May 8, 2013
HITTING A RUT: Hun School softball player Julia Blake takes a cut in recent action. After a 9-1 start, the Raiders have lost four of their last five games. Hun will look to resume its winning ways when it plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 and then hosts Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HITTING A RUT: Hun School softball player Julia Blake takes a cut in recent action. After a 9-1 start, the Raiders have lost four of their last five games. Hun will look to resume its winning ways when it plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 and then hosts Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was an unfortunate case of deja vu for the Hun School softball team as they played Gill St. Bernard’s last Friday.

The Raiders jumped out to a 4-1 lead only to lose 5-4 as they dropped to 10-5. It marked the fourth loss in five games for Hun, with three of the defeats coming by one run.

“We get a lead and we say we are OK, there is not the urgency to play the whole game,” lamented Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.

“We are struggling right now. I don’t know. There seems to be a lack of focus. It is not that we are an extremely young team. We do have a freshman on the mound but we aren’t a freshman-oriented team.”

Even though Hun has struggled recently, Quirk is happy with the effort she has been getting from star freshman hurler Alexis Goeke.

“Lexi is working hard; her youth is showing,” said Quirk. “She has only been pitching for three years and there are still a lot of things she needs to work on for the next three years. She hasn’t always gotten the best support from her fielders and that is frustrating. She is doing her best out there.”

Hun’s best player has been senior star catcher and Elon University-bound Carey Million. “Carey Million is going a great job offensively and defensively,” asserted Quirk. “She has five home runs and is hitting around .500.

Quirk is looking for Million and fellow seniors Dani Beal and Joey Crivelli to help Hun do a better job as it heads into the homestretch of the season.

“We need to stay focused to win,” said Quirk. “We are getting hits but we are not stringing them together. I am hoping that the seniors can lead the way and instill the desire and need to win.”

In order to give her team the best chance to win the state Prep A tournament, Quirk is foregoing the county tourney.

“I decided not to enter the Mercer County Tournament; it goes Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and that is tough with the preps going on at the same time,” said Quirk whose team plays at Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 before hosting Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14.

“I think we need to focus on one tournament and not be on two tracks. I think we have a better chance in the preps.”

May 1, 2013
SAVING GRACE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Johnson made 15 saves to help Princeton edge Michigan 7-5 in the Eastern Championship title game and earn its second straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The sixth-seeded Tigers (26-5) will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10 at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Johnson made 15 saves to help Princeton edge Michigan 7-5 in the Eastern Championship title game and earn its second straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The sixth-seeded Tigers (26-5) will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10 at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Its quest to repeat as Eastern champions looked to be in serious jeopardy as the Princeton University women’s water polo team found itself trailing Hartwick College 7-3 at halftime in the semis last Saturday.

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao wasn’t surprised that his team found itself locked in a battle with the Hawks.

“It was a struggle, we knew that going in,” said Nicolao, whose team edged Hartwick 7-6 in a regular season contest on February 17.

“Hartwick is very good, they are big and physical. We didn’t play well in the first half. I wanted to get the girls to relax and play our game. All year we have been saying we can control how the other teams play by how we play. We were doing things uncharacteristic of us. We were making mistakes offensively and defensively and we weren’t communicating.”

The Tigers, though, took control in the second half, outscoring Hartwick 7-3 to force overtime. After a scoreless first overtime period, the Tigers got goals from Katie Rigler and Jessie Holechek in the second extra period to pull out a 12-11 victory.

“We played well in the fourth quarter and the overtime,” said Nicolao, who got four goals and an assist from Rigler in the victory with Diana Murphy and Holechek each adding two goals and freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson making 10 saves.

“Rigler had a great game, no doubt, but so many girls did. Players like Holechek, [Saranna] Soroka, and [Kelly] Gross got key goals. We would not have been there at the end without those goals. We are very balanced.”

Princeton ended up earning its second straight Eastern crown as it edged host Michigan 7-5 in the championship game on Sunday.

“We looked at it as an opportunity,” said Nicolao, reflecting on taking on the Wolverines in their home pool.

“The atmosphere was great, the place was loud. I have a lot of respect for Michigan. It was a fun game to be in, win or lose.”

In the early going, Princeton wasn’t having much fun as it fell behind 2-0.

“It was critical to stop the bleeding,” said Nicolao, whose team went on a 3-1 run to make it a 3-3 contest after the first period and then outscored Michigan 3-0 over the next two periods to seize momentum.

“They got a couple of quick goals and the crowd was into it. We needed to settle down. The game plan was to play a zone defense and keep one or two shot blockers in front of their shooters with Ashleigh in the front of the net. We didn’t want to let their 2-meter players (centers) beat us. We wanted to make them beat us from the outside. Defense wins championships. We got a great defensive effort and we got the crowd out of it after the first quarter. They were quiet with no goals being scored.”

Star netminder Johnson gave Princeton another outstanding effort in her superb debut campaign, making 15 saves in the championship game as the Tigers improved to 26-5.

“She is wonderful, she is great,” asserted Nicolao of Miami, Fla. native Johnson, who was named the Rookie of the Tournament and was earlier selected as the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year.

“She gives your team confidence. Even if you are not playing well, she can make the saves to keep you in the game. She is extremely athletic and extremely smart. She is a pure athlete. She is so explosive and has great leg strength in the water.”

In Nicolao’s view, winning back-to-back Eastern titles is a great accomplishment for his players.

“We have never done it before,” said Nicolao, who is in his 15th season overseeing both the men’s and women’s water polo programs at Princeton.

“It is hard to do it once. When you win, everyone is looking at you, you are a target. You have to play with a different mindset. I am so proud of the girls, they are the first group to do this for us.”

The Tigers have a special group with talent throughout the lineup as 10 players have at least 20 goals, led by Rigler, the Southern Division Player of the Year and Eastern tournament MVP, at 61, followed by Ashley Hatcher (36), Soroka (33), Diana Murphy (31), Pippa Temple (31), Holechek (29), Molly McBee (29), Brittany Zwirner (25), Gross (21), and Camille Hooks (20)

“Over the last two or three years, we have had the same nucleus of girls,” said Nicolao.

“The pieces we have added have fit in well. We have a great chemistry; they all like each other. It is like one big family.”

After going 1-2 and placing six at the NCAA championships last year in its first trip to the competition, Nicolao is hoping his team can take a big step forward in this year’s national tourney, which is being held at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.

“We can’t be satisfied to just be there,” said Nicolao, whose team is seeded sixth in the NCAAs and will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10.

“The other teams will be traveling so we need to come out ready to play. If we do, we can pull some surprises. The excitement of going is over, three-fourths of the team has already been there. They want to have a better showing.”

In order to have a better showing, the Tigers need to be stingy. “It is all about defense,” said Nicolao, who will need a big tournament out of Johnson, who has a 0.669 saves percentage with 328 saves, 41 steals, and 20 assists in 31 starts.

“The other teams are hard to score on and we can’t afford to make mistakes and give up easy goals.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sam Ellis heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Ellis enjoyed a big day in her final game at Class of 1952 Stadium, scoring a career-high six points on four goals and two assists as No. 12 Princeton defeated No. 6 Penn State 14-9. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall, face Dartmouth on May 3 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia with winner advancing to the title game on May 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sam Ellis heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Ellis enjoyed a big day in her final game at Class of 1952 Stadium, scoring a career-high six points on four goals and two assists as No. 12 Princeton defeated No. 6 Penn State 14-9. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall, face Dartmouth on May 3 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia with winner advancing to the title game on May 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sam Ellis, being honored along with her classmates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team last Saturday for the program’s Senior Day triggered some deep emotions.

“It is a very special moment to go through this program for four years and just have my class’s day,” said senior attacker Ellis, reflecting on the pregame ceremony that preceded No. 12 Princeton’s clash against visiting No. 6 Penn State at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I love playing with this team. I love playing with these girls all four years and especially this team. Just going on the field like this is an incredible feeling. I had a lot of adrenaline pumping.”

Ellis channeled that adrenaline into some offensive heroics as she scored two goals in the first five minutes of the game, helping the Tigers jump out to a 6-1 lead over the Nittany Lions.

“We worked in some new offenses,” said Ellis, a 5’5 native of Bryn Mawr, Pa. “There are no regrets now, senior year, push it to the limits, do what you can and do it for the team.”

Ellis kept doing it all afternoon, ending the day with a career-best six points on four goals and two assists as Princeton pulled away to a 14-9 victory and improved to 10-5 overall.

“It is special to do it on Senior Day,” said Ellis, reflecting on her scoring outburst, which gave her 20 points on the season with 16 goals and four assists.

“It is special that I got to do it in such an important win for us. I really owe it all to my teammates. If it weren’t for them pushing me everyday in practice, I would not have gotten here.”

In Ellis’ view, the team’s work in practice in preparation for the Penn State game helped spark the superb performance.

“We just had incredible practices this week,” said Ellis, who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for her performance.

“We were all dedicated, watching film, working extra on the field. We were really prepping each other and pushing each other hard in practice. It just really helped that the offense and the defense was playing so well. We were really able to go off of each other’s momentum and carry that on for the entire game.”

Being pushed by her teammates over the last four years helped Ellis make the Israeli women’s lacrosse national team, which will be competing in the upcoming world championships.

“This is the first year the women were making a team; the tryouts were conveniently in New Jersey,” said Ellis.

“I went and I made it. It is a pretty cool thing. I have become an Israeli citizen. I get to train in Israel, spread the lacrosse image, and get it national. I would be nowhere as good as I am if it weren’t for this team, this school, this coach; and just everything that has gone into this past four years has made me grow into the person I am.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer believed her squad showed offensive growth in the win over Penn State.

“We had a great offensive practice yesterday; we were moving the ball well,” said Sailer.

“We have been trying to attack the corners more. So much this year, we have been attacking up and down. We just put in a little different look so we could attack the corners.”

The Tigers brought an intensity to go along with their tactical wrinkles.

“I could tell when I walked into the team room before the game that they were ready to play,” said Sailer.

“I think they showed that from the very opening whistle. There was just great energy; they fought really hard.”

The team’s seniors fought particularly hard in their final home appearance.

“All of them have contributed since the time they got on campus,” said Sailer, reflecting on the program’s Class of 2013 which includes Caroline Rehfuss, Jaci Gassaway, Charlotte Davis, and Jenna Davis in addition to Ellis.

“This year, they have really come together as a senior class. They have been incredible leaders. They have really set a great culture of being compelled and doing the extra. They have really unified this whole team and I think today was their showcase.”

Sailer pointed to Ellis as exemplifying the seniors’ big day. “Sam really got us started with some great moves early,” said Sailer, who got three goals apiece from Erin McMunn and Erin Slifer in the victory over Penn State with Sarah Lloyd chipping in two.

“Sam was just fantastic today. She really attacked hard. She finished her shots well. I thought all of the seniors played well and it was great to see.”

With Princeton having won seven of its last nine games, Sailer believes her team has a great chance of winning the Ivy League tournament this weekend in Philadelphia.

