper and harder in its second-half rally.

“They started heating up from the outside, they had a couple of wing jumpers so that brought me out of the zone a little bit,” said Van Hise.

“We didn’t have the energy left to play hard man defense. Credit goes to them, they hit some shots. We can’t give them so many second chance shots, whether it is off of actual rebounds that they get or deflections that go out of bounds for them. It is too demoralizing to have them get another shot.”

Sutton’s energy on the offensive end was a plus for PHS. “Mary is going to the basket,” said Van Hise. “I think the best part about her shot not being on early and in our scrimmages is that she has forced herself to go to the hoop. So if her shot is on, that’s great, but she is always going to go to the basket. That is really good to see.”

Junior guard Julia Ryan showed her shooting touch, scoring 10 points against WW/P-S after tallying 15 on opening day.

“I think Julia is going to be a little more consistent this year,” said Van Hise. “I think it is her nature to be a little bit streaky. She is going to be more consistent in not going away.”

In Van Hise’s view, PHS is not going to go away when things get tough this winter. “You have got to stay pretty positive in the fact that we were trying to get some defenses in and we are doing things that the program really hasn’t tried in the past and stuff has been working,” said Van Hise, whose team will take part in the Stuart Country Day School Christmas Tournament from December 27-28.

“I think at some point it is going to come down to whether we can do those things that just killed us tonight. Whether we can rebound, whether we can hit shots. I think the chemistry is great. They play hard all the way through. From that stance, I think we are going to be in a lot more games this year. I would just love to have them reward themselves by doing those other things so those close games turn into wins.”

Sutton, for her part, believes that PHS has what it takes to win a lot of games this winter.

“We have so much more energy than last year, so much more intensity and toughness, mentally and physically,” said Sutton.

“I think if we can keep building on those three things and start making our shots we can have a good season, better than last year.”

SHOWING PROMISE: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring controls the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Herring’s offensive prowess has helped PHS produce a promising 2-3 start this winter. The Little Tigers are next in action when they play at Princeton Day School on January 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHOWING PROMISE: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring controls the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Herring’s offensive prowess has helped PHS produce a promising 2-3 start this winter. The Little Tigers are next in action when they play at Princeton Day School on January 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Producing a promising 2-2 start this season, the Princeton High girls’ hockey team was looking to head into the holidays on a high when it played Princeton Day School last Wednesday in its final game of the calendar year.

“Coming in and taking the first two wins is a big thing,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog, referring to his squad’s 5-3 win over Pingry and 4-3 triumph over Summit in its first two outings.

“I tried to let them know I would like us to put our best foot forward today. Coming in 2-2 with a .500 record, I would have liked to see us going into Christmas break with a little more relaxation with a big win.”

But unable to find an offensive rhythm, the Little Tigers fell 3-0 to the Panthers at Lisa McGraw Rink.

“It is a different team this year, we had a little more confidence coming into this game but it didn’t help that we dropped two in a row to Portledge and Mo-Beard the last two days,” said Herzog.

“We were real hyped coming in. I know the girls were feeling real positive with their chances today. We still have to work on some serious position issues, angles and little things.”

Despite trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, PHS was feeling good about its chances against the Panthers.

“Even when we went into the locker room after two goals, they were still positive,” said Herzog.

“They know that is only three bounces away and anything is possible but we didn’t finish.”

Sophomore forward Maggie Herring has been doing a lot of finishing this season with a team-high seven goals through five games.

“Maggie is doing well with the numbers but we also need her to use her strength to beef up some other people and make them playmakers,” said Herzog of Herring, who also has four assists.

“You go in here or anywhere in the league and you have only one or two goal scorers; it is real easy to stop those one or two goal scorers.”

Junior Allie Callaway is doing well on defense in her return to the team after a season-long hiatus due to injury.

“Allie is a strong player, I like her physicality,” said Herzog. “I like that she can just move two or three girls out of the front of the net. She is physical; she has got some size. She is a really good defender.”

After going 2-11 last season, Herzog likes the progress the team has shown already this winter.

“Last year, I think we only had wins against Academy of New Church, which isn’t in our league,” said Herzog.

“This year, we started off a little more positive. The girls are buying in a little more. Last year, the focus with them was having fun. I told them we have got eight seniors this year with a variety of different skill levels. This is the year where we have the strongest collective team.”

Herzog is hoping for a strong effort when PHS returns to action from the holiday break.

“I think going back to the beginning of the season, the girls are still hopeful; they are confident,” said Herzog, whose team starts 2015 by playing at PDS on January 5. “This is just one game. We can build on this, it goes back to the core of their confidence.”

Abbey Berloco didn’t waste any time making an impact for the Princeton High girls’ swimming team.

Making her high school debut earlier this month against Hopewell Valley, precocious freshman Berloco set a program record in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.58, bettering the previous mark by 0.11.

Reflecting on the record, Berloco is ahead of the schedule she set for herself.

“I had my eye on that record for a really long time, I was really hoping that by the end of my high school career that I could get it,” said Berloco, who swims for the Hamilton Aquatics Club.

As she gets her PHS career underway, Berloco is enjoying the intensity and camaraderie of high school swimming.

“It has really been a challenge managing my time but it has been a lot of great competition,” said Berloco, who started swimming at age 8, following in the footsteps of her older sister.

