April 2, 2014
THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu delivers a pitch in a game last spring. Junior pitcher/shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu should help PDS on the mound and at the plate. The Panthers, who opened the 2014 season with a 5-4 win over Centennial High (Ill.) last Friday in a game played in Florida, will look to keep on the winning track as they host Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu delivers a pitch in a game last spring. Junior pitcher/shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu should help PDS on the mound and at the plate. The Panthers, who opened the 2014 season with a 5-4 win over Centennial High (Ill.) last Friday in a game played in Florida, will look to keep on the winning track as they host Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A central theme this spring for the Princeton Day School baseball team will be all hands on deck.

With a roster of just 14 players, the Panthers will get ample chances to do some multi-tasking.

“Everybody has to be versatile and play different positions,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien, who guided PDS to a 10-12 record last spring. “Everybody has to pitch. In numbers, we are a small team. We have a lot of young guys who are going to play.”

The team got to play a lot last week on its annual Florida trip. “The temperatures were great; we did have rain on and off,” said O’Brien. “We got in everything we scheduled. We played three scrimmages. We played an official game last Friday night against Centennial High from Champaign, Ill., we won 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh.”

O’Brien is counting on four veterans, junior tri-captains, Jake Alu, James Radvany, and Cole McManimon along with senior captain Ford Schneider, to set the tone.

“At the top of the team are the three juniors, Jake, J.P., and Cole,” said O’Brien, noting that Alu has already committed to play baseball at Boston College while Radvany is heading to the Villanova University baseball program.

“Ford is the senior captain; he brings that leadership and the intangibles. He has played baseball four years and he’s done a little bit of everything for us. He is helping with the younger guys; he plays the game the right way. We have him in center field this year and he will be doing some pitching.”

McManimon is the Panthers’ top pitcher. “Cole got six wins last year and he has grown some more; he is 6’6, 220-pounds,” said O’Brien of McManimon, who is currently sidelined with an injury. “He pitched very well in Florida. We are looking at him as our No. 1.”

O’Brien has several other arms at his disposal. “J.P. stepped up last year on the mound, he will be our No. 2 starter,” added O’Brien, whose team will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7.

“Jake will be the closer. Ford will pitch. Freshmen Chase Fleming and Ryan Sparks are both left-handers and they will pitch. Sparks came in and pitched four solid innings in our opener; he was looking good in Florida. He will have a spot in the rotation. Junior Sean Flahive may see some innings.”

O’Brien believes that PDS should be good defensively with a lineup featuring freshman Paul Franzoni at catcher, Radvany at first base, sophomore Sam Guarino at second, Alu at shortstop, sophomore Dom Gasparro at third, Schneider in center field, and Sparks in right, with freshmen Zach Dudeck, sophomore Ryan Augustus, sophomore Kevin Hagan, and junior Davin Bialow in the outfield mix.

Alu figures to get the offense going at the top of the batting order along with Gasparro.

“Jake will be leading off, he led us in a lot of offensive categories last year,” said O’Brien. “Dom hit in the 9 hole last year and did well and we left him there. We have moved him up to No. 2.”

O’Brien is counting on Radvany to provide some punch. “J.P. is in the middle of the order, he hit OK last year after a great freshman year,” said O’Brien. “He is coming off a solid Florida trip. Ryan and Ford will be in the middle half.”

While the Panthers may lack quantity in terms of its roster, O’Brien believes that his squad possesses the quality to compete well this spring.

“If we are healthy and fresh, we are capable of beating anybody,” said O’Brien.

“When we are playing three or four games a week, our depth is going to be an issue. The season is going to be determined by how the younger guys mesh with the older guys.”

GOING TO THE WELL: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Amy Hallowell heads to goal in action last spring. Senior star Hallowell will be a catalyst this spring for the Tartans as they look to improve on the 4-10 record they posted last spring. Stuart is slated to start the 2014 season by playing at Princeton Day School on April 1 and at Pennington on April 3 before hosting the George School (Pa.) on April 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING TO THE WELL: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Amy Hallowell heads to goal in action last spring. Senior star Hallowell will be a catalyst this spring for the Tartans as they look to improve on the 4-10 record they posted last spring. Stuart is slated to start the 2014 season by playing at Princeton Day School on April 1 and at Pennington on April 3 before hosting the George School (Pa.) on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team is stocked with freshmen and sophomores, Caitlin Grant is seeing an advanced skill level this spring.

“Two years ago we had a lot of beginners,” said Stuart head coach Caitlin Grant, who guided Stuart to a 4-10 record in 2013.

“We have a lot of young players but they all know the game, we have only two true beginners. I don’t have to teach the game.”

It is a senior star, Amy Hallowell, who brings the most game to the table for the Tartans.

“Amy is such a team player,” said Grant of Hallowell who is headed to Johns Hopkins where she will be playing field hockey.

“The best thing about her is that she is a really hard worker; she will go all over the field to get the ball from defense to offense and end to end. She will never give up. She never has an attitude, she is always positive.”

The trio of sophomores Julia Maser, Tori Hannah, and Sam Servis should help the Tartans all over the field.

“The sophomores do a lot of outside field hockey stuff so they are always playing together,” said Grant, noting that Maser and Hannah will be offensive midfielders while Servis will be a defensive wing.

“They are used to each other and they trust each other. They have a good sense of each other and where they are going to be on the field.”

Grant believes that sophomore Harley Guzman, junior Nneka Onukwugha, and freshman Isabelle Engel are also going to be threats.

“Harley should be a good one for us on attack,” said Grant, whose team was slated to start the 2014 season by playing at Princeton Day School on April 1 and at Pennington on April 3 before hosting the George School (Pa.) on April 5.

“Nneka has a tremendous shot; she has one of the hardest shots I have seen in high school. She can score when she gets the ball. Izzy Engel will play some midfield.”

On defense, Stuart will be depending on senior Meghan Shannon along with sophomores Rose Tetnowski and Servis to hold the fort.

“Meghan is a solid defender,” said Grant. “She will also be the voice of the defense. I will count on her to communicate and tell people where to go. Sam Servis is a great defender; she really understands the game. Rose is also on low defense.”

Sophomore goalie Harlyn Bell is being counted on to be a standout. “Harlyn has played a lot of outside lacrosse, she has really stepped up her game,” said Grant.

“She looks great in goal, I am excited to see her in games. The goalie is the one player who can see the field; I am hoping she will be loud out there.”

Grant believes the Tartans can make some noise  both this spring and beyond. “I think this group has a ton of potential,” asserted Grant.

“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores so I think we are a team that will get better as the year goes on. I am excited about this spring and future seasons.”

March 26, 2014
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BELLOWING SMOKE: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player ­Francesca Bello fires the ball in a 2013 game. Senior star Bello figures to be a key player this spring for the Raiders as they look to build on last year’s progress. Hun opens the 2014 season by hosting Princeton High on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team, heading south to Florida earlier this month proved beneficial on several levels.

“The weather was great,” said Hun second-year head coach Haley Sanborn, who guided the Raiders to a 6-9 record last spring in her debut season.

“We had 24 kids come on the trip; the majority were varsity but there were some JV players so it was a mixed group. We had long days on the field. As for the varsity, the girls jelled quickly. They are on the same page for what they expect this season and what they want to do.”

Sanborn credits her trio of seniors, Francesca Bello, Brianna Barratt, and Hanna Bettner with getting everyone on the same page.

“Fresca, Bri, and Hanna were setting the tone for the rest of the season,” said Sanborn, whose team gets regular season play underway by hosting Princeton High on March 29.

“They took the younger players under their wing, letting them know the expectations and that they are going to get pushed.”

Bello and Barratt will be pushing things on the offensive end this spring. “Fresca is a powerhouse, she is a versatile player,” said Sanborn of Bello, who is heading to Villanova to play field hockey.

“I can put her anywhere and she will do well. She is to going to get her 100th goal this season. Bri Barratt is also looking good, she did well last season.”

The Raiders boast other weapons in sophomore Lindsay Ruddy and the Consoli twins, sophomores Emma and Katie.

“Lindsay will probably play at center; she did a lot of work in the off-season and it is showing,” said Sanborn.

“Both of the Consolis have a great work ethic, I don’t know how a coach gets so lucky to have two of them. They are thriving in this environment. Katie will be on high attack. Emma will help us in transition.”

Across the midfield, Hun will feature athletic talent, if not vast lax experience in freshmen Sophia Albanese, Delia Lavwer, Julie Salerno, Marleigh Nociti, together with junior Erica Dwyer.

“Sophia, Delia, and Julie are raw athletes; they will be helpful,” said Sanborn.

“Marleigh Nociti is also a soccer player. She has incredible speed. She hasn’t played lacrosse since middle school but that is good because she doesn’t have bad habits to break. She is picking things up quickly. Erica Dwyer will also be in the midfield, she is an all-around athlete.”

The defense does have some battle-tested performers in Hanna Bettner, Shannon Graham, Taylor Nehlig, and Amanda Barbour.

“I am psyched to have Hanna back; she is a workhorse,” said Sanborn of Bettner, who was on the squad as a freshman and sophomore and then spent a year at public school before returning to Hun.

“Shannon Graham is injury free; she may step up to attack but she has such good defensive instincts and I feel comfortable with her back there. Taylor Nehlig and Amanda Barbour played there last year. They know each other.”