“We are not always ready at the first or second game of the season,” said Sailer, whose team is seeded second in the Ivy tourney and will play No. 3 Dartmouth in one semi on Friday with top-seeded and host Penn facing No. 4 Cornell in the other and the victors to meet in the title game on Sunday.

“To see them get better and better as the season progresses, that is exactly what you want. The goal is to be peaking come tournament time.”

Princeton is ready for its rematch with Dartmouth at Franklin Field. “We just played them so we will have that tape on them,” said Sailer, whose club edged the Big Green 15-13 on April 20.

“That was a very competitive game. I think if we can keep our intensity level up and really study that film and continue to work, we will have a great game. Right now we are all about winning that tournament. We have got to get by Dartmouth.”

Ellis, for her part, believes that Princeton is primed to keep winning. “We already know that we are going to see Dartmouth in the first round,” said Ellis.

“We already beat them but you take every game like it is a new game. Coming off this win, we are definitely going to feed off that energy. I feel like whenever we get to the end of the spring season, this is when we hit our momentum. We don’t have as much prep time as other schools so it is really nice to see what we have grown into.”

Facing No. 6 Cornell last Saturday in the Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium, the 12th-ranked Princeton University men’s lacrosse team outscored the Big Red 10-9 over the last 38:46 of the contest.

Unfortunately for Princeton, it dug an 8-1 hole in the first 21 minutes of the Ivy League showdown on the way to a 17-11 defeat.

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior All-American midfielder Schreiber scored two goals and had an assist in a 17-11 loss to Cornell. Schreiber now has 25 goals and 26 assists for the season. Princeton has had a player have at least 25 goals and 25 assists six times in program history, and two of those 25/25 seasons belong to Schreiber, who had 32 goals and 28 assists last year. The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 3-3 Ivy League, will get another shot at the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior All-American midfielder Schreiber scored two goals and had an assist in a 17-11 loss to Cornell. Schreiber now has 25 goals and 26 assists for the season. Princeton has had a player have at least 25 goals and 25 assists six times in program history, and two of those 25/25 seasons belong to Schreiber, who had 32 goals and 28 assists last year. The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 3-3 Ivy League, will get another shot at the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Princeton head coach Chris Bates acknowledged that his squad was out of synch in the early going as it fell to 8-5 overall and 3-3 in Ivy play.

“I think offensively we didn’t capitalize on opportunities,” lamented Bates “We moved the ball and had shots but we weren’t attentive to the scouting report on shooting. They ground-balled us all day. They had two long poles on face-offs and that unit did a good job. Pannell [Cornell All-American Rob Pannell] got two early goals and that set a tone for them; they were feeling good about themselves.”

Bates felt good about how his team refused to throw in the towel after finding themselves facing the large early deficit.

“At halftime, we challenged them a little bit; we talked about things we weren’t doing well and adjustments we needed to make,” recalled Bates, who got four goals and an assist from Mike MacDonald in the loss with Tom Schreiber chipping in two goals and an assist.

“Each time we would get it to four, they would make a big play and get it back to five. I think if we had got it to three, we would have felt differently but we never had a puncher’s chance. This team keeps scrapping and fighting,”

The Tigers face a huge challenge as they play the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) again this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.

“As a competitor, that excites me,” said Bates, reflecting on the rematch which will see the winner advance to the Ivy championship game on Sunday against the victor of the Yale-Penn semifinal.

“It is a chance to exact revenge. We are disappointed; we are much better than the way we played on Saturday. All of us are a bit embarrassed by that game. It is a chance to not only show ourselves but to show Cornell that we are better.”

Bates is hoping that his team will take some lessons from Saturday and bring some extra hunger into the rematch.

“We need to make some adjustments; we tried to make some at half but they didn’t stick,” said Bates.

“We need to put in a couple of different wrinkles and looks to slow down Pannell. We need to do better on ground balls and be more physical; they beat us up a little bit. They were dancing around and celebrating after the game; they don’t think they have much to worry about.”

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Tyler Hack and Zack Kleiman to develop into a formidable doubles pair.

Thrown together just before last week’s Mercer County Tournament, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title.

The triumph helped PHS place fourth in the team standings as WW/P-S won the title for the third season in a row and the ninth time in the last 10 years.

Sophomore Hack had a feeling that he and junior Kleiman could do some special things together.

“We played one match together as a team before this tournament,” said Hack.

“We won that match and we have known each other for a few years. We have been good friends for a couple of years now and I thought we had good chemistry.”

The pair utilized that chemistry as they endured a tough three-set match in the final, topping Pratyush Trivedi and Felix Su of WW/P-N, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.

“It certainly had a lot of twists and turns,” said Hack, reflecting on the championship match.

“I was really worried in the second set. I knew that if we played the way we did during our first three matches here, I knew we could come out on top in the third.”

Kleiman, for his part, believed that the pair needed to bear down to prevail in the third.

“I think we lost focus in the second and we tried to have the mentality in the third that the first two sets never existed,” said Kleiman. “We tried to stay in each point and I think that showed in the last set.”

In assessing the third set, Hack attributed playing conservative tennis with making the difference.

“In the third, it was just stay consistent and play safe doubles, get our serves in and make our returns and not let them beat us down,” said Hack.

The PHS duo jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set and cruised from there.

“I think my hold in the third game was really crucial,” said Kleiman. “We just couldn’t let them back in. It was crucial to keep the consistency, the mentality, and focus.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believed that the pairing of Hack and Kleiman had a chance to be something special.

“I was really proud of the way second doubles played this whole tournament,” said Hibbert.

“They played their first match on the Friday before the tournament. I definitely knew they had potential. Tyler has the groundstrokes and he plays well at the net. Zach volleys well. I thought they could have a good shot. Obviously any time you win a flight, you are really pleased, especially when the team hasn’t played together.”

Noting that she has been forced to juggle her lineup all spring due to injury, Hibbert was pleased to see the Little Tigers take fourth at the highly competitive MCT. The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Eddy Zheng took fourth while Rishab Tanga placed third at third singles.

“To have three flights go into the second day was good,” said Hibbert. “The first doubles ended up getting fourth. There were a few things here or there we are still trying to settle. Rishab did a great job as well. He had a tough match this morning against Neeraj [Devulapalli of PDS]. Neeraj played first singles last year so that is definitely a tough match. I think Rishab did a great job of coming back in his third place match. He fought hard through that match.”

In Hibbert’s view, PHS can make things tough on its foes with its balance.

“Our strength is depth; we don’t necessarily have a nationally ranked player,” said Hibbert.

“We have seven solid guys that we rely on different days to come through for us and I think with our depth, we have to make sure that our doubles teams are solid.”

Hibbert believes her players will draw strength from their play at the MCT.

“Any time you get good competition, it can only help you for what we have coming up with North (WW/P-N), South (WW/P-S), and the states,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N on May 1 before playing at Hightstown on May 3 and Nottingham on May 6.

Kleiman, for his part, feels that his pairing with Hack can help the team be better.

“The lefty/righty combination is always helpful when you have the forehand on either wing,” said Kleiman, who is a righty while Hack plays lefthanded. “We want to stay together.”

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse players Adam Ainslie, left, and Matt Corrado celebrate after a goal in recent action. Last Friday, Ainslie and Corrado each scored two goals as PHS edged Christian Brothers Academy 10-9. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-2 with the victory, hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse players Adam Ainslie, left, and Matt Corrado celebrate after a goal in recent action. Last Friday, Ainslie and Corrado each scored two goals as PHS edged Christian Brothers Academy 10-9. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-2 with the victory, hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing back-up goalie for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team as a freshman in 2010, Adam Ainslie took a break from the sport.

The multi-talented Ainslie devoted his time to singing and performing in PHS musical productions.

This spring, Ainslie has returned to lacrosse and he is making some sweet music for the Little Tigers, emerging as a productive attackman.

Last Friday against visiting Christian Brothers Academy, Ainslie tallied two goals and two assists as PHS pulled out a thrilling 10-9 win over the Colts.

“We were really excited to have a challenge to play a good opponent,” said Ainslie, reflecting on the win which saw Patrick McCormick score the game-winning goal with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation. “I think our excitement showed. We stepped up and we were ready to play.”

While Ainslie is excited to be contributing for the Little Tigers, he acknowledges that his offensive production has been due, in large part, to the work of others.

“They make me look pretty; I give a lot of credit to the midfielders,” said Aislie.

“I kind of sit down on the right side there. I can catch and shoot and I can catch and pass so all of my points and goals this season are credited to the middies.”

After two years away from lacrosse, Ainslie decided he could couldn’t pass up his last chance to play for PHS.

“I missed the game; I have been playing since I was a little kid,” said Aislie. “I would be jealous watching the games and watching my friends play.”

Upon returning to the Little Tigers, Ainslie has quickly developed a comfort level at attack and with his teammates.

“I had actually only started playing goalie in seventh or eight grade; I had played all over the field since I was a little guy,” said Ainslie.

“The coaches and the whole team have been so great welcoming me back and being accommodating with me. They are the best group of guys. I have nothing but great words to say about this group of guys. I am so excited to be back and playing.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton is excited to have Ainslie back on the squad.

“We are so thrilled for him personally that he had a chance to finish up his high school career by playing a sport,” said Stanton.

“He has been really dedicated to the arts; it is such a huge commitment. The fact that he has been able to come back out and do this and have this to be part of his high school experience; I am happy for him individually and for our team.”

Stanton was thrilled to see his team pull out the win over CBA. “Our goal today was to experience winning a close game against a tough team,” said Stanton, whose team improved to 7-2 with the victory.

“Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. Our objective was met as far as we wanted to play in a close game against a tough team. It was a great opponent and a great result.”

In Stanton’s view, a balanced attack made the difference for PHS in the close contest.

“When our team is playing well offensively, all six guys are a threat,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece on Friday from Matt Purdy, Will Hare, and Matt Corrado in addition to Ainslie.

“It might just so happen that one or two of the guys get most of the goals and assists but they are doing the easy part. We got key goals from Matt Corrado. We got great plays from Will Hare and both Hallidays [Zach and Kevin] and then Pat McCormick scored the game winner.”

The Little Tigers were also sparked by some great work at the defensive end.

“We are improving; that was a big question mark coming into the season,” said Stanton, whose team hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament.

“We are getting better each time out. I think Matt DiTosto did a fantastic job guarding really good players today. Jackson Andres was dominant, Jack Persico is improving a lot; he is improving at picking up ground balls and making great passes and clears. He had a couple today where I said I didn’t know he could make that pass. MacGregor [goalie Gabe MacGregor] gives us a great boost emotionally.”

Ainslie, for his part, believes the win over CBA is a big boost for the Little Tigers.

“This is absolutely a confidence builder; I think we are looking forward to the end of the season and playing more challenging teams like this,” said Ainslie, who is headed to Princeton University this fall.

