February 12, 2014
FIRED UP: Connor Walker guards the net during his career as a star goalie for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. This winter, Walker, a 2013 PDS alum, is honing his skills by playing for the Phoenix Firebirds, a high-powered Tier 1 travel program. Walker posted a 3.21 goals against average in his first 21 appearances for the Firebirds.                                             (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRED UP: Connor Walker guards the net during his career as a star goalie for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. This winter, Walker, a 2013 PDS alum, is honing his skills by playing for the Phoenix Firebirds, a high-powered Tier 1 travel program. Walker posted a 3.21 goals against average in his first 21 appearances for the Firebirds. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Connor Walker started last summer planning to study business at the University of Massachusetts by the time September rolled around.

But when the former star goalie for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team was offered the opportunity in August to play for the Phoenix Firebirds, a high-powered Tier 1 travel program, and learned that he could defer his freshman year at UMass, he ended up in Arizona this fall rather than in New England.

As Walker reflects on his time in Phoenix, he believes the experience has helped him grow up a lot.

“Almost all of the kids on the team are from the area, I am the only kid from the east,” said Walker.

“I was the odd kid in, it is working out well now. I am hanging out with them. The team finds a family within the organization and I live with them. I am working full time at a jewelry company boxing up jewelry in a warehouse. I feel independent. I wake up every day at 6 in the morning to go to work. I have a lot more responsibility.”

Walker has been working harder on the ice for the Midget U18 AAA team. “We are in the North American Prospect League (NAPL),” said Walker.

“We practice Sunday through Wednesday and often do dry land training after the practice. I would say the level of play is similar to high school but the teams are more consistent. There is no drop off from the first line to the third line. In high school, the first line might be good but there is a drop off.”

As the season has gone on, Walker is getting up to speed with his new team.

“At PDS, I played with some of the same guys for four years so things were more consistent,” said the 5’8, 180-pound Walker, who posted a goals against average of 3.21 in his first 21 appearances for the Firebirds.

“No one knows me out here, it took a while for us to figure each other out. It is much faster, I had to adapt. I am much faster than I was before. I am a small goalie so I need to be fast.”

Former Princeton University goalie Craig Fiander, who was worked with Walker in several clinics, believes that the young netminder can handle himself.

“Connor is agile, quick, and technically sound,” said Fiander, who has been running his Textbook Goaltending summer camps in the area for more than 15 years. “He has a great demeanor.”

Noting that Walker served as a guest counselor for Textbook Goaltending last summer, Fiander said the goalie inspired the campers.

“I have worked with a guy like Kalemba [former Princeton University goalie and New Jersey native Zane Kalemba] and it was good having another Jersey local kid like Connor on the ice for a couple of sessions,” said Fiander.

“It is great for the kids to see what he has done. It is important for the kids to know his story and have some one to look up and aspire to.”

In Fiander’s view, Walker should aspire to keep playing the game.

“At the end of the day, I think he has the skills to play at a higher level, like D-III college or juniors,” said Fiander. “If he gets an opportunity, he will really, really shine.”

While Walker has enjoyed his time in Phoenix, he is looking for opportunities closer to home. “I met with the coach here two weeks ago and he said there was a possibility I could play tier 2 juniors,” said Walker.

“I am going to try to find a team out east in the EHL or the USHL. I want to try to play as long as possible.”

February 6, 2014
LENDING ASSISTANCE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler races up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Butler had an assist on the game-winning goal by Denna Laing as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2. Butler leads the Tigers in assists this season with 13.  Princeton, now 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LENDING ASSISTANCE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler races up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Butler had an assist on the game-winning goal by Denna Laing as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2. Butler leads the Tigers in assists this season with 13. Princeton, now 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sally Butler, her next-to-last regular season weekend at Baker Rink started on a down note as the Princeton University women’s hockey team dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Harvard last Friday evening.

Coming into Saturday’s game against Dartmouth, Butler and her teammates were determined to hold their heads high in the wake of the loss to the Crimson.

“We were going for the Ivy League championship; we had a chance,” said senior forward Butler, referring to the Harvard loss.

“We had to put it behind us right after the game. Coach [Jeff] Kampersal told us to let it go and just focus on today because Dartmouth is always a tough team to play against.”

The Tigers proceeded to show their mental toughness as they edged Dartmouth 3-2.

While Princeton got off to a slow start against the Big Green, it rose to the occasion in the latter stages of the contest. “I think we picked it up as the play went on,” said Butler, a 5’9 native of Etobicoke, Ontario.

Princeton seized momentum when it scored two goals in the first five minutes of the third period to take a 3-1 lead.

“That was huge,” said Butler reflecting on that key sequence. “It is always good to get two quick like that and step on a team and get the momentum and get them second-guessing themselves but they did fight back and at the end there it got scary.”

It was good for Butler to set up classmate Denna Laing for Princeton’s third goal, a tally that turned out to be the game-winner.

“Laing was just in front with her stick on the ice so I was lucky to get it through to her and she just put it away,” said Butler, recalling her assist which was her team-high 13th on the season. “She has been having a great season putting the puck in the net so you just get it to her and it goes in.”

With Princeton going 2-1 since returning from its exam break to improve to 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, Butler believes the Tigers are going in the right direction.

“It is not a bad start, obviously it would have been nice to beat Harvard yesterday,” said Butler.

“It is always big for us, not just because of the standings but because of the rivalry so that would have been nice. We just have to look forward.”

The Tigers have been benefiting from a nice chemistry this winter. “We definitely have a better dynamic this year, the team as a whole gets along better,” said Butler.

“We have a very good bunch in the freshmen and they are going to be great for the team down the road.

Princeton head coach Kampersal is proud that his team didn’t let down in the wake of the disappointing loss to Harvard.

“I think we had so much passion, energy, and heart last night,” said Kampersal.

“It is always tough to bounce back the next day, particularly against a really good team like Dartmouth that is in the same boat as us, fighting for points. So that was a good, gutsy win.”

Kampersal liked the guts his team showed over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“In the third period, we are usually stronger than most of the teams that we play,” asserted Kampersal.

“I think we are in really good shape. The Tuesday night game [a 6-1 win over Penn State on January 28] was good to get us going after exams; sometimes that hurts us for this weekend. They did a good job.”

Kampersal credited Butler with doing a good job of hanging in on her feed to Laing for the decisive goal.

“They didn’t play together this week but they played together that one shift and that was nice,” said Kampersal.

“Sally was actually out there a little bit longer that she should have been but she made a nice little play to her.”

Sophomore forward Jaimie McDonnell had a nice game as she contributed a goal and an assist in the third period.

“Jaimie had a big goal for sure and then she played tough and blocked a couple of shots at the end,” said Kampersal.

“I like her toughness on the boards. She is a hockey player so she has good instincts.”

The Tigers also got some tough play along the blue line. “I thought the defense did a good job,” added Kampersal.

“I thought Ali Pankowski clicked all weekend. She put a lot of shots on net and played good, solid D. I thought Gabie Figueroa and Brianne Mahoney stepped up and did a good job.”

If the Tigers are going to stay in the top eight in the ECACH standings and make the playoffs, they are going to have to keep stepping up.

“We are fighting for our playoff lives again,” said Kampersal, whose team is currently in sixth place and just missed qualifying for the postseason last winter.

“We have six to go and they are all against tough opponents so I told them that every game is going to be like the Harvard, Dartmouth games, an absolute battle.”

In Kampersal’s view, his players are prepared to fight to the end. “All year, their approach has been really good,” said Kampersal, who will be looking for Princeton to keep on the winning track as it plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8.

“Sometimes we start out a little slow but their weekly approach in terms of how they sleep, how they eat, how they train has been focused. Yesterday they played their hearts out against Harvard so there was not much to say, you can’t ask for any more than that.”

Butler, for her part, is determined to play her heart out to the final whistle of her career.

“It is bittersweet, all good things come to an end,” said Butler, who has tallied 77 points on 36 goals and 41 assists in 112 appearances for Princeton.

“I think the goal is to just keep the season alive as long as possible and, beyond that, you just have to give your best effort everyday. You need enjoy it while it is still here and make it last as long as it can, that is what we are going to be aiming to do.”

 

SEEING RED: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter, center, fights through two Harvard players in Princeton’s 78-68 loss last Friday to the visiting Crimson. The defeat marked Princeton’s first home Ivy League loss since 2009. Helmstetter and the Tigers got back on track a night later, topping Dartmouth 76-53 to to improve to 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter, center, fights through two Harvard players in Princeton’s 78-68 loss last Friday to the visiting Crimson. The defeat marked Princeton’s first home Ivy League loss since 2009. Helmstetter and the Tigers got back on track a night later, topping Dartmouth 76-53 to to improve to 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University women’s basketball team found itself trailing Harvard 44-30 at halftime last Friday, senior co-captain Kristen Helmstetter decided it was time for some words of wisdom.

“I think it was important as a senior that both me and Hung [senior co-captain Nicole Hung] needed to tell our team, it is fine we are good, settle down, and play like Princeton plays,” said Helmstetter.

“We play hard and we play with heart. As long as we do that, we’ll get back into the game and we did that.”

With Helmstetter scoring seven points in the second half, the Tigers cut the Harvard lead to one point on three different occasions in the second half. Princeton, though, couldn’t get over the hump as the Crimson pulled away to a 78-68 win in the early season Ivy League showdown.

Helmstetter acknowledged that four-time Ivy champion Princeton didn’t play hard enough in the first half as it trailed by as much as 31-13 at one point.

“I think where we struggled in the beginning was on the defensive end, we lacked accountability there,” said Helmstetter.

“They are a good offensive team and unfortunately we weren’t on point today on defense and that hurt us.”

The Tigers showed some accountability as they outscored Harvard 38-34 over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“We came out and won the second half,” said Helmstetter. “We did think the tide was turning. It is a game of runs and unfortunately that came to an end.”

A night later, the tide turned for Princeton as it topped Dartmouth 76-53 while Harvard lost 67-38 at Penn leaving the Tigers at 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy while the Crimson moved to 13-5 overall and 3-1 Ivy. Harvard is currently in a three-way tie with Cornell and Yale atop the league while Princeton and Penn are both a half-game behind in fourth.

“Everyone has back-to-back games and some teams deal with it differently,” said Helmstetter, a 6’0 native of nearby Bridgewater who earned second-team All-Ivy honors last winter.

“Each team is going to continue to play Friday, Saturday and we’ll see who comes out on top.”

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart wasn’t banking on her team going undefeated in the league, she was surprised to see the Tigers suffer their first Ivy loss at home since February 13, 2009 when they fell 56-54 to Yale at Jadwin.

“I have been in the league a long time; I think it has happened twice in the round robin before the Princeton team so it almost never happens,” said Banghart, noting that the team was rusty, seeing its first game action after a 19-day hiatus for exams.

“I said I hate to burst your bubble but I wasn’t expecting an undefeated run. I was hoping it wouldn’t be at home but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be undefeated and neither will Harvard.”

Banghart did see progress in the second half. “It is always better to be early on defense and late on offense,” said Banghart, who got 16 points from sophomore Michelle Miller in the win over Dartmouth with sophomore Alex Wheatley chipping in 11 points.

“We had it completely reversed; we were late on defense and early on offense. Rebounding is a product of how you defend so I thought in the second half we were much more aggressive.”

With 11 games left in the Ivy campaign, that aggressiveness could pay dividends as the Tigers go for their fifth straight league crown.

“The Ivy League title is won with seniors and on the defensive end so if we are good defensively, we have enough weapons and enough looks to win this thing,” said Banghart, whose team plays at Columbia on February 7 and at Cornell on February 8.

“We just have to shore up our defense. I like our body of work over a 14-game season.”

Helmstetter still likes Princeton’s title chances, noting that there is a lot of basketball to be played.

“All I can do is tell my underclassmen to keep their heads up; it is only one game and one game means nothing,” said Helmstetter.

“People lose games when you play back to back and I think that is a good message for them to know that each night is a new night and to come out with a new mentality and win that next game.”

 

ANCHOR WOMAN: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action last season. Sophomore Johnson, a third-team All-American in her debut campaign who went on to lead the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer, figures to anchor the Princeton defense this season. The seventh-ranked Tigers will get the 2014 campaign underway by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational from February 8-9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ANCHOR WOMAN: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action last season. Sophomore Johnson, a third-team All-American in her debut campaign who went on to lead the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer, figures to anchor the Princeton defense this season. The seventh-ranked Tigers will get the 2014 campaign underway by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational from February 8-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Luis Nicolao is facing a problem in guiding his Princeton University women’s water polo team that would be the envy of most coaches.

With Princeton coming off a 28-6 season and CWPA eastern title, Tiger head coach Nicolao’s cupboard may be too full as he welcomes back most of the stars from that squad.

“Our practices have been great; we have 12 or 13 great players and the scrimmages have been very good and very competitive,” said Nicolao, whose team earned a fifth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships.

“We can’t start more than six players but 11 think they should start and they are right. I tell them the key is depth. We need to play the whole team and get the bench to where the players are interchangeable.”

Princeton has turned heads in the water polo world, rising to seventh in the latest national poll before it has even played a game this season.

“It’s nice to have the ranking but the girls know that it means nothing,” said Nicolao.

“It puts a bigger target on our backs. The only ranking that matters is being No. 1 in the east at the end of April.”

The Tigers will get their 2014 season underway this weekend by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational and the players are primed to show how good they are.

“They are excited to get started,” said Nicolao. “There is a level of confidence but they know last year doesn’t matter. There are a lot of teams gunning for us, it is going to be very tough.”

With sophomore star goalie Ashleigh Johnson returning after earning third-team All-American honors in her debut campaign, the Tigers will be tough to score on.