At goalie, the Raiders are looking at sophomore Tatiana Swain and freshman Madison McNulty.

“Tatiana and Maddie are new to the position; both are learning quickly,” said Sanborn.

“You have got to give them credit for stepping up and giving it a whirl. I applaud both of them. Right now they are pretty even. If they progress at the same rate, we may alternate them.”

Sanborn, for her part, is confident that Hun can make a lot of progress collectively this spring.

“It is going to be about chemistry and trust; they need to trust each other and know where each other is going to go before they do it,” said Sanborn.

“We have a great group of kids, they have strong character. They want to be out there, they want to work hard. I am excited; I am confident we can pick up where we ended last year and continue the upward momentum.”

—Bill Alden

 
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CORE STRENGTH: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Corey Reynolds heads up the field in a game last season. Senior midfielder and UMBC-bound Reynolds should be a key weapon for the Raiders this spring. Hun starts the season by playing at Don Bosco on March 26 followed by a game at Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.) on March 27 and a home contest against the IMG Academy (Fla.) on March 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Camelback Mountain towers some 2,700 feet over the Phoenix area but it was no obstacle for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team as the players climbed it twice on their recent preseason trip to Arizona.

Later this spring, the Raiders hope to reach another summit as they look to make a return trip to the state Prep A championship game.

“The expectations are higher,” said Hun second-year head coach MV Whitlow, who guided the Raiders to an 11-6 record and a trip to the Prep A title game where they fell to perennial champion Lawrenceville.

“With higher expectations comes higher scrutiny. We should be slightly improved. It is not what you do today, it is what you do in May.”

Whitlow likes how his team has been doing things, having developed a familiarity with his coaching approach.

“The second year is less of a transition, the boys are used to the systems we have in place,” noted Whitlow, whose team is scheduled to start the season by playing at Don Bosco on March 26 followed by a game at Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.) on March 27 and a home contest against the IMG Academy (Fla.) on March 31. “There is less implementing. They are used to the expectations.”

Hun is expecting some big things on offense from the one-two punch of juniors Brendan Black and Matthew Favalaro.

“On attack we have junior captain Brendan Black, he’s a leader on the field and he is a Villanova commit,” said Whitlow. “Matthew Favalaro has good vision and good off-ball play.”

The Raider midfield features a good trio in sophomore Owen Black, senior Corey Reynolds, and sophomore Alex Semler.

“We will be led by sophomore Owen Black, he is also a Villanova commit,” said Whitlow.

“He is working hard to be a more dynamic midfielder. He does bring a high lacrosse IQ. Corey Reynolds is a UMBC recruit, he is a strong shooter. Alex Semler is another guy who will help us in the midfield.”

A pair of senior stars, Cam Dudeck and Jimmy Jannicelli, figure to spearhead the Hun defense.

“We have Cam Dudeck; he is one of our captains and he is a Naval Academy commit,” said Whitlow.

“He has the work ethic and the desire to create victory. Jimmy Jannicelli is a senior and a Cornell commit. He is a real leader, he was voted as a captain and is a good teammate.”

The Raiders boast two other battle-tested defenders in junior Tucker Stevenson and senior Chase Goulburn.

“Tucker is a returning junior and it is good to have him back,” added Whitlow. “We also have Chase Goulburn, he has committed to Endicott. He brings experience and has gotten himself in great physical condition.”

At goalie, the Raiders will be utilizing sophomore John Levine as the starter.

“It is going to be Levine,” said Whitlow. “He is a very solid goalie, he is a great ballstopper.”

As Whitlow looks ahead to the season, he believes his squad possesses a great mentality.

“The key is that as they play together, the team seems to be coming together,” said Whitlow.

“We are going to be humble and hungry. I really like this group of guys; it is group of high character young men.”

—Bill Alden

 
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GOING FOR IT: Hun School softball pitcher Alexis Goeke fires the ball in action last season. Hun will need sophomore ace Goeke to come up big again this spring in order to make a second straight trip to the state Prep A title game. The Raiders are slated to get the 2014 regular season underway this week by playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk is welcoming back a lot of familiar faces to her Hun School softball team this spring but she is reshuffling the deck.

In the wake of losing catcher Carey Million, third baseman Danielle Beal, and second baseman Joey Crivelli to graduation with first baseman Caitlin Hoagland moving out of the area, some of the key returners will be changing places.

“We are struggling to fill some holes,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk, who guided the Raiders to an 11-7 record last spring and an appearance in the state Prep A championship game where it fell to Peddie.

“We have moved Kristen Manochio from outfield to third and Vicki Leach to second. Kameron McNair is now at first.”

The Raiders were able make some strides earlier this month when they spent a week in Florida for their annual preseason trip.

“Florida was great, we got a lot of practice,” said Quirk, whose team is slated to get the regular season underway this week by playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28. “We played six games and won five. It was nice to get some wins.”

Quirk is hoping for a nice season from sophomore pitcher Alexis Goeke, who emerged as one of the top hurlers in the area in 2013.

“If Goeke can pick up where she left off last year, she will be fine,” said Quirk. “She is a strong girl, she has great fundamentals and basics.”

Hun has the makings of a strong offense with the combination of junior Julia Blake, senior Alexa Fares, senior Leach, freshman Julie Fassl, senior Manochio, and Goeke.

“At top of the order, Blake is at leadoff and she is doing a great job,” said Quirk.

“She hit the ball well in Florida. Fares and Leach will be batting at two or six. Fassl is batting third, she has a great bat and eye, she is a coachable kid. Manochio and Goeke will be in the middle of the lineup.”

The defensive alignment will feature senior McNair at first base, Leach at second, Blake at shortstop, Manochio at third, Fassl at catcher, senior Lauren Moonan in left field, Fares in center field, and a possible platoon in right field.

In Quirk’s view, the team’s success this spring could hinge on how quickly the reconfigured defense gets in synch.

“Our key to the season is being fundamentally sound and knowing what to do with the ball when it comes to you,” said Quirk.

“We are not going to be a team that is going to go errorless and we, as coaches, have to keep that in mind. We will be doing a lot of drills.”

So far, the team is showing that it will respond well to drills. “We have a great bunch of kids, the trip to Florida was one of the best we have had,” said Quirk. “The kids worked hard and they have good chemistry.”

—Bill Alden

 
Coach talks w #3

SAGE ADVICE: Hun School baseball head coach Bill McQuade, right, advises a player in a game last year. McQuade is entering his 44th season at the helm of the Hun program and will be working in a number of new faces into his lineup as the Raiders lost 11 players to graduation from a 2013 squad that went 16-7. Hun opens its 2014 season by hosting Lawrenceville on March 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill McQuade brings a wealth of experience to the Hun School baseball team as he enters his 44th season at the helm of the program and that wisdom will come in handy this spring.

Hun has said goodbye to 11 players from a 2013 squad that went 16-7 and McQuade will be working in a bevy of new faces into his lineup.

“We lost so much individual talent from last year, we lost speed and power,” said McQuade, whose team spent a week in Florida earlier this month and is slated to open regular season play by hosting Lawrenceville on March 28.

“We are a completely younger team and a much different team. We brought up so many kids up from JV and they are going to learn under fire.”

The Raiders do return a fireballer on the mound in junior star pitcher Jason Applegate.

“Applegate is a workaholic, sometimes he is too hard on himself,” said McQuade.

“He has to step up and be a leader of the staff. He has talent. He knows this year he has to be a star. He is going to be our ace, for sure.”

McQuade believes that two sophomore hurlers, George Revock and Rob Huselid, could emerge as stars this spring.

“Revock did a really good job last year as a freshman,” said McQuade.

“He is a big, strong lefthander. He will also play first base and DH; he has some pop on his bat. Huselid also did a wonderful job last year. He is a submarine, sidearm style and he likes coming out of the bullpen. He should be our main reliever. He loves it and he has a rubber arm. We can pitch him almost every game.”

The Raiders have some other good arms in junior Justin Pontrella, junior Mike Andreas, junior Matt Kooker, and sophomore James Werosta.

“We got good innings in Florida from Justin Pontrella, Mike Andreas, Matt Kooker and James Werosta,” said McQuade.

“They may have been our most effective pitchers down there. They were pounding the strike zone, they were getting ahead of batters and changing speeds.”

The catching pair of senior Ryan Hayes and junior Gideon Friedberg should help the rotation.

“We have Ryan Hayes at catcher, he is looking good; he improved a lot from last year,” added McQuade.

“Gideon played catcher in Florida; he did a nice job behind the plate.

We could give Ryan some innings at pitcher, he has a good arm.”

Losing such hitting stars as Devan Birch, Shane Adams, Steve Wells, and Eddie Paparella to graduation, the Raiders are going to have to scratch out runs this spring.

“We are going to have to play small ball and have a good on-base percentage,” said McQuade.

At the top of the order, Hun will be looking at junior Nick Perez, senior Andy Douglas, and junior Donavon Harris to be tablesetters.

“Nicky Perez has to have a good year; he knows the game,” said McQuade.

“Andy Douglas is a scrappy player, he loves the game. Harris has potential, he is a such a good all around athlete. He is our one real speed guy.”

Senior co-captains Bailey Hammer and Alex Deutsch should provide punch to the lineup along with Pontrella.

“We are going to move Bailey back to infield; he was an all star outfielder,” said McQuade.

“He is a solid second baseman and he gives us some nice power. Alex Deutsch has some pop in his bat. Pontrella is like the old Yankee Steve Balboni; he has a lot of pop, always has a smile on his face.”