“It has been really good getting to know the other high school swimmers. It is a really close team and they do a lot together and it is just really nice to be part of it.”

Berloco has enjoyed training and competing with PHS junior sprinting star Brianna Romaine. “There is a lot of healthy competition between us,” said Berloco.

Last week, Berloco showed her competitive fire in a 107-63 victory over WW/P-N, taking first in both the 200 and 100 freestyle races.

“I am really a sprinter, I like high school swimming because it gives me a chance to swim different events,” said Berloco. “The 200 is a little long but it is something to work on at the beginning of the season. I really like the 100 free, it is one of my better events.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz saw Berloco’s performance in the 200 as a reflection of her will to win.

“Abbey is so competitive; she was a lap ahead in the 200 today and she didn’t let up, that is the mark of a true competitor,” said Misiewicz. “I saw her times from the weekend at her club meet and I thought the 200 free looked like a good event for her.”

First-year coach Misiewicz likes the way her girls’ team is competing collectively.

“They have such a great attitude,” said Misiewicz of the squad which improved to 6-0 with a 120-50 win over Notre Dame last Monday. “They know they have a good team and they are in it to win it.”

The PHS boys’ team showed a good attitude as they beat WW/P-N 102-68 to bounce back strongly from an 87-83 loss to WW/P-S on December 9, which snapped a run of 48 straight Colonial Valley Conference dual-meet wins.

“That was a tough loss but we had a lot of personal bests in the meet,” said Misiewicz, whose boys’ squad moved to 4-2 with a 109-61 loss to Notre Dame last Monday. “They said OK we will get them in the counties. I think it gives them extra motivation.”

In the victory over WW/P-N, the boys’ team found an extra gear. “They were excited for the meet today,” said Misiewicz, who got wins against the Northern Knights from Alex Petruso in both the 100 free and 100 backstroke with Gabriel Bar-Cohen winning the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.

“We tried some guys at different events today. It is good for them to not always be swimming the same races.”

Berloco, for her part, is determined to race better and better when PHS starts the 2015 portion of its schedule with a meet at Hightstown on January 6.

“I am just hoping for some more personal bests and having a really good season,” said Berloco, who lowered her 50 free time to 24.16 in the victory over Notre Dame on Monday and puts in five or six two-hour training sessions a week with her Hamilton club.

“My goals are I just want to improve and I want to keep enjoying the sport. This team is a great team. I think that we have a good shot at counties this year and I hope with hard work and a lot of dedication that we can really go somewhere this season.”

BEST OF THE WURST: Hun School boys’ hockey player Bobby Wurster, right, goes after the puck in recent action. Last Thursday, senior defenseman Wurster chipped in an assist and provided some rugged play on the blue line to help Hun top Princeton Day School 6-1. The Raiders, who improved to 6-0-1 with the victory, are next in action when they compete in the Purple Puck tournament in the Washington, D.C. area from December 28-31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEST OF THE WURST: Hun School boys’ hockey player Bobby Wurster, right, goes after the puck in recent action. Last Thursday, senior defenseman Wurster chipped in an assist and provided some rugged play on the blue line to help Hun top Princeton Day School 6-1. The Raiders, who improved to 6-0-1 with the victory, are next in action when they compete in the Purple Puck tournament in the Washington, D.C. area from December 28-31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Hun School boys’ hockey team clinging to a 2-1 lead at Princeton Day School last Thursday, Bobby Wurster took matters into his hands.

“We needed to get that next goal so I just threw it on net,” said Hun senior defenseman Wurster.

“Pat Brake got a high tip and it went off Chris Rossi, it was a big game from him today.”

From there, Hun cruised as it posted a big 6-1 win over the Panthers, improving to 6-0-1 before the holiday break.

“There was never a doubt in our mind that we were going to finish this game,” said Wurster.

“It was just a matter of who was going to get it and when. We just tried to stay on them the whole time. I know with coach Ian McNally, his mindset has always been pressure, pressure. Once we get our forecheck going, no one can beat us. We were on the puck. We were getting good shots; we were burying rebounds. We were paying the price to get the little goals.”

It was a major goal for Hun to beat nemesis and defending state Prep champion PDS.

“It is huge,” said Wurster, noting that last year’s meeting between the local rivals was snowed out twice.

“We had this one circled on our calendar for a while. I have to give credit to our fan section. We had probably about 100 kids who came out here to support us. I thought that win came from them. We had the support and we wanted to give them a show and we gave it to them.”

Playing in his final campaign with the program, Wurster is looking to bring maturity and production to the squad.

“I step in with the leadership,” said Wurster. “I have Chris Rossi and Danny Seelagy, the other two seniors on my side. They are there to help me. Coach McNally wants me to step up. I give my best and once the younger kids see I am stepping up, they want to top that.”

With Hun undefeated through seven games, people are stepping up all over the ice.

“It is hard work, every single one of those guys in there has each other’s back,” said Wurster. “There is no fighting in the locker room. Every man is there to protect you.”

Hun coach McNally liked the way his team fought back to get its third goal against PDS, a tally he saw as the turning point of the contest.

“When they scored to make it 2-1, it was worry, worry,” said McNally. “But when we scored to make it 3-1, I was like OK, we are alright. From then, we just did the job.”