“Ashleigh had a really great summer playing internationally,” said Nicolao of Johnson, who helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer and was named the tournament’s top goalie.

“She is a special athlete. She is so good she gives the chance to win any game. We are fortunate to have her.”

The Tigers are fortunate to have some other good defenders around Johnson.

“We are a very strong defensive team,” asserted Nicolao. “We have gotten even stronger with the addition of freshmen Morgan Hallock, she is 6’2 and plays with the junior national team, and another freshman, Sydney Saxe. We have only gotten deeper.”

Princeton is also deep on offense, led by senior co-captain Katie Rigler, who tallied 66 goals and 15 assists last season.

“Rigler is doing great; she is a senior and should have a big year,” said Nicolao.

“But the key is balance, we have seven or eight girls who can score 30 goals so we can’t key on Katie,” said Nicolao, citing such stars as sophomore Diana Murphy and a quartet of talented juniors in Jessie Holecheck, Taylor Dunstan, Ashley Hatcher, and Camille Hooks. “We have a lot of firepower, it is a matter of playing well.”

In Nicolao’s view, the Tigers have a chance to do very well this season.

“I think our potential is unlimited,” said Nicolao. “We can’t let emotion get the best of us and we can’t think we have won games before even playing them. We have to play the game and execute.”

As Princeton welcomes Wagner, Iona, and the NYAC this weekend for its Invitational, it is looking to execute well.

“It will be nice to get some games and see some different opponents,” said Nicolao.

“We have a good first month; we play Michigan, UC San Diego, and Hartwick. We have some early challenges but we have to keep our perspective because nothing is won in February.”

 

VALUABLE ASSET: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Will Stange heads to victory in a 500 freestyle race earlier this season. Last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships, senior star and Cornell-bound Stange earned Most Valuable Swimmer honors, setting both meet and school records in the winning 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke. Stange’s heroics helped power PHS to a fourth straight county crown.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

VALUABLE ASSET: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Will Stange heads to victory in a 500 freestyle race earlier this season. Last Saturday at the Mercer County Swimming Championships, senior star and Cornell-bound Stange earned Most Valuable Swimmer honors, setting both meet and school records in the winning 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke. Stange’s heroics helped power PHS to a fourth straight county crown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Mercer County Swimming Championships having ended about a half hour earlier and the WW/P-N pool going quiet with the exit of the competitors and spectators, there was a solitary figure in the water pounding out lap after lap.

Fittingly, that swimmer was Princeton High senior star Will Stange, who had spent most of the day alone at the head of the pack, setting both meet and school records in the winning 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke as he helped power PHS to a fourth straight county crown.

Stange, who also helped PHS win the 200 medley relay and take second in the 400 free relay, was named as the meet’s Most Valuable Swimmer. For Stange, earning the individual accolade was important in the context of the impact it could have on the team.

“It was great; it sets me up personally and gets me excited for the rest of the season,” said Stange. “Hopefully it psyches everybody else up coming out of this meet.”

In addition to Stange’s heroics, PHS got wins from senior star Peter Kalibat in the 200 and 400 freestyle races while classmate Colburn Yu won the 100 breaststroke.

The Little Tigers needed those wins as they were pushed hard by Notre Dame, piling up 277 points to hold off the Fighting Irish who came in at 239.

After helping PHS open the meet with a solid victory in the 200 medley relay, Stange was psyched up to go for a record in the 200 IM.

“I was thinking about it; they told me last night that it was 2:08 and I went 2:11 in the preliminary,” said Stange, who finished nearly half a lap ahead of teammate and fellow senior Colburn Yu in clocking a time of 2:07.42.

“I figured it wasn’t going to mess me up for the 100 back so I will go for it. I am in my own lane, nobody else affects me.”

Later, in the backstroke final, Stange messed with the competition as he broke a record he had set a night earlier in the preliminaries.

“I was trying to go a little bit faster to be honest,” said Stange, who posted a time of 56.85, more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Aly Sayed of WW/P-S. “I was hoping for a 56 low but 56.8 is really nice.”

It was very nice for PHS to win a fourth straight county crown. “It couldn’t be any better,” said Stange, reflecting on the four-peat. “You never enter a meet without trying to win so for us to be able to do that really means a lot.”

For PHS head coach Greg Hand, Stange and his classmates have shown they know what it takes to win when the chips are down.

“We have got a senior class that, more than anything, has established a track record of being guys who step up when the pressure is the greatest,” said Hand.

“I am thinking of great semifinals and finals meets in states in the last few years, county environments, and the toughest of the dual meets. These guys love the sport and they are definitely at their best in the toughest conditions.”

Stange saved one of his greatest performances for his last county meet. “This was a brilliant meet for Will,” said Hand of Stange, who has committed to swim at Cornell next season.

“Since freshman year, we have asked for perhaps more versatility from him than anybody. In this meet, it seemed to be the time to allow him to swim the IM and show the kind of mastery he has of all the strokes and also to go 200 yards for us instead of the constant 100s. He showed the depth of his training, his endurance, and his will to compete with everything he has got.”

The Little Tigers also got a superb competitive effort from Kalibat. “I would say Peter Kalibat was the swimmer who was most challenged today in his wins,” said Hand.

“Will was in a spot where he really had to race the clock and keep his discipline and  accomplish what he was in the water for. Pete was up against a guy who he knows pretty well [Hamilton’s Griffin Hutton] and is really talented and he dug deep, especially in his 200 win. He went out hard and said that he swam the last 75 or so feeling really tight. It is a real tribute to the fact that he has been there before and has felt that feeling 100s of times; that gives him the ability to recognize it and just swim through it.”

In Hand’s view, the county four-peat is a tribute to his swimmers’ mental and  physical gifts. “What four county titles means to me is that we are extremely fortunate to have the character and the talent of the kids that we have had,” said Hand.

Posting a 9-0 record in dual meet competition this winter and getting seeded first in the upcoming Public B Central Jersey sectional where it will host eighth-seeded Ocean Township High on February 6, PHS is poised to test its talent against anyone in the state.

“The guys are well positioned, I think we know who we are going to swim in sectionals,” said Hand, who has guided the program to five consecutive Public B Central Jersey titles and a state crown in 2012.

“We are going to have to get through a tough Hopewell team and a tough Lawrence team and that’s not simple.”

Stange and his teammates, for their part, will be taking a basic approach in the states as they look to add another title.

“We know where we have to improve going into states and we are going to adjust our lineup accordingly depending on the team we are against,” said Stange.

“We are going to push it one meet at a time, hopefully all the way to the state championship.”

 

ENCORE PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Madeleine Deardorff displays her freestyle form. Last Saturday, Deardorff placed first in the 200-meter individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its second straight Mercer County Swimming Championships title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ENCORE PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Madeleine Deardorff displays her freestyle form. Last Saturday, Deardorff placed first in the 200-meter individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS win its second straight Mercer County Swimming Championships title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having broken through with its first-ever Mercer County Swimming Championships title last winter, the Princeton High girls’ swimming team was primed for an encore.

“I think we were all extremely motivated,” said PHS sophomore star Madeleine Deardorff, reflecting on the 2014 county meet which concluded last Saturday at WW/P-N. “We came in here with confidence.”

That confidence proved to be justified as PHS rolled to a second straight crown, piling up 222 points with Steinert second at 169 and WW/P-S taking third with 156.

Deardorff helped lead the way for the Little Tigers, taking first in the 200-meter individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly. Classmate Brianna Romaine set a meet record of 1:04.85 in winning the 100 backstroke and also placed third in the 100 freestyle. Freshman Melinda Tang won the 100 fly and took fourth in the 400 free.

Deardorff was all smiles as she reflected on PHS’s title repeat. “We did exactly what we wanted to do and I am really excited,” said Deardorff, who also helped PHS to wins in the 200 medley and 400 free relays.

“I think this team is so united and I think that we are all motivated towards each other. I think it is so great.”

“In winning the 200 IM, Deardorff enjoyed an exciting battle with Rabia Syed of WW/P-S, posting a winning time of 2:27.78 with Syed coming in at 2:29.13 as she earned her first individual county title.

“I came in and I just wanted to do my best,” said Deardorff. “Rabia and I are really good friends and I was really pumped. That was awesome, I was so happy with that.”

Although Deardorff placed second in the 100 fly, she was happy to duel with freshman teammate Tang.

“Melinda and I go on and off in that event,” said Deardorff. “It was really fun, I love racing her. She motivates me and I motivate her. I think it was really good.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the way his swimmers raced hard from the beginning to the end of the meet.

“The thing that I am most proud of is that in the trials/finals format they did so much two days ago and then came back today and swam lights out,” said Hand.

“They really just rose to the demands of the situation. We had so many swims where kids really challenged themselves to go out hard and to trust their training and come back and get a result and it happened throughout the meet.”

In Hand’s view, Deardorff exemplified the squad’s mental toughness.

“Maddie is such a versatile swimmer, all of her strokes are solid,” said Hand.

“She has been dealing with meet pain throughout recent training when she swims breaststroke, nonetheless she swam a really good breast leg in prelims and finals. The great thing about her race is that she was willing to take out the real strong piece in the fly as fast as she needed to and it is so easy to waste yourself in that.”

Romaine produced one of the great races of the day in her record-breaking win in the 100 back.

“Brianna is a real fighter,” asserted Hand. “She is a role model for kids both older and younger than she is because she is utterly unabashed about trying to get the result that she wants as far as her own swim is concerned.”

One of PHS’s younger stars, freshman Tang, certainly came up with some big swims. “Melinda, at least outwardly, just lets stuff roll off her back,” said Hand, who also got good efforts from freshmen Jamie Liu and Mattie Whaley at the county meet.

“She gets in and goes after it. She is always a spark plug for keeping things cheerful and relaxed which is quite a benefit in an environment like this.”

With PHS having been seeded first in the Public B Central Jersey sectional, Hand is hopeful that his team can do well in the high-stakes environment of the state tournament.

“Before it begins my sense is we are positioned reasonably well but it is a real grind to keep it together, focused and to try to bring a better meet every time out,” said Hand, whose team is 9-0 in dual meet competition this season and is slated to host eighth-seeded Holmdel on February 6 in the sectional quarterfinals.

Deardorff, for her part, is confident that PHS can build on its effort in the counties as it looks to make a deep run in the state tourney.

“I think we have the potential to go very far this year and I am really excited about it,” said Deardorff.

“I just want to go in with a lot of confidence and do the best we can. I think that everybody needs to do their absolute best and do what we did coming into this.”

 

HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton High boys’ hockey goalie ­Sawyer Peck guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman Peck make 35 saves to help PHS top Freehold 5-1. The Little Tigers, now 9-3-2, are slated to play at Jackson on February 7 and then face WW/P-N on February 10 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton High boys’ hockey goalie ­Sawyer Peck guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman Peck make 35 saves to help PHS top Freehold 5-1. The Little Tigers, now 9-3-2, are slated to play at Jackson on February 7 and then face WW/P-N on February 10 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, getting outshot 36-19 last Wednesday by a Freehold High team that brought a 9-4-1 record into the contest at Baker Rink hardly seemed like a blueprint for success.

But with PHS freshman goalie Sawyer Peck producing his best game of the season with 35 saves and a balanced offense that featured four different goal scorers, the Little Tigers pulled away to a 5-1 win over the Patriots.

In the wake of his superb effort, Peck saw the evening as emblematic of why he thrives under the pressure that comes with playing goalie.

“I love having more responsibility; you can make or break some games,” said Peck. “It is hard mentally but it feels great when you have a game like this.”

While Freehold tried to break Peck down, he was up to the task. “They just tried to wear me down but our coach has put me through some tests to build some endurance,” said Peck.

In the second period, Peck was tested repeatedly as Freehold generated 15 shots and had a 5-on-3 power play in the waning minutes of the frame but was unable to find the back of the net.

“I was in a groove and I knew I really had to be on top of my game, especially when they got the 5-on-3,” said Peck, reflecting on the second period.

“I knew it was going to be pretty hard. It is always a momentum builder to stop those. That is where a team is most vulnerable and if we can still come through, that is a pretty big confidence booster.”

As Peck gets deeper into his debut campaign, he has gained more and more confidence.

“As a freshman, the coaches don’t have crazy expectations for me so they make me feel safe,” said Peck, who has been sharing time between the pipes with senior Robert Quinn.

“Our coaches have been working with me very, very hard. They have been working with everybody very hard. We do lots of skating at practice and lots of goalie drills.”

For Peck, being a goalie is something that is in his blood. “My dad played goalie in college and he wanted one of the sons to be a goalie like him and I guess I was the last one,” said Peck, whose oldest brother Griffin was a standout defenseman for PHS while his next oldest brother Kirby was a high-scoring forward.

“I started at around seven or eight years old. I played hybrid but by the time I hit middle school I went full on goalie.”

PHS first-year head coach Terence Miller saw Peck as the player of the game in the win over Freehold.

“As I told the team, Sawyer was by far the No. 1 star of the game,” said Miller, whose squad improved to 9-3-2 with the victory.

“He came up big for us. The turning point of the game, in my opinion, was the 5-on-3. Instead of the momentum shifting to them, we killed off the 5-on-3 and we killed off the 5-on-4 and we went into the locker room before the third, still up two. Our penalty kill came up huge tonight and Sawyer was the biggest part of that.”

In Miller’s view, Peck has been making big progress this winter.

“To come in as a freshman and play as well as he has speaks to his work ethic and his talent,” said Miller.

“He has been working on his stamina, getting  quicker and recovering a little faster off the initial shot. He has done a good job of that.”

The Little Tigers did a good job collectively in overcoming a tough Freehold squad.

“Freehold was a good team, that was one of the faster teams we have played all year,” said Miller.

“They play in a tough conference against some good shore teams and we knew it was going to be a tough battle tonight and I thought we answered the challenge well.”