The defensive alignment will feature Hayes at catcher with Pontrella at first base, Hammer at second, Perez at shortstop, junior Peter Schintzler at third, Deutsch in center field, Douglas in right field, and Applegate in left when he isn’t pitching.

In McQuade’s view, pitching and defense hold the key to Hun having a big spring.

“We have to get the pitchers to throw strikes, it sounds easy but it isn’t,” said McQuade. “We have to pitch and play defense, it will be old school baseball.”

McQuade has found it easy to work with this year’s squad. “This is a fun team to coach,” said McQuade.

“This year coming out of the gate, we could struggle but I think we will get better as the year goes on. This team will work, they showed in Florida that they aren’t afraid to work.”

—Bill Alden

 
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FULL SPEED AHEAD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona races up the field in action last year. The Penn-bound senior Lopez-Ona will be a key weapon for PHS this spring as it looks to improve on last season’s 18-4 record. The Little Tigers get their 2014 campaign underway by hosting Lawrence on March 26 and then playing at Hun on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a superb 18-4 campaign that culminated with a run to the Central Jersey Group III sectional final, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team has hit the ground running this spring.

“We are getting off to a great start, almost the whole team is returning from last year,” said second-year head coach Kelsey O’Gorman.

“The seniors have stepped up. This team has so many great athletes that play multiple sports. We didn’t have to start over, we didn’t have to go over the basics. We are ready to go.”

PHS is ready to put up some big numbers at the offensive end, led by the one-two punch of senior stars, Dartmouth-bound Liz Jacobs and Penn-bound Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“Liz and Emilia are looking strong,” said O’Gorman. “They are going to get double-teamed, they have both been starters since freshmen year so they are used to the pressure.”

The Little Tigers boast some other players who can put pressure on the opposition in seniors Krysta Holman and Taylor Chiang along with junior Gabby Gibbons and sophomore Allie Callaway.

“We have a solid unit, they have worked with each other for a long time,” said O’Gorman.

“There is a lot of energy. Krysta Holman and Taylor Chiang will also be on low attack. Gabby Gibbons is awesome for us. She is an all-around player. She is a mature player and is committed to the game. Allie Callaway has come and worked hard in offseason, I am proud of the progress she has made.”

In the midfield, senior standout and Lafayette-bound Dana Smith provides a lot of energy for PHS.

“The word ‘feisty’ describes Dana, she is a ground ball machine,” said O’Gorman.

“I am excited to see how she is going to do on the draw. She has so much fight. She has such an eye for the ball and reading the opponent. She is so aggressive. She is a team captain along with Emilia.”

There are some other exciting options for PHS in the midfield with a pair of sophomores, Julia Ryan and Taylor Lis, showing marked improvement.

“Julia Ryan is really strong; Taylor Lis started as freshmen,” said O’Gorman.

“It is great to see their progress, they learned a lot of lessons last year. Julia is a really good basketball player and Taylor plays soccer. They are two-sport athletes but they are becoming solid lax players. Taylor Chiang will also see time in the midfield. She is versatile, she can go anywhere on the field and do well.”

The Tiger defense will be spearheaded by seniors Kristi DeMilt and Stephanie Hauer along with junior Oona Ryle.

“Kristi DeMilt is our tall defender; you have to watch out for her stick,” said O’Gorman.

“She has long arms and gathers in anything she gets to. Steph Hauer has worked on her agility. She is a big communicator on defense and that is so key. Oona Ryle should also help us there.”

Junior goalie Mira Shane handles just about anything she gets to as well. “Mira is one of the top goalies in the area,” said O’Gorman.

“She is so serious about her lacrosse. She is a lax girl through and through. She is in lax mode and is ready to go. She has the drive and will to get better. She corrects any errors she makes. She coaches herself and is coachable.”

O’Gorman is looking forward to coaching the Little Tigers this spring. “I have really high expectations for this group; we learned a lot from last year,” said O’Gorman, whose team is slated to open the 2014 campaign by hosting Lawrence on March 26 and then playing at Hun on March 29.

“We proved that we are tough competitors; we were put in tough situations and fought through them. I was so proud of them last year and think I am going to be even more proud of them this year.”

In order to have another big year, the Little Tigers need to get on the same page.

“Everyone has to find their role,” said O’Gorman. “We have to put the puzzle pieces together and see who is our best feeder, who is best on the drive, who is best on the draw. This season holds so much potential.”

—Bill Alden

 
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BUCKING THE TREND: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Colin Buckley stymies a foe in action last spring. Junior Buckley brings strength and skill to the PHS defensive unit. The Little Tigers are slated to start the 2014 season by playing at Hights-town on March 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Catching fire at the right time, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team enjoyed an inspiring run last spring, winning the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title and advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.

As longtime PHS head coach Peter Stanton looks ahead to the 2014 season, he believes the team’s veterans learned some valuable lessons from last year’s run.

“Our older players, particularly our captains (Matt Purdy, Matt Corrado, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick), know what it takes to be a champion,” said Stanton. “You need to be unselfish, sacrifice and buy into the team concept.”

The Little Tigers strengthened their team chemistry earlier this month when they went on a preseason trip to Florida.

“The trip was good fun,” said Stanton, who led PHS to a 16-4 record last spring as he passed the 200-win milestone in his tenure.

“We spent a lot of time together off the field and that is as valuable as the time on the field. We experimented a lot; we tried different lineups. We learned a lot of things very quickly. They are bright kids, they are willing to learn and work together.”

PHS should get good work from two of those senior captains, Purdy and Corrado, on attack.

“Matt was our leading goal scorer last year; he is definitely someone we will look to be an outstanding finisher,” said Stanton, whose squad opens the 2014 season by playing at Hightstown on March 27.

“We want him to be more of a creator this year; last year he was finishing up the work of his teammates. We also expect a lot from Matt Corrado. They are our two senior captains on attack and we know they are solid.”

Stanton has some other solid performers on attack in senior Adam Durner, freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona, and junior Connor McCormick.

“We will mix and match with Durner and Lopez Ona,” added Stanton. “We are also looking at Connor McCormick at attack. He played midfielder last year and he showed in Florida that he has a capable stick.”

The pair of Kevin Halliday and Patrick McCormick give the Little Tigers a very capable one-two punch in the midfield.

“We have Kevin and Pat there, they are great kids,” said Stanton. “Of all of our players, Kevin can run by a defender the best. He is so fast and he has great vision and awareness. Pat is outstanding at both ends of the field. He is a tough defender and he is very capable offensively. He is good in transition.”

Filling out the midfield will be senior Dalton Sekelsky, sophomore Rory Helstrom, sophomore Nick Halliday, and sophomore Luis Lazo.

“Sekelsky is a guy who has learned the game in a hurry, he first started playing last year and he looks like a veteran out there this year,” said Stanton.

“Rory Helstrom is also very athletic. He brings the unsung hero mentality. He plays good defense, picks up ground balls, starts transition. He is thrilled to be on the field. Luis Lazo and Nick Halliday are two sophomores who are looking to get on the field.”

On defense, the pair of junior stars Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres, are looking good along with senior Spencer Reynolds, junior Joe Hawes, and sophomore Harry Dyevich.

“Those two guys are very skilled and alert players; they are very big and very strong,” asserted Stanton, referring to Buckley and Andres.

“Spencer Reynolds has worked really hard for the four years he has been in the program. Last year he was a role player, a back up longstick midfielder and on the man-down. He has earned a spot on the defense. Joe Hawes was a middie last year. Out of need and interest, he started playing with the longstick, he is a big, strong kid. Harry Dyevich will get some playing time, he is a physical player but he doesn’t have the experience.”

While the Little Tigers don’t boast experience at goalie with junior Kenan Glasgold and freshman Sawyer Peck, Stanton has confidence in both performers.

“Kenan Glasgold started playing goalie last year; he has worked hard in the offseason to play the position and he has really improved,” said Stanton.

“Sawyer has learned a lot from his brothers (former PHS stars Kirby Peck and Griffin Peck) and ice hockey. He has been playing goalie for a while. It is great when you see somebody making strides and both of these guys are making strides. It is too early to say who will be the starter. I am not fond of a rotation. We will go with the guy who is playing the best at the time.”

Stanton is confident that PHS can progress into something special this spring. “This is a good team that has the potential to be a very good team,” said Stanton.

“It is a nice mixture of older kids and young talent. I am most interested in how we finish the season. I think we could do well in the playoffs. I think the offensive key is making defenses guard all six of our offensive players. All six need to be involved in creating defense; we can’t rely on one guy. On defense, we need to work really hard at playing as a team.”

—Bill Alden

 
PHS lane 5 swimmer in the 100 back stroke

WILL TO SUCCEED: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a backstroke race this fall. The Cornell-bound Stange produced a brilliant senior campaign for PHS, helping the Little Tigers win a fourth straight county crown and advance to the state Public B state championship meet. Stange was the boys’ Most Valuable Swimmer at the county meet, setting both meet and school records in winning the 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke races at the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The past fall, Will Stange earned Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts, an honor which signifies diligence, spirit, and leadership.

Over the winter, Stange exhibited the same characteristics in his senior season for the Princeton High boys’ swim team.

Stange helped PHS roll to an undefeated regular season and then played a key role as the Little Tigers won their fourth straight Mercer County Champions team title.

