June 6, 2012

HEATED COMPETITION: DeQuan Holman, right, of University Radiology looks to get past Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite in last year’s championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Holman and University Radiology went on to win the crown 2-1 in the best-of-three series. The 2012 summer men’s hoops season tips off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Utilizing a blend of talent and big-game savvy, University Radiology broke through last year to win the title of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The core of the team consisted of Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, former Princeton High hoops standouts who reached the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals during their high school careers.

On paper, this group looks like it could become a dominant force in the league, following in the footsteps of such legendary dynasties as Tiger’s Tale, Ivy Inn, and George’s Roasters.

But with the 2012 summer men’s hoops season tipping off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts, the jury is out on University Radiology’s staying power as it looks to defend the title it earned by beating Winberie’s/Miller Lite 2-1 in a hotly-contested best-of-three championship series.

“I think they are pretty much intact,” said Evan Moorhead, league commissioner and longtime observer of the summer hoops battles.

“There has been talk of a dynasty; we have had a lot of flashes in the pan. Over the first 23 seasons, we have had a lot of teams that thought they were the new Tiger’s Tale or Ivy Inn. They have all the pieces but it remains to be seen.”

Last year’s runner-up, Winberie’s, may not have all of its pieces in place as it looks to mount another championship chase.

“Al Gerido is not playing for them and Chris Hatchell had knee problems at the end of the season,” said Moorhead.

“Mark Rosenthal [team manager] plays it close to the vest. They had a great regular season last year. Hatchell was the regular season MVP and they went undefeated. They will have another strong team if they have some of the same players. I think Evan Johnson, their big guy, is back.”

Another big question coming into the summer is whether Ivy Inn (formerly known as George’s Roasters/Ivy Inn) can get back the mojo that helped the club win four of the last six titles coming into the 2011 campaign.

“Last year was rough for them,” said Moorhead, noting that the club went 3-6 in regular season play and was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last summer.

“We will see if they can come back strong. Brian Halligan moved out of state and they will miss his steady play at point guard. Scott Findlay was coming back from a knee injury last summer and may not be playing for them. I think Mark Aziz is back from playing in Egypt and Bobby Davison is there.”

Two other league denizens, Dr. Palmer and SMB, could emerge as dark horses.

“Dr. Palmer hasn’t had a deep run in a while,” added Moorhead. “They always have talent; they always have size. They could be right there in the mix. Greg Ford will be back; he was one of the top scorers in the league last year. SMB finished up in the middle of the pack in the regular season but made it to semis and took Winberie’s into OT.”

The PA Blue Devils are back after making a semifinal run of their won last summer.

“They were strong last year; they made the semis and they were only a basket away from the finals,” said Moorhead.

“They have the same core guys. The guys play in Division III and community college; they keep active and have young legs.”

Another team with youth on its side is Team TB which features several recent PHS grads.

“Team TB has picked up Davon Holliday Black,” said Moorhead of the former Little Tiger star who had played for Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS boys’ hoops entry in the summer league. “There is a lot of talk that they could make a run.”

The league boasts two newcomers in the Ballstars and the Clinton Kings. “The Ballstars are mainly PHS guys like Aaron Thomas, Marcus Budline, Matt Hoffman, Ben Harrison, and a PDS guy Robby Smukler,” said Moorhead.

“The Clinton Kings are similar to PA Blue Devils; They have some college D-3 players; they will be coming down from the Clinton area.”

In Moorhead’s view, the fans coming down to Community Park this summer will be treated to plenty of heated contests.

“This is the first time we have had 10 teams since 2006; it looked like there were only going to be eight teams and then two teams came out of nowhere right before the deadline,” said Moorhead.

“I think it is going to be very competitive. There are not a lot of easy outs on paper; there is a lot of parity.”

May 30, 2012

STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing star Ian Silveira pulls hard from the stroke seat in a race this spring. Utilizing his leadership and skill, senior captain Silveira has set a positive tone for the Tigers. This weekend, Silveira will be looking to finish his Princeton career in style as his varsity 8 boat goes for a national title at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on Cooper River in Cherry Hill. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Some rowers shy away from the stroke seat and the accompanying responsibility to initiate the cadence for a boat but not Ian Silveira.

“I like the feeling that there is a bit more control,” said Silveira, reflecting on the stroke position which is the rower closest to the stern.

“It sets the rhythm for the rest of the boat; there is a lot of pressure but I like it. I like the feeling of setting the tone and the feeling when the guys really start going.”

This spring, the senior star has been setting the tone in and out of the water as the senior captain of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight program.

“I was honored that my teammates thought highly enough of me; it put expectations on me,” said Silveira.

“You want to set a good example and display a work ethic that others would emulate. I am trying to live up to the standard of the guys who came before me and continue what we have done in the past. The juniors and rest of seniors are helping me out; it is basically a collective effort.”

This week, Silveira and his teammates will be looking to produce a big effort as they go after a national title in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships on Cooper River in Cherry Hill.

Silveira likes the way his first varsity boat has been training as it prepares for the IRA.

“It has been going well; we are carrying a lot of the speed we took into sprints,” said Silveira, referring to the Eastern Sprints where the top boat finished fourth.

“The theme this year is learning and developing and we have been able to do that. I look forward to racing.”

It didn’t take long for Silveira to learn that he loved racing. “From the first practice in high school, I was hooked on it,” recalled Silveira, a native of West Bloomfield, Mich. who went to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep.

“It was completely different than the other sports I had tried. It was not on a field or a court, it was on a lake.”

Showing ability to go with his passion for the sport, Silveira made the U.S. junior 8 and competed internationally.

“I was used to rowing in Michigan and competing against rowers in my region; being on the world stage was a big jump,” said Silveira. “Rowing against kids from all over the world was more exciting than anything; it is fun to race.”

When it came time to row in college, Silveira was excited to join the Princeton crew program.

“I had spent time at Princeton; the juniors selection camp was there so I had an idea what it was like,” said Silveira.

“I liked the way they ran the program, it was the best fit for me team-wise. I also picked the school where I would be most comfortable if anything happened to me and I couldn’t row.”

It took Silveira a while to develop a comfort level with college rowing. “The work load is different; it is definitely a jump in the training load,” said Silveira.

“The workouts are harder; you are recruited and expected to perform. You think you are going to have a lot of time but you are in class from 8-3 and then you have practice. You have to figure out how to balance things; you want to perform in class and on the water.”

Silveira has certainly performed well on the water for the Tigers. By sophomore year, he was ensconced in the stroke seat for the varsity 8, helping the boat place second at the Eastern Sprints. Last year, he helped the Tigers take silver again at the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA national championship regatta.

Over the past two summers, Silveira has honed his skills by competing for the U.S.’s U23 men’s quadruple sculls (M4x), which involves a rower using two oars rather than one as in college sweep competition.

“In high school, I did the single at the end of the year so I’m used to sculling,” said Silveira

“It is something different. It is fun to race in different boats. The first year, we went to Belarus and finished 10th. We finished 4th last year at Amsterdam, it was the best finish ever for the U.S. in that event.”

As Silveira finishes up his career at Princeton, he has been thrust in the role of mentoring a group of younger rowers.

“It has definitely been different working with the young guys; I have thought about things I have never thought about,” said Silveira.

“I was the only sophomore in a boat of juniors and seniors. As a junior, we had a bunch of seniors. Now there are five sophomores on the boat. I am having to remember the lessons I was learning when I was a sophomore and spending more time taking guys under my wing. It is a new challenge.”

The Tigers have faced some challenges this spring, suffering defeats to Harvard, Cornell, and Brown in their final three regular season regattas before the fourth-place finish at the Eastern Sprints.

“I think that the younger guys are dealing with taking lumps; each of the losses showed all of us what we needed to work on to develop,” said Silveira. “At sprints, we displayed how we had taken those lessons.”

Silveira is savoring his final days of work at the Princeton boathouse. “It is bittersweet; it is good to be done with the school part,” said Silveira, a sociology major who is contemplating going to law school after his rowing career.

“Every day I go out on the water, I can count the days left on one hand. It is a little sad having to leave; I have enjoyed the people I have rowed with.”

Utilizing the mentality that has served him well in the stroke seat, Silveira is looking to get the most out of the people he will be rowing with this weekend.

“I have had to learn to adapt and work with others and be a better leader,” said Silveira, who plans to compete with the U.S. U-23 boat this summer with an eye to continuing with the national program through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I have been learning how to manage people’s attitudes and learning what it takes to get people coming from different positions to work with each other and come together.”

GOING FOURTH: The Princeton University women’s open crew varsity eight cruises back to the dock after finishing fourth last Sunday in the grand final of the NCAA Championships at Mercer Lake. The Tigers advanced boats to all three grand finals of the competition as they placed fourth in the team standings. Princeton has now placed in the Top 4 at the last four NCAA regattas. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Lila Flavin reflects on her Princeton University career, one of the major lessons that comes to her mind centers on mental toughness.

“I think what they say about Princeton is that they have a lot of fight,” said Flavin. “I think I had it going in but I think I have learned how to use it and how to handle moments of pressure.”

Last weekend, Flavin, the senior coxswain for the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8, came through with aplomb under pressure as the Tigers competed in the NCAA Championships at nearby Mercer Lake.

On Friday, the native of Cambridge, Mass. piloted the Tigers to a second place in their opening heat as they qualified for the semifinals. A day later, she guided the boat to a second place finish, helping Princeton emerge as one of only three programs in the 16-school competition to send boats to all three Grand Finals.

With a national title on the line in Sunday’s racing, Flavin and the Tigers fought valiantly but came up short as they placed fourth in 6:25.90 over the 2,000-meter course, 7.18 seconds behind winner Virginia and a mere 0.84 behind third-place finisher USC.

With the varsity 4 taking fifth and the second varsity 8 placing fourth, the Tigers ended up fourth overall in the team standings at the regatta.

While Flavin would have liked to have seen her boat take home a title, she had no qualms with how it battled.

“We were just real excited to make the final; we had no idea how it was going to go,” said Flavin.

“The national championship is a whole different league. I think we just went out there to have the best race we could possibly have. We fought really hard. They [USC] just snuck by us but we are happy with it.”

Flavin is happy with how the boat progressed this spring as it bounced back from early season losses to Michigan and USC.

“With this season, I am just going to think about how much we have grown throughout the year,” said Flavin.

“We came in really rough and not really sure of ourselves and we came out really confident and stronger. I will remember that progression.”

For Flavin, guiding the varsity 8 to a national title in 2011 is something that has left an indelible memory. “I will never forget that,” said Flavin. “I learned a lot about what it takes to be at the top and be the best.”

Working with her classmates has helped Flavin learn what it takes to get through the rough times that come with pursuing championships.

“There are not very many of us but we have really had a lot of character and we have helped to keep the team together,” said Flavin.

“I think with any sport, there is a ton of ups and downs. There are a lot of bad days when you don’t want to be there but that’s when it counts. I think we have tried to channel that as seniors.”

Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny credits Flavin and her classmates with being a steadying force at the boathouse.

“It is a small class but they have a big presence,” said Dauphiny. “This year there was a senior in every boat. Lila, in particular, as a coxswain and having been in that national championship boat last year knows what it takes and she holds them to high standards.”

The Tigers lived up to their high standards on Saturday when they came out of the semifinals with boats in all three grand finals.

“Yesterday was a great day for us in ways that exceeded expectations,” said Dauphiny.

“I wasn’t sure that all three boats were going to make the final. Everyone really stepped up. We worked very hard between the [Ivy] Sprints and the national championship to make it happen.”

Although the varsity 8 didn’t repeat as national champions, Dauphiny liked the way the boat worked on Sunday.

“I thought it was great; I think they are slightly disappointed,” said Dauphiny.

