August 17, 2012

BRONZE STAR: Diana Matheson controls the ball during her brilliant career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team which saw her help the Tigers advance to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals. Last Thursday, Matheson, a 2008 Princeton alum who holds the program career record for assists (26), scored the lone goal as Canada edged France 1-0 to take the Bronze Medal in women’s soccer at the London Olympics. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Diana Matheson helped lead the Princeton University women’s soccer team reach unprecedented heights when it advanced to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals.

Last Thursday, the 2008 Tiger alum’s brilliance sparked the Canadian women’s soccer team to a first as her late goal gave Canada a 1-0 win over France in the Bronze Medal game at the London Olympics.

It was Canada’s first-ever medal in women’s soccer and only the second medal between men’s or women’s soccer, the other coming when the Canadian men won gold in St. Louis in 1904.

Matheson’s first career Olympic goal, in her second Olympics, came in the 92nd minute and was Canada’s only shot on goal for the entire afternoon.

Indeed, the only Canadian shot that fell within the goal frame was midfielder Matheson’s rebound off a French defender, touching off a celebration that became official only seconds later when the second-half added time had run out.

France outshot Canada 25-4 overall and 4-1 on net. Among the 25 were several near misses, posts and crossbars that made it seem the French were only moments from scoring a goal and taking the bronze.

Later, Matheson, Princeton’s career assists leaders with 26, beamed during the medal ceremony and cradled the medal in her hands for moments after it was presented.

The Reinprecht sisters, Katie ’13 and Julia ’14, wrapped up play for the U.S. field hockey last Saturday as the U.S. fell 2-1 to Belgium to finish in 12th place in the tournament.

The U.S. jumped out to a 1-0 lead but Belgium scored two unanswered goals to pull out the win. As they had done all tournament, both Reinprecht sisters played a majority of the game with Julia getting credit for a pair of shots in the contest.

Princeton athletes ended the London Olympics with seven medals, piling up a gold (Caroline Lind ’06 — U.S. women’s 8), two silvers (Adreanne Morin ’06 and Lauren Wilkinson ’11 — Canada women’s 8), and a bronze (Glenn Ochal ’08 — men’s four) in rowing, two bronzes in fencing (Maya Lawrence ’02 and Susie Scanlan ’14 — U.S. team epee), and Matheson’s bronze in women’s soccer.

On Sunday, a Princeton men’s basketball alum, David Blatt ’81, earned a medal in a coaching capacity as he guided Russia to an 81-77 victory over Argentina in the bronze medal game last Sunday. It was the highest Olympic finish in men’s basketball for Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union prior to the 1992 Games.

Blatt became the head coach of the Russian national basketball team in 2006 and guided the team to the 2007 Eurobasket title and a third-place finish in the 2011 Eurobasket tournament.

August 15, 2012

PHILADELPHIA FLYER: Antoine Hoppenot flies up the field in recent action for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS). Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout, has gone from being a fan of the Union to an up-and-coming star for the squad in his rookie campaign. The speedy forward had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS appearances. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Last year, Antoine Hoppenot enjoyed heading down the road from Princeton to PPL Park in Chester, Pa. to root for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS).

So when the former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout was drafted by the Union this past February, he was thrilled.

“I have been to a lot of Union games as a fan,” said Hoppenot, who signed with the club on February 21. “It was perfect for me. I was close to home and my parents could see me play.”

This summer, Hoppenot is drawing the cheers of the Union supporters, utilizing his elusiveness and ball skills to emerge as an up-and-coming star for the squad.

Hoppenot rode the bench for nine of the team’s first 10 games, getting just one minute of time against Columbus on April 14.

On May 26, Hoppenot saw 25 minutes of action in a 1-0 loss to Toronto. Less than a month later, Hoppenot scored his first career goal as the Union defeated Sporting Kansas City 4-0.

Over the last several weeks, the 5’9, 155-pound forward Hoppenot has become a fan favorite, energizing the Union with his trademark runs to the goal.

When Hoppenot started practicing with the team, he initially wasn’t sure if he could get up to speed to contribute this season.

“Everything is much faster, the ball is zipping around,” said Hoppenot, who tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his stellar Princeton career which saw him earn All-Ivy League recognition in each of his four years, including being honored as the Ivy Player of the Year on 2010 as a junior when he helped the Tigers take the league title.

“At first, I was just trying to keep up. For a rookie, it is always a little rough at first. It took me three or four weeks to feel comfortable.”

Hoppenot’s comfort level grew on a preseason trip to Costa Rica in late February which saw him score a goal in a 3-0 win over the Costa Rica U-20 Team.

“The Costa Rica trip was great, it was good to get to know the team,” said Hoppenot, who put his final semester at Princeton on hold in order to play with the Union this spring. “The players started getting confidence in me and my ability to play.”

Despite that promising start, Hoppenot realized that breaking into the Union’s rotation was not going to be an easy task.

“I knew it was going to be difficult to get playing time on such a good team that went to the playoffs last year,” added Hoppenot.

“I just went to practice and worked as hard as I could. You have to hope for one opportunity and make the best of it.”

For Hoppenot, taking advantage of a scoring chance and finding the back of the net against Sporting KC on June 23 made for a memorable night.

“That was the greatest feeling,” asserted Hoppenot. “It is one of the best moments I have ever had in soccer. There were 18,000 fans cheering. It was a big game for us and we had a big 4-0 win.”

A coaching change in June which saw Peter Nowak step down as Union head coach to be replaced by assistant coach John Hackworth has led to Hoppenot getting more minutes on the pitch.

“Coach Hack has a lot of confidence in me; he is willing to put me in spots where he thinks I can help the team,” said Hoppenot.

“It is great to come out to practice every week and know that at the end of the week, you may get rewarded with playing time in a game. It is what you dream of.”

Another dream came true for Hoppenot when he made his first MLS start on July 29 as the Union hosted the New England Revolution and posted a 2-1 victory.

“That was incredible; it was great to be in the first-team picture that they take before the game,” said Hoppenot. “My teammates were kidding me that I finally get to have one of those pictures. It was a big crowd; I was pretty excited.”

Off the field, Hoppenot has developed a tight bond with his teammates.

“It has been exciting; we have a lot of young guys who can relate to each other,” said Hoppenot, who shares an apartment with two of his teammates. “We are in the same time of our lives; we like to joke around a lot.”

As he looks ahead to the rest of his rookie campaign, Hoppenot hopes to keep providing excitement for the Union, who were 7-11-2 in their first 20 games to stand eighth of 10 teams in the MLS’s Eastern Conference.

“I am ready to do a little bit of everything,” said Hoppenot, who had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS regular season games.

“I like coming off the bench and bringing energy to the team. If they need someone to start and play 90 minutes, I am ready to do that. It depends on what we need; that changes from week to week. I would like to score a few more goals this season but I don’t have any number in mind. The really important thing is for us to make the playoffs. We need to get as many wins as possible. If we win and I get some goals, that would be great.”

While Hoppenot, who was born in Paris, France, could end up playing in Europe someday, he doesn’t see himself leaving the Union anytime soon.

“I think I will be in the MLS for the near future; I am very young and I have a lot to learn,” said Hoppenot, 21, who is dealing with a fractured nose after getting head-butted by Montreal’s Nelson Rivas on August 4 in a 2-0 loss.

“I am trying to figure out what being a pro means; it is tough going from a four-month season in college to a 9 and a half months in the pros. I am learning more about stretching, nutrition, and rest. I have a lot to improve on before I am ready to think about playing in Europe.”

In addition, Hoppenot is enjoying the cheers he has been getting from the Union faithful.

“The fans have been fantastic,” said Hoppenot. “They have shown me support every step of the way.”

That is no surprise considering that Hoppenot has gone from being one of them to stepping up on the pitch in a big way for the Union.

NATIONAL LEADER: Princeton University women’s hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal makes a point during action last winter. Kampersal, who has guided the Tigers to a 233-184-41 record in his 15-year tenure, was named earlier this year as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 team. This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.
(Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Figuring that he was pretty much out of the loop when it came to the U.S. women’s hockey program, Jeff Kampersal wasn’t expecting to be pressed into service any time soon on the national level.