Showing his versatility and talent, Stange set both meet and school records in the winning the 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke races, getting named as the boys’ Most Valuable Swimmer at the counties.

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.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand, for one, was psyched by Stange’s performance in the county meet.

“This was a brilliant meet for Will; since freshman year, we have asked for perhaps more versatility from him than anybody,” said Hand.

“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.”

PHS went on to produce a brilliant run in the Public B state tournament, winning its sixth straight sectional crown and making it to the championship meet where they dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Moorestown to end the winter at 13-1.

The meet came down to the final event, the 400 free relay, with PHS needing to place first to win the title. Stange was on the anchor leg and entered the water trailing. While he couldn’t make up the difference as PHS took second, he was proud to give his all.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Stange, who will heading to Cornell this fall and competing for the Big Red swimming program.

“All of us went in and talked behind the block. We knew we had to win it in order to win the meet. We went all out but couldn’t get it, that’s alright.”

For Stange, swimming with his classmates was better than alright. “We have been good friends through thick and thin and it is great to go out here rather than anywhere else,” said Stange, whose classmates include Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Matt Tam, Avery Soong, and Colburn Yu.

“We had an incredible run. I love this team as much as any other, probably more than any other. It is just such a close-knit group that we have. It is going to be hard next year not to be with them.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand is going to miss Stange and his classmates. “They went out just the way they came in with a full effort,” said Hand.

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

For his spirit and coming through when it mattered, Stange is the choice as the Town Topics top male performer of the winter high school sports season.

Top Female Performer

Brianna Romaine gave a lift to the PHS girls’ swim team in her freshman season in 2012-13, establishing herself as a dependable sprinter.

Romaine thrived in the team’s supporting cast, complementing senior stars Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio as the Little Tigers won their first-ever team title at the Mercer County Swimming championships.

This winter, Romaine was ready to take a leading role with one season under her.

“I feel like I know the drill better,” said Romaine. “I know how I need to prepare myself before my races. Before I would warm up randomly but now I know that I need to get in at the break and I need to swim before. I know that I always need to drink water. I am more aware of things.”

Romaine had the sense that the squad was primed to do some big things this winter. “I could not be more proud of the girls’ team,” asserted Romaine.

“We are a young team. We have some very strong freshmen. Our captains are really organized and they are great leaders. The counties are definitely something to look forward to.”

With Romaine dominating in the sprints, PHS went undefeated in regular season action and then started the postseason by winning its second straight county title. Romaine came up big at the county meet, setting a meet record of 1:04.85 in winning the 100 backstroke and also placing third in the 100 freestyle.

PHS head coach Greg Hand was impressed by Romaine’s spirit and ability.

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

Romaine and the Little Tigers ended up going far in the state Public B meet, winning the program’s first Central Jersey sectional title since 2011 before falling 96-74 to Ocean City in the state semis.

A week later, at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, Romaine placed eighth in the 100 freestyle and helped the 400 free relay take sixth.

For Romaine, going fast comes naturally. “I have always done sprint training,” said Romaine. “I just love the rush, going up and getting after it right away.”

Romaine’s ability to get it done time after time makes her the pick as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

Soon after Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown hit the ice for the Hun School boys’ hockey team, the program was looking to them to make an immediate impact.

“A third of the team is freshmen,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally. “They are not going to be on the fourth line so it will make a big difference if they can step in right away and produce.”

Bowing to the inevitable, McNally put the trio of forwards together on the same line.

“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.”

It didn’t take long for the combination to become the Killer Bees for Hun’s foes as the Raiders established themselves as one of the top teams in the area.

Hun ended up winning two titles, topping Notre Dame 4-2 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game and then defeating Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game.

The trio of Barratt (23 goals, 38 assists) Bendorf (36 goals, 30 assists), and Brown (28 goals, 32 assists) were the team’s top three scorers as it ended the winter with a 20-7 record.

The three stars quickly developed a chemistry once they were put together. “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.”

McNally, for his part, is looking forward to a lot of fun times over the next few seasons.

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

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

For providing the scoring punch that helped Hun win two titles, the trio of freshmen share the nod as the top male newcomers.

It didn’t take long for Kristin Serafin to turn heads this winter as she joined the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“The girls are definitely impressed with Kristi, they think she is going to be a star in the league,” said PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook in December as she looked ahead to the season.

“She has so much potential. There are things we can work on with her but her instincts are so good.”

Serafin didn’t waste any time showing that she was going to be a star, tallying two goals and an assist as PDS topped Hill 6-2 in its season opener.

Showing offensive skills and providing tenacious defense, Serafin helped PDS go 11-8-1 and advance to the semis in the WIHLMA ‘A’ bracket. She finished the season with 19 points on seven goals and a team-high 12 assists.

“Everyone has a really high opinion of Kristi, she’ll be really fun to watch over the next three years” asserted Cook in reflecting on the season. “She is a true defenseman and we haven’t had that in a while.

For being a true standout in her debut season, Serafin is the choice for top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli and Ian McNally have a lot in common.

They are both natives of Canada who came to Princeton University and played for the Tiger men’s hockey team.

They both ended up in the Princeton area and they each coach local high school boys’ hockey teams with Bertoli guiding PDS and McNally at the helm of the Hun program.

Coming into this winter, the two Princeton alums faced similar coaching challenges.

For Bertoli, it was keeping the Panthers at a high level after losing nine seniors to graduation from a 2012-13 squad that went 21-3-1 and shared the state Prep championship.

“We need to establish who this team is and what our identity is going to be,” said Bertoli.

“Last year, we had 17 returning players and we knew who we were. We have guys taking bigger roles and more responsibility. It will take time to evolve and find out who we are and what allows us to be the most effective.”

McNally, for his part, was welcoming a bevy of new faces to a program that went 16-5-4  and won the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title.

“We lost seven seniors, two post-graduates, and three or four other kids,” said McNally.

“We have a lot of kids who never played but we should be even stronger. There is a positive hunger, we have an influx of new kids who don’t know any better.”

PDS and Hun proved to be up to the challenges, solidifying their status as two of the better programs around.

The Panthers took two out of three games at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts in December and posted a milestone 6-3 win over Lawrenceville in mid-January, its first triumph over the BigRed since the 2000-01 season.

PDS topped a powerful Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) team 6-4 in mid-February and then edged Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the state Prep title game to earn the program’s first outright state crown since 2011.

The squad ended the season at 14-7-2 and earned the admiration of Bertoli. “It is a completely different group from last year,” said Bertoli.

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

Hun proved to be a dynamic team as its trio of freshman forwards, Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown, sparked it to a pair of titles. Entering the Mercer County Tournament for the first time since 2009, the Raiders topped defending champion Notre Dame 4-2 in the championship game on February 21. Four days later, Hun defeated Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the IHL championship game.

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

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

For getting their programs to overcome challenges and meet high expectations, Bertoli and McNally are the joint choice for top coaches of a male team.

Last winter the Princeton High girls’ swim team came out of nowhere to win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Championships.

Coming into 2013-14, PHS had a bull’s eye on its back and the task of making up for the loss of graduated stars Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio.

Early in the season, PHS head coach Greg hand got the sense that his squad was coming together quickly.

“Regardless of the opponent, I will always be looking for a certain few qualities in the team,” said Hand.

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

The Little Tigers didn’t lose a regular season meet and defended their county title in style, rolling to a second straight crown, piling up 222 points with Steinert second at 169, and WW/P-S taking third with 156.

PHS didn’t stop there, putting together an inspiring run in the state Public B tournament. Getting seeded No. 1 in the Central Jersey sectional, PHS lived up to its rank, rolling into the final and topping second-seeded Lawrence 110-60 to win the program’s first sectional crown since 2011.

“I don’t think anybody is backing down from the idea that we have a shot at a  sectional title and maybe a great opportunity therefore to swim in a state semifinal and really push ourselves,” said Hand.

While PHS fell 94-76 to Ocean City in the state semifinal, Hand liked the spirit he saw from his team throughout the winter.

“The girls do everything they can to control the won-loss record but I think they are pretty realistic,” said Hand, whose squad finished the winter with a 12-1 record.

“We just come out and swim our best every time and if we are good enough to get a result, that is great. I like their spirit and camaraderie, it continues to grow.”

Hand’s role in getting the best out of his team as it won two titles makes him the pick as the top coach of a female team.

—Bill Alden

 
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TEN GAUGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake ­Froccaro unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro exploded for 10 goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 16-15 at Yale. Froccaro’s outburst tied a 63-year-old Princeton single-game record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers. Froccaro was later named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when they play at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Starting the week in dominant fashion, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team dismantled Villanova.

Dominating at both ends of the field in the March 18 contest at Villanova, Princeton jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back on the way to a 14-6 triumph.

As a result, the Tigers brought a lot of confidence into their Ivy League showdown at Yale last Saturday.

But Princeton got off to a shaky start before the crowd of 1,650 at Reese Stadium, falling behind the Bulldogs 4-0.

“I was a little surprised at how Saturday went,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“I thought we were clicking on all cylinders. We dug ourselves a ditch but we did claw out of it. We were up 7-6 at half.”

The Tigers kept scratching and clawing for the rest of the afternoon but they could never gain the upper hand as they fell 16-15 to drop to 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy.

“We struggled on face-offs and transition defense on the face-offs, that is a double whammy,” said Bates, noting that Princeton’s top face-off specialist Justin Murphy was unavailable Saturday due to injury.