“If you look at our season and where we were compared to those folks in the regular season, we have increased in speed. In the beginning of the season, we lost to Michigan by open water and we also lost to USC. This time around, we were within seconds and tenths of seconds of the top competition. So they were fierce competitors and great racers; I thought our effort was very courageous.”

Dauphiny saw courage in the efforts she got from the varsity 4 and the second varsity 8.

“I thought they did an outstanding job as well,” added Dauphiny. “In the 4, it was a tight field and I think they had some little disappointment as well. They raced hard and I think they improved through the season as well. The 2V is heart-stopping in every race, they basically have taken years off my life. They always come from behind. They are always down off the start and then they slowly work their way back in so I think they are a very confident group.”

With Princeton having now placed in the Top 4 at the last four NCAA regattas, Dauphiny is confident that the Tigers are headed in the right direction.

“I think that shows that we are really building depth,” asserted Dauphiny, who is in her 16th year at the helm of the program.

“In the past, that was something that we struggled with. This year, putting all boats in the finals was one of our goals. When I asked the team what they wanted to do, they responded, ‘we want all boats in the finals at the national championships.’ I think they wanted to go beyond that; that is why there is a slight disappointment. This is the first time in some time that we have put all three boats in the grand final. It has been at least 10 years.”

Flavin, for her part, has relished the time she has put in getting the most out of her boats.

“I have so much respect for the rowers and what they go through,” said Flavin.

“I don’t think there is any other sport like that; being able to be in a boat with them is really inspiring.”

NICK THE QUICK: Nick Miranda races to first in action this spring for the Haverford College baseball team. Miranda, a 2010 Princeton High alum who starred in football and baseball for the Little Tigers, went from a little-used walk-on as a freshman to a star this spring in his sophomore campaign for Haverford. After going hitless as a freshman, the fleet centerfielder hit .352 with 62 hits in 176 at-bats in 2012 and set a Haverford single-season record for runs scored with 48. (Photo Courtesy of Haverford College Sports Information)

Nick Miranda had a modest goal when he took the field for the season opener this spring in his sophomore campaign with the Haverford College baseball team.

“Playing in Florida, I was just looking to get my first college hit,” said Miranda, a 2010 Princeton High alum who starred in football and baseball for the Little Tigers.

It didn’t take long for Miranda to achieve that breakthrough, smacking a double in that first game as Haverford faced Neumann University in Fort Myers, Fla.

The 5’9, 140-pound centerfielder went on to get a lot more hits this spring as he hit .352 with 62 hits in 176 at-bats and set a Haverford single-season record for runs scored with 48.

For Miranda, struggling through a tough freshman season which saw him go 0-for-7 at the plate in 12 games served as the impetus for his heroics this spring.

“I was completely unhappy with my freshman year,” said Miranda. “I was the only guy on the team who didn’t have a hit. I used that as fuel for motivation.”

When Miranda arrived on campus this fall, he was primed to turn some heads.

“For me, it was about getting stronger and faster over the summer,” said Miranda. “I worked on my hitting a lot. I was ready to get after it, I had something to prove.”

Establishing himself as a starter, Miranda savored every game. “I definitely felt along the way I was getting the confidence of the coaches,” said Miranda. “Just being on the field and playing was great.”

With Miranda triggering the offense from the leadoff spot, the Fords produced a great finish, winning nine of their last 10 regular season games and then going on to win the Centennial Conference tournament and compete in the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional.

“It was all due to leadership; we had two really good seniors who were the heart and soul of the team and really guided the younger players,” said Miranda, reflecting on the late surge which helped Haverford finish with 25-19 record.

“The Washington College doubleheader in April was big. If we had lost there, we might not have made the playoffs. Our bats really came alive.”

Taking the program’s first-ever Centennial tourney crown produced some memories that will live forever with Miranda.

“That was pretty awesome; beating Johns Hopkins to start was big, we haven’t beaten them many times,” said Miranda.

“It was great; it was our first conference title. We had a lot of support from our alums, everyone was following us.”

For Haverford head coach Dave Beccaria, Miranda’s emergence as a star has been a great surprise for the program.

“We liked his athleticism and competitiveness; he went from a guy who was a freshman walk-on who didn’t play much to an indispensable player,” said Beccaria.

“Sometimes when a guy isn’t playing, you are not sure of how much is sinking in. It is clear now that he was soaking everything up.”

Miranda made his intentions for this season clear from the moment he arrived on campus for his sophomore year.

“It was apparent from the start; Nick was ready to prove something to himself and the coaches,” recalled Beccaria.

“He was competing from day one. He showed up ready to work and play. The way he played and the way he worked challenged the other guys.

Miranda’s competitive fire never waned through the spring. “Nick is a tough out; he is simple but purposeful at the plate,” added Beccaria.

“He hits a lot of balls hard. He is super focused. He shows up completely focused and tunes everything else out. The other guys picked up on it. During our first regional game at the NCAA, we were the away team and before the lineup was announced and national anthem was played, he was in the on-deck circle with helmet on and bat in his hand. The guys said ‘that’s Nicky.’”

In Beccaria’s view, Miranda has only scratched the surface of what he can achieve in his college career.

“The best is yet to come; there are not peaks and valleys with Nicky,” said Beccaria. “We will try to help him get even better; he is going to be a big part of our success.

While Haverford didn’t enjoy the success it
wanted at the NCAA regional, losing two of three games, Miranda saw the
experience as a big plus for the program.

“I don’t think we were out of our league,” said Miranda, who went 6-for-14 in the tourney with two runs and two RBIs. “We played well; it was nice.”

Although Miranda will be spending much of his summer in Asia, he isn’t about to lose his focus on becoming an even better player.

“I will be in China for two months on a study abroad program; I will be able to lift weights and run there,” said Miranda.

“I do have a couple of flaws; I have to work on my arm strength. I don’t want to stop building; I want to improve.”

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Princeton High girls’ track distance stars, Jenna Cody, right, and Amelia Whaley, run away from the competition in a meet earlier this spring. Last weekend, Cody and Whaley helped PHS win the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. Senior Cody took second in the 3,200 and fourth in the 1,600 while junior Whaley was fifth in the 3,200. The pair will next be in action when the Little Tigers compete in the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High girls’ track team brings plenty of talent to the table, it is a dogged spirit that has been the main ingredient in a championship run.

“Some people say a good team has to have a swagger but we are not flashy,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“We talk a lot about ‘sisu,’ a Finnish work for stubborn determination. The girls have a self-confidence, a self-confidence that is earned.”

Last weekend, the Little Tigers displayed their self-confidence and will as they methodically out-dueled the competition on the way to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title.

PHS piled up a winning total of 88 points with Neptune second at 82 and Jackson Liberty third at 67.5.

The win marked the program’s first-ever Group 3 title and was its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989. It was a second breakthrough in two weeks for the Little Tigers as they had edged WW/P-S earlier this month to win the county championship.

Setting the pace for the Little Tigers in the sectional meet were its two senior superstars, Bryell Wheeler and Elyssa Gensib. Wheeler took first in the 100 (12.61) and the triple jump (a meet record of 38’6.50) with a third in the long jump (16’8-75) while Penn-bound Gensib was first in the 3,200 (10:53.90), second in the 1,600 (5:03.97), and fourth in the 800 (2:20.33).

Fellow seniors Maddie Lea and Jenna Cody also made big contributions with Lea taking second in both the triple jump (36‘2.50) and long jump (16’ 9) and Cody placing second in the 3,200 (11:05.40) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.68).

Wheeler displayed grit as well as talent in coming up big, fighting through a nagging hamstring to earn her titles.

“Bryell has gained a lot of confidence in her jumps,” said Smirk. “She has more confidence in her jumps than sprints which is amazing with her sprinting background. She ran the 200 in the prelims and said her hamstring didn’t feel right. We thought she had a better shot in the long jump so she dropped out of the 200. She barely made it to the final in the long jump and then ends up jumping third. I have to give a lot of credit to her performance on day two to coach [Ben] Samara. He got her focused and really helped her deal with the hamstring.”

Lea has displayed a special focus in crunch time. “Last year, Maddie developed into a star athlete.,” said Smirk.

“As the season goes on, she gets better little by little but doesn’t put anything great out there. But in sectionals and states, she is great. You put her in the moment and she gives you every inch and every ounce of effort.”

Distance star Gensib likewise demonstrated her flair for rising to the occasion in the big moment.

“Elyssa was incredible; when you tell most athletes that they are going against a national record holder in the 800 and the mile like Ajee Wilson of Neptune, they say ‘oh god’ but Elyssa said hey I am finally going against someone who will help me see what I can really do,” said Smirk.

“She made a mistake in the mile and was too aggressive in the 800. She was really great in the two-mile. What more can you ask of an athlete; she is great at preparing and is great at making race-time adjustments.”

Senior standout Amelia Whaley made a key adjustment as she rose to fifth place in the 3,200 (11:53.01) despite being placed in the slower second heat.

“I sat down with Amelia and talked about it,” said Smirk. “She was a real veteran; she said there was nothing we could do about it. I told her she has run a dozen workouts on the track by herself so she knows what is it like to run fast alone. We could see the group falling behind her so we knew she was running the right pace.”

Bouncing back from illness that kept her out of the county meet, Cody was up to speed as well.

“We were really happy to have Jenna this weekend,” said Smirk. “In the mile, she was nipped by HoVal girl [Sarah Chandler]. She made a little mistake; she was too passive in the middle of the race. We had a real aggressive race plan for the two-mile. We wanted her to do the first mile in 5:20. Gensib kept pressing and passed her at the right time while Cody kept battling and holding on.”

In producing the championship run, PHS has shown an ability to execute its plan.

“A lot of people say the county title is a fluke but we are showing that we are a consistently good team,” said Smirk. “We are the team making the least amount of mistakes.”

As the Little Tigers head into the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield, Smirk will be looking for his athletes to dig even deeper.

“It is going to be incredible; Winslow is stacked and they look to be at a different level,” said Smirk.

“What I would like to see is for us to risk a little more. They have performed at their best but maybe not at their absolute best. It is less about points and more about doing their best.”

But no matter what the scoreboard says after Saturday, Smirk has drawn inspiration from how his athletes have performed all spring.

“I am so impressed by what they have gone through and how they approach everything, on and off the track, with a fervor for being great,” asserted Smirk. “It is fun to coach athletes like that.”

UPWARD CURVE: Princeton High boys’ track senior star Bruce Robertson flashes his form through a curve earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Robertson took second in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet to help the Little Tigers place fourth in the team standings. Robertson and the team’s other top-6 finishers at the sectional competition will be in action this week at the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ track team, its performance last Saturday at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet represented a step forward.

“Looking at it overall, it is the largest number of qualifiers and largest number of points we have had since I started coaching in 2001,” said PHS head coach John Woodside, whose team placed fourth with Northern Burlington taking first followed by Hamilton and Ocean Township.

“Two years ago, we 10 medals and 41 points. Today we had 11 medals and 46 points. We had a lot of good things happen.”

But Woodside was left with a nagging feeling that even better things could have happened in the meet which took place at Monmouth Regional.

“I think we have a good enough team that we could have done even better,” maintained Woodside.

“The winner had 67 points, that is not that much to win a big meet. The door was wide open.”

Junior throwing star Tim Brennan, though, could not have done much better, winning both the shot put (50’ 7.50) and the javelin (143’3).

“It is hard to describe where to start about him; he is a very important part of our team,” asserted Woodside.

“He is a great kid, great athlete. He works as hard as any kid I have been around. More than that, he helps his teammates get better. He knows how to approach a meet and how to compete. I think of him as the rock. He is a great asset to our team; he is indispensable. He won two events, that is hard to do.”