PHS’s offensive balance was critical in the victory. “That is always a good sign when you get some depth scoring,” said Miller, who got two goals from Brendon McCormick with Connor McCormick, Spencer Reynolds, and Jackson Andres chipping in one apiece.

“I thought the goal to start the third period by Jackson was a big goal to push that lead out a little further.”

In addition to Peck, two other newcomers have helped bolster the Little Tigers around the blue line.

“I think the two freshmen defensemen, Tooker Callaway and Eamonn McDonald, have been holding their own,” said Miller, whose team is slated to play at Jackson on February 7 and then face WW/P-N on February 10 at Mercer County Park.

“They have been asked to carry a lot of the work load for us and they have done a nice job for us as freshmen, filling some big holes.”

Peck, for his part, is thrilled to be carrying on a family tradition by starring for PHS.

“When I watched my brothers, I thought I was ages away from playing,” said Peck, whose older sister, senior Merritt, plays for the PHS girls’ hockey team. “But now I am here and it feels incredible.”

 

TEARING IT UP: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere powers up the court in recent action. Last Thursday, senior forward Mahotiere scored 17 points to help PHS rally to a 69-59 win in overtime at Princeton Day School. The Little Tigers, who improved to 5-10 with a 69-53 victory over Hightstown last Friday, host Lawrence on February 8 before playing at Hamilton on February 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TEARING IT UP: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere powers up the court in recent action. Last Thursday, senior forward Mahotiere scored 17 points to help PHS rally to a 69-59 win in overtime at Princeton Day School. The Little Tigers, who improved to 5-10 with a 69-53 victory over Hightstown last Friday, host Lawrence on February 8 before playing at Hamilton on February 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Peter Mahotiere and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ basketball team weren’t fazed even though they trailed 20-6 at Princeton Day School last Thursday.

“We knew we couldn’t give up,” said senior forward Mahotiere. “Our fans were there and we knew we couldn’t disappoint them so we started playing like a team. We didn’t do one-on-one stuff, we did 5-on-5 basketball.”

PHS did claw back to knot the game at 38-38 in the third quarter only to fall behind 48-38 early in the fourth quarter.

Once again, the Little Tigers didn’t come apart. “We just banded together,” recalled Mahotiere.

“We were like OK, we need to rebound and box out and we can’t make a 15-point shot. We need to chip away, chip away and just keep on going.”

The teams went into overtime tied at 55-55 and PHS pulled away to a 69-59 triumph as Mahotiere took the team on his broad shoulders.

“I was just posting up and my teammates got me the ball,” said Mahotiere, who ended the evening with 17 points.

“They knew I had a mismatch and they wanted to utilize it. I just posted up, they got me the ball and I made post moves.”

After having lost close games to Notre Dame and Trenton in the last week before topping Hopewell Valley on January 28, the Little Tigers were hungry to make a statement.

“We are tired of close losses so we were like OK we are going to win now because we need a win and we are better than our record and we need to show it,” said Mahotiere.

“It is great to be close to good teams but a win is better and we are going to carry it over.”

Mahotiere aims to carry PHS, whether or not he is leading the offense. “I try to score but if I am not scoring, I don’t get down,” said Mahotiere. “I try to get rebounds. I try to get my team open shots. I try to get assists. I try to get us second, third, and fourth chance shots.”

PHS head coach Mark Shelley sees Mahotiere a vital cog for the PHS team.

“He is really a senior leader, I saw him this morning before our first exam and he just looked at me and said ‘I am ready,’” said Shelley.

“He doesn’t say a whole lot. Even when he is not scoring, he does so many other things. He hits the boards and he is tough for a big man to guard with the ball. He relieves pressure for our guards.”

PHS utilized Mahotiere’s inside presence to put the pressure on PDS in OT.

“Towards the end when they had some foul outs, they went with a real small lineup to try to spread the floor and try to beat our press,” said Shelley.

“We ran what we call thumbs down, it is basically our isolation set for our big man and we ran it four times in a row and I think Peter got one layup and he went to the line two other times. We said at beginning of overtime, we are fine, we have an advantage. I don’t think they can score enough to beat us and we are going to get Peter inside and the team agreed with that.”

Shelley likes the improvement he has seen from his players this season as they have bounced back from some tough losses.

“I am probably as proud of them as I have been of any team,” said Shelley, whose squad beat Hightstown 69-53 last Friday to improve to 5-10 as junior guard Kevin Kane led the way with 26 points.

“I’ve been fortunate through the years to have some really good teams and sometimes the most affirming are the ones that have struggled because you see the growth both individually and collectively. I feel like in the last week we have grown a lot; we played so well at Notre Dame and almost beat Trenton and really laid it on Hopewell in the second half.”

Coming across town to beat PDS was certainly an affirming experience for the Little Tigers.

“It is also important for these guys, no matter whether you win a state title or not, there are always one or two games you look back on as special,” said Shelley.

“These guys, may not appreciate it now but in five or 10 years this will be a game I think they will remember. I think as a coach that is what you want for them. You want a positive fulfilling athletic experience and this is part of that. It is a rivalry game and it was special to win.”

In Shelley’s view, the triumph should have plenty of impact on the short term as well.

“I think it means several things,” said Shelley, whose team hosts Lawrence on February 8 before playing at Hamilton on February 11.

“It continues to provide encouragement for their growth. They feel like what we are doing is working. It helps them trust each other and jell as a team. It gives us some important momentum. We feel like there were a lot of games that we should have won that we didn’t. We feel like we can beat anybody that we still play. We really believe that. We feel like if we play as a team, that will happen. We respect everybody we play because we certainly know that anybody can beat us.”

Mahotiere, for his part, is confident that some good things can happen as he wraps up his PHS career.

“There are eight seniors and I have been playing with all of them since sixth grade,” said Mahotiere.

“I want to end off with a bang, all of us do. I think we are going to start winning more games and even if we don’t make it to the playoffs, we are going to go out with a bang and do our best.”

 

With his Princeton High girls’ basketball team bringing a winless record into its game last Friday against Hightstown, Dan Van Hise threw down the gauntlet to his players.

“I went into the locker room before the game and said ‘girls this is it, I am expecting this one to be our first win,’” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise.

“I don’t like to put pressure on them but I decided to handle this one differently.”

PHS handled the pressure with aplomb as it pulled out a 44-38 victory to get into the win column. Showing that nothing good comes easy, the Little Tigers had to hit six free throws in the last minute of regulation to overcome the Rams.

“We were up three in the last minute,” recalled Van Hise.

“Haley Bodden played great, she was rebounding well and playing aggressively. She got fouled and hit both to give us a five-point lead. They hit a 3-pointer and got within two. There were 25 seconds left and we knew they were going to foul and they fouled Catherine Curran-Groome and she hit two to put us up four. They missed a 3-pointer and Mary Sutton got fouled and hit two free throws to clinch it.”

For Van Hise, getting the first win as a head coach was a relief.

“I couldn’t take enough deep breaths and I could finally relax,” said Van Hise.

“You try and try and you get to finally exhale. Collectively we all could exhale. The girls were really excited.”

The girls actually helped Van Hise keep his cool in the frenetic waning moments of the contest.

“They were confident in the last minute, and they kept me calm,” said Van Hise, who got 12 points apiece in the victory from junior star Sutton and sophomore standout Julia Ryan.

“I was telling Clarence [assistant coach Clarence White] I didn’t think our first win would come in a close game in the last minute. I thought it would be a game that we won by 10 or 12. It was nice to see them hold it together and show that composure.”

A day later, the Little Tigers put together another nice effort as they gave perennial power Trenton a scare before losing 39-32 and dropping to 1-13.

“We should have won that game, we were up four points going into the fourth quarter,” said Van Hise.

“We had held them to 21 points through three quarters. We got in a lot of foul trouble in the fourth quarter. We have tried to play Bryanna Blue and Liz Jacobs together as much as we can and that was the best that they did together.”

Van Hise and his players are confident that their best basketball is ahead of them as the season heads into the homestretch.

“After the Hopewell loss [on January 28] I was searching for motivation and I told them we have seven games left and I asked them to write down on a piece of paper how many wins they thought we could get over the rest of the season,” said Van Hise, whose team plays at Princeton Day School on February 5 and at Nottingham on February 7 before hosting Hamilton on February 11.

“I told them to be realistic. I told them I would come up with the average number and that would be our goal. They came in at just below five so I made five the goal.”

 

LATE SHIFT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Mary Travers skates up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior forward Travers scored a third period goal for PDS’s only tally in a 4-1 loss to the Portledge School (N.Y.). The Panthers, 9-5-1, play at Lansdale Catholic on February 5 and then host Princeton High on February 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LATE SHIFT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Mary Travers skates up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior forward Travers scored a third period goal for PDS’s only tally in a 4-1 loss to the Portledge School (N.Y.). The Panthers, 9-5-1, play at Lansdale Catholic on February 5 and then host Princeton High on February 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary Travers realizes that her time on the ice is fleeting as the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team heads into the final weeks of the season.

PDS senior forward Travers, who will be playing field hockey at Tufts University this fall, is savoring her final weeks of ice hockey.

“It is different, not playing ice hockey is going to be so weird,” said Travers.

“I have been playing since I was four. I have been skating forever, much longer than field hockey. I am really trying to go into everything with the mentality that I only have x number of practices left so even if this practice is only a one-hour ice slot, it counts. I want to not only to do my best for myself but for my teammates who I care so much about and who support me so much.”

Travers and her teammates did their best last Wednesday as they hosted Portledge School (N.Y.). PDS trailed 1-0 after two periods and then fell behind 2-0 before Travers scored to make it 2-1 with 10:23 left in regulation.

While the Panthers put the pressure on Portledge, they couldn’t knot the contest and surrendered two late goals to fall 4-1 and drop to 9-5-1.

“We played completely with them; everyone stepped up,” said Travers.

“I was so proud of everyone; we were playing together and everyone was giving 110 percent.”

Coming into the third period, the Panthers were looking to play even harder.

“The message over the second period break was that everyone was giving 100 percent but there is always a little more to give,” said Travers.

After Portledge doubled its lead to 2-0, Travers found the back of the net on a power play.

“Our practice yesterday was basically all penalty kill, power play; that has been a big focus, knowing that if we can capitalize on the power plays we have a much better chance,” said Travers.

“They were definitely coming up on us. Normally, we try and do passes among Kristi [Serafin], Robin [Linzmayer], and I on the top to get them moving and draw them out but they were already up on us so those passes weren’t open. We have two great girls in front of the net in Emma and Mimi so if you can get a shot on net, you know they are going to be right there so that was what was I thinking.”

While PDS couldn’t get over the hump against Portledge last Wednesday, Travers is looking forward to having another shot at the Long Island team.

“We played the whole game and we finished it out so that is huge to me,” said Travers.

“Also we will play them in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament so we are focused on that right now. We have proved to ourselves that we can play with them.”

The infusion of some key newcomers has helped PDS play better this winter.

“I think with such a strong freshman class it has really helped; they bring so much to the team,” said Travers.

“They are all playing club and they push everyone else to be better, even the seniors. I see them doing really well and I got to hustle in practice. They contribute so much, I think that’s  a huge amount of our success.”

This fall, Travers will try to emulate those freshmen as she joins the Tufts field hockey program.

“I am excited to work towards earning a spot and show the Tufts team who I am,” said Travers.

“We all have quotes in front of our lockers this winter and mine is the ‘will to prepare is more important that the will to win.’ I think that is so true. I really have that mentality. You don’t have to be the most skilled player, you just have to work the hardest and give it your all and hustle. That is what you have to do. There are such skilled girls on that team. I don’t even know if I am going to see the field but I know how hard I am going to work.”

In the meantime, Travers is going to work her hardest for PDS this winter as she enjoys her final moments on ice.

 

ON POINT: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman lines up a shot in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore point guard Guzman scored 10 points to help Stuart top Villa Victoria 39-14. The Tartans, now 7-5, are slated to play at Hightstown on February 5 before hosting Kings Christian School on February 6. In addition, the Tartans will start play in the state Prep B tournament with a quarterfinal contest scheduled for February 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON POINT: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman lines up a shot in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore point guard Guzman scored 10 points to help Stuart top Villa Victoria 39-14. The Tartans, now 7-5, are slated to play at Hightstown on February 5 before hosting Kings Christian School on February 6. In addition, the Tartans will start play in the state Prep B tournament with a quarterfinal contest scheduled for February 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Harley Guzman took some lumps last winter in her freshman season with the Stuart Country Day School basketball team as she assumed the point guard role.

“Last year, it was my first year playing on a high school team and it was really stressful, especially playing harder teams,” said Guzman.

After working on her ball-handling in the offseason, Guzman is feeling a comfort level this winter in running the Stuart offense.

“This year, I changed my mindset,” said Guzman. “I feel more confident with the ball this year.”

Last Friday, Guzman displayed her newfound confidence, starring as Stuart rolled to a 39-14 win over Villa Victoria.

“We just really knew what we were doing,” said Guzman. “Yesterday at practice we were really working on our plays and perfecting them so it really showed in tonight’s game.”

In addition to helping Stuart execute its plays, Guzman contributed 10 points, including two 3-pointers.

“That’s mostly due to the really good picks that my teammates were setting for me,” said Guzman. “They gave me a clear shot.”

Stuart head coach Dana Leary appreciated her team’s good effort against Villa Victoria as it improved to 7-5.

“I think we are really coming together as a team, offensively and defensively,” said Leary.

“The girls seem more confident when they are out on the court. We are executing and I would say that we are really progressing as team from the start of the season to now. You can definitely tell the difference.”

In Leary’s view, Guzman’s play has made a big difference for the Tartans.

“Harley really holds our team together offensively running the point,”

said Leary.