“It is good to get this kind of experience where we score in the last few seconds to win. I think it is a great win for us. We had three games last week and three games this week. It is good to get something out of all that hard work. I think we are starting to play together. We have had a lot of parts come together this season. I think we are now just starting to mesh together and get it all clicking. It is exciting; this is fun lacrosse.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star ­Michael Zhao chases down a ball last Wednesday at the Mercer County Tournament. Eighth-grader Zhao placed second at first singles, helping PDS take second of 17 schools in the MCT team standings behind champion WW/P-S.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUTH IS SERVED: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star ­Michael Zhao chases down a ball last Wednesday at the Mercer County Tournament. Eighth-grader Zhao placed second at first singles, helping PDS take second of 17 schools in the MCT team standings behind champion WW/P-S. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Michael Zhao’s play exemplified the highs and lows experienced by the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team last week at the Mercer County Tournament.

The precocious eighth grader turned heads as he advanced to the first singles final at the MCT, which was held at Mercer County Park.

With Neeraj Devulapalli also making the finals at third singles, the Panthers headed into the championship round tied with WW/P-S for first in the team standings.

But in the title match against senior star Kenny Zheng of Hopewell Valley, Zhao dropped the first set 6-1 and retired from the match due to cramps.

Devulapalli also lost, falling in two hard-fought sets to John Hu of WW/P-S, as the Panthers took second to the Pirates, the winner of three straight MCT titles and nine of the last 10.

In reflecting on his defeat, Zhao didn’t make any excuses. “It was a tough match,” said Zhao. “I cramped up a little bit but Kenny was playing really well. He deserves it.”

As Zhao took the court for the final match, he knew he couldn’t afford to fall behind.

“Towards the end of the second set of my first match, I felt it a little bit,” said Zhao, who defeated Michael Song of WW/P-S 6-4, 6-0 in the semis earlier on Wednesday. “It was my left quad. It wasn’t bad but I knew that it would cramp later on in the final.”

Zhao was proud to see the Panthers end up second in the team standings. “It was really great,” said Zhao.

“This year, our team is really strong and I really enjoy playing here and playing as a team. Last year, we got 11th. I think this year doing so well gives us confidence. We know that we can play with these top teams.”

For Zhao, playing with high school teammates as an eighth grader has turned out to be an enjoyable experience.

“It has been a little bit new but I have played with a lot of these kids in USTA tournaments outside of school so I am used to it,” said Zhao. “I see them all the time so we are good friends.”

Zhao recently earned a big tournament victory on the national scene when he won the doubles at the prestigious Easter Bowl competition in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

“That was really unexpected,” said Zhao, who teamed with Bryce Periera to win the title.

“I had never been past the quarterfinals at a super national. Actually my original doubles partner got injured and at the last minute we found a doubles player to play with. We started out a little bit slow but we clicked.”

In assessing his game, Zhao is focusing on being more powerful. “I would like to improve my serve and return a little bit; those are two really important shots,” said Zhao. “Also, I need to work on my overall fitness so I don’t cramp as often.”

PDS head coach Will Asch saw Zhao’s victory in the semis as an important step forward.

“I was really happy with Michel Zhao’s win over Michael Song,” said Asch.

“That was a great win against an older player. He is more experienced; Michael [Song] has been in three semis already here.”

Freshman David Zhang and junior Devulapalli gained some valuable experience at second and third singles, respectively.

“I think David Zhang lost because he doesn’t have the experience that the boy from South does,” said Asch of Zhang, who fell to Tom Weng of WW/P-S in the semis.

“I think that my player is going to be a much better player. He is not there yet. Neeraj had a tough battle. I was very impressed by the player from West-Windsor South. He is obviously a very good athlete, he moves very, very well.”

The PDS second doubles team of Josiah Meekins and Luka Graonic produced an impressive performance as they defeated the top-seeded WW/P-S pair of Pranay Nadella and Yuefang Zhu on the way to the semifinals.

“They had a great tournament; they knew they had nothing to lose in the first round,” said Asch.

“While they were playing I was trying to keep them from thinking about winning and losing because they got in a zone and they were able to stay in it. I had never seen them play like that before. Josiah is a very good competitor. He is a very good athlete; he is a very good player. Luka just had an unbelievable day against West Windsor South.”

Asch believes that the lessons gained from the MCT will help PDS as it goes for a title in the state Prep B tourney later this month.

“We know what we have to do in practice,” said Asch, whose team has matches at Solebury School (Pa.) on May 1, at WW/P-S on May 2, and at Pennington on May 3 as it tunes up for the preps which are slated for May 19 and 21.

“We have to help David and Neeraj get ready and make sure Michael gets better with the cramps. I am confident that we have a very good team. I have to see what the other teams look like. I thought we had an excellent chance to win today but we needed that win at second singles; that was a very tough loss. We were still in it but the loss at third kind of ended the day for us.”

Zhao, for his part, thinks the Panthers can end the spring on a high note.

“Hopefully we come out of that with a win,” said Zhao, referring to the Prep B tournament. “We have had a good season. We are going to play some good teams coming up like South (WW/P-S), and I hope we do well.”

TRIGGERING EVENT: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior star Hannah Levy looks for an opening in recent action. Last Wednesday, MIT-bound Levy scored six goals as PDS edged the Blair Academy 14-12. The Panthers, now 5-5, host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIGGERING EVENT: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior star Hannah Levy looks for an opening in recent action. Last Wednesday, MIT-bound Levy scored six goals as PDS edged the Blair Academy 14-12. The Panthers, now 5-5, host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hannah Levy was the top scorer for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team in 2012 as a junior but she wasn’t about to rest on her laurels coming into her senior campaign.

“I have been working on my shooting a lot this season because that was lacking going into it,” said Levy.

“I am just really going for placement and the power shot and not thinking about it too much and just letting it fly.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Blair Academy, Levy let it fly all afternoon, scoring six goals as PDS posted a 14-12 win over the Buccaneers.

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like the Panthers could be headed to a rout as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead with Levy scoring three goals.

“I think we started off strong,” said Levy. “We were running our offense really well. We were getting the ground balls; we were making the passes.”

Hitting a lull, Levy and PDS headed into halftime clinging to a 7-6 advantage. In the second half, the Panthers settled down and found a nice rhythm.

“I think we were really just looking to play our game,” said Levy. “We needed to get the ball; we needed to get more ground balls. We needed to run through the offense. I think we played our own tempo; we played under control. The draw was a huge key and we started capitalizing on that.”

In Levy’s view, the victory over Blair was a confidence builder. “We need some more of these,” said Levy with a grin. “I think we are playing pretty well going into the tournaments. That’s what really matters and we have momentum.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas saw the win over Blair as a good step forward. “It was a quality win, a tough win against a tough team,” said Thomas, who got three goals from Corinne Urisko in the win with Sarah Brennan adding two and the trio of Morgan Foster, Zeeza Cole, and Lucy Linville chipping in one apiece.

“We were pretty comparable coming in; we knew that. We had like opponents, like wins, like losses and close scores. They have that Council Dawson kid, we knew that. She can play.”

While Thomas acknowledged that it was an uneven performance by the Panthers, she was happy with the end result.

“We didn’t ever lose the lead,” said Thomas. “We had it and we kept going so kudos to them for that. They got that. Being sharper and being tougher made the difference. We had somebody who could get to the ball before anybody else and that was No. 5. Tess Gecha. She’s fast and you can’t beat speed.”

PDS is hard to beat when Levy is finding the back of the net. “We said to her at half, just go north and south,” said Thomas.

“Don’t set anything up; you found it, you can score 10. If it takes you to score 10 for us to win, that’s OK. Good for her, she has that signature move and they can’t stop it. She finds it down the side of the net.”

The combination of sophomore Kirsten Kuzmicz and junior Sarah Brennan helped stop the Buccaneers.

“Kuzmicz was face-guarding Dawson; she is one of our best face guarders and she has got that,” said Thomas.

“Brennan is a workhorse, they are both workhorses that do whatever they can do.”

In Thomas’s view, her team has the ability to do a lot this spring if it plays with heart.

“I always tell them potential is a terrible thing to waste, that is the bottom line,” said Thomas, whose team fell 16-13 to Kent Place last Monday in the first round of the state Prep A tournament and will host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament as the sixth-seeded Panthers host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3.

“We can do all the drills and all that stuff that we want to do. This is a good team; when they are on they can play with anyone. I just think it is believing; I do think they have the energy. The need to have that hunger to feel that you can play with these other girls.”

Levy, for her part, is hungry to get the most out her last season at PDS.

“It is crazy; this season is quicker than all of the other ones,” said Levy, who is heading to MIT where she plans to play both lacrosse and soccer.

“It is really only a month long when we get back from Florida. We really have to make it count now because there is not much time.”

HOUSTON ROCKET: Hun School baseball player Shane Adams takes a cut in recent action. Last Thursday, post-graduate second baseman Adams, a native of Houston, Texas, smacked a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville. Hun, now 11-3, is seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest. The Raiders will also be playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 1 and hosting Peddie on May 6 in regular season contests.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOUSTON ROCKET: Hun School baseball player Shane Adams takes a cut in recent action. Last Thursday, post-graduate second baseman Adams, a native of Houston, Texas, smacked a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville. Hun, now 11-3, is seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest. The Raiders will also be playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 1 and hosting Peddie on May 6 in regular season contests. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After dropping a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.), Shane Adams and his teammates on the Hun School baseball team weren’t about to let losing become a habit.

“We had a good winning streak before the weekend so we are just looking to get back on the train,” said post-graduate second baseman Adams, reflecting on the team’s mood in the wake of the double setback on April 20.

Adams helped get the Raiders on the right track, collecting three hits in a 4-2 win over WW/P-S on April 23 and then smacking a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville last Thursday.

“That was a good way to come back out and get another W,” said Adams. “It was a close game so it was nice to grind it out and start winning again and then beating a MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) team today.”

Against Lawrenceville, the Raiders battled back after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning.

“We knew they were going to come out tougher in this game,” said Adams of Lawrenceville which fell 8-0 to Hun in the season opener on March 28.

“We just wanted to jump on the board, two runs in the first is the best way to do it. Devo [Devan Birch] getting on is always good and hitting him in is great. He always scores because he is so fast. We have a great one-two combo right there.”

The Houston, Texas native and Columbia-bound Adams has made a fast transition to life in New Jersey.

“I got All-State my senior year, which was kind of out of the blue,” explained Adams.

“I got picked up at Columbia. I didn’t know a PG existed and they said here is a good school. I came up here, great ballclub. That is just how it wound up. It has been like a first year moving away; you are not quite in college but it is still like that. It has been a weird transition but it has been smooth.

Hun head coach Bill McQuade is happy that Adams made his way to Hun from Texas.

“We knew he was a ballplayer as soon as we saw him in Florida,” said McQuade.

“He may be the fastest guy from home to first right-handed that I have ever had here. When he gets moving, he is something else.”

McQuade credited Adams with helping to get things moving for Hun in the win over Lawrenceville.

“Shane handles the bat so well; he can bunt and get on base,” said McQuade.

“He is smart. Today, you saw he has that sneaky power. He smacks a triple and smokes another one later in the game. He really understands the game.”

In McQuade’s view, coming through in the WW/P-S game was critical for his team’s psyche.

