March 12, 2014
MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup was brimming with optimism about his Hun School girls’ basketball team as he looked ahead to the winter.

“Going into the season I was expecting some big things,” said longtime Hun head coach Holup.  “I thought we would win 15 or 16 games.”

But with senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injuring her knee in December and missing 12 games, the Raiders had to battle to keep their heads above water, finishing the winter at 10-11.

“I am really not disappointed with 10-11,” said Holup. “The girls stuck together and we did as well as we could under the circumstances. I know that success is measured by the wins and losses but based on the effort and how they stuck together, I look at this season as a success.”

Hun ended the season battling hard in a 72-50 loss to Blair in the state Prep A semifinals.

“It was a one-point game with 1½ minutes left in the first half, our game plan was going well,” recalled Holup.

“Unfortunately a few things went Blair’s way, they hit a three and they were up six or seven points at the half. We knew we were going to get a punch from Blair in the second half, we talked about that at halftime. We did get a punch and we weren’t able to withstand it. We called a couple of timeouts but we couldn’t get back into it. We put up a fight. Blair had to play well to beat us. We made a terrific effort.”

Johnson ended up enjoying a terrific career, getting back on the court in the last week of the season to help the Raiders advance to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League semifinals.

“It was nice to see her come back and get 1,000 points,” said Holup. “It was a tough loss when she went out. She is a D-I basketball player. Offensively and defensively she was imposing in the post, starting with her freshman year.”

It will be tough for Hun to do without senior Erica Brown next winter. “Erica came in as a junior and she is going to be extremely difficult to replace; just her personality, she is always fun to be around,” said Holup.

“You could count on her to raise the girls’ confidence. On court, she could guard guards and guard forwards. She could rebound and take it up the court.”

Hun got a nice contribution in the backcourt from two four-year performers, Anajha Burnett and Bella Cura.

“Naj will be missed; she was someone who gave us time off the bench in her first three years and started when we needed,” said Holup.

“This year she was a starter and did any role we asked. Bella is a three-sport athlete. She didn’t get major minutes but she was a terrific player to have on the team with her athleticism, spirit, and positivity.”

Hun’s core of returning players, juniors Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen, sophomores Amber Bourke and Jess Johnson, and freshman Clare Moloney, have the potential to do a lot of positive things next winter.

“They are just hardworking individuals,” asserted Holup. “All of them improved and that is what you want. They love the sport and they love being on the court. I am looking forward to next year.”

March 5, 2014
FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ryan Ambler and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team liked their chances as they headed into the second quarter of their clash with Johns Hopkins last Saturday.

The rivals were locked in a 4-4 tie after the one period with Princeton holding a 12-7 edge in shots.

“We were moving the ball well, there was good ebb and flow to the game,” said sophomore attackman Ambler. “We made some stops on defense; they made a little bit of a run but so did we.”

But in the second quarter, Hopkins embarked on a decisive run that changed the course of the game. The Blue Jays outscored Princeton 5-1 in the period and extended their lead to 12-5 by midway through the third.

While the Tigers got back on track, responding to the 8-1 run by outscoring Hopkins 4-3 from there, it was not nearly enough as the Blue Jays posted a 15-9 win before 2,540 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In assessing Hopkins’ surge, Ambler acknowledged that Princeton didn’t have much room for error.

“I think that they just got a couple more possessions than we did,” said Ambler.

“I think they capitalized in the second quarter more than we did, it came down to that. We knew that they were a good team. They shot the ball really well, they shared the ball really well. There were some times collectively that we had a lapse as a team.”

In the latter stages of the third quarter, Princeton did capitalize, reeling off three straight goals.

“I had a lot of faith in our defense, offense, and face-off guys, all around the field; the same thing happened with Hofstra,” said Amber, referring to a late rally which saw Princeton go on an 8-2 run to pull out a 12-10 win on February 22. “We knew that we were going to get our run, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t keep it going.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Rydal, Pa. has it going this spring, with 12 points already on three goals and a team-high nine assists.

“I am just a year older and hopefully, a little wiser,” said Ambler, who matched his career single-game high in the Hopkins loss with five points on two goals and three assists.

“The guys on the team do a great job finishing the ball, we move the ball really well. I have got to give credit to the guys finishing the goals. They cut to the ball, I feed them and they finish.”

Ambler has developed a comfort level with senior midfielder Tom Schreiber and junior attackman Mike MacDonald.

“We have a great feel for each other and we are great buddies,” said Ambler.

“We understand the flow of the offense as does the rest of the offense. I think everyone has got a great feel to the offense that we run. We just capitalize on some good plays. I am fortunate to play within this offense.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knew that the Hopkins offense posed some challenges for his young defense which starts a sophomore [Mark Strabo] and two freshmen [Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein].

“Coming into this game, I knew Hopkins is very different offensively this season,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 2-1 with the defeat.

“Some of the things they have shown that they are going to do were going to cause some problems for us. It was not a surprise to me.”

In assessing Hopkins’ decisive run, Bates noted that Princeton was doomed by a number of problems.

“We didn’t have the ball,” said Bates. “It is a game of momentum; we turned it over a few times and we didn’t face off well. I knew coming in if we were forced to play a lot of defense that we were going to give up quality shots and that was the case during that run. Honestly, we needed another save or two to get the ball back and give us a little life, to give us a little momentum and we didn’t get that. We didn’t get the critical plays at critical moments to get it back in our favor.”

Bates credited Ambler with giving Princeton life at the offensive end. “Ryan is playing with confidence; he is strong on the ball, he has such great vision,” said Bates.

“It is nice when the pieces of our offense play together, it is pretty to watch. You just see the ball move around and guys are unselfish. Ryan is unselfish but  he is confident enough to take advantage of his opportunities. You love guys that have equal goals and assists, that’s the way the game should be played. It is nice to see his development.”

Responding with a grimace, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers need their goalies to develop some consistency.

“This was a good test; they are high velocity, high accuracy shooters and we didn’t catch up with balls today,” said Bates, who has been rotating senior Brian Kavanagh and sophomore Matt O’Connor between the pipes.

“We didn’t look like we were on the ball, that is a concern. That is an area that is going to continue to stay under the microscope. I don’t know if you solve it today or next week or when you do. To be where we want to be, we need more consistency and we need the answer there.”

The answer could come, in part, by being more deliberate with the ball. “We still have to do a better job of managing the game on the offensive end,” said Bates.

“In some instances, when you are facing a dynamic offense like Hopkins, you have got to keep it out out of their hands. It is only a matter of time. They are just so slick and so skilled, they know each other really well. We have got to be able to withstand that and tilt the field the other way.”

The Tigers know they are going to have to withstand another high-powered attack as they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.

“We have Carolina coming in here Friday, it is another big-time opponent,” noted Bates.

“You learn lessons and you take the next steps. I really feel like this team is going to be much different at the end of April than it is in the beginning of March. We have to hold on to that thought. It doesn’t feel good right now. I have done this long enough where I have got to remind myself and remind my guys of that. They are not happy right now and I don’t blame them but we have to keep it in perspective.”

Ambler, for his part, is taking a long-range perspective. “We understand that it is March 1, we have plenty of time,” said Ambler.

“Hopkins was a great test, UNC is going to be another great test. All we can do is look forward to one game at a time and that is what we are going to do. We hate losing; we are going to take what we have from that loss and we are going to progress forward, the key word is progress.”

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Hompe struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first two games of her career with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The highly touted freshman attacker from New Canaan, Conn. tallied just one assist as the Tigers started this season 1-1.

Last Saturday against visiting Georgetown, Hompe found the back of the net for the first time in her college career, tallying a first half goal.

“I was really excited to hear my goal song playing,” said a grinning Hompe. “It was definitely a good way to start the game. I think that the pace of our attack was definitely heightened in this game from past games.”

As the game unfolded, Hompe picked up the pace, ending the day with three goals and three assists in a losing cause as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to the No. 14 Hoyas.

For Hompe, assuming a playmaking role came in the flow of the attack. “I think that we had a lot of open girls; our offense was cutting and moving so well that it was really a matter of finding who was open and getting them the ball,” said Hompe. “We shot very well so that was great.”

With Princeton trailing 16-15 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Hompe found junior star Erin McMunn in the crease area and fed her for the game-tying goal.

“She was just open in front of the net,” said Hompe. “You could just see it in her eyes when she knows she is open and I just knew I had to get it to her.

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t get anything in overtime as the Hoyas scored the only goal in the six minute extra session.

“I think a big part of OT was getting the draw controls,” said Hompe. “We didn’t come up with those which was disappointing but our defense worked incredibly hard to hold them to just one goal. We almost came back a couple of times, six minutes isn’t that long.”

Going through an overtime contest should pay dividends down the road for the Tigers.

“I think this was a good game for us to get under our belts early on,” said Hompe.

“I think it gave us a lot of experience, particularly going into overtime. Myself and a lot of the younger girls haven’t had that experience so I think there are a lot of positives to take from the game.”

Breaking out with six points has Hompe feeling more positive about her role on the Princeton offense.

“I think I found a different level of comfort in the offense and found where I can look for shots and where I am looking to feed,” said Hompe. “I think it was nice to finally strike that balance.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled to see Hompe reach a higher level.

“We have been looking for that from her; she was a little slow starting in her first two games,” said Sailer.

“I think she was just getting used to what the real competition is like and then today she was really on fire. Her eyes were up, she was seeing things really well. She was finishing really well. It was a breakout game for her. I really hope that she is going to run with this and know that she is an incredible player and capable of so much.”

Sailer was proud of how her players responded to Georgetown’s runs, which saw the Hoyas build leads of 9-5, 14-10, and 16-14.

“I thought we really showed our fight today, getting down 9-5 and coming back and tying it up,” said Sailer.

“Then after Colleen [Smith] scored the goal at 10 and they came back and had four straight, that could have been really defeating and deflating. We kept fighting to even the score. I just think the kids showed a ton of heart and a ton of fight today.”

In Sailer’s view, senior defender Smith exemplified Princeton’s fighting spirit.

“Colleen Smith was unbelievable; she had a goal and an assist today,” said Sailer, who also got four goals from Alexandra Bruno with Anya Gersoff chipping in two goals and Erin Slifer contributing one goal and two assists.

“Her draw controls were great. She is just a player who doesn’t stop, and her heart is amazing.”

In the overtime, the Tigers were unable to take control as they never had the ball.

“We had our play ready to go and we never had an attack possession but we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Sailer.

“I think the last thing I said before we went out for overtime was no yellow cards and then we had two of them. We played four of the six minutes a man down and we didn’t win the draw so we never had the ball in overtime. Having said that, the kids fought to the end. We have to not make the mental mistakes that hurt us in the end.”

While the result was disappointing, Sailer saw a lot of good things from her club.

