February 6, 2014
ON POINT: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman lines up a shot in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore point guard Guzman scored 10 points to help Stuart top Villa Victoria 39-14. The Tartans, now 7-5, are slated to play at Hightstown on February 5 before hosting Kings Christian School on February 6. In addition, the Tartans will start play in the state Prep B tournament with a quarterfinal contest scheduled for February 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

said Leary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In its last trip to the state of Pennsylvania, the Princeton University men’s basketball team pulled off one of the great comebacks in program history.

Trailing by 20 points at Penn State with 8:29 remaining in regulation on December 14, the Tigers rode the sizzling shooting of senior Will Barrett, who drained five three-pointers to come away with an 81-79 overtime victory.

Last Saturday, Princeton was back in the Keystone State and found themselves in a similar predicament as they played at Penn in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

With 16 minutes left in the second half, Princeton trailed by 51-40, sending a crowd of 6,322 at the storied Palestra into an uproar.

Once again, Barrett caught fire, scoring eight points as Princeton forged ahead 61-60 with 7:43 remaining in regulation.

But this time, the Tigers couldn’t close the deal. Trailing by two in the waning seconds, a T.J. Bray pass to Barrett was knocked away and the Quakers tacked on a free throw to earn a 77-74 victory.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Penn for coming through in the 229th meeting between the archrivals.

“They took it right to us; all the credit goes to Penn,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy with the defeat.

“We obviously had some opportunities to win the game but I thought they were the better team tonight. It is a credit to the way they prepared themselves tonight.”

In Henderson’s view, Penn’s play in the paint was a critical factor in the contest.

“The ability to come up with good stuff around the basket,” said Henderson, when asked what made the difference for Penn down the stretch.

“I think we put ourselves in a nice hole and they had something to do with that. The 25 points between [Darien] Nelson-Henry and [Fran] Dougherty in the first half, that was a killer.”

The Quakers’ dominance inside was reflected by the rebounding margin that saw Penn build a 42-25 edge on the boards.

“We have been very good on the boards this year so that crushed us,” said Henderson.

“I think they were more aggressive. This is a game where the more aggressive team generally wins and I thought they were a little more aggressive.”

While Princeton executed well offensively, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and committing only eight turnovers, the Tigers need to be more aggressive at the other end of the court.

“We have got to defend, we got to be able to stop guys because I think we are scoring enough points to be successful,” said Henderson, who got 19 points from Bray with Barrett adding 15, Hans Brase scoring 14, and Denton Koon and Spencer Weisz chipping in 10 apiece.

Bray, for his part, acknowledged that Penn took the initiative from the opening tip-off. “We have got to come out ready to go every night,” said Bray. “We didn’t really do that tonight and Penn punched us in the mouth early in the game and early in the second half. We were kind of playing from behind all night and that is just something that can’t happen.”

The Tigers thought they could make something good happen on the last play to Barrett.

“We had run a few times in practice and had gotten it but the guy made a great play, he got his hand in there just enough,” said Bray.

Although losing the Ivy opener puts Princeton behind the eight-ball in the so-called 14-game tournament for the league’s NCAA tournament bid, the Tigers still hold their title chances in their hands.

“There is very little margin for error but I don’t think we can focus on that,” said Henderson.

“We just have to concentrate on us. We have a good team. We just have to zero in on what we are doing. We really have a lot of work to do.”

With Princeton going on an exam hiatus, the Tigers will have to take care of classwork before they can turn to the stretch drive.

“It is like two different seasons,” said Henderson, whose team will host Division III foe Kean University on January 26 before heading to New England where the Tigers will play at Ivy frontrunner Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.

“Coming up, we have two weeks worth of exams and papers. These guys know what to do, they can get to the gym and get some work in and get ready to go to Cambridge in three weeks.”

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Since it last played at home on November 22, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has been on quite an odyssey.

The Tigers traveled to Connecticut where they played Quinnipiac before heading to the midwest where they faced Michigan State, then to New York where they took on Rensselaer and Union, then to Florida for a two-game holiday tournament, and finally to western Canada for a showcase in British Columbia.

Thus it was no wonder that Tiger sophomore forward Mike Ambrosia and his teammates were thrilled to be back home in the friendly confines of Baker Rink last Friday to host Rensselaer.