Senior Bruce Robertson has been an asset to the team and he came up big at the sectional, taking second in the 800 (1:59.69).

“Bruce has been good all year; he had a solid race today,” said Woodside. “It was not spectacular in terms of time but it was a hot day. He ran a good race to finish second. He got himself in a good position; I am happy for him.”

The distance guys were solid across the board for Woodside. “We had 7 qualifiers — three in 1,600 (Ian McIsaac-4th; Conor Donahue-5th; Kevin Ivanov-6th), two in 800 (Robertson-2nd; McIsaac-5th) and two in 3,200 (Luke Bozich-4th; Jacob Rist-5th),” added Woodside.

“McIsaac was the only guy who qualified in two events so we had six different guys. That is the most we have had; it was a good showing. We competed hard. I am proud of them.”

Junior star McIsaac did yeoman’s work for the Little Tigers as he helped the 4×400 relay take fifth in addition to his top-six finishes in the 800 and 1,600.

“I know Ian is a little disappointed but that is good because he wants to do better,” said Woodside.

“He had a little hamstring problem on 1600 and still ran 4:28. The 800 was a good performance for him and he led off the 4×400 relay with a 52.0.”

PHS got a superb performance in the 400 hurdles from sophomore Sabar Dasgupta as he took sixth.

“Sabar ran a tremendous race in the 400 hurdles; “ said Woodside. “He had a big breakthrough a week ago with a 57.8. He ran a 57.50 today so he made breakthrough and beat that a week later.”

Woodside will be looking for more breakthroughs this weekend as his team competes in the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield.

“We want to try to build on it; that’s the goal,” asserted Woodside. “We are going against really top level guys. We want to improve on what we did this week. The distance runners certainly feel they can do better.”

QIU SCORE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Kevin Qiu, right, hits a backhand as partner Adib Zaidi moves to the net. The first doubles pair of senior Qiu and freshman Zaidi helped PHS advance to the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals where they fell to eventual sectional champion Hopewell Valley. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eddie Percarpio’s shoulder had been ailing but the Princeton High boys’ tennis team senior star was not about to sit out the state tournament.

As PHS played Monmouth in the second round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney, Percarpio took the court at first singles even though he could only serve underhanded.

Showing grit and savvy, Percarpio pulled out a 7-6, 6-3 win to help the Little Tigers prevail 5-0.

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert saw Percarpio’s performance as a sterling example of senior leadership.

“Eddie had a great match; he has been out for a while with a sore shoulder and has been resting it as much as he could,” said Hibbert.

“He asked me to play; he is a senior and it is his last chance in states. He was a great asset for us. He relied on his ground strokes and mental game.

Percarpio’s effort set a tone for the fourth seeded Little Tigers didn’t drop a set in the win over fifth-seeded Monmouth.

“We didn’t know what to expect; we hadn’t played them and we didn’t play teams they compete against,” added Hibbert.

“Once we got started I was pleased with how the guys played and took care of business.”

Advancing to play top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the sectional semis, Hibbert knew her team was facing a formidable foe.

“We had a tough match with them earlier in the season,” said Hibbert, whose team had lost 5-0 to the Bulldogs on April 12 in a regular season meeting.

“I told the guys we are a much different team than we were a month and a half ago. We had played in the county tournament and we had a lot of tough matches. I told them we had a shot at this.”

While PHS ended up falling 4-1 to the Bulldogs in the May 16 rematch, the Little Tiger players certainly gave it their best shot.

“We won two first sets; we only won one first set in the earlier match,” said Hibbert,

“We were a lot more competitive in a lot of the matches. We played a much closer match than the first time. There were a few tough decisions here or there.”

Once again, a senior showed toughness for PHS as third single player Julian Edgren played on through pain even after HoVal had clinched victory.

“It came down to two matches and they were both split through the first two sets, recalled Hibbert.

“After second singles lost, they had it. Julian started getting leg cramps but he stayed out there.”

The team’s core of seniors, Robert Zhao, Kevin Qiu, Percarpio, and Edgren, have demonstrated staying power over their careers.

“They have been a very strong group,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Lawrence 5-0 on May 18 to improve to 13-3 and was slated to wrap up the season with matches against Notre Dame and WW/P-S.

“They came in as freshmen and played at the top of JV and had some varsity matches. By sophomore year, they ended up in the varsity lineup. They have had various spots. The last two years, they were at singles with Kevin as a staple on doubles. It is always sad to lose a core of seniors. The guys are close; they hang out away from tennis and they are friends off the court.

Having gone with freshmen Adib Zaidi, Tyler Hack, and Rishab Tanga in the starting lineup, the Little Tigers boast a good core of players going forward.

“It is a steady group of players; we do have some bright young prospects with the three freshmen who played this year,” added Hibbert. “I think they can be a great help to us in the future at singles or doubles.”

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Princeton High softball star Louise Eisenach makes contact in action this spring. The leadership and production of senior shortstop and tri-captain Eisenach helped PHS become more competitive this season. PHS went 9-14, tying a single season record for victories, as it won the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, its first triumph in county play in recent memory, if ever. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High softball team had never won a game in state tournament competition, the squad was not intimidated when it played at Nottingham last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney.

“We had no lack of confidence coming into that game,” said PHS first-year head coach Dave Boehm, reflecting on the matchup between his 11th seeded Little Tigers and the sixth-seeded Northstars.

“We had played two close games with them. We lost in the top of the seventh and bottom of the seventh.”

While PHS got off to a rough start in the contest, falling behind 4-0 after two innings, the squad didn’t fold. The Little Tigers rallied for a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior Hannah Zink but couldn’t tally after that on the way to a 4-1 defeat

“We knew they had a good pitcher who was going to be tough,” said Boehm, whose team ended the spring at 9-14, tying a program record for single-season wins.

“We gave up four runs in the first two innings and no more after that. They had five hits; we had two.”

The Little Tigers showed toughness this spring in making some key breakthroughs as they won an in-season tourney and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in extra innings in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“We won the Teaneck tournament, we had lost there the last three years,” said Boehm, whose team beat Ridgefield 8-4 and Teaneck 15-3 on the way to the title of the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament.

“We took the next step in MCT; that was our first county win in recent memory. That team had beaten us 13-0 last year and really pounded us. I think they came in there thinking they were going to roll us over. We stepped up; it was an exciting game.”

Junior star outfielder Marisa Gonzalez stepped up this spring, moving to the No. 3 spot in the PHS batting order and responding by hitting over .500.

“Marisa had 38 hits and 42 RBIs; she was the most important part of our team,” asserted Boehm, noting that Gonzalez will be playing high-level travel ball over the summer. “She has 112 hits going into senior year; she has a good chance at getting 150.”

The team’s senior trio of Louise Eisenach, Hannah Zink, and Angela Matchum made a good contribution.

“They took more of a leadership role,” said Boehm. “Louise came into her own; she really stepped up as a leader. Zink was steady at first base and a good influence on the younger players. Matchum played a nice right field for us.”

PHS has some nice pieces in place with the freshman pitcher Sarah Eisenach, junior third baseman Hannah Gutierrez, junior catcher Maddie Cahill-Sanidas, and junior outfielder Helen Eisenach.

“Sarah pitched two-thirds of our games and I batted her fourth a lot,” said Boehm.

“She will throw the ball harder. I think she will hit with more power in the future, she just needs to shorten her stroke. All of them (Gutierrez, Cahill-Sanidas, and Helen Eisenach) are solid players. We will have three good arms and good players in outfield with Gonzalez, Helen, and Charlotte Gray.”

In order to become even more competitive, PHS needs to play harder on a constant basis.

“We need to play a full seven innings,” said Boehm. “There were games where we got behind and chipped away and then there were games where we lost leads. We hung tough.”

For Boehm, taking the helm of the program after serving as an assistant coach the last four seasons was not a tough transition.

“I enjoyed it; I knew that I didn’t have a team that was going to rip the cover off so I knew we had to play some hit and run, bunt, and steal bases,” said Boehm.

“Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was fun. It was a good group of girls; they responded well. They had fun, even in practice. There was a good chemistry. The seniors and juniors were helping the younger players.”

SAVED BY BELL: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse goalie Harlyn Bell clears the ball in a game this spring. The development of freshman Bell into a star was a major plus for Stuart this season. Bell and the Tartans topped Nottingham 16-5 in their season finale to end with a 4-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team, its season-ending 16-5 win over Nottingham reflected how much the team has grown over the spring.

“It was a great way to end the season,” said Stuart first-year head coach Caitlin Grant.

“The team played well together defensively. They really came together, like we have been working on.”

Senior star Ani Hallowell ended her career in style, scoring six goals to help lift Stuart to a 4-11 final record.

“Ani was the heart and soul of the team,” asserted Grant of Hallowell, who is headed to Holy Cross.

“She scored goals. She helped all over the field. She had 113 goals in her career with around 70 this year.”

The Tartans saw young players step up all over the field with freshman goalie Harlyn Bell, freshman attacker Nneka Onuwugha, and junior attacker Alaina Ungarini turning heads.

“Bell was a brand new goalie and I think she was one of the best we saw in the area,” said Grant.

“She likes the responsibility; she sets a high standard for herself and gets upset when she doesn’t hit her goals. Nneka Onuwagha had never even touched a stick before this year and she ended up with four or five goals. Alaina was kind of timid at first. Last year was the first time she had played. She took it upon herself to score more and she did.”

Sophomore Amy Hallowell figures to pick up some of the scoring load after the graduation of older sister Ani.

“Amy Hallowell was in her sister’s shadow at the beginning; she let Ani take over,” said Grant.

“I know it is tough; I played with my older sister in high school. Amy is a great player. She has around 50 goals so she is in line to get 100. She is going to step up more without Ani there.”

Grant believes that offensive balance will be a key to the program’s continued progress.

“I want them to learn that they can really work together and not rely on one player,” said Grant. “Each of them can take the ball to the goal.”

For Grant, getting the chance to work with the Tartan program helped her become a better teacher of the game.

“It is different from Notre Dame High where I played,” said Grant, who went on to play college lax at The College of New Jersey.

“We had so many players that we could pick and choose and work on plays and more intricate things right away. With Stuart, there are a lot of new players. We have to work on throwing and catching and the basics; we had to teach some of them the rules.”

But while the program may not be strong in numbers, it boasts a special unity.

“It is such a tight little group, you know everyone right away,” said Grant. “We had only 17 or so players. They work well together. Everyone has to play.”

In order to enjoy more success in the future, the Stuart players can’t wait until next spring to improve.

“We have a summer camp and I would like them to come to that; I also have pointed them in the direction of summer clinics and camps,” said Grant.

“I want to talk to next year’s captains [Amy Hallowell and Isabel Soto] about having the team play with each other in the offseason so they know the ins and outs of their game and we can start working on plays right away.”

May 23, 2012

CLOSING SPEED: Princeton University women’s track star sprinter Eileen Moran flies to the finish line in a recent action. Senior Moran ended her Tiger career in style with a spectacular performance earlier this month at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal championships. The native of Homer Glen, Ill. placed first in the 100 and 200 dashes, anchored Princeton to the 4x100 title, and helped the Tigers take second in the 4x400. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Eileen Moran is not the quickest sprinter out of the blocks.

“My start is not the very best; I have trouble with reaction,” said Moran, a senior star for the Princeton University women’s track team.

“I am always trying to catch the other runners in the races. I have to clear my mind in the blocks. If I am thinking too much, I don’t react as well.”

But Moran showed that she can finish in style, producing a spectacular performance earlier this month at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal championships in her final appearance in a Princeton uniform.

The native of Homer Glen, Ill. placed first in the 100 and 200 dashes, anchored Princeton to the 4×100 title, and helped the Tigers take second in the 4×400.

