December 27, 2013
OPENING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Liz Jacobs drives up the court during the the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, senior forward Jacobs scored three points as PHS lost 58-24 to Allentown in the season opener for both teams and the debut of new Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise. PHS was slated to play at Monroe on December 23 before starting 2014 action with a game at Trenton Central on January 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Liz Jacobs drives up the court during the the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, senior forward Jacobs scored three points as PHS lost 58-24 to Allentown in the season opener for both teams and the debut of new Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise. PHS was slated to play at Monroe on December 23 before starting 2014 action with a game at Trenton Central on January 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team has started the season by losing its first four games, Paris McLean is far from discouraged.

“We are playing well for most of the games but we are giving up one big quarter and that is hurting us,” said head coach McLean. “Teams are having 20-point quarters and we are digging ourselves a hole.”

At the Peddie School Invitational Tournament (PSIT), the Panthers showed character as they rebounded from a lopsided defeat to the Phelps School in the first round to battle cross-town rival Hun School in a consolation contest.

“The number one thing I have learned about this team is that we are resilient,” asserted McLean, whose team fell 65-46 to Hun.

“When you a lose a tough game like we did to Phelps, you don’t know what kind of team is going to come out the next day. We came out and played Hun tough. We were more disciplined on offense and we were steadier on defense. We played well.”

While the Panthers came up empty at the PSIT, McLean views the tourney as a key learning experience.

“It is fantastic competition, it is the best competition we are going to see all year,” said McLean.

“It is an honor to be invited. It is a good measuring stick of where we are and what we need to improve on.”

In its final action before Christmas, the Panthers showed more improvement as they dropped a 58-52 nailbiter at Conwell-Egan (Pa.) last Wednesday.

“We came out and built a six or seven point lead,” recalled McLean. “But then they went ahead by 15. We battled it back and cut it to five. When you fight back like that, you get spent and the kids run out of gas. Everyone played and some guys really stepped up.”

Senior guard Ford Schneider has been stepping up big time this winter for PDS.

“Ford was all-tournament at Peddie and that is a testament to the hard work he has put in,” said McLean.

“Ford has been fantastic for us. He is a do-it-all player; he goes to the basket. He gets rebounds, he is more confident offensively.”

The backcourt tandem of seniors Deante Cole and Zach Banks has earned McLean’s confidence.

“Deante has been great,” said McLean of Cole who had 17 points in the defeat to Conwell-Egan.

“He has been very aggressive, he has been going to the basket and facilitating things. Zach has been good in relief, doing some ballhandling so Deante can play off guard at times.”

In McLean’s view, the holiday break comes at a good time for PDS since such key players like Langston Glaude, J.P. Radvany, and Josiah Meekins have missed time due to injury.

“It will be good to rest guys and get some guys practice-ready,” said McLean. “It is a great time to rest mentally and physically and reflect on things.”

As PDS returns to action by competing in the Prime Time Shoot-Out on December 27 and 29, McLean wants the team to focus on a few key things.

“We need to get leads and keep them,” said McLean. “The defensive intensity has to step up; that starts in practice. We can’t let other teams have those big quarters; we need to stem that.”

McLean is hoping that his team can enjoy another big run at the Prime Time event.

“We are excited to go back to the Prime Time as defending champions,” said McLean. “We will play Rancocas Valley in the first round and we know they are a tough Group IV team.”

December 18, 2013
FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Amanda Berntsen was an afterthought for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last winter in her freshman campaign, playing a total of 152 minutes in 23 appearances.

Determined to be a bigger contributor for the Tigers as a sophomore, Berntsen put her nose to the grindstone during the offseason.

“Last year I got some minutes but not too much,” said Bentsen, a 5’8 native of Chatham, N.J.

“I worked hard over the summer. I just took tons of shots. I have just been able to develop poise and confidence being the point guard and I think that has carried me a long way. Now I am able to do things that I just didn’t have the confidence to do on the court last year. Defensively, I just learned how to play college defense.”

Last Sunday, Berntsen did some big things down the stretch to help Princeton rally for an 84-80 win in overtime against visiting Delaware. With 2:29 left in regulation, Berntsen hit a three-pointer to knot the contest at 70-70.

In overtime, Berntsen made a bucket on a beautiful left-handed layup through traffic and then delivered a deft touch pass that led to a three-pointer by Blake Dietrick. The sophomore canned a free throw with seconds left to help seal the victory.

Noting that Princeton had lost 59-58 at Delaware last season, Berntsen saw the dramatic win over the Blue Hens as a big step forward for the 6-4 Tigers.

“It was a great test and that is what our coaches want us to do with this schedule they have given us,” asserted Berntsen, who ended the game with eight points, six rebounds, and two assists.

“We definitely showed today that our team is coming together and playing together. We showed enormous toughness and enormous heart to come together.”

Berntsen showed some courage in nailing the crucial three-pointer, her first basket beyond the arc all season.

“I saw I was wide open and I needed to catch and shoot and that’s what I did,” recalled Berntsen, who is now averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

“It was a good time for it to come. It felt really good. Blake [Dietrick] did a great job of drawing two people to get the open shot so credit to her. I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t hitting that much from the outside. I lost a little bit of my confidence but coach [Courtney Banghart] and I talked last week and she said they are going to fall, you just need to get confidence now.”

On her layup in overtime, Berntsen did what comes naturally to her. “Driving to the basket is my favorite thing to do, I have been doing that my whole life,” said Bentsen.

“If I can get into the paint and people don’t converge, I am going to take it myself. If not, I am going to look to kick it out for my teammates. Coach has challenged me to do that to open up for my teammates and that’s what I have been working on.”

Growing up about an hour away from Princeton, Berntsen is drawing a cheering section at Jadwin Gym.

“My high school coach was here and I also have teammates that are a couple of years younger than me,” said Berntsen.

“I didn’t get a chance to play with them but they all came out. My parents come. It really helps having that home support group come out. We have a lot of people on the team from the west coast and it is just nice to get fans here for them. It is also really encouraging.”

Princeton head coach Banghart was encouraged by her team’s performance against Delaware.

“That is a game we would not have won two weeks ago,” asserted Banghart.

“We talked about process with a young team the whole time. You have seen how much this team has grown. There is a little bit of a makeover for both teams but they are two championship cultures so we knew it was going to come down to a combination of tactical play and toughness.”

Princeton needed a combination of good inside-out play to pull out the victory which saw the Tigers trailing 74-70 with 1:30 left in regulation.

“I thought the key was that we had pieces of everybody,” said Banghart, who got a game-high 22 points from Dietrick with Kristen Helmstetter chipping in 18 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Wheatley contributing 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

“Wheatley had a big steal late and made two big free throws. Amanda made a big 3, I think it was her first of the year and a nice finish. Kristen and Blake were so consistent throughout the game. I thought they were what we needed when we needed it.”

In Banghart’s view, the consistent work ethic displayed by Berntsen has led to her improvement.

“She is a kid who didn’t waste one second of her freshman year and the same thing with Taylor Williams,” said Banghart. “Those are kids you didn’t see a lot last year but they gave us everything they had for every practice, all 112 practices last year. The way we practice is why our kids get better.”

Having won five of its last six games, the Tigers are getting better and better,

“In order to challenge ourselves to get better, you have to play really good teams,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Illinois State on December 18.

“I went in there and said I don’t have a lot to say because I want to hear what you have to say. One of the kids who didn’t even play said it was 1 through 14, it was a team win. That’s how we practice and that’s how we play.”

Berntsen, for her part, liked the way the team played as one in the win over Delaware.

“In the past few games, we played really well together too and we have had moments but I think this was just a game where we won it off of playing together,” said Berntsen. “It just feels awesome. It is a great home win.”

And with Berntsen feeling more and more at home on the court, she should be experiencing plenty more great moments this winter.

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The snowstorm that hit the area last Saturday may have kept the crowd down at the “Celebration of New Jersey Wrestling” held at Jadwin Gym in conjunction with the Princeton University-Rutgers match but it didn’t dampen the spirit of those who did brave the inclement weather.

“It was an awesome environment to compete in,” said Princeton wrestling head coach Chris Ayres, who estimated that a crowd of around 700 turned out for festivities which included a youth wrestling match, a clinic conducted by a Princeton and Rutgers assistant coaches, and a parade of former New Jersey state high school champions during halftime of the college match.

“The upper deck was closed so all the fans were in the big bleachers down by the floor. The best thing was recognizing the state champions; that piece was due to coach [Joe] Dubuque and he has gotten so many e-mails thanking him for that.”

Unfortunately, the Tigers, who came into the day with a 3-0 record in dual matches, didn’t compete as well as they had hoped, falling 27-9 to their local rivals.

“We didn’t perform very well,” said Ayres. “I have to credit Rutgers, they wrestled harder. In five matches we scored first but we weren’t finishing strong. It is a young team and we are still figuring some things out.”

Princeton’s two wins against the Scarlet Knights came from junior Adam Krop at 141 pounds and from sophomore Abe Ayala at 197. Krop pinned Tyson Dippery while Ayala outpointed Hayden Hrymack 6-4.

“Krop has been on and off; he has been injured a bit,” said Ayres. “In the Rutgers match, he was on. He is fun to watch. He saw an opening and he got that pin which is what good wrestlers do. Ayala keeps getting better; he lost to the kid from Rutgers in the Binghamton tournament and came back and really controlled the match. It is exciting to see.”

The Tigers have produced some exciting results in the first month of the season.

“We have competed really well,” asserted Ayres, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the program.

“We were third in the Navy Invitational ahead of such schools as Bucknell, Kent State, and Ohio. At Madison Square Garden, we went 2-0 and beat Army for the first time in 40 years, we think. We are still checking on that. We then beat Binghamton for the first time.”

With a lineup featuring a number of freshmen and sophomores, Princeton has room for plenty of growth.

“Everyone has been doing their duty,” said Ayres, who had three freshmen (Jordan Laster, Matt Gancayco, and Brett Harner) and four sophomores (Kevin Moylan, Scott Gibbons, Cole Lampman, and Ayala) wrestling in the Rutgers match

“Matthew Gancayco beat a guy in Army who had been 3rd in EIWA. Brett Harner is having a great season. Chris Perez (a sophomore) won the Drexel match for us with a big pin. Guys have stepped up at different times.”

Although Princeton didn’t step up against Rutgers, Ayres believes the loss will prove to be a good learning experience for his young team.

“That was the hard thing about Rutgers,” lamented Ayres, whose team will compete in the Wilkes Open in Wilkes, Pa. on December 28 before heading to the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. from December 29-30.

“We felt like we could win the match or be in a position to win the match. I think we will make another big jump. We have Midlands coming up and two years ago we got a third there.”

No matter what happens as the team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule, Ayers believes the program has already made a big jump.

“I think the commitment level and the competition in the room are the biggest areas of progress,” said Ayres.

