March 11, 2015
FRESH FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Ryan Robinson heads upcourt this season. Freshman guard Robinson’s strong play was a bright spot as PDS finished the winter with a 5-16 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRESH FACE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Ryan Robinson heads upcourt this season. Freshman guard Robinson’s strong play was a bright spot as PDS finished the winter with a 5-16 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At the beginning of the season, there was a bit of a disconnect hampering the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.

“It was tough to get the girls to play together at first,” said PDS second-year head coach Kamau Bailey.

“We had six freshmen come in and the sophomores and juniors were not sure what to make of them. There was a little divide at first. Once they understood their roles, we started playing together as a team.”

After the players got on the same page, the Panthers showed progress. “We started getting wins,” said Bailey, whose team posted a final record of 5-16. “We beat Stuart two or three weeks after they had beaten us in their place and after having lost to them twice last year.

“We got a win against Hightstown and they beat us by 38 last year. We were also able to get a win at the George School (Pa.). All three of those were wins against teams we haven’t beaten in a while.”

In Bailey’s view, those breakthroughs were the product of diligence and team unity.

“It shows that the hard work these girls are putting in is starting to pay off,” said Bailey.

“I saw a bunch of progress this season. Our team chemistry and the bond the girls were able to develop was a key component to our continued progress.”

While the Panthers ended the season by falling 66-36 to Ewing in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament and 46-16 to WW/P-S in a MCT consolation contest, Bailey believes that his young squad gained some good lessons from those setbacks.

“I wanted them to see higher caliber teams and what intensity level they are at,” said Bailey, noting that his team had no seniors on the roster this winter and everyone should be returning.

“They need to see that if we are going to play at that level. The girls were doing stuff against Ewing they hadn’t done all year. They got the ball up the court against a pretty tough press. I want then to take something from each loss.”

Sophomore guard Shayla Stevenson raised the level of her play this winter.

“Shayla had an outstanding year,” said Bailey. “As a freshman she had to bear a lot of the burden of the offense. She was our best player and other teams would key on her. With (Bridget) Kane and (Ryan) Robinson in the backcourt, that freed her up to do some scoring, which is her thing.”

The one-two punch of juniors Isabel Meyercord and Helen Healey gave the Panthers some good things in the paint.

“Isabel missed the first four or five games; it took a while for her to get going,” said Bailey.

“She really helped us on the glass and defensively. Helen has gotten a lot better from last year. She grabbed rebounds and used her body to hold off other girls. Her leadership is important for us, she communicates with me and the girls. She gets her teammates together on the court.”

In the backcourt, the freshman pair of Kane and Robinson stood out. “Bridget was tied with Shayla for team lead with 105 points coming into the last game and got five more to end up with 110 and be our leading scorer,” said Bailey.

“It is phenomenal for her to have the confidence and composure to hit those long shots. She went from middle school and jumped over JV and ended up as a starter on varsity. Ryan Robinson gained a lot of confidence. She came into her own with her ability to get the ball and get her shot. She set a school record for bench press for girls. Once she realized that she was stronger than the other girls she would get rebounds and loose balls.”

Another freshman, Madison Coyne, made a strong contribution in her debut campaign.

“Coyne has a good eye for the ball, she had a lot of blocks and had six in one game,” said Bailey, who noted that his other freshmen, Summer Patterson, Katherine Bennett, and Grace Barbara all made progress.

“She had a defensive presence; we just need to get her to attack the basket and not pass up shots. She has a complete game, she can dribble, she gets rebounds, she is a great passer. She is a good athlete and fires up the rest of the girls.”

Bailey is fired up about his team’s prospects. “My deal with this team is that they have all of the tools,” said Bailey.

“They need a few more games and a little more time in the gym with me. They need to get stronger and to execute the plays better. They need to work on their ability to put the ball in the basket.”

March 4, 2015
A-ROD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Rodgers heads to the hoop. Last Saturday against visiting Brown, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with classmates Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick on the program’s annual Senior Night. Rodgers helped the 14th-ranked Tigers defeat the Bears 79-67 in improving to 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy League. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A-ROD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Rodgers heads to the hoop. Last Saturday against visiting Brown, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with classmates Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick on the program’s annual Senior Night. Rodgers helped the 14th-ranked Tigers defeat the Bears 79-67 in improving to 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy League. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While celebrating Senior Night is a once-in-lifetime experience for most college basketball players, Alex Rodgers has felt those emotions twice in her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Entering Princeton with the Class of 2014, Rogers took a leave of absence from school in 2012-13 due to a back injury. She returned last winter and was on hand when her original classmates, Nicole Hung and Kristen Helmstetter, were feted on their Senior Night. Last Saturday, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with seniors Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick as the Class of 2015 was recognized.

For Rodgers, straddling two classes has been a joy. “I felt I was able to celebrate with Kristen and Hung together,” said Rodgers. “I feel selfish because I have had two. Because of this, I have had more teammates than everybody else and that just means I have had more love around me.”

On Saturday, before the Tigers faced Brown, Rodgers was formally honored and was glad to be sharing the moment with Shivers, Smith, and Dietrick.

“I felt pretty good about it being my time,” said Rodgers, a  5’9 native of Mouth of Wilson, Va.

“It feels like the right time and to share it with these girls, who have been working hard all season. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Dealing with injuries over her career hasn’t dimmed Rodgers’ desire to keep working hard.

“I absolutely savor coming back,” said Rodgers. “Every summer, it didn’t matter how the year before went for me. I attacked it the same as I have been doing my whole life in basketball, working out with my dad. I had the highest hopes for every season coming in. Health always kind of plagued me but my love for the game never stopped so it was pretty easy to keep going.”

Back-up guard Rodgers enjoyed her weekend in the limelight, scoring six points on 3-for-3 shooting in a 67-49 win over Yale on Friday. A day later, an action photo of her from the game ran in the New York Times and then she got her first start in a Tiger uniform.

“It is a huge weekend, I feel like it is a bit of a reward for all of the hard work I have put in,” said Rodgers, who didn’t score in the 79-67 win over Brown and now has 140 points in 67 career appearances for the Tigers .

“It hasn’t always been easy but it has always been fun. This is the most fun weekend so far.”

The Princeton players have had a lot of fun collectively this winter, as they have gone 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy league, rising to No. 14 nationally in the AP Poll. Well before the season started, Rodgers had an inkling that the Tigers could do some big things this winter.

“The first week on campus, it felt a little different than the other weeks because all we were thinking about was the Penn loss,” said Rodgers, referring to the team’s 80-64 defeat to Penn in last year’s regular season finale which denied it a fifth straight Ivy crown.

“So when you have something like that behind, you start the first day of practice and you realize there is no time to waste. That is kind of how we have approached the whole season. There is no time to waste in practice, there is no time to waste in the games.”

Rodgers is determined to make the most of her fleeting time in a Tiger uniform.

“My role on the team is the same as everyone else’s,” said Rodgers. “In practice every day, it is everybody’s job to go as hard as possible. On game days it is my job to remind our team of how hard we have worked all week and that we get what we deserve out of these games. I try to provide a little comedic relief all the time.”

In reflecting on her Princeton career, Rodgers said she has gotten a lot out of the experience, on and off the court.

“It has meant everything, it has been a huge blessing as far as academics and the opportunities it has brought that way for me,” said Rodgers.

“I have always wanted to compete in basketball my whole life and this place has given me the opportunity to be competitive every day whether it is in practice or on the bench and that has meant the most to me.”

Princeton head coach Banghart enjoyed seeing the team’s seniors get their opportunity to be in the spotlight.

“Senior night is always a bittersweet night, you look at those seniors and they go undefeated at home in their senior year,” said Banghart.

“They actually didn’t even want to start the game because they thought this whole year hasn’t been about us. They have been in a supportive role and they like that role. I said let everybody else celebrate you because it is four years of an incredibly successful campaign and everybody is a part of it. You always hope that they get what they wanted and I hope tonight is a night they will remember for all of the right reasons.”

A feisty Brown squad made things tough on Princeton, trailing by 35-30 at halftime and pulling to within 73-65 with 1:23 remaining in regulation.

“They had a couple of players we had a tough time getting a handle on,” said Banghart.

“(Jordin) Alexander had 25, a lot of that was off dribble penetration. They try to make it a 1-v-1 game; we got into that but we are better when it is 5-v-5. We were flat early, the defense going up a little too much. Brown is a good team and they played like it tonight. I think being ranked is giving us better preparation for whatever might come in March because the others have an opportunity to beat a top 15 team for the first time in program history every time we come out. This is not the numbers that Brown typically gets. We get people’s best, they shoot a little bit looser because they have nothing to lose and that has been good for us. We have to play tighter possessions.”

The Tigers tightened things up in the second half. “I thought offensively we were really flat in the first half,” said Banghart.

“How we defend is how we play offense. If we defend together with cohesion and energy we usually play that way on the offensive end too. Against their zone, we reminded them of where our spots are and we reminded them that we have an advantage in the interior. We were able to slow down so that the screens and cuts were working more together.”

In moving to 27-0, Princeton set a program record for most wins in a season, eclipsing the mark of 26 posted by the 2009-10 team.

“Every milestone we get matters because it is really hard to get them in this business,” said Banghart.

“To win 20 games in a season is considered a great season so to get 27 is something, especially since that team was 26-3; it was a really good team then too. So this team will always share that they have set the program win record and hopefully they keep it going.”

Banghart, for her part, set a personal record as well, passing Joan Kowalik’s program-best of 163 wins with the victory over Yale on Friday.

“I am proud that I have been able to represent Princeton with success,” said Banghart, who is now 165-66 in her eight seasons at the helm.

“I think I have brought the right people here and they have been better for the experience and that’s my job.”

With Princeton playing at Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7, Banghart will keep the Tigers’ attention on the job at hand as they can clinch the Ivy title outright with a 2-0 weekend.

“We have already broken down yesterday’s film and tomorrow I will break down today’s and see what are the takeaways,” said Banghart.

“Last weekend it was that we needed to focus on owning the tempo better and taking care of the ball. I am sure this weekend, it will be a little more taking care of the ball as well but it will probably be making adjustments throughout the game on the floor and not having to wait to the media timeouts. That is what March is about, possession to possession, not media timeout to media timeout.”

In Rodgers’s view, the team isn’t about to lose its focus. “We have had so many highs this season, every week is a record being broken or something,” said Rodgers.

“We absolutely enjoy it; we will enjoy it downstairs in the locker room but we have already talked about Monday and taking care of the things we didn’t do so well tonight. We have three games in five days so you have to be focused right away.”

PLAYING HARDBALL: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Adam Hardej heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Hardej chipped in a goal to help Princeton edge Johns Hopkins 16-15 in overtime. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, play at No. 9 Maryland (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PLAYING HARDBALL: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Adam Hardej heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Hardej chipped in a goal to help Princeton edge Johns Hopkins 16-15 in overtime. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, play at No. 9 Maryland (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Bates has sensed a blue collar mentality around his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team this season.

“They have been taking a workmanlike approach, bringing their lunch pail every day,” said Princeton head coach Bates.

Last Saturday, the Tigers displayed some offensive flair and character to go with their work ethic as they outlasted Johns Hopkins in a 16-15 overtime thriller before 1,217 at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Md.

“We have talked about learning how to overcome things, like losing a lead, dealing with weather, referees, and injuries,” said Bates, whose team improved to 3-0 with the victory.

“It keeps guys focused on the job at hand. Anybody who watched that game, and I got a lot of texts and e-mails, could see the mental toughness and grittiness in our players.”

The Tigers made things tough on Hopkins from the opening face-off, jumping out to a 7-0 lead just 10 minutes into the contest.

“We did show poise,” said Bates. “It was good to share the ball like that; everyone was in the flow.”

Bates, though, realized that the Blue Jays would get in a flow of their own. “We knew the run had to end; we told the guys that there were 50 minutes left,” said Bates. “They have a really good offensive group; they came all the way back.”

Hopkins reeled off six straight goals to pull within 7-6 but Princeton went on a 3-1 run to build a 10-7 halftime advantage.

“We rebounded from their initial charge and got the goal at the end of the half,” recalled Bates, who got a goal from senior star and captain Kip Orban with 38 seconds left in the half. “We went into the locker room feeling good; we thought we had stemmed the tide.”

In the second half, the tide turned Hopkins’ way as it tied the game at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter and took leads of 14-12 and 15-14 late in regulation.

“We stayed even-keeled as coaches, for the most part,” said Bates. “We kept reminding them to do what we do and trust the system.”

Sticking to its offensive system, Princeton knotted the game at 15-15 on a Ryan Ambler goal with seven seconds left in the fourth to force overtime.

“With 32 seconds left, we had a couple of things drawn up,” said Bates. “We went through the progressions and Ryan made a nice finish.”