“I had done a lot of U.S. hockey work over the years but I had been out of it since 2006,” said Kampersal, the longtime head coach of the Princeton University women’s hockey team. “Last year I was in a camp with some of the older players.”

But as he was focused on getting the most out of his Tiger women’s team during the 2011-12 campaign, Kampersal got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“The U.S. people called me in the winter and asked me to head the Under-18 women’s national team,” recalled Kampersal.

“I was surprised. It is an exciting opportunity; getting the chance to work with coaches like Courtney Kennedy (a Boston College women’s hockey assistant coach) and Steve Guider (head coach of the Blaine High (Minn.) girls’ hockey team) and some amazing hockey players.”

This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.

“We will have the nucleus of the team for that series,” said Kampersal, who has spent much of the summer scouting tournaments and holding camps to narrow his player pool as the team prepares to take part in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World U-18 Championships from December 29, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in Finland.

“If we do well, we won’t make many changes. If we don’t do well, we can look at other players over the fall.”

In putting together the best team possible, Kampersal is drawing on the experience he has gained from heading the Tiger women’s program over the last 15 years and guiding it to a 233-184-41 record.

“About 75 percent of the job of a college coach is recruiting; I believe I can evaluate players,” said Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton graduate who was a star defenseman for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“At this level, we have a depth of strong players. We don’t have an exceptional player but we have a lot of good players. If I took the first 20 and you took the second 20, we could have a good seven-game series. We may not want to take the 12 best forwards, we may want to take three who grind and three with speed.”

In Kampersal’s view, the experience of leading the U-18 team should make him a stronger coach.

“I think running bigger practices will help me,” said Kampersal, noting that cutting players has been the toughest aspect of the job.

“It is good working with the other coaches and sharing ideas on things like power plays. We need to keep it as simple as possible. We can’t overcoach. There is not enough time to do that but we can emphasize basic principles.”

Getting to apply those principles on a world stage will be exciting for Kampersal.

“I have been involved in a U-22 series against Canada but I never represented the U.S. in a world championship as either a player or coach; it is really special,” said Kampersal. “It has been a lot of fun so far; the people are amazing.”

August 8, 2012

BREAKING THROUGH: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite looks to get past an Ivy Inn defender last week in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League championship series. Last Friday, Edwards scored 14 points to help Winberie’s edge Ivy Inn 45-41 in the decisive third game of the best-of-three series. It was a sweet win for Edwards and his teammates as they had fallen in the title series the last two years. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was looking like the Winberie’s/Miller Lite squad might be assuming the unwanted role of bridesmaid as the decisive third game of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League championship series headed to halftime last Friday night.

After having fallen in the title series the last two summers, second-seeded Winberie’s found itself trailing No. 5 Ivy Inn 23-18 at intermission before an overflow crowd at the Community Park courts.

But Winberie’s forward Chris Edwards and his teammates weren’t about to settle for another runner-up finish.

“The morale was a bit low but we were just trying to keep it up,” said Edwards, recalling the team’s halftime meeting.

“We just said that if we do what we had to do, we are going to win the game. We said, hey this is our third year in the finals, we can’t come out here and be the Buffalo Bills [losers of four straight Super Bowls] of the summer league. We have to play with more heart and take it to them.”

Winberie’s team manager Mark Rosenthal had a heart-to-heart chat with Edwards during the break in an effort to provide further inspiration to the forward who had scored just two points in the first half of the contest.

“I talked to Chris at halftime and I said ‘you need to be aggressive,’” said Rosenthal.

“We are a better team when he is more aggressive. He knows that he needs to be more aggressive and he knows he can play against anybody. He was in a bit of foul trouble; I told him to forget about the foul situation and just go out there and play all out and this will work out.”

Edwards responded to the pep talk with aplomb, tallying 12 points in the second half as Winberie’s rallied for a 45-41 victory.

“The second half was a little more aggressive,” said Edwards, who punctuated the win with a thunderous dunk in the waning seconds of the game.

“We were getting out on transition and getting out on the break, Chris Hatchell and I were talking about it; we had to keep running and keep pushing the ball. Once I started to do that, I started getting easy buckets.”

In pulling out the victory, Winberie’s also stepped up the defensive intensity. “We said at the half that 23 points was a little too much for them in the first half,” said Edwards.

“They got a lot of shots. We were double teaming them and rotating better on the defensive end in the second half so that turned the game around.”

In Rosenthal’s view, the play of sharpshooting guard Hatchell helped turn the tide in the favor of Winberie’s.

“Chris Hatchell gave me the guarantee before the game,” said Rosenthal of the former College of New Jersey standout who scored a team-high 16 points in the finale and was voted to receive the Foreal Wooten Award as playoff MVP.

“He told me ‘coach just put the ball in my hands and I promise I will bring you that first championship.’ He is clutch.”

In the moments after Winberie’s clinched that elusive title, Rosenthal celebrated by leaping into the arms of Kurt Simmons.

“Kurt is one of the original members of this team,” said Rosenthal. “He was there through the thin years when we only had two or three wins a season. We have been talking how we wanted to get to this point for a long time. He came through; he was the first guy I looked for when we came off. I had to give him a big hug; this has been a long time in the making.”

A beaming Edwards basked in the glow of finally coming through with the title.

“It means a lot,” said Edwards. “It was now or never; there was no turning back. Our core guys are older players. We are experienced in the league; we have played in the playoffs. We figured that’s what got us over the top.”

OUTSIDE THREAT: Kyle Burke of Ivy Inn dribbles on the perimeter last week in the championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Burke scored a team-high 13 points, including 4 three-pointers, to help Ivy Inn top Winberie’s/Miller Lite 41-32 last Wednesday and knot the best-of-three series at 1-1. Ivy Inn, though, went on to lose the finale 45-41 last Friday at the Community Park courts.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Kyle Burke acknowledges that he has misfired a bit this season for the Ivy Inn squad in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

“I haven’t shot the ball too well pretty much the whole summer,” said Burke, a guard known for his long-range shooting.

In Game 1 of the league’s best-of-three championship series on July 30, Burke tallied just three points as fifth-seeded Ivy Inn fell 48-41 to No. 2 Winberie’s/Miller Lite.

But in Game 2 last Wednesday night at the Princeton High gym, Burke heated up on the perimeter as Ivy Inn looked to stay alive and force a decisive third game in the series.

The former College of New Jersey standout nailed a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half to give Ivy Inn a 24-15 lead at intermission. He hit two more key threes in the second half as Ivy Inn pulled away to a 41-32 win.

“That changed the momentum,” said Burke, referring to his three-pointer right before the half. “Anything I can give us is a bonus.”

In reflecting on the win, Burke said each of the Ivy Inn players on hand gave their all.

“We just had a good all-around effort,” said Burke, who scored a total of 13 points, including 4 three-pointers, on the night with Mark Aziz adding 10 points and recently graduated PHS standout Davon Black chipping in six.

“We played a lot harder than Monday night and the results definitely showed that. We usually get off to good starts but we don’t finish. Tonight, we were able to finish.”

While Ivy Inn didn’t finish with the result it wanted as it fell 45-41 to Winberie’s on Friday in Game 3 of the series, the squad showed class to the end.

“When we get down or the other teams make a run, we know to stay composed,” asserted Burke of the team that won four of six summer league titles from 2005 to 2010.

“We don’t yell at each other, we don’t fight. We have been here before so we are mature about it.”

NINE LIVES: Members of the Princeton Basketball Club (PBC) 9th grade AAU boys’ basketball team pose before their recent appearance at the AAU Nationals East 9th Grade Division III tourney at Hampton, Va. The team ended up going 1-1 in pool play to advance to the Round of 32 in the competition. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Luke Apuzzi, JC Silva, John Morelli, Chris Diver, and Max Tarter. In the back row, from left, are Matt Hart, Alex Levine, Kevin Kane, and Nick Mazzone.