“In the past if we had a starter out, there was no one to really step in. We have talent and depth. If we have to sit someone, we feel the next guy can come in and do a good job. Last year, we knew our starting lineup by now. This year we still have three or four weights up in the air.”

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team bringing a 3-12 record into its holiday break, the numbers don’t lie.

Among the 12 teams in ECAC Hockey, Princeton is last in goals scored (2.07) in all contests and has given up the second most goals per game (3.87).

In the wake of its final action before the hiatus, which saw Princeton lose 3-0 at No. 11 Union and 5-2 at Rensselaer, Tiger head coach Bob Prier didn’t hesitate in pinpointing his team’s biggest issue.

“We need to work better in the defensive-zone,” asserted Prier, whose team is 2-8 in ECACH play and tied with Dartmouth for last in the league standings. “We are on the wrong side of checks; we are trying to pickpocket the puck and do it the easy way.”

In Prier’s view, getting stingier on defense will go a long way towards helping the team be more productive offensively.

“If we play stronger defensively, the offense will come,” said Prier. “I am not worried about us scoring goals. It’s not that we can’t score goals.”

Prier is also looking for his players to be tougher all over the ice. “We need to play with more pride and work ethic,” said Prier, whose team went 1-5 in its last six games before the break, getting outscored 31-12 in that span.

“We need to work extra hard around the puck. We are working hard in the open ice, flying up the rink but that is easy. We need to battle harder in 1-on-1 situations. Our breakout needs to be better. We need to play more fundamentally sound and stay between our opponents and the net.”

Having dealt with injuries to such key players as Andrew Calof, Alec Rush, Tommy Davis, Tyler Maugeri, and Ben Foster, it has been hard for the Tigers to go full throttle in practice.

“We haven’t had the bodies and we have barely had contact in practice because we want to keep the guys healthy,” said Prier.

“It’s harder work to stay low and knock guys off the puck. We are not able to battle in practice and that is carrying over into the games.”

But with plenty of games left, Prier believes his team can use the break to regroup.

“We need to get the guys fresher so we can battle more,” said Prier, whose team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule by playing in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.

“We have lots of the season left. After the RPI game, I said to the guys that we have faced just about everybody in the league and there is no one we played where we thought we have to figure out a way to beat them. The league is so tight. We need to clean up some things and we have as good a chance as anyone to win these games.”

INSIDE JOB: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior forward Mahotiere will be counted on to provide PHS with an inside presence this winter as it looks to build on last winter’s 12-11 campaign. The Little Tigers tip off their 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE JOB: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior forward Mahotiere will be counted on to provide PHS with an inside presence this winter as it looks to build on last winter’s 12-11 campaign. The Little Tigers tip off their 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley is preparing for a lot of nailbiters this winter with his Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

“I don’t think we are going to blow out a lot of teams but I don’t think many teams are going to blow us out,” said PHS head coach Shelley, who guided the Little Tigers to a 12-11 record last winter in his debut campaign at the helm of the program.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of seniors. We play a good zone defense which should keep the games close.”

The Little Tigers feature a lot of depth in the backcourt, with junior Kevin Kane and sophomore Matt Hart at shooting guard and the trio of senior Paul Murray, junior J.C. Silva, and junior Max Tarter handing the point guard duties.

“Kevin Kane and Matt Hart can really shoot the ball and they have separated themselves from the others because of that,” said Shelley, whose team tips off the 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20.

“Kane can score in bunches. He has gotten a lot better; he played all summer and fall. Matt played a lot too and he is playing so well right now. Paul Murray is not as quick as the other point guards but he is a really savvy player. He really understands the game. J.C. makes good decisions and can shoot from the outside. Max has the best ball skills and quickness.”

A pair of battle-tested seniors, Peter Mahotiere and Callahan O’Meara, should provide good production for PHS at forward.

“Peter and Cal will be down low for us,” said Shelley. “We like the fact that they can put the ball on the floor and shoot from the outside. We are tough to guard when we have five shooters on the floor, we are working on spreading the floor and generating good matchups. We will be running a lot of one post sets.”

In Shelley’s view, PHS can win the close games by being tough on the boards and properly executing its offense.

“The biggest keys are rebounding and taking care of the ball,” said Shelley.

“We are going to have a challenge with rebounding, we drill on it everyday. We send everybody to the glass on defense. On offense, we want three to go to the glass and two to stay back. We are not going to score a ton of points so we need our point guards to make good decisions. They need to know when to run our set offense and when to take a quick shot. The basic concept is that if the defense isn’t set, we want to push it.”

With the PHS players having pushed themselves hard over the offseason, Shelley believes they are ready for the challenges ahead.

“I feel like we could have a really good season,” said Shelley. “We had a good summer of work. We are competitive. We played in the Princeton men’s summer league, the Princeton University team camp, and the Hillsborough summer high school league. We also played in a fall league. A lot of them just play basketball and they have worked hard to get ready for the season.”

NEW LOOK: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Julia Ryan looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Sophomore guard Ryan figures to be a key performer as PHS aims to get on the winning track under new head coach Dan Van Hise. The Little Tigers open the 2013-14 season by hosting Allentown on December 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEW LOOK: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Julia Ryan looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Sophomore guard Ryan figures to be a key performer as PHS aims to get on the winning track under new head coach Dan Van Hise. The Little Tigers open the 2013-14 season by hosting Allentown on December 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dan Van Hise focused on soccer during his days at Hightstown High but he gained a passion for basketball at college.

“I went to Syracuse University and developed a strong love for the game,” said Van Hise, 32, a 2003 graduate of Syracuse.

“In my previous job, I got the chance to see some of Coach Boeheim’s [legendary Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim] practices. I knew that if I ended up teaching, I would want to coach.”

Van Hise ended up teaching in the Princeton school system and coached the John Witherspoon boys’ team two years ago and was the head coach of Princeton High boys’ JV squad last winter.

While Van Hise enjoyed coaching the boys, he will be now be looking to develop the PHS girls’ team into a winner as he has taken the helm of that program.

“I met with John Miranda; I was thinking to myself that I wanted to stick with the boys, I liked where I am and where the program was going,” said Van Hise.

“John said that if I love basketball the way I do, it doesn’t make any difference whether you are coaching boys or girls.”

With the girls’ squad having gone 4-14 last winter and endured a steady diet of losing seasons in recent years, Van Hise is looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding the program.

“It is nice to get experience as a varsity head coach and I like the idea of taking over a program that has been stuck in the mud and getting it competitive,” said Van Hise, who is replacing Steffanie Shoop. “It is exciting.”

In Van Hise’s view, job one for him is to change the mentality around the program.

“Our main thing is to establish a culture of commitment, sportsmanship, and team work,” said Van Hise, whose team opens regular season play by hosting Allentown on December 20.

“I want them committed to basketball from December to March. We want to get something in place this year that we can build on.”

The PHS offense will be built around senior star forward and co-captain Liz Jacobs.

“On offense, we are going to go through Liz and play motion around her,” said Van Hise of the talented Jacobs, who is heading to Dartmouth next year where she will be playing lacrosse.

“We are trying to get Liz to think a little more on the court. She is used to getting the ball and going to the hoop. We want her to realize that she has teammates who can shoot and she can kick it out to them. We are going to run sets for her.”

Other options for the Little Tigers at forward include junior Mira Shane, junior Catherine Curran-Groome, senior Bryanna Blue, and junior Mia Levy.

“Mira is a glue girl; she talks on defense and does the little things,” said Van Hise, who will also be using freshmen Zoe Tesone and junior Ellie Maltby inside.

“Catherine worked hard in the offseason; her jump shot has really improved. Bryanna Blue is also on the mix in the frontcourt. Mia has that Levy skill, she has good court sense, sometimes her brain is ahead of her feet. She could be a player that surprises.”

PHS features two skilled players starting at guard in sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.

“Julia Ryan will be the lead guard; she did a lot of work in the offseason and played AAU,” said Van Hise, who also has senior co-captain Stephanie Hauer and sophomore Crystal Wang at guard.

“She looks good and is confident on the court. She can spot up and hit her jumper or go to the basket. Mary is a good hard worker and a strong ballhandler. She can hit an open shot. We need her to be smarter with the ball, patience is a big thing for her.”

Sophomore Haley Bodden, a girls’ soccer star for PHS, will provide good depth at both guard and forward.

“Haley will be coming off the bench; she hustles and is aggressive,” said Van Hise. “She is an athlete. She can also play forward.”

Van Hise is looking for aggressiveness across the board this winter. “We won four games last season and I would like to double that,” said Van Hise.

“Defensively, they need to be willing to stop girls and not just hope that shots don’t go in. They need to be tough. On offense, we need  to be patient, we can’t get uncomfortable and just jack up a shot. We need to be more patient and work the ball from the inside out.”

BIG BROTHER: Princeton high boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick heads up the ice in recent action. Senior captain and star defenseman McCormick has combined with younger brothers, junior Connor, and freshman Brendan, to help PHS produce a sizzling 5-0-1 start.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG BROTHER: Princeton high boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick heads up the ice in recent action. Senior captain and star defenseman McCormick has combined with younger brothers, junior Connor, and freshman Brendan, to help PHS produce a sizzling 5-0-1 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Patrick McCormick is shouldering a lot of responsibility this winter for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

As the senior captain and star defenseman for PHS, McCormick knows that he needs to set the right tone on the ice.

“My role has changed a lot from last year; because we have lost guys on offense, I have had to take more of an offensive role,” said McCormick.

“In desperate situation mode, I try to rush it up as much as I can and try to get those goals. As a senior, I have to take charge of the team but the other guys match my efforts and keep up with me.”

McCormick is taking charge in the role of older brother, as two of his younger brothers, junior Connor, and freshman Brendan, also star for the Little Tigers.

“It’s fun, it’s different, it has never happened here before,” said McCormick. “It is just awesome when the three of us are out there together.”

The McCormick clan had a lot of fun last Thursday as PHS rolled to an 8-0 win over WW/P-S. Connor and Brendan each tallied two goals and two assists with Patrick chipping in a goal and two assists.

“Of course we have a connection on the ice,” said McCormick, reflecting on the family’s big night.

“We are always playing road hockey together, even in these temperatures. We will be raking leaves, and we take a 20-minute break to play free-for-all road hockey against each other.”

The McCormicks have been on the ice together for a long time. “Connor and I started playing together when we were real young,” said McCormick, noting that he took up hockey when he was around 5 or 6 at the IceLand Skating center through its Learn to Skate program.

“The funny thing was the little guy, Brendan, always wanted to come and play with us so that’s why I feel he is one of the stronger players on the ice out there. We used to be rough on him. There is a 7th grader brother, Ryan, and we rough him up the most. He is a tough, little kid, I will tell you that, he is trooper.”