“We didn’t play as physically as we had planned; we talked about taking the body more. We didn’t get as many ground balls. We weren’t as gritty as we needed to be.”

In falling to Yale, No. 14 Princeton squandered a performance for the ages as sophomore midfielder Jake Froccaro scored 10 goals, tying a 63-year-old single-game program record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers.

“It was something to behold, he kept scoring,” said Bates of Froccaro who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his outburst.

“Nobody was keeping count and then you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and it was oh my gosh. We were surprised that Yale shortsticked him and didn’t slide to him, they kept with the strategy. I feel badly that we couldn’t reward him with a win, he couldn’t really celebrate.”

But the Princeton defense wasn’t strategically sound and that came back to haunt the Tigers in the defeat to Yale, now ranked No. 11.

“We couldn’t find a way to get defensive stops,” lamented Bates. “I am disappointed with our defensive midfield group, they are a veteran group and I am usually the first to sing their praises. The young guys take their lead from them. They had breakdowns in communication and breakdowns in attention to detail from the scouting report. Yale is a good team, the way they know themselves is impressive.”

As Princeton plays at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29, Bates believes his team needs to focus on detail to get back on the winning track.

“We are kicking ourselves watching the film; we had so many opportunities,” said Bates.

“The clear positive is that the goals we gave up are correctible. We just need to take the next step. We have got to lick our wounds from the weekend and concentrate on ourselves. We had a great practice tonight, the guys battled hard and competed. It is an Ivy test, they are a very good team. We are not in a position to look ahead.”

—Bill Alden

 
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QUARTER TURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson looks to pass the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, junior guard Wilson scored six points in a losing cause as Princeton fell 72-56 at Fresno State in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s basketball program, taking part in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) has provided the Tigers with some March gladness.

In 2010, Princeton defeated Duquesne and IUPUI first two rounds of the 16-team tourney before falling to Saint Louis in the semis.

Two years ago, the Tigers topped Evansville in the CBI opening round before falling to Pitt in the quarters.

This March, in its latest trip to the CBI, Princeton edged Tulane 56-55 last Wednesday before falling 72-56 at Fresno State on Monday in a quarterfinal contest.

In reflecting on the victory over Tulane, Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson saw it as a major positive.

“I am happy with the win,” said Henderson, whose team ended the season with a 21-9 overall record.

“It is an opportunity for us to keep playing. I thought we defended well which is what we have been doing the last month and a half. They sort of spread you out; they are a hard team to guard because they are one-on-one based. I thought both Hans Brase and Peter Miller were very good on the inside with the interior defense.”

Henderson also liked how the Tigers played at the offensive end in the triumph over the Green Wave.

“We are a very good shooting team so I think that’s a big part of what we do but it is not everything,” added Henderson, who got 16 points from Brase in the victory, with Bray adding 12, and Clay Wilson chipping in 11.

“When we are at our best, the ball is moving and the guys are cutting. We have got to shoot because the guys can really make them. We had a really nice offensive performance from T.J. [Bray]. I thought there were a couple of huge plays. Clay Wilson came off the bench and gave us a nice lift, making some shots.”

Senior star Bray, who passed the 1,000-point milestone in his career during the Tulane contest, becoming the 30th player in program history to do so, was proud of how Princeton held off a late Tulane run to pull out the victory.

“When teams are making a run you just have to buckle down a little bit,” said Bray. “I wouldn’t call it nerves but just a sense of urgency. I thought we did a pretty good job down the stretch and we were able to come out with the win.”

The win was meaningful for Bray and his classmates as they were determined to extend their careers.

“You only get so many games in a Princeton uniform so if we can keep playing it is awesome,” said Bray, who scored 17 points in the loss to Fresno State in his final Princeton appearance to leave him with 1,024 points and in 29th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. “It was great to get a win here tonight and us seniors just want to keep playing as long as possible.”

Henderson, for his part, had no doubt about the value of another CBI run. “Most importantly, this is about us,” said Henderson. “It is an opportunity for us to get some more practice time and spend some more time together.”

—Bill Alden

 
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ADVANCED KNOWLEDGE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley puts up a shot in a recent game. Last Thursday, sophomore Wheatley scored a career-high 22 points to help Princeton top Virginia Commonwealth University 94-76 in the opening round of the WNIT. The win marked the first time the Tigers had advanced in postseason play in program history. Princeton’s WNIT run ended last Sunday when it lost 75-74 to Seton Hall. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After ending the regular season with a disappointing loss to Penn in a winner-take-all clash for the Ivy League title, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was excited to host Virginia Commonwealth University in the WNIT last Thursday.

“We wanted to show that Tuesday was not us,” said Princeton sophomore forward Alex Wheatley, referring to the 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11.

“I think we just wanted to come out and make a statement and get our first postseason win.”

Wheatley’s classmate, Annie Tarakchian, was equally determined heading into the contest.

“It is tough because you invest so much time and you love the game so much,” said Tarakchian.

“I think everybody realized that we have this opportunity and we should just take advantage of it and we can’t sulk over what we lost.”

Wheatley and Tarakchian took full advantage of their opportunity, producing double-doubles as Princeton pulled away to a 94-76 win over VCU to advance in a postseason tournament for the first time in program history after four previous appearances in the NCAA and one in the WNIT.

Wheatley scored a team-high and career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Tarakchian contributed career highs in points (18) and rebounds (12).

“Coach [Courtney Banghart] said to push it inside and I think she just wanted us all to be really aggressive and that was what I was trying to do,” said Wheatley, reflecting on her effort.

For Tarakchian, coming up so big as she made her first career start was a matter of taking care of business.

“I didn’t feel different; I knew I had to bring and what I had to do,” said Tarakchian.

Losing our senior captain [Kristen Helmstetter] for such a big game is definitely a dagger. We knew that each of us had to bring our own game. We worked really well together so I think we were all able to do what we had to do.”

Wheatley was thrilled about the program’s postseason breakthrough. “We were excited to play and it is great to get our first postseason win,” said Wheatley.

In Tarakchian’s view, the victory wasn’t just important for the current Tiger players.

“We didn’t just do it for ourselves, we did it for the whole program,” asserted Tarakchian, a native of West Hills, Calif.

While Princeton’s postseason run ended when it dropped a 75-74 nailbiter at Seton Hall last Sunday despite a 34-point outburst by sophomore Michelle Miller, Tiger head coach Courtney Banghart saw the win over VCU as a major step forward.

“We always say in the postseason, you play for your program at that point,” said Banghart, whose team finished the winter with an overall record of 21-9.

“There were a lot of kids before them that didn’t get a chance to play in the postseason. There are other kids who didn’t get a chance to own in the postseason. In March, you play for your program and our kids certainly did that tonight. It is so great.”

Princeton did a great job in the second half as it broke open a contest that was knotted 36-36 at halftime.

“I was surprised with how much we were able to own the tempo of the game,” said Banghart, whose team shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field in the second half.

“I am more surprised that the moment wasn’t too big. This is a really young team and that’s a really good team and so are we. It’s hard with our youth to know what to expect.”

Banghart expected the Tigers to improve in the wake of the loss to Penn.

“I think we are just better; we talked about the pace of our passing which I thought was much better tonight,” said Banghart, whose team piled up 20 assists on the evening.

“We were zinging the ball around. We went to some more sets against the zone so that took the freedom out of their hands a little bit and let them settle in. The pieces were better. One of the things we told them after the Penn game was that you all know this, to a man, you were disappointed that your part didn’t help the whole.”

The 6’2 Wheatley, who hails from Upper Holland, Pa., was a big piece for the Tigers against VCU. “She was great, she is growing up,” said Banghart of Wheatley who scored 15 points in the loss to Seton Hall.

“I thought she asked for the ball. We have asked her to be more assertive and I thought she was tonight.”

Tarakchian has been more assertive over the last month, emerging as a key inside threat for the Tigers.

“I am not surprised at all; I am really happy for her because she trusted in the process,” said Banghart of  the 6’0 Tarakchian’s recent surge which saw her average 14 points and 9.2 rebounds a game in Princeton’s last four contests.

“That is real easy to talk about now but it is hard to do when all the rest of the class is playing. I think she will just keep getting better.”

Wheatley, for part, believes the team’s sophomore class, which includes guard Amanda Berntsen and forward Taylor Williams, is poised to have a big impact on the program.

“I love my class; I love our team in general,” said Wheatley. “We have great chemistry. I think the sophomores are a balanced group. I think we have contributed this year.”

Tarakchian is equally optimistic. “It is just so fun to see what will come in the future,” said Tarakchian. “To see the freshmen coming in today and putting their part in. I think we just all know that we bring a different piece.”

—Bill Alden

 
March 19, 2014
MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy,  Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy, Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University men’s basketball team dropped its first four Ivy League games this season, it didn’t look like a team headed for postseason play come March.

But by going 8-2 in its next 10 Ivy games and winning its last five, including a 70-65 victory over Penn last week, Princeton will keep playing in March as it has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.

In reflecting on the win over Penn, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson lauded his players for not folding their tents when things looked bleak in February.

“I am really proud of being the coach of a team that had some reasons to pack it in,” said Henderson, noting that the team declined to play in the postseason in 2012-13 when it dropped two of its final three games to squander a chance at an Ivy title.