“I think we have grown so much in just the last week from the Loyola game [a 15-10 loss] to the Rutgers game [an 11-4 win] to this game,” asserted Sailer.

“I am really excited about how the kids played today and where we are moving forward. We saw a lot about the character and the heart of this group and the talent of this group.”

Princeton will be looking to regroup when it opens its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.

“It will be great to open the Ivy season at Brown, they should be tough,” said Sailer.

“Last year they finished their season within an overtime of beating Penn. They are getting better every single year so we are going to be focused this week, just like we were this
past week in practice.”

Hompe, for her part, is confident that the Tigers are going to get better and better.

“I learned a lot about the resilience of our team,” said Hompe. “We are not going to give up and I think the way we acted in this game just shows how we are going to act over the season. This is just one more obstacle for us.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two seasons, Yale has been a major thorn in the side for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Last year, Yale swept Princeton in the rivals’ two meetings as the Tigers finished second to league champions Harvard by one game.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs edged Princeton 66-65 in overtime to hand the Tigers a fifth league loss and extinguish any glimmering hope of contending for a league title.

When the teams met last Friday at Jadwin Gym before a crowd of 2,730, Princeton turned the tables, topping Yale 57-46 to deal a critical blow to its title hopes, dropping the Bulldogs two games behind league-leading Harvard with three games to go.

For Princeton senior star T.J. Bray, getting some payback against Yale was sweet.

“They kind of spoiled our season last year with the sweep and this year, they got us at their place,” said Bray, who scored a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and two assists.

“It feels nice to beat them. It is always a great game; they are very physical. We knew we had to come out and be physical tonight.”

The Tigers came out with intensity on the defensive end, limiting Yale to 29.4 percent shooting from the field (15-of-51) and forcing 16 turnovers and making eight steals.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson appreciated his team’s work at the defensive end in the win over the Bulldogs.

“The credit goes to these guys; they followed the plan,” said Henderson.

“I thought we did a nice job moving our feet. It is a simple game when you move your feet. Our defense has been good in our last six games so I am pleased with that.”

Another good sign for Princeton was outscoring Yale 19-3 in points off of turnovers.

“We happened to get loose balls and long rebounds,” said Henderson. “Those are the plays that make you win and that we didn’t make up at their place.”

Bray exemplified the Princeton defensive effort as he locked down on Yale star Justin Sears, stifling him in the second half.

“T.J. showed us the way with Sears, 19 in the first half, three in the second and then Hans [Brase] stepped into T.J.’s role,” said
Henderson.

“I thought we were able to control him a little bit, not that you can do that completely.”

Bray has been showing the  way offensively as well, averaging 17.9 points a game along with 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

“The consistency of T.J. has been amazing,” said Henderson of Bray, who had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and six assists a night later to help Princeton defeat Brown 69-64 and ended up being chosen as the Ivy Player of the Week.

“That is a really good thing when you can point to one person and say every single night you can count on that number of points and rebounds.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz has become a player that the Tigers can count on. “I think that Spencer is separating himself in some good ways going forward because he is showing some leadership qualities,” said Henderson of Weisz, who tallied 14 points in the win over Yale and then contributed 13 in the victory over Brown and was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“I still think Spencer shouldn’t turn the ball over with as good as a passer and how smart he is. I would like to see that four be a zero but he has been really key for us.”

While Henderson would prefer to see the Tigers, now 17-8 overall, 5-6 Ivy, contending for an Ivy title, he is looking for quality efforts from his squad as it wraps up the regular season.

“We are not in the position we would like to be in,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.

“We have got four losses that were right there, no one is feeling sorry for us because of where we are. I think it is just basketball, games can swing really quickly against you or for you. We have four games left so we are going to milk those.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will take the right approach notwithstanding being stuck in the middle of the Ivy pack in fifth place.

“It is fun to just come and compete,” said Bray. “Whatever role we are in, we are going to compete everyday. Our practices have been great these last couple of weeks. It is unfortunate that we are playing spoiler but if that’s our role we are going to do it well.”

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team ended the season with a whimper, getting swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend by No. 5 Cornell.

But on the ice, the Tigers banged heads with Big Red from beginning to end, battling to the final whistle in two nailbiters that saw Cornell prevail 3-2 and 5-3.

“We played well; we had offensive chances, some we took advantage of, some we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team finished the winter with a final record of 14-13-4. “I am overall proud of the team, they never quit when they faced adversity.”

In the series opener on Friday, Princeton played with pride taking a 2-0 lead on second period goals by Sally Butler and Hilary Lloyd. But Cornell handled that adversity by scoring three unanswered tallies in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“We were up 2-0 in the first game and Kim [Newell] made two huge saves and we had five scoring chances after that in the second but we just didn’t put them in,” lamented Kampersal.

“If we had been up 3-0, it would have been tougher. They have two unbelievable players who played 80 percent of third period and they were so fast. They ended up cashing in their chances; they come at you fast with flurries.”

In Game 2 a day later, the Tigers started fast, jumping out to a 1-0 lead after one period. The Big Red responded with three straight goals and then held a late Princeton rally.

“Our first five minutes was solid and our first period was solid,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Butler, Denna Laing, and Cassidy Tucker in the defeat.

“They started to turn things up and they got ahead 3-1. We fought to get it back to 3-2 and 4-3. There was a weird, awkward bounce on their fourth goal.”

While things didn’t turn out last weekend as Kampersal would have wanted, he enjoyed the journey this winter.

“It is the kind of year that you don’t want to end,” asserted Kampersal. “The kids were great, it was a lot of fun to coach this team. We talked about desire, toughness, being competitive, and being grateful, those were our four core values.”

Kampersal credited his senior group of Katie Jones, Gabie Figueroa, Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, Butler, and Laing with exemplifying those values.

“The seniors gave great leadership, they battled all the way to the end,” said Kampersal.

“They were hockey players, they cared, and they were committed. They left a great impression on the rookies.”

Going forward, Kampersal is looking for a similar commitment from his returning players.

“We need to step up in terms of conditioning, they need to approach the spring like it is the middle of the season,” said Kampersal.

“We have seven freshmen and Jaimie McDonnell who was playing her first season. They played quite a lot and they were a big part of things for us. They are skilled hockey players. They can only get better. They need to get physically stronger and build up their endurance.”

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the Public B state tournament, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team brought a chip on its shoulder.

“When the seedings came out and we were No. 21 we thought we might have been slighted,” said first-year PHS head coach Terence Miller.

“We told the boys that we had to go on the road and beat some good northern Jersey teams to show that.”

Earning respect, PHS topped 12th-seeded Nutley 3-0 last Wednesday in the first round and nearly toppled No. 5 Summit, losing 5-4 in overtime.

In the win over Nutley, the Little Tigers showed their growing maturity. “It was a one-goal battle until the last eight minutes of the game,” recalled Miller.

“We maintained our discipline when Nutley picked up the physical play. We were on the power play of the last half of the third period.”

Freshman goalie Sawyer Peck showed his discipline, making 28 saves in earning the shutout.

“It speaks volumes about Sawyer that he went up on the road in his first state game and got a shutout,” said Miller.

“He’s calm, he’s collected. He has a lot of good poise for a ninth grader. His progress this season speaks to his skill and attributes as a goalie. He rose to the occasion when more was asked of him.”

Two days later, PHS rose to the occasion, battling Summit tooth and nail, as the game was knotted at 1-1 after one period and saw the Little Tigers trailing 3-2 heading into the third. After falling behind 4-2 early in the third, PHS got goals from Patrick McCormick and Jackson Andres in a 12-second span late in regulation to send the game into overtime.

“It was up at Union Sports Arena; the place was filled to the rafters,

it was a great atmosphere for a tournament game,” said Miller, whose team finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.

“Summit is a perennial power, they won the state title in 2012. We outshot them and lost by one goal.”

Senior defenseman and team captain Patrick McCormick took the team on his broad shoulders in the state run.

“Patrick played 42 minutes of 45 against Nutley,” said Miller of McCormick, who had two assists in the win over Nutley and tallied two goals in the loss to Summit.

“He played 52 of 52 minutes in the Summit game, that pretty much says it all about what type of a player he is. He has energy, skill, and the highest work rate on the team that makes for the ideal captain.”

After PHS hit a rough patch in the middle of the season when it had three losses and a tie in the span of a few weeks, the team produced some of its best work of the season down the stretch.

“We found our stride in late January and had a strong push coming into the tournaments,” said Miller.

“We made it to the county semis where we ran into the No. 1 seed, Notre Dame. We were able to regroup in the states and go on the road and beat the No. 12 seed and come within a goal of beating the No. 5 seed. I wish we had won that game, it would have been really special to make it to the state quarters.”

Miller tipped his hat to his two senior stalwarts, Patrick McCormick and Spencer Reynolds.

“They came in the year we won MCT and had 18 wins,” said Miller, whose senior group also included Robert Quinn and Tim Podgalsky.

“They got a taste of what PHS and CVC hockey was about and they jumped right in it. To go out with the senior season like they did shows that they did a good job. The state run speaks to how they contributed.”

With such returning performers as John Reid, Chris Munoz, Nathan Drezner, Tooker Callaway, Eamonn McDonald, the two younger McCormick brothers, Connor and Brendon, together with Andres and Peck, the Little Tigers are well placed for some future playoff runs.

“We have loads of talent coming back and they played a lot of minutes,” said Miller. “They got loads of experience this season and I think that is really going to help us. We are in a good place.”

It was a good experience for Miller, a former PHS hockey standout himself, to take the helm at his alma mater.

“I could not have asked for a better first year; I was an assistant for five years but it is so different being the head coach, the buck stops with you,” said Miller.

“You are responsible for how the team performs. I learned a lot this year, I was lucky to have talented players and two good assistant coaches, my brother, Peter Miller, and Shane Leuck. They played at PHS and understand the program and local hockey. I could trust them, they know the game, and they communicated well with the players.”

Miller will bring a greater understanding to the table next winter. “We played hard and prepared well but sometimes you had to wipe the slate clean,” said Miller.

“We made a lot of adjustments; we switched up lines and did different forechecks and systems. You have to work on the Xs and Os and the organization and how to have the kids prepared mentally for the tough teams.”

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player  Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player
Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Dan Van Hise, seeing his Princeton High girls’ basketball team defeat Lawrence High 35-24 in its season finale was a case of better late than never.

“They finally played the way I wanted them to,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, reflecting on the victory which came in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.

“I told the girls this is going to be it, let’s go out and play basketball the right way, I want 100 percent effort. We blitzed them from the start, it was good to see. Julia Ryan played well, she got a lot of free throws at the end to get 16 points. Mira Shane and Haley Bodden did a great job defensively. We were very intense and very determined.”