PHS head coach Terence Miller knows his squad is a lot stronger due to the presence of the three McCormick brothers.

“It is fun, not only are they good players but they are great kids,” said Miller.

“Patrick as the senior, he is the captain and he takes the lead. Brendan and Connor are hard workers, very coachable. It is a real pleasure to have the three of them on the team this year. We have Brendan and Connor on the same line together and they have some nice chemistry working together on that line.”

Noting that the Little Tigers built on a 3-1 third period the day before in a 4-4 tie against WW/P-S, Miller was happy with the way his team pulled away against the Northern Knights.

“We came flat tonight; it took a few shifts for us to get our legs going a little bit,” said Miller, whose team topped Hopewell Valley 6-2 last Monday to improve to 5-0-1 with Brendan McCormick scoring three goals and Patrick McCormick contributing two assists.

“Once we got it going we were able to find a rhythm and we got a lot of guys some ice time. It is always fun to see guys get ice time.”

McCormick, for his part, believes that it is going to be a fun winter for PHS.

“We are sitting pretty but we haven’t faced our toughest teams,” said McCormick, who will look to keep up his hot play as PHS faces Pennington on December 19 at Mercer County Park and then hosts Cranford the next day at Baker Rink.

“If anything, I think it is good that we start off this way because it is preparing us for later in the season when we face those tougher teams. I am impressed with our effort, game after game. We are short on guys but we are always going as hard as we can, doing the best we possibly can.”

DRIVE THROUGH: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson drives past a foe in a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior star and Robert Morris University-bound Johnson scored a game-high 13 points as Hun defeated the Pennington School 51-17 to improve to 2-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DRIVE THROUGH: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson drives past a foe in a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior star and Robert Morris University-bound Johnson scored a game-high 13 points as Hun defeated the Pennington School 51-17 to improve to 2-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the first three years of her career with the Hun School girls’ basketball team, Johnnah Johnson used her height and strength to become a dominant inside force.

But this winter, the 6’1 senior is looking to diversify her game, having committed to play college basketball for Division I Robert Morris University.

“I am trying to take my game from just the post to the wing a little bit since I am not going to be a big person in college,” said Johnson, who is nearing the 1,000 point milestone in her Hun career as she has passed the 930 mark.

“I’ll be playing the 3-4 position so I am trying to work on my jump shots a little bit more than just my post moves and working to swing the ball to everybody else.”

Last Wednesday in a 51-17 romp over the Pennington School, Johnson showed her all around game as she hit some jumpers, ran the court well, and fired some deft passes.

“I was able to practice my moves and everything as well,” said Johnson, who scored a game-high 13 points in the victory as Hun improved to 2-1. “I also looked to pass the ball a little more than I usually do just so I can get some assists on the board and work on the high-low game.”

Coming off a tough 55-48 loss to Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 6, Hun was looking to get into a rhythm against Pennington.

“This was a time for us to get our groove back and use this to practice our plays and our defense,” said Johnson.

“I am really proud of everybody on the team. I am proud of Janelle Mullen, Amber Bourke, and Erica Dwyer, they really stepped up tonight and did a good job.”

Johnson believes that Robert Morris will be a good fit for her when she steps up to the college level.

“It wasn’t a very big school but I love it there,” said Johnson. “The campus is beautiful. It was a place where I could thrive and I could focus.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup likes the way Johnson has been focusing on becoming a more versatile player.

“She has been really working hard on the inside out game,” said Holup. “She gets it in the post and she will kick it to the other side and back out to the wing and that has been opening things up because we do have girls that can shoot from the perimeter.”

Even though Hun cruised to victory over Pennington, leading 21-2 after the first quarter and 36-4 at halftime, Holup saw room for improvement.

“For whatever reason, our shot wasn’t there today,” said Holup. “We did move the ball pretty well. It’s nice to get the win like that where everyone got a lot of playing time.”

Junior guard Erica Dwyer has been there for the Raiders this winter, averaging 10.3 points a game.

“I would say in the preseason, her shot was a little bit off but she has been hot for us in the first few games of the season and hopefully she will keep that up,” said Holup.

“We have just got to make sure that she maintains her dribble a little bit low and keeps her head up at all times. When she has been spotting up, her shot has been on and that has been very helpful in these first three games.”

Holup is hoping to see his team build on its promising 2-1 start. “We have only three games before we head into the break,” said Holup, whose team’s game against the Shipley School (Pa.) last Saturday was postponed, meaning that the Raiders were slated to wrap up the 2013 portion of their schedule by hosting Penn Charter (Pa.) on December 17 and then facing Allentown on December 21 in the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton event.

“Hopefully we ride that momentum because the competition is going to get stronger and stronger.”

Johnson, for her part, is primed to produce a strong finish to her Hun career, on and off the court, now that she has made her college choice and is free of the pressure that goes with the recruiting process.

“I can have a lot more fun this year, I don’t have to worry about my stats,” said Johnson.

“I can focus on my grades and school and everything and just enjoying my senior year.”

FREQUENT OCCURRENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Brad Stern (No. 3) celebrates with Jon Bendorf (No. 21) and Bobby Wurster (No. 20) after a goal in recent action. Senior defenseman Stern and the Raiders have been torrid offensively in the early going this season, averaging 9.5 goals a game as they have produced a 3-1 start.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FREQUENT OCCURRENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Brad Stern (No. 3) celebrates with Jon Bendorf (No. 21) and Bobby Wurster (No. 20) after a goal in recent action. Senior defenseman Stern and the Raiders have been torrid offensively in the early going this season, averaging 9.5 goals a game as they have produced a 3-1 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Brad Stern assisted on a second period tally to give the Hun School boys’ hockey team a 3-0 lead over visiting Calvert Hall last Friday, it looked like the Raiders had things under control.

But Calvert Hall responded by outscoring Hun 5-1 over the rest of the period to take a 5-4 lead into the last 15 minutes of regulation.

Stern acknowledged that the Raiders relaxed a bit after building the three-goal cushion.

“They had bus legs coming up from Maryland and we did let off a little bit,” said senior defenseman Stern.” We were very undisciplined, I would say, taking a lot of penalties.”

Coming into the third period, Hun was looking to tighten up. “The message after the second was lots of intensity, and lots of discipline,” recalled Stern. “We wanted controlled intensity.”

Displaying his intensity, Stern ripped a one-timer that classmate Spy Avgoustiniatos directed into the back of the net early in the third period to pull Hun even at 5-5.

“It was a good pass up from Alec Karanikolas and then I just shot it on,” said Stern.

“There was a good screen in front and it went right in. I did think we were going to win after that.”

Unfortunately, Hun took a string of penalties and yielded a goal with 2:17 left in regulation to fall 6-5 and taste defeat for the first time this season.

“It wears you down when you are shorthanded the whole game,” said Stern, who ended up with three assists on the game. “It is tough.”

With a roster containing four freshmen and five sophomores, Hun’s youth showed through in the defeat.

“We were flying a little high,” said Stern of the team’s 3-0 start which saw it outscore its foes 33-14. “It was like football games with us scoring 13 or 14 goals. We have a lot of young guys.”

Stern is looking to be a mentor to Hun’s group of newcomers. “It is a very, very different team so I have to lead by example and vocally on and off the ice,” said Stern. “I just keep up what Eric Szeker did last year when he was our captain.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally saw great leadership from Stern on the Calvert Hall game.

“Brad was awesome today; I told him that was one of the best games I have seen him play for us,” asserted McNally.

“It was not only the way he played but the way he led. Every time he was on the bench he was over talking to somebody in a positive way. He showed the most leadership I have seen from him. He had the on-ice game to back it up as well.”

In McNally’s view, his team can take some valuable lessons from the defeat to Calvert Hall.

“Unfortunately this is something that we needed,” said McNally, whose team plays at Gloucester Catholic on December 20 and then will be competing in the Purple Puck tournament from December 28-30 in Washington, D.C.

“We have been getting away with giving up eight goals and winning. It hasn’t bit us like this. Hopefully this is a wakeup call. We let them come back into the game and then in the third period we did turn it on. We were there, we were going to win the game and we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties that were consistently called the whole game. We need to be more disciplined. We are doing a lot of watching the puck. Every one of their goals was within five feet of the net and the guy who shot it was not contested at all.”

Hun’s group of freshmen, though, has scored plenty of goals right from the start.

“We have got Evan Barratt, who is an incredible, dynamic hockey player,” said McNally, who is also getting good play from two other newcomers, Blake Brown and Tanner Preston.

“He is very much a go-to guy on the team already. Jon Bendorf is lights out. Without those two guys, we would be in a much different situation in all of these games. We are pretty lucky to have those two.”

With a 3-1 start, Hun appears to be in a good situation going forward. “The energy is good,” said McNally. “The emotions are high but mostly in a good way. Everything is looking pretty good right now so we will keep hammering. The issues we have are easy to fix.

In Stern’s view, the Raiders are headed in the right direction. “We are jelling very well, we have good chemistry on the ice,” said Stern. “We are very optimistic. We just need to be grounded a little.”

LI WAY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Xin Li establishes inside position in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Li scored 13 points to help Hun top Princeton Day School 65-46 in a consolation contest at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament (PSIT). A day later, Li and the Raiders defeated Lawrenceville 73-45 to take fifth place at the PSIT and improve to 2-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LI WAY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Xin Li establishes inside position in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Li scored 13 points to help Hun top Princeton Day School 65-46 in a consolation contest at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament (PSIT). A day later, Li and the Raiders defeated Lawrenceville 73-45 to take fifth place at the PSIT and improve to 2-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Xin Li couldn’t speak English when he came to the Hun School from Qingdao, China in the fall of 2010.

But he did know how to play basketball and the powerfully built 6’5, 245-pound forward has grown into a key contributor for the Hun boys’ hoops team.

Early in his career, Li’s game was raw but his muscle and hustle made him a crowd favorite. This winter, Li has refined his game, developing a nice shooting touch to augment his physical play.

Last Saturday in a 65-46 win over Princeton Day School in a consolation contest at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament (PSIT), Li displayed his versatility.

Li scored 13 points, hitting some long range jump shots to go along with some good work down low as the Raiders pulled away from their crosstown rival.

With Hun having lost its first four games of the season coming into the contest, Li and his teammates were looking to make a statement.

“We just wanted to prove that we are a good team,” said Li, who grabbed five rebounds in the victory.

Li has put in extra effort to make himself a good player. “At high school, we have a good coach [Jon Stone] and he has always taught me to work hard every day and push myself,” said Li. “I can’t change my teammates but I can change myself.”

Combining with 6’8 senior forward Josh McGilvray and 6’7 post-graduate Remi Janicot, Li has helped give Hun a formidable inside game. “We have three big guys and we can shoot, dribble, and move faster than the defense,” said Li.

Hun head coach Jon Stone was glad to see his team move into the win column on Saturday.