“I could not have asked for a better way to end my career,” said Moran, reflecting on the Heps meet in which she helped earn 38 of Princeton’s 134 points as the Tigers took second to Cornell.

“I thought after the first day of preliminaries that if I could do exactly what I did that day, things would go well. I was crossing off each event. The 4×100 was a highlight; we had been close indoors and we wanted to defend our title.”

Moran took up sprinting as a freshman at Providence Catholic High School and it didn’t take long for things to go well.

“I was pretty successful; I had to learn technical things,” said Moran, who had played basketball and did Irish dancing before focusing on track.

“I qualified for the states in the 400 as a sophomore and placed fifth. The 400 was my best event in high school.”

That success got Moran thinking about competing at the next level. “Once I qualified for states and placed, I started getting letters from college coaches,” said Moran.

“I got a lot of letters as a junior. My top three were Cornell, Princeton, and Notre Dame. I came on a recruiting trip to Princeton and had a great time with the team. It was the first time I had been around a team that was so close.”

It was the positive feeling around the Tiger team that helped Moran develop a comfort level with college track.

“The time we put into training was the biggest adjustment,” said Moran, who was moved from the quarter mile to the shorter sprinting events during her freshman campaign.

“I was used to training hard with my club team in high school. I was trying to balance training and school. We had a really great group of upperclassmen, they always tried to involve us and spend time with us. They really tried to get to know us; it was a fun group to be around.”

For Moran, the breakthrough in shorter sprints came in Indoor Heps in her sophomore season when she took second in the 200.

“I ran against a girl from Columbia (Sharay Hale); she was one of the best sprinters ever in the Ivy League,” said Moran, who clocked a time of 24.67 with Hale finishing first in 24.20. “It was cool to race her.”

As a junior, Moran displayed her coolness under pressure at the Outdoor Heps, fighting off injury to take first in the 100, second in the 200, and help Princeton to victory in the 4×100 as the team  won the meet to complete a Heps triple crown [cross country, indoor, and outdoor].

“I was really surprised by that meet; I spent a lot of time in the training room that year because my hamstring was acting up,” said Moran.

“I was really nervous going into the meet; we had the triple crown on the line. I didn’t want to hurt the team. Somehow I got through it. The week before I felt out of shape; I was running times that I hadn’t run since high school.”

This year, Moran stepped into a new role with the Princeton team, serving as a captain.

“I was honored; the team votes for it so to be elected was exciting,” said Moran.

“I was happy to have the responsibility. I try to lead by example; I don’t want to be super bossy. These kids are between 19 and 22, I want to let people do their own things.”

Princeton women’s track assistant coach Thomas Harrington, who specializes in the sprints and hurdles, is not surprised that Moran emerged as a team captain.

“Eileen worked hard,” said Harrington. “She could demand that her teammates work hard because they can see the results she got from putting in extra time.”

Harrington was proud of the results Moran achieved in her final Heps this spring.

“She came to compete at that meet,” recalled Harrington. “In the past we have been strong in the distance events but this year we needed the sprinters to step up. I said ‘Eileen you are our leader and you have to lead by what you do.’”

While Moran may not be in the lead out of the blocks, she uses technical acumen to outpace her foes.

“She is really good at the drive phase, the first 30 or 40 meters of the race,” explained Harrington, noting that Moran used that technique to pull way from the competition in the 100 and 200 at the Heps.

“If a runner has a sustained drive phase, it allows you to hit top-end speed later in the race when others are breaking down. Eileen stays down in drive phase for 30-40 meters and then comes up and is hitting max speed at 80 meters and then she chews up the other runners.”

In Harrington’s view, Moran has gotten the most out of her potential as a runner.

“I told her the goal every year was to get higher on the podium; she totally maximized her talent,” added Harrington.

“She learned all the things she needed to know. If I said run into a wall she would say which part. I had to grow as a coach, she made me a better coach. I had to find new ways to push her.”

Moran, for her part, has used that coaching to develop a greater self belief.

“I would say I am more confident; I still get nervous before meets but I am more confident in my abilities,” said Moran.

“I know what I am capable of; a lot of it comes from the coaches, telling you if you follow this training, you will get to this result.”

As a result, Moran leaves Princeton with program records in the indoor 60 (7.57) and 300 (40.36) in addition to being part of record-setting 4×100 (46.03)

4×200 (1:40.15), and 4×400 (3:39.96) relays.

“It is exciting; it is cool because Peter Farrell [Princeton women’s track head coach] keeps track of records and every time someone breaks one, he gives the history of the person who had it and talks about where they are now,” said Moran.

“He usually calls them about the new record. You feel like you have become a piece of history.”

And by finishing her career in style, Moran has established herself as one of the best sprinters in the program’s history.

FEELING THE PULL: Katie Baker, center, pulls hard from the stroke seat in a race this spring in her senior campaign for the Princeton University women’s open crew third varsity 8. Baker, a former star athlete at Stuart Country Day School, went from a walk-on rowing neophyte to a mainstay of the Tiger women’s open crew program during her college career. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

During her sports career at Stuart Country Day School, Katie Baker liked to keep busy, starring at field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse.

Entering Princeton University in the fall of 2008, Baker looked into club field hockey, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee and varsity crew as ways to fill her athletic fix.

The Princeton Junction native ultimately decided to devote her considerable energy to rowing.

“I was doing rowing in the morning and field hockey in the afternoon,” recalled Baker. “It was very tiring, I decided I had to pick one and I went with crew.”

Having never rowed before, Baker faced some major challenges in adjusting to her new sport.

“The conditioning was the toughest part, I had to adapt to the idea of always conditioning,” said Baker.

“The first time I rowed it was very exciting and very new. It was very hard to get it; I had the fear of falling into water.”

Overcoming those fears and clearly getting it, Baker has emerged as a mainstay for the Princeton women’s open program, helping the Tigers win the Ivy Sprints team title earlier this month as she ended her college crew career on a high note.

For Baker, coming close to a title as a freshman helped cement her commitment to rowing.

“In my freshman spring, we didn’t have enough for a freshman so I was on a freshman 4,” said Baker.

“We got second at Eastern Sprints; that was exciting. I was getting used to it; I was much more confident than when I started. I was less worried that I would do something to catch a crab (a stroke that goes bad).”

As a sophomore, Baker’s increasing confidence and skill level led her to be moved to the vital stroke seat, the rower sitting closest to the stern whose cadence sets the rhythm for the boat.

“It was a lot more about getting better and faster,” said Baker, reflecting on her sophomore campaign.

“I was in the third varsity 8. I became a stroke; it was exciting. They talked about me doing it for freshman 4 and I was terrified. Once I tried it, I really liked it. You get to think more about how to use power rather than just rowing. You focus on what the boat needs and how you can help.”

In 2011, Baker got a firsthand experience with a powerful crew, toiling alongside a first varsity 8 that went on to the win the grand final at the NCAA Championships.

“It was awesome to train with them; it was great to watch that happen,” said Baker, who went to the NCAA regatta with the varsity 4.

“I think it is completely true that you feel like you are pushing the top boat. You have to have someone to race everyday to be able to race.”

For Baker, a big part of her senior year has been savoring every day at the boathouse.

“I definitely wanted to embrace all of it instead of just going through it,” said Baker.

“I wanted to really experience things; enjoying being part of the team and being on the water.”

Baker experienced plenty of success on the water this spring, stroking the third varsity 8 to an undefeated season, culminating with a first place finish at the Ivy Sprints.

“It definitely came together more in the spring; people were being moved around before that,” said Baker, in assessing the boat’s superb season.

“We were always fast; we never won a race by less than eight seconds. Even when it was windy and rough, I never doubted anyone. We had trust and confidence in each other.”

The level of trust throughout the program helped the Tigers prevail in the overall team standings at the Ivy Sprints.

“It was great, our goal was to win as a team,” said Baker, who will be cheering on her teammates on the first and second varsity 8s and varsity 4 this weekend as they compete in the NCAA Championships at Mercer Lake. “To have every boat medal is great. Crew is so hard but so worth it when you win.”

In the final analysis, the bonds that Baker developed with her classmates may be the most worthwhile aspect of her crew experience.

“We have all shared the same things,” said Baker, who is looking to teach and coach at a prep school after graduation.

“We had hard days where we helped each other and we had the experience of a national championship. I have always been a committed person but this is a whole new level of commitment. You really have to have a tenacity. Having a group like that and that kind of structure is extremely rewarding.”

JERSEY STRONG: U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd controls the ball last week in a training session at Princeton University. Lloyd, a New Jersey native and former Rutgers standout, has been enjoying the national squad’s training camp at Princeton’s Roberts Stadium, which is running from May 10-25. The U.S. team is gearing up for a May 27 game against China in Chester, Pa. and the upcoming Olympic Games. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During her All-American soccer career at Rutgers University Carli Lloyd enjoyed some fierce battles against local rival Princeton.

“There was probably the most amount of yellow cards during our games,” said Lloyd, a 2005 Rutgers alum who has been playing with the U.S. women’s national team since graduation.

“It was an intrastate rival; it was a battle. You knew every time coming out that it wasn’t going to be an easy match. It was a good rivalry that we had against them. Princeton was a really strong team.”

For the last two weeks, Lloyd has been feeling at home on enemy territory as the U.S. national squad has been based at the Princeton soccer facilities for a training camp in preparation for a May 27 game against China in Chester, Pa. and the upcoming Olympic Games.

“This is great; this is a top-notch facility,” said star midfielder Lloyd, a 5’8 native of Delran standing on the sidelines of Roberts Stadium last Thursday after a morning training session.

“I think all the people working at Princeton have treated us really well; they have done  anything for us. Our hotel area is great. It is a perfect set-up. I think Pia [U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage] is really happy about it and hopefully we’ll have some more camps here in the future.”

After undergoing a grueling camp in Florida last month, Lloyd and her teammates are fine-tuning things during their stay at Princeton.

“It was a tough two-week camp in Florida but we made it through,” said Lloyd.

“This camp is a little bit longer but because there is a game attached at the end of it, I think that makes it a little bit easier. It’s tough with the roster cut so it is a pretty important camp. There is a lot going on; there is a lot of preparation before we move on to the next camp.”

With the U.S. team capturing international attention last summer in its dramatic run to the World Cup final where it lost to Japan in a penalty shootout, the players are hoping to shine in their next major competition.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted to at the World Cup and any time we can bounce back, and not so much have a second chance, but have another big event to show ourselves on the world stage, that’s great,” said Lloyd.

“We are going to waiting another three years after this Olympics for the next world cup. I am super excited. You never want to take anything for granted, you want to take it one game at a time. It is not going to be easy.”

It is going to be easy for the U.S. to get excited about playing in the English venues, which are among the most storied in world soccer.

“I think it is a privilege to even be considered to be able play in those stadiums,” said Lloyd, who was a key player on the U.S. gold
medal team in the 2008
Beijing Games.

“Wembley is such a prestigious stadium. Coming off a World Cup in Germany where they did a phenomenal job, I think we are going to get that same kind of vibe coming to London. They are pretty excited about soccer there.”

U.S. head coach Sundhage likes the vibe she is getting at the Princeton camp.

“Everything I have heard about Princeton has been fantastic; I wonder if it is that good but just look around with the turf and the real grass, it is hard to tell the difference,” said Sundhage, reflecting on the camp which was slated to run from May 10-25.

“I am very happy with the fact that we chose to stay here; they have been treating us well and it is a good feeling to be around this area.”

In Sundhage’s view, her players have been thriving in the Princeton environment.

“They are competing very well; I think the intersquad game that we played the other day was one of the best I have ever seen,” said Sundhage.

“They are really doing a good job to compete against each other; if we do a good job of that, we can win against any team in the world. They look very good.”

Lloyd, for her part, knows it is going to require a full team effort for the U.S. to defend its Olympic crown.