“We have been on some long road trips,” said Ambrosia. “We didn’t come out with the greatest results on the road trips but we learned a lot. We took the process seriously and every step was important.”

Applying those lessons, Princeton took a big step forward on Friday, rallying from an early 1-0 deficit to pull out a 2-1 victory over the Engineers before a crowd of 2,069.

“It was a big team effort,” said Ambrosia, reflecting on the triumph. “Every single guy contributed.”

New Jersey native Ambrosia made a major contribution in the homecoming, notching the game-winning goal early in the third period.

“It was a great play by Ryan [Siiro]; he is a big, strong kid,” recalled the 5’10, 180-pound Ambrosia, who hails from Chatham.

“I think he threw two guys off him and was able to make a really nice pass so fortunately it went in.”

The line of Ambrosia, Siiro, and senior star Andrew Calof was clicking on Friday.

“I love playing with these guys,” said Ambrosia, who now has six points this season on three goals and three assists.

“I think we all bring a little different element to the game and we just try to create a lot of offense every single game. That is our job but we have to play well defensively because that is where it starts. We want to create as many offensive chances as we can.”

Ambrosia, who has missed seven games this season due to injury, is happy to be back on the ice.

“There are a ton of guys coming back from injury and we all want to help,” said Ambrosia of the Tigers’ injury list which has included Calof, Ben Foster, Tyler Maugeri, Alec Rush, and Tommy Davis.

“We all want to help and contribute to the wins. It is a process but we are definitely happy to have some guys healthy and we just want to keep going.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier was happy with the effort he got from his team on Friday.

“There were some ebbs and flows but in the 5-on-5 in general I thought we won the majority of the battles and we were the more physical team,” said Prier.

“We got rewarded for that. We threw a lot of body punches early and Ambro went in the third and that was the knockout punch. You knew it was going to be a game that was going to be tough to score.”

Prier likes the way the Ambrosia line is giving Princeton scoring punch. “They are playing great; they just seem to find that open man,” said Prier.

“You look at a kid like Calof, I think he may have had one shot on net tonight but you think a player that elite should have four or five. He made the right plays when he was supposed to make those plays. He is someone that can make them. It is contagious, guys like Ambrosia and Calof start making those plays and then other guys can feed off of that and they start making some too.”

The Tigers made some big plays at the defensive end, with defensemen throwing their bodies at pucks all night and freshman netminder Colton Phinney making 33 saves in earning the victory.

“Down the stretch here, it is playoff mindset and guys are really tough in front of their own net,” said Prier, whose team showed toughness a night later, battling hard in falling 3-0 to No. 4 Union, leaving the Tigers at 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play.

“I thought we did a real good job of eliminating the second and third chances with our d-corps in front and also with Colton hanging onto pucks. They were applying pressure late there. They were getting a lot through. They had good movement and he did a really good job of either putting the rebounds in the corner or holding onto them. It deadened the momentum which was great.”

In Prier’s view, the way Princeton took care of business in the win over Rensselaer could help the Tigers build some momentum as they head into the stretch drive.

“If we play the way we did tonight, we’ll have a good chance of winning against anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team is currently on hiatus for exams and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. “That’s the way the league is.”

Ambrosia, for his part, believes that Princeton can be a factor in league play as it looks to move up the ECACH standings.

“It is always nice to win, especially in a team effort like that,” said Ambrosia.

“It wasn’t like we snuck a game out or stole two points. I think we really deserved that one. It was a total team effort, starting with Colton Phinney in net. From him out, from the defense up we had a good, tight game. Winning a 2-1 game just breeds a lot of confidence in the guys.”

PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High girls’ basketball team suffered a lopsided defeat to Ewing last Saturday to remain winless on the season, Dan Van Hise believes his squad is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think the girls realize how far they have come in the last few weeks,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, whose team lost 41-35 to Hamilton on January 7 and fell 49-32 to Steinert on Thursday before its 58-23 defeat to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

“We haven’t taken the hardest step. The chemistry is great and the effort is great. They are really buying in but they have to do the little things.”

In Van Hise’s view, PHS has to step up things on the boards and on the defensive end.

“We need to rebound better; we could have beaten Hamilton but they killed us on the boards,” said Van Hise, whose team fell to 0-6 with its loss to Ewing.