“It is nice to get your first one,” said Stone. “It is definitely good to win. Hopefully we can come together a little bit as a team and continue to improve every game, that is our goal.”

Stone saw progress at both ends of the court in the victory over PDS. “I think some of our offensive execution was pretty good,” said Stone, whose team executed well on Sunday when it beat Lawrenceville 73-45 in the PSIT fifth place game to improve to 2-4 and will look to keep on the winning track as it competes in the Tip-Off Classic from December 21-22.

“We did a really good job of getting the ball inside. We did a pretty good job of sharing the ball as well offensively. The press was pretty good at times, especially in the second half. It worked well for us.”

Hun is getting some good work from Li. “He has the ability to score in different ways, he can do a lot of different things as well,” said Stone in assessing Li’s progress.

“He can really rebound. He is a big presence out there. From the time he first got here, he has improved so much. He is going to be a really good college player.”

Li, for his part, is looking to be an even bigger presence for the Raiders.

“I have to keep improving everyday,” said Li. “I need to open my mouth on defense.”

December 11, 2013
WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Spencer Weisz brought a reputation as a heady player to the table in joining the Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

During his senior season at Seton Hall Prep in 2012-13, Weisz averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals on the way to earning second-team New Jersey All-State honors.

Stepping into the starting lineup at Princeton from day one this season, Weisz has focused on honing his basketball IQ.

“I just wanted to come in and play within the offense and stay solid on defense,” said the 6’4, 180-pound Weisz, a native of Florham Park.

“I think the detailed scouting report helps a lot. The coaches do a great job of preparing us in the practices before games. It allows me to really understand what is going to come. The ability to know ahead of time really benefits myself and the team as a whole.”

Last Saturday, Weisz showed the benefits of that detailed preparation, achieving his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65 before 1,952 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming into the game, Weisz was looking to hit the boards. “I just want to stay aggressive offensively and defensively,” said Weisz, who is averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game in his debut campaign and was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his effort against FDU.

“I struggled with boxing out a little bit in the beginning but some of our key rebounders are out right now so you just want to step up and be where the opportunity is present.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson acknowledged that the precocious Weisz is progressing even faster than he had hoped.

“I knew he was a good player but I think I underestimated his ability to get to the rim and make tough layups,” said Henderson, whose team extended its winning streak and improved to 6-1 with the win over the Knights.

“What is important is that he listens. When we say this is important, he is right there with you. He doesn’t like it when you tell him he has done something wrong, which is a good thing. I say he is an underrated passer, he makes people better, similar to T.J. [Bray].”

With Princeton missing Bray and Jimmy Sherburne, who weren’t allowed to compete on Saturday due to violations of athletic department rules, it did a few things wrong against FDU as it went on a 12-3 run to build a 36-28 halftime lead and then started the second half by outscoring the Knights 21-10 to break the game open.

“I think they understood what we wanted them to do on offense and defense but they needed to be on the court to understand it,” said Henderson.

“I think that is when it started clicking. FDU does some tricky things on defense. You have to keep your composure which I thought we did nicely. Spencer was getting some drives to the basket and some kick-outs. I think it was just moving the ball.”

Junior forward Denton Koon was on the ball against the Knights, scoring 18 points with six rebounds and three assists.

“Denton established himself inside a few times and then we had a huge 3 from Denton in the corner which I thought was a really nice play,” said Henderson, whose team will look to keep on the winning track when it plays at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.

“I thought he was terrific tonight. It reminded me of Denton last year. He is a very, very difficult matchup. He banged two 3s, so he is versatile. I thought he brought a lot of balance to our team tonight. He had some huge offensive rebounds as well.”

Koon, for his part, gained rhythm from his work in the paint. “I had a lot of opportunities near the rim and I got myself going a little bit,” said Koon. “We had some open slips to the rim and that helps to get a couple  of easy looks.”

With Princeton off to its best start since the 1997-98 season, when it was 7-0 through seven games, Koon likes the way things are looking for the Tigers.

“We are moving the ball really well; I am excited with the way we are playing,” said Koon.

“Since I have been here, this is definitely the best we have felt early in the season. We are playing together, playing as a team; it just feels good. A lot of guys are contributing well to the system. We feel good about the way things are going right now.”

In Weisz’s view, the Tigers’ intelligent play in the second half against FDU exemplified the team’s ability to run its system.

“Everyone’s ability to see the floor and read cuts showed tonight,” said Weisz.

“I think that contributed a lot to the second half run. We were able to get some open 3s and some timely baskets and we were able to push the lead to a point where we didn’t want to let up but it was a little more comfortable.”

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Jaimie McDonell, her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team turned out to be a lost year.

McDonell tore a ligament in her knee before the 2012-13 season began. She was later diagnosed with a hip injury that required surgery. As a result, McDonell never saw a minute of playing time.

“I just tried to be a positive, supportive teammate the best I could even though I was a little miserable by myself,” said McDonell.

“I got back on the ice in the end of April, beginning of May. It wasn’t full contact until August.”

Back to full speed this season, sophomore forward McDonell has been a positive force for the Tigers, as she has scored nine points in four goals and five assists and is tied for third on the team in scoring.

McDonell is savoring her return to action. “Especially after an injury, it makes you so grateful for every time you get out there,” said McDonell. “You don’t realize how fast it can all go away. The seniors are starting to feel that now.”

Last Friday, McDonell helped Princeton get off to a fast start against Rensselaer as she scored a first period goal to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead on the way to a 4-1 victory.

In reflecting on her tally, McDonell acknowledged she was in the right place at the right time as she deflected the puck past the Rensselaer goalie.

“I saw [Ali] Pankowski taking a one-timer and I just braced myself a little bit,” recalled McDonell, a 5’8 native of East York, Ontario. “I was pretty confident from where it hit me.”

Bouncing back from losing two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota over Thanksgiving weekend, Princeton showed confidence against RPI from the opening face-off.

“We had our mindset, we knew what we wanted to do, we had a game plan and we just stuck to the basics and got the job done out there,” said McDonell of the Tigers who got the job done a day later as they completed a weekend sweep by topping Union 4-1.

“I think we set the tone in the first and we kept sticking to our game plan. We didn’t fall apart, we kept doing it and eventually we just kept going.”

While McDonell is thrilled to be doing well this season, she is quick to credit her linemates, junior Brianna Leahy and freshman Hilary Lloyd, with helping her produce.

“I feel good but it is also who I am playing with,” said McDonell. “My line is really clicking; I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wingers and defensemen.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the way his team clicked in the win over Rensselaer.

“We played solidly in the first and still played well as the game continued,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from Denna Laing and one from Olivia Mucha in the triumph.

“The shorthanded goal by Laing was huge and even the second one coming before the first period was up was big. I think that was just the second game all year that we have scored the first goal so that was a big goal, no question.”

Having McDonell on the ice this season has been a big plus for the Tigers. “We thought we would get Jaimie back by Christmas time last season but that didn’t happen so that was a bummer,” said Kampersal.

“She is a heart and soul player, she is a good kid in the middle. She works really hard. She has been consistently good for us all year.”

Senior captain Laing has been a consistent force all season long for Princeton.

“Denna played solid for us as well,” said Kampersal of his senior captain who now has a team-high 11 points on four goals and seven assists. “That shorthanded goal was good and she got that third one. She is a big, strong kid. She skates hard and she works hard. It takes a lot to bring her down. She is a player who has endurance and can last. She can play good strong minutes for us.”

Kampersal was hoping for a strong weekend from his team in its last action before a holiday hiatus.

“We need a strong day tomorrow and then we need a break,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the weekend at 7-6-2 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey and is next in action when it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.

“It will be nice to get a whole healthy lineup out there. The focus is just getting our power play better.”

McDonell, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“I think this could be a turning point in the season,” asserted McDonnell.

“After the past two weeks, we really needed to bounce back and show the league who we are and get back to how we were playing before. We had a rough patch, it is all about adversity.”

And McDonell certainly knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.

BOARD MEETING: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Spencer Reynolds, left, battles for the puck along the boards in action last week. Senior forward Reynolds has helped PHS get off to a 3-0 start under new head coach Terence Miller. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOARD MEETING: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Spencer Reynolds, left, battles for the puck along the boards in action last week. Senior forward Reynolds has helped PHS get off to a 3-0 start under new head coach Terence Miller. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High boys’ hockey team mustered only one goal on 15 shots against Hightstown in the first period last Thursday, Spencer Reynolds wasn’t concerned.

“We knew going in that they had a short bench so it was just a matter of wearing them down,” said PHS senior star Reynolds. “I think everything was clicking; we were getting shots on net.”

In the second period, Reynolds got some shots in the back of the net, tallying twice in a span of 3:18 as PHS jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back on the way to a 7-0 win.

“I definitely think that gave us some momentum,” said Reynolds, reflecting on his two tallies. “It got everyone fired up.”

A night later, the Little Tigers kept rolling as they topped Lawrence 5-2 to improve to 3-0.

In Reynolds’ view, getting three wins in the first week of the season has helped get PHS get into a rhythm.

“We can get a feel for each other and get some energy going,” said Reynolds, who scored a goal in the victory over Lawrence. “It is a lot easier coming back to practice when you are winning games. It is pretty tough when you are losing them.”

Reynolds is looking to give the Little Tigers a jolt in his senior year with the program.

“My role is bringing speed and energy,” said Reynolds. “I like to play physical but I like to keep myself in control. This is a last chance to make things happen.”

First-year PHS head coach Terence Miller likes the way Reynolds has been making things happen so far this season.

“Spencer has been skating well for us and has been moving his feet well,” said Miller.

“He was originally a defenseman but we moved him to forward. He has got really good speed and he is a great skater so we try to use his speed and that stuff on the forecheck and let him loose on the wing.”

In reflecting on the win over Hightstown, Miller had a feeling his team would eventually break loose from the Rams.

“As I told their coach, their goalie was lights out in the first period; he really stood on his head there and kept them in it,” said Miller. “We just had to keep pressing and stick to our guns. We weren’t trying to change anything. We just had to keep it simple. I told the guys we just had to get traffic in front of the net and keep firing away.”

Senior star defenseman Patrick McCormick got PHS fired up as he tallied the fourth goal in the win over Hightstown, skating end-to-end through the Rams and then flying through the air after his shot, a la Bobby Orr.

“Patrick brings that to the table,” said Miller. “He is always a threat to attack from the back end. That was a nice goal to help separate us from them there and build up that lead.”

A trio of freshmen, Tooker Callaway, Brendan McCormick, and Eamon McDonald, have gotten off to a nice start for the Little Tigers

“Tooker has done well; he is a big, strong kid,” said Miller. “He is a good skater; he has really helped solidify us on the back end there along the blue line. I think young Brendan McCormick has done well. Eamon McDonald at defenseman is another guy I have been happy with early on here.”