The Tigers finished the game in style as sophomore Gavin McBride converted a feed from freshman Riley Thompson with 1:07 left in the first overtime for the game-winning goal.

“You realize it is out of your hands to an extent and you just watch,” said Bates, reflecting on the overtime.

“We hit a pipe, their goalie makes a big save but then we get a turnover. Riley made a nice feed; he was under control. Guys moved and shared the ball. It was a good win. Hopkins is going to be a good team this year and we are rooting for them.”

Princeton has shown that it is a very good offensive team with a diverse attack. On Saturday, the Tigers got at least five points from five different players with Orban tallying four goals and two assists, classmate Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals and two assists, and junior Ambler also getting three goals and two assists. A pair of emerging sophomore stars, Zach Currier and Gavin McBride, also notched five points with the former getting two goals and three assists and the latter contributing three goals and two assists.

“I think it is equanimity,” said Bates. “The ball moves, the guys are unselfish, there is balance and poise. They are showing patience and ability to manage the game and give the young defense a rest.”

Bates acknowledged that the Tiger defense needs to show a little more poise.

“There were seven man-down goals by Hopkins, that makes it a totally different ball game,” said Bates, whose defensive unit is missing starters Will Reynolds and Mark Strabo due to injury.

“They have a really good man-up unit. We have had too many penalties; that is something we have to work on. They grew up a little and played OK. There are some puppies out there. There are things we have to improve on, like discipline and playing as a unit.”

Princeton, now ranked No. 10 nationally in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll, will look to keep improving as it heads back to the Baltimore area this Saturday for a game at No. 9 Maryland (3-1).

“We haven’t played them in a while; we are excited to prepare for them,” said Bates.

“They are a storied program, we understand how good they are. It is bringing a lunch pail, starting on Monday. We will focus on ourselves and work on basics and playing our game.”

LIVING IT UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Hompe has caught fire in recent play, scoring four goals in an 8-4 win over Drexel last Wednesday and then chipping in a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 last Saturday. The 9th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING IT UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Hompe has caught fire in recent play, scoring four goals in an 8-4 win over Drexel last Wednesday and then chipping in a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 last Saturday. The 9th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After not scoring a goal for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse in its season-opening 10-8 win over Loyola on February 21, Olivia Hompe didn’t waste any time finding her shooting range when the Tigers hosted Drexel last Wednesday.

The sophomore attacker scored two goals in the first half as Princeton built a 5-0 halftime lead over the Dragons.

While Hompe was relieved to break the ice personally, she was more pleased about how the offense clicked collectively.

“I think it is always nice getting your first goal of the season and getting it out of the way,” said Hompe.

“I think we really played a great game on Saturday so coming off that energy was exciting today. We got a couple of different kids scoring than we did on Saturday, which was great. I think it just shows that our offense is really diverse.”

While Drexel made the game a little more exciting in the second half than the Tigers wanted, pulling to within three goals at one point, Princeton took care of business down the stretch in posting an 8-4 win.

“A lot of the game didn’t go the way we expected it to, we came out and we had a tough second half,” said Hompe.

“We had a couple of mistakes, unforced errors on our part. I think it is just getting back out there and getting under that game pressure again. We got a lot of
experience powering through, especially when they started pressuring us down low on attack, just making sure we could move the ball. It was not the prettiest win but we gutted it out.”

The one-two combination of Hompe and senior Erin McMunn has been providing Princeton some pretty play in the crease.

“I love playing behind her; she makes it incredibly easy,” said Hompe, who scored 46 points in 2014 on 22 goals and 24 assists. “We make a really nice pair. I am definitely going to miss her next year.”

With a season of college lax under her belt, Hompe is primed for a big year in her sophomore campaign.

“I think really I just have a lot more confidence going into the game,” said Hompe, who displayed her increased confidence last Saturday when she tallied a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 and improve to 3-0.

“We have really well structured offense and all fall we were working on getting good flow, getting lots of different angles. Building from the fall is really the way we get looks from up top, from the sides and from low and from inside. I think that is going to make us a really potent attack.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer liked the work she got from sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo and the Tiger defense in the first half against Drexel.

“I thought we did play a nice defensive first half,” said Sailer of DeGarmo, who was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week along with Brown goalie Kellie Roddy.

“I think you have to give so much credit in that game to Ellie DeGarmo. We made that decision to give her the start. She played well all fall and has played well in preseason. She played well Saturday and she really went with it so it was good to see. Those saves made a huge difference for us, the game could have felt very different for us.”

Hompe made a difference at the offensive end of the field. “She did have four goals, the goals definitely did help,” said Sailer.

“Liv is a great player, incredibly talented, really smart. She knows how to work defenses. Those four goals today were huge; she was our only kid with multiple goals.”

Sailer knows that the one-two punch provided by Hompe and McMunn is a huge part of the Tiger attack.

“They look for each other,” said Sailer. “Since Liv first got here they had had a special connection. They are quite the duo back there.”

In the win over Drexel, Princeton didn’t look as sharp as Sailer would have liked.

“It was probably our worst shooting day in I can’t remember how long,” said Sailer, whose team is now ranked No. 9 nationally in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and is slated to open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7.

“We usually shoot around 50 percent and we shot 33 percent today. We were just a little bit off in a lot of stuff that we did. Our turnovers were high, we were casual and rushing a few things. We weren’t as settled in ourselves as we needed to be.”

Hompe, for her part, has high hopes for the Tigers this spring.

“We had a really tough first game and I think that helped us jolt right into the season,” said Hompe.

“We have a couple of big non-conference games that we would like to win. I think that is what I learned the most last season, that the beginning ones are the most important so we are going to try to get some good wins before we head into Ivy play.”

HEMMED IN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Emily Achterkirch, center, gets bottled up as she goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, freshman defenseman Achterkirch and the sixth-seeded Tigers had trouble getting untracked as they got swept at third-seeded Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series, falling 7-0 on Friday and 2-0 a day later. The defeats left Princeton with a final record of 15-14-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEMMED IN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Emily Achterkirch, center, gets bottled up as she goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, freshman defenseman Achterkirch and the sixth-seeded Tigers had trouble getting untracked as they got swept at third-seeded Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series, falling 7-0 on Friday and 2-0 a day later. The defeats left Princeton with a final record of 15-14-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long this season for Jeff Kampersal to realize that his Princeton University women’s hockey team possessed a reservoir of character.

“We do battle, this is a resilient group, an early sign was the RIT game in November where we were down 3-0 and won 4-3 in overtime,” said Kampersal.

“We had two or three wins in OT early and then we had a tough part of the schedule and played hard. I knew then that this group would battle.”

The Tigers proved that they battle the nation’s top teams on even terms, falling 2-1 to No. 2 Minnesota, losing 3-2 to No. 5 and defending national champion Clarkson, and falling 4-2 to top-ranked Boston College. Along the way they picked up some impressive scalps, edging No. 4 Harvard 1-0 and posting a pair of victories over a top-10 Cornell squad.

Kampersal was expecting more of the same last weekend when sixth-seeded Princeton played at third-seeded and No. 6 Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series.

But coming out flat, Princeton suffered its most lopsided defeat of the year, giving up four first period goals on the way to a 7-0 setback.

“We prepared the same way, the kids were fired up,” said Kampersal. “I thought we played well in the first five minutes but the first goal deflated us. The defense wasn’t coming out hard enough, it was unfortunate and then the flood gates opened up. It seemed like every shot they were taking was going in. Kim (Newell) battled in goal but we didn’t give her much help.”

A day later, Princeton produced its usual hard effort but it wasn’t enough as Quinnipiac prevailed 2-0, scoring on a power play goal in the second and an empty net goal in the waning moments of regulation.

“The message after Friday’s game was to come back the next day and play with pride,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the winter with an overall record of 15-14-2.

“We did bounce back, we were more aggressive in the d-zone. They scored on a power play so we were even in 5-on-5.

Kampersal acknowledged that Quinnipiac provides a lot of problems for the
Tigers.

“The matchup with Quinnipiac is not good for us,” said Kampersal. “We don’t get a lot of shots and they are good at limiting shots. They suffocate us offensively, that happened during the regular season. The system they play is really solid and structured. You have to play simple, throw pucks off the boards. You have to be really patient. Everything has to be be perfect for us to beat Quinnipiac and that is hard to ask.”

In the finale, junior goalie Newell was nearly perfect, stopping 34 of the 35 shots she faced.

“Newell has had a great year; she wants to win every day,” said Kampersal. “In the big games that we won this year, she was our best player.”

While the final weekend stung, Kampersal was proud of how his team came up big throughout the winter, highlighted by a late surge in the Ivy League title race that saw Princeton go 7-2-1 to finish just behind Harvard (8-2) in the Ivy standings.

“I am happy with the season overall,” said Kampersal. “If you had told me before the season that we would have had a chance to win the Ivy title in the last weekend, I would have taken that. To beat Cornell twice was great, we haven’t done that in a while and to beat Harvard at home was great. If we had made some little plays in the Dartmouth game we could have won and it would not have come down to the last weekend. Yale caught fire down the stretch. We played hard against them and gave everything we had. It was a great run no question to get us in position for a chance at a title.”

The team’s four seniors, Brianna Leahy, Brianne Mahoney, Ali Pankowski, and Ashley Holt, had a great run.

“I haven’t said goodbye to them at this point,” said Kampersal. “It was a good group, they gave us a lot, and I will miss them.”

Princeton has a lot of talent coming back so the future looks good. The Tigers return its top five scorers, sophomore Molly Contini (16 goals and 12 assists in 2014-15), sophomore Kelsey Koelzer (8 goals, 18 assists), junior Jaimie McDonell (11 goals, 14 assists), sophomore Hilary Lloyd (6 goals, 15 assists), and freshman Kiersten Falck (2 goals, 13 assists) along with star goalie Newell (2.36 goals against average, .925 save percentage). “Hopefully they keep working hard and have a great summer,” said Kampersal.

“The top line (Contini, Lloyd, and McDonell) played well and we have a good supporting cast. We like the freshmen who we have coming in. It will be good competition within the group.”

With some focused offseason work, the Tigers should be even more competitive than they were this winter.

“Individually, they all need to get better,” added Kampersal. “Some need to get in better shape, some need to work on hockey skills, some need to work on hockey smarts, which is tough to do in the summer. We need to break it down and analyze each player and figure out one or two things they can work on to be better. If they do that, it will help the whole team.”

GOOD RIDE: Princeton High wrestler Thomas Miers controls a foe in a bout this season. Senior star Miers ended his final campaign with a 33-3 record, wrapping up the season by taking part in the Region V tourney last weekend.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD RIDE: Princeton High wrestler Thomas Miers controls a foe in a bout this season. Senior star Miers ended his final campaign with a 33-3 record, wrapping up the season by taking part in the Region V tourney last weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a grade schooler, Thomas Miers set his sights on becoming a basketball star.

But when it became clear that he was not destined for stardom on the hardwood, he headed to the wrestling mat.

“I started out playing basketball but I was not that good,” said Miers. “My dad wrestled at Phillipsburg and he suggested that I give wrestling a try. I started with the West Windsor Wolverines from 4th to 6th grade. I enjoyed it, a bunch of my friends were in the club.”

While Miers wrestled for the Cranbury School and the Juggernauts club in Hightstown during middle school, he became truly committed to the sport after entering high school.

“I really didn’t get into wrestling until I was a freshmen at Princeton High,” said Miers.

“I think maturity was the big thing. I was a smaller 106 pounder and I wrestled a couple of seniors who were a lot bigger. The pace of high school was quicker, everyone was a lot better than the guys I had been wrestling before, the skill level was much higher.”

Improving at a rapid pace, Miers matured into one of the top wrestlers to come through PHS in recent years. He ended up posting a 33-3 record this winter in his senior season, competing at the Region V meet last weekend to wrap up his high school career.

After freshman year, he racheted up the intensity, embarking on the path that led to his emergence as a star.

“I did a lot of lifting and offseason training with coach [Rashone] Johnson,” said Miers, who also started training outside school with the CJA wrestling club in East Brunswick.

“I got bigger, I felt more confident. I didn’t necessarily have the results I wanted as a sophomore. I was wrestling at 120 pounds.”

Utilizing that confidence, Miers enjoyed a superb junior year that saw him take fourth in the Mercer County Tournament at 132 pounds and post a record of 28-8.

“I improved by leaps and bounds from sophomore year,” said Miers. “I think my conditioning was always there. It did get better through taking up running. I was learning new techniques and wrestling better guys.”

This winter, Miers took things to a higher level, taking second in the MCT at 138 and winning the title at the District 17 tournament.