“We can practice boxing out all the time but it is a want thing. We need to have better defensive communication. When we go back on defense we need to know who is guarding who. It is deflating when you get it down to six or eight and the other team comes down and scores because you didn’t know who you were guarding.”

A bright spot for the Little Tigers has been the play of the squad’s starting guards, sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.

“Julia was feeling a lot of pressure in the first few games; she knows she has to be one of two or three main players and that is hard as a sophomore,” said Van Hise.

“She had a good game against Robbinsville, scoring 12 points and that led into the Hamilton game where she had 16. She and Mary feel most comfortable staying outside on the perimeter. We are getting zones thrown at us so they have to start going to the basket. We are pushing them to do that. The guards are the strength of our team.”

Van Hise is looking for stronger play from his frontcourt, starting with senior Liz Jacobs and junior Bryanna Blue.

“Liz is coming on a little bit; she is starting to be calm in the post and is learning the game,” said Van Hise of Jacobs, who had a team-high seven points in the loss to Ewing.

“We need her to rebound better. She is aggressive on the offensive end when she has the ball but she doesn’t look to do that when she doesn’t have the ball or she is on the defensive end. Bryanna Blue is one of the other girls off the bench. We are going to start playing her and Liz more together. We are going to try some high post/low post stuff. Bryanna has a world of potential. She has a nice soft touch, she just needs to catch the ball better.”

In Van Hise’s view, getting a victory will help PHS get more out of its potential.

“They are starting to play good enough basketball to win against most of the teams that we play,” said Van Hise, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N
on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.

“They are holding their heads up. They don’t know how to win or how it feels. It will happen and I think it will make a big difference.”

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ford Schneider is looking to bring more to the table this winter in his senior season with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

“I worked a lot in the off season on just getting stronger and finishing at the rim,” said 6’3 senior forward Schneider.

“My shot has always been a strength of mine so I knew that was going to be there. It was just about rounding out my game as a whole. It is our last year and for some of us it is our last year playing ball so it seems like it is the time for me to step up and show what I can do.”

With PDS trailing Timothy Christian 45-36 early in the fourth quarter last Friday, Schneider stepped up, hitting a three-pointer to start a rally that saw the Panthers whittle the lead down to 46-45 with 37.5 seconds remaining in regulation. PDS, though, didn’t score again falling 49-45 as it dropped to 1-7.

Schneider acknowledged that it took awhile for the Panthers to find their rhythm in the contest.

“I think we came out almost a little too hyped,” said Schneider, reflecting on a night which saw PDS fall behind 20-14 by the end of the first quarter. “We were all excited to get out there and play and we were just out of sorts on both sides of the floor.”

In the second quarter, PDS got in a groove as it outscored Timothy Christian 15-7 to take a 29-27 lead into halftime. Schneider scored seven points in the quarter, including a three-pointer in the waning seconds which put the Panthers up going into intermission.

“That’s just about getting into the flow of the game and we just settled down a little bit,” said Schneider, who ended up with 12 points on the night.

“Our shots started to fall and we started to get some steals. I missed a few in the first quarter. My teammates and my coaches always tell me to keep shooting; it started to fall for me.”

In Schneider’s view, PDS lost the game on the offensive end. “We had one of the worst shooting nights,” said Schneider.

“Our defense really wasn’t that bad. Obviously we have to finish at the rim a lot better. If we hit our layups we win tonight by 15 or 20 points because we missed at least 10.”

Despite misfiring, the Panthers battled to the final whistle. “We are not a team that ever gives up, we have been in bigger holes than that and we keep battling,” said Schneider. “The one thing I know about our team is that we are always going to battle.”

The team will need to utilize that spirit as it looks to get on the winning track.

“Frustration always sets in if you are 1-7; I think that we are all fed up with losing,” said Schneider. “I think that is more motivation.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean was frustrated to see his team come up short as it looked to build on its 62-25 win over Moorestown Friends earlier in the week.

“It has got to come down to consistency and balance, we just talked about that,” said McLean.

They scored 20 points on us in the first and the next three quarters, it was 7,13,7. We played great defensively for three quarters. We didn’t shoot well tonight. We got to the basket a lot but just missed layups. We made some silly fouls down the stretch. We didn’t show composure under pressure.”