“The South game was so crucial,” said McQuade. “After you lose two heartbreakers, it can either lead to a slide or the true character comes out. They battled back from some adversity and heartbreak.”

The Raiders had to battle to overcome rival Lawrenceville. “This was a gutty game, Lawrenceville came out and fought,” said McQuade, whose team posted another gutty win as it topped Blair 7-5 last Saturday to improve to 11-3.

“They scored a run and we came back; that was critical. They are young so you know they are going to get better and they have gotten better. They were one hit to the fence away from tying the game so I give them a ton of credit. In turn, I give our team credit for continuing to fight.”

McQuade knows that his team faces a tough fight in Mercer County Tournament and Prep A tourney.

“It is going to be a struggle because the teams we are playing are all good,” said McQuade, whose squad is seeded third in the MCT and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest.

“There are some good teams that we are playing. You really don’t want to play a bad team because you don’t want to lose your edge. No matter whom you face, when you are in the first round you are facing the other guy’s ace. Everybody has somebody who can throw the ball hard. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody.”

Adams, for his part, feels that Hun will be hard to beat at tournament time.

“We have got a bunch of great guys,” said Adams. “Every loss is a killer and we don’t want to let that happen again. Now that we have some bats going it is going to look good the next few games.”

April 24, 2013

sports1It has been a bumpy ride for Jeff Froccaro and his senior classmates over the course of their time with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

The group was recruited by Bill Tierney but never played for the Hall of Fame coach as he headed to University of Denver in the spring of 2009 and was replaced by Chris Bates.

During Bates’ tenure, the players endured with a nightmare 4-8 season in 2011 and two tough opening round losses in the NCAA tournament. Injury and transfer reduced the class to five as the Tigers hosted Harvard last Friday night in their final regular season game as Class of 1952 Stadium.

After a brief Senior Night ceremony, a fired-up Princeton team went out and dismantled Harvard 14-6 before a crowd of 1,809, improving to 8-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy League.

In the wake of the win, senior attacker Froccaro was all smiles as he reflected on his last home appearance.

“It is great,” said Froccaro, a 5’11, 185-pound native of Sands Point, N.Y. “Our class has lost a bunch of guys from injury and stuff like that so it is really great to have the five us play four years and finish up with a win and a pretty dominant win really. We are all very, very happy and proud.”

Coming off a disappointing 10-9 loss at Dartmouth on April 13, Princeton was looking to dominate possession against Harvard.

“This week we were trying to make sure that we took a little bit of time off the clock in the beginning of possessions,” said Froccaro, reflecting on the win which clinched a spot for Princeton in the upcoming Ivy tournament.

“We were trying to get the ball around at least once and then go into a play that we wanted to call. That hurt us in Dartmouth because were just taking the first shot that we saw, the goalie was pretty hot and made a couple of saves. Today we just possessed the ball, took great shots and the goalie really couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

Froccaro got into a good rhythm against the Crimson, tallying two goals and two assists.

“I think I played well; there are so many weapons on our offense,” said Froccaro, who recently passed the 100-point mark in his Tiger career and now has 117 points.

“If I am not having a great day, Tom [Schreiber] steps up. If Tom is not having a great day, my brother [Jake] steps up. It’s all around, there are six really, really good players. We don’t discriminate on the scoring sheet, so it has been good.”

Playing one college season with his younger brother has turned into a really good experience for Froccaro.

“I am thankful he is having a great year, which I kind of expected just knowing how he was in high school,” said Froccaro, who has 40 points this season in 28 goals and 12 assists while his brother has piled up 30 points with 21 goals and nine assists.

“It has been amazing playing with him. We have played behind the cage a bunch in games and we just have a knack for finding each other. It has been really good.”

The Tigers knew that they had to ratchet up the intensity for Harvard. “We dropped one to Syracuse and we beat Rutgers but it wasn’t a great win,” said Froccaro.

“After Dartmouth, it was wow, we have to get ourselves together. We came out this week and practiced really hard. Guys were rededicated to the program and we got a good win.”

Princeton head coach Bates likes the dedication his seniors have displayed over their careers.

“We have had four years together,” said Bates. “It is a little bit of a maligned class in some ways. They have three guys that aren’t here. Chris White has given us phenomenal leadership as a senior captain. The other four guys, Jeff, Bobby [Lucas], Tom [Gibbons] and Luke [Armour], have just been consistent. They have been there everyday and they have kept us on track. It is fitting for those guys to win on Senior Night.”

It was fitting for the senior Froccaro to come up big in his Class of 52 finale.

“We challenged him this week and he knew he needed to play his ‘A’ game and I thought he responded well,” said Bates.

“He played with energy and we need that. When Jeff is involved and active, we tend to be successful.”

Princeton got a superb response from sophomore goalie Eric Sanschagrin, who got his first start of the season as Bates opted to bench freshman Matt O’Connor. Sanschagrin made eight saves and looked solid all night long.

“Matt has had a rough couple of games in terms of saving the ball; Eric has consistently been a higher percentage stopper,” said Bates.

“We felt like we needed a spark. We just felt like we needed to make a few more saves a game. Eric had played really well in practice so we had an inkling here the last couple of weeks that this was a possibility. We just decided to make the change and it worked out. We’ll see where we go from there. We have faith in both of those guys.”

The Tiger offense played well as it bounced back from a subpar effort against Dartmouth.

“Facing off early helped us, I think we were 6-of-9,” said Bates, who got four goals from Mike MacDonald with Jake Froccaro and Kip Orban both adding three.

We got into a little bit of a rhythm. I thought we played with great energy and pace. We challenged our offense pretty hard this week. We felt that they let us down against Dartmouth; we were clear about that. I think they accepted that responsibility and they came out with something to prove. We are tough to stop with those first six guys.”

No. 12 Princeton faces another tough challenge this Saturday as it faces No. 4 Cornell (11-2 overall, 5-0 Ivy) on Saturday in the Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

“They are high-paced, they share the ball, they pose match-up problems,” said Bates of Cornell, who will be hosting the Ivy tournament from May 3-5.

“They are tough, they are physical. But you know what, I believe in our team and the way we rebounded today. We had some questions that are natural coming out of the last couple of weeks. I thought that with the way we played today with a sense of purpose and passion was exciting to see so it’s going to be an exciting game.”

Bates is hoping that Princeton can build on the way it played against Harvard.

“Our guys needed this, we needed to feel good,” said Bates. “To come out and play the way we did and handle our business the way we did, I think is a real positive. That’s what we need, we want to play our best lacrosse now, going into tournament, hopefully it gets us back on that positive momentum.”

Froccaro, for his part, sees the Cornell game as a chance for the Tigers to feel even more positive about themselves as they head into postseason play.

“I think we match up fine talent-wise; I think our systems can break them down,” said Froccaro.

“We are just going to put our noses down and worry about ourselves all this week and see what happens. We want to start rolling at the end of the season. Obviously the Dartmouth loss was a hit. We feel confident that the offense is clicking and the defense played absolutely amazing today.”

sports2Alex Peyton has saved her best for last in wrapping up her career with the Princeton University softball team.

The senior pitcher/first baseman has sparkled at the plate and in the pitching circle this spring. She is hitting .366 with team highs in homers (9) and RBIs (33). The 5’10 native of Fullerton, Calif. has been equally valuable at the top of the Tiger rotation, going 7-7 and leading the Tigers with a 2.47 ERA and 74 strikeouts.

For Peyton, her superb final campaign is the product of a calmer mindset.

“I feel good this year,” said Peyton. “I am a little more relaxed and confident this year and it has definitely helped me.”

Last weekend, Peyton experienced some bittersweet feelings as the Tigers played their last home games of the season with doubleheaders against Columbia on Saturday and Sunday.

“It is definitely sad; I have been playing since I was five,” said Peyton, who has 22 career homers, tied for fifth-best in program history. “I am just going to go out and play as hard as I always have and enjoy it while I have it.”

Peyton enjoyed Game 1 on Saturday as she hurled a four-hit shutout and got an RBI in a 3-0 win over the Lions.

“The umpire was giving me a good zone,” said Peyton, reflecting on her pitching effort.

“I just went out there and threw my pitches, not trying to think too much. I knew my defense was going to make the plays today and I just did what I have been doing all season.”

In the nightcap, Peyton went 3-for-4 as the Tigers pulled out a 2-1 decision in nine innings.

“We have had a couple of heartbreaking losses in the past couple of weeks so we needed this,” said Peyton.

“So many people stepped up in that game and made a clutch play when we needed it and got hits. I think our defense was great. Shanna [Christian] threw a great game; that was really good for a freshman.”

For Peyton, the extra-inning triumph spoke volumes about the progress Princeton has made this spring as it rebounds from a 14-32 campaign in 2012.

“We have come together really well and there is a whole new energy that we just haven’t had,” said Peyton. “I think in the past, this is a game that we would have lost.”

While Princeton split the doubleheader on Sunday to move to 24-18 overall and 9-7 Ivy League, four games behind Ivy South leader Penn (24-16 overall, 13-3 Ivy) with four league games remaining, Peyton is leaving college with great memories even if the Tigers don’t get a title in her final season.

“I could not have asked for more, playing Division I softball at the best school in the country,” asserted Peyton. “I am getting a great education and getting to play the sport I love.”

Princeton first-year head coach Lisa Sweeney has gotten all she could ask from Peyton.

“It is funny, people have to bring it up because I am never surprised,” said Sweeney, reflecting on Peyton’s performance this spring.

“I expect her to have two or three hits. She has been just an unbelievable leader on the field and whenever we need a spark, she is the spark. She threw a great game in the first game. She is just a solid player all the way around.”

Sweeney viewed the Game 1 win on Saturday as a solid effort for the Tigers.

“I was really happy with everything that went on,” she said.

“We haven’t had great defensive games and I think today we really did. Some outs that were recorded were diving plays and just fantastic defense.”

The victory in the nightcap exemplified a resolve that Sweeney was happy to see.

“We really had to reset our minds and get back to a spot where it was like let’s take one pitch at a time and we’ll just try to win every inning that we play in,” added Sweeney.

“If we win every inning, we’ll win every game. We knew we were going to win; it is just a matter of how long it was going to take us to get it done.”

In Sweeney’s view, the team was primed to go the extra mile last weekend for its senior group.

“I think everyone, because of the group that we have, the whole team wants to play for them as much as we want to win as a group,” said Sweeney, whose squad wraps up regular season play with doubleheaders at Cornell on April 27 and 28. “This weekend is special for them and that makes it special for everybody because they are that close of a team.”

Sweeney credits the team’s seniors with making this spring special. “I think they were just so dedicated to turning things around that they were willing to do whatever it took,” said Sweeney, whose Class of 2013 includes Liza Kuhn, Nikki Chu, Candy Button, and Lizzy Pierce in addition to Peyton.

“I don’t think that would have been possible without their leadership. Every game means something to those guys and people follow that.

It means a lot to Peyton to have seen things turn out better for Princeton.

“There is a whole new fight in the team,” said Peyton. “We had a team talk this week where we looked at our goals and values as a team and said we are going to keep going after them.”