“I think I peaked at the right time,” said Miers. “Getting the district title was big. I wrestled well at counties, I came up just short. From the first tournament this year to the end, I was a much better wrestler. I would say it is my confidence. Last year I had confidence but I don’t know if I believed that I could do what I accomplished. I was really expecting myself to dominate this year. I made a list of goals and I accomplished all but two, getting to states and winning Mercer Counties and I came very close to those.”

Last weekend at the Region V tourney, Miers came close to the top-three finish needed to qualify for states, losing 3-1 to Chris Muce of Monroe in a wrestleback which would have earned him a spot in the region semis.

“There were some tough losses,” said Miers. “I was upset after the quarterfinal match (a 15-2 loss to Bound Brook’s Mekhi Lewis). I didn’t wrestle my match, there was not that much difference between us. In the wrestleback, I lost a tight one to the Monroe guy who got third. It was a tough match. I went out and gave it my all.”

Miers was proud of how the PHS team gave its all collectively this winter, winning the CVC’s Colonial Division title.

“We won the division, that was great for the program,” said Miers, whose fellow stars on the team included classmates Patrick Sockler at 132 and Victor Bell at 182 along with sophomore James Verbeyst at 126, sophomore Ethan Guerra at 195, and junior Noah Ziegler at 220. “Everyone on the team really worked hard. We had some tough losses but when we wrestled our best, we were dangerous.”

In Miers’s view, PHS head coach Johnson helped him become a much tougher competitor.

“He has been great, he pushed me so much,” said Miers. “He helped me accomplish things I didn’t believe I could do. He helped me go beyond my limits. He kept pushing me and helped me get better.”

With Miers planning to wrestle in college level, he will be bringing a hard-earned resolve to the next level.

“I just believe I can achieve anything I put my mind to,” said Miers. “Before I trained hard but I didn’t believe in what I could do. I think my confidence has really gone up.”

FINAL CHAPTER: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in action this season. Last week, senior star and captain Reid chipped in a goal and an assist as 25th-seeded PHS fell 7-4 at eighth-seeded Middletown South in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament. The defeat in the February 24 contest left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-10-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CHAPTER: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in action this season. Last week, senior star and captain Reid chipped in a goal and an assist as 25th-seeded PHS fell 7-4 at eighth-seeded Middletown South in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament. The defeat in the February 24 contest left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-10-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Trailing eighth-seeded Middletown South 4-2 heading into the third period in the opening round of the state Public B boys’ hockey tournament, 25th-seeded Princeton High wasn’t about to go out without a fight.

Scoring two unanswered goals to start the period, PHS turned the game into a 4-4 nailbiter.

“We gave them a run, we tied them in the third,” said Little Tigers head coach Terence Miller, noting that the game-tying goal came on a backdoor play involving the McCormick brothers, sophomore Brendon and senior Connor. “Once we got it to 4-4 we created a lot of chances and were playing well.”

PHS, though, couldn’t close the deal as Middletown South pulled away to a 7-4 victory in the February 24 contest.

“We had a tough turnover in the back end and they made it 5-4,” recalled Miller, whose team ended the season with a 10-10-2 record. “We pulled the goalie and they got two empty net goals.”

Miller wasn’t surprised that his team fought to the end. “We usually come to play and rise to the occasion,” said Miller. “That is the MO of this team; we can give anyone a game. We showed that Princeton High grit and determination to do well in playoffs. The flip side of that is that when we didn’t come to play this year, we could lose to anyone. We are not a team that can steamroller people.”

In reflecting on the season, Miller acknowledged that it wasn’t a smooth ride.

“It was an interesting year; it was a challenging season,” said Miller. “We started well and then had a lull around the holidays. We lost some tough games to Cranford, HoVal, and Westfield. We managed to right the ship, we had a nice run into the counties.”

Miller credited senior co-captains John Reid (11 goals and 27 assists in 2014-15) and Connor McCormick (19 goals, 17 assists) with keeping the Little Tigers headed in the right direction.

“John and Connor were great leaders all year; they are good kids,” said Miller.

“They are really hockey guys; hockey is their passion. They are not rah rah holler guys but team success means a lot to them.”

The team’s other seniors, Chris Munoz (6 goals, 6 assists), Nick Palmer (4 goals, 3 assists), Becket Tovar (1 goal, 3 assists), Aidan Bitterman (2 goals), and backup goalie Joe Hawes (an 0.891 save percentage with 7 goals against) played a role in the team’s success.

“The seniors are a good group,” said Miller, whose team advanced to the county semifinals. “Even the guys who didn’t get a lot of playing time and weren’t scoring the goals still had their hearts in it. They were all in it for the right reasons; they wanted to have a good senior year.”

The future looks good for PHS with such returning players as sophomore starting goalie Sawyer Peck (an 0.828 save percentage and 72 goals against), sophomore defenseman Tooker Callaway (3 goals, 12 assists), sophomore defenseman Eamonn McDonald (3 goals, 11 assists), freshman defenseman Max Garlock (1 goal, 1 assist), sophomore forward Brendon McCormick (30 goals, 21 assists), junior forward Nathan Drezner (6 goals, 5 assists), and freshman forward Justin Joyce (7 goals, 4 assists).

“There is a good foundation; we have a good mix of younger guys,” said Miller.

“The guys got a lot of experience. We have three sophomores and a freshman on the back end. Brendon is a terrific player, he had a really good season. The whole group is into it; they want to be successful.”

TRUE BRITT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Brittney ­Coniglione skates up the ice in a game this season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Coniglione helped PHS win the  ‘B’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. The Little Tigers finished the winter with a 7-8 record, more than tripling their win total from 2013-14 when they went 2-11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRUE BRITT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Brittney ­Coniglione skates up the ice in a game this season. Senior defenseman and assistant captain Coniglione helped PHS win the ‘B’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. The Little Tigers finished the winter with a 7-8 record, more than tripling their win total from 2013-14 when they went 2-11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A major goal for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team this winter was to play hard until the final buzzer of the season.

Wrapping up the season at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament, PHS achieved that goal with aplomb, topping Holton Arms (Md.) 6-3 and Pingry 5-3 in its finale to win the league’s ‘B’ bracket.

PHS head coach Christian Herzog was proud of how his team ended the season on a high note.

“That was a productive final weekend,” said Herzog, whose team ended with a final record of 7-8.

“We really wanted to play Holton again; we thought we could have beaten them in the regular season if we had the Herrings (Lucy and Maggie) there. People stepped up and played well. We had confidence going into that Pingry game; we had beaten them twice.”

In the win over Pingry for the B title, the Little Tigers featured a balanced attack with sophomore Maggie Herring tallying two goals and an assist with older sister, senior star Lucy, senior Campbell McDonald, and junior Isabelle Sohn each chipping in a goal and an assist.

“They were psyched,” said Herzog. “We wanted to get a few goals so we would have a little leeway to get some of the others in and we wanted the seniors to end with a win.”

The players were psyched to help the program more than triple its win total from 2013-14 when PHS went 2-11.

“We won as many games this year as in the last three years combined,” said Herzog.

“They are a team that is not going to roll over, even when we are outmatched. No matter the record, what most coaches want is a team that wants to win and puts out their best effort to do so.”

The team’s core of seniors put in a great effort this season, on and off the ice.

“The senior class collectively is an eclectic group; each one contributes to the team dynamic in a positive way,” said Herzog, whose Class of 2015 includes Lucy Herring (10 goals and 15 assists this season), Brittney Coniglione (4 assists), Anne Daly (2 goals, 3 assists), Julia DiTosto (1 assist), Marian Hancock-Cerutti (1 assist), Campbell McDonald (3 goals, 6 assists), and Stephanie Ren.

“Some have more grit and tenacity while some are better communicators, and some are better at leadership. It makes it easier on captains, I don’t have to lean on the captains as much.”

Herzog acknowledges that the graduation of star forward and team captain Lucy Herring will leave a big void for his squad.

“Losing Lucy is going to be a big hit,” said Herzog, noting that she and younger sister Maggie were the high scorers this winter for PHS with 25 points apiece and were named team MVPs “Even when she is not scoring, she is keeping the puck in the offensive zone or defending.”

The seniors earned other honors as Ren and junior Sophie Corrodi were named to the WIHLMA All-Academic first team. DiTosto was the recipient of the program’s Head, Heart and Hustle award while Corrodi got the captain’s award for stepping up and being a leader and improving so much from the year before. Conglione won the team’s sportsmanship award.

Junior goalie Callie Urisko was cited as the program’s most improved player while junior forward Sohn was a WIHLMA All-Academic honorable mention choice and received the Harry Rulon-Miller WIHLMA sportsmanship award. Junior defenseman Allie Callaway was an All-WIHLMA honorable mention choice and the recipient of the program coach’s award.

In Herzog’s view, his veteran players have helped perpetuate the special spirit around the program.

“One thing I like is they see the value in recurrent things; the head, heart, and hustle cheer started before they got here but they keep it alive,” added Herzog.

“They are into maintaining program traditions like the second to last practice where they all dress funny. The team camaraderie doesn’t happen without the seniors. Most of the coaches and the refs say we have the most boisterous team with girls cheering on their teammates. It is a real positive environment.”

Things look positive going forward as PHS returns such standouts as Maggie Herring (15 goals, 10 assists), Sohn (4 goals, 3 assists), Callaway (7 goals, 7 assists), Urisko (.850 save percentage), Corrodi (3 goals, 1 assist), and freshman defenseman Alexa Zammit (4 goals, 1 assist).

“We have a good foundation,” said Herzog. “We have 11 players returning. We need a little more balance between offense and defense.”

SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a save in recent action. Senior co-captain Alden helped PDS post a 9-12-2 record this winter as it advanced to the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING GRACE: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a save in recent action. Senior co-captain Alden helped PDS post a 9-12-2 record this winter as it advanced to the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Katie Alden began playing organized hockey in the fourth grade at the McGraw Rink on the campus of Princeton Day School when she joined the Nassau Hockey League in 2006.

Last month, Alden (this reporter’s daughter) came full circle, taking the ice as the senior goalie for the PDS girls’ hockey team as it hosted Kent Place in its season finale.

For senior captain Alden, finishing her high school career on the rink where she started the game was fitting.

“I am sure a lot of us who live in the area started playing at Nassau,” said Alden. “To start and end your career in the same place is special.”

Over the last four years, Alden has relished her PDS career. “I really enjoyed playing for the PDS Panthers all four years,” said Alden. “I grew in skill and in spirit in my four years here.”

Alden acknowledged that there were some mixed emotions as she and classmates, Sophie Jensen, Sophie Ward, Anna Williams, and Pria Louka were recognized before the finale in the program’s annual Senior Night.

“Ice hockey is my favorite sport so it is sad to have been a part of a team for four years and know that this is your last game with them,” said Alden, who made 22 saves in the contest as PDS fell 3-2 in overtime.

“I spent the most time and effort on hockey. I don’t play for travel teams in other sports. It is a really fun game, it is fast moving. As a goalie, I have the best perspective on the ice. It is similar to being a goalie in field hockey. I like that pressure, I thrive on that pressure.”

Serving as team captain this winter allowed Alden to apply the perspective she gained from helping to lead the PDS field hockey team this fall.

“Coming off the field hockey season where I was a co-captain, I had some good leadership experience,” added Alden, an All-Prep B performer in field hockey and recipient of that program’s Varsity Award.

“Going into the season, I really focused on having fun while also being passionate and focused during game time.”

Alden’s focus was reflected in her performance on the ice this season as she posted a 6-4 record with a 2.00 goals against average and an .887 save percentage.

“I was very happy with my stats this year,” said Alden, who produced a pair of shutouts in wins over Princeton High.

“Coming from my freshman year, I improved my stats each year. I would compare my save percentage from each game the different years. I was always improving. With PHS I don’t think I shut them out both times last year.”

The PDS seniors tried their best to create a happy atmosphere around the team.

“Even though they don’t play travel hockey it is clear that they love the game,” said Alden of her classmates.

“They really have fun when they are out there. They try their best to win battles and generate some offense for us. Sometimes the very serious travel girls get a little too wrapped up in the game, they let the score affect them too much. We have to remind them that it is all a game. We are here to have fun.”

PDS head coach Lorna Cook loves what the team’s Class of 2015 has brought to the program.

“I have been thinking about them a lot and how much fun it has been coaching them and seeing their improvement and growth on and off the ice,” said Cook.

“They were the class that came in with me so they mean a lot. It is a great group. We will miss them a lot, not just on the ice but the personality they brought to the long bus rides and on the bench. They are a fun group; their personalities work together for the team.”

Cook appreciates the effort she got from Alden over the last four years.

“Katie has improved a lot as a goalie, she has gotten better every season,” said Cook of Alden, who received the program’s Varsity Award.

“She was at almost all of the practices and games for the last four years. She gave the commitment level you want to see a player give a team. She has a passion for the game and sets the example for the younger players.”