“It shows some caring and the culture, and where we are and where we want to be. We weren’t happy with the way things went. Everyone makes a big deal about 20 wins, I care far more about the way we have been playing defensively because earlier in the season we were an open door policy at the rim.”

In Henderson’s view, racheting up the defensive intensity sparked the reversal of fortune for the Tigers.

“I thought defensively we really made some huge adjustments,” explained Henderson.

“We were giving up almost 70 points a game. We really struggled when we were at Dartmouth. We started turning around here against Columbia at home; we didn’t get the win there. I thought at Brown and Yale, that was a terrific weekend for us defensively. To me, it is the defense.”

Another key factor in Princeton’s late surge was the play of senior guard T.J. Bray, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors this winter, averaging 18.3 points a game along with 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

“I had a front row seat at what I think is one of the finest Ivy League seasons and Princeton seasons in a long time,” asserted Henderson of Bray who ended regular season action at 995 career points.

“The consistency has been mind-boggling; every single night, win or lose, he averaged exactly 18 and 7. I had a little bit of a hand in what was said Senior Night but the 10 assists, no turnover game and the 13 assists game were great. I have said this many times, I would have cut my left arm off for games like that as a player here and I think a lot of former players feel the same way. As his coach, a player, and a fan, it was fun to watch.”

“I think we needed to see significant improvement from where we were and we did,” said Henderson. “Plus we are playing some young guys. We have a senior class which has won a lot of games here. I think the most important part of this is continuing to practice and play games in March. We just need more games, we have to play more.”

With getting to play another game virtually assuring that Bray will hit the 1,000-point mark, Henderson said that wasn’t on the minds of the senior guard and his classmates Will Barrett, Jimmy Sherburne, and Chris Clement.

“The really nice thing about T.J. is that I am probably more into that than he is,” said Henderson.

“T.J., the other seniors, and I had a lot of conversations before we did this. I was impressed and humbled by how they approach things. This isn’t where they want to be but that was the end of that conversation and let’s go forward here. This is about team, this is about Princeton basketball and I think that is the right way to think about it.”

Bray, for his part, is just thinking about getting more wins in a Princeton uniform.

“We got our 20th win, team success is way more important to me than individual success,” said Bray in the wake of the win over Penn.

“We’ll remember a 20-win season more than me winning an Ivy League scoring title or scoring 1,000 points. It is a team game, not about me so I can’t complain about that.”

Barrett believes that the seniors have positively influenced the team going forward.

“I think our class this year is a good example of never stopping,” added Barrett.

“Obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. I don’t think we came into this season expecting to be in the position we are right now but as we have shown in the second half of the season, we didn’t stop. We kept working hard and I think that rubbed off on the younger guys a little bit, just with their work ethic and how they held themselves throughout the second half of the season.”

For Sherburne, bouncing back from the slow start to the Ivy season showed the team’s true colors.

“The 0-4 start in general was pretty deflating but we have a strong core of senior leadership and we knew that we weren’t going to go out like that,” said Sherburne.

“It was really important for us to finish on a high note because we are used to winning here. Like I have said before, we have a lot of pride and I think that showed in the second half of the Ivy season.”

Henderson vows that Princeton will play with pride when it faces the Green Wave in New Orleans.

“We are not in the big tournament but you find out at 9:30 that night who you are going to play and you do as much cramming as you can possibly do,” said Henderson.

“I know coach Conroy (Tulane head coach Ed Conroy) just over the years. His teams are always really well coached. They are trying to do what we are trying to do. They are psyched to be
playing in the postseason. We know it is a chance to play in March, which is good.”

While the self-professed basketball junkie Henderson will be keeping an eye on the NCAA tournament and March Madness, he believes the CBI can be a critical step as the Tigers look to get back to the top of the Ivy League.

“We have our own little thing going on here and that is the CBI and this is  a really important tournament for us,” said Henderson, who guided the Tigers to the quarterfinals of the 2012 CBI.

“We didn’t do this just to play in the postseason, we are preparing to win. We have got our own task at hand that requires a lot of focus.”

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On January 11, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was all smiles as it left the court at the Palestra after pounding Penn 84-53 in its home gym.

Two months later to the day, the Tiger players slumped on their bench with blank stares as Penn pulled away to an 80-64 win at Jadwin Gym to prevail in a winner-take-all showdown for the Ivy League title.

“To be honest, I think the moment was a little bit big for my youngsters,” said Banghart, reflecting on the March 11 showdown which saw both teams bring 11-2 Ivy records into the regular season finale.

“I think they went into that environment with a lot of great energy and excitement and not a lot of execution, which you would expect. This is a really young team. We have got a young group and I think that was part of it. I think there is the swag that champions have, we are better than you until you show us you are not. I think this group is very humble, which is a good life skill. I don’t think they came out with the swag that we have come to expect here.”

A raucous crowd came out to Jadwin to view the title clash. “This was a really great environment for women’s basketball and the Ivy League,” said Banghart, who had guided Princeton to four straight league crowns coming into the 2013-14 campaign.

“We celebrate that, we want good teams in our league. I am thrilled for their seniors, I am thrilled for their upperclassmen. I said in there, at the end of the game, what are the learning lessons, what we can we take away from an opportunity like this.”

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will get an opportunity to keep playing as they will compete in the WNIT where they will host Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest with the winner advancing to the second round against the victor of the Seton Hall-American University first round contest.

Coming into the Penn rematch, Banghart had a sense that the Quakers were going to give Princeton a much better game than the January contest.

“I do think that Penn is a really, really good team because they play as hard as us,” said Banghart.

“I don’t think everybody in the league does. They defend. They play two seniors and two juniors a lot, we obviously don’t. I thought it would be a good game. I am not in the business of guessing who is going to win, I never know. We knew we were going to give them a good battle. It was probably the team we have the most respect for.”

In reflecting on the setback, Banghart acknowledged that her team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“I thought defensively we weren’t quite as good as we needed to be but we had a young team, we had a lot to teach,” said Banghart whose team shot 37.5 percent from the field (24-for-64) while the Quakers shot at a 48.2 percent clip (27-for-56).

“Penn zoned us the entire game. We have seen zone straight three games. We scored 161 points this weekend against zone (in beating Cornell 69-46 on March 7 and topping Columbia 92-48 a night later). We played against teams that we knew we were better than and then we played tonight and I guess these guys didn’t think that we were better than them even though we beat them by 31 at their place.”

Princeton senior star and co-captain Kristen Helmstetter acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t display the swagger in the rematch that they had exhibited in January.

“Obviously, that was our first Ivy game of the season and there was a lot of hype going into that,” said Helmstetter, referring to the January 11 game.

“We played really well together and we were really tough. We went into that game confident, knowing that we were the better team, I don’t think that we did  that tonight and it showed.”

Helmstetter was proud that the Tigers made it through the Ivy gauntlet to earn a shot at a fifth consecutive title.

“The great thing about the Ivy League is that it is Friday/Saturday,” added Helmstetter.

“Penn lost to Dartmouth, we lost to Brown; those aren’t typical of either of our teams, we both play really hard. The Ivy League can be any given night and I think that it came down to the best two teams in the league and I am happy that we got to play for it on our court.”

The butterflies were dancing in Helmstetter’s stomach as she took the court for the showdown.

“I was a little nervous, for sure but I don’t think that took away from my confidence,” said Helmstetter, who scored nine points in the loss as junior Blake Dietrick led the Tigers with 14 while sophomores Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian chipped in 12 apiece.

“We are definitely a young team and games like this require a lot of experience and we didn’t really have that much experience. I am happy that each of our sophomores gained so much valuable experience from this season. We have three starting sophomores, which is so rare. Playing Penn in this game is something   special and hopefully they can pay it forward for next year.”

Banghart lauded Helmstetter and fellow senior captain Nicole Hung for inspiring the young Tiger squad that featured five sophomores and three freshmen.

“They took over a team that lost a lot,” said Banghart. “They lost kids who had been their best friends for years and had been teammates for years and they took a really young team. They showed that they believed in it and everybody else believed in it. Playing for an Ivy title the last night with the youth we have is remarkable and it is entirely because of the leadership of my captains.”

In Banghart’s view, the WNIT will provide a good platform for the team to gain some maturity.

“I think it allows us to get more valuable experience,” said Banghart. “It gives us postseason experience, it gives us a chance to win a postseason game. It allows us to cement things; did we get better and can we be proud throughout the season.”

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Jack Strabo acknowledged that the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team won ugly in its 15-12 victory over visiting Penn last Saturday, he saw beauty in the effort.

“I don’t think we played a perfect game by any means; I think it was sloppy both ways,” said senior defensive midfielder Strabo, who scored a first quarter goal in the victory which improved 12th-ranked Princeton to 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League.

“Penn is a very tough team. We had to grind it out so I was proud of our guys today for showing some composure at the end and getting a gritty, tough win.”

With Princeton having lost to No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Johns Hopkins in its last two outings before last Saturday, getting a victory over the 13th-ranked Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams was critical.

“This is obviously a huge game for us, not only coming off two losses but also it is our first Ivy League game and that is what we really want to focus on,” said Strabo.

“League games are huge for us so coming into it we knew we had a lot to prove and on top of that, we knew we had seen flashes where we can put it all together but we hadn’t come together for the whole game yet.”

In Strabo’s view, the Tigers are coming together on defense. “I was proud of our defense, I think we grew up a lot on that end,” said Strabo.