Clarence White gave some tough love to Princeton Basketball Club (PBC) 9th grade AAU boys’ basketball team this season.

“The effort last year didn’t satisfy me,” said head coach White. “In the 6th and 7th grade, they didn’t appreciate going to the [AAU] nationals. They didn’t go to the nationals last year; they didn’t play as well as they should. I issued a challenge to them to finish .500 or better this season.”

The players answered White’s challenge, going 25-22 in regular season play and earning a trip to the AAU Nationals East 9th Grade Division III tourney at Hampton, Va.

“They went out and competed this year and got an at-large bid,” said White.

“We won a couple of tournaments, one in Danbury, Ct and another in Massachusetts.”

As the squad looked ahead to its third trip to the nationals, White wanted his players to aim high.

“In the 6th and 7th grades, the team got blown out of the water,” recalled White.

“I think it was due to the bright lights and the atmosphere. I wanted to finish in the top 30 this time.”

In its opener in Pool 9Q last week, PBC showed it was ready to shine on the national stage, edging the Va. Beach Explosion in a 42-41 thriller.

“We came up big on the winning basket; it came off a very well executed play,” said White.

“They celebrated quite a bit afterward, maybe too hard. When I saw their jubilation and excitement, I said this is what you want to remember from this.”

White will remember the courage the team displayed as it overcame a key injury in pulling out the victory.

“We lost Nick Mazzone with an injury; he sprained his ankle in the first game,” said White.

“That was tough because he and Alex Levine are the heart and soul of our defense. Max Tarter had a really good game; Luke Apuzzi also played well. Andrew Hart, a rising 9th grader, hit the winning shot.”

PBC lost its final pool game but did advance to the final 32 where it fell to the Lehigh Valley Timberwolves 58-47 and ended the tournament with a 53-39 loss to Va. Team 757 in a consolation contest.

“We got down by 15 to Lehigh Valley and cut it to five,” said White. “We ran out of gas. Kevin Kane had a good game. In the final game, we started with seven players and were down to six by the end. They had 12 players and used them all. It was a really tough, really physical game. We gave a good effort.”

In White’s view, the memory of the team’s effort in the opener should serve as a confidence builder for the players.

“The main thing I want them to take out of this is the first game,” said White.

“We had a chance to talk about it and think about it. I want them to remember that snapshot. I told them you want to have other celebrations like that in the future; like maybe after a high school state tournament game.”

White believes the team can positively impact the Princeton High program, both in the short term and in the long term.

“If they continue to work hard, it should pay off for them and the high school,” said White, noting that the players figure to take an important role this winter for the PHS junior varsity team.

“What these guys have done is set the bar. We have a group of rising seventh graders who want to go to nationals next year.”

ENDING WITH A BANG: Clint O’Brien takes a swing in action this spring in his senior season with the Gettysburg College baseball team. The former Princeton Day School star athlete saved his best for last in his college career as he hit .382 in 2012 with 50-hits in 131 at-bats and one homer and 23 RBIs. Over his first three years with the program, O’Brien had posted a .250 batting average with a total of 38 hits in 152 at-bats. Ending his career in style, O’Brien banged a homer in his final college at-bat.
(Photo by David Sinclair, Courtesy of Gettysburg College’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Some 52 years ago, Ted Williams ended his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox in style, clubbing a homer in his last major league at-bat.

This spring, former Princeton Day School star athlete Clint O’Brien took a page out of Williams’s book, culminating his Gettysburg College baseball career with a home run in his final plate appearance.

For O’Brien, that finale will be a moment he’ll never forget. “That felt great; that is how I wanted to end it,” said O’Brien, reflecting on the blast which came on May 1 in a loss to York (Pa.) College.

“That was incredible; I couldn’t believe it. Ask any of my teammates, I was trying to do that. Outside of winning a championship, that was the best way to end things.”

O’Brien’s career-ending heroics were made even sweeter considering that things didn’t always go well for him during his time at Gettysburg.

After starring in football, ice hockey, and baseball at PDS, O’Brien struggled in freshman year. He was a back-up receiver in football and went hitless in one plate appearance for the baseball team. A year later, he played his final season of football and did progress in baseball, hitting .283 with 13 hits in 46 at-bats.

In reflecting on his first two seasons at Gettysburg, O’Brien acknowledged that it was tough juggling football and baseball.

“I was still playing football as a freshman and didn’t have fall ball for baseball,” recalled O’Brien.

“In the football preseason, I went from quarterback to wide receiver and I went without throwing for a long time. After winter ball, I developed tendinitis in my shoulder and elbow and that shut me down for most of my freshman baseball season. Sophomore year was my last season of football. In baseball, I was the utility guy that year. I played left field, right field, center field, third base, and first base. I got back into the swing of things. My arm was healthy and I could throw.”

Focusing solely on baseball by his junior year, O’Brien was able to contribute more as he hit .229, going 24-for-105 with a homer and 16 RBIs.

“I had fall ball that year,” said O’Brien. “As a team, we were not as successful as I would have hoped. We had three juniors and five seniors on that team so it was a really young team. By the end of my junior year, we showed a lot of progress.”

As O’Brien looked ahead to this spring, he was primed to take a key role in building on that progress as a team captain and the lone senior starter.

“It felt good to be captain, that alone made me more ready to step into a leadership position,” said O’Brien.

“Every game, I was the only senior on the field, so I had to be the guy who set the example. I had that experience in the past so it was nothing new for me. My goal was to hit around .400 the whole year.”

O’Brien’s senior year nearly turned into a frustrating experience as he suffered a hand injury early in the season. The 6’3, 205-pound O’Brien, though, didn’t let the pain keep him from producing a banner season as he hit .382, going 50-for-131 with one homer and 23 RBIs.

“In our second-to-last day in Florida, I put a tag on a runner and hurt my left thumb,” said O’Brien, who was the team’s starting first baseman.

“I missed only one game and was the designated hitter in a few games. My swing was OK; it affected my power. Squeezing the glove was the toughest thing.”

The Bullets got into the swing of things this spring as they went 25-13 to post the fourth-highest win total in program history, a marked improvement on the 2011 season which saw them go 12-23.

“It was a great way to go out,” asserted O’Brien, reflecting on the season.

“We had really good guys and a great team chemistry. It was easy for me to rediscover my passion for the game.”

Igniting that passion helped O’Brien regain his status as a star performer. “Not being able to show up and contribute was something that was completely foreign to me,” said O’Brien, who is currently working in media sales for an internet start-up in New York City. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do it.”

PAIN CONTROL: Carly O’Brien heads up the field this past spring in her freshman season with the Dickinson College women’s lacrosse team. O’Brien, a former three-sport standout at Princeton Day School, fought through nagging hamstring problems to tally 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists for the Red Devils in 2012 and rank third on the squad in scoring.
(Photo by James Rasp, Courtesy of Dickinson Sports Information)

As Carly O’Brien went through middle school, she was on track to be a softball star.

The athletic O’Brien starred in the District 12 softball all-star tournament and played travel ball.

But O’Brien’s sports destiny changed in the span of one afternoon. “A friend brought me to her lacrosse practice, “ said O’Brien.

“I really liked it and after the spring of eight grade, I stopped playing travel softball and got into lacrosse.”

It didn’t take long for O’Brien to establish herself as a star in her newfound passion. She made the girls’ varsity lax team at Princeton Day School in 2008 as a ninth grader and emerged as a go-to scoring threat by her sophomore season.

As a junior, she tallied 63 goals and 13 assists to help the Panthers go 14-4 and win the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title. O’Brien kept firing away as a senior, earning first-team All-Prep A honors and ending her PDS career with more than 150 goals.

Having progressed so rapidly in lacrosse, O’Brien was fired up to keep playing the game after high school.

“I realized that lacrosse was my favorite sport; I couldn’t see myself not playing sports in college,” said O’Brien, who also starred in soccer and ice hockey for the Panthers.