“That is a hard position and she is a leader on the floor for us. She is our floor leader. She has the ability to run the offense and hit big shots when we need them.”

Junior forward Harlyn Bell and senior center Maggie Walsh also made some big shots in the win over Villa Victoria.

“Harlyn is much more aggressive; she has been stepping up for us the last few games,” said Leary.

“She is looking to attack the basket more; she is looking for her shot. Maggie always works hard inside. Tonight she did a great job rebounding offensively with the put backs, following the shots.”

The team’s hard work collectively is paying dividends. “I am happy with our overall record,” said Leary, whose team is slated to play at Hightstown on February 5 before hosting Kings Christian School on February 6.

“As a team we are progressing. Next week we have three games and then Sunday we have the Prep B quarterfinals. We are just continuously preparing for the next game and what’s ahead of us.”

Guzman, for her part, sees good things ahead for the Tartans. “I just feel like we work better together,” said Guzman.

“Last year, we got frustrated more often. We are all friends here; we are more comfortable with each other. We are around the same age because we are a younger team.”

 

January 29, 2014
RAISING KEAN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz drives to the hoop last Sunday in Princeton’s 84-54 victory over Kean University. Freshman star Weisz scored 15 points with four rebounds and an assist in the win and was later named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season. Princeton, now 12-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy League, resumes league action this weekend by playing at defending Ivy champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RAISING KEAN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz drives to the hoop last Sunday in Princeton’s 84-54 victory over Kean University. Freshman star Weisz scored 15 points with four rebounds and an assist in the win and was later named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season. Princeton, now 12-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy League, resumes league action this weekend by playing at defending Ivy champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having come through his first exam period of his college career, Princeton University men’s basketball freshman star Spencer Weisz was anxious to get back on the court.

Even though Princeton cruised to an 84-54 win over Division III Kean University at Jadwin Gym last Sunday in its first action since January 11, Weisz believed that the Tigers gained a lot from the win.

“This is my first time through this schedule of not playing for a few weeks,” said Weisz, a 6’4, 180-pound native of nearby Florham Park.

“We started off really well defensively.  In the first few minutes, we held them to 1-of-17 from the field, I believe coach said. Then defensively, we let up a little bit. It is good that we have this game to show us that we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially coming into the important part of the season ahead.”

Weisz produced some good work in the win, scoring 15 points with four rebounds and an assist, later getting named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season.

While Weisz acknowledged that it took the Tigers a while to get in synch offensively, he certainly got into a groove.

“I believe there was some rust but then again, it was great to be on the court with the guys,” said Weisz, who hit on 6-of-9 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.

“Whether we play a D-1 team or a D-III team, I think there is natural rust but I think it is really how quickly you can get that off, that says a lot about your team. Last Sunday was my last exam so I have been able to get down to the gym and get some shots up. I felt like it paid off tonight.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson felt good to see his team in action as it looks to move on from its 77-74 loss at Penn in its Ivy League opener and last appearance before the exam break.

“There were some things today that we could improve on but I saw enough good things,” said Henderson, whose squad led 37-23 at half and never looked back as it improved to 12-3 overall.

“We were just happy to put the uniform on and take the floor. I was talking to coach [Pete] Carril yesterday and he was reiterating to me and the staff how important this game is for us. We are entering into a huge week and I think we are ready to meet that challenge.”

Henderson is challenging his team to step up on the defensive end of the floor.

“Defense is what we have got to concentrate on; we want to be a good defensive team,” asserted Henderson.

“I think we can be; we have been at moments. I have been saying this for a while, basketball has been going on for 50 or 75 years and you have to keep your body in front of your man so that is what we are trying to concentrate on.”

The Tigers got some good work from their reserves in the win over Kean as Henderson went to the bench as the Tigers pulled away.

“I thought they were good; you have to remember that Jimmy Sherburne, Ben Hazel, Chris Clement, and T.J. Bray, didn’t play much as freshmen,” said Henderson.

“I like our freshmen group quite a bit. You got a chance to see some of the things that we see in practice. We get a really good look from our scout team. Steve Cook is a good rebounder. Henry Caruso has a knack; he played six or seven minutes and he is on the free throw line four times. Bobby Garbade is a very good passer and we know that Clay Wilson can really shoot. What I think is really important to me is that those guys are in there and we look the same, it is us. It is what we are supposed to look like.”

Princeton is facing an important weekend as it resumes Ivy action by playing at defending league champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day.

“We feel good for about an hour and then it is over,” said Henderson. “Harvard and Dartmouth are playing right now so we will go back and watch the game. We are ready; we know what the drill is with two games on a weekend. You prepare for both games and Friday is obviously a key test. For us, I think it is going to come down to four or five plays. We have been talking about that a lot. We are going to have to make shots. Both teams are playing well.”

Still smarting from the loss to Penn, the Tigers are ready for a shot at Harvard and the chance to get into the thick of the title race.

“You have to play them at some point,” said Henderson of Harvard. “I think there are plenty of teams in the league that are playing well. I think we put ourselves in a tough position with our first game. You just have to play.”

Weisz, for his part, believes that Princeton is primed to play well. “Obviously this is something I have been looking forward to for a while,” said Weisz.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted a few weeks ago at Penn but then again we have a lot of opportunities to make up for that. Come this weekend, we can get right back on track. I think this week of practices is very important for us. We are looking to get after it in practice, especially defensively and that is going to contribute a lot to this weekend coming up and the weekends after that.”

SOCHI EXPRESS: Jamie Greubel, left, pilots a bobsled in a recent World Cup race. Greubel, a 2002 Hun School alum, was named as one of the three bobsled drivers for the U.S. squad to compete in the upcoming 2104 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.(Photo by Charlie Booker, Courtesy of USA Bobsledding)

SOCHI EXPRESS: Jamie Greubel, left, pilots a bobsled in a recent World Cup race. Greubel, a 2002 Hun School alum, was named as one of the three bobsled drivers for the U.S. squad to compete in the upcoming 2104 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Charlie Booker, Courtesy of USA Bobsledding)

During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Jamie Greubel was on the outside looking in as an alternate brakeman for the U.S. women’s bobsledding team.

“The other alternates and I watched the split times from the Olympic Training center on Colorado Springs,” said Greubel, a former Hun School standout who went on to star at Cornell in track.

“That was disappointing but gave me more motivation. It was a stepping stone for me to get even more serous about doing what I need to do to get to the Olympics. It was special to be part of a national team in an Olympic year, being with the team every week, pushing, and traveling with them.”

Pushing hard over the last four years, Greubel, 30, has booked a spot in the upcoming Winter Games as she was named as one of the three bobsled drivers for the U.S. squad.

“I knew based on my world ranking that I was in a good position to make the team,” said Greubel, who is currently in third place in women’s bobsled standings.

“It was definitely a big relief to finally make the team. I have been in the sport for six years. It is incredible. I never thought I would come this far. It has been a lot of growth.”

Greubel’s growth into an Olympian started during her sports career at Hun.

“I played field hockey and did track at Hun,” recalled Greubel, a 2002 Hun alum. “I have always been very competitive. My experience at Hun gave me the motivation and skill to develop into an elite athlete at track.”

Hun assistant director of athletics Kathy Quirk remembers Greubel making a big impression on and off the field during her high school years.

“Jamie was a great kid and a determined athlete; she was always trying to better herself,” said Quirk.

“She was known as an all-around athlete. She was a good field hockey player. She was quick and had a lot of speed. Jamie was driven to do her best in whatever she did. She was a model scholar-athlete; she did very well academically.”

While Quirk saw greatness in Greubel, she is surprised to see her excelling in sledding.

“She was a D-I athlete; I never thought I would see her in the bobsled,” said Quirk,  noting that the two other Hun alums, star rowers Jason Read and Paul Teti, have also competed at the Olympics.

“It is a great honor for Hun and it is a great honor for her. I am looking forward to watching her at the Olympics.”

When Greubel thought of competing at the Olympics during her Cornell career, she hoped it would be in the Summer Games as she developed into a champion heptathlete.

“The coach at Cornell saw that I competed in a lot of events at Hun and that I had the potential to be good at the heptathlon,” said Greubel, who won four Ivy League Heptagonal championships and holds the school record in the heptathlon (outdoor) and pentathlon (indoor).

“It was very challenging to pick up. I made my biggest gains as a senior. I would do better at each competition; one meet my hurdles time would be better and the next meet it would be my shot put. I made it to the NCAAs. I didn’t have the outstanding performance that I wanted. I finished 13th and I was not satisfied with the result. I didn’t know how far I could go. I had only been doing it for four years. At the end of college, no one encouraged me to continue in the heptathlon.”

After graduating from Cornell in 2006, Greubel did get some encouragement to take up sledding.

“I was applying to grad school and one of my older teammates at Cornell who had joined the U.S. men’s bobsled team told me I would be a good fit for the women’s team,” said Greubel, who holds a masters’s degree in elementary education.

“I went to Lake Placid and did a training run. It was pretty shocking to my system. It was not the roller-coaster ride that I had imagined. I was still looking for a competitive outlet.”

Overcoming her initial fears, Greubel became a bobsled competitor. “One of the girls needed a brakeman and she asked me to come to Park City to compete with her,” said Greubel, who joined the U.S. bobsled team in the 2007-08 season.

“I got to go on a different course and I got to compete. It was really exciting; it brought in the competitive notion and I was hooked. I was encouraged; people were telling me that I could be good at this. It made me start thinking seriously about it and I decided to pursue it full time.”

Once she made that decision, Greubel faced a challenging road in mastering her new pursuit.

“It is hard picking up the sport late in life, plus I was paying for grad school and I had to pay to compete,” said Greubel, who has worked as a waitress to help finance her new passion.

“You don’t get expenses covered until you are on the national team and I had grad school debts. The speed I had from track helped. I had to gain 20 pounds to compete; that was a lot of weight to put on for a female and I had to buy a whole new wardrobe.”

After the Vancouver Games, Greubel took on a new role in the sport as she made the switch to driver from brakeman.

“I could take control of my destiny and be in control of the races,” said the 5’9, 170-pound Greubel in explaining the change of position.

“Being a brakeman helped my transition. There are so many things to know about the sport, it is quirky. You are the mechanics of your equipment. Being in the driver’s position gives a new perspective. You have more responsibility in the sled and for the team. You are financing your team.”

Injuring her knee in 2012 helped sharpen Greubel’s perspective. “That was a huge setback, I was making progress,” said Greubel, who was injured playing soccer during a team bonding exercise at a national team camp.

“It really made me think how bad I wanted it. Four months after the ACL, I went to Europe and competed. I had surgery in July and I was racing on November 14. I was learning the other courses. I am glad I did it. It was really important to get that experience.”

While Greubel doesn’t have as much experience as many of the other drivers, she has emerged as one of the top performers in her sport. “As a new driver, I have a steep learning curve,” said Greubel.

“I am in my third full season and some of the drivers are in their 13th season. We have such a competitive push. We have a sled project with BMW. We are up to date technically and competitive. Putting all those things together has been the recipe to success.”

The competitive Greubel is confident that she will experience success in Sochi.

“I like the course; it is definitely challenging; it is a good course for us because we get a strong start no matter who the brakeman is,” said Greubel, whose event is slated for February 18-19.

“There are three uphill sections that are tough for a drive. It is easy to get down but hard to go fast. We will have to try different lines. I am excited to go for a medal. I have been in the medal hunt every week in the world cup races. I feel strong about my chances. It is about being consistent and having consistent races. I am focusing on the present and enjoying this experience.”

MERRITT SYSTEM: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Merritt Peck, right, battles for the puck. Last Friday, senior forward Peck and her classmates came through in the program’s annual Senior Night as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 3-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-7, play  Pingry on January 29 at Baker Rink before playing Summit on February 1 at Bridgewater Arena.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MERRITT SYSTEM: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Merritt Peck, right, battles for the puck. Last Friday, senior forward Peck and her classmates came through in the program’s annual Senior Night as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 3-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-7, play Pingry on January 29 at Baker Rink before playing Summit on February 1 at Bridgewater Arena. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Merritt Peck, hitting the ice at Baker Rink around dawn to practice with the Princeton High girls’ hockey team is a highlight of her day.

“There is a camaraderie about being the only people awake in Princeton at 4:30 in the morning,” said PHS senior forward Peck.

“We all go to breakfast after together; we have built a lot of friendships in the morning. There is something nice about practicing then rather than being after school when everyone is thinking about school. In the morning, all that matters is us.”

Last Friday, however, Peck came to Baker on the night shift and enjoyed a nice evening on the ice as the program held its annual Senior Night and PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 3-1.

“Right now, I am feeling great,” said Peck. “We had a lot of people come out to see us and we didn’t want to disappoint them. We also want to celebrate on this ice. We come here every day so early in the morning and it feels a lot better to be back here tonight and winning. It is worth it.”

The win in the Baker finale will leave Peck with one of her better PHS memories.

“It is pretty emotional,” said Peck, reflecting on the festivities which featured a pregame ceremony with the senior players and their parents and saw the rink decorated with posters of Peck and her six classmates taped to the glass across from PHS bench and a number of balloons hovering.

“It is exciting to get to say that I won my next to last game here. I am not going to have to look back and say we lost a close one. We won and we deserved to win.”

After having beaten ANC 4-2 on January 22, Peck and her teammates knew they were in for a battle in the rematch. The teams were knotted in a scoreless tie until senior star Lucy Herring found the back of the net with 2:40 left in the first period. Herring’s younger sister, freshman standout Maggie Herring, added a tally in both the second and third period to complete the scoring for the Little Tigers as they improved to 2-7.

“Once you get one, your momentum is really building up,” said Peck. “It also helped that they were getting very angry. A lot of times when people get angry, they lose control. We tried to keep it classy while they got angry. In the end, they were the ones getting the penalties and if we got angry back at them, it would only be hurting ourselves.”