#4 turns a double play. Please run photo full frame.As the Princeton University baseball players gathered for their post-game huddle after falling 10-2 to visiting Columbia to split a doubleheader last Sunday, their heads dropped in unison.

The Tigers brought high hopes into the weekend, trailing the Lions by just a game in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division standings with a pair of home doubleheaders.

On Saturday, Princeton lost 4-0 and 7-1 to fall three games behind. Needing a sweep on Sunday to get back to where it started the weekend, the Tigers got off to a good start, winning the opener 2-0 behind a five-hit shutout from junior Mike Ford, a former Hun School star.

In the nightcap, the teams were knotted at 2-2 in the sixth but then things started to fall apart for the Tigers. In the top of the frame, Columbia got a two-run single to go up 4-2. Princeton appeared to have tied the game as John Mishu knocked the ball over the right field fence for a two-run homer but the ball was called foul. The roof fell in on the Tigers as the Lions tacked on six unanswered runs to pull away to a 10-2 win.

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley reflected the mood of his players as he assessed the weekend.

“It was disappointing, they outplayed us,” said Bradley, whose team ended the weekend at 12-25 overall and 9-7 Ivy while Columbia improved to 20-17 overall and 12-4 Ivy with just four league games remaining.

“It is not how often you get hits and how many hits, it is when you get them. I thought our pitching was pretty good; it kept us in. But when you score five runs in four game series, you are not winning. They got some big hits and we were not able to.”

Bradley tipped his hat to the Lions, who just need to win two of four games against Penn next weekend to eliminate Princeton no matter what the Tigers do in their season-ending four-game set with Cornell.

“They pitched the daylights out of it,” said Bradley. “They are good, Columbia plays the game really well. Coach [Brett] Boretti does a really good job with them. They have really developed a knack for getting big hits in big situations. It came down to them making a big two-out hit in a tied ball game to make it 4-2 in the sixth inning.”

Princeton thought it had a big hit when Mishu blasted the ball over the fence but it never recovered from the controversial call. 

“I thought the ball was fair from where we were,” said Bradley. “It is a tough call, it is probably the toughest call umpires have to make. I sit almost on the line and I thought it was a fair ball and so did the other guys. It changed the tone a bit. Again, you have to turn it around. At that point, we were in the game but we let the game get away from us.”

While barely alive in the title chase, Princeton is looking to keep the heat on the Lions as the Tigers play a home-and-home four-game series with Cornell this weekend.

“It is nice playing games that mean something,” said Bradley, whose team hosts Cornell (21-14 overall, 9-7 Ivy) for a doubleheader on April 26 before heading up to Ithaca, N.Y. for a twinbill against the Big Red on their home field two days later.

“We get to play on Friday; we need to come out and throw up a couple of wins and at least get them to the point where they are going to think about us. We want to put pressure on them so that they are going to have to come out and earn it.”

As the Princeton University men’s lightweight first varsity crew learned the hard way in a loss to Cornell earlier this month, there are no shortcuts in the process of reaching top speed.

“I think we got ahead of ourselves in the race with Cornell which is something I haven’t seen before,” said Princeton head coach Marty Crotty.

“We were trying to race with late season cadence and late season fitness. I don’t think we were ready for that yet. The message was to get back to basics; we need to build a better foundation and a sustained base.”

The top boat came back with a better performance last Saturday as it won the Wood-Hammond Cup by beating Penn and Georgetown. Princeton covered the 2,000-meter course on the Schuylkill River in 5:32.4 with Penn next in 5:38.4 and Georgetown taking third in 5:44.2.

“We had a great week of practice,” said Crotty, reflecting on the victory. “Every race you win in the league is something to savor. Any win should be savored in this league. With the youth of our crew a win like that is a step forward. I think the best thing is that it came after a really good week of practice. We have to keep building because the competition gets stiffer and stiffer.”

In Crotty’s view, his program is building something special. “The whole team as a group, all 39 oarsmen and four coxswains have improved during the year and from year to year,” asserted Crotty.

“We were coming into the spring in a good spot. It gave a lot of guys an opportunity. We had 14 or 15 guys with a chance for the first boat and 20 for the second. We also had the permissibility of the freshmen to row in the top two boats. That gave me a lot of options and permutations.”

Senior captain Tyler Nase has given the program a lot in and out of the water.

“It has been a tradition with the lightweight program to have one senior captain and he is it,” said Crotty. 

“He is a great captain. He leads in training and he is excitable on the water. He brings enthusiasm and energy to every single practice. He is down at the boathouse all the time and the guys gravitate to him. He has the ability to communicate with me and lets me know what some of the guys are feeling. I put a lot of trust in him, he helps dictate some of the training.”

With the fourth-ranked Tigers hosting No. 1 Harvard and No. 2 Yale this Saturday on Lake Carnegie for the Goldthwait and Vogel Cups, Crotty is feeling good about his top boat’s mindset as it faces the key test.

“Harvard and Yale are the two best crews in the league,” said Crotty. “We have to be at our best and then some to beat them. The guys are up for the challenge, they can’t wait. We will take a crack at them this week and whatever happens, we will see them in three weeks. It is going to give us a chance to see where we stand against the best and see what we have to do in the next three weeks.”

sports6In the early stages of its game at Steinert last Wednesday, the Princeton High baseball team had its chances to seize momentum.

PHS started the game with a single by Ellis Bloom but didn’t push him across. In the bottom of the first, PHS pitcher Andrew Frain retired the Spartans 1-2-3.

After Steinert scored three runs in the bottom of the second, the Little Tigers got two runners in the top of the third as Colin Frawley and Bloom delivered singles.

PHS didn’t convert and things went downhill from there as the Little Tigers lost 12-0.

Afterward PHS head coach Dave Roberts acknowledged that an ill-timed miscue helped turn the tide of the contest.

“We held our own,” said Roberts. “We started the second inning with an error. It kills you; you can’t do that against those guys. You can’t give them outs.”

While the Steinert game turned out to be one-sided, PHS has given most of its foes tight battles.

“They haven’t to be able to clear the hurdle,” said Roberts of his team who fell to 1-9 with a 9-0 loss to WW/P-S last Monday. 

“All I can do is put who I think the best nine to 10 guys out there and they have to be able to perform. I can call steals, hit-and-runs; they have to be able to execute.”

The Little Tigers have been getting some good execution from its mound corps.

“The pitching has been fantastic, I can’t say enough about the pitching,” said Roberts.

“From Rohit Chawla to Ben Gross to Ellis coming in every now and then, it has been fantastic.”

A lack of clutch hitting has been an ongoing issue for the Little Tigers. “Our weakest thing is hitting with runners in scoring position and leaving people on base,” said Roberts. “The hits are not getting strung together.”

Senior star third baseman Bloom has been a standout for the Little Tigers. “Ellis has been on a hot streak here the last couple of days,” said Roberts, noting that Ben Gross and Zach Tesone have also given PHS some hitting punch.

“We started 1-6 and he had seven stolen bases. He is on track to probably get to 20, which is a heck of a job. The problem is that he doesn’t have enough runs to back that up, which is the job of everybody else behind him.”

Roberts believes that the Little Tigers have what it takes to get on a good run.

“I hope they are keeping their heads up,” said Roberts, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26 and at Nottingham on April 29. “There are still a million winnable games on the schedule.”  

 

#13 slides safely into 2ndHannah Gutierrez is willing to do whatever she can to help the Princeton High softball team succeed.

The senior star has moved up to the leadoff position in the batting order and has switched to shortstop from third base on defense.

For Gutierrez, assuming different roles has been challenging but rewarding. “It is tricky going up first and having to hit off the pitcher without seeing other players do it,” said Gutierrez.

“I like it. You get up more, which is really good. I have been playing third since my sophomore year and I just recently switched to short. It is a lot more thinking and having to know what to do on different plays. I definitely like it; it is more work. I like getting the ball more.”

Last Thursday against visiting Princeton Day School, Gutierrez got the ball rolling as she hit a leadoff double for the Little Tigers.

“It felt really good,” said Gutierrez. “I wasn’t sure about the pitching. I am glad I hit that.”

Gutierrez’s hit helped ignite an offensive outburst as the Little Tigers proceeded to beat PDS 16-1.

Having suffered defeats to Robbinsville and Steinert coming into the game, Gutierrez and her teammates enjoyed the lopsided win over the Panthers.

“We still came out playing our hardest,” said Gutierrez, who went 1-for-3 with two runs and a walk in the win. “We wanted to get them out early; I think we did a good job of that. This game was definitely needed.”

Gutierrez believes PHS has a good shot at winning 10 games in a season for the first time in program history.

“We have had a good start; we still have a lot more games to play in the season,” said Gutierrez.

“I definitely think we have a lot of time to win more games and just get better as a team. We have played some of the best teams in the CVC so far.”

PHS head coach Dave Boehm likes the way Gutierrez has played as she has taken on new responsibilities for the Little Tigers.

“Hannah has better range than anyone we have and she has a stronger arm,” said Boehm.

“Putting her at leadoff was one of those things, she has good speed, she is probably one of our best bunters so when she lays one down early she gets on and we have Marisa [Gonzalez] and Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], who has been hitting the ball pretty solid too, to bring her in.” 

Senior star and Wisconsin-bound Gonzalez, the program’s all-time hit leader, has been a constant for the team.

“It is one of those things where you sit there and say that is my dependable one,” said Boehm who got two RBIs from Gonzalez in the win over PDS with Helen Eisenach and Stephanie Wu chipping in four RBIs apiece.

Sophomore Sarah Eisenach is emerging as a dependable pitcher for the Little Tigers.

“Sarah has been consistent, she is not walking as many batters,” said Boehm of Eisenach, who struck out eight and gave up four hits in the victory over the Panthers.

“She is around the plate. She changes speeds pretty well; she has improved this year.”

The addition of freshmen Wu and Kelli Swedish has helped improve the Little Tigers.

“We gave the freshman kid Stephanie Wu a chance at third base,” said Boehm.

“She had a nice hit today; she played a great defensive game against Steinert. Kelli Swedish plays a steady left field. She is not going to give you anything flashy. She looks awkward but she catches everything out there. You don’t want to change anything with the kid because it is working. I am pretty happy with her and she is a freshman.”

With PHS moving to 4-6 with a 3-2 loss WW/P-S last Monday, Boehm believes the team has a good shot at breaking into double digits in wins for the first time ever.

“We have been capable of jumping out to a lead,” said Boehm, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26, taking part in a one-day tournament in Teaneck on April 27, and then playing at Nottingham on April 29.

“In Florida, we would score a run or two in the first inning and we would get a lead. We have to hold leads now. We have been playing better defense now. I think we can we do it. We have five games next week.”

Gutierrez, for her part, is looking to end her PHS career with a bang. “This is my last year and I want to win as many games as possible,” she said.

“I think it will be good. It is a big goal (winning 10 games), we have never done that before. I would love to help to make that happen.”

sports7It didn’t seem like much but a bad-hop single by Morrisville High (Pa.) in the first inning turned out to be the only thing that kept Princeton Day School pitcher Cole McManimon from making some history last Monday.