PDS, though, hasn’t shied away from the pressure despite having such key players as senior guards Langston Glaude and Deante Cole sidelined at various points of the season due to injury.

“This team has battled night in, night out, every single game,” asserted McLean.

“If you don’t think we are coming to play and coming to battle, you are wrong. We just keep fighting and scrapping. It is just tough to string together some victories right now.”

In McLean’s view, the team has what it takes to start coming up with some victories.

“We won the game Monday, there were a lot of bright spots today,” said McLean.

“Individual defense looked good, team defense looked good. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We had some individual highlights. I thought Chris [Okorodudu] played well tonight. Ford has consistently been playing well. There has been plenty of individual highlights.”

Despite the disappointing record, the Panthers haven’t been hanging their heads.

“Spirits are high, guys are working hard,” said McLean, whose team plays at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.

“Guys are showing up to practice and that’s what you get from having nine or 10 seniors. They have been around so there is that commitment from them and all the guys on the team.”

Schneider, for his part, believes the Panthers have shown a deeper commitment as the season has gone on.

“I think the biggest thing that I see is the energy,” said Schneider. “We are playing with a renewed sense of determination.”

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In mid-December, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team opened its season by losing 48-21 at Stuart Country Day School.

Last Friday, the local rivals met in a rematch and round two turned out to be much different as PDS showed how much it has improved in a matter of a few weeks.

Trailing by just 19-15 at halftime, the Panthers narrowed the margin to one point twice in the waning moments of the contest before succumbing 33-28.

Although his team remained winless with the setback, first-year PDS head coach Kamau Bailey grinned broadly as assessed his players’ performance.

“I am just really impressed and really proud of my girls today,” said Bailey. “Every game we are getting better. We have been playing a lot in practice and doing player development stuff. All the girls are getting better and I think today was a testament to the work they have been putting in.”

In narrowing the gap with the Tartans, Bailey had his players speed things up.

“I wanted to push the tempo,” said Bailey. “The last time we played, we let them control the tempo. This time out, I wanted to control the tempo and I think we did that. They weren’t allowed to set up and get into their stuff very well.”

PDS utilized pressure defense to disrupt Stuart. “I implemented this press that I used to run in high school and it caused them problems,” explained Bailey.

“In the first game that we played we tried to run the press but everyone was in the wrong place and everyone was trying to figure out where to be so it wasn’t effective. We did it everyday in practice and it’s starting to work now. We are going to continue to use that and get better at it.”

As a result, PDS nearly pulled out the game, drawing to within 27-26 and 29-28 in the last four minutes of regulation.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump, we missed some easy baskets that we probably should have made,” said Bailey, reflecting on his team’s play down the stretch.

“I think they were a little fatigued at the end and that is probably why we missed some of those buckets. They fight hard, we had a shot to win it.”

Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord fought hard in the paint for the Panthers.

“She is tall, she gets in everyone’s face and puts up her hands a lot,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord, who had seven points and was a disruptive force inside.

“She is really athletic and agile. She can get up and down the court pretty fast which is helpful to us and she causes a lot of problems for big girls.”

Meyercord’s classmate, guard/forward Hope Anhut caused problems for Stuart with her scrappy play, chipping in six points.

“Hope is someone who didn’t play a lot in the first game because she was just coming off an injury,” said Bailey, whose tam fell 56-18 to Pennington last Monday to drop to 0-5.

“She has stepped up a lot in the last week. She made some clutch plays, a lot of steals, she was aggressive on the ball.”

Freshman guard Shayla Stevenson has been stepping up for the Panthers.

“She is getting over some nerves,” said Bailey of Stevenson, who tallied seven points in the loss to the Tartans. “I had to tell her that the weight of the team was not on her shoulders. She is a freshman and I just want to bring her along the right way.”

In Bailey’s view, time is on the side of his youthful squad. “The thing is we are not as good as I want us to be but we are young,” said Bailey, whose team is at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.

“The girls are all freshmen and sophomores by next year and the next couple years coming, I like our chances. I am happy, this is good stuff that is happening here at this school.”

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Mimi Matthews made the best of the situation as she was moved to defense from her natural forward position in her junior season with the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“I think when I was on defense it was definitely a learning experience and it was really good for me,” said Matthews.

“I know how to skate backwards really well and I think that is one of my stronger suits because I used to figure skate and that is where that came from.”