“We made some big stops. Matt O’Connor in the cage made some huge saves in the second half when we needed them, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we were able to put some pressure on and get some stops at the end of the game when we really needed the ball back and we couldn’t afford to give them any goals. I think we are getting better every week. We have got some guys down there but those guys have matured a lot.”

The defensive middie group, which includes senior stars Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts, along with Strabo, looks to provide leadership to the younger players in the unit.

“A lot of it is trying to make sure that we are making the decisions and communicating a lot, especially in practice,” said Strabo, whose younger brother, sophomore Mark, starts on close defense along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“When you are out there on the field starting, it doesn’t matter whether you are a freshman or a senior, you need to make sure you are talking, communicating, and being in position.

Being in the position of team captain has made Strabo focus on communicating on a daily basis.

“I think I have two great co-captains with Derick Raabe and Tom Schreiber; we try to set the tone in practice and in the games,” said the 5’9, 170-pound Strabo, a native of Arlington, Va.

“We try to make sure that everyone is ready in terms of Xs and Os and in terms of mentality during the week so that we are ready to go from the opening whistle.”

For defensive specialist Strabo, getting a goal was a great moment. “It doesn’t happen very often,” said Strabo with a laugh in reflecting on his fifth career tally.

“We did a good job of pushing it in our early offense and that is one of the things we have been kind of stressing in practice. I think we did a pretty good job of putting some pressure on their defense. We got some good movement on the backside and I somehow ended up on the backside pipe in the attackman’s spot and Mike MacDonald made a great feed. I don’t know how he saw me there; that was a nice surprise.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw Strabo’s goal as a good sign. “Jack is the first one to admit that is not his calling in life; he is not a goal scorer but it gives you life,” said Bates.

“If you are going to win big games and close games, you have to get production from different areas of the field and from unlikely sources. That was a nice omen early in the game. I am happy for him. He is as hard working a guy and as good a leader as you could ever want.”

Bates praised the team’s work on the defensive end. “Our man down defense was something we were concerned about out of respect for Penn’s extra man offense,” said Bates.

“They were 1-for-8 against us overall. It was a high caliber opponent and it is more game experience for those guys to live, breathe, and die together on each possession. I think we took some nice next steps there.”

Pulling out a close win was a vital step in the right direction for the Tigers.

“When you lose two weekends in a row it is a grind,” said Bates, who got two goals and five assists from Mike MacDonald in the victory with Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber each contributing four goals and an assist.

“This group is learning how to work through the grind and it is nice to get rewarded because now we have to notch it up. You can’t play like this and win next week. You  always have to take next steps and I think we are happy because this is better than the alternative.”

There is plenty of room for improvement as Princeton faces a critical week as they are slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at No. 16 Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.

“Our message to them afterwards was OK we have to learn how to put ourselves in game situations in practice so we look better than we did at the end of this game,” said Bates.

“If you watched us at the end, it looked like we were trying to give it back a little bit. Hopefully they will understand that and we are only going to turn up the heat in practice because it feels good to win and we need to understand how to practice so we continue to prepare for stressful situations.”

Strabo and his teammates understand that the win over Penn sets up a pivotal week of the 2014 campaign.

“It is a great step in the right direction,” asserted Strabo. “We need to make sure that we turn our focus quickly because Villanova is a very good team on Tuesday and then Yale next Saturday. I think between this game and the next week, that is a very big eight days for us that we need to stress and if we can come out of there 3-0 next Saturday then we are in great shape.”

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off two straight overtime losses, the tactical approach was basic for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as it hosted sixth-ranked Virginia last Saturday.

“We were looking to get the draw controls, because we hadn’t been doing that in the past few games, and take our time on attack, and take a little pressure off our defense,” said Princeton senior star midfielder and co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “In the past few games, they have been playing the majority of time.”

The Tigers were also looking to bring a little more intensity to go with the emphasis on patience.

“We were ready to just give it our all,” asserted Lloyd. “We know we are a good team and so we were just so ready to come out and play the way we knew we could.”

The red-headed Lloyd played with fire and precision against the Cavaliers, scoring four goals, winning three draw controls, and getting four ground balls to help Princeton earn a 15-13 triumph and improve to 2-3.

In Lloyd’s view, the win was the product of sharp execution all over the field.

“I think we all concentrated on sighting the cage and making the keeper move because we know she is really a good goalie,” said Lloyd, a 5’8 native of Severna Park, Md. who now has 9 goals on the season and 60 in her Princeton career.

We just really went all out on the draws. In practice we worked a lot on boxing out because that was our struggle in the past couple of games.”

Lloyd believes that overcoming the Cavaliers should give Princeton a big boost of confidence.

“Virginia is always a great team to play against; I personally love playing against this team,” said Lloyd, a first-team All-Ivy League performer last spring.

“It is always a good game every year. It just feels great to win this as a senior. It shows us that when we play the way we know we can play, we are a great team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer knew her team had to control the tempo to be successful against
Virginia.

“We have been a really great fast break team this year, scoring a lot of goals quickly,” said Sailer.

“But we have been carrying that over into our settled offense and just forcing the first thing that we see. We have put way too much pressure on our defense and our goalkeepers.”

Sailer liked the way that Lloyd put pressure on the Virginia defense.

“She is phenomenal; Sarah is such a competitor,” said Sailer who also got two goals and three assists from Erin Slifer with Alexandra Bruno chipping in three goals and two assists, and Anya Gersoff contributing two goals and an assist.

“She is a quiet kid on the field but she doesn’t play quietly. She plays big and you saw that today.”

A big moment for the Tigers came when freshman Olivia Hompe scored with less than a second left in the first half to give Princeton a 7-6 lead at intermission.

“That was just huge because we had just gone a man down,” recalled Sailer.

“To get that goal at the end of the half was such a great momentum for us heading into the locker room.”

The play of junior goalie Annie Woehling, who was making her first start of the season, gave the Tigers some momentum.

“Annie was great; we didn’t make that decision until just before the game,” said Sailer of Woehling, who recorded nine saves in the victory.

“We knew that we had struggled with that position so far and were looking at all three of our goalkeepers equally this week and seeing who we thought was most ready. We went with Annie and honestly we didn’t give her a lot of time to think about it. We told her before the game that she was in and she just went with it. She did a really good job.”

Sophomores Gersoff and Bruno did a good job of triggering the Princeton offense.

“Anya was getting great looks in the first half but just shooting it high; she has to pick her shots a little better,” said Sailer. “Bruno finished a couple of nice plays near the cage.”

In Sailer’s view, the victory over the Cavaliers could get Princeton on the right track as it heads out to California for games at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22 before getting into the thick of its Ivy League campaign.

“They were ranked sixth; I feel like this is a turning point for us to win a game like this,” said Sailer. “We can’t expect any less of ourselves moving forward.”

Lloyd and her classmates are looking to keep things moving in the right direction.

“As seniors, we want to be a good presence on the field and make sure everybody is communicating and on the same page for everything,” said Lloyd. “We also have to worry about keeping the energy up and we definitely did that today, all the seniors.”

Youth is being served this spring for the Princeton University baseball team.

Saying goodbye in 2013 to a large senior contingent together with junior star Mike Ford, the Ivy League Player and Pitcher of the Year, Princeton replenished its roster by bringing in nine freshmen.

“That group of senior talent played a lot, along with Mike Ford, they had 90 percent of the at-bats and innings pitched,” said Tiger head coach Scott Bradley, whose team dropped three games at UCSB in its opening weekend of the season before splitting four games against Michigan at Port St. Lucie, Fla. from March 13-15.

“We had to recruit a good class. We felt like we got a good class but you never know until they get out on the field.”

Based on the early returns, Bradley attracted a very good class. Over the first two weeks of the season, Tiger freshman stars Nick Hernandez and Danny Baer have been the Ivy League Rookies of the Week. Through seven games, Hernandez led Princeton in hitting at .400 with Baer next at .360 and classmate Paul Tupper third at .348.

“I was impressed by how they looked against UCSB and this past weekend they looked even better,” said Bradley.

“The big thing is that as a group, they are big, physical guys. When you are recruiting it is hard to find guys for the middle of the order. Hernandez, Baer, and Tupper started well and that gives young players the confidence they need.”

The freshmen group has also made an impact on the mound as newcomers Keelan Smithers and Bryce Keller combined for a 6-5 win in the Michigan set with Smithers going five innings in the start and Keller handling the final four innings.

“They made progress between their first and second outings, things were going a little fast for them the first time out,” said Bradley, whose freshman hurlers also include Chad Powers and Luke Strieber.

“Powers is playing third and pitching. I am expecting to give Strieber a start. Keller is very talented. He pitched four innings against Michigan and gave up an unearned run in 4 innings. We will stretch him out.”

A senior, Michael Fagan, has emerged as the ace of the Princeton rotation.

“When he came back to campus last fall we could see that he was more confident and composed,” said Bradley of Fagan, who pitched brilliantly in winning the opening game against Michigan, striking out 10 in six innings of work in the 7-3 triumph.

“He has became a leader. He had good numbers in his first two starts but he really showed composure. He had some wacky things happen and he got out of jams.”

Bradley is looking for good things on the mound from sophomore Cameron Mingo and senior Jonathan York.

“Mingo had a phenomenal freshman year,” said Bradley. “We have been a little cautious with him. He had a little dead arm so we held him out against UCSB and pitched him two innings against Michigan. We will ease him back, I expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league this year. Jonathan York is interesting. He has been a position player for three years and never pitched. He came in against Michigan and pitched three strong innings. He throws strikes and has a live arm.”