McNally is pleased with how Wurster and his fellow defensemen are taking care of their jobs.

“I am very impressed with our overall poise with the puck,” said McNally. “Our defensemen are confident with the puck, they wait and try to pass it to each other and very rarely do they cough it up. Bob is a big part of that. He sees times to jump into the play and be in front of the net and then he will be the first guy back. He is all over the ice but it is with purpose and it helps at both ends. You saw him make a decision on the third goal. He was behind the net and we were stuck. Their guy decided to gamble and Bob was gone. Somebody else probably would have just passed that puck away but he saw a hole and went and we were able to bury it.”

Hun’s intensity all over the ice made the difference in the eagerly anticipated showdown with PDS.

“I think they were waiting for it and they were excited,” said McNally. “I don’t know that we thought this would happen. We said before the game if we work incredibly hard and we play the way we have decided to play with our sound strategies and our identity, then I am pretty confident that we can win all the time. I thought they did that today.”

With sophomore star and offensive catalyst Evan Barratt having not played yet this season due to a knee injury, Hun’s 6-0-1 start is even more impressive.

“We have very much risen to the occasion,” asserted McNally. “There is nobody we are going to play in tournaments or the rest of the year where the kids are going to be scared of losing. That doesn’t mean that we are going to win every game but at least we will go in with the idea that we can win today. That is important.”

Wurster, for his part, is confident that the Raiders will keep rising to the occasion.

“We are not in a league any more and we are playing the better prep schools in the area,” said Wurster.

“We want to make a name for ourselves, starting off 6-0-1 before Christmas is a good start. We have a couple of big games coming up here and we are putting ourselves on the map and a lot of good things are to come.”

BENDING IT IN: Hun School boys’ hockey player Jon ­Bendorf tracks the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore Bendorf scored a dazzling end-to-end goal to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 6-1. The Raiders, now 6-0-1, are next in action when they play in the Purple Puck Tournament in the Washington, D.C. area from December 28-31.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENDING IT IN: Hun School boys’ hockey player Jon ­Bendorf tracks the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore Bendorf scored a dazzling end-to-end goal to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 6-1. The Raiders, now 6-0-1, are next in action when they play in the Purple Puck Tournament in the Washington, D.C. area from December 28-31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The trio of forwards Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown made an immediate impact on the local high school hockey scene last winter, helping to transform the Hun School boys’ squad into a power.

With each of the Killer B’s freshman line scoring at least 60 points (Barratt — 23 goals, 38 assists, Bendorf — 36 goals, 30 assists,  and Brown — 28 goals, 32 assists), Hun posted a 20-7 record, winning the Mercer County Tournament and a second straight Independence Hockey League (IHL) crown.

Coming into this winter, Hun dropped out of the IHL to upgrade its schedule and earn a spot among the elite teams in the state.

But with Barratt suffering a knee injury that has him sidelined until January at least, it looked like Hun may have bitten off more than it can chew.

“We are missing Barratt and that is a big roadblock for us so we had to rise to it,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally.

Last Thursday as Hun played at perennial power and nemesis Princeton Day School, the pair of Brown and Bendorf rose to the occasion. Brown tallied two goals and an assist while Bendorf scored a dazzling end-to-end first period goal that gave Hun a 1-0 score, jumpstarting the Raiders to a 6-1 triumph as they improved to 6-0-1.

With last year’s installment of the rivalry having been snowed out, Brown and his teammates were eager to finally get a shot at the Panthers, the defending state Prep champs.

“We have been looking forward to playing them since last year,” said Brown. “It got snowed out twice so the anticipation has been building.”

Brown and his teammates drew inspiration from some of their former teammates.

“Coach read us alumni messages about this game and how we were never able to beat these guys in past years,” said Brown. “It is sweet to be finally  able to do it.”

One of those messages mentioned Brown specifically but it took a key assist from Hun head coach Ian McNally to help him have a big game.

“Spy Avgoustiniatos, one of the seniors from last year, had some predictions for the game and one of them was that Blake was going to score,” said McNally.

“Blake forgot his socks. I had a new pair of black socks in my bag so I gave them to him and I said every time you have fresh socks on, you have to score, that is a hockey rule. He said ‘I better,’ he hasn’t scored in a long time. He got two and he probably could have had four.”

Bendorf, for his part, was proud to see Hun rule the Panthers. “We were so excited to play this game,” said Bendorf.

“I couldn’t even focus during exams today, I just wanted to get to this game. We got a huge crowd out there and we were able to show them who the best team in Princeton is.”

While Bendorf acknowledged that the absence of Barratt leaves a major void, he liked the way his teammates have risen to the challenge.

“You can win with anybody as long as you are out there and playing your hardest and giving all of your heart,” said Bendorf.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge, every step of the way but we were able to get the win. To start off the season at 6-0-1 is great going into vacation.”

In Brown’s view, not having Barratt early in the season could benefit the team down the road.

“Obviously it hurts without Evan but we are still able to be great without him,” said Brown. “When he comes back, we will be even better.”

That is a scary proposition for Hun’s foes.