This year, Matthews has come back to forward as a senior and is feeling at home.

“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing where I am and just in general playing the game,” said Matthews.

Last Wednesday against visiting Morristown-Beard, Matthews showed her comfort level at forward, tallying a third period goal on a top-shelf blast to bring PDS within 2-1.

“I have really been working hard in practice on just seeing the net and not so much shooting at the goalie because that is something that I have struggled with,” said Matthews.

“As a freshman and a sophomore, I would give the puck away and pass it to someone for a shot. Now I am learning that I can take the shot. I can probably score because I do have a pretty good shot.”

While PDS couldn’t close the deal against the Crimson as it fell 3-1, Matthews saw the game as a step in the right direction for the Panthers.

“Our team was really fired up; obviously we didn’t come out as strong as we could have in the first period,” said Matthews.

“I think by the middle of the second period, we definitely got something going. It’s always a hard game against Mo-Beard. This is the closest we have been so I am really proud of them.”

In Matthews’ view, the PDS players have developed a closeness that is a major asset for the team.

“Everybody at the beginning of the year was so fired up to work with each other,” said Matthews.

“Right after the first few practices, everyone was really psyched up to just be on the team and be with each other. I am really, really excited to be playing with every one of these girls.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook is excited by the effort she is getting from Matthews and linemates Abby Sharer and Emma Stillwaggon.

“Mimi’s whole line battles really hard,” said Cook. “I think it starts with the wingers, Emma and Abby, who are smaller players but are really aggressive. Mimi just feeds off of that and she is the one who is going to have more of a knack of taking it to the net and putting pucks in the net. It is funny, I talked to her at practice yesterday because she has been doing really well all week putting pucks in corners and I told her I am expecting one out of you tomorrow and there you go, she is one that scored.”

Freshman goalie Annika Asplundh did really well to keep PDS in the Mo-Beard game as the Panther were outshot 48-6 on the evening.

“She was always in position for their shots,” said Cook. “Some of their shots weren’t great but she was still right there and to control those rebounds was another huge thing. It is putting them in the corners and making sure that they don’t get extra chances. She certainly kept us in the game, no question. We knew going in that she would have to do that a little bit for us. I was hoping it was not going to be so much.”

In Cook’s view, the defeat to Mo-Beard showed that PDS has to generate more scoring chances.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t win but I think I am more disappointed that we only got six shots,” said Cook.

“It is one of those where we are still moving forward. It is a stepping stone for sure. We are going to look at it as a chance to get better.”

Over the weekend, PDS did play better, going 1-1-1 in three games at the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Panthers had a 3-3 tie and a 4-0 loss in games with the hosts on Saturday before winning 6-3 on Sunday against Holton Arms (Md.) to move to 7-3-1.

Matthews, for her part, is looking forward to the rest of the season. “I just want to enjoy it while I can; I am definitely going to be sad when I am not at PDS next year,” said Matthews, who is heading to Middlebury College in the fall.

“I am just trying to make the most out of this year and this season because we have a good chance at a lot of different big games. I think this team can go places. It has just really been fun, hockey practice is the highlight of my day, just being on the ice.”

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Erica Brown and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ basketball team, their lopsided loss to Lawrenceville last Wednesday prompted some soul-searching as they prepared to host Mastery Charter (Pa.) a day later.

“We had a tough loss last night,” said senior forward Brown reflecting on the 54-29 defeat to the Big Red.

“Even in school, off the court, we were in ourselves. We just wanted to go out there and play hard and play the best that we can. Our main goal was to go out there and play hard and be ourselves. We weren’t hitting many shots yesterday. We really wanted to put the ball in the basket today.”

With Brown setting the tone with her aggressive play, Hun put up a lot of baskets against Mastery, jumping out to a 31-17 halftime lead on the way to a 56-39 victory.

“We were moving the ball well today,” said Brown, who scored 12 points to lead Hun along with freshman center Clare Maloney.

“Yesterday we weren’t hitting shots so we couldn’t rely on one person. Today we all went out there and we all had to play hard and do it for the team. We couldn’t play for ourselves.”

Hun has been forced to come together even more as a team in the wake of a knee injury to star center Johnnah Johnson, who is sidelined indefinitely.