In Peck’s view, the play of the Herring sisters gives PHS a big momentum boost. “I love playing with them; they have such a good dynamic,” said Peck.

“They love playing with each other. They get competitive with each other which is always good because they each want to beat each other but they also want to help each other. They celebrate so much together; their connections are always really clean and exciting.”

While PHS has struggled to get wins in recent years, that hasn’t dimmed the excitement for the players.

“Because we aren’t always expected to win, there is not as much pressure,” said Peck, who also plays field hockey for PHS and served as one of the team captains last fall.

“We are really having a good time and we are not worried about wow that was a really bad play. It is alright, on the next one we are going to get it.”

Peck has a good support network in older brothers Griffin and Kirby, who both starred for the PHS boys’ hockey team and are now at Boston College together.

“They are very excited for me whenever something like this happens,” said Peck, who is following her brothers to Boston College.

“They are really supportive. I always want to follow in their footsteps, so to speak. I like to be able to tell them that I won.”

PHS head coach Christian Herzog believes his senior class has set a really good example for the program’s younger players.

“They are a great group of girls; like they say, character is how you act when no one is watching and these girls have character,” said Herzog, whose group of seniors includes assistant captain Erin Forden, Bea Greenberg, Breanna Hegarty-Thorne, Molly O’Brien, captain Kate Sohn, and Oraya Zinder in addition to Peck.

“Day in, day out, they show up at practice. We take our defeats within the league but they are ready to come out the next day. They never make an excuse or say I don’t feel like coming to practice or we are going to lose again. I don’t have to deal with that type of attitude.”

The Little Tigers were ready to come out with a bang last Friday, lifted by a nice crowd turning up for Senior Night.

“It is the most well attended game of the year,” said Herzog. “We had a group over here and we had a crew of boys over there. We had the parents come and support us. It is good to see the kids in the program get supported by other people who don’t always come to hockey games.”

Herzog tipped his hat to the Herrings for giving the crowd plenty to cheer about.

“The Herring sisters feed off of each other; they almost have that telepathy or connection on the ice,” said Herzog.

“I would be lying if I said they don’t add a huge dynamic to the team. The team’s overall confidence increases when one of them scores. They are two of the fastest skaters on the team. They are close to being equal in terms of both of them having good hands. They both can shoot. It is just a matter of consistently hitting the net, the goals will come. They know that.”

Senior goalie Hegarty-Thorne had a good night in the net, holding ANC scoreless until giving up a goal with 6:22 left in the third period.

“We had a conversation the other day and I told her I need you to play really well and she said ‘yeah coach, feel free to pull me out if some weak goals go in, go for the win,’” said Herzog. “She is a team player. Somebody was watching over her because they had other opportunities, just like we did.”

With PHS hosting Pingry on January 29 at Baker Rink before playing Summit on February 1 at Bridgewater Arena, Herzog is hoping his team can build on the win over ANC.

“It is important in terms of trying to keep some momentum,” said Herzog.

“We have Pingry next Wednesday. I would like to see us have a better showing against them than the last time we played them.”

Peck, for her part, believes any more victories will be icing on the cake after Friday’s showing.

“Of course we would love to win more but we are not going to be disappointed in any way with how the season ends,” said Peck.

“If that doesn’t happen, we are completely satisfied with what has happened. At this point, we have had a lot of strong games and this will be all we need for the rest of the season if that is all we get.”

WILD ABOUT HARRY: Harry Rulon-Miller, far left, presents the trophy to the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team after it won the school’s invitational tournament in 2012, the year the event was renamed in Rulon-Miller’s honor. Pictured with Rulon-Miller, from left, are PDS head of School Paul Stellato along with former Panther stars Cody Triolo and Rob Colton. Earlier this month, Rulon-Miller formally retired from his position as coordinator of PDS hockey operations. Rulon-Miller joined the school’s faculty in 1961 and has been associated with its hockey program as a coach or rink administrator since 1965.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WILD ABOUT HARRY: Harry Rulon-Miller, far left, presents the trophy to the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team after it won the school’s invitational tournament in 2012, the year the event was renamed in Rulon-Miller’s honor. Pictured with Rulon-Miller, from left, are PDS head of School Paul Stellato along with former Panther stars Cody Triolo and Rob Colton. Earlier this month, Rulon-Miller formally retired from his position as coordinator of PDS hockey operations. Rulon-Miller joined the school’s faculty in 1961 and has been associated with its hockey program as a coach or rink administrator since 1965. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After graduating from Princeton University and serving in the Navy, Harry Rulon-Miller was looking to teach abroad as he headed into 1961.

But not having any solid prospects overseas, Rulon-Miller was steered to a teaching opening at his high school alma mater, the Princeton Country Day School (PCD).

Rulon-Miller took the opportunity and through the homecoming, found a permanent home.

While Rulon-Miller had some teaching stints in Greece and Colorado, he never left PCD as it merged with Miss Fine’s School to become the Princeton Day School. Rulon-Miller, a hockey star at both PCD and Princeton, added coaching to his portfolio.

After leaving teaching, Rulon-Miller stayed at PDS to run the newly opened McGraw Rink in 1998. He morphed into an “ambassador” of hockey as a constant presence at rink, keeping things running like clockwork and nurturing generations of hockey players. The homey atmosphere he helped create at the rink made it a favorite stop for skaters, hockey players, fans, and parents alike.

Earlier this month, Rulon-Miller, 78, left his hockey home in the hands of others as he formally retired from his position of coordinator of hockey operations.

Fittingly, Rulon-Miller was granted the honor of making a ceremonial puck drop before PDS hosted Lawrenceville on January 15, drawing cheers from a packed house at McGraw.

“Through the good auspices of the Lawrenceville presence of people, they just had to be there, and the good presence of us, it was just nice,” said Rulon-Miller, in his raspy voice, the product of a battle with throat cancer 10 years ago.

Rulon-Miller has been a constant presence for the PDS hockey program, serving as an assistant varsity coach from 1965-68 before becoming head coach. He guided the squad until 1982 when he turned it over the Buzz Woodworth. He then coached juniors and helped with other PDS teams. When the outdoor rink on campus was converted to the indoor McGraw Rink, he managed the rink as well as handling scheduling for all the PDS teams.

In the view of PDS Director of Athletics Tim Williams, the retirement of Rulon-Miller signals the end of an era.

“I don’t think you can sum it up in a few words, Harry basically is PDS hockey,” said Williams of Rulon-Miller, who graduated from PCD in 1951 when it only went through the ninth grade and is a 1958 Princeton alum.

“He is an institution. It is exciting to see him retire on one hand but it is also sad. It will be bittersweet to not have him around all the time. He has done everything at the rink from sharpening skates to driving the Zamboni to doing all the scheduling. He cares for the people who come here and he wants them to have a good experience.”

Williams, who came to PDS in 2011, credits Rulon-Miller with helping to ease his transition to the school.

“He has a great wealth of knowledge about the school and hockey,” said Williams. “He really helped me as a southern boy coming to New Jersey to learn about PDS, hockey, and the history of the school.”

Rulon-Miller’s eyes light up through his trademark horn-rimmed glasses when he starts talking about the history of PDS hockey.

“I took over in 1968 or 1969 and that first team was very, very unusual because it had probably some of the best kinds of kids who worked together nicely,” said Rulon-Miller, noting that the late Christopher Reeve ’70 was the goalie on the first team.

“We were invited to go up to the Milton Tournament in Boston in December, 1969, and this little old school from New Jersey, within 24 hours, walked away with the championship. We had a nice little crew of about 15 kids. We had three rotations that featured a defensive cluster of players who just were magnificent and had some forward lines that wouldn’t quit.”

A key step in the lore of the program was the founding of its annual 4-team invitational tournament in 1971.

“It was a very exciting time because it was the first years that we were going head-to-head against Lawrenceville,” said Rulon-Miller.

“For those years and many after that, PDS, Lawrenceville, and Hill were the main protagonists. We would invite other schools as well, sometimes it was a club or a team from Philadelphia or whatever.”

The event was renamed in Rulon-Miller’s honor in 2012. “I thought it was quite appropriate because I put my time in on it, number one, and I was there at the beginning,” said Rulon-Miller, reflecting on the honor. “I love to write the solicitation letters, I just hope I don’t repeat myself.”

For Rulon-Miller, putting in his time at the rink has been a labor of love.

“I know basically starting with spectators and going through officials, figure skaters, ice hockey teams, they love to come here,” said Rulon-Miller.

“Some of it is me and some is doing a lot of little things. The other hockey teams know that they don’t have to bring pucks along. I tell the opposing team’s coaches, especially if they have young kids, keep an eye on your players they are going to get lost on the benches because these are the biggest things you will ever see. You can even develop a hockey strategy of coming out one door and the other guy coming out the other. You are going to love the warming rooms. We feel offended if the opposing coach comes in and asks us for a broom to sweep out their locker room.”

It is going to be hard for Rulon-Miller to take his eye off the rink. “I think being a part of the world at the rink,” said Rulon-Miller, when asked what he will miss most in retirement.

“Whether it is the skaters at the skating club, the PDS programs, watching these little kids troop in or cheerleading our interscholastic teams. I rejoice in the fact that a girl who started hockey in the ninth grade ends up being a captain of the team by her senior year. I have been quietly proselytizing girls to join the ice hockey because it is such a fantastic sport. Boys and girls who are rookies have a chance to really have fun here.”

Working with his colleagues in handling the nuts and bolts of managing the rink has also been fun for Rulon-Miller.

“These people in the PE department and the facilities department which I have been especially close with over the last 15 years are supporters who are just cool,” said Rulon-Miller.  “I am going to miss them as being a part of whatever it is.”

Rulon-Miller has enjoyed the support of the coaches that have succeeded him in guiding the program.

“I have also gotten to know some different coaches who were very terrific in their own ways,” noted Rulon-Miller.

“From a Graham Craig who came to PDS and left in the early 70s. He was an NCAA champion with Michigan in 1954 and was courageous enough to come and coach our team at the varsity level when we needed him in the 80s. Chris Barcless is one of the best teachers of skating or hockey I have seen around. His biggest forte was preparing for a game. Then there is the present associate athletic director, Scott Bertoli, who has a phenomenal way with kids as kids, school as school, and sportsmen as sportsmen as anyone I have ever met. He may be the coach of hockey but his door is open in a special way to all athletes and their coaches.

Bertoli, for his part, has a special respect for Rulon-Miller. “In his 49 or 50 years with the school, Harry has been a huge part of the hockey program as a player, coach, and managing the rink,” said Bertoli.

“He is the face of the rink and the program. He has been a tremendous resource for me for the history of the program. He has helped me to get to know the alums. He has tremendous respect for the longstanding rivalries and their historical significance.”

Rulon-Miller’s example has inspired Bertoli and his players to go the extra mile to get better.

“There have been ups and downs and for us to rebuild it and have some very good seasons here recently is important to the coaching staff, players, and alums,” added Bertoli. “It has made Harry happy.”

Bertoli admires the manner in which Rulon-Miller dispenses important tips to the players.

“What I like is the way he gives kids advice, it is not so much about the Xs and Os, but carrying yourself the right way,” said Bertoli.

“It is all about representing your school in the right way, respecting the game and your opponent, and upholding the integrity of the game.”

As a result of Rulon-Miller’s desire to do things the right way, opponents view coming to McGraw Rink as a treat.

“We played Chatham, one of the top public programs in the state, last Friday,” recalled Bertoli.

“Even before the game, their coach came up to me and said he couldn’t thank us enough for the hospitality, people were pointing them in the right direction and being outgoing. He said they were really having a neat experience and that they would like to come here every year. That is all Harry. That is the atmosphere he wants and has created.”

As Rulon-Miller reflects on his decision to retire, one gets the sense that he  might make time to come back to McGraw on occasion to savor that atmosphere.

“I found out that I had been working too hard as a part-time employee,” said Rulon-Miller with a grin.

“I have a great sense of something being lifted off on one hand and a case of what do I do next. I am not the kind who can sit in a hammock.”

THE BOURKE IDENTITY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Michael Bourke passes the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior guard Bourke scored a game-high 22 points to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 71-39. Hun, which has won three of its last four games to improve to 6-8, hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THE BOURKE IDENTITY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Michael Bourke passes the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior guard Bourke scored a game-high 22 points to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 71-39. Hun, which has won three of its last four games to improve to 6-8, hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Michael Bourke and his teammates on the Hun School boys’ basketball team didn’t waste any time asserting their dominance over Princeton Day School last Thursday in the meeting of cross-town rivals.

With senior guard Bourke pouring in 15 points and classmate Eric Williams chipping in nine on three 3-pointers, Hun jumped out to a 29-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“As a team we came out really strong; Eric and I both came out strong,” said Bourke.

“We haven’t played in a while so coming out here and getting a jump on them was really good for us.”

For Bourke, nailing a trio of three-pointers as part of his 15-point outburst felt good.

“I practice a lot so hopefully it pays off and it did tonight,” said Bourke. “I have had a half like that before; the last time we played Trenton Catholic, I had 18 in the first half.”

Hun enjoyed the rest of the night as it pulled away to a 71-39 win over the Panthers.

In assessing the victory, Bourke acknowledged that the Raiders need to play a more complete brand of hoops.

“I think our defense lacked a little bit; that was one thing that coach talked to us about after the game,” said Bourke, who ended the evening with a game-high 22 points. “A key for us is to keep the defensive mentality up the whole game.”

In Bourke’s view, Hun’s recent come-from-behind win over the Hill School (Pa.) could turn out to be a key moment for the squad.