“I think it is going to take every one of us, all 18 players,” asserted Lloyd, who has 131 caps and 34 goals in her career with the national team.

“I don’t think there is a single star player on this team that is going to win it for us. We have got great talent. We have a great attacking front six and a solid back four and good people coming off that bench. We just have to play our game. We have to take some risks and we know we may give up some goals but we just have to score more than the other teams.”

The 30-year-old Lloyd is primed to make a big contribution to the U.S. attack.

“I am feeling really good; I am the fittest I have ever been,” said Lloyd, who has eight goals in 12 appearances this year for the U.S.

“I think my role has changed which had given me a little more freedom. Since Shannon Boxx is holding in the center midfield, I can run around and create things and be that playmaker and make things happen and get myself in and around the box for scoring opportunities.”

And having the opportunity to train at Princeton has proven to be a good fit for Lloyd and her teammates.

UNLIKELY RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse star Garret Jensen runs up the field in a game earlier this spring. Attackman Jensen helped seventh-seeded PDS make an unlikely run in the Mercer County Tournament as the Panthers knocked off second-seeded Notre Dame and sixth-seeded Princeton High on the way to the title contest last Saturday against No. 1 Hopewell Valley. Jensen scored a goal in the championship game but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers fell 6-2 to the Bulldogs to end the season at 10-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Tyler Olsson and his fellow seniors on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team, spending some quality time together in South Carolina a few months ago helped strengthen their resolve to go out with a bang this spring.

“At Hilton Head, where we had our spring training, we were all in the same house together,” said star midfielder Olsson, whose classmates on the team include Garret Jensen, Mike Davila, Zack Higgins, Lyndy Lapera, and Walker Ward.

“We spent hours on end together. We are a pretty closely knit group.”

Last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, Olsson and the seniors came agonizingly close to ending their careers with a title, falling just short in a 6-2 loss to powerful Hopewell Valley.

The seventh-seeded Panthers battled toe-to-toe with No. 1 HoVal, trailing by just 3-2 entering the fourth quarter. PDS, though, couldn’t find the back of the net over the last 12 minutes while the Bulldogs scored three goals.

“Their defense pressured out and kind of shut us down,” said Olsson. “We weren’t taking the right shots, we kept shooting high right into the stick.”

Having upset second-seeded Notre Dame and No. 6 Princeton High on the way to the title game, PDS had high hopes of pulling off another upset even when they were behind 2-1 at halftime against HoVal.

“That’s what we have been all year,” said Olsson, referring to squad’s underdog mentality.

“We took out Notre Dame; we took out PHS. We are a second half team. We have come back in the second half of multiple games. That is just how we do it; I thought we had this one.”

For Olsson, who also stars for PDS’s ice hockey team, playing in the MCT final in lacrosse was reminiscent of the success he has experienced on the ice.

“I have won MCT in hockey and the Preps in hockey but have never done anything in lacrosse for this program,” said Olsson.

“This is just huge, making it to the finals of MCTs. Hopefully we will bring the program back up to what it used to be.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman saw the trip to the MCT final as a huge step forward.

“It is all icing at this point; nobody expects a seven seed to be playing the final,” said Tuckman, who got goals from Cody Triolo and Jensen as the Panthers ended the spring with a 10-7 record.

“We played against the No. 1 seed and they are the No. 1 seed for a reason, they are now 18-2. Part of it is that they have an incredible defense and their defense played very well against us today.”

The Panthers had their chances, including a critical sequence early in the fourth quarter when they missed a good chance to draw within one goal only to see HoVal race down the field and score.

“We knocked on the door there, had it been on goal there and gone in then it is 4-3 instead of 5-2 in that transition,” said Tuckman.

“You could go back to lots of different plays. Overall it was a great season. I am really proud of the team.”

Tuckman is proud of what his seniors have given to the team. “It goes without saying; you look at a kid like Garret who is banged up beyond belief and still puts it out everyday,” said Tuckman, reflecting on the program’s Class of 2012.

“We have Tyler Olsson, who doesn’t stop fighting, and Michael Davila, who has been a staple for us in terms of leadership. Losing Zack in the prep semifinals was really tough. He helped our young defense figure out how to play the role they need to play. They are leaving a legacy for sure.”

The young players coming back are primed to add to that legacy. “I am excited for what is to come; we are definitely building this program,” asserted Tuckman.

“As we said to them yesterday in practice, everything we have done is to build experiences and build this program so when we get to big moments like this we are ready for them.”

In Olsson’s view, there should be plenty of big moments ahead for the Panthers.

“Since my freshman year, there has been a huge change,” said Olsson. “We have grown and brought in some new talent. We are just starting to rebuild the program and what happened in hockey can happen in lacrosse.”

CAREER ADVANCEMENT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Mia Haughton heads to goal in recent action. Last Friday, senior midfielder and co-captain Haughton tallied a goal and four assists as second-seeded PHS rallied to top No. 7 Mount Olive 10-7 in the second round of the North Jersey Group 3 sectionals and stayed alive in the state tourney. The Little Tigers were slated to host No. 3 WW/P-N on May 22 in the sectional semifinals with the winner advancing to the title game on May 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team trailing Mount Olive 4-3 at halftime last Friday in the second round of the state tournament, Mia Haughton realized that she might have just 25 minutes remaining in her high school career.

“Katie [Reilly] and I were talking, we definitely didn’t want this to be our last game,” said senior star Haughton, who is a co-captain of the Little Tigers along with classmate Reilly. “We weren’t playing our game in the first half.”

As a result, the Little
Tigers engaged in some soul searching at halftime of the North Jersey Group 3 sectional contest.

“Coach [Christie] Cooper talked it over with us and said we weren’t playing as a team,” recalled Haughton.

“We can only win as a team. We got together and said ‘family’ which is what our team says to remind us that we are a team. We needed to play more as a unit rather than playing as individuals.”

In the second half, Haughton helped the second-seeded Little Tigers find a rhythm, assisting on four straight goals as PHS forged ahead 8-5 on the way to a 10-7 win.

“The opportunities started coming and one thing is that we just slowed it down,” said Haughton, who tallied a goal and four assists on the game with sophomore standout Emilia Lopez-Ona scoring five goals and Elizabeth Jacobs chipping in two as the Little Tigers improved to 14-3.

“In the first half we just kept rushing and rushing and we never got into a settled offense so we settled it down and got into it. The cuts were coming and my assists were easy.”

For Haughton, it has been easy working with longtime friend Reilly in leading the Little Tigers.

“Being a captain, I feel like I have to step up and fill that leadership role,” said Haughton.

“It really helps to have Katie by my side. We are a unit. We are going to Amherst College together so the bond is going to continue. We have been playing together our whole life. We understand each other on the field so it is really good to have her with me.”

But in line with the team’s emphasis on family, Haughton notes that many have pitched in when it comes to leadership.

“The majority of our players are younger and underclassmen; anyone can step up and play the leadership role,” said Haughton.

“Between Emilia [Lopez-Ona] and Liz [Jacobs] and our defense which is all underclassmen and a freshman goalie [Mira Shane], they can step in and fill those leadership roles. That’s all you can ask for.”

With PHS slated to host No. 3 WW/P-N on May 22 in the sectional semis, Haughton and her teammates will be asking for even more from themselves.

“We definitely have to pick it up in practice and get serious because we are in the semifinals,” said Haughton, noting that PHS and WW/P-N split their two regular season meetings.

“As long as I have been here, we have never made it this far. We broke the second round curse, we are just really excited.”

END GAME: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Kirby Peck heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Peck scored two goals but it wasn’t enough as 13th-seeded PHS fell 9-6 to No. 20 Fair Lawn in the opening round of the Group 3 state tournament. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It has been a grueling May for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

Coming into its Group 3 state tournament opening round contest last Saturday morning against visiting Fair Lawn, PHS has played five games since May 8, including a draining 8-7 overtime loss to Princeton Day School on Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

Looking flat, the 13th-seeded Little Tigers fell behind 3-0 in the first quarter against the 20th-seeded Cutters and found themselves trailing 4-1 at halftime.

PHS head coach Peter Stanton could sense that his players were dragging a little bit.

“The last couple of weeks, we have played Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, everybody is in the same position but we are a little worn down,” said Stanton.

“Getting to this point required some overachieving; it was about all we had left in the tank.”

Summoning up what energy was left, PHS drew to within 6-3 with 3:23 left in the third quarter. But the Cutters tacked on two goals late in the period and went on to a 9-6 win.

While Stanton was disappointed to see the season come to an end, he liked the way his team fought to the final whistle.

“Whatever game we are in, whatever the situation is, we always want our players to say at the end of the game that they played their hardest and they left it all on the field,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Alex Rifkin, Kirby Peck, and Matt Purdy in the defeat as his team finished the season at 10-9.

“We wanted our guys to make more plays and be a little more aggressive to make an effort they could be proud of.”

In reflecting on the spring, Stanton praised his team’s capacity to improve. “We are proud that we had some situations where we lost games to teams and bounced back,” said Stanton.

“We lost to HoVal in our opener and the second time we played them, we took them. We lost to North [WW/P-N] in a one-goal game and we beat them later. We lost to South [WW/P-S] in a one-goal game and we came back and beat them. So in a lot of those challenge situations, we showed improvement the second time around. We are pleased that our guys didn’t get discouraged by bad results.”

Stanton credited his core of seniors with helping the Little Tigers rise to the challenge.

“I think Kirby Peck and Alex Rifkin really wanted to put the team on their back and carry them as far as they could,” asserted Stanton.

“Elliot Wilson in goal had some really magical moments. Coleman Preziosi was someone that other teams always looked at as a weapon.”

The Little Tigers had a secret weapon in spiritual leader Tom Sacchetti, a senior who provided special emotional support after suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason.

“Tom didn’t see the field once this year but he came to every practice that he could,” said Stanton.

“He helped us out so much on the sideline. It is just an amazing kid who had zero percent chance of getting on the field but gave so much to the team. That is the kind of character that is really hard to replace.”

The Little Tigers have some talent in place to maintain the program’s winning tradition with such returning players as Matt Purdy, Matt Olentine, Zach Halliday, Kevin Halliday, Jack Persico, Pat McCormick, Matt Corrado, Stephen Clark, and Jack Andres.

“We love our underclassmen; we have a good number of them,” said Stanton.

“Our sophomores were really able to make a lot of plays this year. We had some freshmen contribute. We had kids on JV who we think are really going to be good players.”

In order to be really good, those young players will need to embrace a heightened work ethic.

“Hopefully what we learned is what it takes to be really successful,” added Stanton.

“More and more with the athleticism of the game and the skill level of the game improving all across the board, it requires some effort year round. Guys have to go to the weight room. Guys have to spend time at the wall. Guys have to spend time in the offseason on the game and I think our guys understand that.”

FRESH APPROACH: Hun School softball player Caitlin Hoagland shows her defensive focus in a game this spring. Freshman first baseman Hoagland had a solid debut season as the Raiders posted a 9-7 record this spring. Hun ended the season by falling 8-3 to Peddie last Thursday in the state Prep A semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School softball team, beating Peddie in late April proved to be a double-edged sword when the rivals met again last Thursday in the state Prep A semifinal.

“I think we did have confidence but they came out fired up,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “They weren’t going to let us beat them again.”

Sure enough, host Peddie tallied three runs in the bottom of the first inning to jump out to a 3-0 lead. The Raiders answered back with two runs in the top of the third to narrow the gap to 3-2. In the bottom of the fourth, however, the Falcons broke through with four runs and never looked back on the way to an 8-3 win.

In reflecting on the loss, Quirk was disappointed about falling short but sees better things on the horizon.

“We had 11 hits but we couldn’t string them together,” said Quirk, noting that her team made crucial errors to aid the Peddie rallies.