The two Sophies, as they are known around the program, each received the team’s Coach’s Award and served as assistant captains.

“Sophie J. (2 goals and 4 assists this season) surprised us by how much she improved,” said Cook. “She gained confidence while she was away in Colorado. Sophie Ward (1 assist) has gotten better too, she is a smart player, she knows where to go on the ice. Had she played longer she would have been even better. She loved it and it was great.”

The pair of Williams (1 goal) and Louka (1 goal, 3 assists) got better and better as the season unfolded.

“Anna improved a lot; she could stick handle through people,” said Cook. “She was not shy, she would battle anyone. She doesn’t get penalties, she plays the right way and she plays hard. Pria learned a lot from that attitude. She would battle on the boards and she did what she needed to do on the ice.”

While PDS battled hard to make the ‘A’ bracket at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) tournament, Cook acknowledged that the team could have done better than the 9-12-2 mark it posted.

“Obviously with the record, there were a few games that stand out that we should have won, the first and last in particular,” said Cook.

“At the same time, it is a really young team and it’s not bad for them to go through challenges and learn that they have to bring it every day.”

Three of the team’s young players, freshman forward Malia Leveson (11 goals, 10 assists), sophomore defenseman Kristi Serafin (7 goals, 10 assists), and sophomore goalie Annika Asplundh (2.54 goals against average, .920 save percentage), brought it throughout the winter. Serafin and Asplundh earned second-team All-WIHLMA recognition while Leveson was an honorable mention choice.

“It is hard when you are younger to be the leaders on the ice,” said Cook.

“They developed into those roles nicely, they gained a lot of experience that is going to help us for next year. They stood out in every game. Malia and Kristi brought another level of speed. It is not a secret that we were getting outshot in a lot of games and Annika kept us in games. You need a goalie like that.”

The Panthers got needed depth from sophomores Daphne Stanton (3 goals, 2 assists), Ashley Cavuto (9 goals, 12 assists), and Kiely French (8 goals, 5 assists) along with junior Emma Stillwaggon (7 goals, 4 assists).

“Daphne and Ashley improved a lot, the way they approached situations and took charge more,” said Cook.

“Daphne has always been good defensively but she improved offensively and put in some big goals for us. We could feel that coming at the end of last year. Emma and Kiely stepped up and played defense. When you are a natural forward that is not what you want to do but they went into it with a good attitude. They were still effective offensively and they broke up plays and played well in the d-zone.”

Cook is depending on the returning players to step up even more going forward.

“We are trying to up our intensity and take it to another level,” said Cook.

“We need to get physically stronger; we need to keep pushing it forward. We have a solid foundation. We have a lot of good young players, we just need to reach a higher gear.”

Alden, for her part, likes the way the team reached a higher level of unity this winter.

“It has been a great season with these girls,” said Alden, a WIHLMA All-Academic first team honoree who is headed to Bucknell University this fall.

“Coming from different travel teams and different levels, some playing travel hockey and some not playing travel hockey, it is hard to really get on the same page and learn the system but we really got together.”

February 25, 2015

sports1After what Mike MacDonald has been through over the last year, he wasn’t going to let a stomach illness keep him from playing for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team as it hosted Hofstra last Saturday.

Ailing last season, the senior attacker underwent double hip surgery in the summer.

“I had my surgery in mid-July; I started running four months later,” said MacDonald. “I sat the whole fall out and had to watch practice every day. I got back on the field in February.”

Hours before Princeton was to take the field against Hofstra, MacDonald got an IV, having been unable to hold down any food or liquids for the past two days.

The weather turned miserable as game time approached but MacDonald, a native of Georgetown, Ontario, felt at home with snow piling up on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Field.

“I have played in a couple like that, mostly at home though,” said MacDonald.

“You just had to give yourself a lot more space, you slip all over the place. You don’t know if guys are going to slip and when you are going to try to dodge, if you are going to lose your footing.”

MacDonald was able keep his feet and show his offensive skill, tallying nine points on five goals and four assists as Princeton won 14-12 and improved to 2-0.

“Honestly it just came,” said MacDonald, reflecting on his big day as he matched his career high, equaling the total he had against Cornell in Princeton’s win over the Big Red in the 2013 Ivy tournament, when he recorded seven goals and two assists.

“Some guys were making good passes, it was just good teammates around me helping out. It is not a testament to me, it is a testament to everyone around me. I think I had a lot of assisted goals today.”

For MacDonald, simply returning to action again is a testament to his toughness.

“Being out there again with the guys is great,” said MacDonald. “I am feeling better than I did last year. I don’t know about 100 percent but definitely better.”

MacDonald is savoring his final spring with the guys. “It is really starting to sink in that it is my last run,” said MacDonald. “It is definitely weird but I am trying to make the most of it.”

In MacDonald’s view, Princeton’s more deliberate offensive approach this spring could lead to a special run.

“I think our offense this year is really good,” asserted MacDonald. “Last year we forced things a little too much and I think that caused a lot of problems. Holding the ball a little more this year is going to go a long way for us.”

Reflecting on the snowy conditions, Princeton head coach Chris Bates said his team played close to the vest offensively.

“This was unlike anything I have ever seen,” said Bates. “We talked about not trying to change direction a whole lot. The far corner of the field was a little icy so we avoided starting some dodges there. I don’t think it hurt us a whole lot, to be honest with you.”

After jumping out to an early three-goal lead, Princeton cooled off before scoring a goal late in the second quarter to take a 6-5 lead into halftime.

“We lost momentum up 5-2 when we made a bad shooting decision and then it went  5-5,” said Bates. “We got the sixth goal which I thought gave us some life.”

The Tigers showed a lot of life in the third quarter, outscoring the Pride 7-2 and ending the frame with a 5-0 run.

“We played with some pace,” said Bates. “I thought we started after ground balls well, we rode well and got some easy ones and that is the difference in the game for us.”

The game started to slip away in the fourth as Hofstra pulled to within 14-11 with 11:07 remaining in regulation and had an extended man-up opportunity.

“I don’t think we played with the lead particularly well,” said Bates. “We were up 13-7 and I thought we lost a little bit of our aggressiveness. We needed to grab it by the throat and didn’t so we let them back in and then penalties killed us in the fourth quarter and we gave them life.”

While the Tigers never scored again, they held the fort, killing off the man-up opportunity and giving up only one goal in the waning moments.

“Give our guys credit, we managed to find a way to win it,” said Bates, whose team had three starters, Jake Froccaro, Mark Strabo, and Will Reynolds, unavailable on Saturday due to injury. “Given all the injuries and given early in the season, it is a good, gutty win.”

MacDonald showed guts, fighting off illness to come up big for the Tigers.

“For the last 30 hours, he has kept nothing in, fluids or anything,” said Bates.

“He literally had an IV this morning to get himself some nutrients. To come out with that gutty performance is pretty amazing and it doesn’t surprise me for one second. Mike said I will be ready and I said I know you will. There is nothing that can keep that kid off the field on game day. I am proud that he got the reward with a win and nine points.”

With No. 18 Princeton playing at No. 12 Johns Hopkins on February 28, the Tigers will need another gutty effort to beat the perennially strong Blue Jays.

“It wasn’t pretty, it was an identity win and that is what we need,” said Bates. “The next step is Hopkins and Maryland, obviously we have two big-time teams these next two weeks. We have a couple of weeks here to still figure ourselves out before the Ivies.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes Princeton has what it takes to be a big-time team.

“I think we are resilient,” said MacDonald. “I think we are still improving and we are going to get better every week. I am excited to see what the rest of the season holds for us.”

STAYING PERFECT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard Dietrick shook off a twisted ankle to score a game-high 23 points as Princeton defeated Harvard to improve to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League. The No. 14 Tigers host Yale on February 27 and Brown on February 28 in their final home weekend of the regular season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STAYING PERFECT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard Dietrick shook off a twisted ankle to score a game-high 23 points as Princeton defeated Harvard to improve to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League. The No. 14 Tigers host Yale on February 27 and Brown on February 28 in their final home weekend of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The seemingly inexorable march to a perfect regular season for the No. 14  Princeton University women’s basketball hit a road bump early in the first half last Saturday as the Tigers hosted Harvard.

Senior captain and leading scorer Blake Dietrick left the contest with 14:33 left in the first half and was quickly whisked behind a partition behind the bench where a trainer worked on the guard’s right foot.

With Dietrick out and the extent of her injury unknown, her teammates racheted up their intensity.

“When she went out, you saw a different edge from our players,” said Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart.

“Someone like Michelle Miller or Annie Tarakchian or Alex Wheatley, you could see a look in their eyes. Blake didn’t get to see but it was like oh no, that is our fearless leader. I think Blake would be really proud of how the team played and approached the possessions when she was out.”

Dietrick returned to the game with 9:15 remaining before halftime and displayed her competitive approach, scoring eight points, with two rebounds, two assists, and a steal to spark a 19-4 run as the Tigers built a 28-19 halftime lead and seized control of the game.

Princeton never looked back from there, rolling to a 78-57 victory, improving to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 1,502.

Afterward, Dietrick said she wasn’t about to be slowed by her first half stumble.

“I just rolled my ankle, no worries,” said a smiling Dietrick. “I am good, I will be back next weekend.”

Dietrick’s shot was back as she ended up with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, marking her first 20-point scoring night since tallying 25 in a 83-54 win over Penn on January 10 in the Ivy opener.

“I actually just take what the defense gives me and in the games where I wasn’t scoring as much, other people stepped up and we didn’t need a big night from me,” said Dietrick, who also contributed eight assists and five rebounds in the win over Harvard.

“So it was working on my defense and getting other people the ball. Tonight I just felt like I had more opportunities to score.”

There were some special people on hand to watch the Tigers as a number of former team stars, including Niveen Rasheed ’13, Lauren Polansky ’13, Lauren Edwards ’12, and Kate Miller ’13 showed up at Jadwin on Saturday to cheer on the Tigers.

“It is awesome, they were really heckling us during warm-ups,” said Dietrick, referring to her ex-teammates.

“It really makes you focus in, we know what we are fighting for and that it is really, really important that we are focused every single game but is also fun to have them back and cheering us on.”

Banghart believes that Dietrick is on track to leave a legacy like Rasheed, Polansky, Miller, and Edwards.

“It means she is leaving something behind that will be better; any great leader wants the program to be better when they leave,” said Banghart.

“That is why all of these alums are back, they are so proud of these people because they started something.”

Junior forward Tarakchian is growing into a force for the Tigers as she produced her ninth double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds against Harvard.

“It is becoming pretty automatic for her, the double-double part of the game,” said Banghart of Tarakchian, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“I thought early on she got hit, it wasn’t really called and she really got an edge. I don’t think that Annie yet plays 40 minutes with an edge and when she does, she is going to be unstoppable. I thought tonight there were moments of that edge. She can take control of the game in so many facets. She is key to what we are doing.”

Banghart, for her part, enjoyed a special moment on Saturday, waving to a cheering crowd after it was announced that she had tied Joan Kowalik for the most wins in program history with 163.

“We teach our kids to own accomplishments and so I have to own mine,” said Banghart.

“At the same time, in our business, your players are first line and your staff is your backbone. I am somewhere in the middle of that. I have surrounded myself with a really great staff and I have surrounded myself with really good players. I think I am a pretty good middleman.”

Princeton’s perfect start has put the program in the middle of growing hoopla as its highlights were shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter last weekend and former Princeton hoops legend Bill Bradley showed up Friday and spoke to the team after its 70-31 win over Dartmouth.

“I think when you earn the success that we have, that comes with it,” said Banghart. “It is preparing us for March, part of what we are doing its sharing it. I know how special this is and I know how hard these kids work. I know how hard they worked in the summer and in the offseason. The kids have gotten better here. The university president was here tonight, Bill Bradley was here last night. All these alums are back, 1,500 fans were here tonight. I am so happy to share with these really special people, it is an honor.”

While Dietrick and her teammates are enjoying being in the spotlight, they are not about to have their heads turned by the extra attention.

“It has been pretty intense for the majority of the Ivy league season so I don’t really feel as though it has changed that much,” said Dietrick.

“It is great, we really appreciate it but I think we are good  at compartmentalizing time with the media.”

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell skates near the boards in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward McDonell tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Brown on Friday and scored the lone Princeton goal in a 2-1 loss at Yale, a defeat that kept Princeton from winning the Ivy League title. The Tigers, now 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey, will now turn its focus to ECACH playoffs, where they are seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at No. 3 Quinnipiac, starting on February 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell skates near the boards in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward McDonell tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Brown on Friday and scored the lone Princeton goal in a 2-1 loss at Yale, a defeat that kept Princeton from winning the Ivy League title. The Tigers, now 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey, will now turn its focus to ECACH playoffs, where they are seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at No. 3 Quinnipiac, starting on February 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University women’s hockey team has consistently made the ECAC Hockey playoffs, it hasn’t been in the chase for the Ivy League title in years.