FRENCH CONNECTION: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Kiely French takes the puck up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore defenseman French scored a goal to help PDS top Princeton High 3-0. The Panthers, now 4-3, are next in action when they host PHS on January 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRENCH CONNECTION: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Kiely French takes the puck up the ice in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore defenseman French scored a goal to help PDS top Princeton High 3-0. The Panthers, now 4-3, are next in action when they host PHS on January 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kiely French was moved to defense this fall for the Princeton Day School field hockey team and emerged as a key contributor.

This winter, sophomore French has been asked to switch from her natural position of forward to defense to solidify things along the blue line for the PDS girls’ hockey team.

As a result, French is applying some of the lessons she learned this fall to the ice.

“I have never played defense; I think it is difficult at first,” said French. “At the beginning the toughest thing was probably learning which girl to play on a 2-on-1 because I was so used to playing the girl who had the puck and I forgot to look back. In field hockey, I played defense and I think that is transferring over. I am becoming more confident and I have started trying things that I wouldn’t normally be comfortable with.”

Displaying her confidence last Wednesday as PDS hosted Princeton High, French went end-to-end with the puck with less than a minute remaining in the second period and fired it into the back of the net for a goal.

“I looked up and I didn’t see anyone open so I just took it,” said French, reflecting on her tally.

“I saw the defense and I was like I am going to go around her. Lorna (PDS head coach Lorna Cook) told me to go around her so I am going to go around her. I saw the whole left side of the net was open in between her gloves and her pads so I just shot there. I was really happy.”

French was happy to give PDS a little breathing room after it took a 1-0 lead on a first period goal by sophomore star Kristi Serafin.

“It definitely made us feel more relaxed,” said French referring to Serafin’s tally.

“I think it fired us up more to score more so we would be more ahead and we would just keep going and just completely say we are winning this game.”

PDS went on to post a 3-0 win with Serafin adding a third period goal as the Panthers take a 4-3 record into the holiday break.

French acknowledged that an improved PHS squad gave PDS a stiff test. “I think a lot of us knew that they had more club players than in previous years; I think we were a lot more fired up,” said French, reflecting on the victory which saw senior goalie and captain Katie Alden make 12 saves in earning the shutout.

“In the locker room, we were all singing and dancing,” said French. “We really wanted to win, especially because it was a home game and it was Kristi’s birthday.”

Entering PDS this year as a transfer, French has quickly found a home. “I love it so much, everyone was so welcoming,” asserted French. “I feel like I have been here my entire life.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, French feels PDS has room to grow.

“I think something we can build on is probably passing; I think we are doing a really good job compared to how our season started but I still think we can work on that,” said French.

“We also need to work on getting open for the puck and communication. We have started talking a lot more on the ice but I think we can still improve on that.”

FACE TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nneka Onukwugha takes a shot to the face as she heads to the basket in recent action. Last Friday, senior forward Onukwugha scored eight points as Stuart topped Noor-Ul-Iman School 48-10 to improve to 5-3. The program will be hosting its Stuart Christmas Tournament from December 27-28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE TIME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nneka Onukwugha takes a shot to the face as she heads to the basket in recent action. Last Friday, senior forward Onukwugha scored eight points as Stuart topped Noor-Ul-Iman School 48-10 to improve to 5-3. The program will be hosting its Stuart Christmas Tournament from December 27-28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting Pennington last Wednesday the Stuart Country Day School basketball team battled the Red Raiders to an 8-8 standoff in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately since the Tartans entered the quarter trailing Pennington 51-23, their good play down the stretch just maintained the status quo in a 59-31 win by the Red Raiders.

Stuart first year head coach Justin Leith acknowledged that a sluggish first quarter doomed his squad to defeat.

“The key was that we started out that slow,” said Leith, whose team trailed 23-8 heading into the second quarter.

“It teaches us that you can’t come out with nerves; you can’t come out with  apprehension. We have to come out the way we started the second half and the way some of the players finished the game.”

Leith liked the way junior forward Kate Walsh finished inside as she tallied a game-high 20 points in a losing cause.

“I thought Kate was gritty,” said Leith. “She had 22 points against  Germantown Friends the other day when we came back and almost won. She did a great job today, she has nice inside moves. We need to follow that up with some more defensive pressure and defensive stops.”

Senior Harlyn Bell did provide the Tartans with some defensive intensity in the loss to Pennington.

“I liked what she did on help side defense,” added Leith. “She was there, she was talking. She wasn’t allowing people to cut in front of her, she was boxing out every single time. One time she left her man on the weak side to go pick up someone on the strong side because she wasn’t being guarded and when I see things like that, then I am encouraged.”

The play of junior guard Harley Guzman and senior forward Nneka Onukwugha has been encouraging.

“Harley is our leader, she needs to be our point guard,” said Leith. “She certainly has her moments where she sometimes takes over. In this game, she tried to a couple of times but the lay-ups didn’t fall the way she wanted to. She had 15 points against PDS. You get Nneka in there, playing tough inside and getting rebounds and we are putting together a nice little basketball team.”

Leith acknowledges that Stuart hasn’t put it together yet. “We have had a bunch of pieces of great basketball,” said Leith, whose team improved to 5-3 with a 48-10 win over Noor-Ul-Iman School last Friday.

“Against Germantown Friends, we came all the way back and they went up by four with 13 seconds left, it was just so close. We have had all of these moments that we need to put together and that is going to happen.”