Initially, O’Brien saw herself playing at the highest level of the college game.

“At first, I wanted to go to a Division I program,” said O’Brien. “I went to camps, the intensity level was a lot higher. I was looking at Lafayette.”

But O’Brien ended up falling in love with Division III Dickinson College and didn’t need to look any further.

“It was not until the end of junior year that Dickinson got into the picture,” said O’Brien, whose older brothers, Dan and Clint, were star athletes at PDS and played college sports at the D-III level.

“The coach sent me a letter and I met her in the summer before my senior year. I loved her coaching style. I did an overnight visit. I loved the team; I felt really comfortable. I liked that it was a small school; it reminded me of PDS.”

Similar to her PDS career, O’Brien made an impact right away for the Red Devils this spring, tallying 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists to rank third on the squad in scoring.

O’Brien’s numbers are even more impressive considering that she was battling through injury throughout her freshman year.

“In my second-to-last game in high school, I hurt my hamstring,” said O’Brien, a 5’8 attacker.

“I couldn’t play all fall because I was rehabbing my hamstring. Sitting on the sidelines was frustrating but I got to know my teammates and see how things are done.”

Once the spring rolled around, O’Brien was able to get some things done on the field as she returned to action.

“After we came back from winter break, I was able to play again,” said O’Brien.

“The first game was quite nerve-wracking. It is a lot higher level than high school, the game is a lot faster in college.”

The injury bug, though, ended up slowing O’Brien throughout the spring.

“I originally hurt my right hamstring but then I irritated the left one through favoring the right,” said O’Brien.

“I did physical therapy before and after practice. I did exercises to build up my leg around the hamstring. It was very frustrating. I had to take a couple of games off. I played about half the time; I worked out an arrangement with the coach for when I would come out.”

All things considered, O’Brien feels she got off to a good start in her Dickinson career.

“I tried to contribute as much as I could,” said O’Brien, reflecting on a season which saw the Red Devils go 7-8 overall and 4-4 in Centennial Conference play. “We have a young team. The freshman class were the stars.”

Currently focusing on getting up to full speed, O’Brien is looking to assume a starring role in her sophomore year.

“I am doing physical therapy all summer,” said O’Brien. “I expect to be 100 percent by the fall. The future looks exciting. We didn’t make the playoffs this year and we want to make it next year.”

August 1, 2012

BIG FOUR: Glenn Ochal displays his sculling form in action for the U.S. Rowing program. Ochal, a 2008 Princeton University alum and former star rower for the Tiger men’s heavyweight program, switched from sculling to sweep last fall and made the U.S. men’s four for the London Olympics. Ochal’s boat got off to a good start in London on Monday as it won its opening heat to earn a spot in the semifinal this Thursday at Eton Dorney with the final slated for August 4. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Glen Ochal helped the U.S. to a good showing in the quadruple sculls last year in the World Rowing Championships but ultimately concluded that wasn’t his best route to the 2012 Olympics.

Ochal’s quad took eighth at the worlds in Bled, Slovenia but he faced a major decision upon his return to the U.S.

“After the men’s 8 didn’t qualify for the Olympics, the high performance director presented to us the idea of moving to the sweep,” recalled Ochal, a 2008 Princeton University alum and former star rower for the Tiger men’s heavyweight program.

“We had some of the best ERG scores and that was the way to harness power. We needed to qualify the 8 but they also wanted the 4 to be a priority boat. Will Miller and I decided to go to sweep. I thought maybe this was a good idea; maybe I can do better.”

Ochal ended up getting selected for the 4 and helped the U.S. get off to a good start at the London Summer Games last Monday as the boat won its opening heat to earn a spot in the semifinal this Thursday at Eton Dorney with the final set for August 4.

The boat clocked a time of 5:54.88 over the 2,000-meter course in the opening heat to cruise past runner-up Netherlands (5:55.99) and third-place finisher Greece (5:57.71). In order to advance to the final, Ochal and his boatmates will have to finish in the top three in their semi.

For Ochal, 26, the move from sculling, where the rowers employ two oars, back to sweep, where rowers use just one oar, required some adjustment.

“Because I was sculling, I wasn’t sure where I fit,” said Ochal, who excelled in sweep at Princeton as he helped the Tiger men’s heavyweights win the 2006 Eastern Sprints and the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the 2006 Royal Henley Regatta.

“I wasn’t the best guy on the first day but I wasn’t the worst. It took a little time, I got used to it. We started with a large group, by January we were down to eight, and by March it was down to four.”

Once the lineup was set, the boat had hoped to race in Europe as part of the Olympic buildup but had to scuttle those plans due to injury. The lack of racing experience, though, didn’t overly concern Ochal.

“We have been flying solo,” said Ochal, a native of Philadelphia, who is joined on the four by Scott Gault (Piedmont, Calif.), Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.), and Henrik Rummel (Pittsford, N.Y.).

“We were going to go overseas for some races but a couple of guys got injured so we decided to stay here. Some people might find it a concern but a race is a race and I have been in a lot of them.”

As the spring has turned into summer, Ochal feels that the quartet had been making good progress.

“We have been working together for a while,” said Ochal. “We want to go over and perform our best, just being there isn’t the goal. The men’s 4 got fourth in Bled and we have made it quicker. We have good speed; everyone is on task and ready to go.”

In Ochal’s view, the key to Olympic success comes down to focusing on basics.

“When you start thinking the Olympics is more than a race, you might try too hard or go out too fast,” said Ochal.

“You have to approach it as another race that just comes every four years. You need to stick to everything in practice, there is nothing magical. You need to get into the race right at the start and work hard through the middle and give it your all at the end. You don’t have to be in the lead but in contact; you have to have faith in your teammates.”

Ochal has faith in his own ability to provide some magic to the boat. “These races comes down to inches; there are 200 strokes in a race,” said the 6’5, 200-pound Ochal.

“I focus on what I am going to do to make it go a little faster. I am feeling pretty comfortable about it. I have adjusted. I have gotten better each month, each week, each day.”

While Ochal is thrilled to be competing in London, he is viewing the Olympics as a step in the process of his growth as an athlete, noting that he would like to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

“I will take a break but I am looking to be involved in the next quadrennial,” said Ochal.

“I probably won’t start with the 2013 worlds; there is still a ways to go. Power and endurance aren’t holding me back. I can still improve as a rower with stroke technique. I have improved a lot over the last year but have room to improve even more.”

COURTING SUCCESS: Sean McCourt surveys the scene on the dock at the Caspersen Rowing Center on Mercer Lake. McCourt, who has been the head coach of the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) since its inception in 2002, is leaving the program to teach and coach crew at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn. During his decade at the helm of the MJRC, he built the program into a power as the club has earned a slew of medals, including four at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, and has grown from around 40 rowers to 150 strong. (Photo by Lauri Bookholdt)

As 2002 approached, Sean McCourt was ready to move on from rowing after starring at Boston University and then coaching high school crew for three years upon graduation.

McCourt was all set to start a job with a financial services company in the Philadelphia area but then he had a conversation that changed everything.

“Two or three day before I was going to start I got a call from a guy named Nick McQuaid,” recalled McCourt.

“Nick and I had rowed together for one summer at Penn AC and he was the director of operations for the Princeton International Regatta Association (PIRA) at the time. He said we really want you to come and start this rowing program. It is going to be a little token program and we have this event coming up and we want you to work more on this event.”

Intrigued, McCourt decided to put his financial career on hold and devote his energy to the fledging youth rowing program that became known as the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC).

“I thought I will try this out and see how it goes,” said McCourt, who came to Mercer Lake in 2002 as the head coach of the club, responsible for oversight and training of all crews as well as organizing and overseeing the Princeton National Rowing Association’s (PNRA) summer camps and regattas.

“The guys at the financial firm were super nice about it, they were like try it and if it doesn’t work out, you can come back here. I thought OK, I have a safety net so let me give it a try.”