Coming into this season, Cornell and Harvard were seen as the leading contenders for the Ivy crown. Over the last seven years, the Crimson have won three league crowns while the Big Red have four as the six Ivy teams in the ECACH (Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown besides Princeton, Harvard, and Cornell) wage their annual battle on a second front.

But as Princeton headed into its final weekend of regular season action with games at Brown last Friday and at Yale a day later, the Tigers were on the verge of their first Ivy crown since 2006. Princeton stood at 6-1-1 in Ivy action with Harvard having ended up 8-2, meaning that the Tigers held destiny in their hands as two wins would clinch the title.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal credited his team’s Ivy run to a focus on consistent effort.

“Nobody gave us much respect and nobody expected us to be in the position that we were,” said Kampersal. “We had a different process to the season and they were consistent with it. We wanted to give a 60-minute effort all out.”

On Friday at Brown, the Tigers were a little inconsistent at the outset as they fell behind 1-0 in the second period but righted the ship with four unanswered goals in skating to a 4-1 victory.

“We may have been too amped up in the game against Brown,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from sophomore forward Morgan Sly in the win with junior forward Jaimie McDonell chipping in a goal and an assist and freshman Emily Achterkirch tallying the other Tiger goal.

“This is a resilient team and they found a way to win. Once we got that first goal it was comforting; it was nerves more than anything in the beginning.”

On Saturday, the Tigers suffered a nerve-wracking defeat as they fell 2-1 at Yale, moving to 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey.

“The next day we were really geared up to play against Yale, we played a much better game,” said Kampersal.

“We played really well in the first period. We outshot them 9-4 and had a couple of good scoring opportunities. They got a goal on a defensive breakdown.”

While Kampersal was disappointed by the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“We battled back and forth all game long; Yale’s forwards are feisty and quick,” said Kampersal.

“We scored in the second period and then they scored in the third on a delayed penalty. They made one more play than we did. Their goalie made big saves, our goalie made big saves. Our kids gave everything they have; that game wasn’t lost through lack of effort. It was a good hockey game, it just didn’t go our way and that is a bummer. It is a bummer not to reach the goal that we had.”

The Tigers got a big weekend from emerging star McDonell, who tallied Princeton’s lone goal in the loss to Yale.

“Jaimie has been a workhorse all year; she has been consistently great, handling the back end and leading the break out,” said Kampersal. “We had a sickness going through the team and we needed her to step up even more this weekend.”

Turning its attention to the ECACH playoffs, where Princeton is seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at third-seeded Quinnipiac (24-7-3 overall, 15-5-2 ECACH) starting on February 27, the Tigers will need to step up to beat the Bobcats.

“They are very well coached; they are disciplined and don’t take a lot of penalties,” said Kampersal, noting that Princeton lost 2-0 and 3-1 to Quinnipiac in the regular season matchups between the foes.

“They are deep, they have three to four lines and a good goaltender. I don’t think we have won there in five or six years. This is the time for us to do it. We respect them but we are not afraid of them. We just need to play a good, solid brand of hockey. If we are opportunistic, we will be in good shape. We have to be at our best.”

HIGH FIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer prepares to unload the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-8 win over Loyola in the season opener. Senior midfielder Slifer scored a career-high five goals in the victory. The 11th-ranked Tigers host Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HIGH FIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer prepares to unload the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-8 win over Loyola in the season opener. Senior midfielder Slifer scored a career-high five goals in the victory. The 11th-ranked Tigers host Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Erin Slifer didn’t find an offensive rhythm right away when the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Loyola last Saturday.

“I think it took a couple of shots to get into it, there were a couple of high ones I missed,” said senior midfielder Slifer.

Slifer didn’t miss much the rest of the afternoon, scoring a career-five goals as No. 14 Princeton overcame a snowstorm and a second-half rally by No. 12 Loyola to pull out a 10-8 victory.

In the first half, Slifer notched three goals and an assist as Princeton built a 6-3 lead by intermission.

“We really wanted to come out as hard as we could,” said Slifer. “We weren’t going to let Loyola set the pace, we wanted to set the tone from the first draw.”

As the storm intensified in the second half with a layer of snow covering the field, the Tigers had to modify their offensive approach a bit.

“We have practiced a few times in snow but not this accumulation at all where it was affecting our footing,” said Slifer. “We just made sure that we had our feet under us and we were not taking too hard cuts.”

Loyola made things hard on the Tigers, taking leads of 7-6 and 8-7 but Princeton took control down the stretch, employing a deliberate offensive style in reeling off three unanswered goals over the last 13 minutes of the contest.

“We didn’t get those first couple of draws and they came down, capitalized, and scored,” said Slifer.

“The draw controls are the focus of our entire season so once we got back on that, we were able to control the ball for the rest of the game which was awesome.”

Slifer, a first-team All-Ivy league selection last year, is looking to produce an awesome senior campaign.

“This is it, this is the last year so I am giving it all I have got,” said Slifer, a 5’10 native of Mt. Airy, Md. who now has 114 points in her Tiger career on 62 goals and 52 assists.

“There is no time to hold back. I think this whole team knows that we can go really far this year and we have to push hard through every game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer liked the way her team pushed hard throughout the contest.

“I think the game came down to draw controls and we were dominating those in the first half, which allowed our offense to really work and I thought we did a really nice job offensively being patient and looking for opportunities,” said Sailer.

“We don’t have a stat of possession time but we totally had possession time in that game, which was key to the win. I thought we did a really nice job offensively being patient and looking for opportunities, winning ground balls in our attack end, and getting second chance opportunities.”

A goalie switch midway through the second half from senior starter Annie Woehling to sophomore Ellie DeGarmo proved to be a key for the Tigers. “We made a decision to throw Ellie in the cage and it gave us a spark, which we hoped it would do,” said Sailer of DeGarmo, who had three saves and gave up just one goal in 18 minutes of action.

Slifer gave Princeton a spark all afternoon, taking draws as well as triggering the Tiger offense.

“Erin was just incredible today, the woman is just so powerful,” said Sailer. “She is really tough to stop. With her strength, her game sense, her shooting, and the draw control, she is a force.”

The Tigers got strong contributions from several players with junior Stephanie Paloscio and senior Erin McMunn both scoring two goals, sophomore Olivia Hompe chipping in two assists, sophomore Anna Doherty getting an assist, and freshmen Camille Sullivan tallying a goal and classmate Hayley Giraldi getting an assist. Junior defender Liz Bannantine spearheaded a unit that yielded just one goal over the last 17:39 of the contest.

“Paloscio was huge, she is a crafty little player and we have been able to find a role for her in the attack this year and she has done a lot of nice things for us,” said Sailer.

“Defensively, Liz Ballantine had a good game. Two of our freshmen, Camille Sullivan and Haley Giraldi, really played well. They played really poised as freshmen. Doherty did a nice job working really hard. Hompe and McMunn also did well. It is hard to pick people out because I thought it was really a full team effort.”

In Sailer’s view, the gritty win portends good things to come for her team. “We had the three-goal lead heading into halftime and we saw that evaporate and we really fought to get that back,” said Sailer, whose squad hosts Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28.

“I think the conditions, when we got the lead and the draws, ended up working up being in our favor, no question. We had to play smart in that situation and we executed.”

Slifer, for her part, believes the Tigers are poised to build on the victory over Loyola.

“I think this is our first season opening win in the past three years so it is really awesome to start the season on a high note,” said Slifer.

“It gives us some positivity to build off of and we want to keep rolling through the year.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tom Kroshus heads up the ice in recent action. Last weekend, senior defenseman Kroshus and his classmates played their final weekend at Baker Rink. Unable to capitalize on the emotions of the last home games, Princeton fell 4-1 to Brown on Friday and 6-2 to Yale a day later. The Tigers, now 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth on February 27 and at Harvard on February 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tom Kroshus heads up the ice in recent action. Last weekend, senior defenseman Kroshus and his classmates played their final weekend at Baker Rink. Unable to capitalize on the emotions of the last home games, Princeton fell 4-1 to Brown on Friday and 6-2 to Yale a day later. The Tigers, now 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth on February 27 and at Harvard on February 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the final regular season home weekend of his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team, Tom Kroshus was hoping for a quick start.

Instead, the Tigers fell behind 1-0 in the first period as they hosted Brown at Baker Rink last Friday night.

“We have been starting slowly,” said senior defenseman Kroshus. “We have got to really focus on coming out and playing with more jam and passion in the first period.”

After giving up three unanswered goals in the second period to fall behind 4-0, Princeton did show some passion in the third, scoring a goal and putting pressure on the Bears after pulling goalie Colton Phinney with around four minutes left in regulation.

“There was definitely more energy in the third,” said Kroshus. “But it shouldn’t take the goalie being pulled to have us step our game up like that. We have to play with that level of passion, energy and jam all 60 minutes.”

While Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty acknowledged that the Tigers showed more energy in the third, he was disappointed that his players didn’t show that intensity from the opening face-off.

“Our guys are protecting an inanimate object harder than they protect Colton Phinney and that is what is discouraging,” said Fogarty.

“They are embarrassed if someone gets an empty net goal, they should be embarrassed if someone gets a shot on Colton Phinney. We went five and a half minutes without a shot on goal. It doesn’t matter if you have six, guys should be jumping and guys should be competing. Unfortunately tonight we jumped and competed in front of an open net instead of Colton Phinney.”

In digging the 4-0 hole, the Tigers hurt themselves by some sloppy play.

“I felt the goals were a product of us being out of position,” said Fogarty. “They capitalized on the opportunities from our fault of being in the wrong position.”

With Princeton celebrating its senior class last weekend, Fogarty was hoping to see his team capitalize on those emotions.

“I am upset and disappointed that six groups of parents didn’t see a win tonight,” said Fogarty, who was happy to see junior forward Kevin Liss get his first career goal in the loss to Brown. “Hopefully we will rebound tomorrow and put our best foot forward.”

A day later, Princeton didn’t put its best foot forward, falling 6-2 to No. 13 Yale in dropping to 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey.

Despite the team’s struggles, Kroshus is leaving with a positive view of his Princeton hockey experience.

“There have definitely been a lot of ups and downs in my four years here but it has been a great ride with my class,” said Kroshus, whose fellow seniors on the squad are Aaron Ave, Ryan Benitez, Tucker Brockett, Aaron Kesselman, and Tyler Maugeri.

“I have gotten to be really good friends with them; the whole team has been great.”

Through it all, Kroshus has gotten better as a player. “Coming in, I lost my confidence and I wasn’t playing with too much poise,” said Kroshus, a 6’1, 190-pound native of Calgary, Alberta who has 17 points in his Princeton career on five goals and 12 assists.

“Especially with Ron coming in this year, he allows us to play our game. I think I have stepped up my game a little here this season.

In Kroshus’s view, there is a good foundation in place for Princeton to step up over the next few years.

“It is only going up from here, I am expecting great things,” said Kroshus. “When our freshmen are seniors, I am sure our program will be really good.”

SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Danny Seelagy joined the Hun School boys’ hockey program as a freshman in 2011, there were only enough players to fill out a varsity team.

With coach Ian McNally taking the helm that winter, Seelagy was confident that Hun would augment its numbers.

“I had played with Ian since I was a squirt and he has all of these connections so I had a pretty good feeling that he was going to reel a couple of good guys in,” said Seelagy.

Over the last few years, some really good players have come on board as Hun has developed into a powerhouse. This winter, with a deep roster and a flourishing JV program, the Raiders have enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in program history. Hun won the Purple Puck tournament in Washington, D.C. in late December and achieved its first state Prep championship since 1996 earlier this month when it topped Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game.

Last Friday, the Raiders added another trophy, topping Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game to earn its second straight county crown.

Hun’s depth was on display Friday as it overcame a powerful Notre Dame team without sophomore stars Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, two of the team’s most potent offensive threats who were away competing in a club hockey competition.

Coming into the contest, Seelagy and his teammates on hand were confident that they could rise to the occasion despite the absence of Barratt and Bendorf.

“We weren’t really worried about that because Evan has been hurt, he broke his knee at the beginning of the season and we have always been playing without him,” said Seelagy.

“That was a setback in the very beginning but I think we did pretty well without him. Missing Bendy had us a little bit nervous at first. I think it was fine overall; I think that we knew that we were going to win.”

The top-seeded Raiders didn’t waste any time seizing momentum against the second-seeded Irish, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nick Ashcroft 54 seconds into the contest.

“That was huge, especially for us, because we are usually a third period kind of team,” said Seelagy. “Getting that first goal really helped us out.”

The defense took over from there, stifling Notre Dame, highlighted by killing off two 5-on-3’s in a vital stretch early in the second period.