In order to make more good things happen, Stuart has to show more resolve on the court.

“I told them that some of the toughness is cultivated and they really out-toughed us today,” said Leith.

“Our girls are tough, they are, but we need to put together the moments. We need to continue to cultivate that toughness and we are going to do that over winter break.”

With its Stuart Christmas Tournament being held from December 27-28, the team is going to work hard over the holidays.

“A lot of that is going to be going back to the basics and teaching more,” said Leith, whose team faces Doane Academy in the opening round on December 27 and then either Princeton High or Germantown Friends the next day.

“It is like another preseason with no distraction of homework or anything else. It is just basketball and we get to come together as a team and bond a little bit more.”

In Leith’s view, mastering the basics will yield dividends over the course of the winter.

“We need to continue to get better over the season with each practice and each game,” said Leith.

“As long as we put more and more of those moments together, those good moments of the great defense, the hustle, the diving on the floor, the beautiful offense that they show sometimes, that is a successful season. We are going to build on that over the year here.”

December 17, 2014
FULL SPEED AHEAD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Mariah Smith heads to the hoop in a game earlier in her career. Getting back up to speed after being sidelined for much of last season with a stress fracture in her leg, senior Smith tallied a career-high 11 points last Saturday as Princeton rolled to a 96-58 win over visiting Binghamton. The Tigers, who improved to 10-0 with the victory, giving them the best start in the history of Princeton basketball, men’s or women’s, were slated to play at Delaware on December 16 before hosting Portland State on December 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FULL SPEED AHEAD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Mariah Smith heads to the hoop in a game earlier in her career. Getting back up to speed after being sidelined for much of last season with a stress fracture in her leg, senior Smith tallied a career-high 11 points last Saturday as Princeton rolled to a 96-58 win over visiting Binghamton. The Tigers, who improved to 10-0 with the victory, giving them the best start in the history of Princeton basketball, men’s or women’s, were slated to play at Delaware on December 16 before hosting Portland State on December 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After missing most of her junior season on the Princeton University women’s basketball team with a stress fracture in her right leg, Mariah Smith is just getting up to speed this winter,

“I am just now really healing up in my leg,” said Smith, a 6’0 native of Peoria Ill. who played in just seven games last winter. “Now it is maintaining and making sure the muscles are relaxed in my legs.”

Last Saturday against visiting Binghamton, senior forward Smith looked relaxed with the ball in her hands, scoring a career-high 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds and two assists as the Tigers cruised to a 96-58 win and improved to 10-0.

“I was posting up hard, we focused on that a lot this week and just feeling good,” said Smith. “I was getting in the groove with everything and playing with energy and playing with the flow of the game and what our game plan was.”

The Tigers certainly got into the offensive flow last Saturday as they produced a 29-4 run in the first half to break the game open.

“At the beginning of the year, we focused a lot on defense,” said Smith, who is averaging 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds a game this season.

“After last year, it was redemption time. We have been focusing so much on that, so we had to start focusing on offense. We have so many offensive weapons so after we adjusted we can get into our offense and start having some real fun, playing to everybody’s strengths.”

As one of the four seniors on the squad, along with Blake Dietrick, Jess Shivers, and Alex Rodgers, Smith is looking to provide some strong leadership in her final college campaign.

“It is fun being a leader on this team, seeing how we helped recruit everyone on this team and with coach (Courtney Banghart) forming this team,” said Smith.

“Our leadership really shows in the team’s attitude so I am really happy with the way all of us seniors have been leading. I think our personalities are really coming through on the court and off the court as well.”

The Tigers showed a one-for-all, all-for-one attitude in the win over Binghamton as all 13 Princeton players who played in the game scored, with the reserves getting cheers from the bench when they came through.

“It is a great opportunity for us to celebrate each other and you see our bench  goes wild on every play,” said Smith.

“That is us thinking of each other as a family. That is a character of how we are off the court and you see that coming through on the court in those circumstances.”

With Princeton producing the best start in the history of Ivy League women’s hoops and in school history, men’s or women’s hoops, Smith likes the way the team has been coming through.

“We looked at the schedule and we saw the big games,” said Smith.

“Wake was our first real big game and we came out and hammered them and that was a sign to ourselves that we have got something really good here. We went to Michigan on the last week of classes for all of us. We were focusing and thinking we might as well leave on a Monday and play on the Tuesday in the middle of school and hammer them if we were going to give up that school time and go.”

Princeton head coach Banghart liked the focus her squad displayed in routing Binghamton.

“It is about energy; when we play with solid energy, I think it translates to all parts of the game,” said Banghart, who got 19 points apiece from Dietrick and junior star Michelle Miller on Saturday.

“This team can score and they have also showed that they can defend. We decided that offensively now it is time to be playing more fearlessly. We had 23 assists and nine turnovers, that is just good. These guys are doing a good job.”

Banghart is happy to see Smith doing a good job in her final season.

“She is healthyish, she is certainly not at full health,” said Banghart. “I think being a senior on this team she realizes that her role is an important one. She is experienced, she is physical, she is tough, and she is versatile. I think she is playing like you would hope your seniors would play.”

In the victory on Saturday, the Tigers showed their versatility collectively as each player who got in made a contribution.