While it is very early in the season, Miller is happy with how PHS is looking. “We have to keep plugging along,” said Miller, whose team is slated to play WW/P-S on December 11, WW/P-N on December 12, and Hopewell Valley on December 16 with all three games to take place at the Mercer County Park rink.

“It is going to get tougher and tougher as we go along. We are going to have keep improving and stick to our guns; keeping it simple and playing hard. We have gotten our feet under us in the first two games. It is going to take some more time. We are off to a good start and we are just looking to keep it rolling.”

Reynolds, for his part, believes that the Little Tigers are going to have a good time this winter.

“I think we have just a few minor kinks that we have to work out and we will be able to build up some speed and make some more progress,” said Reynolds.

SISTERLY BOND: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice last winter. Junior star Herring and younger sister, freshman Maggie, should form a potent one-two punch for PHS this season. The Little Tigers open their 2013-14 campaign by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SISTERLY BOND: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice last winter. Junior star Herring and younger sister, freshman Maggie, should form a potent one-two punch for PHS this season. The Little Tigers open their 2013-14 campaign by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christian Herzog doesn’t wait to put his Princeton High girls’ hockey team under pressure.

“I like to start with Mo-Beard,” said PHS head coach Herzog, whose team will get its 2013-14 campaign underway by playing at perennial WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) power Morristown-Beard on December 11.

“They are at the top of the league and I want the girls to see the best so they know how hard they have to work.”

Herzog is expecting some good work this winter from his top forward line, which includes the Herring sisters, junior Lucy and freshman Maggie, along with sophomore Isabelle Sohn.

“The Herrings are dynamite together; they work well with each other,”said Herzog. “Lucy is looking really strong. I think Maggie is farther along as a freshman than Lucy was at the same point. I have Isabelle Sohn on the first line with them. I like that she is aggressive.”

PHS will need some aggressive play from its other forwards, which include senior Merritt Peck, senior Molly O’Brien, and junior Erin Forden.

“I will have Merritt Peck and Molly O’Brien on the second line, they are both hard workers,” said Herzog. “Erin Forden is also in the mix. I am looking at some others. We need somebody to be a finisher on that line.”

On defense, the Little Tigers can count on aggressive play from senior captain Kate Sohn and junior Julia DiTosto, who is returning to the ice after being sidelined last year due to injury.

“Kate is great for us as a leader,” asserted Herzog. “She gets everyone on the same page. She is very specific on instructions. Julia is looking good; it looks like she never missed a beat. She is a tough player.”

The PHS defensive corps should also include junior Britney Coniglione, sophomore Sophia Corrodi, and junior Marian Hancock-Cerutti.

“Coniglione will be another defenseman,” added Herzog, whose team will hold its home opener on December 13 at Baker Rink against the Portledge School (N.Y.).

“Corrodi plays with Nassau, she can skate. Hancock-Cerutti played some shifts in defense; I am thinking about using her there this year.”

As its last line of defense, PHS will be using sophomore Callie Urisko and senior Breanna Hegarty-Thorne at goalie.

“The goaltenders have both gotten better,” asserted Herzog. “Callie is getting into the butterfly style and she is good on angles. Breanna is aggressive, she will come out and make a run at you.”

Although PHS is coming off a winless campaign, Herzog believes the team can have a good run this winter.

“I don’t use the record to judge the season, the girls are very excited to play,” said Herzog. “I am looking forward to the season. The girls need to keep working hard, we need to keep pushing the envelope. We can’t let in early goals; that hurt us last year.”

While the Princeton High girls’ swimming team wasn’t pushed as it rolled to a 112-58 win over Robbinsville in its season opener last week, Greg Hand still saw the meet as an important test.

“Regardless of the opponent, I will always be looking for a certain few qualities in the team,” said longtime PHS head coach Hand, reflecting on the December 3 contest.

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

Freshman Melinda Tang made a nice debut in the win, earning victories in both 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle. Other victors for PHS in the meet included Jamie Liu in the 200 free, Madeleine Deardorff in the 100 butterfly, Brianna Romaine in the 100 free, and Belinda Liu in the 100 backstroke.

In Hand’s view, his core of senior swimmers will be there for the team all winter.

“We have a great crew of seniors who really understand what we want it to feel like and try to make that happen,” said Hand, whose Class of 2014 includes Belinda Liu, Taylor Chang, Lizzy Till, Kelsey Schwimmer, and Melanie Williams with Chiang, Liu, and Schwimmer serving as team captains for the program which went 13-1 last winter and won its first-ever county title.

“Those kids have been here since the beginning; they get it. It is not that you walk on the deck and say it is a Princeton practice, it is that within the team we know what we are doing better and better everyday we train and in every meet. So in this meet, we did stuff right. There were a lot of kids getting their first chance at high school swimming, regardless of their ability level.”

PHS boasts a solid group of freshman swimmers who are taking advantage of their chance to compete at the high school level.

“We have a really nice freshman class; there is quite a bit of depth,” said Hand, citing newcomers Tang, Jamie Liu, Maddie Troilo, and Maddie Whaley as swimmers who make an impact right away for the Little Tigers.

“Some kids have been club swimming for quite a while now and other kids have been swimming year-round, maybe a little younger in the sport and some kids who are high school only. They seem to be very hard workers and it was nice to see how excited they were about racing. That whole crowd seems really enthusiastic. In a couple of years, that will be the real center of gravity for the team. It is exciting to have that level of enthusiasm.”

It is exciting for PHS to have two sophomore stars in Deardorff and Romaine.

“They are just great competitors,” asserted Hand, whose team topped Lawrence 102-68 last Thursday and will face Hopewell Valley on December 12 in a meet taking place at the Pennington School pool.

“As committed as they are to becoming their best, they really maintain composure. Their nervousness is a positive nervousness. I think the other kids understand, whether they are older or younger, that these are two athletes to whom they can look to learn from on how to approach the sport.”

And based on how PHS approached its opener, the squad appears headed to another positive season.

MAKING WAVES: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Peter Kalibat powers to victory in a race last season. Senior Kalibat and a stellar group of classmates are looking to end their PHS careers with a bang. The Little Tigers, who have won three straight county crowns and five consecutive Public B Central Jersey titles, opened their 2013-14 season with a 131-39 win over Robbinsville last week.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING WAVES: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Peter Kalibat powers to victory in a race last season. Senior Kalibat and a stellar group of classmates are looking to end their PHS careers with a bang. The Little Tigers, who have won three straight county crowns and five consecutive Public B Central Jersey titles, opened their 2013-14 season with a 131-39 win over Robbinsville last week. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2012, a stellar group of seniors helped the Princeton High boys’ swimming team make history as it went undefeated and won the program’s first-ever state title.

That group of seniors, which included such standouts as Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, Harun Filipovic, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, and Victor Honore, ended their careers with a bang, setting eight team records in 11 events as they routed Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the state Public B championship meet.

This winter, PHS boasts another group of seniors who have the potential to make some history of their own.

The team’s Class of 2014 which includes such stalwarts as Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Will Stange, Matt Tam, and Colburn Yu, went 15-1 last year, winning the program’s third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey title.

While PHS head coach Greg Hand isn’t forecasting another state title, he acknowledges that his veterans could do some special things.

“This year is going to test them,” said Hand. “As good as they are, this will be their chance, just as the seniors a couple of years ago had their chance, not to win the championship, I don’t mean the external, that would be great, but to become a kind of team that really produced their very best effort when we needed it.”

Opening its season against Robbinsville last week, PHS produced an outstanding effort as it posted a 131-39 win. The seniors helped lead the way for the Little Tigers as Stange won the 200 individual medley, Purdy placed first in the 500 freestyle, and Tam won the 100 breaststroke. Other victors for PHS included Alex Bank in the 200 free, Alex Petruso in the 50 free, Gabriel Bar-Cohen in the 100 butterfly, and Matthew Shanahan in the 100 backstroke.

“This meet showed some understanding of what the team wants to be about,” said Hand. “Regardless of the opponent, it is a question of do we understand what kind of team we are going to have to be if we have even a shot, even a glimmer of a possibility of being a county champion or a sectional champion, let alone a state champion. So it is really important that these guys show each other that they understand if we get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ll be finished early. I like what I saw today, there was a lot of good positive team spirit.”

PHS is expecting some positive contributions from a crop of promising freshman swimmers.

“Alex Petruso, Will Kinney, Gabriel Bar-Cohen are three kids who are serious club swimmers,” said Hand. “Jaime Schettini has been in club for a little while now. Club says a lot, it shows how much you love the sport and how committed you are to taking the time necessary. If you come to the high school environment, valuing the team, which all of these guys are doing, then good things are going to happen.”

The committed group of seniors is determined to do big things in their final campaign.

“We couldn’t have a better set of role models than the experienced guys,” asserted Hand, whose team topped Lawrence 117-53 last Thursday and will face Hopewell Valley on December 12 in a meet taking place at the Pennington School pool.

“The thing about the seniors is that everybody has improved, everybody has been working hard, and I mean for the last nine months. We have four captains in Stange, Kalibat, Purdy, and Tam. Matt Tam is such a contributor to this team, he swam a PR in the breaststroke tonight. There are meets in which that wouldn’t necessarily score but he won it tonight. What he brings is an absolutely indomitable spirit, a positive approach to things, and a willingness to be enthusiastic when other people might be a little bit timid about it. It is a huge ingredient in our success I think.”

Featuring those seniors along with some precocious newcomers, PHS should enjoy huge success this winter.

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton looks for an opening in action last weekend at the program’s Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Clayton came up big as PDS topped Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 in the title game. It was the third straight title for the Panthers at the event.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton looks for an opening in action last weekend at the program’s Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Clayton came up big as PDS topped Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 in the title game. It was the third straight title for the Panthers at the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team posted a 6-4 win over Rye Country Day (N.Y.) last Friday in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at Lisa McGraw Rink, the Panthers weren’t pleased with their performance.

“Coach [Scott Bertoli] gave it to us a little after yesterday’s game, saying that we are not playing to our potential at all right now,” said PDS star senior defenseman and assistant captain Andrew Clayton.

“When we play better teams we play up. The opposite is true as well; I think we played down to the other team a little bit yesterday. When you play less competitive teams, you get away from the simple things and you try to do too much which ends up hurting you a lot.”

A day later, the Panthers displayed plenty of competitive fire as they defeated Moses Brown School (R.I.) 4-0 to earn their third straight title at the event, which is in its 44th year.

“It was so much different, we played with energy and passion,” said Clayton, reflecting on the team’s performance which saw it outshoot Moses Brown 43-18 and break the game open with three goals in the second period.

“Yesterday, we were just flat, we played terrible in our defensive zone. Today was much better. When you are playing for a championship, there is extra motivation. We were just better all the way around.”