“We stuck to our game plan, we weren’t trying to change anything since  everything has been working out for us,” added Seelagy.

The work of Seelagy and classmate Chris Rossi on defense has been a constant for Hun over the last four years.

“Chris Rossi and I are the only two seniors to be here since freshman year so we have always been playing together a while,” said Seelagy, an assistant captain for the Raiders along with Bobby Wurster with Rossi serving as the captain.

“I think we are really good teammates, especially when we play together. because we have known each other so long. He just plays amazing.”

Seelagy has gotten really good over the course of his Hun career.

“I think I have improved every single year,” said Seelagy, who was named the Hun recipient of the MCT’s Scott Bertoli Sportsmanship Award. “My coach came up to me one practice and said I think this is the best year you have ever had so that was huge for me. He loves me because me of my speed.”

Hun head coach McNally, for his part, believed that getting the first goal was huge for the Raiders.

“I know a lot of these guys at Notre Dame; I think if they get up a goal, they get pretty fired up,” said McNally.

“They have guys that have the ability to break the game open so for us to get up first, it was a statement of it doesn’t matter who is here, we are going to keep scoring and get the job done so that was good.”

With Barratt and Bendorf missing, it was critical for the Hun defense to do a very good job.

“We just had to; we pulled Tanner (Preston) and Bobby (Wurster) aside and said you guys have to be the best two players in this game because we won’t have the puck for two-thirds of the game like we usually do,” said McNally.

“They were great as was Chris (Rossi), Danny, and Griffin (Moroney), all five of them that we rolled pretty much. They were good because they had to be, you know that is going to happen when you are missing Jon and Evan, somebody else is going to step up.”

McNally likes the way Seelagy has stepped up in his final campaign for the Raiders.

“Danny stopped playing fall hockey a couple of years ago,” said McNally, noting that Seelagy plays for the Hun football team in the fall.

“I told him earlier I would hate to see what would happen if you played fall hockey; throughout the whole season he gets better. He is awesome; he got the sportsmanship award and he is a captain. He is totally deserving.”

Hun got some awesome play in the MCT from junior goalie Diesel Pelke, who was named the MVP of the tournament.

“They had two or three flurries; sometimes you worry when a goalie makes a save that he may not see what is going on but Diesel tracked the puck every where, up in the air, batting it out with his blocker and all over the place,” said McNally of Pelke, who didn’t give up a goal in the tournament and had 30 saves in the shutout of the Irish.

“He is just so calm; he is in the right spot and makes the save. There is no flair to it, he was awesome. If they score a goal in the first period, that kind of changes the game so that was big.”

In McNally’s view, a key factor in Hun’s success this winter has been the talent throughout the roster.

“The story of us is depth, regardless of who is here we still play the exact same way,” said McNally, whose team competed at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to end the season with a 22-3-4 record.

“Sometimes when you don’t have guys, you have to change the strategy and things like that. Going into every big game, we had to change the lines and whoever it was got it done. Sometimes it was the defense, sometimes it was the big guns and sometimes it was the third line. It is nice to be able to keep the same strategy; it is easy on me.”

Seelagy, for his part, credits an easy going approach off the ice with giving the team a winning chemistry to go with its depth.

“This team is special because we don’t exclude anybody, everyone is happy, everybody is welcome,” said Seelagy.

“Before the games we have dance-offs in the locker room and stuff to keep it loose. In the past few years we were really strict and everybody was quiet in the locker room. We wanted to make it loose and fun.”

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tears weren’t being shed by the members of the Princeton High girls’ swimming team last Sunday afternoon on the deck of The College of New Jersey pool even though they had just lost 100-70 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the state Public B championship meet.

Reflecting on a magnificent campaign that saw PHS roll to its second straight Mercer County crown and win all 15 of its meets coming into the final, including a 97-73 victory over Ocean City last Wednesday in the state semis, sophomore star Melinda Tang was all smiles.

“This season has been amazing,” said Tang. “Last year we lost to Ocean City in the semis and we knew that meet was going to be really close too and we weren’t sure if we were going to win that. Once we made it over that last obstacle and we were here, it was just about having fun.”

The Little Tiger realized that Scotch Plains-Fanwood posed a formidable obstacle to their quest for a state title.

“We knew that the meet was going to be really close because our frontrunners and their frontrunners were pretty close and we all had a lot of depth,” said Tang.

The PHS frontrunners proved their mettle, winning seven of eight individual events with Tang prevailing in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly while freshman Abbey Berloco won both the 50 and 100 free races, junior Madeleine Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, and junior Brianna Romaine was victorious in the 100 backstroke.

Tang was pleased with her individual wins. “I can never say anything about the 200 free because it is right after the (medley) relay so I just have got to finish swimming this and it is all good,” said Tang. “For the 100 fly, I was really happy because I got a best time (56.36).”

The Little Tigers finished on a high note as the quartet of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine won the 400 free relay, the final event of the day.

“We knew at that point that they were going to win,” recalled Tang. “We had already made it this far so we were going to go down with a fight.”

With a season of high school swimming under her belt, Tang was more emotionally invested in fighting to the end for PHS.

“This year, I have gotten a lot closer with all of my teammates because freshman year was a time of transition,” said Tang.

PHS first-year head coach Carly Misiewicz appreciated how her swimmers kept their heads up as they tasted defeat for the first time this winter.

“Why I love being a part of this team so much is that every person is so classy,” said Misiewicz, whose team posted a record of 15-1.

“They are not going to bad mouth the other team because we lost, no one is a sore loser. Every person on the team knows that we did everything that we could, they swam faster. You can’t swim faster than you are capable of swimming.”

In Misiewicz’s view, the win in the 400 free relay spoke volumes about PHS’s desire to get the most out of its ability.

“Our girls are fighters and they are not going to give up, they are not going to give them a race,” said Misiewicz, a former Rider University swimming star.

“I told them that one of my biggest things in college when I was a swimmer, the other team may win the meet but don’t let them win the last race. They put their hearts and souls into everything and it really showed. I am so happy with what we have done this year.”

Making it to the state final exceeded Misiewicz’s expectations at the beginning of the year.

“Looking and scouting when we were going to come against Manasquan (in the sectional final), it was alright here we go, this is our next hurdle and then Ocean City was our next hurdle,” said Misiewicz.

“I am just so happy and proud of them to make it to this point, so many teams would kill to be in our position. I would have never thought we would have made it this far.”

While PHS’s big four of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine certainly made a point with their dominance on Sunday, Misiewicz credited Scotch Plains-Fanwood for its talent across the board.

“Unfortunately you can win first in everything but not win the meet,” said Misiewicz, noting that Deardorff set a school record in the breaststroke with her time of 1:09.35.

“What it came down to today is that they were just deeper than we were but again you can’t change anybody else. You can’t affect the other team or the other swimmers. You have to worry about yourselves and that is what they all did.”

With most of its frontline swimmers returning, PHS is primed for a lot of big wins down the road.

“We do have quite a few girls coming back, which is phenomenal,” said Misiewicz.

“It just makes me even more excited for next year. I am just really excited to see where we leave off this year and where we are going to head into next year. Making it this far was huge and I couldn’t be any more proud of the girls.”

Tang, for her part, believes that PHS will be better in the future as a result of its experience on Sunday.

“If we had won, it would have been the first time since 1993 so we were all really, really excited for the meet,” said Tang. “I think this will help us because every winner needs to learn how to lose.”

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost twice to Notre Dame in the regular season, getting outscored by a combined 13-1 margin, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team was looking to fine-tune things as the foes met for round three in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Wednesday.

“We felt good about ourselves, we switched up a couple of little things,” said PHS head coach Terence Miller.

For the first 13 minutes of the contest, sixth-seeded PHS battled the top-seeded Irish on even terms, trailing just 1-0.

“We were happy with our start,” said Miller. “We played well. We had a tough turnover to give them their first goal. I thought an early goal for us would have helped, just to settle the group down. We didn’t get it.”

Notre Dame scored a late first period goal to make it 2-0 and then took control of the game in the second, scoring three unanswered goals.

“When they score, they seem to get goals in bunches,” said Miller. “We just couldn’t seem to stop them. They ran that cherry picking, hanging system. It worked because it took our minds off the offensive end. We are worried about getting back and defending that. You should be able to punish them. If they want to hang a guy, they are creating a power play for you. It gets your defensemen back, they start icing and now we are running for our lives.”

PHS cut the deficit to 5-1 early in the third period on a goal by senior Connor McCormick but Notre Dame shifted into a higher gear, scoring five unanswered goals. The Little Tigers did get a tally from sophomore defenseman Tooker Callaway in the waning seconds to make the final 10-2.

“The wheels came off in the third,” said Miller.” You could see that they were ready to pounce on mistakes. We got a little something going but when we made mistakes, they made us pay. That is the sign of a good team. We know they are deep, they had their legs going a little bit, they have speed.”

Miller was proud of how his team stuck to its game even as Notre Dame pulled away.

“We fought to the end but we didn’t get chippy,” said Miller, reflecting on the loss which dropped the Little Tigers to 10-9-2. “That is not our game, that is not what Princeton is about. I was happy that they kept their heads up and played to the end.”

With PHS starting action in the state Public B tournament this week, where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest, Miller is hoping the team can build on its MCT run.

“We got back to the semifinals, we are happy about that,” said Miller. “We would have liked to have had a better performance tonight. I am proud of my guys. We hung in.”

February 18, 2015
MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The temperatures dipped into the teens last Friday but the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team wasn’t fazed by the prospect of another frigid training session.

“We have been outside every day this week, working hard and improving,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

While the Tigers showed a lot of improvement last year as they went 12-7 overall, winning the Ivy League regular season title and advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, Princeton is not resting on its laurels.

“We are always trying to raise the bar,” said Hall of Fame coach Sailer, who brings a 344-138 record into her 29th season at Princeton and has led the program to three NCAA titles.

“We had a good season last year. We are looking to play as well as we can and make some waves this year.”

Sailer is counting on her core of seniors to make the most of their final college campaign.

“There are some dynamic players and leaders in this year’s senior class and they are setting a great tone,” asserted Sailer, whose team is ranked 14th nationally and opens the season by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.

One of Princeton’s most dynamic players is senior attacker Erin McMunn, the leading scorer for the Tigers in 2014 with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists.

“McMunn is a presence on the attack end; she came in and made a huge impact right away and she has gotten better and better,” said Sailer of the three-time All-Ivy League performer and two-time All-American.

“She will draw attention; she has learned to play against pressure and rise to the occasion. Her nickname is money because of her name but that is what she is for us on the field. She has incredible hands and has a sweet stick. Her shooting last year was exceptional (a .629 shooting percentage). She is an incredible finisher and she is also a playmaker.”

Another key playmaker for Princeton is sophomore attacker Olivia Hompe, who tallied 46 points last spring on 22 goals and 24 assists.

“Olivia Hompe had a great freshman year,” said Sailer. “She and Erin are a good 1-2 punch. Olivia is a dynamic player with vision. She is also a big assister for us; she understands the game. She is fast and is a good dodger.”

Sailer has some good options at attack besides McMunn and Hompe. “The other two spots are still up for grabs; we have a number of options,” said Sailer, noting that senior Erika Grabbi (3 goals in 2014), junior Anna Menke (4 goals), and junior Stephanie Paloscio (3 goals and 1 assist) along with a trio of freshmen, Haley Giraldi, Abby Finkelston, and Colby Chanenchuk are in the mix.

“The biggest issue in the preseason has been injuries. We have a number of kids out who would be in those spots.”

In the midfield, Princeton features a big weapon in senior Erin Slifer, who had 52 points last season on 28 goals and 24 assists.

“Slifer is a vocal leader on the field, she is a big, strong presence,” said Sailer.

“She runs both ends of the field for us. She is a powerful shooter and is a great playmaker up top, she tied for the team lead in assists last year and that is usually done by someone in the crease. She sees plays developing and has such vision.”

Sophomore Anna Doherty (24 goals, 3 assists) and junior Anya Gersoff (25 goals, 3 assists) give the Tigers additional firepower in the midfield.

“Doherty is the fastest kid in the team,” said Sailer, noting that sophomore Lauren Steidl and freshman Camille Sullivan will also see time at midfield.

“It would be easy for her to coast because she is one step ahead but she works so hard. She has really pushed herself to get to a new level. We have moved Anya to midfield, she works so hard. She is a field hockey goalie and comes into lacrosse in terrific condition. She digs out ground balls and is the example on hustle plays. She is really smart with the ball. I think she is going to be really good in the midfield.”

The Tiger defense boasts a smart and skilled performer in senior Liz Bannantine (1 assist, 25 ground balls).