“We mix them up in practice all the time and we always tell them that you practice against good players every single day so just because they are wearing a different uniform doesn’t mean that they are better,” said Banghart.

“I hope we are continuing to bring along our younger kids because as you can see they are good players as well.”

Reflecting on her team’s 10-0 start, Banghart acknowledged that she is savoring the team’s progress.

“I am enjoying this one through the journey a little bit because back when Niveen (Rasheed) was here we had a star and we really could defend,” said Banghart.

“This year’s team is defending and playing offense. I realize how special it is to have an offensive team that has really bought into the defensive teamwork. I think they are getting the results that they want.”

Smith, for her part, believes the Tigers are in position to get some special results this winter.

“Every day we are getting better and we are seeing that, so it is pretty exciting,” said Smith.

“What we are focusing on is us and getting better every day because when we go into Ivy play it is going to be a little different. We have to find our own level and play to our level.”

SUPER SAVER: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney gloves a save in recent action. Sophomore goalie Phinney has been a bright spot for the Tigers this season, posting a 3.48 goals against average and making 422 saves in 12 appearances. The Tigers, who moved to 2-10-1with a 5-0 loss at No. 3 Minnesota State last Friday, are on holiday break and return to action when they play at No. 14 Quinnipiac on December 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SUPER SAVER: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney gloves a save in recent action. Sophomore goalie Phinney has been a bright spot for the Tigers this season, posting a 3.48 goals against average and making 422 saves in 12 appearances. The Tigers, who moved to 2-10-1with a 5-0 loss at No. 3 Minnesota State last Friday, are on holiday break and return to action when they play at No. 14 Quinnipiac on December 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at third-ranked Minnesota State last Friday night in Mankato, the Princeton University men’s hockey team came out flying.

“The first period against Mankato was everything we have asked them to do,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty.

“We were controlling the puck, we were up 8-1 in shots. I don’t think we have had that all year. That was by far our best period. We executed well with the puck.”

“There is a psychological point; you play so well and you are still down 2-0, that is deflating,” said Fogarty, whose team dropped to 2-10-1 overall with the defeat.

“We had three power plays in the second period and we didn’t cash them in, if we could have gotten to within a goal, that would have helped.”

The Tigers didn’t get a second chance at the Mavericks in the two-game set as the hosts were laid low by flu spreading through the team and Saturday’s game was cancelled.

“I have never been involved in anything like that, it was frustrating,” said Fogarty.

“They told us what was going on, that they had a whole bunch of guys with the flu. The well being of the student athlete is the most important thing. I didn’t want any of our guys to get it and have it spread through our team.”

Although Fogarty would have liked to see the Tigers bring a better record into the holiday break, he believes the team is making progress in his debut season at the helm.

“We have made some great strides from the beginning of the season to now,” said Fogarty.

“The big thing going forward is consistency. We can’t have just one good period. We have to get better on execution of plays and getting to spots quicker.”

In order to start getting more wins, the Tigers need to execute better when they are a man up.

“The biggest thing is the power play,” said Fogarty, whose team is 7-for-56 in power play situations for an anemic .125 percentage and has been outscored 48-18 overall through 13 games. “When you are not scoring a lot and you get those odd-man situations, you have to cash them in.”

Sophomore goalie Colton Phinney has excelled for the Tigers in just about every situation this season.

“Colton has been great, he has been working hard every period,” said Fogarty of the 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J. who has posted a 3.48 goals against average and made 422 saves in 12 appearances.

“He has been carrying a heavy load. We need to take better care of the puck in front of him and not make turnovers.”

A trio of freshmen, defenseman Joe Grabowski and forwards David Hallisey and Eric Robinson, have given Princeton some good work.

“Grabowski and Hallisey have done a good job of transitioning from juniors to D-1, Eric Robinson has done some good things, we need him to be more consistent.”

Junior Kyle Rankin has been a consistently good player for the Tigers this season, tallying a goal and four assists in nine games.

“Rankin has done a great job, he played a lot of defense last year and he is back on offense,” added Fogarty.

“He had an injury that knocked him out for four games but he is a leading scorer.”

Looking ahead to the second half of the campaign, Fogarty is confident that the Tigers will do a better job at both ends of the ice.

“Over the first part of the season, it has been making sure they know the systems and what is expected of the entire team,” said Fogarty, whose team is next in action when it plays at 14th-ranked Quinnipiac on December 27.

“We have tweaked the systems a bit and now we can focus more on where the individual skills fit in. We need to have better control of home ice. We need to be getting as many points as possible at home and splitting on the road.”

TITLE PUSH: Tufts University men’s soccer star Maxime Hoppenot, center, pushes through a foe to get the ball in the NCAA Division 3 championship game earlier this month. Senior forward ­Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout, helped the Jumbos top Wheaton (Ill.) 4-2 in the title game, giving the program its first-ever national crown. He was joined on the team by four other Princeton-area players, including former PDS teammate Rui Pinheiro, Princeton High alums Zach and Kevin Halliday, and Princeton native Peter Lee-Kramer.(Photo Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information)

TITLE PUSH: Tufts University men’s soccer star Maxime Hoppenot, center, pushes through a foe to get the ball in the NCAA Division 3 championship game earlier this month. Senior forward ­Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout, helped the Jumbos top Wheaton (Ill.) 4-2 in the title game, giving the program its first-ever national crown. He was joined on the team by four other Princeton-area players, including former PDS teammate Rui Pinheiro, Princeton High alums Zach and Kevin Halliday, and Princeton native Peter Lee-Kramer. (Photo Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information)

Joining the Tufts University men’s soccer team in the fall of 2011, Maxime Hoppenot didn’t get the feeling that he had signed on with a powerhouse.