With PHS ending the winter at 3-16, Van Hise rued what might have been. “I think, like any coach, I would say we left a few on the table,” said Van Hise. “We won that buzzer beater against Nottingham and we lost our way a little bit after that. There were a few games that we should have won that we didn’t. I was hoping for more progress in terms of wins and losses.”

In Van Hise’s view, the team made a lot of progress when it came to intangibles.

“In terms of our motto, establish the culture, I think we did that,” said Van Hise.

“Anyone who saw our Lawrence game would know that. We were all over the floor, we were diving for the ball, we were sharing the ball. We talked afterward and the girls thought we had done what we wanted to turn this into a positive thing. What we found is that Princeton girls can play tough, we don’t have to be anyone’s doormat.”

Van Hise credited seniors Liz Jacobs and Stephanie Hauer with impacting the culture.

“Liz was a presence inside, for a lacrosse player playing basketball, she did what she could do,” said Van Hise.

“Steph knew she wasn’t going to play much and she was a great team captain and team leader. She did hit two shots in our last game so that was nice to see.”

As he looks ahead to the offseason, Van Hise wants his girls to play a lot more basketball.

“We are saying that we established a culture but we won’t really know until we show up next December,” said Van Hise.

“If we are the same players, then nothing will have really changed. We are going to have open gyms and we are hoping to go to Princeton’s team camp.

I know a lot of the girls play other sports but they need to stay connected to basketball. We want to hit the ground running next December.”

With six seniors returning, Van Hise believes his players will have a good connection with each other.

“I couldn’t be more excited for next year,” asserted Van Hise, whose group of rising seniors includes Mary Sutton, Mira Shane, Catherine Curran-Groome, Bryanna Blue, Mia Levy, and Ellie Maltby.

“I think the chemistry is going to be off the charts with girls like Mary, Mira, and Catherine. I am expecting them to show a lot of leadership. Julia [Ryan] will be a junior and a three-year starter. I really think that we can improve.”

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School boys’ hockey team found itself tied 3-3 with Academy of New Church (Pa.) after two periods in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game last week, it experienced a sense of déjà vu.

Just five days earlier, Hun had entered the third period of the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game tied 2-2 with Notre Dame. On that evening, Hun responded by dominating the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory and the MCT crown.

The Raiders followed a similar script against ANC in the February 25 contest at the Ice Land Skating Center, outscoring the Lions 3-1 in the third period to earn a 6-4 win and the program’s second straight IHL title.

“It was kind of the same thing as the Notre Dame game; we got a goal right away in the third period,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on the win over ANC.

“They got another goal but then we got a two-goal lead; we were never comfortable before that.”

The Raiders were feeling more than comfortable as they celebrated the crown on their home ice.

“The emotions were very high and positive,” said McNally, a former Princeton University hockey player who is in his third year guiding the Hun program.

“To be a senior in your last game and win a title, not everybody gets to do that. They were up for it. There were a lot of thank you’s and goodbyes.”

Over the last few seasons, the Hun program has certainly been moving up in local hockey circles.

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

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

In the view of McNally, his senior group of Spy Avgoustiniatos, Alec Karanikolas, Alex Bidwell, Devin Cheifetz, Brad Stern, and Natty Bayona, has played a major role in the Raiders’ progress.

“They were pretty instrumental in our progress; a lot of it was due to their dedication and abilities,” said McNally.

“Spy had a good offensive year; he came a long way as a player. Each of the senior forwards [Avgoustiniatos -10 goals, 10 assists; Bidwell -16 goals, 22 assists; Karanikolas -10 goals, 10 assists] reached double figures in goals. Devin was a starter in goal all four years. You knew what you were going to get from him; he had another steady year. He has been there so long you almost take him for granted. Brad doubled his points [3 goals, 21 assists] from last year and made all-league; he was a top defenseman.”

The trio of freshman forwards, Jon Bendorf [36 goals, 30 assists], Blake Brown [28 goals, 32 assists], Evan Barratt [23 goals, 38 assists], along with freshman defenseman Tanner Preston [3 goals, 28 assists], gives Hun the foundation to remain one of the top teams in the area.

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

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

The team’s big season has turned heads on the Hun campus “Success breeds success,” said McNally.

“Around school, there is a good energy. Against Notre Dame in the county final, we had the biggest crowd of Hun students and staff I have seen at one of our games since I have been here. The buzz is definitely there.”

February 26, 2014
MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its season opener Saturday against visiting Hofstra, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was looking to its highly touted offense to set the tone.

But it was an unheralded defense, featuring two freshman starters and a senior making his first career start, that kept ninth-ranked Princeton close in a first half that saw the Tigers commit 10 turnovers and trailing 6-4 by intermission.

Junior attacker Mike MacDonald acknowledged that the Tigers misfired in the crease area.

“I am not sure what it was, maybe first game jitters,” said MacDonald. “We knew at halftime that we were costing the team the game at that point and we needed to step up. The coaches said they are not winning the game, we are losing the game.”

Things got worse for the Tigers in the third quarter as they fell behind 8-4 and took a timeout with 7:34 remaining in the period.

“Our captains, Tom Schreiber, Jack Strabo, and Derick Raabe talked before the coaches and they said listen guys, we are going to be fine, no one panic,” said MacDonald, recalling the message during the break.

“I think we just looked at each other and decided that we needed to step up, it was our time. The defense was doing everything that they could. When they got stops, we weren’t getting them goals at the other end.”

Princeton started getting goals in bunches, scoring four unanswered goals to knot the game at 8-8. After Hofstra scored a goal late in the quarter to regain the lead, the Tigers answered with a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter and never looked back in a 12-10 triumph before a crowd of 1,231 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I think we made better shooting decisions,” said MacDonald, in reflecting on Princeton’s comeback which saw him assist on the seventh goal and then score the first two goals of the fourth quarter. “It started with Tom Schreiber making a big play and we just built off of that.”

MacDonald is looking to build on the promise he has shown in his first two years with the Tigers.

“This year, I just think I have a little more confidence with the ball to start the season,” said MacDonald, who scored a total of 65 goals in his first two seasons, the third highest total in program history coming into a junior campaign.

“Last year, I was a little bit timid. I am not as quick to just pass it to the next guy and let him do the work. I want to contribute a little more.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Georgetown, Ontario, enjoys working with sophomore Ryan Ambler, who had five assists in the win, including two on MacDonald tallies.

“Ryan and I have a very good connection, we are both lefties so we share that side of the field a lot,” explained MacDonald, who ended the day with four goals and an assist.

“We are pretty much interchangeable with what we do. He can go down low and I can go on the wing. It works out really well; we have a lot of chemistry.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates pointed to MacDonald as a key catalyst in the Princeton rally.

“I said to my assistant coach, we have to get Mike into the flow,” said Bates, who also got three goals and two assists from senior star midfielder Schreiber.

“We were trying to initiate below goal line with Ryan and Will [Rotatori] a little bit. We changed our offense completely from the first half to the second and it was a point of emphasis to try to get him the ball because he is such a playmaker. He’s a gamer, he’s tough, he scored some big goals and we started to loosen up as a result.”

Bates credited his trio of defensive middies, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter
deButts, with igniting things.

“We needed some big ground balls and I think that was the difference,” said Bates.

“Jack Strabo played a really good game, he is just so unsung. Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts also did well. Those guys give us a very good look and then we got uncorked offensively.

The goalie rotation, which saw senior Brian Kavanagh make his first career start and sophomore Matt O’Connor coming on in relief to handle the second half, looked good.

“I have great faith in Brian, he played great,” asserted Bates, who got 10 saves from Kavanagh in the first half as he faced a barrage of shots from Hofstra.

“He has earned the right to face 27 shots and he stood tall and the team rallied around him and he played as we expected. Matt earned the right to play the second half and I thought that made sense. Those guys are great, they root for each other. They understand the coach’s perspective. At the end of the day, those were the first two guys we gave a shout out to.”

By the end of the game, the Tiger close defense, which included freshmen Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein along with sophomore Mark Strabo, made strides.

“I said it last night at the team dinner, you guys are going to make mistakes, let’s understand that is the nature of this,” said Bates.

“Part of it came from not communicating, which is to be expected. Hofstra is  well coached and they are smart inside and we didn’t switch, that means you are not communicating. That comes from nerves, from lack of experience. They settled in and I thought we kept our composure and poise which was huge for us. Those guys grew up a little bit and they had a good second half.”

All in all, the comeback win over the Pride was a good first step for a Princeton squad that is facing a major challenge when it welcomes seventh-ranked Johns Hopkins (3-0) to Class of 1952 Stadium this Saturday.

“Hofstra is a hard team to play, they are tough, they are physical,” said Bates, whose team was slated to play a mid-week game at Manhattan on February 25.

“They have something to prove every time out. I have coached against coach [Seth] Tierney and Hofstra for years and years. They lost a game last week that they didn’t want to lose so we knew that we were going to get a team on fire. We let them be on fire a little bit but we handled that. At the end of the day, I think we grew up. I got a few more gray hairs and it wasn’t an easy one but I think it was a good one for us. We grew up as a result and we became a little closer, a little tougher.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes that overcoming Hofstra was a key growth experience for the Tigers.

“That game turned out exactly how we needed it to,” said MacDonald. “We faced some adversity and I think that is the best thing that could have happened to us. We know that we can battle back now if we are down. We are not going to get down on each other and we are just going to keep going.”

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Pete Miller’s performance mirrored how things went for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday.

In the first half, the freshman forward scored five points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-24 halftime lead over the Ivy League frontrunner and defending champion Crimson before a throng of 4,306 at Jadwin Gym.

“I came in and I thought I would be as aggressive as I possibly could,” said the 6’10, 225-pound Miller, a native of Winchester, Mass.

“I think I had a couple of layups, one on a nice pass from T.J. [Bray], and then rebounding, take care of the ball. I think I did a good job in the first half.”

Over the last 20 minutes of the contest, however, Harvard took care of the Tigers, pulling away to a 59-47 win.

“In the second half there were a lot of things I can improve on for the future, not just these next five games but for the rest of my career here,” said Miller, who had two points and no rebounds in the second half.

While Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw some good things, he acknowledged that the Tigers faltered at critical points.

“It was another tough loss for us,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy.

“I thought the game hinged two moments — our inability to pull away in the first half because I thought we really came out and approached the game the right way; I thought we had a tough missed dunk [in the second half] that resulted in a made three pointer going the other way. We never reclaimed the lead, it seemed to really shift the momentum. Those are the kind of plays that stick out in my mind.”

After holding Harvard to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, Princeton lost its way in the second half as the Crimson shot at a 54.2 percent clip and outscored the Tigers 35-18.

“Defensively I thought we were sharp in the first half; we stuck to things,” said Henderson.