“LB is our defensive leader,” asserted Sailer. “She is so smart, she sees everything. She communicates everything and she understands our system. She directs our defense. She is also so good on her slides and positioning. She is a playmaker on defense for us.”

Sophomore Maddie Rodriguez emerged as a pleasant surprise last spring in her debut campaign.

“Maddie Rodriguez (14 ground balls) was a walk-on as a freshman and picked up everything so quickly, she is so smart,” said Sailer. “She is not flashy but she gets the job done. She is the second most experienced player on our defense.”

The Tigers boast some other experienced players who should contribute on the back line.

“Maddy Lynch (3 ground balls) is a junior and I think she is going to have a breakout year,” said Sailer.

“She was a supporting player the last two years; she came off the bench late last year and played well in the NCAAs. She has stepped up, she brings a lot of speed. Amanda Leavell (4 ground balls) was used mostly on draws last year; she played a little bit of defense. I think you will see her more consistently on the defensive end this year. Jess Nelson has done a great job. She is so smart and vocal; she will get some time this year.”

At goalie, senior Annie Woehling (8.49 goals against average, .444 save percentage), sophomore Ellie DeGarmo (9.65 goals against average, .500 save percentage), and freshman Mary Kate McDonough are in the mix.

“It is an open competition; we haven’t decided who the starter is going to be,” said Sailer.

“Annie is the returning starter so we feel someone has to knock her off. Annie has done well, she gets tougher in the games. She played consistently last year and was good in the Ivy tournament. The other two goalies are looking to assert themselves. Ellie DeGarmo is playing well. Mary Kate McDonough is different from the other two; she steps out more and cuts off the angles. She has a different style and gives us another look.”

Sailer is looking for her team to value the ball more this year. “We need to control possession on the attack end and make good decisions,” said Sailer.

“The No. 1 thing always is draws and ground balls, the 50/50 balls. We haven’t asserted ourselves as much in the past in those areas so we are really emphasizing that. In our OT losses last year, we never had the ball.”

Princeton will need to be assertive all over the field if it is to beat a strong Loyola team in the season opener.

“It is a very good test, they had a great season last year and they are returning a lot of good players,” said Sailer.

“We have a couple of practices this week and next week. We are still putting things in; we will be ready. We are really excited about the season; it is a good group.”

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hailing from Canada, Zach Currier felt at home as snow fell throughout the second half when the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Manhattan last Saturday.

Noting that Princeton had started its preseason with a practice at midnight on February 1 in 19 degree chill, Currier said the Tigers weren’t fazed by the wintry blast.

“We are used to playing in the snow,” said sophomore midfielder Currier, a native of Petersborough, Ontario. “A couple of days ago we had a blizzard in practice; we have played in worse before.”

Breaking into the starting lineup, Currier played well, scoring two goals as Princeton cruised to a 14-4 win over the Jaspers.

“It is always nice to get one off the bat and then just keep going on from there,” said Currier.

Looking to play a more deliberate offensive style this season, the Tigers got into a nice rhythm.

“We have put in a new offense this year and I feel like we executed it pretty well,” said Currier.

“We are trying to get the ball around a couple of times to get settled and get the defense moving more and set them up where we want them.”

In Currier’s view, Princeton executed well all over the field against the Jaspers.

“I don’t think we had any lapses,” said Currier. “They got a few goals off a few bad bounces but we played really well defensively. We faced off really well. I think we out ground-balled them and obviously we scored a bunch of goals.”

With a season of college lax under his belt, Currier believes he can become a consistent goal scorer for the Tigers.

“Confidence is definitely one of the biggest issues,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Currier, who had 10 points in 2014 on six goals and four assists.

“Coming in as a freshman and playing along (Tom) Schreiber, (Jeff) Froccaro and all those big guys who had already been starting obviously you are going to be a little timid. I eventually settled in with their help. By the end of the year, I just started playing my own game and it carried over into this season. I don’t think I scored a goal outside five yards last year. I am starting to go from 9-10 yards.”

The graduation of four-time All American midfielder Schreiber has led to a shift in the Princeton offensive approach.

“Obviously Tom was a huge part of our offense last year,” said Currier. “I think this year our main focus is more team oriented, getting everyone touches where last year we wanted the ball on his stick a lot because he could do special things.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with how his offense handled things in the win over Manhattan.

“I thought we played within ourselves and executed,” said Bates. “We knew they were going to come and try to slow it down with a zone and control the pace. I thought we played under control. We were patient, we didn’t try to force plays, which I was happy with.”

Bates was particularly happy with the play of his 1-2 punch of junior Ryan Amber and senior Mike MacDonald as Ambler scored four goals while MacDonald chipped in two goals and three assists.

“Those two have such good lacrosse IQs that they see an entire defense,” said Bates.

“You watch them dodge, they are not worried about their man. They are  worried about a defensive rotation and just see through defense so well. They both have such great vision. Those two play so well together, it is fun to watch.”

It has been fun for Bates to watch Currier’s progress. “He picks up ground balls on the wing, he does some things that nobody teaches,” said Bates.

“He is so crafty. We are asking a lot of him, he is playing some defense, he is on the wings. He complements those other guys very well. If you put a shortstick on him in space, he is a very tough matchup. We knew coming in that he had talent and going out at the end of his freshman year, we started to see it more and more. Our guys know he is a playmaker. He can be a big-time guy.”

The Princeton defense made some big plays on Saturday as it held the Jaspers to two goals through the first 57:51 minutes of the contest.

“They didn’t create a whole lot of opportunities, we got the ball off the ground,” said Bates. “It was a good one for those guys to get their feet under them and communicate.”

It was good for Princeton to work through some opening day kinks. “We just got one under our belt,” added Bates. “With a two-week preseason, we knew it was going to be a little sloppy. We wanted to focus on us and play through it the best we can. We did a good job.”

On Friday, Princeton faces a good test as it hosts a perennially tough Hofstra team.

“I think the group knows because of the focus we put on the day to day preparation, we have still got to think about us,” said Bates.

“Hofstra is a well coached team, it is always a big game for them. At the end of the day, it is a good next step for us. We have got to take next steps and execute. I like this group. It is a group that is pretty dialed in, there is a good feeling with their work rate and leadership.”

Currier believes the Tigers are dialed in as they look ahead to the clash against Hofstra.

“We are going to play our game,” said Currier. “Hopefully we will get our shots and execute our game plan.”

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting Ivy League co-leader Yale last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s basketball team knew it needed a win to make it a three-horse race for the league title at the halfway point.

Entering the evening, Princeton stood at 4-2 in Ivy action while Yale and Harvard were tied atop the league at 6-1.

In the first 20 minutes of the contest, however, Princeton looked like an also ran, falling behind 11-0 and trailing 39-28 at halftime.

Addressing his team at intermission, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t looking for anything fancy.

“The message was really quite simple, there is no 11-point play,” said Henderson, whose team trailed 33-17 at one point in the first half.

“Let’s get it to eight at the 16-minute mark. We were trying to make some adjustments defensively. We said, look are they that much faster than us, what’s the deal here.”

Responding like champions, the Tigers started the half on a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead with 10:35 remaining in regulation.

“I am really proud of the way that we came back,” said Henderson. “I thought the start of the second half was great. I thought we were going to have to chip away and then all of a sudden we are tied at the 16 minute mark.”

In the view of Princeton sophomore forward Steven Cook, the rally came down to being tougher.

“We got off to a slow start, some shots didn’t fall and we weren’t playing great defense with them scoring 39 points in the first half,” said Cook.

“We talked about a lot of different things at halftime, we needed to maintain aggressiveness and toughness inside. The 1-3-1 (zone) definitely helped us with staying aggressive on defense. We just attacked on offense.”

But Princeton couldn’t maintain the lead as Yale responded with a 35-19 run over the last 10:20 of the contest to pull out an 81-73 victory.

“I think we are disappointed with that,” said Henderson, reflecting on the setback which left Princeton at 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy.

“College basketball is great because you are either going one way or another. We seem to be on a track where we are on the upswing and then we fall down. We are hurting a little bit but nobody is crying for us. We have three weeks and we have an opportunity to get better every day.”

Yale junior forward Justin Sears, a Plainfield, N.J. product, hurt Princeton all night, tallying 25 points and nine rebounds, including a huge sequence with just under 10 minutes left when he blocked a Hans Brase shot and scooped up the ball and went in for a layup and then hit a free throw after getting fouled on the drive.

“He is a really good player; in our league, he is so different,” said Henderson of Sears.

“He is long but fast; the way he got out on Hans’ shot and blocked it, that was a gigantic play. It was a six-point game and all of a sudden. it is three. He gets the and one.”

Princeton got a gigantic effort from junior forward Henry Caruso as he scored a career-high 25 points in a losing effort.

“I like our fight, I love that,” asserted Henderson who got 13 points from freshman guard Amir Bell with Cook adding 12. ”Henry has brought to our team what I want, which is don’t back down from the best players and guard them and play hard. That’s what he is through and through.”

Caruso, for his part, was frustrated that the team’s fighting spirit didn’t result in a victory.

“We just started with our defense, we started to get stops and really causing pressure on Yale,” said Caruso. “As the game went on we got a little bit flat, that was disappointing. We have to get ready for Dartmouth next Friday.”

In Henderson’s view, Princeton can still be a factor on the Ivy title race.

“Over the course of an 80-minute weekend, I think we are playing a lot of good minutes,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard a day later.

“We can’t have an 11-0 start, we can’t give up a 13-point lead at the end of games. (referring to a 68-60 loss at Cornell on February 7) We can score and we can defend. We show these things in stretches, the pieces are there. We just have to keep our heads up and keep working.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin unloads the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior forward Rankin had an assist as Princeton tied St. Lawrence 1-1. A day earlier, Rankin and the Tigers rallied for a 2-1 win over Clarkson. Princeton, now 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey, hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin unloads the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior forward Rankin had an assist as Princeton tied St. Lawrence 1-1. A day earlier, Rankin and the Tigers rallied for a 2-1 win over Clarkson. Princeton, now 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey, hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton University men’s hockey team started February by losing 2-0 at Colgate and 4-2 at Cornell, Colton Phinney saw the weekend as a step in the right direction.

“Both games could have gone either way; we had a great second and third period against Cornell,” said sophomore goalie Phinney.

“I think since Christmas we have been playing really well. Goals are starting to come. I think we are definitely turning around and starting to play better.”

Hosting Clarkson last Friday, the Tigers dug an early 1-0 hole but came on after that to pull out a 2-1 win.

“We weren’t playing our best in the first,” said Phinney. “We knew we could play better and we had a great second period and a great third. It is believing in ourselves and knowing that we can improve. In the first period, we were giving them too much time and space. We weren’t really playing them like we were supposed to and how we practiced and we switched in the second and third.”

Phinney experienced a harrowing final minute on Friday as Clarkson went to an extra attacker and pressed hard in a bid to tie the game.

“The time seemed to go really, really slow; I looked and saw 20 seconds left and then looked up again and there was still a second left,” recalled Phinney, who ended up with 28 saves in the win.

“I knew we were going to block some shots and I knew they were going to throw everything they could at the net. I just try to make the saves and believe in our team blocking it, which they did.”

The Princeton defense showed its growing self belief a night later as the Tigers tied St. Lawrence 1-1, moving to 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey.

“We have definitely gotten better on defense,” asserted Phinney, who made 34 saves against the Saints.

“Cornell was a really good effort too, especially in the second and third periods. We built off of it today in the second and third periods; we didn’t give them much at all.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty liked the effort he got from his players against Clarkson as they picked up their intensity over the last two periods of the contest.

“We were supporting the puck and attacking with speed,” said Fogarty. “We were not looking for the puck over our shoulder, we were attacking with the puck and had some time to get it in deep and get some pressure. We know who we are and the longer the games are 0-0 or 1-0, the more that our guys are fine with it and the other teams aren’t.”

The game winner was the product of an attacking play by junior forward Jonathan Liau as he flew down the ice to cut off a puck that was headed for the red line and then flipped it back to senior Tucker Brockett, who found the back of the net with 12:54 remaining in the third period.

“It was a lot of hustle there from Jon Liau to negate the icing; that was a great play by No. 10.” said Fogarty.

In pulling out the win, the Tigers showed toughness to go with their hustle. “It was a great team win, guys were banged up, there were a lot of ice bags in there,” said Fogarty.

“That is what it takes to win, winning is difficult. If it was easy, everybody would be winning. It takes 28 of our guys to be committed Monday through Thursday and then the guys in the games have to play to their potential every shift.”

Fogarty believes Princeton is starting to play up to its potential. “We tied Brown (2-2 on January 31) and now we beat Clarkson so we are getting points,” said Fogarty, whose team hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21.

“That is what our goal was, to play our best hockey down the stretch and I thought we played a very good game tonight.”