“Once Johnnah got hurt, we really had to buckle down and our inside game had to be strong,” said Brown.

“Clare really had to be strong and she is doing well, filling some big shoes. She has to play hard and be strong inside.”

Brown, for her part, is looking to buckle down at both ends of the floor. “I really have to help get the rebounds on defense and make sure that we can push the ball,” said Brown.

“We have to play hard on the defensive end. Offensively we have to see the court. I like pushing the ball; the fast break is one of my strong suits, I like getting the ball up the court but I can settle down and run a play if we need to. Usually I just tell the girls to run and I will get the ball out to you. I grab the rebound and I will push it; that is our transition game.”

In Brown’s view, closing the deal against Mastery bodes well for the Raiders.

“We had some really close losses and our main thing was we have been up a lot at halftime and we want to make sure that we didn’t lose that lead,” said Brown.

“Sometimes we get a little lackadaisical when we are up by a lot and today at halftime, it was we are up and we need to stay up. There is nothing guaranteeing our win.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup sees the win over Mastery as a step forward for his squad.

“It is definitely important and with Johnnah out we don’t have overall depth so the other girls have to step up,” said Holup.

“Like today, for example,  Maura Kelly did a terrific job, she grabbed some rebounds and was active defensively. Everybody is going to be called upon at some point and they have to always be ready and focused.”

Holup liked the focus that Brown displayed in the win over Mastery Charter.

“Erica has ability,” said Holup. “She is a physical player, she can rebound, and she can also handle the ball. Yesterday, in our halftime talk she may have taken that to heart. She really stepped up her game from halftime yesterday throughout this entire game.”

Junior guard Erica Dwyer also stepped up, chipping in five points and calmly running the Hun offense.

“I think Erica Dwyer did the same thing; yesterday she didn’t play all that well and she knew it,” said Holup.

“Today she played much better and was more patient and let the game come to her instead of forcing it. Ultimately as a team, that was what we did today.”

The Raiders also got good games from junior Janelle Mullen and senior Anajha Burnett.

“Mullen has been a little bit off with her shot in the last couple of games,” said Holup, whose team topped Hill 57-30 on Saturday before falling 61-38 to Marianapolis Prep (Conn.) in the New Year’s Resolution Showcase at Peterson to move to 4-5.

“I think that has been bothering her a little bit, it can be psychological at times, you are thinking too much. She came alive today late in the game but we will need her right from the start. Anajha had a nice game, she asserted herself instead of just settling for outside shots.

Even without Johnson, Holup believes his club can produce a nice season.

“There is enough talent on this team that we should be able to compete with most of the teams on our schedule,” said Holup, whose team hosts Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. “We just have to be ready to play every time.”

Brown, for her part, is ready to go out with a bang. “We need to make sure that we are a family on and off the court so that is our main thing,” said Brown, who is planning to play at the college level.

“In senior year, you want to leave it on the court. I am trying to enjoy the rest of the season and see where it takes me.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In starting the season with a 4-2 record, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team cruised in each of its wins, posting an average margin of victory of 26.2 points in those four triumphs.

When Stuart played at Princeton Day School last Friday, the Tartans found themselves in a tight contest despite having beaten PDS 48-21 in December.

Stuart led 19-15 at halftime and took a 25-21 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Second-year Tartan head coach Dana Leary, for her part, wasn’t surprised that the rematch had a different feel than the initial meeting between the local foes.

“I expected a different game from the first time and the girls knew that as well,” said Leary.

“We were going to their place and they were going to be a much improved team.”

One factor that made the second encounter closer was Stuart’s failure to calmly handle PDS’s defensive pressure.

“We were panicking the entire game; the press was hurting us,” said Leary. “As much as we have been working on it, it was like they were seeing it for the first time. I kept stressing that you have to work hard defensively and on the offensive end you have to get it out. When you catch it, you have to be poised.”

The Tartans, though, showed poise down the stretch, outscoring the Panthers 4-0 in the last minute to pull out a 33-28 win.

“They pulled it together when it counted,” said Leary. “They calmed down by the end; it took the whole game. I am very proud of them for working hard and playing right to the end. That is all you can ask for.”

Some fine work inside by sophomore Kate Walsh and Nneka Onukwugha helped Stuart prevail as Walsh scored a game-high nine points while Onukwugha added eight.