“They made a couple of huge shots in the second half, I don’t think it was a lack of total defensive presence. [Kyle] Casey made a shot with T.J.’s hand in his face and [Wesley] Saunders made a big shot. Once those shots go in, you have to kind of adjust and make some reactions. I don’t think we did a good job of that. Our inability to score on offense contributed in some ways to some easy run outs. Offensively, we were a little stuck, we just have to get unstuck.”

Bray, for his part, echoed Henderson’s sentiments, seeing lapses at both ends of the court.

“In the second half, we just got a little lazy on offense and defense,” said Bray, who ended the evening with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds and two assists.

“We weren’t cutting as sharp on offense. We got a few back door layups in the first half and that kind of opened the game for us and we weren’t able to get those in the second half. Defensively, they went to a little more ball screen action and we didn’t handle that well. Our weak-side help wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, that was kind of the key to the game.”

With Princeton hosting Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later, Henderson is looking for Miller and his fellow freshmen, Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz, to get some valuable experience down the stretch.

“I thought our freshmen were very good; I am hard on Pete sometimes but I think 7 points and 5 rebounds are what we are counting on him for,” said Henderson.

“We have to keep going to him because he is doing some really good things. I thought both Steven and Spencer were very good. I just think we are searching for some other pieces so we have got to keep going here.”

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Berger got his final weekend of action at Baker Rink for the Princeton University men’s hockey team off to a good start.

The senior star forward and team captain scored a second period goal last Friday as the Tigers drew to within 2-1 of visiting Colgate.

“Mike Ambrosia made a real good play getting it into the zone and then Alec Rush did a great job getting it down low and moving his feet,” said Berger, reflecting on his tally.

“I was able to get open our front and Rush made a great pass and I tried to bang it in five-hole and it went in for me.”

But things went south from there for Princeton as the Tigers fell 6-1 to the 19th-ranked Raiders.

“I think we felt pretty good through the first two periods, I thought we could have brought it a little more than we did but we were happy with it,” said Berger.

“We wanted to come out and have a good third but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted but we will be ready to go tomorrow and have another good effort.”

Princeton made a valiant effort on Saturday on the program’s annual Senior Day but fell short, losing 4-1 to No. 13 Cornell in the home finale, dropping to 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey.

While the senior weekend didn’t go as planned, Berger has enjoyed his Princeton experience.

“I have been really lucky to have so many great opportunities here and I have loved every minute,” said Berger, whose classmates on the squad include Andrew Ammon, Sean Bonar, Andrew Calof, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, and Rush.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been able to wear that jersey so many times.”

Berger is also thankful to have had the rare chance to serve as a two-time team captain.

“It has been great, it has been really humbling and I have learned a lot about myself,” said Berger, a 6’3, 210-pound native of St. Louis, Mo., who has 53 points on 20 goals and 33 assists in 122 games for the Tigers.

“It has been a great experience, I have been really thankful to have had that opportunity and be able to work with such a great group of guys.”

With Princeton playing at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1 before hitting the road for a first-round ECACH series, Berger is determined to keep working hard to the end.

“Obviously you want to be really thankful to get to play every game but at the same time I don’t want to be too nostalgic,” said Berger.

“I want to come out and treat it like any other game and give it everything I got and try to get a ‘W.’ At the end of the day, we want to be ready for the playoffs and playing our best hockey then.”

FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Stange opened the Public B state championship meet for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team by doing the backstroke leg in the 200 medley relay.

Stange’s swim proved to be the first salvo as PHS and Moorestown engaged in a furious battle at The College of New Jersey pool over the next hour that saw the Little Tigers trailing 79-77 when senior star Stange got ready for the final swim of his high school career and the meet, the anchor leg in the 400 freestyle relay.

“We knew what we had to do” said Stange. “All of us went in and talked behind the block. We knew we had to win it in order to win the meet.”

PHS led through the first half but by the time Stange dove into the water  with the fans packing the pool in an uproar, the Little Tigers trailed the Quakers. Giving his all, Stange gained on the Moorestown foe in the next lane but could not catch him as the Little Tigers lost 87-83.

“We went all out but couldn’t get it, that’s alright,” said Stange, who placed first in the 100 backstroke and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS be in position for victory.

While Stange was disappointed to see PHS fall 2.38 seconds short in the relay, he was proud of how the squad competed from beginning to end. “We swam as best a meet as we could here but unfortunately they just got us,” said Stange.

Despite the loss, Stange feels fortunate to have developed a deep bond with his classmates as they have won a state title, four sectional crowns, and four county championships over the last four years.

“We have been good friends through thick and thin and it is great to go out here rather than anywhere else,” said Stange, whose classmates include Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Matt Tam, Avery Soong, and Colburn Yu. “We had an incredible run.”

Afterward, PHS head coach Greg Hand lauded his great senior group. “They went out just the way they came in with a full effort,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 13-1 record.

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

Hand singled out Stange and Kalibat as doing everything they could to make PHS a championship team.

“They are two guys who have great character, they are impressive young men,” asserted Hand.

“They are kind and yet they demand a lot of themselves and the kids that they work with. It is always positive to create an environment in which people want to try harder and are willing to press themselves to see what they are capable of. I don’t think you could ask for two better kids in a high school environment than they have been.”

In Hand’s view, his swimmers tried as hard as they could in the battle with Moorestown. “We were very together as a team today,” asserted Hand, who saw Purdy win the 50 freestyle and take third place in the 100 free with Kalibat finishing second in both the 200 and 500 free, Yu placing second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley, and Soong taking second in the 200 IM and third in the 500 free.

“One guy after another stepped up and gave us a great effort. We did a lot of fast swimming today. Moorestown was, when it is all said and done, just slightly faster through 11 events. It was as tight as you can get, everybody worked for every place that we got today. We didn’t give them anything. The swims that we did to get places below first were quality swims. We had personal bests all over the place today, really impressive personal bests.”

Even when PHS fell behind early in the meet, the Little Tigers didn’t give in. “We had a sense of where we would be picking up points and where they would be getting quite a few so the whole thing was to keep fighting and race every lane,” said Hand.

“I thought we had that from the very beginning to the very end. You could see the excitement on the bulk deck from the guys that were about to swim and the side of the pool from the guys who were pulling for them.”

In the wake of the tough loss, Hand let his guys know how much he appreciated them.

“I just told them how proud I was of today’s effort and of all the effort they make in their training, and how much they care for each other,” said Hand.

The Cornell-bound Stange, for his part, cared deeply for this PHS squad. “I love this team as much as any other, probably more than any other,” said Stange.

“It is just such a close-knit group that we have. It is going to be hard next year not to be with them.”

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand knew that his Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced a big challenge as it took on Ocean City last Wednesday in the program’s first appearance in the Public B state semifinals since 2011.

While PHS produced its usual highly spirited effort, the Little Tigers suffered their first and only loss of the season as they fell 96-74 at the Neptune Aquatics Center.

“They swam about as fast as we anticipated,” said Hand of Ocean City. “I thought we had a real fine team this year and I thought we gave them a great meet. I felt we earned this spot. Ocean City is just a terrific team and they have quality depth throughout the lineup. We were just beaten by a very strong opponent.”

PHS’s sophomore standouts, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, showed their quality as Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly while Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

“Our girls were great,” said Hand, whose team also won the 400 free relay with the quartet of Deardorff, Romaine and a pair of freshmen, Jamie Liu and Melinda Tang.

“As far as center lane swimming, Brianna had some real challenging matchups there and did an incredible job. She got her personal best in the freestyle again, having come off a great county meet. She had a lights-out kind of day. Likewise, Maddie Deardorff had a terrific day competitively.”

The PHS swimmers in the outside lanes also stepped up. “Across the board it went that way,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 12-1 record.

“Taylor Chiang, a senior, had a wonderful day with a personal record. But it’s not just about the PRs but the nature of the competitiveness and grit the kids showed. That indicated to me that we were going out the right way, win or lose.”

While the loss and its finality stung, the Little Tigers are clearly heading in the right direction.

“We are graduating a wonderful senior class,” said Hand. “But we know there are some kids coming up from the eighth grade from Cranbury and Princeton. And the kids who are here do have this experience and will have the background that other kids will feed off of.”

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing top-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday, the fifth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team dug itself an early 2-0 hole.

While underdog PHS could have folded, the Little Tigers replied with a goal by Connor McCormick to make it a 2-1 game after one period.

Notre Dame then scored the first two goals of the second period and PHS once again fought back as Spencer Reynolds found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 4-2. But PHS ran out of gas at that point as the Irish pulled away to 7-2 victory.

While Little Tiger head coach Terence Miller was frustrated by the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“I told my guys you came up against a good team, they have had a good season, they were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and I can’t be upset with the effort,” said Miller, whose team dropped to 13-5-2 with the setback.

“I thought we played to the end and we showed some pride. Obviously, it is a disappointing result but at the end of the day, all I can do is congratulate the other team; they deserved it tonight. As a group, I like the way we fought. We battled to the end and that is really the most important thing.”

In Miller’s view the gap is narrowing between his club and perennial power Notre Dame, who beat PHS 8-2 in the teams’ regular season meeting.

“It is a bounce here or a bounce there and it is a different game if we pull it back to 5-3,” said Miller.

“We had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers in our own zone that landed in the back of our net. That is completely demoralizing and deflates the whole team. We have got some young guys that are out there in big spots. They will learn; they will get better from this.”

Junior forward Jackson Andres gave PHS a big effort against Notre Dame, assisting on both Little Tiger goals and throwing his body all over the ice.

“When he stays within himself, he is an effective player,” said Miller of Andres. “He is a big strong kid. When he is churning and doing things the right way, he can really help carry us. He was a big factor for us tonight. He brings a lot of energy with some physical play.”

With PHS playing at Nutley in the opening round of the state tournament on February 26, the Little Tigers will be hitting the ice with plenty of energy as they look to build on their good showing in the MCT.

“We have been playing well, we are looking forward to the state tournament and doing some damage there,” said Miller.

“We are the 21st seed and they are the 12th but I think it is a winnable game for us. It is new life, a new tournament here so we are excited about that.”

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team looking to add to a 3-1 lead over visiting Morristown-Beard in the second period of the state Prep championship game last week, John Egner was in the right place at the right time.

The puck caromed off the Mo-Beard goalie and PDS senior forward Egner banged it home to give the Panthers a 4-1 lead in the February 18 contest at McGraw Rink.

“That was a great play by Fletch [Connor Fletcher] in the corner, he walked out and took the shot,” said Egner.

“The puck just bounced up and I saw it going behind the goalie and I crashed the net and luckily I got to slam it in there. It was a pretty easy one because my linemates made the play happen.”

Egner’s tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS held off a Mo-Beard rally to earn a 4-3 win and the program’s first outright Prep crown since 2011.

For Egner, being the scorer of the deciding goal came as a bit of a surprise.  “I just try to use my speed to get the puck deep,” said Egner.