PDS brought special motivation into the title game as they wanted to please the legendary Rulon-Miller, a former Panther coach and rink manager, who was a constant presence at the tourney all weekend long.

“We always seem to not play too great in the first game and then we come back,” said Clayton.

“We want to win for Harry, he is great for the school and he does everything for us. It means a lot for us to win.”

Clayton wants to perpetuate the program’s storied tradition.

“I have been on this team for a while now; we have been so successful so you want to keep that going,” said Clayton.

“No matter who we have out there, we know we can compete with anyone and win games. When you see kids from last year, they really do still care. They come back and they text us after every game, asking us how we are doing. It’s not just for us, it’s for the alumni who have played in the past.”

Clayton has raised the level of his game. “I think I am just more confident with the puck,” said Clayton, who had two goals in the win over Rye and added an assist in the title game.

“The coaches have faith in me and that always helps. I am better with the tempo and being able to skate with the puck.”

PDS head coach Bertoli liked the tempo he saw from his players in the title game.

“I was pretty critical of the performance yesterday and this was a complete 180, I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played,” said Bertoli, who got two goals apiece from senior Lewie Blackburn and junior Will Wright in the victory over Moses Brown.

“You are always happy with a result that ends up in your favor but I think the way we went about our business, the way we played, the way we competed to play at that level this early is exciting. Hopefully, it bodes well.”

The Panthers played better as a unit against Moses Brown. “I thought that we got a little selfish yesterday,” said Bertoli.

“We tried to do too many things individually and played one-on-one. I thought we made a conscious effort today of just simplifying it and supporting one another and playing hard hockey; winning 50/50 battles.”

Bertoli was proud of the effort he got from unsung heroes Wright and Blackburn.

“Some guys stepped up and scored goals who hadn’t scored goals before,” noted Bertoli.

“Will Wright scored two goals and those are his first two high school goals. He is usually on third line. Today with Kyle Weller not here, he steps in and plays on the top line and they really don’t miss a beat. Lewie has also stepped up, I think those were his first two goals of the year. His line has been great. Connor Fletcher, Johnny Egner, and Lewie play the way they need to play. They grind it out, they get involved in the cycle down low. They are all talented enough to score goals. It was nice to see them get rewarded like that.”

The Panthers got nice defensive play from its defensive unit, led by Clayton and classmate C.J. Young.

“The defense was getting way too involved in the offense and today I think  they simplified and supported each other,” said Bertoli.

“Our breakouts and defense-to-defense play, the way we made decisions leaving the zone was completely different from yesterday. It allows our forwards to handle pucks in the middle of the rink and create offensive opportunities. Andrew and C.J. are the two guys that we count on to lead the way, they were good today as were the other four guys.”

Freshman goalie Logan Kramsky handled himself well between the pipes in the title game, making 18 saves to earn the shutout.

“The kid in net makes timely saves when he needs to,” said Bertoli of Kramsky.

“He didn’t get tested a lot but there were points in the game and in every game where you rely on those guys to make critical saves and keep momentum going in your favor. He did that again today. He’s good. He plays a high level of travel hockey. You can tell that he has been well coached. Fundamentally, the kid is flawless. He competes like heck and he wants to be in there.”

Drawing inspiration from Rulon-Miller, the Panthers displayed the brand of hockey that could make them a force in the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) which includes Lawrenceville, Hill School (Pa.), Portledge School (N.Y.), LaSalle College High (Pa.), and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).

“Harry is a fixture around here; he means everything to this hockey program and this school and we were proud to not only win but to play the way we did today,” said Bertoli, whose team improved to 3-0 and hosts Morristown High on December 12 and Bishop Eustace School on December 17.

“It’s not that I don’t care about the result but I am more concerned about the process and how we played at the end of the day. Playing the important games in our league and the tournaments that we have ahead of us, we need to elevate the level of our play to compete against these top schools. I was happy to see, not only that we won and got a piece of hardware, but we played the right way.”

Clayton, for his part, knows that the Panthers will have to compete hard every game in order get more hardware.

“Our schedule is about to ramp up and get a lot tougher,” said Clayton. “We know how we played today and we know how we need to play to be successful. We just need to do that a little more consistently and not every other game or  every third game. We need to bring that energy to every game.”

ROCKING ROBIN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Robin Linzmayer controls the puck in action last weekend in the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink. On Sunday, senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer scored two goals as PDS defeated the Princeton Tiger Lilies 5-1 to win the tournament. The Panthers, now 3-0, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Pingry on December 11 and play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROCKING ROBIN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Robin Linzmayer controls the puck in action last weekend in the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink. On Sunday, senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer scored two goals as PDS defeated the Princeton Tiger Lilies 5-1 to win the tournament. The Panthers, now 3-0, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Pingry on December 11 and play at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team hadn’t won its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational since 2002, a drought that Robin Linzmayer and her senior classmates were determined to end.

“I have been on this team for four years and every year all of the seniors say we are going to win this year because we haven’t won it for so long,” said star defenseman and team captain Linzmayer.

“We are the seniors this year so we were the ones that were — OK we are winning. This is our last chance.”

After defeating the Quarry Cats 4-0 in the opening round on Saturday, PDS had its chance for the title as it faced the Princeton Tiger Lilies in the championship game on Sunday morning at PDS’s Lisa McGraw Rink.

But with the elusive crown in sight, the Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the second period. But picking up its game, PDS responded with goals by Carly King and Linzmayer to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.

“You could tell as a group that we really wanted to win, especially between the second and third period when we came into the locker room,” said Linzmayer, whose fellow seniors include Mary Travers, Abby Sharer, Mimi Matthews, and Colby Triolo.

“We all went around talking about what we thought we could improve on in the game. You could definitely see the shift in the way the girls skated faster, went harder to the puck, and just put in that extra bit of effort to make it happen.”

The Panthers made things happen in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away to a 5-1 triumph.

The breakthrough prompted a raucous post-game celebration as the PDS players hugged on the ice and posed for multiple team pictures in front of their goal with their hard earned trophy.

“I am really excited,” said a grinning Linzmayer “It took the team 11, 12 years and it took us three but I am glad we ended it on this note. I hope the underclassmen can keep it up and maybe it will be we haven’t lost in 10 years.”

Linzmayer strives to keep the team’s intensity up when she is on the ice.

“As a defenseman I am looking to be positive,” explained Linzmayer. “If I keep my feet moving, others will do the same. How I see it working in sports is that there is a lot of momentum shift from player to player. So if I can set the standard and get kids going, that is awesome because that is exactly what I am looking to do.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook knows exactly what she is going to get from Linzmayer on a daily basis.

“Robin is consistent, she always comes and plays hard,” said Cook. “We have been working to get all the forwards helping out with our defense so the defenseman can be more aggressive in the offensive zone. I thought we did a good job of that today, which allowed Robin to take more control.”

Cook acknowledged that it took a while for the Panthers to take control of the title contest against a gritty Tiger Lilies squad.

“We were fortunate that we escaped the first period still scoreless,” said Cook.

“I think we came out flat. The girls were so excited that it took a little while to get things cooking. Carly picking up that first goal was huge, just to get one past her and get that momentum going and then getting the power play goal after that. The flurry of goals in the third period was great to see. Once they felt more comfortable working the puck around the offensive zone, they created more chances and got more shots.”

PDS got some great contributions across the board in the victory. “I thought Kristi [Serafin] did a better job towards the end of the game moving the puck on the rush,” said Cook, who got good goalie play from freshman Annika Asplundh along with junior Katie Alden, the PDS recipient of the Christopher Reeve Sportsmanship Award for the tournament

“Colby [Triolo] and Mary [Travers] did a good job as wingers getting up the ice. Daphne [Stanton] is always impressive, she is always so positionally sound. Emma [Stillwaggon] is dealing with an injury and took a stick to the neck. She is always beat up because of the way she plays; she is smaller and she plays tough. She battles hard and she did a really good job covering for our defense. She had a goal, that was a big one.”

It was big for the Panthers to finally achieve their breakthrough at the invitational. “It is great; the boys winning last year and this year puts some extra pressure on us,” said Cook, whose team improved to 3-0 with the win on Sunday.

“It is really nice to come away with a win. I thought the past two years, they have played really well in the tournament so it has been close. It is really nice to finally seal the deal today.”

In assessing her team’s hot start, Cook sees progress on and off the ice.

“Aside from the first period and a half today, they have looked really good,” said Cook, whose team hosts Pingry on December 11 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 16.

“They have created a lot of chances; they have moved the puck well. They are a really close team and you can see that in practices and games. We have really high expectations for this group. It is a lot of pressure but it is a lot of fun.”

Linzmayer, for her part, is looking forward to having a lot more fun this winter. “We get along really well; I am sure we are going to grow closer as the season goes along,” said Linzmayer.

“The seniors and the upperclassmen in general are all doing a great job bringing the team together. We have a lot of talent on the team, we have got a lot of work ethic. It looks like we are going to have a good season.”

FORD FOCUS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider dribbles upcourt in a game last winter. Shooting guard Schneider is one of nine seniors on the PDS squad who will be looking to end their careers with a bang. The Panthers, who opened their season with a 65-46 loss to Pennington on Monday, are next in action when they compete in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORD FOCUS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider dribbles upcourt in a game last winter. Shooting guard Schneider is one of nine seniors on the PDS squad who will be looking to end their careers with a bang. The Panthers, who opened their season with a 65-46 loss to Pennington on Monday, are next in action when they compete in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having ended his Princeton Day School boys’ basketball career last winter with a program record 2,102 points, Davon Reed can’t be replaced.

But while superstar guard Reed, who is currently starring at the University of Miami, will be sorely missed by the Panthers, he has left a legacy of success that PDS plans to build on this winter.

“Obviously when you lose a player like Davon, there is going to be a void to fill,” said PDS head coach Paris McLean of Reed, who helped the Panthers go 19-8 last winter and make their second straight appearance in the state Prep B title game.

“The players returning have played two or three years of varsity ball, they are ready for their moment and they deserve their moment. Davon will tell you and the returners will tell you that our program is not one player.”

The Panthers boast two talented and battle-tested players at guard in seniors Langston Glaude and Deante Cole.

“Langston and Deante both came in bigger, stronger, and faster; they had great summers and are really showing good leadership,” said McLean, whose team started the 2013-14 season by losing 65-46 to Pennington last Monday. “They have been looking as great as a two guard combination. Langston has a mid-range game and can attack the rim. Deante has really improved as a facilitator and handling game management.”

The Panthers have some other veterans in the backcourt who can handle themselves in a trio of seniors, Ford Schneider, Zach Banks, and Brandon Glover along with junior Josiah Meekins.

“Ford Schneider has been fantastic, he had some great games last year and he is building off of his junior year,” said McLean. “Zach has been great, he is going to have a role, we will need him to relieve Langston and Deante. He knows our system. Meekins and Glover are similar players but they have a different dynamic.”