After dealing with rain and sloppy fields in the opening set at UCSB, the Tigers got into a groove against Michigan.

“Being at the Mets complex and getting good weather was great,” said Bradley.

“We were able to do batting practice and infield everyday and get into a routine. We played well defensively. While we don’t put much stock into the record at this point, it was was nice to get some wins this early. It was important for a young team.”

With Princeton heading south for its annual spring break trip this week, Bradley is hoping for nice weather and some more wins.

“It is the same thing like every year, we hope the weather cooperates so we can get in a lot of games,” said Bradley, whose team topped UNC-Greensboro 11-1 last Sunday to improve to 3-7 and will play at Duke on March 19, face Maine on March 20 at Annapolis, Md. before playing a pair of doubleheaders at Navy on March 22-23. “We want to get guys experience and put them in different situations. We want to stretch out the pitchers.”

Upon returning from the trip, Princeton will be starting Ivy League play by hosting doubleheaders against Harvard on March 29 and Dartmouth a day later and Bradley will get a better read on whether his freshmen can handle the pressure situations they will face in league play.

“It is too early to tell,” said Bradley. “I am pleased with the young players; it helps for their confidence to start out well. I think the league is going to be very good. Yale beat LSU; Columbia is playing people tough as usual.”

FAST STARTER: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring races up the ice in action this winter. Freshman forward Herring led PHS in scoring this season with 18 points on 8 goals and 10 assists and was named team MVP. Herring’s older sister, junior Lucy, was next in scoring with 17 points on 11 goals and six assists. The Herring sisters helped the Little Tigers post a 2-11 season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FAST STARTER: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring races up the ice in action this winter. Freshman forward Herring led PHS in scoring this season with 18 points on 8 goals and 10 assists and was named team MVP. Herring’s older sister, junior Lucy, was next in scoring with 17 points on 11 goals and six assists. The Herring sisters helped the Little Tigers post a 2-11 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been understandable if the Princeton High girls’ hockey team had thrown in the towel after starting the season with seven straight losses.

Coming off a winless campaign in 2012-13, the PHS players could have figured same old, same old.

Instead, the Little Tigers held their heads high and didn’t let the steady diet of losing get to them.

“I think the girls work hard and stay on board with the program,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog.

“The glass is half full for them; they can be down by seven goals and they are still trying hard. They really have a good attitude; they always have fun.

That upbeat approach yielded dividends as PHS broke through with two wins over the Academy of New Church in mid-January.

“It was a step up getting two wins,” said Herzog, whose team topped ANC 4-1 on January 15 and then defeated the Lions 3-1 nine days later at Baker Rink on PHS Senior Night. “We were looking to get those two wins, that was a goal.”

Herzog credited his group of seniors with keeping the team on task. “It’s a good group, from the fun bunch, to being easy going and working hard,” said Herzog of the team’s Class of 2014 which included captain Kate Sohn, assistant captain Erin Forden, Bea Greenberg, Breanna Hegarty-Thorne, Molly O’Brien, Merritt Peck, and Oraya Zinder.

“Kate Sohn, without a doubt, is the most responsible captain I have had. I think of her as a mini coach. Peck came a long way, she really made some headway. She got the coaches award. I said at our banquet that she is like the daughter I have never had, her sense of humor keeps things light. Forden is more of a physical player, she gave us a physical presence.”

The Herring sisters, freshman Maggie and junior Lucy, gave the Little Tigers  a scoring presence in the crease.

“Maggie was the MVP, she had 18 points to lead the team, Lucy was next with 17,” said Herzog.

“Lucy won the head, heart, hustle award, recognizing her hard work. Without Lucy working hard to get the puck out of the corner, Maggie would not have had so many points.

Looking ahead, PHS had some hard workers returning along the blue line. “We have four defensemen coming back in Brittney Coniglione, Anne Daly, Julia DiTosto, and Marian Hancock-Cerrutti,” said Herzog.

“Marian got our most improved award. We had her at forward and then moved her to defense. She was the sixth defensemen at first but moved up. She made tons of improvement and has really become tough out there.”

Sophomore goalie Callie Urisko also improved a lot this winter. “Callie has gotten so much stronger than when she first came on the ice, her butterfly is much better,” said Herzog, who also got some good play this season from senior Hergarty-Thorne at goalie.

“I am going to be working with her to come out more and be more confident with the puck.”

While the bad weather this winter may have stunted PHS’s progress a little bit, Herzog believes his players gained confidence over the course of the season.

“We had two practices in the last month with all the cancellations” said Herzog.  “We could only make so much progress, the snow killed us. It was a positive experience overall for the girls.”

GOOD BIT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Bitterman skates up the ice in action this winter. Senior forward Bitterman contributed 8 goals and 11 assists this winter as PDS went 14-7-2 and won the state Prep title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD BIT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Bitterman skates up the ice in action this winter. Senior forward Bitterman contributed 8 goals and 11 assists this winter as PDS went 14-7-2 and won the state Prep title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team came up empty in its final weekend of the season as it dropped all three games at the Hill School (Pa.) Tournament, Scott Bertoli had nothing but praise for his players’ effort in the competition.

“That was probably as proud as I have been of any of my teams,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, whose squad ended the season with a 14-7-2 record.

“We were playing without [Andrew] Clayton and [Kyle] Weller. We lost [Connor] Fletcher on Saturday to a shoulder injury and we lost [Sean] Timmons to a shoulder injury early on Sunday. We were playing without three or four of our best players and we were playing against some of the the top competition in the area.”

Despite being shorthanded, the Panthers never stopped battling over the weekend, falling 2-1 to Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and then losing 2-0 and 4-2 to Hill.

“We could have won against Wyoming, it was 1-0 and they got an empty net goal in the last minute to make it 2-0,” recalled Bertoli.

“We were outplayed and tired against Hill, they outshot us something like 50-20. If not for Logan [freshman goalie Logan Kramsky] we could have been down by 6 or 7 goals. It was a 1-goal game with 30 seconds left before they scored an empty net. We were still in the game even though we were significantly outplayed. In the last game we were down 3-2 with 3 minutes left; we ended up with the goalie pulled and they scored.”

Reflecting on a campaign which saw PDS win the state Prep title, Bertoli believes his team overachieved.

“They outperformed and exceeded any reasonable expectations we had at the beginning of the season,” said Bertoli.

“We were not that flashy or explosive. We were committed to working hard and doing the little things and making things tough on other teams.”

There were some big highlights along the way as the Panthers saw their hard work pay dividends.

“First the way we competed in the Barber Tournament; we were missing some key guys and we still won two of three games against tough New England competition,” recalled Bertoli, reflecting on the December tournament.

“We played a very good Lawrenceville team and and played such a sound game and beat them at our rink (6-3 on January 15), that was a milestone game. The win over Wyoming Seminary (6-4 on February 12) was as big of a win I have had since I have been here. They had one loss coming into the game and they play a lot of New England schools. We were playing without Clayton and Young. It was exciting to watch our kids compete and execute and buy into the game plan. That was a huge win for our kids and gave us an opportunity to play for the MAHL (Mid-Atlantic Hockey League) title.”

Seizing the opportunity to win the Prep title outright with a 4-3 victory over Morristown-Beard on February 18 was a big feather in the cap for PDS.

“This program is measured by some in terms of prep championships and we have won three of last four,” said Bertoli. “Mo-Beard was a very good, highly skilled, and well-coached hockey team.”

Bertoli credited the team’s senior group of  Nelson Garrymore, Andrew Clayton, John Egner, Lewie Blackburn, Sean Timmons, C.J. Young, Connor Bitterman, Gabe Castagna, and Hap Ammidon with setting the tone this winter.

“They were awesome, for two or three years, other than Timmons (16 goals and 25 assists in 2013-14), they were role players,” said Bertoli.

“They were kids that contributed but didn’t fill the score sheet or play on the power play. They took ownership of the team and created a new identity. Last year, most games were decided before they started or early when we went 21-3-1. This year there were a lot of 1-goal margins and tight games.”

In Bertoli’s view, the development of Blackburn, Egner, Clayton, and Young symbolized how the program’s Class of 2014 stepped up.

“Lewie Blackburn (9 goals and 12 assists) was a third line player and he became one of our better players, the same thing with John Egner (6 goals and 12 assists),” added Bertoli.

“Clayton (4 goals and 10 assists) went from the fifth or sixth defenseman to top one or two. C.J. Young (6 assists) went from fifth defenseman to top one or two and played a ton of minutes after Andrew got hurt. He played two-thirds of the game. Gabe only made the team as a junior and played a small amount. He played on top line at times this year. It was rewarding to see so many kids go from lesser roles to being prominent fixtures.”

With PDS falling just short of the MAHL crown by virtue of a 4-1 loss to LaSalle College High (Pa.) on February 19, Bertoli knows the program faces a challenge in keeping pace with the powers in the newly-formed league.

“It is good that it is in place and I am glad we are part of it,” said Bertoli of the MAHL, which also includes Lawrenceville, Hill, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Wyoming.

“We need to maintain our level and continue to improve to compete. We have lost 17 kids to graduation and Ross Colton (who transferred to Taft) over the last two years. We will be looking to fill that void; our success has allowed us to attract quality applicants.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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