Once he made his mind up to take on the challenge, McCourt was all in. “When Nick told me it was going to be a ‘token program,” I was like no way,” said McCourt, who had coached for a year at the McCallie School (Tenn.) and two years at his high school alma mater, St. Joseph’s Prep before making the move to MJRC.

“If we are going to do this, we are going to do it right. It is going to be competitive. We built it off the St. Joe’s model. They were a powerhouse team with a lot of success so we tried to incorporate some of the things they did in terms of practices, training plans, and structure.”

Achieving his vision, McCourt succeeded in building MJRC into a power as the club has earned a slew of medals, including four at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, and has grown from around 40 rowers to 150 strong.

After a decade leading the program, McCourt, 34, has decided to pursue a new challenge as he is heading back to McCallie in Chattanooga where he will guide the school’s rowing program and teach history.

In reflecting on his history with MJRC, McCourt chuckles when he recalls the program’s humble beginnings.

“We started in an office trailer in the back; that was our headquarters,” said a grinning McCourt, sitting in a conference room in the program’s headquarters at the Caspersen Rowing Center on Mercer Lake.

“Finn Casperson gave us a $10,000 gift to start the program. The only things we owned at the beginning were the launches, engines, and cox boxes. Basically I got on the phone and called everyone I knew and said can you loan us boats. It was really beg, borrow, and steal the first year. The first couple of years were crazy. There were days that if parts broke, I was making them because we didn’t have enough money to buy new ones.”

It didn’t take long for the new club to make a breakthrough as its girls’ novice 8 came through in that first spring.

“That year we had an international regatta where we had teams from New Zealand, Great Britain, and Croatia,” said McCourt.

“We had some high school races and our novice 8 girls won. That was the big run up the flagpole success moment for the year.”

The program experienced more and more success as its numbers increased and it gained a foothold in the youth rowing scene.

“In 2004, we had a boys’ boat get fourth at the nationals and that started a really good run for us in the mid-2000s between the boys and the girls,” said McCourt.

“We had a really fast girls boat in 2006 that won the regional and lost in the final of the Henley Women’s Regatta. All in all, Mercer has won four medals at the nationals. The girls have won three and the boys have won one.”

Rachel LaBella, a star on that 2006 girls’ 8 that took second at Henley, credits McCourt with having a knack for getting rowers up to speed.

“As a freshman, I thought Sean was tough but fair,” said LaBella, a WW/P-S grad who went on to row at UCLA where she was named the team’s Most Valuable Oarswoman and served as team captain.

“He is good at bringing the best out of his rowers. He always pushed us even when we didn’t think we could go that amount. He helped us push through barriers.”

LaBella noted that McCourt was a big help in her college recruitment process.

“I didn’t realize I could go to a big school like UCLA and row,” said LaBella. “Sean got me talking to coaches. He knows everyone and has a lot of connections.”

For McCourt, seeing novice rowers develop into college athletes has been one of the joys of his job.

“It is definitely a neat experience; I would say Mercer is a program built on spare parts,” said McCourt, noting that the MJRC has sent scores of rowers to college programs over the years.

“We don’t always  get the best athlete coming out of the chute but we get people who work really hard. There are kids who come in and you say I can’t believe that this kid can tie their shoes and the next thing you know they are leaving and they are getting a scholarship. It is really cool to see that transformation.”

While McCourt may have provided the framework for such transformations, he credits the rowers for making it happen.

“I don’t think I am proud of anything I did per se; I am proud of what the kids have done,” asserted McCourt.

“It is their program, whether or not I am here or not here. They are going to get out of it what they put into it so I don’t claim anything as my accomplishment. It’s something they actually did the work for.”

Now McCourt is looking forward to working at McCallie, noting that he will be able to spend more time with his wife, Megan, a former U.S. national team rower and Olympic silver medalist in 2004, and their twins, Caitlin and Connor, who are turning two at the end of August.

He acknowledges, however, that it is tough to be ending his MJRC tenure. “I am definitely sad to leave because you have blood in the program; it is something you kind of created from nothing,” said McCourt.

“It is kind of like your baby in a way and you got it and raised it up a little bit and now you got it to the next level. I always tell the kids at some point you would have left me anyway.”

LaBella, for her part, believes that the MJRC kids will sorely miss McCourt.

“He is leaving really big shoes to fill; he did so much for the program,” said LaBella, who coached with the MJRC and the Mercer Masters this year and credited McCourt with easing her transition to that side of the sport.

“He did administrative work. He was a handy guy fixing boats. He did all that coaching. He was always there for the kids, whatever the situation.”

In McCourt’s view, bringing in new blood isn’t the worst situation. “Change is good as long as they bring in the right person,” said McCourt.

“Someone who is not about themselves but who still wants to win. You have got to bring the competitiveness. At the same time, it really is not about you, it is about the kids having fun.”

And McCourt certainly helped a lot of kids have fun at MJRC over the last decade.

ESCAPE HATCH: Chris Hatchell of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, left, looks to elude Tommy Soulias of Ivy Inn last Monday in Game 1 of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League championship series. Hatchell scored 13 points to help spark Winberie’s to a 48-41 win over Ivy Inn. Winberie’s can wrap up the best-of-three title series on Wednesday night when the teams play Game 2 at the Community Park courts. If necessary, Game 3 will take place on Friday night. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Winberie’s/Miller Lite brought an undefeated record into last year’s championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, the team was not at 100 percent.

“I hurt my knee against Team TB in the semis before we even got to play [University] Radiology and then Kurt [Simmons] went out in the same game and broke his wrist,” said Chris Hatchell, a star guard for Winberie’s. “We were banged up last year.”

Winberie’s put up a valiant fight in the 2011 series but ended up falling 2-1 to University Radiology, dropping a 36-34 nailbiter in the finale.

When Hatchell and second-seeded Winberie’s hit the Community Park courts last Monday for the 2012 best-of-three championship series against No. 5 Ivy Inn, they believed that experience would hold them in good stead.

“Other than Ivy, we are the most veteran team,” said Hatchell. “We know that if we take care of the ball and don’t turn the ball over, we should be able to beat anybody.”

The series opener against Ivy Inn predictably turned into a nip-and-tuck contest with Winberie’s up 20-19 at halftime and the teams knotted at 36-36 with seven minutes remaining in regulation.

Down the stretch, Winberie’s displayed its savvy and chemistry as it outscored Ivy Inn 12-5 to pull out a 48-41 win and put itself on the verge of a title.

In Hatchell’s view, Winberie’s triumph came down to taking care of basics. “I think rebounding and holding to one shot and not letting them get three-point shots off was key,” said Hatchell, reflecting on the win that improved Winberie’s to 10-2 this summer.

Another key to the triumph was Hatchell’s clutch free throw shooting as he drained four straight in the last minute of the game.

“Before this game, I was playing at Mercer County Park in the Trenton 6’2-and-under league and I actually missed four free throws out there tonight,” said Hatchell, who scored 13 points in the victory with Evan Johnson chipping in 14 and Cliff Pollard adding 11 while Ivy Inn’s Mark Aziz led all scorers with 17.

“I thought I have got to make these now; I hardly ever miss free throws. Instead of going to the line and thinking about it, I was just going up there and shooting. I was thinking too much.”

For Hatchell, the championship series matchup is a bit uncomfortable as he had started this summer with Ivy Inn and played a game with the team in June before returning to Winberie’s.

“We had a good team last year but I didn’t know if all of the guys were coming back,” explained Hatchell, noting that he played with such Ivy Inn denizens as Bobby Davison and Shahid Abdul-Karim during his college years.

“But when I found out that Evan Johnson and a couple of other guys were coming back, I felt bad about leaving that team and I talked to Mark [team manager Mark Rosenthal] and said ‘my fault.’ It makes more sense for me to come back with these guys.”

Hatchell is hoping that Winberie’s can come back on the court on Wednesday and close out the series with a win and avoid having to play a decisive Game 3 on Friday.

“They are a good team but we are a veteran team and we just need to control the ball,” asserted Hatchell.