“The only good thing is that we are young; we have a lot of girls coming back.”

The youthful Raiders showed growth as they rebounded from a sluggish start to end the spring at 9-7.

“We did better than our expectations,” said Quirk. “I never expected to win nine games this year.”

Junior pitcher Dani Beal played a key role in the team’s improvement. “I am proud of Dani and how she progressed,” asserted Quirk.

“Once she got confidence in herself and her teammates, she was really good. She pulled herself together.”

The return of junior catcher Carey Million to the lineup after an early-season wrist injury gave the Raiders a jolt of confidence.

“We missed Million when she was out,” added Quirk. “Once she got herself strong enough to both catch and hit, she was a big spark. I think she had three or four homers and hit around .500.”

Several of the squad’s younger players had strong campaigns. “Julia Blake, for a freshman, was phenomenal at shortstop, both hitting and defensively,” said Quirk.

“Joey Crivelli did a good job at third base. We moved her from second; she got a lot of hard hit balls and fielded bunts really well. She worked hard. Cait Hoagland did a nice job at first; she used her stretch to make some plays. She has a bright future. Kristen Manochio did a good job in center field; she also had some big hits.”

The team’s lone senior, outfielder Emily Kuchar, gave Hun a big lift emotionally.

“Emily was a four-year player and a two-year starter,” said Quirk. “Her enthusiasm everyday was invaluable.”

In order to build on this spring’s progress, the Hun players will need to be enthusiastic about their offseason training.

“I think the lesson is that hard work pays off,” said Quirk. “You can’t start on March 1. You have to lift weights over the winter. The girls need to have more upper body strength; it makes you stronger and more aggressive. I am excited, we have a great group coming back.”

THE RIGHT STUFF: Hun School baseball player Alex Fabian delivers a pitch in action this spring. Senior Fabian displayed his versatility for the Raiders this season, hitting .325 and playing at catcher and outfield in addition to pitching. Hun lost 5-0 to Blair and 7-5 to Peddie last Saturday to get eliminated from the state Prep A tournament. The Raiders finished the spring with a 9-14 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After his Hun School baseball team topped Lawrenceville 4-2 last Wednesday in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament, Bill McQuade sensed that his team could be primed for another late surge to a title.

“We had a great win over Lawrenceville,” said longtime Hun head coach McQuade, whose team got hot in the latter stages last spring in rolling to the Prep A crown.

“Austin Goeke threw only 71 pitches in that win. He was incredible; his fastball was really working. He was really on in his last three or four starts. Coming out of that game, we were pretty happy. We felt we were on a roll. We had five or six guys who were hitting well and we just needed some decent pitching.”

But things didn’t go well for the Raiders last weekend at Blair Academy as they were knocked out of the double-elimination tournament by virtue of losing 5-0 to Blair and 7-5 to Peddie in Saturday action.

In the loss to Blair, the Raiders’ bats went quiet in the clutch. “We ran into a tough Blair team; Alex Fabian pitched for us in that game and he did well,” said McQuade.

“They got single runs in five innings. We put men on base, we just couldn’t get them home. Stevie Wells got two doubles and I don’t think we got him to third.”

Later in the day, Hun fought hard but came up short in a back-and-forth contest against Peddie.

“We started Jason Applegate; he is a freshman but we expect so much from him,” said McQuade, whose team fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and then scored in the top of the third to take the lead only to see Peddie score two in the bottom of the frame and then add two more in the fifth to secure the win.

“He battled but he walked too many. Gavin Stupienski hit a homer and we went ahead. We got a run to make it 5-5 and then we gave up two unearned runs and couldn’t score again.”

Seeing his team finish 9-14 as it failed to defend its Prep A title left McQuade with a sour taste in his mouth.

“It is disappointing if you look at the end,” said McQuade. “There is a ‘but’ and it is a huge ‘but’ and that is we didn’t have Goeke for most of the beginning of the season and we didn’t have Gavin for much of the season.”

While the season could have been a nightmare after a 2-8 start, the emergence of junior Eddie Paparella and some defensive fine-tuning helped the Raiders remain competitive.

“Paparella developed into a star,” said McQuade. “He batted .432 and colleges are looking at him. What solidified us in the infield was moving Paparella to third base and Birch to shortstop. Birch is a natural shortstop, he is the best we have had since M.L. Williams.”

The team’s core of seniors, led by captain David Dudeck, Brandon Smith Stupienski, and Fabian, gave the Raiders a solid foundation.

“Losing Dudeck is tough; he is such a great kid and nobody works harder,” said McQuade of Dudeck, who hit .418 with three homers and 20 RBIs this season and will be playing football for Boston College this fall.

“We moved Smith to second from third; that also helped. His character and dedication to the game is special. We never got a chance to see the real Gavin; he has been injured for much of the last two years. He is going to UNC-Wilmington; he is going to be a heckuva player there if he stays healthy. Fabian really matured as a player. He volunteered to help us at catcher; he had never played there and that really helped us. We had four seniors who were heavy contributors.”

McQuade cited Thom Browne as another senior who provided a special contribution when it comes to character.

“Thom Browne had four years in the program with the first three years on JV,” added McQuade.

“He never said a word; he had a great attitude. He got a big win over Mercersburg for us.”

In McQuade’s view, the program has pieces in place to get some big wins in the future.

“If we get a whole year out of Austin [Goeke], that will be big,” said McQuade, whose other top returners include Birch (.375 average and a team-high 28 runs this spring) and Wells (.333 with two homers and 19 RBIs).

“Applegate will be a player. Mike Manfredi (.273 with 10 RBIs) grew up this year. He developed into a heavy hitter; he played third, first, and outfield. He can pitch, he could be a relief ace for us next year.”

In order to maximize their development, the Hun players will need to put in some heavy work over the offseason.

“If they want to be really successful, they have to start right now,” asserted McQuade.

“They need to work on conditioning and play a lot of baseball this summer. They need to work on all facets of the game, including the mental part of the game.”

McQuade, for his part, believes that having a hungry mentality could be the key ingredient to future success.

“Coming into this year, everyone was excited,” said McQuade. “We were coming off a Prep A title and had almost everyone back. I told them what you did last year means nothing. We will be reminding them of that next year.”

May 16, 2012

HELD OFF: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro fights through a hold in action earlier this season. Last Sunday, junior star Froccaro scored two goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 6-5 to fifth-seeded and defending champion Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers ended the spring at 11-5 overall and 6-0 in Ivy League regular season play as they rebounded from a 4-8 campaign in 2011. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During their NFL championship run in the early 1960s, the proud Green Bay Packer players used to say they never lost a game, they just ran out of time.

As Princeton University men’s lacrosse head coach Chris Bates reflected on his team’s 6-5 loss at fifth-seeded and defending champion Virginia last Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, he had a similar feeling.

“If the game had gone a minute longer, we would have been ahead,” said Bates, whose team rallied from a 5-2 halftime deficit. “It was a matter of time until we broke through; we had momentum.”

With his team coming off a deflating 15-7 loss to Yale on May 7 in the championship game of the Ivy League tournament, Bates could sense that his players were regaining momentum as they went through practice last week.

“The mood was confident, upbeat, and positive as it should have been,” said Bates. “I thought we were where we needed to be.”

The proud Princeton defense was back to where it needed to be against the Cavaliers as it stymied Virginia’s high-octane attack.

“We were very uncharacteristic the week before,” said Bates, whose team had been giving up 6.85 goals a game before the Yale loss. “They rose to the challenge and the capabilities of who they were playing.”

The Tiger offense was not up to the challenge in the first half, repeatedly misfiring and making some costly miscues.

“I thought the key to the game was our missed shots and our offensive decision-making,” said Bates, whose team scored on just two of its 15 shots on goal in the opening half.

“We had some dropped shots and turnovers. I attribute a lot of that to Virginia’s defense, they played some zone and some man.”

Princeton was hurt by two defensive lapses as it yielded goals in the waning moments of both the first and second quarters.

“They dominated play early and we held them to two goals,” said Bates. “We score and everything seems to be going well and then they get a goal with nine seconds left in the quarter. The goal at the end of the half haunted us.”

Senior goalie Tyler Fiorito haunted the Cavaliers as he made 12 saves and controlled the crease area.

“I thought Tyler was spectacular in the cage,” asserted Bates of tri-captain Fiorito, who ended his career with a total of 624 saves, second best in program history.

“If you are going to win a game like that, you need your goalie to play well. He did everything in his power to help us win. He anticipates plays; he causes turnovers. It is a real bonus to have that in a goalie.”

Even though Princeton was trailing 5-2 at the half, Bates thought the Tigers had a great chance to pull out a win. “At halftime we challenged them,” recalled Bates. “We told them we were not out of this game.”

Controlling tempo in the third quarter, Princeton scored two unanswered goals to draw within 5-4 heading into the final 15 minutes of the contest.

“Bobby [Lucas] was getting face-offs and we started to get a rhythm,” said Bates, whose team ended up outshooting the Cavaliers 19-8 in the second half. “They started to turn the ball over.”

After falling behind 6-4 with 7:07 left in the contest, Princeton fought back to set up a nailbiting finish.

“Tom [Schreiber] did his thing to get us to 6-5,” said Bates, who got two goals and two assists from Schreiber on the day with Jeff Froccaro scoring two goals and Forest Sonnenfeldt adding one.

“On the last possession, we had plenty of time. We put our best playmakers and shooters out there. We had three shots with two of them at point blank.”

After the loss, Bates had a hard time as he addressed his players. “I was choked up; I was not prepared for it to be over,” said Bates, whose team ended the season with an 11-5 record.

“This group of seniors is special to me and the program with everything they endured and how they helped shape a culture. I was sad for them and their families to see it end.”

With Princeton having rebounded from a 4-8 campaign in 2011, Bates believes that change in culture will endure.

“The pieces are in place; we are losing three great players in Tyler, John Cunningham, and Chad Wiedmaier along with 11 other terrific seniors,” said Bates. “But there is lots of optimism and lots of hunger. We have three-quarters of the team coming back.”

In order to get back to national title contention, the Tigers will have to learn to get over the hump in tight games. In addition to the narrow loss last Sunday, the Tigers fell 10-8 to Johns Hopkins, 9-8 to North Carolina, and 10-9 to Syracuse this spring.

“It takes some intangibles and some execution,” said Bates. “You have to handle the pressure of big games. You have got to execute, make plays, and take care of the ball, ground balls, and face-offs. It also comes down to the character in the room. We need to make strides to be more game ready and situation ready.”

While the clock may have run out too soon on the Tigers last Sunday, Bates will long remember the character his players displayed in helping his son Nick and him carry on after the death of his wife, Ann, last November.

“It has been a privilege to be around these guys,” said Bates. “It has been great to come out everyday and focus on the group and making them better. It has been therapeutic for Nick and me. These guys rallied around me and my family. I will never forget that; it has meant so much.”

OPEN SEASON: Members of the Princeton University women’s open crew celebrate after the Tigers won the title at the inaugural Ivy League Sprints last Sunday at Cooper River in Cherry Hill. The Tigers piled up 76 points to edge runner-up Radcliffe by three points at the regatta with Yale taking third and Cornell finishing fourth. (Photo Courtesy of Ryan Samson/The Ivy League)

When Princeton University women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny  looks back on the inaugural Ivy League Sprints, one image, in particular, will come to her mind.

“Every kid from Princeton who competed came away with a medal,” said Dauphiny, reflecting on the event which was held last Sunday at Cooper River in Cherry Hill. “That is really cool; that doesn’t happen too often.”

The Tigers piled up 76 points to edge runner-up Radcliffe by three points at the regatta with Yale taking third and Cornell finishing fourth.