“Definitely our line, me, Fletcher, and [Lewie] Blackburn, has had to step up this year and play against some top lines. I know I am not going to score a lot of goals really but when I do, I take advantage of it. It is really to just play hard and that’s what I work on, being the hardest working one out there.”

PDS knew it faced a tough test in Mo-Beard, which had tied the Panthers 2-2 in the Prep title game last year and had posted a 3-0 win this January in the regular season clash between the rivals.

“In the past couple of years, we have started a little rivalry against them and it is definitely special to play them,” said Egner.

“Everybody remembered the game last year; we definitely didn’t like the way it ended and so this year was kind of a redemption year. We knew they had a really good team coming in; we played them a couple of times during the season and both were really good games.”

The Panthers came out firing, jumping out to a 3-1 first period advantage. “That was big; we knew we had to get a great start,” said Egner. “We knew that we couldn’t sit back and let them take control of the game. To get a 3-1 lead in the beginning was big.”

After Mo-Beard narrowed the gap to 4-3 heading into the third period, PDS had to regain control of the contest.

“Coach [Scott Bertoli] told us to play our game, we are in the right spot right now,” recalled Egner.

“We took it to them in those two periods and just had to go out in the third and keep it going and get on the board first and try to hold them back.”

While PDS didn’t get on the board in the third, it stifled the Crimson to earn the title.

“The third period was good, we played shutdown defense,” said Egner. “Logan [freshman goalie Logan Kramsky] played great, it was a whole team effort in the third. Everyone played great.”

Afterward, the Panthers had a great time, lingering on the ice to celebrate with the trophy and take pictures with friends and family.

“I just can’t believe, it went by so fast,” said Egner. “It is crazy. It means a lot, definitely to all the seniors and everyone in the locker room, the whole team really. We wanted to win for our coaches and go out with a bang here and luckily we got that done.”

PDS head coach Bertoli liked the way his gritty team has gotten things done this winter. “It is a completely different group from last year,” said Bertoli, who got two goals and two assists from senior star Sean Timmons in the win over Mo-beard with Connor Bitterman adding one goal.

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

Bertoli got the sense that this year’s group had a special competitive spirit in December when it fought hard in the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts.

“We played some good New England competition and we were up there without two or three of our top guys,” said Bertoli.

“We just saw some of the role players from last year’s group like the Blackburns, the Egners, the Bittermans, just elevate their game for no other reason or choice. If they weren’t willing to compete and take their game to another level then we weren’t going to be successful, not only up there but moving forward throughout this season. They are big time players and big time competitors, you saw it tonight, these guys score goals when we need to score goals.”

When PDS found itself locked in a tight battle with Mo-Beard, Bertoli was confident that his team would get it done.

“We have been in playoff-type games for the last month and a half and we find ways to win,” said Bertoli.

“It is not pretty at times but it is effective and that’s the composition of this group. We are not going to blow teams out, we understand that. They are going to battle through adversity. I don’t think last year’s group was trailed more than 30 minutes the entire season. We trailed in the Lawrenceville game back and forth and we trailed Mo-Beard until we turned it around in the regular season. This group has trailed in six or eight games and has come back and won. That is a sign of a really good team.”

In Bertoli’s view, another sign pointing to PDS’s success this winter was the work ethic displayed by the Panthers.

“To me personally, what is most rewarding and gratifying is knowing how hard this group had to work,” said Bertoli, whose team ended the season with a 15-7-2 record after dropping three tight games last weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Invitational at the Hill School (Pa.).

“As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that this group has exceeded expectations this year, not to take anything away from them at the start of the year and to downplay what our outlook was. It was just to improve on a daily basis and get better and not look at the big picture and take it day by day and it blows me away to think that this group would be as decorated as they are.”

Enjoying the big finale at McGraw Rink was certainly a rewarding experience for Egner.

“There are a lot of memories, this one is definitely up there now,” said Egner.

“I have had so many great times, I have met so many great people. My best friends in my whole life are in this rink and some of the greatest moments I have ever had have been here. I am going to cherish this game and remember it and just think back to all the great times that I have had here.”

With the Hun School boys’ hockey team making its first appearance in the Mercer County Tournament since 2009, Spy Avgoustiniatos and his teammates were determined to make their presence felt.

“We really want to get the Hun name out there and play hard and get the win,” said Hun senior forward Avgoustiniatos, noting that the Raiders have won the county crown three times. “Last year we won our league and we want to build on that.”

As the second-seeded Raiders faced No. 3 Robbinsville in the MCT semis last Thursday, things didn’t come easy at first as Hun found itself trailing 1-0 midway through the first period.

“Coach [Ian McNally] pulled us aside and said we didn’t get the start that we wanted but let’s get into it and beat this team,” recalled Avgoustiniatos.

The Raiders responded with three straight goals in a span of 2:37 and never looked back in a 7-2 rout of the Ravens.

“One goal came along, I put the second one in and we just kept on rolling and we knew we had them all the way,” said Avgoustiniatos.

On his tally, Avgoustiniatos banged in a feed from classmate Alec Karanikolas.

“It was all Alec, there was a scramble in front of the net and he got the puck,” said Avgoustiniatos. “I was saying ‘Alec backdoor’ and he passed it back.”

With 5:50 left in the third period, Avgoustiniatos added an insurance goal to make it a 6-2 game, diving to the ice and nudging the puck past the Robbinsville goalie as he flew past the net.

“I was 100 percent sure that didn’t go in; the puck was right there, I saw it and I took two whacks at it and I just really wanted to get it in there,” said  Avgoustiniatos.

“I thought I didn’t have it and then I saw the other teammates coming up to me. It was a great feeling, they told me you got that one. It was sweet.”

A night later, Avgoustiniatos and his teammates enjoyed a great feeling as they topped Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT title game. In his view, the combination of battle-tested upperclassman and the arrival of the precocious freshman trio of Evan Barrett, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown has made Hun a force to reckon with this winter.

“We were really excited for all the skilled freshmen that were coming in; it started from preseason going into the season, we really built that friendship,” said Avgoustiniatos.

“We are really getting along, there is not that huge gap between the older guys and younger guys. We really incorporated them and made them feel at home and come together as a hockey team and it is what gets a spark there.”

And helping to spark Hun on its MCT title run has left Avgoustiniatos with a lot of pride in what he has accomplished on the ice.

“It is an amazing experience,” asserted Avgoustiniatos. “I want to leave my legacy at Hun for the hockey team.”

BLAKE STREET: Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown heads up the ice last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Last Friday, freshman forward Brown scored a goal and had an assist to help second-seeded Hun top No. 1 Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLAKE STREET: Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown heads up the ice last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Last Friday, freshman forward Brown scored a goal and had an assist to help second-seeded Hun top No. 1 Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown didn’t waste any time making an impact in his first Mercer County Tournament championship game.

As second-seeded Hun faced off with top-seeded and defending champion Notre Dame last Friday evening at Mercer County Park, the puck squirted to freshman forward Brown and he banged it home eight seconds into the contest to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

“I just got the puck and that was pretty much it, there was one guy behind and I just got it top shelf,” said Brown. “It was huge, the first goal is everything to the team; that’s what gets teams going, the first goal.”

The Raiders added another goal in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the second period but then Notre Dame got going as it scored two goals in a 29-second span in the second to knot the game at 2-2.

With the teams locked in the 2-2 stalemate heading into the third period, Hun was determined to regain the momentum.

“We couldn’t give up, we had to keep pounding them,” said Brown, recalling the team’s discussion at the intermission before the third period. “We just have to keep working hard and pushing it; we can’t let up.”

Seconds into the final frame, Brown struck again feeding classmate Jon Bendorf, who proceeded to find the back of the net.

“I saw Benny, there was a free lane open to him and I just passed it to him and he finished it,” said Brown.

Minutes later, Bobby Wurster scored on a one-timer from the point to put Hun up 4-2 and the Raiders finished off Notre Dame with some stifling defense as neither team scored again.

“Everyone was blocking shots and working hard,” said Brown, reflecting on Hun’s third period effort. “We were making sure that no one was left open in front of the net, everybody got the back door people.”

At the final whistle, everyone on the Hun squad joined in a raucous on-ice
celebration which saw gloves and sticks flying.

For Brown, winning the MCT crown marked the fruition of a childhood ambition.

“It is huge,” said Brown. “I used to go to the West Windsor schools and I always watched the county tournaments when I was younger.”

Hun’s young guns dominated the tournament as classmate Evan Barratt was named MVP and the trio combined for three goals and five assists in the title game.

“We have been playing for a while, Benny is on my club team for six years and we have always been together,” said Brown, who competes on the Mercer Chiefs with Bendorf.

“We worked over the summer. All of us were on the district all-star team. I dish them the puck and they finish it.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally was not surprised that Brown triggered things for the Raiders.

“The start of the first and then the start of the third was big, I think Blake Brown was a big catalyst in all of that,” said McNally.

“He is the guy that gets everyone fired up before they go on the ice. He’s the guy giving fist pumps and yelling so it was good for him to be the guy that goes out and says follow me. They were both awesome goals.”

With Notre Dame tying the game at 2-2 and seizing momentum in the second period, McNally looked to get his guys fired up for a big final period as he talked to them at intermission.

“The message was you don’t know if you are going to have another chance like this; you always assume that you are going to play in a bunch of big games and championship games but you never know if you are going to get back,” said McNally.

“You are here now, take advantage of it, you never know when you are going to get back again.”

The Raiders responded with aplomb, producing spirited hockey at both ends of the ice.

“They were behind and they had to get a little desperate and score and we just kept them in their zone for minutes at a time,” said McNally.

“That was by far the best period of hockey we have played and it was good to see because it was a big stage and we don’t get too many games like this with a lot of fans and something on the line. I think they got excited and everybody rose to the occasion.”

Winning the title, the fourth county crown in program history, was an exciting moment for the Hun players.

“It means a lot to these guys; these guys have always been asking to play in it and we haven’t been able to,” said McNally, whose team topped Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 10-5 on Monday in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) semis to improve to 18-7 and was slated to face Academy of New Church on February 25 in the title game.

“Their classmates at school can relate to what the MCT is, they can’t relate to the IHL. In this week leading up to it, there was a buzz at school. People knew about it and the boarding kids got bussed over for it. For these guys it means a lot, it is the one that they wanted to win this year.”

McNally acknowledged that his trio of freshmen played a key role in winning the title.

“They were unreal tonight, every time they were on the ice, it was a goal scoring opportunity,” said McNally, reflecting on the player of Brown, Barratt and Bendorf.

“It is funny, I was harping on them to get off the ice faster than they do … but sure enough in a one-and-a-half minute shift they turn around and score a goal so it is hard to get too mad at those guys.”

Senior goalie Devin Cheifetz made things hard on Notre Dame in crunch time, recording 28 saves on the evening.