“We started off really slow in that game and to come back to win was a big momentum boost for us,” said Bourke, reflecting on the January 11 game which saw Hun overcome a 17-5 first quarter deficit to pull out a 51-50 thriller. “After that, we knew we could beat anybody.”

With Hun having gone 3-1 in their last four games, Bourke believes the squad is coming on strong.

“I think now that we have Remi back, we are playing really well as a team,” said Bourke, referring to senior forward Remi Janicot who was sidelined due to a concussion. “Everyone is buying into the defensive mindset. We should be really good from here.”

Bourke has worked hard to be really good for the Raiders. “Over the summer, I was playing AAU and working on my ball-handling a lot,” said the 6’2, 155-pound Bourke.

“I am trying to be more of a point guard than a two guard. My size has really helped me a lot. It creates mismatches. I have been labeled as a shooter ever since I was young. It is not a bad thing growing up so I just keep getting shots up in the gym and working on my overall game.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone appreciates Bourke’s overall contribution to the Raiders.

“Michael gives us a lot in his ability to score the ball, his ability to pass the ball as well as his ability to get deflections and steals on the other end,” said Stone. “He is certainly a competitor and he means a lot to this team.”

Sharpshooting guard Williams is starting to mean more and more to Hun. “Eric is just continuing to get better all of the time and the more experience he gets is really helpful and beneficial to him,” said Stone.

“He was 5-of-6 from 3 today so he is really shooting the ball really well. It wasn’t a fluke; he is more than capable. He is a very good player.”

In Stone’s view, the Raiders are developing into a very good team. “We have made a lot of great strides; this team has made a lot of improvements,” said Stone, whose team is now 6-8.

“We still have some work to do but we have improved and that is the goal of any season that you keep improving as you go along. Our defense has come a long way since the beginning of the year. I think we are just jelling a little better; the chemistry is better and sometimes that just takes time. We are in the latter part of the season and that helps because we are more familiar with each other. We know what our strengths are.”

Like Bourke, Stone views the victory over Hill as a major stride forward. “That was a great win for us,” asserted Stone.

“It showed how much these guys can compete. There is no question that was a big win for us, especially being in the league and against a really good team. I definitely think that gave us some momentum.”

With Hun having made a great run last winter to win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, Stone believes the team can have a big postseason.

“We are not there yet but we are just getting started,” said Stone, whose team hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3. “I think we have yet to play our best basketball, that’s for sure.”

Bourke, for his part, is confident that Hun’s best basketball is ahead of it. “As long as we dig in defensively which we have been doing, I think we should be fine and have a great run in the MAPL tournament,” said Bourke. “Hopefully, we can go farther in the state tournament.”

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls basketball player Janelle Mullen dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Mullen scored 10 points to help Hun beat North Brunswick 53-35 as the Raiders posted their third straight win in rebounding from a two-game slide. Hun, which improved to 7-6 with the victory, plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls basketball player Janelle Mullen dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Mullen scored 10 points to help Hun beat North Brunswick 53-35 as the Raiders posted their third straight win in rebounding from a two-game slide. Hun, which improved to 7-6 with the victory, plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup and his players on the Hun School girls’ basketball team have gotten a lesson in rolling with the punches this winter.

When senior star and dominant center Johnnah Johnson was sidelined in January, Hun head coach Holup was forced to reshuffle his lineup and his players had to adjust accordingly.

“We are still learning; it is tough without Johnnah who is a going to be a solid D-I player,” said Holup of Johnson, who has committed to play at Robert Morris and is out indefinitely.

“People are playing more minutes than they might have and they are getting thrown into the fire. People are taking different roles and everyone has stepped up.”

After suffering some losses right after Johnson’s injury, the Raiders have been stepping up collectively, having won three straight games over the last week, topping Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 57-22 on January 18, defeating Pingry 46-20 last Thursday, and then topping North Brunswick 53-35 on Saturday.

Holup pointed to the win over Pingry as an example of the team’s fortitude. “It was a good win; we were pretty sluggish because we didn’t have school or practice for two days,” said Holup, noting that Hun was closed last Tuesday and Wednesday due to the snowstorm that hit the area.

“It was a competitive game in the first half and then we came alive in the second half. We were not shooting well so it was good to see our defense do a really good job.”

The Raiders built on that performance with their win over North Brunswick.

“We lost to North Brunswick last year at their place; it was a very physical game,” said Holup who got 15 points from Erica Brown and 10 points from Clare Moloney in the win which lifted Hun to 7-6.

“It was a very physical game on Saturday. We were expecting to be physical and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. They are a Group IV team and they are tough. We were shooting much better than Thursday. Defensively we did a terrific job. We held them to 11 points in the first half. We hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored 22 points.”

Freshman Moloney has been doing a fine job in replacing Johnson at center. “Moloney has been coming into her own,” said Holup.

“She is getting more minutes and is getting more confident. Her teammates are getting more confident in her. She is only a freshman so we don’t want to put too much pressure on her.”

Senior star Brown, for her part, has been putting pressure on Hun’s foes all over the court.

“Brown has been relentless at both ends of the floor,” asserted Holup. “She is exhausted sometimes when we call timeouts because she is playing so hard. We are putting her on the opposing team’s best player. She can defend guards or forwards. She is playing bigger than she is and she has been doing a good job with that.”

Holup has been trying to get his players to look at the big picture. “I have been emphasizing three things with them,” noted Holup.

“I tell them they have to trust each other, they have to have confidence in themselves and their teammates, and they need to leave their egos outside the court. Once they are on the court, they have to play together.”

The Raiders appear to be responding to that message. “The girls have shown growth,” said Holup, whose team plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1.

“We still have enough talent to be really good. We are not going to be a pushover for anybody.”

January 22, 2014
OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sean Wilkinson is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Growing up in Zimbabwe and establishing himself as one of the top junior squash players in the country, Wilkinson left Africa for the United States as a teenager to attend the St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

After struggling to adjust, Wilkinson enjoyed a fine high school career and headed to Bates College where he starred for the men’s squash team. As a senior, he served as a de facto coach when the program was undergoing a leadership transition.

Deciding to go into coaching upon graduation, he took a job as a teaching pro at a squash club in Milan, Italy, despite not knowing anyone in the country or one word of Italian.

He then returned to the U. S. to serve as an assistant coach at Brown and then headed to Drexel to help that school start an intercollegiate squash program.

Last spring, Wilkinson took on his greatest challenge yet as he was named to succeed legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team.

“I applied at the end of April, I was hoping to get an interview,” said Wilkinson.

“When I got the interview, it went well. I was talking about something I love and have a passion for. I was offered the job five days after my interview. It was an exciting time.”

Wilkinson, 28, is excited to have the support of his predecessor Callahan, a former Princeton squash star who was the head coach at his alma mater for 32 years and guided the Tigers to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles, and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012).

“Bob is a legend, he is such a wonderful person,” said Wilkinson. “There is always going to be pressure in a job with a team that has been so successful over the years. Bob believes in what I am trying to do. This is going to take time, I am rebuilding in my own style.”

When Wilkinson first came to the U.S., he did have a bit of a rough time. “I got the opportunity to come to St Paul’s School and I took the opportunity with both hands,” said Wilkinson.

“I think it was hard for a number of reasons. I was only 14 when I came over. The education system is very different here and I struggled. There was turmoil at home and that didn’t help.”

Eventually, Wilkinson started to feel at home in New England. “I settled down and made some good friends,” said Wilkinson.

“I had a good support network. I didn’t play squash as much. I had to put a lot of time into my education. We did finish fourth or fifth in New England.”

Once at Bates, Wilkinson was able to put more into his squash. “I dove all in again; I was lucky because we had a good team and my best friends were on the team,” said Wilkinson.

“In my senior year, we were No. 6 in the country at one point. We had a strong team. We won our division at nationals; it was the highest finish for Bates. We were athletic and competitive. We were the underdogs but everything came together.”

Wilkinson had a special role in that success as he became a de facto coach of the program.

“My senior year was my third year as captain and the coach that season was in charge of travel, hotels and finances but he wasn’t a squash guy,” said Wilkinson, who was a first-team New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) selection and earned the Bates College Sportsmanship Award.

“I took the lead; I helped coach both teams. I would organize the practice plan on a day-to-day basis. The other players knew me and trusted me; they allowed me to get on with it.”

It didn’t take long for Wilkinson to realize that he found his calling in coaching. “It was a very easy transition,” said Wilkinson.

“I got into it by accident. Everyone knew who I was and they trusted me. I really enjoyed it and I decided I wanted to coach full time.”

Getting to know Peter Nicol, a world No. 1 squash player, helped send Wilkinson off  to an adventure to Europe.

“We met at a squash camp where I was a junior coach,” said Wilkinson, referring to Nicol, a Scot who won one World Open title, two British Open crowns, and four Commonwealth Games Gold Medals and is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding international squash players of his time.

“We got on really well. He asked me my plans and I said coaching. He set me up in a coaching gig in Milan, Italy. It was completely out of left field. I had no desire to leave the States. I had been here seven years but when someone like that gives you that kind of opportunity, you have to take it. I didn’t speak a word of Italian. I hadn’t even spoken to my boss at the club.”

True to character, Wilkinson made the most of the opportunity. “I arrived in August and fell in love with it; I was thrown in the deep end which I needed,” said Wilkinson.

“It was tough coaching someone in a different language. I was mainly giving lessons; usually 50 lessons a week for 30-minute sessions. It was a really good opportunity for me to develop my coaching. I learned what I wanted to do with the players technically.”

After two years in Italy, Wilkinson returned to the U.S. to get his start in college coaching.

“I came to Brown in 2010; Stuart leGassick was wonderful to me,” said Wilkinson.

“I knew I wanted to get back into college coaching. I put myself in enough positions to get a job like I have now. He really understood that. He let me do a lot of stuff and treated me as an equal.”

Getting to do a lot at Brown proved invaluable to Wilkinson for his next stop in the world of college squash.

“I got a call from John White; he as a former No 1 player in the world,” said Wilkinson.

“He asked me if I wanted to be involved in something special. Drexel was starting a squash program and he was the head coach and he wanted me to be his assistant. It was a unique opportunity to develop something new and learn from someone like John.”

Starting at square one with the Drexel program helped Wilkinson further hone his coaching skills.

“I started with the women’s team; on the first day of practice we had five people show up,” said Wilkinson.

“We were recruiting people to play off the street if we saw someone who looked athletic. I had to teach them the basics, how to hold the racket, the rules, and the shots. We were 1-14 in first year. After a year of recruiting, we were much better. The school really supported us; they knew the program could bring the school attention. The women’s team is up to the top 16 and the men’s team is also in the top 16.”

Now that Wilkinson has turned his attention to Princeton, he believes his approach can make the Tigers better.

“Bob and Neil [longtime assistant coach Neil Pomphrey] have a winning formula, the results show that,” said Wilkinson.

“My coaching style is different, I am more hands on with the guys. I get on the court with them. We have intense practices on specific things that I think are important. The big structure remains, like the time of practice and the amount of practice. I am changing little things.”

Wilkinson likes the response he has gotten from his new charges. “So far, so good; they are excited to have me here,” said Wilkinson.

“They have bought into what Neil and I are trying to get them to do. This is the toughest year in the league; anyone from 1 to 9,10, or 11 has a shot to win if they play well. We are going to be the underdogs.”

While Princeton opened the season with a tough 7-2 loss at Franklin and Marshall, the Tigers appear to be on the right track with wins in three of their next five matches before the exam hiatus.

“I think they have progressed from an overall standpoint,” asserted Wilkinson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Penn on January 27.

“The guys are improving, they are fitter and more agile. They struggled against F&M. We need to improve from a competitive standpoint, we can’t be afraid of the task at hand.”

With his history of taking chances, Wilkinson is not afraid of the challenge he faces at Princeton.

“It is incredible; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be 28 years old and sitting where I am,” said Wilkinson.

“I am very fortunate and lucky. I have a lot of energy. I am ready to work hard to get us where we want to be.”

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH: Lior Levy in action this winter for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team. Former Princeton High star Levy has made five appearances off the bench so far this season for the Diplomats as he learns the ropes of college hoops.(Photo Courtesy of F & M’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH: Lior Levy in action this winter for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team. Former Princeton High star Levy has made five appearances off the bench so far this season for the Diplomats as he learns the ropes of college hoops. (Photo Courtesy of F & M’s Office of Athletic Communications)

It was a night to remember for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team as it hosted Dickinson last February in the regular season finale.

F&M ended up routing up the Red Devils 64-34 to earn the first seed in the Centennial Conference tournament, much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd of 3,127 on hand at the Mayser Center.

For one of the fans in the gym that night, Lior Levy, the experience changed the course of his life.

“I went to see the last regular season game last year when they won the league,” recalled Levy, a former star for the Princeton High boys’ hoops team. “There was a huge crowd and that turned me on to the program.”

Having considered taking a post-graduate year and looking at some other Division III programs, Levy decided to come to F&M and play for the Diplomats.

This past November, the 6’7, 205-pound Levy made his debut at the Mayser Center as he got on the court for the waning moments of an F&M win over Johns Hopkins.

“It was pretty cool,” said Levy, reflecting on his debut. “I have been dreaming of playing college basketball all of my life.”

While things haven’t been dreamlike this winter for Levy as he has been paying his dues as a reserve, he understands the process.

“Everything is a lot more intense, the coaches expect more of you,” said Levy, whose father, Howard, starred at Princeton and is the head coach for the Mercer County Community College men’s hoops program.

“It is a lot tougher physically. Instead of a 6’2 person guarding me, I have 6’8 kids guarding me. Last year, I was one of the main players so coming off of that is a little tough.”

Levy is enjoying soaking in the wisdom of legendary F&M coach Glenn Robinson, the most victorious coach in NCAA Division III history with 863 wins.