“We are good inside and outside. I like this team. We play together; we are a good mesh. It is a good group of older guys. As long as we don’t turn the ball over, we should be alright.”

COMMUNITY ACTION: Community Park Bluefish swimmer Charles Elliott powers through the water in a recent meet. Last week at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championships, Elliott, 14, took fourth in the boys’ 14-and-under 50-meter butterfly and eighth in the 50 freestyle. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After months of construction, the new Community Park Pool opened over Memorial Day weekend to much acclaim.

The Myrtha stainless steel pool boasts new walls and a new floor for the lap pool, an upgraded diving pool with a water slide, a zero-depth entry pool, a wading pool, and a new filtration system.

While the complex made an immediate splash with residents, it has served as a special source of inspiration to a particular group of users — the CP Bluefish swim team.

“Myrtha Pools are designed for very high level swimming and it certainly did not fail to prove that,” said Bluefish head coach Andy Sichet.

“We have broken several old standing records in swim meets and kids just love training in it.”

The Bluefish produced a superb regular season, going 4-1 in dual-meet competition to place second in the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division I standings.

“With the brand new facility in place, I think we all had high expectations of this years’ swim and dive team,” said Sichet.

“Neither team has disappointed the Princeton community. I am very happy finishing the 2012 summer with a 4-1 record. We certainly made big progress in our speed. Just about every swimmer improved on their original start time by the end of our short season.”

That progress was reflected in how the Bluefish ended the summer as the squad performed well last week in the PASDA championship meet at the Flemington-Raritan Community pool.

“As a team we have improved in overall team scoring points as well as placed better then we have in the prior PASDA championships,” said Sichet, whose team placed fourth of six teams in the competition won by Flemington-Raritan. “I am happy to see any improvement in our swimmers.”

The team’s group of younger girls’ swimmers certainly made Sichet happy as they came up big at the PASDA meet.

Ella Jones, 6, won the girls’ 6-and-under 25-meter freestyle and was second in the 25 backstroke while Madison Csontos, 8, was third in both the 8-and-under 25 free and butterfly. Natalie Hansford, 9, placed first in the 10-and-under 25 backstroke and Grace Hoedemaker, 9, finished second in the 10-and-under 25 butterfly. Eva Petrone, 10, took third in the 10-and-under 25 breaststroke. The combination of Hansford, Petrone, Hoedemaker, and Ria Sharma, 9, won the 10-and-under medley relay.

“Madison Csontos gave us incredible work effort in the summer and Natalie Hansford was one of the best swimmers,” said Sichet.

“Eva Petrone was dedicated  and provided great team support. We can always count on Grace Hoedemaker for points in almost any event.”

The team’s corps of older girls swimmers piled up plenty of points in the PASDA meet.

Madeline Hoedemaker, 11, won the girls’ 12-and-under fly and placed second in both the 100 individual medley and 50 free while Kate McLaughlin, 12, placed third in the 100 IM, 50 fly, and 50 back. Nicole Kratzer, 17, finished fourth in both the 18-and-under 50 breast and 50 butterfly while Charlotte Singer, 14, took third in the 14-and-under breast.

“Kate McLaughlin improved dramatically over the summer and Charlotte Singer has been at every meet and we see improvement every day,” added Sichet. “Nicole Kratzer was a coach and swimmer this year.

Sichet saw some dramatic results from his younger boy swimmers. Jaxon Petrone, 8, won the boys’ 8-and-under 100 IM and the 25 free and placed second in the 25 back while Alosha Darenkov, 8, took second in both the 8-and-under 100 IM and 25 breast and fourth in the 25 free. Gefen Bar-Cohen, 9, won the boys’ 10-and-under 25 free and took second in the 25 breast while Daniel King, 5, took second in the 6-and-under 25 back.

Oliver Hunsbedt, 12, won both the boys’ 12-and-under 100 IM and 50 breast while Eric Li, 12, took second in the 12-and-under 25 back and Noah Chen, 14, took fourth in both the boys’ 14-and-under 100 IM and 50 free.

“Bar-Cohen came in late but you can depend on him to score points,” added Sichet. “Petrone had stepped up; he has become a key racer for us. Hunsbedt is one of our liveliest kids; he is a great character and he gets everyone excited about racing.”

Not to be outdone, CP’s older male swimmers made a major impact at the PASDA competition.

Princeton High boys’ swim star Will Stange, 15, won the boys’ 18-and-under back and took second in the 100 IM and 50 free. Matthew Shanahan, 15, placed fourth in the both 18-and-under 100 IM and 50 back while Jake Valente, 18, took second in the 18-and-under 50 breast, third in the 50 free, and fourth in the 50 back.

“Will is Will; he is an incredible year round swimmer,” said Sichet of rising junior Stange, who helped the PHS boys’ swimming team go undefeated last winter on the way to the program’s first state title.

“It is a privilege to have him on the team. He is one of our biggest assets. Jake Valente has been with us all the way through high school. We are very happy that he continued his tradition of success with the Bluefish.”

As Sichet reflects on the summer, he is as proud of the attitude displayed by his swimmers around the deck as their success in the pool.

“With the combination of a brand new top of the line facility, warm weather, wonderful age-group coaches, larger-than-ever team, the spirit on the Bluefish team was the best I have ever seen,” asserted Sichet.

BELL CURVE: Isabelle Monaghan displays her backstroke form in action for the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings. Last week at the PASDA championship meet, Monaghan, 10, placed second in both the 10-and-under 100-meter individual medley and the 25 butterfly. She also helped Nassau to wins in both the 100 medley relay and 100 freestyle relay. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings didn’t have as much depth as in past summers, the team lived up to the program’s winning tradition.

The Lemmings went 4-1 in Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division II dual meets, earning a first place tie in the regular season standings.

“We had a great summer; it was very successful considering the numbers,” said Lemmings coach Beth Nagle.

“We were low, particularly in the 12-and-under and the 10-and-under boys. In some meets, we had just three swimmers in those age groups. We ended up in a three-way tie for first. We beat Ben Franklin and then Ben Franklin beat Trenton and Trenton beat us so it was very competitive.”

Nagle saw individual improvement across the board. “Most of our swimmers dropped their times,” said Nagle. “We made a point of working on stroke technique and starts this summer.”

That work paid off last week in the PASDA championship meet at the Flemington Raritan club as the Lemmings produced a number of outstanding swims.

“Looking at the numbers, we had a successful meet,” said Nagle, whose team placed second of six teams at the meet, scoring 2,447 points to trail only Ben Franklin’s total of 3,006. “Every swimmer placed and we had a couple of great relay races.”

One of the club’s top relays came from the younger girls. “The 10-and-under medley relay is one of my all-time favorite relays,” said Nagle, referring to the quartet of Isabelle Monaghan, Serena Bolitho, Ella Caddeau, and Veronique Diblasio.

“They came within a second of the meet record; they are really good. You throw Samantha Campisi in there on the free relay and they don’t lose anything.”

The core of young swimmers has plenty of experience despite being tender in years.

“We have had them since they were young,” said Nagle. “Isabelle Monaghan has her sister Sophia to look up to. We got Ella Caddeau back this year, that was a good addition.”

Nagle got some good work this summer from her older girls as well. “We are so lucky to have the older girls, they are our faithfuls,” asserted Nagle.

“Brigid Diblasio (age 13) and Becca Adlai-Gail (13) are big point scorers for us. We have a really solid under-18 group with Carla Tuan, Sophia Monaghan, and Susanna Tuan.”

Diblasio won both the girls’ 14-and-under 50 backstroke and 50 freestyle at the PASDA meet while Adlai-Gail placed first in the 14-and-under 50 butterfly. Carla Tuan won the girls’ 18-and-under 10 individual medley while Monaghan won the 18-and-under 50 back and took second in the 18-and-under free.

The Lemmings have a big star in the making on the boys’ side in 6-year-old Daniel Baytin, the winner of the 25-meter freestyle and backstroke at the PASDA meet.

“Daniel Baytin set freestyle and backstroke records at the PASDA meet,” said Nagle.