Dauphiny, though, would have liked to see her varsity 8 rowers with gold draped around their necks rather than the bronze they earned from coming in third behind winner Radcliffe and second place Cornell.

“Overall I thought they rowed a good race but we were disappointed,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat clocked a time of 6:22.06 over the 2,000-meter course with Radcliffe at 6:17.74 and Cornell at 6:20.53. “We thought we had a possibility of winning the race and we fell short.”

While the Tiger varsity 8 entered the competition with a 7-0 record in Ivy regular season races, Dauphiny knew it wasn’t a powerhouse.

“This boat is not the most consistent; we had a solid regular season,” said Dauphiny. “We went undefeated in the Ivy League but we lost some races outside of the conference. The team know its strengths and weaknesses; it takes time to develop.”

In Sunday’s racing, the top boat showed it can address weaknesses on the fly.

“At Ivy sprints, they were a little frenzied in the heat; it was not our best race,” recalled Dauphiny.

“We talked about it and made changes in our cadence for the final and we executed. We know they are responsive; they are working on skills and racing better.”

The Princeton second varsity 8 displayed its racing prowess, winning its grand final by overcoming Brown down the stretch.

“The second varsity also had a very good regular season; it is a boat that tends to come from behind,” said Dauphiny, whose second boat clocked a winning time of 6:27.95 with the Bears coming in at 6:31.21.

“They are slower to get going; they gain speed and finish strong and that is what they did on Sunday. They got a better start than usual. They were trailing Brown for much of the race but went through them.”

Putting the final touches on an undefeated season, the third varsity produced a dominating effort, covering the course in 6:38.49, more than 10 seconds ahead of runner up Brown.

“They got off to a good start,” said Dauphiny. “If a race like that can be comfortable, they had it with open water at the end.”

The varsity four wasn’t comfortable with its second place finish as it got nipped by Radcliffe by just over two seconds.

“The boat felt it had an opportunity to win so there was some disappointment,” said Dauphiny. “They rowed a good race but fell short.”

In Dauphiny’s view, winning the team title says good things about the overall strength of the program.

“It should be a help for the future, it shows development and depth,” said Dauphiny.

With the NCAA Championships being held at nearby Mercer Lake from May 25-27, Dauphiny is hoping the combination of proximity and depth will help Princeton be a contender.

“It is definitely not a disadvantage; it’s wonderful to be close to home during final exams and not be traveling,” said Dauphiny, noting that the competition utilizes a team format involving the varsity 8, second varsity 8, and the varsity 4.

“We are excited to have another chance. It is nice that the whole team is recognized; maybe we have a shot at doing better in the team standings.”

LESSON PLAN: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao instructs his players in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, the Tigers gained some valuable lesson as they took sixth in their first appearance at the NCAA Championship. The Tigers went 1-2 in the competition to finish the season with a 29-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s water polo team, its first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship proved to be eye-opening on several levels.

“No doubt there was a lot of excitement; it was a tremendous learning experience,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, reflecting on the 8-team competition which took place last weekend at San Diego State’s Aztec Aquaplex.

“We had never gotten this far. We also had to deal with the hurdles of handling academic responsibilities on the road.”

The sixth-seeded Tigers faced a big hurdle in their first round contest last Friday as they played third-seeded USC.

“They are just so strong; it was great experience going against them,” said
Nicolao, whose team fell 14-2 to the Trojans, the eventual runners-up to champion Stanford. “They are physical, smart, and fast; they make you pay for every mistake.”

While the Tigers didn’t play their smartest game in a consolation contest against Iona the next day, they were able to prevail 9-5.

“We have seen them a few times so we knew it would be a tough game,” said Nicolao, who got three goals from sophomore star Katie Rigler as the Tigers outscored the Gaels 3-0 in the fourth quarter to earn the victory.

“You want to win at NCAAs. We didn’t play our best but we were able to pull away in the fourth. We missed some easy shots but we really played well

In the fifth place game against Loyola Marymount on Sunday, the Tigers sputtered down the stretch as they fell 15-11.

“That was the hardest game to take,” said Nicolao, whose team pulled to within 12-11 in the fourth quarter after trailing by three goals for much of the second half.

“We had our chances; we missed opportunities both offensively and defensively. You have to consider the quality of opponent and the fatigue from the weekend. We played hard.”

Learning some hard lessons over the weekend should serve as motivation going forward for a Tiger team that is only losing three seniors.

“Getting the taste of this and seeing how exciting it is, set the bar higher,” said Nicolao, whose team finished the season with a 29-6 record.

“They want to get back there and do better. The girls are all driven. We talked on the bus ride back from the airport about doing that little extra to be better.”

In any event, it has been a special ride for Nicolao this spring. “The group came together,” asserted Nicolao, who is in his 14th year overseeing both the men’s and women’s water polo programs at Princeton.

“Last year we lost the one-goal games; this year, we were winning them. We have a good foundation in place for Princeton water polo. We will have a target on our backs next year but we are excited to get going again. The girls can be proud of what they did.”

LEAP DAY: Princeton High girls’ track star Maddie Lea flies through the air in competition earlier this season. Last Saturday, Lea took third in the triple jump at the Mercer County Championships, helping the Little Tigers to their first-ever team title in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet. It was a photo finish as the Little Tigers accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S, who totaled 86.5 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jim Smirk has adopted a straightforward mantra this spring for his Princeton High girls’ track team.

“We have been telling the kids to do good things and good things will happen,” said PHS head coach Smirk.

Last Saturday at the Mercer County Championship meet, the Little Tigers did a lot of good things and something great happened as PHS won its first team title in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet. (The program did win the indoor county title in 1989.)

It was a photo finish as the Little Tigers accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S, who totaled 86.5 points.

Coming into the county meet at Steinert High, Smirk saw his squad as a title contender.

“We knew we had a pretty good team,” said Smirk. “We thought of ourselves as a top three team. Last year, we felt we didn’t have our team quite together. We have been talking about redefining what are team could be.”

Senior star Bryell Wheeler certainly had it together last Saturday, placing first in the 100 (12.32), long jump (17‘2.50) and triple jump (38‘1.25), and taking fourth in the 200 (26.35).

“Bryell has had nagging hamstring issues this spring,” said Smirk. “Coach [Ben] Samara and I sat down with her last week and said ‘here’s the deal, you recognize your talent but in the big meets you struggle. We think you are ready to do well but you have to believe it.’ She went out and competed.”

Wheeler’s competitive will has been reflected by her versatility. “She was always strong at the 100 and the long jump; every year she has grown by adding an event,” added Smirk.

“Over the winter, Ben started working on triple jump with her. It is a true technical event and we thought she was ready for that. The 100 and long jump are really power events.”

The Little Tigers also got a powerful contribution from their other jumping star Maddie Lea, who took third in the triple jump (35’7.50).

“Maddie Lea deserves a lot of credit,” said Smirk. “She and Bryell have been training partners all year; the two girls are both incredible jumpers. Maddie is a state level jumper in the triple jump and long jump.”

PHS boasts a high-level distance runner in senior Elyssa Gensib who won the 1,600 and took second in the 3,200. Gensib nipped WW/P-S star Caroline Kellner in the 1,600, clocking a time of 4:58.27, 1.31 ahead of the Pirate runner. In the 3,200, Gensib finished nearly 10 seconds behind Kellner, coming in at 10:56.24 with the WW/P-S standout posting a winning time of 10:46.73.

“Caroline wanted to be a four-time county champ in mile and she had never been under 5:00; we knew what she was going after,” said Smirk

“I said to Elyssa, ‘I have been running you in those 800s to help your speed, all you have to do is believe.’ In the the stretch between 1,000 and 1,400 meters, Caroline eats people up. Elyssa needed to get in middle and show the will to stay on her shoulder and have a shot in the last 300. It was one of the most exciting miles I have ever seen; both girls executed their race plans. Kellner had a blazing 800 but Elyssa had the guts to stay with her and use her speed at the end.”

Smirk had a feeling that Gensib would display some good finishing speed.

“She has been training that way,” explained Smirk.

“She been doing tempo work on the road where she is able to modulate. In the last four weeks, she has been doing tempo work in the track: it is mentally tougher. She was putting in the work for those last 40 meters.

Sophomore throwing star Michelle Bazile showed mental toughness as she won the shotput (36‘4.50) and took second in the discus (127’3).

“Coming off basketball, we were working to have her focus on discus with her height and strength,” said Smirk.

“Then she goes out and wins the shot put, ‘are you kidding me?’ but when we looked at her last 20 throws, she was the pinnacle of consistency.” said Smirk.

“We should have seen that she was ready to go 36 feet. The duel in the discus was really impressive. Every time Michelle would do a long throw, the girl from Hightstown [Aziza Ahmed] would go a little further. Michelle as a sophomore, stepped in there with complete confidence. She was really competing.”

As the meet drew to a conclusion, Smirk wasn’t sure whether PHS had done enough to win the competition.

“After the triple jump and discus, it was coming down to 4×400,” said Smirk.

“If we took fifth, we had a shot but we were in second heat. I wasn’t sure what we got but then Todd Smith [the WW/P-S coach] came up to me and congratulated me.”

Once it sunk in that PHS had won the title, Smirk felt a deep sense of pride in how far the program has come.

“It is huge; when I started years ago as head coach, I wrote down goals and I said is a county title even possible with Trenton, WW/P-S, WW/P-N, and Hopewell, which was a dynasty then.” said Smirk, whose squad will look for another title when it competes in the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet from May 25-26.

“It was great that we got it with a group of girls who have gone through a lot. The seniors lost a teammate when Helene [Cody] passed away. They are more battle-tested. Doing what they did over time is a testament to how much they have been able to grow.”

LIFE OF REILLY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player ­Katie Reilly runs upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star and co-captain Reilly chipped in two goals and an assist to help PHS top Notre Dame 18-15. The Little Tigers, who improved to 12-3 with the win, are starting state tournament play where second-seeded PHS was slated to host No. 15 Roxbury on May 15 in the opening round of Group III North sectional. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Katie Reilly was bitterly disappointed when the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team fell to WW/P-S last week in the Mercer County Tournament quarters to end its title defense, she thought something positive could come from the defeat.

“The South game was a huge bummer; we totally wanted to win that game,” said PHS senior star defender and co-captain Reilly, reflecting on the 11-10 loss to the Pirates.

“It fuels us now because we don’t have a county title under our belt. It fuels us for states, we are saying we want to go as far as we can.”

Last Friday, PHS hit the gas as it topped Notre Dame 18-15 in a regular season contest, improving to 12-3 and tuning up for its state tourney run that was slated to start when the second-seeded Little Tigers host No. 15 Roxbury on May 15.

In Reilly’s view, facing Notre Dame was an ideal way to prepare for state play.

“They are always a really athletic and tough competition so we wanted to get in a good quality game before the states,” said Reilly.

“We were trying to get on a roll. When they did score, we would answer back.”

PHS is hoping it can keep rolling for a while in the states. “We call our team a family and we are saying we want to keep the family together and keep the season going,” said Reilly. “It is fun being in the postseason but I don’t want it to end.”

Reilly has a sisterly bond with classmate and fellow star Mia Haughton that will continue as the longtime friends will both be heading to Amherst College where they will be playing for the school’s women’s lax team.

“We have been playing soccer and lacrosse together since fourth grade so it is pretty ridiculous,” said Reilly. “So our parents have been saying the era continues.”

For Reilly, holding the PHS defense together is her main focus on the field. “I have always been more defensive-minded,” said Reilly, who also starred as a defender for the PHS girls’ soccer team.

“I try to lead vocally and by example and I try to be the master of the ground ball. I feel like that is my role, getting draw controls and ground balls.”