“When I came in as a freshman, we had a bag of balls that got deflated every day and I would pump up the balls,” said Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout.

But with dynamic head coach Josh Shapiro stocking the program with a number of talented players, Tufts started to climb up the ladder of Division 3 soccer.

Earlier this month, the Jumbos reached the summit of their world, topping Wheaton (Ill.) 4-2 in the Division 3 title game to earn the program’s first-ever national crown.

Coming into the fall, Hoppenot and his teammates were cautiously optimistic about their prospects.

“I think everybody on the team knew how talented we are, it was a question of getting everything to click,” said the 6’0, 170-pound Hoppenot, who was one of five talented Princeton-area players on the team, joined by former PDS teammate Rui Pinheiro, Princeton High stars Zach and Kevin Halliday, and Princeton native Peter Lee-Kramer

“We wanted to challenge for the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) title, we thought that was realistic. If we got into the NCAAs, we thought we could make a run. We went 8-5-2 last year with basically the same group, no one knew what was missing.”

After starting 5-0, the Jumbos hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, going 0-1-3 with a loss to Brandeis and ties against MIT, Amherst, and Middlebury.

“We were not super happy but we were playing well, even in the loss to Brandeis,” said Hoppenot.

“We could have won any of those games. Even when we didn’t have the results we wanted, that brought us together. The balls started bouncing our way, it was pretty gradual.”

Getting bounced out of NESCAC tournament in the first round with a loss to Connecticut College, Hoppenot feared that setback might mark the end of his college career.

“The Conn Coll game was the one game we have regrets about, it was by far our worst game,” recalled Hoppenot.

“We started out slow. When we finally got going, we couldn’t get that second goal and it went to PKs. We were not as decisive as we usually are. We were all very concerned. It was a toss-up for us, it was depending on other results.”

But getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney gave the Jumbos a new lease on life.

“We felt like it was a brand new season,” said Hoppenot. “We had 10 days in purgatory after the NESCAC loss. We watched the selection show in our film room. We had new energy, we got a lot of rest. We got hungry.”

Hoppenot and his classmates were especially hungry coming into the NCAAs as they wanted to extend their careers as long as possible.

“As a senior, you win or you go home and you are done,” said Hoppenot. “We had urgency and a lot of the team saw that in us and they picked up on that and wanted to help us.”

After posting wins over Dickinson and Wheaton (Mass.) in the first weekend of NCAA play, the Jumbos faced a daunting challenge as they headed to play at a powerful Muhlenberg squad with perennial champion Messiah looming in the quarterfinal round.

“Going into that weekend, we had a huge game on Saturday,” said Hoppenot.

“Muhlenberg had one loss and was undefeated at home and we were playing them there. We spent our whole week preparing for them.”

Tufts topped Muhlenberg 2-0 and then edged Messiah 1-0 to book a spot in the final 4 in Kansas City.

“We had one day to prepare for Messiah and maybe that was better because we didn’t have time to psyche ourselves out,” said Hoppenot.

“Rui said in the locker room before the game that each team has 11 players on the field and the ball is round. At that point we were confident in the way we were playing. We came out fast and got them on their heels. We scored in the first 52 seconds. We were extremely relieved; scoring early was great but then we had 89 minutes of having to deal with the best team in D-3. We dealt with that well. We defended more, we defended with 11 guys.”

In the national semis, the Jumbos upended another national power as they defeated Ohio Wesleyan 3-0.

“We had Ohio Wesleyan and they are probably the second most storied program after Messiah,” said Hoppenot, who picked up an assist in the win.

“We play our best when we are hungry and we have our backs to the wall. It was to our advantage to be maximum underdogs. We could come out and focus on the way we were playing and they had to beat us.”

Taking on Wheaton (Ill.) in the title game, Tufts played its game, building a 3-0 lead by early in the second half and then surrendering two goals before tacking on one at the end to pull out the 4-2 win.

“You get to the final and all bets are off; we were excited, they were excited,” said Hoppenot.

“We came out flying. We found a goal in the first half. We had a 3-0 lead with 35 minutes left in the second half and I think we relaxed for about 10 minutes and they scored two goals. Then we started finding our feet again. We started playing more of a territorial game; that insurance goal helped us relax.”

Reflecting on what made the difference in the title run, Hoppenot pointed to a selfless approach.

“We played more as a team this year,” said Hoppenot, who tallied three goals and three assists this season as Tufts posted a final record of 16-2-4.

“We made a tactical change. We had played two defensive center midfielders in the past and we moved Rui up this year. He played box to box and that opened us up offensively. We were a more unselfish team. We were a pass-first team, we were distributing the ball more. We had guys who didn’t have big stats who were really key players.”

Having played with Pinheiro for years, Hoppenot said the pair has developed a special connection on the field.