“Devin was awesome today; I have been with Devin a long time in club and high school hockey and when it is really on the line, he shows up,” said McNally.

“He got better throughout the game. In the third period, he was so confident and poised. You are just assuming that he is going to save it. It was one of his better games of the year.”

It has been an awesome winter for Hun, even though the team’s immaturity has McNally pulling out his hair at times.

“It is youthful enthusiasm; the reason we get into shootout games is the energy level is up and down,” said McNally.

“You saw it again tonight. We scored in bunches and then the other team gets momentum for five or six minutes and we just hold on tight. That is how the team has been, we just thrive off a high energy shift by the younger guys.”

Brown, for his part, likes the way Hun brings the energy on a constant basis.

“Everybody works their butts off and everybody plays their hearts out every shift,” said Brown.

February 19, 2014
TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two years, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team has been on the verge of adding to the program’s storied tradition of postseason success.

The Tigers have advanced to a pair of Ivy League championship games and have played in the the opening round of the NCAA tournament but came up short in all three contests.

As the 2014 season gets underway on February 22 when 9th-ranked Princeton hosts Hofstra, the squad’s group of 15 seniors is looking to go out with a bang.

“It is a senior laden group, they came in with high expectations and some goals have remained unmet,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team went 9-6 overall last season, ending the spring with a 12-8 loss to Yale in the Ivy title game.

“It is their last go-around so there is a sense of urgency. We have gone through the rigors together; they have a good perspective. They know things are not going to happen overnight, it is a long season.”

The Tigers have a midfield unit that can make things happen, led by two-time first-team All-American and senior captain Tom Schreiber, the team’s leading scorer in 2013 with 60 points on 28 goals and 32 assists.

“We are actually trying to dial him back, he can dominate practices,” said Bates.

“He has such a skill set and he is playing with so much confidence. He has an edge to his game and that has a ripple effect on the rest of the team. He makes everyone else better. But we know people are going to try to take him out of the game and the others will have to be better and take the next step.”

Bates is confident that junior Kip Orban (27 goals, 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Jake Froccaro (24 goals, 10 assists) can make defenses pay if they focus too much on Schreiber.

“Orban’s confidence has grown; he is adding layers to his game,” said Bates.

“He is working on his off-ball game. He has put in a lot of goals for us and I would be surprised if he doesn’t replicate that. Jake has a broken finger and we hope to have him for Hofstra. He gives us a different dynamic, he makes us a tough matchup there. He will need some time to get his wind and get his legs under him.”

The return of seniors Tucker Shanley (20 goals, 8 assists in 2012) and Forest Sonnefeldt (17 goals, 6 assists in 2012) from injury should make the midfield even tougher to contain.

“Shanley is back, it is nice to have depth,” said Bates. “We need to merge him into the first group. He needs to make better shot decisions and make good plays, it can’t be feast or famine. Forest Sonnenfeldt is back from injury, he is a big body and can set picks and he can really shoot it.”

On attack, junior Mike MacDonald has emerged as a top shooter, scoring a team-high 43 goals in 2013.

“Mike is a tough kid and he does more than finishing,” said Bates of MacDonald, who added 16 assists last spring.

“He is pretty athletic and pretty fast but he likes to lay low. He can dodge and he has a really good understanding of what we want to do on offense. He is finishing my sentences.”

Bates is hoping that sophomore Ryan Ambler (11 goals, 17 assists) and junior Will Rotatori (2 goals, 3 assists) can show a good understanding of the offense as they join MacDonald on the top attack line.

“Ambler is bigger, stronger, and is more confident,” said Bates. “He is finishing the ball really well. I think he is going to take a nice jump this year, he knows his role as a sophomore. Rotatori will be the third guy on attack. He is quick, tough, and fearless. He distributes the ball well. He is used to carrying the ball and we don’t need him to do that as much. He needs to find the right spot off the ball. He needs to figure out how to complement the others.”

At the key face-off spot, Princeton will be looking for junior Justin Murphy to have a big year.

“Murph is the guy we are going to live or die with,” said Bates of Murphy who went 111-of-218 on face-offs in 2013.

“Jack O’Brien is a freshman who did some nice things in the fall. He is another option. We have two other athletes, Sam Gravitte, a longstick, and Zach Currier, who we could use.”

Princeton features some blue-chip athletes as shortstick defensive midfield in a trio of seniors, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter deButts.

“We have Jack Strabo and Nick Fernandez at short-stick middie, they are basically 4-year starters,” said Bates.

“They have grown as leaders and they are hard-working, athletic guys. They can really run the field. Hunter deButts has energy and athleticism.”

Senior Derick Raabe provides energy and skill at longstick midfield, leading the Tigers by picking up 73 ground ball in 2013.

“Derick is a natural there; he is great on ground balls,” said Bates, who also plans to use senior Brendan Bronvino and freshman Gravitte at LSM.

Youth will be served on defense as the Tigers will be relying on sophomore Mark Strabo along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“Mark Strabo is back and healthier; he is a good solid cover guy and he is beginning to understand how to play defense at the college level,” said Bates, who will also be using 6’7 junior Alex Beatty on defense.

“Will Reynolds is pretty heralded and he is all of that. He is a big presence; he is calm and tough. He is a foundation player already; he gives us a sense of calm even though he is a freshman. He has an athletic IQ; he may get beaten once but not again. Bear Goldstein has good feet and can cover the ball well. He is fearless, he is a Texas football kid and will put his helmet in there. He has good stick control and we think he has a lot of upside.”

Bates isn’t quite sure what is up at goalie as senior Brian Kavanagh (8.50 goals against average in 2 games in 2013), junior Eric Sanschagrin (11.86 goals against average in 5 games), and sophomore Matt O’Connor (9.38 goals against average in 12 games) are all vying for the spot.

“That is the big question mark; it is a three-man race,” said Bates. “Brian Kavanagh has notched himself into it; he has looked good in scrimmages. Eric and Matt run hot and cold. Matt was a length ahead in the fall but not so much now. We want to have one step up so we can settle this. Brian is a mature kid and the other two have more game experience. We are going to end up with a good goalie.”

The Tigers will need to step up in order to top Hofstra (0-1) in the opener this Saturday.

“Hofstra is always ready for us, it is good test,” said Bates. “We have some guys playing their first game so it is interesting to see what happens when the lights go on. We need to be smart and manage the nerves.”

Paying attention to game management will be a key if the Tigers are to reach their goals this spring.

“The defense will need to grow up,” said Bates. “We need to be smart and manage the game on the offensive end. We can be pedal to the metal but we can’t just fire low angle or low percentage shots.”

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

If the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team can stay in the present, it could have a bright future.

“The kids are really focused on everyday; they are playing well and learning the system,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer whose team went 10-7 overall in 2013 and advanced to the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“They are working on elevating their game. We have fallen victim to letting the game situation dictate everything. Whether we get off to a good start or a bad start, we need to have confidence in who we are and in our systems. We need to keep fighting and playing our system. The theme this season is the power of now.”

As the 16th-ranked Tigers open their season at No. 8 Loyola on February 22, they boast a lot of firepower on attack.

“Our attack is shaping up very nicely,” asserted Sailer, a Hall of Fame coach,  who is in her 28th season at Princeton and has led the Tigers to three NCAA titles and 332 wins.

“We have great players who are playing well together. We have good depth, it is good to see. We have a really well-rounded offense; we should be balanced in our scoring. I think it is going to be a strength for us.”

Junior Erin McMunn figures to trigger the Tiger offense, having scored 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists. Senior Mary-Kate Sivilli (19 goals and 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Alexandra Bruno (26 goals and 4 assists) should also be key weapons for Princeton.

“We are going to look for a lot out of Erin, she has a sure stick and can finish,” said Sailer.

“Sivilli is having a great year; she had a good fall. She is becoming a leader of the unit. She helps McMunn organize the attack. She sees the field really well; I think this is going to be her best season. Bruno has been hampered by her back but she coming on strong. She is a great shooter. She is an intelligent player and sees the game well.”

The Tigers have several others who have some game on attack. “We have a number of kids who are doing well, Erika Grabbi is a junior who is coming into her own,” added Sailer.

“She is fast and explosive and is one of our most talented 1 v 1 players. We have freshman Olivia Hompe, who is playing around the crease with McMunn, they are developing a good connection. She is a talented kid. Grace Bowen is coming off a stress fracture and she is playing herself into a role. Steph Paloscio (2 goals, 2 assists) has done well. She is little but quick and speedy. Anna Menke is a big, strong kid. We don’t have anyone who isn’t ready play, they can helps us in different situations.”

At midfield, Princeton boasts a strong one-two punch in senior Sarah Lloyd (19 goals, 14 assists) and junior Erin Slifer (19 goals, 20 assists).

“Lloyd and Slifer have been mainstays for us,” said Sailer. “Sarah had been dealing with an injury but she is back. We had a scrimmage at the end of practice the other day and she was all over the field. She is great on the draw, she is great on ground balls and is great in transition and dodging. Slifer is a big, strong player. She came into her own at the end of last season. She became a go-to kid for us. She is a large presence at both ends of the field.”

Sailer is hoping that freshman Anna Doherty and sophomore Anya Gersoff will emerge as go-to players in the midfield,

“Doherty has been doing very well; she is incredibly quick and explosive,” said Sailer. “She can be really good for us. Anya Gersoff (14 goals, 4 assists) has been really impressive. We are expecting a lot from her. She plays field hockey and missed our fall season as a freshman and I think she was behind last year. She expected more from herself because lacrosse is her love. I give her credit, she trained on her own. She worked hard on her footwork. She can do things with the stick and the ball that are really impressive.”

On defense, Princeton will rely on the battle-tested trio of sophomore Liz Bannantine, senior Liz Cutting, and senior Colleen Smith.

“Bannantine, Cutting, and Smith give us three veterans which is good,” said Sailer.

“We have been playing our middies with our attack to get the sets down. That is one thing we have to work on with the defense, we need to get them reps with the first midfield. Cutting and Smith have the experience and Bannantine is really smart on the field.”

The Tigers have some good reinforcements to back up its veteran leaders. “Maddie Rodriguez is a recruited walk-on from Minnesota and she has really surprised us,” said Sailer.

“She is fitting in well; she just goes out there and does her business. Erin Williams is a senior and will get some minutes. Erin Curley, a junior, is doing better. Freshman Amanda Leavell is fast and athletic. She has to learn the system; she will be good.”

Sailer is still trying to figure who is going to get the most minutes at goalie as she is looking at senior Caroline Franke (10.01 goals against average in 15 games in 2013), junior Annie Woehling (9.40 goals against average in five games), and promising freshman Ellie DeGarmo.

“Franke had the experience and performed well in game situations; Annie has been having some good practices,” said Sailer.