In recent games, Reilly has been making more noise on the offensive end. “If I can score, great, but I don’t think of that as my role on the team,” said Reilly, who had two goals and an assist in the win over Notre Dame with Haughton adding four goals and Emilia Lopez-Ona leading the way with eight tallies.

“When it comes, I love it. I think it is because I am lot more confident with my stick skills than I was last year because in working the off season and all summer, I tried to focus on my stickwork.”

In order for PHS to make a deep run in the states, it needs to keep focused when it has the ball.

“We have got to keep our attack in shape,” said Reilly. “We just learned a few new plays; we might see North (WW/P-N) again and they know our plays by now. The key for us is going to be winning the draws and keeping the momentum.”

A big key for PHS is the family feeling around the squad, which stems, in part, from how the players came together last spring in the wake of the death of senior player Emma Brunskill.

“We win as a team; we lose as a team,” asserted Reilly. “That has been helping us all season; we sacrifice for the team. We love each other. It is a special bond from last year which has carried over.”

LATE SHOW: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Alex Rifkin races up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, Rifkin scored two fourth quarter goals to help sixth-seeded PHS rally to a 10-9 win over No. 11 Northern Burlington in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. PHS, which improved to 9-7 with the victory, was slated to face third-seeded WW/P-S on May 15 in the county quarters with the winner advancing to the semis on May 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was trailing Northern Burlington 9-7 going into the fourth quarter of their Mercer County Tournament opening round contest last Saturday, Alex Rifkin sensed that a rally was inevitable.

“We all knew that we expected way more of us and we all knew that we had it in us to win this game,” said senior midfielder Rifkin.

“The coaches didn’t say too much. It was more of the players just knowing what we needed to do and just executing.”

Rifkin executed with aplomb down the stretch, scoring two unanswered goals as sixth-seeded PHS drew even with the No. 11 Greyhounds at 9-9 with 4:34 left in regulation.

A minute later, fellow senior Coleman Preziosi, found the back of the net to give PHS a 10-9 lead. That tally turned out to be the game-winner as neither team scored over the last 3:33 of the contest.

In Rifkin’s view, the win was due, in part, to some veteran leadership. “Our seniors stepped up at the end,” asserted Rifkin. “There was some key shooting and some hard fighting in the midfield.”

For Rifkin, burying the game-tying goal was a matter of shooting practice paying off.

“I was really hoping that one was going to go in; I had practiced that shot from the top left everyday,” recalled Rifkin, who ended the day with two goals and two assists. “I knew I needed to hit it and I just did what I needed to do.”

Coming into this season, Rifkin was prepared to assume more responsibility offensively.

“I worked a bunch on the offseason on my shooting and I was working on my speed,” said Rifkin.

“I feel it is just finding my role on the team, I had to step up this year. I knew they needed me to score goals and I was going to do what the coaches needed me to do.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way Rifkin has stepped up in his final campaign.

“Alex is an offensive talent,” said Stanton, who got three goals from Matt Purdy in the win over Northern Burlington with Preziosi and Kirby Peck adding two goals apiece.

“He is the type of player who can run by people and he can shoot the ball and put it in the goal on the run which is a pretty good gift. He can also find the open guy and pass for the assist so he is a double threat.”

Stanton acknowledged that Northern Burlington proved to be a threat to the Little Tigers, showing a lot of pluck after having lost 20-9 to PHS days earlier in a regular season contest.

“I think that enters into it a little bit,” said Stanton, when asked if his team had trouble getting pumped up for the rematch.

“But I think mostly you have to look at a team like that and applaud them for having such heart to come back and play us so hard.”

The PHS comeback came down to sharper play at both ends of the field.” “We gave up our goals going in transition and on the man up,” explained Stanton, whose team improved to 9-7 with the victory and was slated to face third-seeded WW/P-S on May 15 in the county quarters with the winner advancing to the semis on May 17.

“We just wanted to stop fouling and we wanted to play defense with our feet and take away those opportunities. We needed to protect the ball a little bit better. We made some adjustments with our shooting.”

Another key factor was the clutch play of the team’s seniors as they didn’t want to make an early exit from county competition, having advanced to the title game last spring.

“They are the ones that need to do it; they are the ones we rely on,” said Stanton, noting that senior goalie Elliot Wilson came up big down the stretch. “To their credit when things didn’t go well, they didn’t get discouraged.”

In Stanton’s view, the late rally could be an encouraging sign going forward. “We are hoping that the experience of having a close game and playing under pressure and needing to do heroic things late in the game benefits us,” said Stanton, whose team will also be competing in the state tournament this month.

“Obviously we would have liked to play a little better but our hope is that we benefit from this game.”

Rifkin, for his part, believes that PHS can raise the level of its game in tournament play.

“I absolutely think we will be dangerous going on,” maintained Rifkin. “We went on a five-game win streak earlier in the season and I think this team has the capability of building the momentum going into this tournament after last year’s epic loss in the finals [an 8-7 overtime loss to Notre Dame]. We need to know that we can’t take any  game for granted. We need to go into every game ready to go, ready to perform, and ready to win.”

FINAL LOOK: Princeton High baseball player Matt Hoffman looks for a sign in a game earlier this season. Senior outfielder Hoffman has produced a solid season in his final campaign for PHS, hitting .375 through the team’s first 20 games with 16 runs and 24 hits. The Little Tigers, now 3-18, were slated to wrap up their season with a game at Pennington on May 15.

On one hand, it was another tough day in a disappointing spring for the Princeton High baseball team.

Battling Nottingham tooth and nail, PHS came up short, losing 4-2 to drop to 3-17.

But senior outfielder Matt Hoffman refused to focus solely on the result, drawing joy from simply being on the diamond with his teammates.

“We all love baseball so it is just a love for the game that brings us out here,” said Hoffman.

“We are all friends on the team and we come out here. Whenever you get to hang out with your friends and play baseball at the same time, it is a good day.”

Hoffman had a good day at the plate for PHS, pounding out a single, drawing two walks, and scoring a run as the Little Tigers fought an uphill battle after falling behind 1-0 in the first.

The Little Tigers scored in the bottom of the second to tie the game 1-1 but then gave up three runs in the top of the fourth. Hoffman scored in the bottom of the fifth as PHS trimmed the Nottingham lead to 4-2.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hoffman lashed a single to left field and advanced to second after classmate Nico Mercuro was hit by a pitch. The Little Tigers, though, failed to generate any more offense as they fell 4-2.

In reflecting on his seventh inning hit, Hoffman said he utilized his savvy to out-duel the Northstar pitcher.

“I went down 0-2 quick,” recalled Hoffman. “I remember from a previous at bat when it was 0-2, he threw a fast ball at 0-2 high, and then he threw a curve ball to that batter. I knew he was going to throw a curve ball and it was low. When it was 2-2, I knew he wasn’t going to throw another curve ball so I was expecting a fast ball and it was right down the middle.”

Earlier in the game, Hoffman showed his patience as he drew two walks. “I haven’t really walked that much this year and I have been struggling a little bit so I have been trying to work the count a little more,” said Hoffman, who had a batting average of .375 through PHS’s first 20 games with 16 runs and 24 hits.

“A walk is as good as a single, I am just trying to get on and help the team anyway I can.”

The diligent Hoffman puts in daily work in making himself as valuable as possible to the team.

“My hitting has been up and down this year; I have had 0-for-3 games and 4-for-4 games,” said Hoffman, a versatile athlete who starred for the PHS boys’ basketball and cross country teams in addition to baseball.

“There has been games where I have been happy and games where I haven’t been happy. I always try to come out before the game and take extra swings.”

The team’s senior group, which includes Will Greenberg, Ben Harrison, Nick Bowlin, Clay Alter, Alex Mitko, Mike Dunlap, and Mike Manley, in addition to Hoffman and Mercuro, is happy to be going out together.

“We have been playing with each other for a long time so we are all friends,” said Hoffman, noting that some of the seniors have been playing together since Little League.

“So when we come out here, everyone has a good time. If someone gets down we are all there to pick each other up.”

In Hoffman’s view, PHS head coach Dave Roberts has set a good tone for the program.

“Coach Roberts is a great coach; he always runs a great practice,” said Hoffman, who is headed to the University of Michigan where he hopes to play club baseball or basketball. “He and I have always communicated well. I love this team.”

As he goes through his final days with the team, Hoffman would love to see the Little Tigers end on a high note.

“We want to win; I think the focus all year has been get as many wins as you can,” said Hoffman.

“Now that we are in the last stretch, we have been getting around five wins a season and we are at three right now so we always try to get one more win than last year.”

FORWARD LOOKING: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Iain ­Alexandridis looks for an opening in action earlier this season. Senior attacker/midfielder Alexandridis and his classmates have set a positive tone in helping the Raiders make steady progress this spring. Hun, now 7-10, wraps up the season with a game at Lawrenceville on May 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team breaks out of its huddles during games, the players typically shout ‘1-2-3, hard work’ in unison.

That rallying cry is an apt description of a 2012 season which has seen a young Hun squad make strides under first-year head coach Don Green.

“There is unbelievable progress from when we started scrimmaging in the beginning of the year to where we are now,” said Green.

“We are two completely different teams and that is because the kids have worked hard the entire season. It is a total credit to them.”

The Raiders faced a hard task last Wednesday when they hosted a talented, experienced Hill School (Pa.) team.

“An opponent like that forces us to do everything that we talked about correct at the same time,” said Green, noting that Hill’s roster includes a number of players headed to high-level Division I college lacrosse programs.

“Some of the other teams that we face don’t force you to play your best but a team like this does. So our focus was to break the game into small segments and just continue to try to make the plays and put them together and play lacrosse the right way.”

While Hun came up on the short end in a 14-4 loss, Green liked the brand of lacrosse he saw from his team.

“Without a doubt, we tightened up in the second half,” said Green whose team was outscored 4-2 in the second half after trailing 10-2 at halftime.

“We are doing the right things; they are in the right spot. It is just going to be a little gaining of experience and that’s what these games provide. The game against Hill, the Inter Ac game, and the game against Lawrenceville are going to provide very valuable experience against teams that are going to force us to be our best.”

Hun’s most experienced players have made a valuable contribution to the learning process.

“The seniors have been leaders for us,” asserted Green, whose Class of 2012 includes Alex Gunstensen, Mark Burke, Andrew Colicchio, James Arnold, Benjamin Schenkman, and Iain Alexandridis.

“They have been teachers; they have been mentors. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing and they taught them how to be varsity lacrosse players and varsity athletes.”

A number of Hun’s young players have proven this spring that they can cut it at the varsity level.

“We have a lot of players who have grown significantly and Matt Bruno is without a doubt one of them,” said Green, referring to his sophomore goalie.

“In these tight games, he has stood on his head and made some key saves. I think Tucker Stevenson is a future star, you see moments of greatness out of him. Cameron Dudeck is a phenomenal athlete. We are lucky to get him away from baseball. Devin Cheifetz is a player who has grown dramatically. He used to be a hockey player who kind of played lacrosse, now he is a lacrosse player and a very good one. He is really the heart and soul of our team.

Green likes the heart his team has shown as it has played some formidable foes down the stretch.

“It is about growth in competitive situations,” said Green, whose team lost 10-3 at Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Saturday in Inter Ac play in moving to 7-10 and wraps up the season with a game at Lawrenceville on May 17.

“It is maintaining focus, maintaining discipline, and learning to become a complete lacrosse team. A lot of young guys are gaining great experience. Playing Hill and Lawrenceville as freshmen makes you good. When you are covered by a defenseman going to an Ivy League school, it is a trial by fire.”

In Green’s view, the Hun program has the potential to grow into something very special.

“There is a very bright future,” said Green, noting that Hun’s junior varsity team has only lost once this spring.

“Our JV team has a lot of young guys who are unbelievable. There is a buzz about the future here.”