“At the mini-meet, he won all of his 6-and-under events and then went up to the 8-and-under and took second in the medley. Ben has helped us a lot; he juggles baseball with swimming He is a good athlete. Simon Sheppard is another good younger swimmer.”

Nassau got a lot of help through welcoming Matt Kuhlik, a star for the undefeated state champion Princeton High boys’ team who will be swimming for Emory this fall.

“Matt Kuhlik was a wonderful addition,” said Nagle of Kuhlik, who placed first in the boys’ 18-and-under 50 free and second in the 50 back at the PASDA  meet.

“He was looking for a job this summer and applied to be a lifeguard. He is a fantastic kid. He coached the 12-and-under boys and they looked up to him. He enjoyed being a role model for them.”

Kuhlik’s PHS teammate, Harun Filipovic, has assumed a big role in the Nassau program for years.

“Harun has grown up around the team; he has been swimming with us since he was four,” said Nagle of the Bucknell-bound star who won both the boys’ 18-and-under 50 back and 50 fly at the PASDA championships. “He set a team record in the 50 butterfly for us.”

Nagle liked the attitude she has seen around the team this summer. “As usual, I think Nassau has the best spirit around,” maintained Nagle.

“The lifeguards grew up around the team and now they are coaches. I heard it a million times this summer, kids saying ‘I want to be a lifeguard and a coach.’ The younger swimmers look up to the coaches and the lifeguards.”

The Nassau swimmers develop some deep bonds through spending a lot of time with each other.

“It is our own world,” said Nagle. “Practice ends at 10 in the morning and a lot of kids stay here until 3. It is like a camp.”

In order to keep that spirit going and increase numbers, Nassau is welcoming non-members to join the Lemmings as they will continue working through the summer in a new program called ‘Swimming Spree in August.’

“We are the only PASDA team that practices through August,” said Nagle.

“This year, it is open to anyone who is interested. We have one-hour practices in the morning and evening. We will have the coaching staff on hand and we will participate in the Bruce Nystrom intrasquad meet at the end.”

July 25, 2012

ROLLING STONE: Gevvie Stone displays her form in the single sculls. Stone, a 2007 Princeton alum, will be rowing the U.S. in the women’s single sculls at the London Olympics. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final scheduled for August 4. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Gevvie Stone had the chance to qualify for the Olympics last year in the women’s single sculls but came up agonizingly short.

With the top 9 at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia earning automatic spots for their countries at the upcoming London Games, former Princeton University rowing star Stone took 11th.

“Immediately after the worlds, I was really disappointed,” said Stone, 2007 Princeton alum who helped the Tiger women’s open crew win the Eastern Sprints and NCAA grand final in 2006 on the way to an undefeated season.

Stone, though, wasn’t about to let that setback derail her Olympic dreams.

“Every disappointment gives you the motivation to train harder; it makes you change your training,” said Stone, 27, a native of Newton, Mass.

“When I didn’t make the national team in 2010, I changed the way I was lifting weights.”

Stone, who is based in Boston and is on a leave of absence from Tufts University School of Medicine, does not work with any of the other U.S. rowers or coaches. Instead, she is trained by her father, Gregg Stone, a former national class rower who has coached at Harvard and Belmont Hill School.

In the wake of the worlds, Stone and her dad fine-tuned her weekly regimen.

“My dad and I looked at my training and added more workouts on the water,” said Stone, of her father, who just missed making the 1976 Olympics and made the 1980 U.S. team only to be denied a shot at the Moscow Games due to the U.S. boycott.

“My dad was at Bled and he was impressed with how much New Zealand worked. I went to four hard workouts a week on the water from two or three. I was also doing two rows everyday. Before, I was mostly once a day with cross training.”

Stone’s training is spiced up by a contingent of male masters rowers who often join her in sessions on the Charles River.

“It is definitely helpful; it helps you to be more competitive, knowing someone is next to you pushing hard,” said Stone, noting that the group ranges from two to eight. “You want to win; it is fun.”

Bouncing back from the disappointment of Bled, Stone had plenty of fun at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in May, taking third to book her spot to London.

Stone, who plans to resume her medical studies in late August, knew she had to make the most out of her time this year.

“I look at this as my first and best chance to qualify,” said Stone. “Taking that time off from school and training gave me a real chance to qualify.”

In order to get another crack at the Olympic qualification, Stone had to go through U.S. trials to get the spot in the Lucerne event.

Once at the Lucerne regatta, Stone was confident that she could achieve the top-four finish needed to clinch a spot in the Olympics.

“My training had gone well, I knew I was in a good place,” said Stone. “In finishing 11th at the worlds I had beaten some of the girls who were going to be there.”

After making it through her heat, Stone came up big in the final, going from fifth after the first 500 meters to move past Estonia and Ireland to take third and book her trip to London.

“In the final, the Estonian got off the line well but I was very close to her,” recalled Stone.

“I was closer to her than I usually am so for me it was a great start. There was a light headwind which is my favorite. It makes for a longer race which is good for me. I had a solid middle 1,000 and held my spot.”

After earning her spot, Stone felt fatigue and relief. “My first emotion was that I was tired, I was exhausted,” said Stone. “But winning, or in this case, qualifying was the magic pain reliever.”

It did take a while for the reality of making the Olympics to soak in for Stone.

“It is still a little surreal,” said Stone. “I was watching gymnastics on NBC and they had Shawn Johnson on talking about walking into the Opening Ceremony with USA on your back and getting chills. I realized that is going to be me.”

Stone realizes that riding the emotions of the moment doesn’t ensure Olympics success.

“So much of how you do in London depends on what you have done the last four years,” said Stone, whose mother, Lisa, rowed for the U.S. at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and took seventh in the women’s coxed quadruple sculls.

“Mentally, a key is to stay healthy. I got strep throat last year. I will have a week to train on the course. My event is the longest in the rowing program; it starts on July 28 and ends August 4.”

In assessing her prospects, Stone knows that she faces some long odds.

“My friends at med school say ‘oh you are going to the Olympics, bring back the gold,’” said Stone, who is now on track to graduate from Tufts in 2014 and may end up practicing sports medicine.

“It would be fantastic if I were able to do that. Making the ‘A’ final would be pretty spectacular; that is better than I have done in the past. It is going to be very hard. I need to work on my start and be in the groove.”

No matter where Stone finishes in the competition, she is prepared to soak up the atmosphere around the Eton Dorney course, some 25 miles west of London.

“It is really exciting; England is a country that loves rowing and understands the sport,” added Stone.

“The Boat Race (the annual rowing race between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club held on the Thames River in London) and Henley regatta are big parts of its sports calendar. I feel really lucky to be rowing there.”

GETTING HER SHOT: Sara Hendershot, center, strokes the women’s open eight during her Princeton University rowing career. Hendershot, a 2010 Princeton alum, will be rowing on the U.S. women’s pair in the London Olympics along with Sarah Zalenka. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final scheduled for August 1. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

After helping the U.S. women’s four take gold last year at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, Sara Hendershot seemed to be on course for a shot at the Olympics.

“I had so much fun in Bled; I could not have asked for a better first worlds,” said Hendershot, a 2010 Princeton alum and former star rower and captain for the Tiger women’s open program.

“We raced well and won a gold. I came back on a high. It motivated me through the fall and the speed orders.”

But later that fall, Hendershot was knocked off track in her drive for the 2012 Olympics.

“I broke my rib after the speed order (a USRowing time trial event) around Thanksgiving,” said Hendershot.

“I spent a lot of the winter trying to recover from that. We went to San Diego in the winter; I was trying to get up to speed and feel strong again. We were there in January, February, and March. It took me most of January to feel 100 percent.”

Once Hendershot got up to full speed, she decided to take a different route to the Olympics, switching to the women’s pair, teaming up with Sarah Zalenka and earning a trip to London as the two won the U.S. trial in mid-June.

“We came together six weeks before the trial; I was rowing with a different partner and she went to quad camp,” recalled Hendershot, who had rowed with Zalenka on the gold medal four at the worlds.