“Coach Robinson has been around so long, he has got a system and he is a perfectionist,” said Levy. “He is a tough coach but when he is happy you know it.”

The team’s more experienced players have been helping Levy pick up Robinson’s system.

“We have a bunch of post players and they are good kids and they have taken me under their wing,” said Levy, who was exposed to some good players last summer when he helped the U.S. Junior Boys (ages 17-18) squad win the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

“The most dominant players on the team are in the post so I have been watching them carefully and picking things up from them.”

As the winter has gone on, Levy has been developing a comfort level. “I know what I need to work on to get better,” said Levy, who has made five appearances so far this season for the Diplomats and has a rebound and an assist in eight minutes of action.

“The coaches are excited about me, they have been giving me good feedback. Over the past few weeks, I have been feeling a lot more comfortable. During the winter break practices, I was playing well. I am getting more confident in my game.”

With the Diplomats having won eight of their last nine games to improve to 10-5 overall, Levy and his teammates are looking forward to some big games down the stretch.

“Everyone is confident,” said Levy. “We are still working hard because we don’t want to get overconfident.”

Levy, for his part, is dedicated to putting in the work to make himself a bigger contributor for F&M.

“The biggest thing for me is fighting for position in the post,” said Levy. “I need to move my feet better on defense. I need to get up and down the court quicker and guard better. I need to continue to lift and get stronger and faster. I have the basketball skills that are good enough to play.”

DOUBLE DUTY: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Matt Purdy powers to a win in the 200 freestyle last week as PHS topped Hightstown 105-65 on January 14. Senior star Purdy, who doubles as a star attackman for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team in the spring, also won the 100 breaststroke in the meet as the Little Tigers improved to 8-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it swims at Nottingham on January 23 and then takes part in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 - February 1.                                                      (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOUBLE DUTY: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Matt Purdy powers to a win in the 200 freestyle last week as PHS topped Hightstown 105-65 on January 14. Senior star Purdy, who doubles as a star attackman for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team in the spring, also won the 100 breaststroke in the meet as the Little Tigers improved to 8-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it swims at Nottingham on January 23 and then takes part in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 – February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt Purdy specializes in sprint events but he was happy to branch out as the  Princeton High boys’ swimming team hosted Hightstown last week.

Earning wins in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, senior star Purdy helped PHS post a 105-65 win over the Rams.

“I am a sprinter, swimming more in the 50 and the 100 freestyle,” said Purdy, whose heroics helped PHS improve to 8-0.

“I think that one thing coach [Greg Hand] has emphasized is to focus on all different lengths of races to build overall endurance. The initial game plan was to build through the first 100 and then the biggest thing was to maintain in the third 50 and then give whatever you have left in the fourth 50. For the breaststroke race here, it was really just keeping the elbows high and maintaining a good solid stroke, even after doing the 50 free on the 200 relay.”

Purdy’s versatility, fitness, and knack for mastering technique has allowed him to accomplish a rare athletic double as he also stars for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team.

“I bet that there are very few swimmers and lacrosse players,” said Purdy, a high-scoring attackman for the Little Tigers in the spring who keeps up his stick skills during swimming season by playing in a winter lax league and teaching at a youth clinic.

“I would say going into lacrosse season every year, I have much better endurance than most people. Even though it is not running-based, the overall swimming  anaerobic and aerobic exercise really helps me build my lungs and control my heart rate. With lacrosse, specifically in the fall where we do our captains practices, which I run, because of our cross of cardio and lifting, I build  a good sense of strength and and endurance going into the swimming season.”

Since Purdy is not a full-time swimmer, he has gravitated to the shorter events in the pool.

“True swimmers who swim all year long have much better endurance but for me with my overall athleticism and also strength with going to the weightroom, what works best for me is the sprinting,” said Purdy. “I have learned and trained my body to really give that hard emphasis of energy for that short 50 or 100 in a race.”

Purdy will be expending plenty of energy this fall as he heads off to Tufts University where he is hoping to compete in both swimming and lacrosse.

“I am technically recruited for swimming, for sprinting and freestyle,” said Purdy. “I have talked to the lacrosse coaches and they have guided me to use swimming. They know I want to be both a swimmer and a lacrosse player. I am going have to walk on for a spot on the lacrosse team because it is much more competitive. It is my dream to play both.”

Purdy liked the competitive fire that PHS showed when it beat previously undefeated Notre Dame 112-58 on January 10.

“We seldom have the chance to put a lineup together that can really show our talents so Notre Dame was a great meet just to show everyone how a meet is going to have to be run going forward,” said Purdy, who took second on both the 50 and 100 free in the win over the Irish.

“I would say that is a great foundation for what we have to do in sectionals, counties, and states. I think that meet, in particular, really set the tone for the overall atmosphere that we have to maintain for the rest of the year.”

Purdy and his fellow seniors have set the tone for the Little Tigers, as they have helped PHS win three straight county titles and advance to the state Public B final four each season, having won the state title in 2012.

“The great thing is that we have been very, very fortunate through our four years to really experience a winning team,” said Purdy, whose classmates include Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Scott MacKenzie, Matthew Tam, Eric Zhang, and Avery Soong.

“I think ever since freshman year, we have learned to maintain a positive attitude and demeanor, even in races and meets that may not be the highest of emphasis. Just from our experiences we really do know what it takes and I think with last year’s meet against Summit [an 87-83 loss in the state Public B semifinals] we know and have a bitter taste of what has to be done. It really does show that every millisecond does matter.”

PHS head coach Hand knows that Purdy will give whatever it takes to help PHS win.

“Matt is such an honest athlete, you always get best effort from him,” said Hand.

“He is constructively self critical; he doesn’t get on his own case. He works on his technique from video of himself and substantial video study this year of other great freestylers. When we swim a set that is asking him to give everything he has got, he always gives it.”

Hand certainly liked the effort he got from his squad in the win over Notre Dame.

“Our objectives were to get a high power point total for state seeding and to see what kind of energy we could create on the deck,” said Hand noting that PHS got good efforts in the win from such up and coming performers as junior Matt Shanahan, sophomore Steven Kratzer,  sophomore Alex Bank, sophomore Christian Chiang,  sophomore Dave Cohen, and a trio of freshmen,  Gabriel Bar-Cohen, Will Kinney, and Alex Petruso.

Sure we wanted to compete with Notre Dame; I want us to have this  sense that wherever we go, regardless of the opponent, we understand the importance of  creating the right atmosphere for competing. We succeeded on both of those. The meet was fast, so we have done whatever we could to be top seed in our section and who knows what will be coming out of the other sections.”

The Little Tigers will be looking to do their best at the upcoming county meet as the boys’ program goes for a fourth straight title.

“We pretty much know what our lineup is at this point,” said Hand. “We always want to make sure that the kids who have swum with us the longest and spend the most time in the water and who are most committed to training get to look at it and comment on it and talk about it and get comfortable with it. We want them to feel like it was their lineup and it is their job to do their best when counties come. Over the next couple of days we will nail that down and hopefully get everybody focused.”

Purdy, for his part, is confident that PHS will show plenty of focus when it counts the most.

“With the veteran sense we have now it is like how the great athletes have learned from being in playoff situations all the time,” said Purdy.

“They have learned what it takes to be champions and not just to say I made it to this level. All of our seniors, and every other grade, seldom do any talking. What does our talking is our swimming.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Taylor Chiang heads to victory in the 200 individual medley last week in a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14. Senior star Chiang also won the 100 breaststroke as PHS improved to 8-0. The Little Tigers are slated to swim at Nottingham on January 23 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 - February 1.                                (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Taylor Chiang heads to victory in the 200 individual medley last week in a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14. Senior star Chiang also won the 100 breaststroke as PHS improved to 8-0. The Little Tigers are slated to swim at Nottingham on January 23 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 – February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand has been doing some mixing and matching this winter with his Princeton High girls’ swim squad.

“It is a team where we have done a lot of experimenting,” said longtime PHS head coach Hand.

“We are well aware that we never compete in a single gender format in our league so we are not used to what state meets are going to bring to us. We want to prepare for the challenges of that format but we also want to make sure that we have fought through the spacing because what we can do now we may not be able to do very effectively when there isn’t an intervening boys’ meet.”

So far, Hand has found the right formula as PHS has gotten off to an 8-0 start.

“We have balance across the middle lane but we also have substantial amount of support from the ‘B’ lane and often the ‘C’ lane in a number of events,” said Hand.

“We are getting good second relays this year. The sense of purpose is evident, the focus on the postseason and what we are trying to do is growing.”

In a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14, the Little Tigers showed good focus as their supporting cast got to shine.

“Tonight’s meet was really fun because we got to see all the kids who are normally training here and having them handle the meet themselves,” said Hand.

“We wanted our club kids, those kids who would have an opportunity to be training tonight because there are so many dual meets that training gets fouled up.”

It has been fun for Hand to see how some of his experienced swimmers have progressed.

“We have seen a lot of great stuff recently from all of the kids who are veteran PHS swimmers, kids like Crystal An, Hannah Ash, Jessica Bai,” said Hand.

“Taylor Chiang is swimming club and she is swimming a lot of high school this year as well. She has done a great job and has made a steady contribution here on deck. Lindsey Lim is having a terrific year, shedding time and really has a racing  mentality this year. Cara Persico had a personal record at Notre Dame and had good swims tonight. Charlotte Singer is coming on really well in the breaststroke and she swam the 500 today.”

The team’s big four of sophomore Madeleine Deardorff, sophomore Brianna Romaine, freshman Jamie Liu and senior Belinda Liu, have all been having terrific seasons.

“Among the four kids who are the fastest group on our team, which is Madeleine, Brianna, Jamie and Belinda, it is an interesting challenge to think about what is best for them and for the team,” said Hand.

“One of the fun exercises is to look at the eight individual events in the county and the dual meet events and just look at the different ways to divide the kids.”

For Hand, dealing with the challenge of dividing up his swimmers makes him realize his good fortune in having so much talent at his disposal.

“We are just lucky that we are that the kids are so heavily into all of this,” added Hand.

“We are very fortunate to have had, for as many years as we have, the quality of swimmers we have had.”

PHS will be striving to produce even higher quality swims as it competes in the county championships from January 30 – February 1, looking for a second straight team title.

“It has been a terrific phase, the girls have power pointed a little

bit higher than last year already,” said Hand, whose team also has a regular season meet at Nottingham on January 23.

“We are building and having some new kids and having to search for the ways to make up for the really fine swimmers who graduated.  The girls are doing well, they are up a notch from where they have been.”

FOUR SCORE: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action last season. Last Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored all four goals as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-1 to earn its first win of the season. The Little Tigers, now 1-7, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22 before hosting a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FOUR SCORE: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action last season. Last Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored all four goals as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-1 to earn its first win of the season. The Little Tigers, now 1-7, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22 before hosting a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christian Herzog had the sense that his Princeton High girls’ hockey team was ready to take care of business as it played at Academy of New Church (Pa.) last Wednesday.

“I heard some chatter on the back of the bus with some of the players saying ‘girls we need to be serious with this,’” said Herzog, whose team entered the game with a 0-6 record.

“We had a close game with them last year, we pulled the goalie and they got a late goal.”

ANC, though, got an early goal to take a 1-0 lead on Wednesday, leaving Herzog with a bad feeling.

“When we fell behind, I was a little concerned,” said Herzog. “I was thinking are we going to let another one slip away.”

Instead, the sister act of Lucy and Maggie Herring triggered the offense as PHS seized the momentum and pulled away to a 4-1 victory. Junior star Lucy scored all four Little Tiger goals while freshman standout Maggie assisted on three of the tallies.

“The Herrings are really good about looking for each other,” said Herzog. “Lucy played incredibly; she has the skill set. I have been telling her to break more towards the center of the ice and she did that against ANC.”

The Herrings helped execute Herzog’s offensive strategy. “We were keeping it deep in their zone,” said Herzog, who got two assists from junior forward Isabelle Sohn in the victory with junior defenseman Julia DiTosto adding another helper as PHS outshot ANC 48-8.

“Once the Herrings realized one could go behind the net and they could play keep away, we really clicked.”

Herzog noted that sophomore forward Sophia Corrodi has been helping the PHS offense click.

“Corrodi is a figure skater and she is playing for Nassau,” said Herzog “She is getting the game, all credit to her. She is playing every other shift. While other girls are sucking wind, she is ready to go.”

Sophomore goalie Callie Urisko was ready for the challenge last Wednesday.

“Urisko played well, she has been coming out and playing the puck more,” said Herzog.

With PHS having not won a game against a varsity foe since December, 2011, the Little Tigers let loose with an outpouring of emotion when it was all over.

“After the game, the girls celebrated like they won the Stanley Cup,” said Herzog. “The gloves and sticks were flying.”

While PHS fell 9-1 to Summit on Friday, Herzog feels the breakthrough win will be a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.

“That’s the hope,” said Herzog. “The girls were so excited. We had a little bit of a letdown against Summit.”

Herzog believes his team will be up for another big effort when the Little Tigers host a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink on the campus of Princeton University.

“We have senior night on Friday,” said Herzog, whose team also has a road game at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22. “The girls are hoping for our biggest crowd in years.”

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sean Timmons is the top sniper for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team but he has been misfiring since the calendar turned to January.

“It has been a while since I have scored,” said senior forward and team captain Timmons.

“Bert [PDS head coach Scott Bertoli] puts a lot of pressure on our top six forwards to put the puck into the net.”

With PDS mired in a two-game losing streak and hosting Lawrenceville last Wednesday, the Panthers knew that they had to put a lot of pucks in the net if they were going to get their first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season.

Timmons helped PDS put the pressure on Lawrenceville as he assisted on a Gabe Castagna goal that gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead and got the packed house at McGraw Rink roaring.