“Kate has been having a great year so far; tonight she came through for us at the end with two big putbacks,” said Leary.

“Nneka has been showing up every single game, going and doing exactly what is expected of her. Tonight I saw she was hungry for it. She was going after the ball. She was out there to work; she didn’t want to get outworked tonight. You could definitely see that in her game.”

In Leary’s view, winning a game like last Friday’s contest should help the Tartans down the road.

“They haven’t been in a close one yet so now they have that experience and they can be confident in themselves at the end of the game,” said Leary, whose team hosts Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.

“They know they are capable of having the lead, holding onto it, and then coming out with the win.”

January 8, 2014
SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Kelsey Koelzer, figuring out the best way to utilize her talent has been a major challenge as she goes through her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

“I would have to say learning new systems and learning my role because it changes when you go from playing in your leagues back home to playing in Division I hockey,” said Koelzer, reflecting on adjusting to college hockey.

“Learning where I fit in, what I have to do every game, and what I have to bring to the team.”

Last Thursday, forward Koelzer brought a lot to the table for the Tigers, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1.

For Koelzer, who had had a goal and an assist in her 15 appearances during the 2013 portion of this season’s schedule, the breakthrough performance was heartening.

“It was definitely a confidence builder,” said Koelzer, a 5’9 native of Horsham, Pa. who played club hockey for the New Jersey Rockets.

“It was good getting my legs back under me and just proving to myself that this is what you have got to do every game. I want to pick it up even more and just continue with the momentum.”

Koelzer helped Princeton seize momentum against UConn as her blast from the point set up a Sally Butler goal that tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period.

“They were definitely leaving the lanes open in terms of the point shots,” said Koelzer.

“It was important that we were moving it up top between me and Gabie [Figueroa]. I saw a small lane so my main goal was to get it low because I know Sally is going to be in front to tip it.”

Midway through the third period, Koelzer put the Tigers ahead as another one-timer found the back of the net.

“It felt good,” said Koelzer, recalling the tally. “They didn’t come out to challenge me so I took the opportunity.”

The Tigers cashed in on their opportunities as they scored a total of three goals in a 3:34 span of the third period with Koelzer adding Princeton’s fourth and final goal of the game.

“We work really hard in practice, we are a good bunch,” said Koelzer, who put in some more good work on Friday, helping Princeton pull out a 1-0 overtime win over UConn to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall.

“That’s where it is coming down into the third periods and especially the second game of weekends.”

With Princeton having won four straight, Koelzer believes the team is coming on strong.

“Really, we are clicking on every aspect,” said Koelzer. “We are a great conditioned team, we have got a lot of speed. We definitely have some good momentum going.”

The addition of Koelzer and classmates Molly Strabley, Cassidy Tucker, Audrey Potts, Morgan Sly, Hilary Lloyd, and Fiona McKenna, has helped build that positive momentum.

“It is great team chemistry,” said Koelzer. “The upperclassmen are great to us. From day one, we really felt like this was home. It definitely helped us getting into games. It has made it a lot easier for us to learn our roles on the team.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal has been looking to get Koelzer into a scoring role for the Tigers.

“Kelsey has a really good shot and we are trying to find the best ways to utilize it,” said Kampersal.

“So we finally got her in a position where she can have a couple of open looks.”

Kampersal liked how his team looked collectively on Thursday as it rebounded from a 1-0 deficit after the first period and skated to victory in its first action since a 4-1 win over Union on December 7.

“It wasn’t our best effort in the first period, that is to be expected,” said Kampersal.

“Falling behind and getting a little slap in the face, I think that’s what we needed. We have been a third period team all year; that was nice to see. We had three power play goals tonight and that was really nice to see.”

With the Tigers missing such key players Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, and Jaimie McDonnell on Friday due to injury, Princeton showed resilience in overcoming the Huskies.

“I thought people stepping up in different roles was big,” said Kampersal, whose team’s lone goal in the overtime win on Friday came from junior forward Brianna Leahy.

“At game time we had to make decisions where kids were seeing the doctor so other kids had to play wing or center, doing different things like that. We had different kids on the penalty kill who didn’t necessarily practice that all week.”

Kampersal is hoping his club can keep coming up big as the Tigers play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11 before going on a 17-day hiatus for exams.