Phinney for his part, believes that the comeback win over Clarkson is a very good sign for the Tigers.

“I think this is the first one we came from behind so it was definitely good,” said Phinney.

“We are starting to get wins at the end of the season. We are showing that we are relentless and not giving up after they score first. At the beginning of the year, we would probably have given up and lost this game 3-0, or 4-0. We almost built off of giving up a goal and used it as momentum and went from there.”

PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Peter Stanton didn’t enjoy much success in his first two years as the head coach of the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

Taking over the program in 1996, he guided the PHS to a 1-14 record. A year later, things weren’t much better as the Little Tigers posted a 2-13 mark.

But Stanton could sense that the program was turning a corner in that second campaign.

“Sometimes I tell people that I feel like I did my best coaching in 1997,” said Stanton.

“For some reason, that was the year with a combination of kids where I started to feel that we are going to get good at this. Everyone bought in. We kept the kids together; they had the feeling that we were going to achieve things.”

Staying the course, Stanton has gone on to achieve great things for PHS, leading the program to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles. His teams reached the Group 2 semifinals in 2006 and 2007 and the Group 2 state title game in 2010.

Earlier this month, Stanton, 48, earned the ultimate achievement, getting inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

In reflecting on the accolade, Stanton said it is the bonds developed among the players that has been a key ingredient in his program’s success.

“What stands out most to me is the chemistry that we have had and you see guys that are still close eight, nine years out of high school,” said Stanton.

“They are still part of each other’s lives well after college. We have really worked hard to build that chemistry. It is a priority of the coaches. I think it comes down to two things, first is performance. You play better if you get along and hold each other accountable. When you enjoy each other’s company and play for each other, it is a lot more fun.”

Stanton has enjoyed lacrosse since 1982 when he took the sport up as a sophomore at Hunterdon Central High School, having tired of football and baseball.

“I liked the combination of physical contact and the gracefulness of the game,” said Stanton, who played midfield in high school, starting on varsity as a senior.

Continuing his playing career at the college level, Stanton headed to Stevens Tech, where he was a two-time Knickerbocker Conference second-team selection, the team MVP in 1987, and the team captain in 1988.

Stanton’s first taste of coaching came when he guided the PHS junior varsity team from 1992-94. After a year hiatus from coaching, he took the reins of the varsity program.

The Little Tigers experienced a breakthrough campaign in 1998, going 9-4 and making the state tournament. Two years later, PHS had one of the great seasons in program history, going 17-1, falling to eventual champion Delbarton in the state quarterfinals.

PHS earned Mercer County Tournament championships the last two years, displaying a competitive fire that has made Stanton proud.

“When you have a team that overachieves, nothing is better than that,” said Stanton.

“We were not necessarily the most talented team but we played the best at the most important moments and that is very satisfying.”

An important factor in Stanton’s success has been the contributions he has received from his coaching staff over the years.

“I have had great assistant coaches; they have really helped with team building,” said Stanton.

“So many of the best ideas came from Jason Carter. Chip Casto has such a wealth of knowledge. He is learning more and more about the game and finds ways to help us do things more efficiently. He is such a professional. When you have someone like that doing so much work, it makes my life easier. I get the credit but he is a big part of it.”

In accepting his Hall of Fame honor, Stanton was quick to spread the credit.

“What it really means is that I have been part of a really good thing for a long time,” said Stanton.

“I have had great people, great teams, great players. We have had phenomenal parental organizations. I have been fortunate to have been in a great situation.”

With the 2015 season around the corner, Stanton is fired up for another good campaign.

“This is the real reward and the reason I keep doing this,” said Stanton, a math teacher at PHS since 2004.

“Coaching is something that is always going to be very important to me. As a season comes up, you think it is a lot of work and a lot of effort. Part of me wonders if I can still do it but midway through the season, I can’t believe I was thinking that.”

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Expecting a close battle with second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final last Friday, Madeleine Deardorff and her teammates on the top-seeded Princeton High girls swimming team relished the challenge.

“We all came in here with a lot of confidence and we knew what we had to do,” said junior star Deardorff. “Everyone was so positive.”

PHS got the meet off to a very positive start in the 200 medley relay as Deardorff combined with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco to win the event in a program and pool record time of 1:48.89.

“That was amazing; that was very unexpected,” said Deardorff. “We were all very happy. I think just that alone made us super confident for the rest of the meet. I think everybody from there on knew what they were capable of, not only with the relay that won but all of us did an amazing job. I think just getting off to that start really set the tone for the whole meet.”

PHS rolled from there, cruising to a 103-67 victory as it improved to 14-0 on the season.

Individually, Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly while Tang won both the 200 freestyle and 100 fly, Romaine prevailed in the 100 free and 100 backstroke and Berloco placed first in the 50 free and second in the 100 free.

For Deardorff, the 200 IM was an amazing swim as she edged Manasquan’s Kathryn Petrone by 0.34 in setting a personal best of 2:08.19.

“I know Kathryn from club swimming, I knew she was a very good swimmer,” said Deardorff.

“We both know what each other are capable of. That was an amazing race, that was crazy. I don’t think either of us knew that we were doing that well. I think just being next to her made me motivated. It could have gone either way. I am definitely happy with what I did, it was my best time.”

In the 100 fly, Deardorff battled with another very good swimmer in teammate Tang.

“It was just amazing; we race each other all of the time,” said Deardorff, noting that she and Tang both compete for the X-Cel club team.

“Our teammates said you were in synch the whole time. To be able to pull out a 1-2 on that was amazing and then we continued to do that. Abbey and Bri went 1-2 in the free after that so that was really awesome.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz saw the 200 medley relay record as a spark for her team as PHS won its fourth sectional title in the last six years.

“I remember looking over at the girls and Maddie Deardorff specifically,” recalled Misiewicz.

“I looked at her and she looked at the clock and she looked at me and her jaw dropped. We said at counties that we want to get under 1:50 so to go 1:48 today is just phenomenal. That just set the tone for the whole entire rest of the meet. From there, the ball just kept rolling.”

In reflecting on the win, Misiewicz said it was a total team effort with good performances from all lanes.

“We knew they had frontrunners, they knew we had frontrunners,” said Misiewicz.

“What was going to matter was the seconds, the thirds, and the fourths, the little points that we picked up. Our depth carried us through without a doubt. Our top swimmers did what they had to do and everything just fell into place. We had good times across the board.”

Misiewicz was thrilled by how Deardorff rose to the occasion in the 200 IM.

“Her IM was her lifetime best time I think she said by two seconds,” said Misiewicz.

“Maddie definitely stepped up in the IM, pulling out that win. That was really close towards the last 12 and a half. She is a competitor and really pulled it out.”

With PHS facing Ocean City in the Public B semifinals on February 18 for a spot in the state finals on February 22, Misiewicz  believes her squad is going to be hard to beat.

“I think it is a team that can go all the way, they feel it, I feel it,” said Misiewicz,

“Meet after meet, we are getting stronger and closer. Everybody has stepped up; it is positive all the time.”

Deardorff, for her part, is confident that PHS will keep stepping up. “I think this year we have a very special team,” said Deardorff. “I don’t think we have seen anything like this in a while. I think that our depth has carried us so far and I am excited to see what happens in the next few meets.”

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Facing third-seeded WW/P-S in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday, it looked like sixth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team might not be around long in the tourney.

Getting off to a sluggish start, PHS trailed 3-1 after the first period as the Pirates seemed to be quicker to the puck.

In between periods, the Little Tigers decided to be more aggressive. “After the first period we came together and convened and talked about our plan,” said sophomore forward Brendon McCormick. “We were going to go out and attack and we just executed.”

McCormick took matters into his own hands, scoring two goals in the period as PHS pulled into a 3-3 tie heading into the final period.

“It was to get the puck deep, get a lot of shots, crash the net, and try to get on the goalie because he was playing well,” said McCormick.

Neither team scored in the third period and the game was deadlocked at 3-3 heading into overtime. With both teams getting power play chances in the extra session, PHS cashed in on a goal by senior John Reid with 3:44 left in OT to earn a 4-3 win and book a spot in the semis against second-seeded Notre Dame on February 18.

“We got lucky going into OT, we started on a power play to get up our momentum,” said McCormick, reflecting on the win which improved PHS to 10-8-2.

“That was a big key because that started the ball rolling. We got a little frustrated. They got a scary one there, hitting the post. We just pulled together. John had a great play.”

With the Little Tigers needing to lift their record to .500 to earn a berth in the upcoming state public tournament, the team has thrived with its back to the wall.

“The past few weeks we have been battling,” said McCormick. “It has been like a playoff atmosphere around our team so we were prepared for this game. Going into OT, we were ready with the great mindset. It is a sense of urgency. Coach has been telling us we have got to win this one, and then the next one. We just go out there and win it because we need to.”

McCormick has shown urgency in the MCT, tallying seven points on five goals and two assists as PHS topped Nottingham 10-0 in an opening round contest the day before his big effort against WW/P-S.

“I feel like I am playing better,” said McCormick. “I had a slower start to the season, now I am playing with John on a line and he is really helping me out. We are helping each other out.”

PHS head coach Terence Miller appreciated the work he got from McCormick in the win over WW/P-S.

“Brendon just never seems to get tired; his heart and his legs never stop,” said Miller. “We really had to lean on him at the end, killing off those penalties and on the power play. He was huge, his engine just never seems to stop.”

The Little Tigers displayed huge resolve in rallying for the win over the Pirates.

“I think we have shown some resiliency here, especially falling down early 3-1,” said Miller.

“We have fallen behind a few times this year and we have battled back so that speaks to the character of the group, especially our senior leaders, John (Reid) and Connor (McCormick). When it got to 3-1, we knew we had to get the next one and not let the game get out of hand. Our guys showed a lot of heart, battling back.”

Miller acknowledged that the heart-stopping overtime jangled his nerves. “Sawyer (Peck) came up with some big saves for us, they had a shorthanded breakaway,” said Miller.

“We were dead even in shots. They are a well coached team, they play hard and this game clearly could have gone either way. By that overtime period it was just hold your breath and hope you can get the next one.”

In Miller’s view, it was fitting that senior co-captain Reid notched the winning tally.

“John Reid was buzzing, he is a guy we bump back to defense when we need him there, he is on the penalty kill, he is on the power play,” said Miller.

“I was happy for him to get that game winner. He has had to carry us all year, through a lot of ups and downs. He was due, I am glad he got it.”

Looking ahead to the MCT semis, Miller is confident his squad can keep up its resilient play.

“Hopefully this can catapult us into the semifinal,” said Miller. “We know we are going to get another tough test there with one more shot to get back into the final. Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the next one.”

McCormick, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are going to be tough to knock out.

“I think we can put a good run together,” said Reid. “We have been working hard. We want to keep going as long as we can go for the seniors and keep their season alive for the last time.”

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a frustrating first half for Shayla Stevenson and the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team as they hosted the Solebury School (Pa.) last Thursday.

PDS trailed the Spartans 22-13 at halftime and sophomore guard Stevenson was scoreless.

As the Panthers met during the break, the emphasis was on playing harder. “We just had to make open shots,” said Stevenson. “We had to be more intense, we had to attack the basket more. One of their best players had four fouls so we had to attack her. We just had to be confident in our teammates.”

Minutes into the third quarter, Stevenson drained a long three-pointer from the corner that helped get her going.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Stevenson. “Then my teammates having confidence in me and finding me when I was open was great.”

After outscoring Solebury 8-4 in the quarter to cut the deficit to 26-21, the Panthers turned the game into a nail-biter, forging ahead 34-32 with 3:20 left in regulation. PDS, though, never scored after that as it lost 36-34 in moving to 5-13.

“I definitely think we had good momentum,” said Stevenson. “(Bridget) Kane and I were shooting threes and Ryan Robinson was attacking the basket. Even though Ryan and I had three fouls each, we still played hard.”

Despite falling just short, the trio of Stevenson and freshmen Kane and Robinson showed that they have a bright future as Stevenson and Kane each ended up with nine points in the loss with Robinson adding eight.

“We are developing something; we are having a lot of chemistry,” said Stevenson. “That is one thing we are trying to work on in practice and in games, getting better team chemistry with team building and team bonding.”

Stevenson has put in a lot of work to build herself into a better player. “From last year to this year, I have tried to improve on my handle and my shot,” said Stevenson.

“Last year, my shot was a little bit off so coming into this year, I wanted to make a lot more threes and get open for teammates and just be there. Last year was really hard for me, because I had a lot on my shoulders.”

As the Panthers start play in the Mercer County Tournament this week, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20, Stevenson believes they can build on their hard effort against Solebury.

“Going into MCTs, I think this is a good game to lead off from and we are going to just keep this momentum,” said Stevenson.

“I think the second half in this game is how we have to play the full game.”