Early in the second period, Timmons helped set up a Kyle Weller goal as PDS extended its lead to 3-1. Minutes later, Timmons took matters into his own hands, flying down the ice and blasting a one-timer into the top corner of the net.

“I couldn’t have asked for better timing and a better chance,” said Timmons reflecting on his tally.

“I had the whole top of the net. My teammates have been giving me grief the past three weeks, saying I can’t hit the net. If I had missed the net, I would have skated off the ice.”

Instead, Timmons skated over to the jammed PDS student section and pounded the glass in celebration.

“We don’t play for ourselves, we play for the crest on our jersey,” said Timmons.

“They are our biggest supporters so we have to make it fun for them because we are playing for our school.”

Timmons’ tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS pulled away to a sweet 6-3 triumph over the Big Red, improving to 7-3-1 on the season.

For Timmons and his teammates, it was critical to get that early lead over the Big Red.

“Before the game, Bert said that in the past two years, they had scored in the first five minutes of the game so we took that to heart and we knew that the first goal definitely had to be ours,” said Timmons, noting that PDS had tied Lawrenceville two seasons ago before losing by one goal last year on a tally in the waning seconds of the contest. “Once that first one went in for us, we weren’t letting up.”

Timmons acknowledged that last year’s loss to the Big Red provided further motivation for the Panthers.

“We are a totally different team from last year and we have got to play 100 percent different from what we did last year,” said Timmons.

“Everyone who was in the locker room that was on the team last year still had that in them. All the new guys were at the game or they saw it on YouTube. Everyone knew what had to be done and we had to play 100 percent to beat them.”

PDS helped ensure a different outcome as they blitzed Lawrenceville in the second period, outscoring the Big Red 4-1.

“We came out great but there was a little doubt, there were jitters going everywhere,” said Timmons.

“Going into the second period up 2-1, we said in the locker room that we know how to beat this team. We have to just keep going and everyone rallied for each other.”

For Timmons and his fellow veterans, there was the sense that PDS’s winless streak against Lawrenceville was finally going to end.

“We were talking yesterday and I said to Bert, the guys that have been here have played them twice already and we have tied them and lost to them so we better win this time,” said Timmons.

“It is destiny, you just knew it had to happen and Bert said ‘exactly right, it is your time.’ When the schedule comes out, everyone circles this game on the calendar. It is the biggest game of the year and it means so much to both schools. We are so honored to finally have the ‘W’ on our side.”

In the the view of PDS head coach Bertoli, the big win came down to his players staying in the moment.

“I think our approach was a little different this year,” said Bertoli. “We talked about not worrying about the result at the end of the game and not getting so caught up in the environment and the atmosphere. We are not supposed to win this game. The pressure isn’t on us, we are a small little day school that happens to have a pretty good hockey program. We were the better team last year and we didn’t win the game and I think it was because we got out of synch and we kept watching the scoreboard and we were down. I think it was huge for us to get the first goal and play in front.”

While the Panthers’ opportunistic finishing drew the applause on Wednesday, Bertoli credited some tough defensive work with paving the way to victory.

“Their top line is very, very good, the best line we are going to play against all year,” said Bertoli.

“I am proud of the way that Connor Fletcher, John Egner,  Lewie Blackburn, C.J. Young,  and Andrew Clayton played. Those five guys were given the tall order of shutting those guys down and they were great in the 5-on-5.”

Bertoli enjoyed his team’s great second period effort, which ended with the PDS students gleefully chanting “domination, domination.”

“I think part of that is having them getting frustrated,” said Bertoli, who got goals from Egner, Blackburn, and Fletcher in addition to the tallies by Timmons, Castagna and Weller with Clayton chipping in four assists.

“We made it hard on them and not everyone is willing to battle through and fight through adversity and we made it a point to make it hard on their top line. They unraveled a little bit and took penalties and our power play cashed in.”

Over the last 18 minutes of the contest, the Panthers weathered a storm in holding off a desperate Big Red squad.

“Third periods have kind of been our achilles heels of late,” said Bertoli, who got 30 saves from freshman goalie Logan Kramsky. “We knew they were going to come out and score a goal and make a push and we responded. I thought we did a good job of matching that.”

After surviving the third period, the Panthers players mobbed each other on the ice as the student fans roared their approval.

“You can tell how excited those guys are, it was fun,” said Bertoli. “For these guys, it was about enjoying the moment and playing the game the right way and being responsible defensively and we did that.”

In Bertoli’s view, the breakthrough against Lawrenceville should give the Panthers some extra momentum as they head down the home stretch of their schedule.

“We are a good hockey team when we have everyone in the lineup,” asserted Bertoli, whose team hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.

“We have been  missing some key pieces for a while now. It is the first time we have had everyone back for six weeks. If we play like this, we are going to have a successful year.”

Timmons, for his part, echoed Bertoli’s analysis. “Going forward, Bert said this is the best team we are going to play,” said Timmons. “If we play like that every game, the sky is the limit honestly.”

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshmen Jon Bendorf and Evan Barratt to feel at home as they joined the Hun School boys’ hockey team this winter.

“They welcomed us right away,” said Bendorf, referring to the squad’s veteran players.

“I knew a couple of kids before coming in and they introduced me and Evan to everyone else on the team and we just bonded right away.”

On the ice, Bendorf, Barratt, and fellow freshman Blake Brown have bonded as they were put together on the same line in the preseason.

“It has been a lot of fun going to the Hun School and playing with Jon and Blake,” said Barratt,

“We were clicking right away; it was awesome. We have definitely brought the scoring.”

Last Friday, the trio of freshmen certainly brought the scoring as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.).

Brown scored Hun’s first goal as the Raiders tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period. In the waning moments of the period, Bendorf tallied two shorthanded goals, the second assisted by Barratt, as Hun took a 3-1 lead into the final period.

In the third, St. Joe’s rallied to knot the game at 3-3 but with less than a minute left in regulation, Bendorf found Brown in the crease and the latter banged home the feed with 50 seconds left to give the Raiders a dramatic victory.

In Barratt’s view, Brown’s second period tally changed the tone of the contest.

“That was a huge goal for us, we weren’t getting very much in the first period,” said Barratt. “He puts it in and all the momentum goes toward us.”

Bendorf helped Hun build on that momentum as he turned a late penalty kill into his personal showcase. He scored with 2:34 left in the period when he stole the puck from the St. Joe’s goalie and calmly maneuvered his way into the crease and dumped the puck into the empty net.

“I was trying to cut off the angle for the goalie to pass the puck and he ended up putting it right on my tape and I got it in the net,” recalled Bendorf.

On the second shorthanded goal 30 seconds later, Bendorf deftly buried a feed from Barratt.

“I just saw Jon going hard to the net and I was trying to make the d-men make a move first and just slide it over and he put it in,” said Barratt.

On the game-winning goal, Bendorf became the playmaker, setting up Brown in the crease.

“It was a great pass by Evan to find me over there and then I just saw Blake coming around the net,” said Bendorf.

“I tried to get it over there and I knew he was going to finish right when I got it over to him.”

In Bendorf’s view, the dramatic finish could be a turning point for the Raiders.

“We have had some tough times with the tougher opponents that we have played against so that was a big win,” said Bendorf. “Hopefully it sparks something and we can roll a couple of wins here.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally knew his team was in for a tough test against St. Joe’s as the squads had met over the holiday season in the semifinals of the Purple Puck tournament in Washington D.C. with the Raiders prevailing in a shootout.

“We are pretty evenly matched I think, both games were very physical and a little mean-spirited,” said McNally, whose team improved to 11-5 with the victory in the rematch.

“Both teams were referencing the last game throughout this game so there was a carryover. We expected that. We were missing a couple of kids at the Purple Puck and I think they were too so this was a better, faster hockey game.”

The Raiders produced one of their better stretches of the season when Bendorf scored the two shorthanded goals within a 30-second span.

“We were kind of frustrated because that was our third penalty in a row and just to have a momentum blitz like that was great,” said McNally. “That penalty kill obviously changed the whole game.”

Adding the trio of Bendorf, Barratt, and Brown has changed things for the Raiders.

“In week two we put those three together and we have tinkered here or there with other ones but those three are here for good,” said McNally.

“They just move the puck very well and they knew each other and have played together before. They all just went to an all-star game together for their bantam league.”

While the freshmen may have been the offensive stars of the win, McNally tipped his hat to senior goalie Devin Cheifetz and senior defenseman Brad Stern.

“I think Devin played really well today; I think his best two games so far have been these guys in the tournament and then here today,” asserted McNally.

“It was good for him to show up in a big way. We have all of this dynamic offensive talent; it is going to come in spurts so what we need is for him to be able to hold the fort for 10 minutes. When he does that people feed off of it and we get going a little bit. I thought Brad Stern played really solid back there. He was a little more physical than he usually is. He helped save a couple of goals in the d-zone so that was good.”

In McNally’s view, the victory was a good preview for next month when the Raiders will be competing in three tournaments, the Independence Hockey League playoffs, the Mercer County Tournament, and the state Prep tourney.

“We talked about the difference today between learning how to lose and learning how to win,” said McNally, whose team plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.

“Any time we have been challenged, we have lost by a goal and that starts to become your mentality after a while so today was exactly what we were talking about. If we get in that situation and inevitably we did and we were able to actually learn how to win. Any time we are in a situation like this, we are practicing for February. We were in trouble and we were able to go through adversity.”

Bendorf, for his part, believes the Raiders could cause their foes a lot of trouble come tourney time.

“It is definitely going to be challenging,” said Bendorf. “I feel like we are getting better and by the time we get to the playoffs, we are going to be a really tough team to beat.”

January 15, 2014
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For senior star Kristen Helmstetter, there was high emotion as she hit the floor last Saturday for the Princeton University women’s basketball team when it played at Penn in the Ivy League opener.

“It is exciting; it is the last time around and it means a little bit more,” said Helemstetter, reflecting on starting her final Ivy campaign.

“You can appreciate what it meant to seniors before that. I am just happy that we have the team that we have that will fight for me and Hung [fellow senior Nicole Hung] and fight every game one at a time.”

Facing a sizzling Penn team that brought an eight-game winning streak into the contest, Princeton knew it was in for a battle.

Delivering a knockout blow to the Quakers with a 16-0 run midway through the first half, Princeton cruised to an 84-53 rout of Penn and began its drive for a fifth straight Ivy crown in style.

Tiger junior guard Blake Dietrick saw Princeton’s grit as the key to the victory.

“I thought we played great, I thought we came out really strong,” said Dietrick, who scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds, earning her first double-double in an Ivy game and later getting named as the league’s Player of the Week.

“We knew coming in that Penn was a team that doesn’t give up and we were ready to fight for 40 minutes. I think we really wore them down with our toughness and that’s what we have been focusing on the entire year.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart sensed that her team was focused on the task at hand.

“We have been waiting almost a calendar year for our Ivy opener,” said Banghart, whose team improved to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in Ivy play with the victory.

“We prepared all year long for the chance to go to the NCAA tournament and this is the first test of the 14-game tournament. Our kids are getting ready for exams. They are obviously pretty inexperienced with only two of their most experienced players playing. We just don’t make excuses. It is an opportunity to play. It is an opportunity to compete. I thought it was a convincing win from start to finish. I thought we played with great toughness.”

Princeton certainly displayed its competitive fire as it reeled off 16 unanswered points to wipe out an early 7-5 deficit and crush Penn’s spirit.

When asked what sparked the 16-0 run Banghart said “I thought it was the ways in which our kids defended.”

“We asked them to defend early, disciplined, and active. Penn is a tough team to guard. They are big, they are versatile and they cut hard. It is a tough team to guard and our kids bought into the defensive end tremendously and that led to easier offensive looks. Our kids made plays on the offensive end but we played tough on the defensive end and I think that was the key.”

In Banghart’s view, getting her team battle-tested through a tough non-conference schedule was another key to the performance on Saturday.

“This was not the biggest game on our schedule and I think that is really important for the Ivy League season,” asserted Banghart.

“Our kids have been in a lot of challenging environments, we have been on the other side of those runs. We have learned how to start runs, we have learned how to stop runs. This is a game that was won because of how we practice and how we played in the non-conference. It wasn’t just won today.”

The contest was also won through a balanced attack that saw 11 players score with Helmstetter chipping in 17 points and Alex Wheatley adding 11 to lead the way along with Dietrick and her 16-point effort.

“You look at Blake and Kristen, their lines are ridiculous and the way that they practice is even more ridiculous but we got contributions from the group today,” said Banghart.

“We got key minutes from key people, including the other senior, Nicole Hung (six points, three rebounds, a steal, and an assist in 10 minutes). You can look at the stat sheet and say it wasn’t like these guys’ game but it is what we needed. This felt like a win where we were going to need everybody and it bodes well if these freshmen are getting better and these sophomores are getting better. It was a Princeton team win for sure, which I am proud of.”

With the team going on exam break, Banghart is going to let her players catch their breath before they resume action by hosting Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.

“We are on tomorrow and then off for the next few days and then they get through exams and then we’ll get to working on getting better,” said Banghart.

“We are not going to make them think about everybody else. We are going to let them think about their exams and enjoy this win.”

Dietrick, for her part, believes the Tigers can get even better during the break.

“We have three weeks off and then Harvard,” said Dietrick. “It is great because the amount we have gotten better as a team in practice is exponential. By the time those three weeks are over we are going to be so much better than we are today and that’s our goal, just to get better everyday in practice.”

Helmstetter is confident that Princeton won’t waver in pursuit of its championship goal.

“I think one of things we were talking about the most is that every game up until now is just the journey and now it is just one game at a time for the Ivy League title,” said Helmstetter.

“We take it one game at a time and we came out tonight ready to play Penn and not thinking about anything else and we did what we intended to do.”

In the wake of the dominating performance on Saturday, the Tigers have made their intentions clear.