“We played together all of PDS; we played in the summers with our brothers,” said Hoppenot.

“With him moving up the field we were able to find each other more on the field this year. We have a great understanding of where we are on the field.”

It didn’t take long for Hoppenot to develop an understanding with former rival Zach Halliday when he walked on to the team in 2013.

“When he reached out to me saying he was coming to Tufts, I thought he was a good soccer player and he was used to winning being with PHS,” said Hoppenot, who battled with Halliday in the 2010 Mercer County Tournament title game won by PDS 1-0 in double overtime.

“When he got a chance he took it and he was starting by the end of his freshman year, which was really impressive. Zach looks up to me, he is my protege.”

Hoppenot was also impressed by the younger Halliday, Kevin, who joined the squad this fall as a top recruit.

“We saw in preseason what kind of player he was,” said Hoppenot. “I thought he would be the first or second guy off the bench but then he hurt his knee. The first time he was cleared was just before the first NCAA game. He decided to play even though his season may only be one game. I have a lot of respect for that; it showed that he had a lot of confidence in us.”

Even though the other Princeton product on the team,  Lee-Kramer, played his high school soccer at Phillips Andover (Mass.), Hoppenot kept close to him over the years.

“Peter and I were good friends at Charter School and then he went to boarding school in New England,” said Hoppenot.

“When he came home we would spend time together. We were both getting recruited by Tufts. Peter called and said he just committed to Tufts and I should too. I committed later that day. I was down to three schools and I needed a push.”

After making the title push, Hoppenot and his teammates didn’t have much time to bask in the glow of their accomplishment.

“We had a lot of the campus following us; we celebrated the night of the finals but then we came back and reality hit,” said Hoppenot.

“It was final exam period and we had a lot of work to do. We were in Kansas City for five days and didn’t do as much work out there as we should have but it has definitely been worth it.”

And seeing Tufts work its way up the ladder of D-3 soccer to make the national championship a reality is an experience that Hoppenot will definitely savor over the years.

PERIMETER ATTACK: Princeton High girls basketball player ­Julia Ryan heads upcourt in a game last season. PHS will be relying on junior guard Ryan to provide production on the perimeter this winter. The Little Tigers tip off their 2014-15 campaign by hosting Hamilton on December 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PERIMETER ATTACK: Princeton High girls basketball player ­Julia Ryan heads upcourt in a game last season. PHS will be relying on junior guard Ryan to provide production on the perimeter this winter. The Little Tigers tip off their 2014-15 campaign by hosting Hamilton on December 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Dan Van Hise enters his second year at the helm of the Princeton High girls’ basketball program, he and his players are on the same page.

“It is really big, they are more comfortable with me,” said Van Hise, who guided PHS to a 3-16 record last winter.

“I have learned what gets them going and what turns them off. I have to be positive no matter what.”

Van Hise is expecting a positive impact from his quintet of seniors, which includes co-captains Mary Sutton and Mira Shane along with Catherine Curran-Groome, Bryanna Blue, and Mia Levy.

“It is really going to be the biggest factor,” said Van Hise, whose team gets its 2014-15 campaign underway by hosting Hamilton on December 19 and WW/P-S on December 22.

“The five of them are close knit. It is amazing what it does for a team. You can tell that the ball is moving faster. They like playing with each other.”

One of those seniors, Sutton, will combine with junior Julia Ryan to give the Little Tigers a potent one-two punch in the backcourt.

“Mary is buying into the point guard role,” said Van Hise. “Two of the biggest things I have noticed is that she is trying to get to the hoop more and she is looking for her teammates more. Julia has been on fire, she has been showing her stuff. She is a little tougher as well, she is going more to the basket. I am hoping she will get more free throws this season and won’t be as reliant on her jump shot.”

Van Hise is depending on another senior, Catherine Curran-Groome, to provide depth at guard.

“Catherine is going to be a big contributor this year,” said Van Hise, who will also be using sophomore Jamaica Ponder and junior Crystal Wang at guard.

“She sees the floor really well, she has good basketball sense. She is a good floor player, she gets her teammates involved.”

Blue should be involved a lot in the paint for the Little Tigers. “Bryanna will be our main post player,” said Van Hise.

“She is finishing around the basket, she is a lot more confident putting shots in. She is not thinking out there, she is just playing. She has stepped up, she is talking on defense, pushing the others to play harder.”

Two other seniors, Levy and Shane, along with sophomore Zoe Tesone give Van Hise confidence that PHS will be solid down low.

“Mia is the other post player; she is another senior who knows what she is doing,” said Van Hise.

“She has that inherent basketball IQ. Mira brings leadership and energy. She has turned into our defensive stopper; she will guard the other team’s best player. Zoe Tesone will help a lot. She is athletic and puts it all together. She can face the basket and will help us when we press.”

In order to put things together this winter, PHS will need to show energy all over the court.

“We talk about being aggressive and fighting as hard as the other team is fighting and I am seeing that at practice,” said Van Hise.

“In our first scrimmage we were coming after the ball hard and playing tougher defense. We need to make sure that the aggressiveness and toughness shows up in games. We can’t let the other teams get three or four shots at a time. I think we will make a lot more shots. We are playing more as a team, the ball movement is better. We have to do the little things, like boxing out, helping out on defense, and getting loose balls.”