Freshman Chase Lewis figures to be a dynamic newcomer this winter. “Chase Lewis is ready to step in and play,” said McLean. “He has a great outside shot and he can finish. He has a good confidence, he doesn’t get deterred like some young players do. He really wants to learn and has been taking the opportunity to learn from our senior leaders.”

McLean is looking for two seniors, Chris Okorodudu and Dan Lee, to be leaders in the frontcourt.

“We need Chris to step up,” said McLean. “He can shoot and finish at the rim. He is long on defense and can disrupt passing lanes. With some consistency, he can be a force. Dan Lee has looked good in the preseason. He is attacking the basket more. He is learning that less is more and to do straight drives. He can get on the glass.”

Two newcomers to the varsity team, junior J.P. Radvany and senior Ben Levine, should give the Panthers additional strength on the glass.

“J.P. Radvany is a great addition; he played his first year and then took sophomore year off to concentrate on baseball,” said McLean.

“He is around 6’4 and 200 pounds. He has the ability to get out and run in the open court. He is not afraid to mix it up. He will do the dirty work and the little things. Ben Levine has worked his way through the program, he will give us minutes off the bench. He is physical and will block people out.”

In McLean’s view, PDS has the ability to do some good things this winter.

“This is a group that can produce a lot,” said McLean, whose team is next in action when it competes in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 13-15.

“We need to play a team-oriented game. We need to take better care of the ball on offense, we need to limit teams to one shot and control the defensive boards. I think we are going to surprise some people. We have nine seniors, this is their moment. They have worked hard to reach this point. It has been a great three years and they can end with a great fourth year. They want to finish what they have started.”

PASSING GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell passes the ball in action last winter. Junior guard Bell figures be a key performer for Stuart this winter as the Tartans look to improve on the 2-13 record they posted last season. Stuart tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING GAME: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell passes the ball in action last winter. Junior guard Bell figures be a key performer for Stuart this winter as the Tartans look to improve on the 2-13 record they posted last season. Stuart tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Dana Leary heads into her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School basketball team, she feels that the program is headed in the right direction.

“We are still in a period of rebuilding; we are starting further ahead than we were last year,” said Leary, who guided the Tartans to a 2-13 record last winter in her debut campaign.

“I have six returners; they understand my system and they understand the expectations. I am expecting more progress this year from us.”

Leary is expecting big things from her frontcourt trio of senior Maggie Walsh, junior Nneka Onukwugha, and sophomore Kate Walsh, Maggie’s younger sister.

“Maggie Walsh is a senior, she is a great leader and role model,” said Leary. “She is very fundamentally sound offensively and defensively. We are working with her to be more aggressive offensively. Nneka and Kate give us an inside presence. They provide great height and strong post play, Kate has showed a lot of growth and improvement. She is more aggressive offensively, she is looking to attack the basket.”

In the backcourt, sophomore Harley Guzman has shown a lot of growth at point guard.

“In the middle of last season she took over the role of point guard and did a good job,” said Leary, whose team opens the 2013-14 season by playing at Villa Victoria on December 11.

“She embraced it last year and stepped up. She is familiar with the position now and has improved offensively and defensively. She has developed into a point guard. She can handle the ball well and we have talked to her about improving her decision-making. She is more confident this year.”

Leary has confidence in two other veterans at guard, junior Harlyn Bell and sophomore Rose Tetnowski. “Harlyn Bell has emerged as a leader this year,” said Leary, who will also be using a quartet of freshmen Milan Kainer, Julia Kahn, Ally McGowen, and Vanessa Williams in the backcourt.

“She plays mostly as guard but she has the ability to give us depth in the post. She is a player who I think is really going to step up for us this year. Rose Tetnowski is versatile, she can play both guard positions. I want to see her more in the ‘2’ role this year.”

Stuart will look to play sharper this winter. “We emphasize developing the fundamentals and understanding of the game on a daily basis,” said Leary.

“We need to take better care of the ball on offense and we need to be more aggressive defensively. We played mainly zone last year, this year we want to have more options and give our opponents different looks.”

In Leary’s view, her players possess the mentality to apply those lessons. “It is a very coachable team, they have a desire to learn,” said Leary. “They have great team spirit; they are good teammates to one another.”

December 4, 2013
ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team opened its season last month, T.J. Bray cut a forlorn figure.

The senior captain and star guard was sidelined due to a fractured hand suffered during the preseason and sat grim-faced  on the bench wearing a cast.

Despite being out of action, Bray was able to stay sharp as he recovered from the injury. “I did a lot of conditioning with our strength and conditioning coach when I had my cast on,” said Bray.

“I got my cast off a couple of Wednesdays ago and I was able to start slowly doing things then. I have probably been playing 1-on-0 for about a week now. In terms of live stuff, it has been less than a week. I put a lot of time in over the summer so I didn’t lose too much of that.”

Bray returned to action for limited duty in a 70-56 win over Rice on November 23 and then showed a hot hand three days later in a 71-66 victory over visiting George Mason. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray hit on 7-of-10 shots for a team-high 18 points.

“It was obviously one of my better games as a player here,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc.  who passed for a career-high 10 assists in the victory over the Patriots and had six rebounds and no turnovers in the win as he achieved his first career double-double.

“My teammates were great too, they were knocking down shots which makes my job easy. I know if I throw it to them, they are going to catch it and make a good play. They help me out so much.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no bones about how much it helps the Tigers to have Bray back on the court. “I thought he was just terrific,” said Henderson of Bray, who scored 15 points and had a career-high nine rebounds in a 66-53 win at Bucknell last Saturday and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“Once again he had a line that I would have dreamed of having as a player here. I always wanted to have lots of assists and no turnovers. This is a helluva of a line including the last shot to put us up four which I thought was just huge. We missed T.J. in our first few games and I am really happy to have him back.”

In assessing Bray’s strengths, Henderson pointed to his versatility. “T.J. is taking the ball out of bounds; he has got energy to play another half or two,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 5-1 with the win over Bucknell and will look to extend a four-game winning streak when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.

“He is coming up with huge rebounds, he is telling everybody what to do. He makes a huge shot going to his right off the glass and he is a lefty. He just does a little bit of everything and I am glad he is on our team.”

Bray’s court vision is possibly his best attribute, in Henderson’s opinion. “He sees the game, he sees things,” said Henderson. “I don’t think you have to teach somebody that, I think you just show them what to look for.”

Henderson liked what he saw from his team collectively as it held off a George Mason charge that saw the visitors tie the game at 66-66 after trailing 40-23 at halftime. “I am never comfortable with a lead, I knew they were going to come at us,” said Henderson, who got offensive balance against the Patriots as Ben Hazel scored 14 points with Hans Brase adding 12 and Denton Koon chipping in 10.

“They just started going to the rim. I think with the way the games are called now, you have got to be prepared for that. We got into some foul trouble with Hans and all of a sudden the lead starts to chip away. I really liked that we maintained some aggressiveness. One team becomes very aggressive and the other team has to match that aggressiveness and I thought we did that nicely at the end of the game, including making a huge couple of stops there defensively.”

Bray, for his part, sensed that Princeton could outfight George Mason in crunch time.

“I have played in enough games here that it has happened before,” said Bray. “It was nice that we were able to come out on top. I knew that we had to keep battling and that’s what we did. We were able to get some nice buckets inside. Coach drew up some great plays. If we just kept battling, I knew we would be on the right side of things at the end of the game.”

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Alex Wheatley, moving into the starting lineup for the Princeton University women’s basketball team this winter has given her an increased sense of urgency.

“That is different, that is fun,” said the 6’2 sophomore from Upper Holland. Pa. reflecting on her promotion which comes in the wake of a freshman season that saw her come off the bench in all 29 of her appearances. “It makes you be ready for when the whistle first blows.”

Wheatley and her four classmates on the team put in extra time as they prepared to make a bigger contribution this winter.

“We all worked a lot over the summer and really tried to get stronger in preparation for this year,” said Wheatley, whose fellow sophomores include Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, and Taylor Williams.

“Just mentally, not being freshman, I think it helps to be able to run the plays and to understand the game a little bit better on defense. I am really trying to bring something new to the team.”

Last week, Wheatley brought a lot to the Tigers in a 74-65 loss to St. Joseph’s as she scored a team-high 14 points and contributed three rebounds and two assists.

“I was happier with how I played,” said Wheatley. “I have a lot more to work on, but just like the game for the team, I thought it was a step forward for me.”

Wheatley acknowledged that the Tigers need to step things up at the defensive end. “I think defensively we need to communicate more,” said Wheatley. “St. Joe’s is a very good team. They shot really well, they are very good at moving on offense with screens and all of that. We were learning as we went.”

The Tigers have been good learners as they strive to get on the right page in the wake of losing four starters to graduation.

“I think we are getting better with every practice,” said Wheatley. “I think we have good chemistry. I love my teammates.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart saw improvement in her squad against St. Joe’s, even in defeat.

“I like where we are today based on where we were on Saturday,” said Banghart. “We were much better at getting the ball inside. We were much more aggressive off the dribble. We are getting the ball out in transition better. They have made major steps from last Saturday and last Tuesday’s games.”

The Tigers do have to get much better on defense. “Defensively, there is not a lot of trust yet,” said Banghart.

“It starts with yourself, trusting that you can guard off the dribble and then next to that is trusting that your teammates will be there. We are just not there defensively yet but I would rather know that now. There is lots of time to fix it and they have to see it.”

Banghart acknowledges that she has yet to figure out her best lineup. “I would say we are still trying to find the right combinations,” said Banghart, whose team headed to Oregon last weekend where it topped Portland State 94-76 in Saturday before falling 110-90 to the University of Oregon a day later in moving to 3-4.

“We are still trying to find what the matchups are. We don’t have our fighting eight, we are kind of a fighting vague 10.”

Although the Tigers may be still be trying to find themselves, they haven’t lost the fighting spirit that has helped the program win four straight Ivy League titles.

“I think there is a little bit of a heavy heart because they don’t like to lose,” said Banghart of the Tigers who will stay on the road as they play at Navy on December 6.

“I think fortunately with this group, that hunger to get better overrides the heavy heart. This is no reason to hang your heads. I told them if you wanted to win a guaranteed 20 games, I should have scheduled differently. I care about being really good in January with a really young team.”

Wheatley, for her part, isn’t fazed by the challenging slate of non-conference games.

“I think, like coach is saying, our schedule is one that give us experience, not necessarily wins,” said Wheatley.

“They are meant to be tough games and we are supposed to get better after every one. We still have games left in the preseason and we are going to give them our all.”

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University men’s water polo team had the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship tournament in late November circled on its calendar from day one.

“We were excited; our whole season is geared to those three days,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team entered the tourney, formerly known as the Eastern Championship, seeded sixth and ranked 18th nationally.