“They have a lot of heart, they have a lot of soul,” said Kampersal. “They are committed to it. They know that when it’s going bad, what they need to do to fix it. It is a good group to coach.”

Local product Koelzer, for her part, is thrilled to be part of the group. “I have been coming to see Princeton games for about four years now,” said Koelzer.

“Last season, I was probably at every single home game just because I was out with an ACL injury. This has definitely been a dream come true.”

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s basketball team squandered a 15-point lead against Kent State last week and found itself trailing 66-65 with less than a minute left, Will Barrett wasn’t rattled.

“At the end of the game when we were down by one, I just felt like a sense of calmness,” said Princeton senior forward Barrett.

“In a couple of close games that we have had, we have just been calm under pressure. I don’t know if that comes from all of the experience that we have had. We have got five guys that have played a lot together and we have senior leadership.”

Barrett exuded coolness as he scored 11 points in the second half, hitting two clutch three-pointers down the stretch to help Princeton pull out a 73-68 win in the December 31 contest before 2,440 at Jadwin Gym.

While Barrett was happy with his offensive contribution in the win over the Golden Flashes, hitting on 6-of-12 shots as he totaled a game-high 19 points, he acknowledged that he needs to produce a more well-rounded game.

“My shot is feeling good right now; it is definitely part of my game that I take pride in,” said Barrett, a 6’11 197-pound native of Hartsville, Pa.

“There are so many other areas that I have to and need to improve on if our team is going to continue to succeed. My defense is a huge part of that. If I can clean that up, then I am in the game a lot more, and that helps our team even more so I have got to just keep improving on that.”

In Barrett’s view, the Tigers were hungry to show their pride against Kent State in the wake of a disappointing 93-79 loss to Portland in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas before Christmas.

“In Vegas there were a bunch of our former teammates, Dan Mavraides, Kareem Maddox, they were all there and I was really angry after the game and they said this might be a blessing in disguise,” recalled Barrett.

“We don’t like to lose games here. It was good for us for that to sink in over break. I think it has a little bit and it just teaches us that in any game you can come out and lose to anybody in college basketball so we have to keep that in mind.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was heartened to see his squad prevail on a day when it didn’t play its sharpest.

“It wasn’t pretty on our end; it is the second game in a row where we haven’t played on offense and on defense for a long stretch of time the way we would like to play,” said Henderson.

“I was in the Big 10 for a long time so it felt like a Big 10 game. It is one punch and the next punch and everybody is delivering these big blows. I was really proud of our guys for making free throws down the stretch. I think that is a really good Kent State team, a really good program. They have had 14 or 15 straight 20-win seasons, which is just unbelievable to me so I am just really proud of our guys.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers came up big down the stretch at Liberty University, overcoming a late 67-66 deficit to earn an 80-74 win in improving to 11-2.

“I attribute it to a few different things,” said Henderson in reflecting on his team’s penchant for coming through in tight contests this winter.

“We have T.J. Bray, who our guys have confidence in down the stretch. We made free throws. We have made some really big shots. I think it is just making shots. I have to attribute that to T.J., his ability to get to the basket and make these guys better. I think it just makes us tough.”

Henderson likes the way Barrett is making big shots although he believes the forward has the ability to make more of an impact at both ends of the court.

“I thought he was just terrific; I was saying to Will in the locker room that I had to take him out of the game a couple of times because I thought defensively he could have made a couple of adjustments that would have helped us,” said Henderson, who got 8 points and two assists from Barrett in the win over Liberty with the backcourt duo of Bray and Ben Hazel leading the way, tallying 24 and 18 points, respectively.

“I think he could be a lock-down defender as well as what he did offensively but his line is fantastic, 4-for-8 from 3, 19 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes, that is good.”

With Princeton opening Ivy League action by playing at Penn (2-10) on January 11, Henderson believes his team is in good shape to make a title run.

“I like where we are because I am sort of a glass half full kind of guy,” said Henderson.

“Man we have so much we can work on. I just think the room for improvement is enormous but they really like each other.”

Barrett, for his part, likes the Tigers’ chances. “I feel good, I think we all feel good,” said Barrett, who is averaging 11.3 points a game and leads the Tigers in three-pointers with 30.

“We are pretty much by ourselves on campus right now so we have a ton of time to be down in the gym and then take care of work that we have to do.”