“Ellie was All-Met in a tough league in Maryland and she is pushing the two returners. We are hoping that one will emerge. It is a good thing to have options. Against some teams, we may want someone quicker and against other teams, we may want someone who is bigger and holds the angles better. Franke has the early edge coming off of last season; we still haven’t made a firm decision.”

Princeton knows it is facing a big-time team in Loyola (1-0), which is coming off a 16-12 win over perennial power Virginia.

“Loyola is a daunting challenge, we played them in the fall season at Penn,” said Sailer.

“Loyola is fast, fast, fast. They have great attackers, great dodgers. They are good at looking for each other and they have one of the best goalies in the country. We hung in there with them, we played well in spurts. Our defense wasn’t as far along as it is now and we gave up too many goals. We need to compete better on 50/50 balls and in transition. I think it gives us an edge to have been on the field with them rather than just see them on film.”

In Sailer’s view, the Tigers could go far this spring. “This group has great potential, you never know until the ball goes up,” said Sailer.

“We have good talent, we are going to be challenged by a tough early schedule. I think we have the ability to compete against every team we play. We need to grow throughout the season.”

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick misfired when the Princeton University women’s basketball team lost to Harvard last month.

The junior guard hit just 3-of-15 shots as the Tigers fell 78-68 to the Crimson, suffering their only Ivy League loss of the season and just their third league loss since the end of the 2008-09 season.

After the setback, Dietrick made a promise to herself. “I was extremely frustrated after the Harvard game with my own performance and the team’s performance,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, a native of Wellesley, Mass.

“That kind of flipped the switch for me; I am not going to let this team down. I am going to push everybody in practice. I think we have brought a fire and intensity we didn’t have that day.”

Last weekend, Dietrick displayed her fire and intensity, scoring a career-high 27 points in an 81-70 win over visiting Brown on Friday and then bettering that with 28 points a night later as Princeton routed Yale 96-75, improving to 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

While everybody in Jadwin Gym could see that Dietrick was lighting up the scoreboard, the stat line wasn’t her focus.

“I don’t think about it that way, I am just trying to get better every day,” said Dietrick, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her big weekend.

“I don’t like to know how many points I have during a game. I don’t want to think about it. There were a lot of things that I did wrong in those two games and a lot of things I can still improve so I am focused more on that than the good stuff.”

When Dietrick gets the hot hand, she sees it as an opportunity to set up her teammates.

“I am a point guard and I like to pass the ball as well,” said Dietrick, who had 25 points in the first half against Yale and is now averaging 16.0 points a game, third-best in the league.

“So if I have a lot of points in the first half, obviously they are going to be concerned about me which is going to create opportunities for my teammates so that was what I was looking for in the second half. I was trying to get other people involved and keep playing our game. I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was more impressed with Dietrick’s overall floor game than her gaudy scoring stats.

“I looked at the stats after the game last night and I was like wow she had 25 points and then at halftime today I was like oh my god she has 25,” said Banghart.

“I think that says a lot about Blake, I don’t even notice when she is scoring. I notice how she is managing our game, how she is really taking leadership on the court and being the lead guard we need her to be. Scoring is great and she is great at it but it doesn’t paint the whole picture for her. She has emerged into our floor leader. We need her to score so I can’t have her thinking she is just a point guard because then she starts to distribute. She is a scoring lead guard.”

Banghart has seen her team emerge from the Harvard loss with a new identity.

“The Harvard game was such that we were totally out of rhythm and I think they doubted themselves during the game and that is just not us,” said Banghart.

“The team is becoming theirs, they know they can be beaten and it is don’t be afraid of it, whatever. It is us doing our thing.”

With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) a day later, Banghart has little doubt that the Tigers are primed for a big weekend.

“Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley, the sophomores who were like deer in the headlights, are starting to take on some ownership of the game plan and ownership of the personnel,” said Banghart.

“Our seniors (Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung) have buoyed the ship, they have asked their younger teammates to step up. It is February now, you are not young any more.”

Dietrick, for her part, is ready to step up in the rematch with Harvard. “Being mad about that Harvard loss just makes me want to fight harder everyday,” said Dietrick.

“We are back in the swing of it. Every day at practice, we look better and better so I think we are ready to go. I think from here on out, we are going to be really tough to beat.”

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, its annual Senior Day regular season home finale got off to a good start as the Tigers hosted Yale last Saturday.

After the team’s six seniors were introduced one by one, the Tigers proceeded to jump out to a 2-0 lead as freshmen Hilary Lloyd and Fiona McKenna both found the back of the net.

Responding to a Yale goal late in the opening period, Princeton got its lead back up to two as McKenna scored again to put the Tigers ahead 3-1 with 12:37 left in the second period.

But things went downhill from there as Yale scored four unanswered goals to win 5-3 and rain on the seniors’ parade.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal made no effort to hide his disappointment as he assessed his team’s performance.

“It is frustrating all the way around, we had two 2-goal leads and then we crapped out,” said Kampersal, whose team dropped to 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey.

“We let them score 10 seconds after each time we scored which is absolutely ridiculous. We outshoot them 25-5 in the first period but we probably should have gotten a couple of more. We had a wide open net that we missed and then after that it was a weird game. I thought it was one of the worst losses I have been involved with in a long time.”

The defeat was especially stinging since it came on the send-off for the team’s seniors, Denna Laing, Sally Butler, Gabie Figueroa, Rose Alleva, Olivia Mucha, and Katie Jones.

“They are a great group, no question,” said Kampersal. “They have set the standard for us this year. I just wish today went better for them.”

Kampersal is hoping things go better next weekend when Princeton ends regular season action by playing at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day.

“We just have to forget it and compete next weekend,” said Kampersal, whose club stands sixth in the EACH standings and has clinched a spot in the league quarterfinals which will see the top four teams getting home ice in best-of-three series during the weekend of February 28-March 2.

“Now it is time to get ready for the playoffs and try to improve our seeding and play our best hockey the week after.”

SPEED TO BURN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu speeds to victory in a 100 breaststroke race. Last Friday, senior Yu placed first in the breaststroke and took second in the 200 individual medley as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 115-55 to win its sixth straight Public B Central Jersey Sectional title. The Little Tigers will take on Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPEED TO BURN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu speeds to victory in a 100 breaststroke race. Last Friday, senior Yu placed first in the breaststroke and took second in the 200 individual medley as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 115-55 to win its sixth straight Public B Central Jersey Sectional title. The Little Tigers will take on Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ swimming team whooped it up on the deck at the Neptune Aquatics Center last Friday after winning the Public B Central Jersey Sectional, Colburn Yu stood quietly by.

For senior star Yu, top-seeded PHS’s 115-55 triumph over No. 2 Lawrence High had a been there, done that feel.

“This is my fourth year at sectionals and each year the boys team has won so I know the gist of everything already,” said Yu, who was a key contributor when PHS won the Public B state title in 2012.

“Coach Hand told us not to assume things and just don’t think that you will win because you never know what to expect. I think we all swam pretty hard. We all made sure that we did what we needed to do in order to win this meet. Our score shows that.”

Yu did his part in the victory, taking second in the 200 individual medley and winning the 100 breaststroke, his specialty, as the Little Tigers improved to 12-0. For Yu, finishing behind classmate Avery Soong in the IM was a matter of taking care of business.

“The IM is not really my best event. I think the only reason I am good at it is because of my breaststroke,” said Yu.

“I was talking to Avery about this beforehand and we were just saying that if we go 1-2 in the IM we are going to be good and that’s basically what we did.”

Yu felt good about his win in the breaststroke, displaying the technique that helped him win the county title in the event.

“I have always noticed that breaststrokers tend to be smaller than the other strokes,” said the wiry Yu, who competes for the X-Cel club team and will be continuing his swimming career at Johns Hopkins.

“I feel like the breaststroke is more of a technique stroke than how big you are. I know that my technique is pretty good. I have gotten training specifically for breaststroke. When we go to the semifinals and hopefully we will make it to the finals, I will definitely bring it up a notch and go around my best time which should be a 57 or 58.”

It was not surprising to Yu that PHS took things up a notch in the sectional final.

“I think it is really special, not a whole lot of kids get to have four sectional titles,” said Yu.

“Our team has a lot of depth. I give credit to the seniors who were here two years ago. I learned a lot from them and hopefully what I have learned from them, I pass down to the kids who are underclassmen this year. Once we leave, they are going to need to work a lot harder to be able to win meets. Our senior class tends to score the most points at all of these meets.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thinks pretty highly of this year’s senior group.

“The titles speak to the talent but the way they have approached their membership on the Princeton High team is the real standout performance,” said Hand, who has now guided the PHS boys’ swimmers to six straight sectional titles.

“These guys have always been there for each other. They always get committed to a total effort when we get to the meets that are the toughest. These guys have been able to swim in a state final, which they lost, a state final, which they won, and a state semifinal, which was virtually a tie. It was very disappointing but they walked away satisfied with the effort, that was the deal. We couldn’t control the 100th of a second thing and then here they are going to a state semifinal.”

Hand sees Yu as being in control of his swimming. “I think Colburn has got some great perspective now on the sport and how to meet the demands of the sport, how to respond to the challenges and disappointments that the sport offers,” said Hand.

“He has the classiness of being pretty selfless about his achievements and giving it up for the team.”

Three of the team’s other senior stars also gave PHS some big performances in the sectional final as Peter Kalibat won both the 200 and 500 freestyle races while Will Stange was victorious in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and Matt Purdy took first in the 50 and 100 free races.

“I really admire Pete Kalibat for just knocking out consistently strong swims in the 200 and the 500, likewise, Will Stange, the same with his swims,” said Hand.

“Matt Purdy sprinted really well today. He did a great 100. He took it out slower and tried to build every 25 which is not a strategy he has used much before.”

PHS will have to compete really well as it now faces Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 in a rematch of last year’s semis that saw the Little Tigers lose an 87-83 nailbiter.

“For sure, these guys don’t assume anything, getting to this level,” said Hand, whose team would advance to a third state final in the last four years on February 23 if they can overcome Summit.

“Summit’s power points are down but the last thing to do would be to misjudge that team, a defending state champion, the team that beat us last year. They graduated some but have some other kids on their roster.”

Yu, for his part, believes PHS’s older kids can lead the team to a second state title in the last three years.

“I know that the seniors and juniors both know what it feels like to go to the state finals and we can definitely step it up and tell the younger kids what it is to step it up,” said Yu. “As long as they see we are in the mood, they are going to follow.”

TANGY ADDITION: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Melinda Tang displays her freestyle form in recent action. Last Friday, freshman Tang won the 100 butterfly and took third in the 100 freestyle as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 12-0, will face Ocean City in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TANGY ADDITION: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Melinda Tang displays her freestyle form in recent action. Last Friday, freshman Tang won the 100 butterfly and took third in the 100 freestyle as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 12-0, will face Ocean City in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Melinda Tang is a freshman, she embraced the high stakes atmosphere as the Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced Lawrence last Friday in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals.