The Tigers produced an exciting opening day at the competition held at Brown University as they topped Iona 16-12 and then edged Harvard 9-7 to reach the semifinals.

“The Iona win was good; we had two games that day and we wanted to get an early lead so we could play some of our other guys and give the top 10 players a rest,” said Nicolao, who got nine goals on the day from sophomore star Thomas Nelson and a total of four from junior standout and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg.

“We knew we were in for a dogfight in the second game; Harvard played really well. We were flat in the first half; our shots weren’t going in. I give Harvard credit, that was due to the way they were playing. We started playing better in the second half and we were able to pull it out.”

In the semis, the Tigers faced a nemesis in third-seeded Navy, who had topped Princeton 12-10 in the semifinals of the Southern Championship.

“There were five to eight teams that could win the title and Navy was one of them,” said Nicolao, a former Navy star.

“They had a great weekend at Southerns. They are a deep team and they are good swimmers. It was the fourth time we played them and we were 2-1.”

With Nelson tallying four goals, including the game winner, the Tigers were able to edge the Midshipmen 9-8.

“We wanted to control tempo and keep them from getting into their run and gun game,” said Nicolao. “The fourth quarter could have gone either way and we were lucky to get out of that.”

Princeton’s luck ran out in the final against St. Francis College Brooklyn as the Tigers lost 11-9, falling short of earning the NCAA berth at stake in the contest.

“That was just a battle; they shoot the ball so well and they have one of the best goalies in the country,” said Nicolao, who got two goals from Nelson in the final with Hoffenberg adding a goal and two assists and freshman Jovan Jeremic tallying three goals.

“We wanted to keep it a low-scoring game and have it even in the second half and then hope to wear them down with our conditioning. It was 9-9 with three and a half minutes left, whoever got the next goal was going to win. We made a mistake and they capitalized.”

While Princeton ended the tournament on a down note, Nicolao had high praise for his players.

“I am really proud of our guys,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the fall with a 22-6 record.

“Our goal each year is to get to the eastern championship game and play for the NCAA bid. We know anything can happen when you get to that game. We just came up just a little short this time.”

The team’s group of seniors, co-captain Kurt Buchbinder, Matt Pugliese, A.J. Galainena, Alex Rafter, Constantine Nakos, Ben Dearborn, and Tyler Amina, have made some good things happen for Princeton over their careers.

“We have a large number of them and they won a championship and played in two finals,” said Nicolao, reflecting on his senior class. “They did a lot for the program. Kurt was a great leader, he was a positive kid.”

With such returning players as Nelson, Hoffenberg, Kayj Shannon, Sam Butler, Jovan Jeremic, Jamie Kuprenas, Curtis Fink, and Alex Gow, the Tigers have the potential to do some great things in the future.

“I am really excited,” said Nicolao, who has guided the Tigers to three Eastern titles (2004, 2009, 2011).

“In the years past when we won the title it was precede by a tough loss in the finals. I am hoping we can springboard this to a title. We just need to do that little extra.”

BROTHER ACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor ­McCormick, left, waits for the puck in action last season. The junior star is one of three McCormick bothers on the team along with senior Patrick and freshman Brendan. The ­McCormick brothers helped the Little Tigers get off to a good start last Monday under new head coach Terence Miller as PHS opened the season with a 11-0 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers are next in action when they face Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BROTHER ACT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Connor ­McCormick, left, waits for the puck in action last season. The junior star is one of three McCormick bothers on the team along with senior Patrick and freshman Brendan. The ­McCormick brothers helped the Little Tigers get off to a good start last Monday under new head coach Terence Miller as PHS opened the season with a 11-0 win over Nottingham. The Little Tigers are next in action when they face Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Terence Miller boasts a wealth of experience around the Princeton High boys’ hockey team as he takes the helm of the program this winter.

“I have been an assistant coach for six of the last seven years,” said new PHS head coach Miller, who is succeeding Tim Campbell.

“I know all the guys. I played for the program; it really makes it special. I am familiar with the school, program, and the CVC.”

As a result of Miller’s ties to the program, the transition has been smooth.

“It is a good group,” said Miller, who guided the Little Tigers to a 11-0 win over Nottingham last Monday in his debut as PHS looks to build on the 10-9-1 record posted last season.

“They know my coaching style. They know what we expect. PHS has a strong tradition in the CVC; we take pride in playing the game the right way.”

PHS features some strong offensive threats at forward in junior John Reid, junior Jackson Andres, freshman Brendan McCormick, sophomore Nathan Drezner, and senior Spencer Reynolds.

“John Reid will be depended on to contribute as well as Jackson Andres,” said Miller, who will also be using Chris Munoz and Anthony Trainer at forward.

“Brendan McCormick will be a good player for us. Nathan Drezner is bigger and better, he will be a top six forward for us. Spencer Reynolds will be in the mix. He played defenseman before and is a strong, fast skater.”

The older McCormick brothers, senior Patrick and junior Connor, will spearhead the PHS defense.

“We had to move Connor McCormick to defense because we lost Harrison Naylor; he will be paired with his brother Patrick,” said Miller, whose team faces Hightstown on December 5 and Lawrence on December 6 with both games slated to be played at Mercer County Park.

“Patrick is our engine, he is a four-year starter, He is a good leader, he is our quarterback. He can get into the rush, I am looking for him to give us a Brian Leetch or Bobby Orr imitation.”

Miller will also be using a pair of freshmen, Tooker Callaway and Eamon McDonald on the blue line.

“Tooker Callaway is third on the depth chart, he will see some minutes,” added Miller. “He is a big kid. Eamon McDonald is the fourth defenseman.”

At goalie, the Little Tigers will feature a tandem of senior Robert Quinn and freshman Sawyer Peck.

“Robert is looking good; he has gotten better,” said Miller. “He doesn’t have years of goalie experience so he is a little raw. He is a very good athlete. Peck is right there with him; they are neck and neck right now. That is probably my biggest decision. Robert is a senior but we want to get Sawyer as many minutes as possible as he is the goalie of the future for us.”

With his deep ties to the program, Miller will be looking to maintain the hallmarks of the PHS style.

“We will play a defensive-type of system; we are not going to be run and gun,” said Miller.

“We will be a tight checking team. We will pick our spots offensively and look to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes. We will defend as a unit. We will try to keep the games tight. We want to play disciplined. We have never been the biggest team. We usually have two lines, two-three good defensemen and a scrappy goalie; that is our identity.”

TON OF FUN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton goes after a puck in a game last season. PDS will be looking to senior defenseman Clayton to be a key performer this winter. The Panthers, who went 21-3-1 last year and shared the state Prep championship, were slated to start their season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then host the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TON OF FUN: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Andrew Clayton goes after a puck in a game last season. PDS will be looking to senior defenseman Clayton to be a key performer this winter. The Panthers, who went 21-3-1 last year and shared the state Prep championship, were slated to start their season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then host the program’s annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, a stellar group of nine seniors sparked the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey to a memorable campaign as the Panthers went 21-3-1 and shared the state Prep championship.

While PDS will miss its Class of 2013, those players have left a legacy that should benefit the program this winter.

“They did some terrific things for the program,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, referring to last year’s seniors.

“The most important thing was that they created a culture of winning. It is up to juniors and seniors to continue that and take ownership. The seniors last year were not only great on the ice, they were good in the dressing room. They were good chemistry guys and exemplary student athletes.”

Bertoli believes that his quartet of current senior leaders, captain Sean Timmons and alternate captains Andrew Clayton, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman can keep that culture of winning intact.

“They are good kids, they have been varsity players for the last three years so they have experienced a lot of success,” said Bertoli, whose team was slated to start the season with a home game against St. Augustine Academy on December 3 and then hosting its annual Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational from December 6-7.

“I think we were something like 39-8-1 over the last two years. They were a big part of it and they know what it takes to be successful.”

Battle-tested forward Timmons should be a big gun for the Panthers this winter.

“Timmons has scored and produced for us over the last three years,” said Bertoli.

“He has played in every situation; he has gotten stronger. I really like the way his game is developing. I fully expect him to lead the way for us.”

Bitterman and sophomore Kyle Weller are also developing into offensive threats.

“Bitterman is always the fastest player on the ice; he is the most improved player in the program over the last three years,” said Bertoli, who will also be using Egner, senior Lewie Blackburn, sophomore Connor Fletcher, junior Mason Ward, freshman Keith Asplundh, sophomore Harrison Latham, senior Gabe Castagna, senior Hap Ammidon, and junior Will Wright at forward.

“He is understanding how to utilize his speed. His skills have developed and improved. Weller is extremely talented. He is healthy this year and has grown three-four inches. I look for him to do very well.”

On defense, Bertoli is expecting seniors Clayton and C.J. Young to do very well.

“Andrew Clayton got lost in the shuffle at times last year but when he played, he was outstanding at decision-making and distributing the puck,” said Bertoli.

“C.J. Young is a year round Tier 1 hockey player; he handles the puck well. They are going to log a lot of minutes and be out there in every situation.”

Junior Will Garrymore and sophomore Chris Hemlinger will see a lot of time as well along the blue line.

“Garrymore was in the mix at times last year, he understands our system and is a skilled player,” said Bertoli, whose defensive unit will also include freshman Gianluca Travia and senior Nelson Garrymore.

“He will be relied on in the power play and penalty kill. Chris Hemlinger was the seventh guy last year, now he is fourth. He has played a high level of travel hockey; he has a big body and he has been waiting for his opportunity and now it is here.”

At goalie, three players, sophomores Mark Anarumo and Colin Burgess together with freshman Logan Kramsky will get opportunities.

“Between the three of them, there is a lot of talent,” said Bertoli. “The three of them will compete and we are very confident with any one of them in there. It is a little early to tell who will be the starter. We have a scrimmage and some practices before the opener so we will see.”

The Panthers will be seeing some tough competition as it will participate in the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) along with Lawrenceville and Hill School (Pa.), Portledge School (N.Y.), LaSalle College High (Pa.), and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.).

“These are schools that we didn’t play four years ago but have played the last two or three years and have had success,” said Bertoli.

“They are the schools that we want to compete with and be at the same level. We know that some are boarding schools and have post-grads and that gives them an inherent advantage. I want the kids to compete on a higher level and be challenged. As athletes and hockey players, you gain so much more from that.”

While it may take a while for this year’s squad to reach a high level, Bertoli is confident the program will maintain its winning tradition. “We need to establish who this team is and what our identity is going to be,” said Bertoli.

“Last year, we had 17 returning players and we knew who we were. We have guys taking bigger roles and more responsibility. It will take time to evolve and find out who we are and what allows us to be the most effective. We have enough talent to be successful from the start. We are going to be different; we are not going to put up four or five goals in the first period. These are proud kids, they take a lot of pride in the program and the success we have had in recent years. They want to continue that.”