The sophomore hurler didn’t allow another runner to reach base the rest of the day, striking out nine, as PDS rolled to a 15-0 win in five innings.

Afterward, McManimon acknowledged that he was disappointed to just miss a no-hitter.

“In the first inning I wasn’t really thinking about that but as the game went on it was pretty upsetting,” said McManimon.

There was nothing else for the hard-throwing right-hander to be upset about as he assessed his mound gem.

“I felt sharp, a couple of my pitches were up but I had pretty good location on the ball,” said McManimon, who also knocked in three runs at the plate to help his cause. “My fastball had some zip; I was throwing pretty hard. My curveball was pretty good.”

The victory improved McManimon to 4-0 on the season and gave further evidence that he is a rising star.

In McManimon’s view, his progress has come down to being more of a power pitcher. 

“I think striking out kids has been my biggest improvement this season,” said McManimon, who has grown three inches and gained 25 pounds since last season and is now 6’5, 190 pounds.

“Last year, I didn’t really have as high a strikeout total. I was only a freshman and I wasn’t throwing that hard. My walk total is down.”

McManimon is relishing his new role as the ace of the Panther staff. “I like the feeling a lot,” said McManimon, who has already posted wins over Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) powers Hill and Peddie this spring. “It is nice knowing that your team has a lot of faith in you.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien has plenty of faith in the precocious McManimon.

“Cole has been great all year; he is really coming around,” said O’Brien.

“That kid is really going to be special. He is still so young. He is bigger and stronger, he is a little more mature. He really has an idea out there. He has always had a presence. He has that mentality where nothing bothers him. He is quiet on the outside but he is a competitor. That kid has got unlimited potential, the sky is the limit.”

O’Brien liked the way the Panthers competed against Morrisville as they improved to 6-3.

“When we had the opportunities to make plays we did,” said O’Brien. “It was all in all a good team effort, we played pretty well.”

Pitching is a group effort for PDS when McManimon isn’t on the mound. “The pitching has been coming around,” said O’Brien. 

“After Cole, pretty much the rest of the guys are position players first, pitchers second. Everyone is getting in some bullpen work and we are breaking guys in. We are going to have to space it out and get our way through the season. Hopefully when the tournaments come, our arms will be ready to pitch our way through two tournaments but it is coming around.  J.P. Radvany has been throwing the ball pretty well. We also have Ford Schneider and Ben Weiner. Jake Alu is basically our No. 2 pitcher. He can close games for us if we need him to, I just hate to take him away from shortstop.”

The Panther hitting attack has the punch to close out foes. “Offensively from top to bottom, they have all hit in spurts,” said O’Brien, who got two doubles from senior star B.J. Dudeck in the win over Morrisville with sophomore standout J.P. Radvany contributing four RBIs. 

“Most of the guys have been consistent. Jake Alu, B.J. Dudeck, and J.P. Radvany, the Coltons, Ross and Rob, have been hitting. We put Dom Gasparro in the nine hole and we have just left him alone. He is having a great year; he has been playing really well for a freshman.”

While O’Brien acknowledges his team doesn’t have a lot of depth, he is confident that it beat anyone on its schedule.  

“We know the way that we are set up for pitching it is tough for us to go out there and play four or five games in a week” said O’Brien, whose team plays at Pennington on April 24, at Delran High on April 25, at the George School (Pa.) on April 27, hosts Hopewell Valley on April 29, and then plays at Hamilton on April 30. 

“But when we are settled and we have the right lineup and everybody is fresh, we feel we are as good as anybody. We have quality and the kids are into it. It is a good group of guys. I like the way we are progressing. We are using the season to hopefully be ready for tournament time.”

McManimon, for his part, believes PDS can be dangerous come tournament time.

“We have a good hitting group and our pitching is there,” he said. “If we keep those two things together, we should be OK.”

sports8The Panthers fought back from a 3-1 halftime deficit to make it 3-3 with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

In the waning moments of regulation, PDS found itself trailing 6-4 but didn’t fold. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo scored with 23.9 seconds left and then the Panthers achieved one last possession. They were unable to find the back of the net as they lost 6-5 in the April 16 contest.

While PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was disappointed to see his team fall just short against Hun, he saw no reason for his players to hang their heads.

“I think we take a couple of things from this,” said Tuckman. “Number one, we were two goals down and we came back. Our kids can play with any team on any level. I think they saw that today and we will go with that and move forward.”

Tuckman sensed that his team was in for a nailbiter when it played at its crosstown rival Hun.

“I knew this was going to be a tough one for us,” said Tuckman. “They have an outstanding program; they have some real good lacrosse players and real good athletes. They have got MV (new head coach MV Whitlow) and MV does a nice job.”

Although the Panthers only scored five goals against the Raiders, Tuckman thought his team did a good job offensively considering that it had trouble getting possession with Hun’s Zach Bicho dominating in the face-off circle.

“I would argue that our percentage in the offensive end was very, very good,” said Tuckman, who got three goals from Triolo with Taran Auslander and Jacob Shavel adding one apiece.

“We scored five goals and I would argue that we weren’t on the offensive end that much today.”

Tuckman was also pleased with his team’s work at the other end of the field. “I think they played great; we went at them with a game plan,” said Tuckman.

“Our guys held to the game plan. Our kids played some sound D. They have some real threatening kids; the Reynolds kid [Corey Reynolds], the Blacks [Brendan and Owen] and [Zach] Bicho can score. I thought our kids did really well with that.”

Junior goalie Nelson Garrymore helped snuff out some Hun scoring threats.

“Nelson has been solid,” added Tuckman. “He is getting strong as a distributor. I thought we did really well on our clears. When we stopped them, we were able to transition into the offensive end. We rushed the ball a couple of times but otherwise I thought we did a great job.”

In Tuckman’s view, going against tough competition will help PDS be strong when it matters most.

“For me, it is all about postseason play,” said Tuckman, whose team moved to 4-3 with a 16-8 loss to Somerville last Friday and plays at Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25 before starting play in the state Prep B tournament.

“I think this is all in preparation for that. We have got a really tough schedule, by design, to get these kids ready. I think if you look at the county and the state Prep B tournaments, we have a good shot. I think by the time we get there, we will have plenty of reps.”

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Zach Bicho and his teammates on the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team had plenty of motivation as they hosted Princeton Day School last week.

“We lost to them last year in overtime and we have been looking forward to this game since the beginning of the season,” said Hun senior midfielder Bicho. “We knew it was a big one, we knew they were a good opponent.”

The annual meeting between the cross-town rivals turned into a very good game, as the teams were never separated by more than two goals throughout the April 16 contest.

With the game knotted at 4-4 late in the fourth quarter, Bicho fired in the go-ahead goal for the Raiders who held on for a 6-5 victory.

“That was our man-up play and I wanted the ball and defense was slow to ride and I got my hands free and, as coach [MV Whitlow] would say, I stuck to the fundamentals and just stuck it,” said Bicho, reflecting on his clutch tally. “That was the important one, the important one went in.”

Bicho played a vitally important role for Hun throughout the game as he dominated in the face-off circle, winning virtually every draw on the afternoon.

For Bicho, who started facing-off in middle school, becoming so accomplished in that aspect of the game has come down to hard work and savvy.

“It is just a lot of repetition, knowing the different guys that go out there, quick hands, just getting that ground ball,” said Bicho, who is headed to McDaniel College where he will continue his lacrosse career.

In Bicho’s view, Hun’s defensive effort made the difference in the win over PDS.

“Our offense was a little slow today; we weren’t getting what we really wanted,” said Bicho, who also picked up an assist in the contest.

“But they won us that game. Our captain Greg Flood got the game ball today because of his leadership.”

The Raiders have also benefited from the leadership of new head coach Whitlow.

“Coach Whitlow has changed the team around tremendously,” said Bicho. “He wants things perfect, he sticks to the fundamentals and he knows how to win.”

Whitlow, for his part, credited Bicho with playing a major role in the victory over the Panthers.

“What Zach gives us is consistency on the face-off; it is about strength and desire,” said Whitlow. “When the game was on the line, he wanted the shot and he made it.”

In Whitlow’s view, a strong defensive effort proved critical for the Raiders.

“No. 29 [PDS senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo] is a really good player and we tried some different things on him to try to slow him down,” said Whitlow. “We performed well on defense; this was a defensive win.”

Hun got some good offensive performances as well with Corey Reynolds and Brendan Black each scoring two goals and Zach Winterstein adding a goal and an assist.

“Brendan Black had a big game, he may only be a sophomore but he is a leader out there for us,” added Whitlow. “Zach Winterstein is playing well; he has been working very hard on his offense.”

Winning six straight games after an opening day loss, the Raiders have shown the benefit of hard work.

“We have been executing well,” said Whitlow, whose team lost 10-4 to Rutgers Prep on Monday to drop to 6-2 and will look to get back on the winning track as it hosts Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.

“We were already confident but this was a very good win. We are very excited to come away with this game.”

Bicho, for his part, is excited about Hun’s prospects this spring. “This is the best team I have been on in my four years here,” asserted Bicho. “We have great guys; we have really been coming together and executing.”

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team started the season with four losses in its first five games, Haley Sanborn wasn’t discouraged.

“You can always tell a team’s character when they are losing,” said Hun head coach Sanborn.

“We were in a losing streak and the girls were having team meetings, talking about what they needed to do to come out of it.”

Last Thursday, Hun came out of its early slump in a big way, cruising to a 21-7 win at Peddie.

“I think it was a great win; the girls were pumped up coming into the game,” said Sanborn.

“Everyone played their best game of the year. Every single player got in and they all played well. I am hoping it will propel us into the rest of the season.”

Senior star and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks helped propel the Raiders in their win over the Falcons, tallying 12 goals and two assists.

“It is the type of player she is; she wants it and she goes for it,” said Sanborn of Weeks, who recently scored the 200th goal of her career. “She has such a drive for the game.”

Last Saturday, Weeks produced another 12-goal effort to give her 58 for the season as Hun edged Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20.

“It takes four hours to get there and we have a one and half hour wait; it took us a little while to get going,” said Sanborn, who got three goals and five assists from Maddie Schade with Brianna Barratt adding two goals and four assists and Erica Dwyer tallying two goals and an assist as the Raiders improved to 3-4.

“It was a back-and-forth game. It was not one of our best games in terms of passing, shooting, and getting ground balls. To compensate, they worked twice as hard. We got up three, they were up three, and no team had a bigger lead than that. It came down to possession. We had to stop with sloppy play; we were smart with the passing and the draw controls at the end.”

The Raiders have been showing some smart play on the defensive end. “Our defense has been jelling well; Lauren Apuzzi is controlling things there for us,” said Sanborn.

“We dropped Francesca Bello to defensive wing and she has been fantastic. Taylor Nehlig and Lucy Morgan are starting to step up; they are starting to understand the pace of the game. Emma Consoli has also been playing well there. They are coming together well, they are playing as a unit.”