“I knew the competition would be hard and it was really exciting,” said Tang after top-seeded PHS topped No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 at the Neptune Aquatics Center. “It is the first of everything for me.”

Tang played a big role in the victory for the Little Tigers, winning the 100 butterfly and taking third in the 100 freestyle.

“It is sectional finals so you have to race a lot faster,” said Tang, reflecting on her individual swims.

In emerging as a star for PHS, Tang has learned some lessons in time management.

“I do club swimming [X-Cel] too so the biggest challenge is juggling everything,” said Tang. “I am juggling school, practice here and practice there, meets, and stuff.”

Tang has learned some lessons from the team’s veterans in taking care of her business.

“They have taught us a lot, they lead our team,” said Tang. “They build up a lot of moments with us so we bond together.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand likes the way his girls’ squad has come together.

“It is a really nice team,” said Hand, whose team improved to 12-0 with the win over Lawrence.

“The girls do everything they can to control the won-loss record but I think they are pretty realistic. We just come out and swim our best every time and if we are good enough to get a result, that is great. I like their spirit and camaraderie, it continues to grow.”

Hand credits Tang and her classmates with bringing a special competitive spirit.

“It is terrific when your freshmen are excited, nervous, but not worried,” said Hand, who has gotten good work from newcomers Jamie Liu, Jennifer Bond, and Maddie Whaley in addition to Tang.

“It shows that they are nice and grown up for their age in all the ways you would hope for. They swim because they love it; they love cheering for their team. At some level it is not about winning and losing but just about doing your best, that is a great foundation to build on.”

As usual, PHS got some great swims from its pair of sophomore stars, Brianna Romaine and Madeleine Deardorff. Romaine placed first in both the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke while Deardorff was victorious in the 200 individual medley and the 500 free.

“I thought Brianna had a really good meet today, two solid wins and a good relay swim,” said Hand.

“It was solid throughout the lineup. We asked Maddie Deardorff to go 500 again for a second time in a row; that is changing up the lineup to give some relief to some other kids. I am pretty happy with swims across the board.”

With PHS taking on Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals on February 19, Hand is looking for some more solid efforts.

“I think they are feeling pretty courageous about the next round,” said Hand, whose team would advance to the state championship meet on February 23 if they can top Ocean City.

“To go into a meet excited to swim fast on a day when the other team is going to be equally fast or faster, that is a great statement to make. No matter what, I am glad that the girls get to take this extra step and have that experience. Regardless of the outcome, it is going to be something that they remember.”

Tang, for her part, is looking to enjoy some more firsts in her debut season.

“Today was a step forward,” said Tang. “The focus going into next week is to do our best and hopefully make the state finals.”

THRUSTING FORWARD: Princeton High fencer Martine Appel, left, shows her form. Senior Appel has starred at foil for PHS this winter as the program has made progress in its first season as an official varsity team.

THRUSTING FORWARD: Princeton High fencer Martine Appel, left, shows her form. Senior Appel has starred at foil for PHS this winter as the program has made progress in its first season as an official varsity team.

For Theo Varga, substituting to teach a gym class at Princeton High in 2012 set him on a path which helped a new program gain a foothold in the school’s sporting scene.

“We ran out of things to do and we went outside and I had them doing footwork drills for fencing,” recalled Varga.

“One of the teachers saw that and said the school was looking for a fencing coach and I should apply.”

Varga, who fenced at Dickinson College, took that advice and ended up being named as the head coach of the PHS fencing program that fall.

Noting that the team was still competing on a club basis but looking to transition to official team status, Varga hit the ground running.

“I got the official word in November and the season was starting after Thanksgiving,” said Varga.

“I had to jump right into it. At that point, they knew they wanted it to be a team.”

When Varga took the helm there were around 15-20 fencers who had been with the team since its inception in the 2011-12 school year and another 15 or 20 who came to practice to find out what fencing was about. Varga reached out to the middle schools in town and another 25-30 freshmen have joined the program this year.

In Varga’s view, the program took a big step forward when it competed in the District 2 tournament early last year.

“We had never been to the districts, they didn’t know what to expect and neither did I,” said Varga.

It was at North Hunterdon and it was a big event. There were 12 schools and the parents for all the teams. We did well. The girls epee team finished sixth. Melody Ting made the round-robin individual and placed eighth in the district for the epee. There were a lot of students who started the sport that year, they were learning the sport in November and in January they were on the strip. We wanted to show what we could do and learn from the experience.”

With the program gaining official status, there has been progress all around.

“We are trading off with other teams to use the gym, on Mondays and Thursdays, we are in the cafeteria,” said Varga.

“As the team grows, finding a space is going be a challenge. We usually have 25-30 kids at practice. We practice four days a week, although things have been a little chopped up because of the weather. We did the Santelli tournament and we did a weekend of tournaments in Morristown. The girls team posted a win against PDS.”

Varga is seeing a higher level of fencing from his athletes. “A lot of the students, especially the ones who had been there from the start, had fenced with clubs with the Y or Sebastiani,” said Varga.

“We didn’t have to teach them fencing from the ground up. My assistant coach, Sam Blanchard, and I could have those fencers do drills to develop a skill while we take the new fencers and teach them the basics.”

The team’s progress was reflected in its showing earlier this month at the 2014 District competition.

“We took sixth in girls epee, we had two of the top eight,” said Varga, whose epee lineup includes Claire Schultz, Michelle Kyin, and Sarah Golobish.

“Melody Ting and Kate Horvath took sixth and seventh, respectively, in the individual epee.”

At girls’ foil, the Little Tigers have a good foundation in place. “Martine Appel and Danielle Almstead have grown a lot in foil and have really picked up the sport,” added Varga, whose girl foilists include Ursula Blanchard and Architha Sudhakhar.

The girls’ squad boasts some young talent at sabre. “We have a couple newcomers in sabre; Jacqui Hua is a freshman, she competes nationally and has taken part in the Junior Olympics,” said Varga, who has utilized Josephine Mugnier and Mary Ashley Stough at sabre. “She is skilled and she helps the others learn the sport.”

For the boys, the season has involved a steep learning curve. “The boys are having a growing year, we had to start epee and foil from scratch,” said Varga, noting that Jack Stange, Nikhil Vasireddi, Collin Nichols, and Dylan Lim are competing at epee with Seth Sawant, Mitchell Chi, and Alex Rey seeing action at foil.

PHS has shown promise at boys’ sabre as it placed eighth at the districts. “Philip Trevisian and Alex Lai have been very enthusiastic at sabre,” said Varga, who has Jackson Graham and Manus Kreike-Martin at the weapon.

Varga, for his part, has enthusiastically taken on the challenges associated with getting a varsity program up and running.

“I am learning a lot about how a varsity league is set up and what it is like to work with ADs; it has been a learning experience,” said Varga, who credits assistant coach Blanchard with playing a big role in helping the program grow.

“My teaching experience has been in English. I have never taught kids a physical skill. I have worked on devising things that will get them to do the sport.”

The PHS kids have responded well to Varga and each other. “They have been very supportive and encouraging,” said Varga, noting that the school district and Princeton community has provided important support for the program.

“The goal is to be competitive and win but they want to help each other. They show each other encouragement.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior forward Triolo enjoyed a big finale at McGraw Rink, tallying a goal and getting two assists to help PDS defeat Summit 9-1 on the program’s annual Senior Night. The Panthers went on to take fourth in ‘A’ bracket last weekend in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament at the Hill School (Pa.), ending the season at 11-8-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior forward Triolo enjoyed a big finale at McGraw Rink, tallying a goal and getting two assists to help PDS defeat Summit 9-1 on the program’s annual Senior Night. The Panthers went on to take fourth in ‘A’ bracket last weekend in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament at the Hill School (Pa.), ending the season at 11-8-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Colby Triolo, the idea of taking up ice hockey at Princeton Day School started as kind of an offhand quip.

“I was practicing my interview for coming to PDS and my father asked me what I am going to do to get involved in the community and I said well I am going to try out for ice hockey,” said Triolo.

“I was completely joking but I wanted to make the interview good. I thought about it and I was like I should try out for ice hockey and that it is how it started.”

Triolo acted on her thought and joined the PDS girls’ hockey team as a freshman in the winter of 2010-11. Hampered by injury that season, Triolo really got into the game as a sophomore.

While Triolo has developed a passion for hockey, she acknowledges that she isn’t the most skilled player on the ice.

“I love it,” said Triolo. “I am focusing on not falling because that blue line is really tricky sometimes. Whenever I focus on scoring, that doesn’t work.”

Last Wednesday, Triolo showed focus and some scoring prowess, tallying a goal and getting two assists to help PDS defeat Summit 9-1 on the program’s annual Senior Night.

Triolo and her classmates had a sense of urgency as they took the ice at McGraw Rink for the last time.

“Because none of us are going on to play hockey in college, this is the last time in front of our peers and our school playing a game here and it was give it all we have, because there is no going back,” said Triolo, whose fellow seniors include Mary Travers, Robin Linzmayer, Mimi Matthews, and Abby Sharer.

“In the locker room, we were dancing. Now we have this clapping thing and it gets us really excited. One of us starts a beat and it keeps going and going.”

The PDS seniors enjoyed an exciting night as they all ended up on the score sheet with Mathews notching three goals, Travers tallying two goals and an assist, Linzmayer chipping in a goal and an assist, and Sharer picking up an assist.

“It just shows the heart of our seniors, how much we care and how much we appreciate this team,” said Triolo, one of the squad’s assistant captains. “Our teammates were really working hard to get each of us a goal.”

The team’s chemistry shows through on and off the ice. “Personally I feel like our class has been so close all four years,” said Triolo of the PDS squad, which fell 1-0 to Portledge School (N.Y.) last Saturday in the semis of the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament at the Hill School (Pa.) and ended up placing fourth in the tourney’s ‘A’ bracket. “Our team this year, I don’t know what it is, we are not a team, we are a family.”

This fall, Triolo will be joining a new family as she heads to Cornell University to study engineering.

“The first time I was there was for a hockey camp two years ago,” recalled Triolo.

“I just wanted to improve and come back and get ice time so I went to Cornell. I thought I kind of like this school. I went back last year on a tour and I was like I am in love with this school. It just feels like home.”

Over the course of her PDS career, Triolo certainly found a home with the hockey team. “It has made my PDS career like nothing else I could say,” asserted Triolo, who plans to play a club sport at Cornell.

“Every year everyone says ice hockey is the best season and it truly is, just knowing that you have the locker room to come to after school. I don’t know if it is because we are so separate or we are back here, but you just get so close to your teammates. Ice hockey is a really great sport.”