Sanborn is confident her team can keep coming together as it heads into the homestretch.

“It was a good sign, we are on a good streak but we have a tough week ahead with Hill and PHS,” said Sanborn, whose team plays at Hill (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.

“Winning two in a row shows them that even when they are playing sloppy, hustle and heart can help you win. I am proud of them; every single player has stepped up, especially the younger players. It is about discipline, being clean on passing and shooting. The season is so short; I hope we hit our stride at the end. I have a lot of faith in them.”

April 17, 2013
MAKING A FUSS: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Caroline Rehfuss leads the defense in a game earlier this season. Senior co-captain Rehfuss has provided consistent play and a vocal presence as the Tigers have gone 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play. No. 13 Princeton, which topped Harvard 11-9 last Saturday and has clinched a berth in the upcoming Ivy tourney, plays at Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) on April 17 and at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on April 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A FUSS: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Caroline Rehfuss leads the defense in a game earlier this season. Senior co-captain Rehfuss has provided consistent play and a vocal presence as the Tigers have gone 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play. No. 13 Princeton, which topped Harvard 11-9 last Saturday and has clinched a berth in the upcoming Ivy tourney, plays at Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) on April 17 and at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Caroline Rehfuss showed a good finishing touch in her freshman season in 2010 with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, scoring 13 goals as a midfielder.

But when Rehfuss was switched to defense as a sophomore, it didn’t require much of a transition.

“I was always more of a defensive midfielder,” said Rehfuss. “I actually like defense a lot better than attack.”

Rehfuss made an immediate impact on defense in 2011, getting 23 ground balls with 19 draw controls and 18 caused turnovers.

Last year, Rehfuss served as a team co-captain and earned honorable mention All-Ivy League recognition.

This spring, Rehfuss is the unquestioned quarterback of the Tiger defensive unit.

“I try and be a vocal leader when we are down there on the eight, telling people who is hot, who is going to be sliding next, and just reminding people on the one-on-ones that their hips have to be square,” said the 5’7 Rehfuss, a native of Latham, N.Y. who is a team co-captain for a second straight year. “I do feel like I do a lot of the talking.”

On Saturday against visiting Harvard, Princeton needed Rehfuss’ leadership as the Crimson utilized a deliberate offensive style to put the Tigers on their heels.

“We haven’t faced an offense like that which stalls through the whole game,” said Rehfuss, reflecting on the contest which was knotted 4-4 at the half.

“Usually we are used to it in the last 10 minutes. Typically we do a really good job with it. We threw in a couple of plays to try to send the early doubles but it was definitely very tiring.”

Princeton fought through the fatigue to pull out an 11-9 victory, improving to 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play.

While the win wasn’t pretty, it beat the alternative. “It was a little bit of a struggle but at the end of the day a win is good so we are real happy about that,” said Rehfuss, noting that the win sealed a spot for the Tigers in the upcoming Ivy tournament which includes the league’s top four teams.

“I have to give it to our attack who I felt like tired out the Harvard defense so they really helped us. We know what we have to work on to get better.”

The Tiger defense had to work hard at the end when Harvard had possession and could have made it a one-goal game in the last minute of regulation.

“We didn’t want to give them anything else and we knew they were either going to look for a crease challenge or a two-person crease play,” said Rehfuss. “We talked about our high angles and how that had to be that much better.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer acknowledged that Harvard’s patience posed a challenge for the Tigers.

“It was a tough game to play because Harvard was all about ball possession and they wanted the ball for long, long stretches,” said Sailer.

“When you get the ball, you press. We didn’t have that many offensive looks. They beat us on the draw controls. When you are playing a team that beats you in the draw controls and is looking to kill the clock as their main strategy, it is tough. They didn’t turn the ball over; they kept it moving. They wear you down a little bit defensively.”

Sailer credited her team with showing some mental toughness in overcoming the Crimson.

“To play a difficult kind of game that you are not used to playing and then not playing at your best and you are still able to pull out a win, that’s important at this time of the year,” asserted Sailer.

“We are trying to get better every time we step on the field but you have got to get the ‘w.’”

Senior Mary-Kate Sivilli and junior Sam Ellis both played a major role in helping Princeton get the win as they each scored three goals.

“They had big games and that was great,” said Sailer. “They are two kids who haven’t necessarily been biggest producers. Sam probably got almost half of her goal total. Sam had a couple of goals against Maryland and another good day today. She is finishing 8 meters. I thought MK played really well so it was nice.”

Sailer depends on Rehfuss to be a big producer for Princeton at the defensive end.

“Caroline is the one who tries to get kids talking,” said Sailer. “She really organizes things down there, she is such a leader for us on the defense with consistent play and a vocal presence. She is fantastic.”

On Wednesday, 13th-ranked Princeton heads to Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) in a battle for the league lead which could determine who will host the Ivy tourney. Three days later, the Tigers play at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in another critical Ivy contest.

Sailer knows her team will have its hands full when it takes on the Quakers at venerable Franklin Field.

“They are very athletic, they are pretty deep and they have a lot of offensive firepower,” said Sailer, referring to Penn, that edged Dartmouth 8-7 last Friday to remain undefeated in league play.

“They have really good sticks, they go really hard. We are going to have to be ready defensively. They have a transfer goalie who has been playing pretty well for them. Just like any other game, so much will be dependent upon ground balls, draw controls, keeping our unforced errors down which we did much better this game. We had a bunch of unforced errors against Maryland (a 15-9 loss on April 10) and we didn’t today so that was a step in the right direction.”

Rehfuss, for her part, is confident that Princeton will be ready to go hard when it takes on the Quakers.

“Penn has always been a great matchup and we are really excited for it,” said Rehfuss.

“Our goal is to win the Ivy outright so we have to buckle down on Monday and Tuesday during practice. We need to get out the little kinks that we have and pay attention to detail.”

GREEN DAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro fights off a foe in recent action. Last Saturday at Dartmouth, freshman attacker Froccaro scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 10-9 to the Big Green. No. 13 Princeton, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League, hosts Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 19 at Class of 1952 Stadium. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GREEN DAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro fights off a foe in recent action. Last Saturday at Dartmouth, freshman attacker Froccaro scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 10-9 to the Big Green. No. 13 Princeton, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League, hosts Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 19 at Class of 1952 Stadium.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On the face of things, it seemed like the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team took a step forward when it topped Rutgers 13-8 last week.

But upon closer review, Princeton head coach Chris Bates concluded that the April 9 victory over the Scarlet Knights didn’t actually represent progress.

“It was good to get a win coming out of Syracuse,” said Bates, referring to Princeton’s 13-12 loss to the Orange three days before the Rutgers contest. “Once we watched the film, we saw that we played relatively poorly. We saw a ton of errors.”

Last Saturday at Dartmouth, Princeton continued to make errors, squandering two three-goal leads on the way to a 10-9 loss to the Big Green as it dropped to 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League.

Bates sensed early on that his squad had not learned from the post-game analysis of the Rutgers game.

“After we scored our first goal, I almost called a timeout to dress down the offense,” said Bates, whose team jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Dartmouth.

“They had not taken the next step in terms of decision-making. In our first three possessions, we took the first shot instead of extending possessions.”

Princeton eventually built an 8-5 advantage midway through the third quarter, appearing to right the ship enough to pull out another win. But an inspired Big Green outscored Princeton 5-1 from that point as it rallied for the victory and just its eighth win over the Tigers in 60 meetings.

“Historically, Dartmouth is a team we have pulled away from; I don’t think we gave them the respect that they deserved,” said Bates of Dartmouth, which was sparked by three goals from former Princeton High star Mike Olentine, later named the Ivy Co-Player of the Week.

“It was one of those games where we were looking around and waiting for someone else to make plays. We didn’t make many plays after we were up 8-5. To Dartmouth’s credit, they had a good game plan. They neutralized us and played harder.”

Things were made harder for a Princeton squad as it was missing four key players, Ryan Ambler, Alex Beatty, Jack Strabo, and Chris White, due to injury.

“We were a tired team down the stretch,” said Bates, who got three goals from freshman Jake Froccaro in the loss with junior star Tom Schreiber chipping in two goals and two assists. “When we needed to be fresher and to execute, we didn’t. We are thin on defense; we broke down and made mistakes.”

The breakdown put the 13th-ranked Tigers in a precarious position as it looks to place in the top four in the Ivy standings in order to qualify for the upcoming league tournament. No. 6 Cornell is the frontrunner at 4-0 in Ivy play with Yale (3-2 Ivy), Princeton, Harvard (2-2 Ivy), and Penn (2-3 Ivy) battling for the other three spots.

“That was a punch between the eyes and our backs are to the wall,” said Bates. “We are fighting for our playoff lives.”

Bates is expecting a tough fight when Princeton hosts Harvard (6-6 overall) on April 19 in a game to be televised by ESPNU.

“We are playing a very strong Harvard team that is coming in here playing its best lacrosse of the year,” said Bates of the Crimson, who edged Penn 8-7 in overtime last Saturday.

“We are banged up and not playing our best lacrosse. They have a balanced offense and they are playing with a lot of confidence. They went toe-to-toe with Cornell and Duke in losses. Their defense is sound. They have good scorers and a good distributor behind the net in Devin Dwyer. They know how they play and they don’t beat themselves.”

The Tigers know they have to play better if they are going to qualify for postseason play.

“We need to have possession and we need a more consistent game out of our goaltender,” said Bates.

“On offense, if we are one and done, we are going to lose. On Saturday, we had 15 possessions with one shot and nine with no shots. You are not going to win any game that way.”

Bates, though, still believes his team will find a way to get it done against Harvard. “It was a tough loss, no question,” said Bates. “It comes down to how we respond and I am confident in our guys.”

SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson surveys the action during a game this winter. Henderson was down in Atlanta earlier this month for the NCAA men’s basketball Final 4. While Henderson enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson surveys the action during a game this winter. Henderson was down in Atlanta earlier this month for the NCAA men’s basketball Final 4. While Henderson enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

While the Princeton University men’s hoops coach enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend had cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness.

Coming down the homestretch of the regular season, Princeton held a one-game lead on Harvard at the top the Ivy League standings. The Tigers were at Yale and Brown on the last weekend with the regular season finale at Penn.

A sweep of the three games would have clinched the league crown and a berth in the NCAA tourney, while two wins would have ensured at least a playoff game against Harvard for the trip to March Madness.

With destiny in its hands, Princeton stumbled, losing at Yale and Brown while Harvard topped Columbia and Cornell to clinch the title and knock the Tigers out of the race.

In reflecting on the lost weekend, Henderson said his team’s struggles came down to some defensive issues and nerves.

“We were a bigger team so how we guard smaller players was an issue,” said Henderson.

“That weekend we got hurt by perimeter shooting. We couldn’t stop the flow of shots. As the games were going on, there was some tightness, which was surprising given the experience of our group.”

Going forward, Henderson and his staff will take some valuable lessons from the defeat.

“It is tough to win the league and there are a lot of good teams,” said Henderson.

“Just because you are in the hunt for the league title doesn’t mean that teams are going to roll over. We need to be as flexible as we can; we have to have many ways to play. We weren’t the best pressing team.”

Showing its character, Princeton didn’t roll over in the season finale as it topped Penn 71-58.

“It was a pretty obvious message, we needed to win for the seniors,” said Henderson, reflecting on victory at the Palestra in Philadelphia which left the Tigers with a final record of 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy. “It was bittersweet; we wanted to be playing for a title or a playoff.”

The Tigers do say goodbye to some stalwart seniors in Brendan Connolly, Mack Darrow, and Ian Hummer. Connolly and Darrow were solid performers, who made an impact on and off the court, while Hummer leaves as one of the greatest players in program history.

The 6’7 forward was named the Ivy League Player of the Year this season and ended his Tiger career with 1,625 points, second only for Princeton to the legendary Bill Bradley’s 2,503. This winter, Hummer became the first Tiger since Kit Mueller ’91 in 1991 to lead Princeton in a season in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (6.4 rebounds per game), assists (115), and blocks (23).

“We are losing a great senior class; Ian carried us and helped us in so many ways,” said Henderson.

“We were where we were because of him. He made everyone better. There are a lot of good players in the league. We haven’t celebrated that a lot around here but it is a great award. He is one of the very special players we have ever had here.”

Harvard showed the country something about the talent of the Ivy League as the 14th-seeded Crimson upset No. 3 New Mexico in the second round of the NCAAs.

“It is good for the league, it shows how competitive it is. I like seeing teams in the league do well,” said Henderson.

“We have all the motivation that we need. We don’t talk about other teams much but it does reflect well on the league.”

Henderson believes that Princeton has the foundation in place to do well going forward.

“We are returning four starters; I like the group we have coming back,” said Henderson, who welcomes back two All-Ivy performers in junior T.J. Bray (9.9 points per game in 2012-13) and sophomore Denton Koon (10.5 points) together with junior Will Barrett (9.3 points) and freshman Hans Brase (5.4 points).

“The message is you have to keep improving but don’t lose sight of what got you into first place coming into the last weekend. You have to be hungry to make improvements; they need to focus on getting better in every way.”

The Tigers will be different in some ways from the 2012-13 squad which featured eight players 6’8 or taller.

“We will be smaller but we are still pretty big,” said Henderson, noting that such returners as Clay Wilson, Bobby Garbade, Ben Hazel, and Jimmy Sherburne could emerge as key contributors.

“It will be really competitive, good players are made over the summer. We are doing individual workouts for the rest of the spring until the end of classes.

Henderson is chomping at the bit to get back into competition. “I know I am ready to get going,” asserted Henderson.

“We want to get better and make improvements. We aren’t defined by one weekend; we did a lot of good things this winter.”

A STEP BEHIND: Princeton University softball catcher Cara Worden chases after a ball in a game earlier this spring. Last weekend, sophomore Worden and the Tigers battled hard but dropped three out of four games at Penn in a key Ivy League South series. Princeton, now 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy, finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A STEP BEHIND: Princeton University softball catcher Cara Worden chases after a ball in a game earlier this spring. Last weekend, sophomore Worden and the Tigers battled hard but dropped three out of four games at Penn in a key Ivy League South series. Princeton, now 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy, finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Penn last weekend in a pivotal four-game Ivy League South series, the Princeton University softball team was determined to get off to a strong start.

“They threw A.C. Borden in Game One and we know how talented she is,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose team entered its trip to Philadelphia trailing the Quakers by two games in the division standings.

“We were able to get some hits and some runs. We felt that was a game we needed to win to set the tone for the weekend.”

Princeton seemed to be set for a big weekend as it got to Borden and took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. But then things unraveled as Penn scored four runs to pull out a 10-9 victory.

Sweeney acknowledged that her players faced a challenge in regrouping for the nightcap.

“It was hard to swallow, there are only 20 or 30 minutes between games so it is tough to re-set after something like that,” said Sweeney.

“We told them this doesn’t determine the rest of the weekend. We have to come back and prove that we are a team that is not going down without a fight.”

The Tigers showed their fighting spirit as they prevailed 5-3 in the second game with Maddie Cousens, Tory Roberts, Rachel Rendina, and Candy Button each knocking in a run. Freshman pitcher Shanna Christian came up big in the circle, striking out five and scattering 10 hits in going the distance.

“We showed our true colors in the second game, I was really proud of them,” said Sweeney.

“I was particularly proud of freshman pitcher Shanna, she set the tone, doing everything she could to help us win.”

On Sunday, though, the Tigers failed to get a win as they lost 9-2 and 5-4. “It was one of those things, we came in fairly positive,” said Sweeney, whose team fell to 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy in the wake of the sweep by Penn.

“The hitters went in confident but A.C. threw a great game. She really challenged our hitters. We were able to score runs. The first game got away from us but in the second game we were right there. One hit in a couple of situations would have given us the win.”

Now Princeton finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go.

“We are not losing sight of the things we can control,” said Sweeney. “We have to take care of our business and the things we can control. A lot of things can happen.”

Sweeney is looking for some good things to happen this week as the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21.

“It will be nice to be at home on Wednesday against Lehigh,” said Sweeney. “We are expecting a big crowd this weekend. It will be Senior Day on Sunday and that class is really special.”

While Princeton faces an uphill battle in its quest for the Ivy South crown, it knows it can still enjoy a special spring.

“We talked about fighting the entire season and earning everything,” said Sweeney.

“When you work so hard for something, you can’t let one bad weekend destroy that. They have good confidence, they know this is bigger than any of us.”

SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona was huffing and puffing a bit as she caught her breath after helping the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team edge WW/P-S last Thursday.

The junior star had reason to be winded as she was all over the field, tallying eight goals and two assists to help PHS prevail 16-12.

The Penn-bound Lopez-Ona started the game on fire, scoring six of PHS’s first seven goals.

“With my shot, I feel it is a lot about composure and staying with the fundamentals,” said Lopez-Ona.

“I feel I started out the game pretty focused and I didn’t get frazzled. I was pretty happy I came out strong because they were marking me pretty tight. I have been watching a lot of film when girls are getting marked out and doing stuff like using the crease, popping out, and being physical. They had great defenders on me and I was happy with the way I was rubbing them off.”

Lopez-Ona was happy to see the Little Tigers rally from a 9-7 deficit early in the second half as they improved to 4-1.

“I think it was just about communication of offense and defense because we were lacking the unity on the field,” said Lopez-Ona, reflecting on the PHS rally during which the Little Tigers went on a 9-2 run to seize control of the contest.

“I feel like it really pieced together when some of the low attackers started popping out and yelling for the ball. Everyone got a lot more involved in the offense.”

In Lopez-Ona’s view, junior midfielder Dana Smith helped trigger the PHS offense with her hustle on draw controls.

“Dana Smith on the draw was just insane; her possessions kept us in the game when they started to pull ahead a little bit,” said Lopez-Ona of the Lafayette-bound Smith who scooped up five ground balls in the contest.

“As we started to run a couple more of our plays on offense, we worked the ball around better than before and attacked the goal. It gave us more confidence on offense.”

Coming off a tough 11-10 loss to WW/P-N, the victory over the Pirates was a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.

“The difference between the North game and this game was at the end of the North (WW/P-N) game we were still having trouble controlling the ball,” said Lopez-Ona.

“Today we were working for good shots and we were working for good possessions. I feel like after this game we will be pretty confident with how we can play the end of the game on offense with our stall with the whole team getting involved there.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way her team grew from the defeat to WW/P-N.

“In the end, we are really taking away North as a learning experience,” said O’Gorman.

“We left saying, that was a great lacrosse game. I think both teams came out full force. The girls know that was one of our hardest games. It really prepared us, it was a preparation game. I am really proud of the way of the girls played today.”

O’Gorman was proud of the way Lopez-Ona played against WW/P-S. “We actually had her more on attack today so when she puts her full energy and focus on attack, that is the type of result you are going to get from that type of player,” said O’Gorman.

“She is just a great leader, on and off the field. You know she is always going to be pumping everyone up in the huddle; she is always psyched up for her team.”

Sophomore Gabrielle Gibbons helped pump up PHS in its second half run as she tallied a hat trick.

“She really knows when to show herself and makes consistent cuts to the center,” said O’Gorman of Gibbons.

“You know when her target is up, she wants the ball and she is going to have a nice finish for you at the end. She is learning from these upperclassmen to have a lot of information and a lot of experience.”

The Little Tigers utilized their experience and savvy in pulling away from the Pirates.

“We came back at halftime and said let’s go back to the basics,” said O’Gorman, whose team plays at Hopewell Valley on April 18, hosts Notre Dame on April 20, and then plays at Robbinsville on April 23.

“Let’s play our defense. Let’s be steady and composed. Let’s do what we know how to do on attack; pull it out and start driving hard.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that the composure that PHS displayed down the stretch against WW/P-S will help the team in its drive for titles.

“It is a huge confidence boost because of the fact that we were able to hold on to the lead in the end,” said Lopez-Ona. “It was really telling for us that we have the stick skills all around.”

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Peter Stanton was disappointed to see his Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team lose to Allentown last week, he liked how his players responded to the setback.

“We certainly had some good moments and we had a couple of bad stretches,” said PHS head coach Stanton, reflecting on the 13-8 defeat which saw junior star Matt Purdy tally three goals and an assist with Kevin Halliday adding two goals and Matt Corrado chipping in a goal and two assists.

“The encouraging thing is that everybody felt they had something to do with it. As a team, everyone shouldered the blame.”

The Little Tigers, who moved to 2-1 with the loss, have had a lot of good moments on offense so far this spring.

“We feel like when we put six guys on the field on offense, all of them can score,” said Stanton, whose squad started the season by beating Nottingham 14-7 and then edged WW/P-S 13-12. “Everyone is a threat and it is tough to defend.”

Junior Purdy has emerged as PHS’s most lethal offensive threat. “Matt set a goal to be a more complete player and the early evidence is that he has done that,” said Stanton of Purdy, who has 18 points this season on 11 goals and seven assists.

“He has had games with multiple assists, he gets ground balls, he is riding, he is controlling the offense at times.”

Juniors Halliday and Corrado have also been riding high for the Little Tigers.

“Kevin Halliday is real dynamic and creative,” said Stanton. “Matt Corrado is another example of somebody who has worked really hard. He spent a lot of time in the offseason training. He comes to practice every day ready to work hard. His habits and dedication are really something to admire.”

Stanton acknowledges that the PHS defense needs to tighten up. “It is interesting with people playing more lacrosse, the stick skills are better and the offensive skills have improved,” said Stanton.

“People used to say that the defense was ahead of the offense at this stage but I think now the offense is ahead of the defense. Team defense takes seven guys to coordinate with each other and be on the same page. We have capable athletes back there; we have to do a good job of coaching them.”

In Stanton’s view, he has a group that is highly receptive to coaching.

“We have some potential but we are a work in progress, they are showing a willingness to improve,” said Stanton, whose team hosts Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.

“I like their attitude. After the loss last Tuesday, they were ready to learn about what they need to do better.”