“I approached Sarah and asked her if she wanted to go from quad camp to a pair. She agreed; it was a leap of faith on her part.”

The two knew they had to make a leap to earn their spot for London. “Going into the trials, we were very aware of the fact that we were not expected to win; we had been left behind for the world cup racing,” said Hendershot.

“We did three weeks of training on our own in Princeton. We really fine-tuned things. We could have been frustrated but we didn’t let that happen.”

Hendershot and Zalenka completed their underdog tale in style as they made it through the U.S. Trial this June at Mercer Lake, edging Amanda Polk and Jamie Redman in the finals to earn their trip to London.

“Our race plan was to go as hard as we could,” said Hendershot. “We were down halfway through. We thought this is our last shot, let’s go for it. We had a lot of desire. We started to come together and we smoothed it out.”

After the race, it took a while for things to soak in for Hendershot. “I felt this huge wave of relief; this was the first step that we had to take,” said Hendershot, whose boat clocked a time of 7:27.54 over the 2,000-meter course with Polk and Redman coming in at 7:30.98.

“It took a long time for it to set in. I had visualized winning so many times so when it actually happened I was thinking — is this for real?”

Making the Olympics fulfills a vision Hendershot has harbored since childhood.

“It is something I have always thought about,” said Hendershot, 24, a native of West Simsbury, Conn.

“I have always looked up to Olympic athletes, thinking it is incredible to take their sport so far. At points, it didn’t seem possible for me but once I found rowing and started performing well in college, I started to think this could happen.”

In the wake of the win at the trials, Hendershot and Zalenka have been looking to take things to the next level.

“We have to put in a lot of work, we are focusing on coming together and getting more fit,” added Hendershot.

“Once we are in London, we will do more race-specific stuff. We have big room for upswing. We have only been together for six weeks this spring even though we have been rowing on and off together for the last two years.”

As she reflects on the London competition, Hendershot acknowledges that the pair will be in the underdog role once again.

“We won’t be listed as one of the favorites,” said Hendershot, who will get into action on the Eton Dorney course near London on July 28 for heats with the final set for August 1.

“The goal has always been an Olympic medal and when we looked at the other world cup races and the times, we are right there. We need to keep putting in the work. It is a different level than we have ever rowed but we have to remain confident.”

LIGHTING THE WAY: Robin Prendes pulls hard from the stroke seat in action for the U.S. men’s lightweight four. Prendes, a 2011 Princeton University alum and star for the Tiger lightweight program, will be competing at the London Olympics with the U.S. men’s lightweight four. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final slated for August 2. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Robin Prendes is deadly serious about his rowing but he acted like a little kid when he qualified for the Olympics in the U.S. men’s lightweight four.

“At the end, I was splashing water everywhere,” said Prendes, referring to winning the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in late May.

“I was pretty excited; it seemed to sink in faster with me than the other guys.”

The former Princeton University lightweight rowing standout had plenty of reason to be excited as he nearly didn’t get a seat on the U.S. four.

“I was the last guy selected to the boat,” said Prendes, a 2011 Princeton graduate who helped the Tiger men’s lightweight crew win two Eastern Sprints and Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national titles along with the Temple Cup at the 2009 Henley Royal Regatta.

“It was pretty intense seat racing right up to the last moment. I think that helped me. My technique had to be sound and I had to be ready to race everyday.”

Prendes, 23, gained some invaluable racing experience last year when he helped the U.S. lightweight four take 13th at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.

“The worlds regatta was difficult; it was my first time on the world scene,” said Prendes.

“There was a lot on the line. I gained from the experience; I saw how close the lightweight boats are. With all those boats, the hardest race was the semifinals. Coming so close to the finals and not making it was tough.”

Upon returning from Bled, Prendes headed to the U.S. lightweight training center in Oklahoma City to start the selection process for the Olympic boat. The 12 candidates battled through the fall and relocated to San Diego when the weather turned cold in Oklahoma.

Once the six-month selection process was completed, Prendes saw a winning combination in the boat that also includes Nick LaCava, Will Newell, and Anthony Fahden.

“We are very close in age; I think the proximity in age gives us the same mindset,” said Prendes, a native of Matanzas, Cuba who grew up in Miami, Fla.

“From day one, I knew that our strength was based in the middle of the race. The lack of experience we have rowing together hurts us at the start and sprinting off the line.”

In coming through at the final qualification regatta where a top-two finish was needed to book a spot in the London Olympics, the boat showed good closing speed.

“The start was pretty good; we were in fourth place,” recalled Prendes, who is rowing in the stroke seat for the boat.

“Serbia was in first but everyone else was close. We thought either Serbia was way better or they had gone out too fast and it turned out to be the latter. We concentrated on the Dutch; we knew they were really good. We started passing boats; I wouldn’t say it was easy but we seemed to be on autopilot.”

Over the homestretch of the race, Prendes was able to enjoy the moment. “The last 250 meters we were in a position to qualify,” added Prendes, whose boat ended up with a 6:01.85 time over the 2,000-meter course with the Netherlands taking second in 6:01.99.  “I tried to relax and not catch a crab.”

Since the qualifier, there had been little chance to relax in the buildup to London.

“The last two weeks have been pretty intense,” said Prendes, whose boat was training at Princeton in July prior to its departure to London.

“We are doing 3-a-days. On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday we are doing weightlifting in the middle of the day. We are on the water at 7 a.m. for longer sessions. In the afternoon, we come back for sprint sessions.”

In Prendes’s view, the hard work is helping the boat develop into a force. “We have been rowing together for a couple of months now,” said Prendes.

“I think we can make the ‘A’ final. If we are able to get better on things besides our base, we can row with the top boats.”

In order to emerge as a top boat in London, the four will need to avoid the hoopla surrounding the games.

“We can’t get too distracted by the Olympics; it is going to be unlike anything we have seen,” said Prendes, looking ahead to the competition which will take place at Eton Dorney, 25 miles west of London, with the heats scheduled to start on July 28 and the final slated for August 2. “We need to keep working hard. We have to stay focused and execute.”

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Post 218 shortstop Beau Horan picks up a grounder in recent action. Horan’s production and leadership helped Post 218 go on a late surge that saw the club win three of its last five games to end the summer with a 7-15 record. The seven wins represented marked progress for a program that went a combined 5-43 over the previous two summers.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the summer of 2009, Beau Horan was a wet-behind-the-ears shortstop, trying to hold his own in his rookie season with the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team.

Since that debut campaign, Horan has matured into one of the top shortstops in the Mercer County American Legion League (MCALL). Coming off an outstanding senior season for the Princeton Day School baseball team this past spring, Horan is headed to Williams College as a top recruit for the baseball program at the highly regarded Division III school.

This summer, Horan has assumed the role of veteran leader for Post 218, taking the players on the youthful squad under his wing and giving them the benefit of the experience he has gained over the years.

“These guys are getting a lot better,” said Horan, noting that he has been with the Post 218 for six years, counting his play with the program’s Junior Legion squad.

“It is nice to see them grow and get used to winning and playing some close games.”

Post 218 displayed its growth last week as it rallied from a 4-1 deficit to edge North Hamilton 6-5 at Smoyer Park.

“It has been the character of this team all year; we have had a lot of adversity,” said Horan reflecting on the win which saw Post 218 take a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning on a grand slam by Jon Hayden and then tally the winning run on a bases-loaded walk by Jacob Eisenberg in the bottom of the seventh.

“Most of the time we have had around nine guys and we forfeited a game the other day. But when we show up and we have Jacob on the mound we always have a chance to win.”

Leadoff hitter Horan knows that he has to get on base to give Post 218 a better chance to win. Horan had a total of seven hits in two wins over Ewing Post 314 and Trenton Posts 93/182 last week and reached base two times and scored twice in the victory over North Hamilton.

“I made a small adjustment; I am keeping my hands higher and seeing more pitches so I can time it a little better,” said Horan.

“I am feeling a little bit better and getting on base in the leadoff spot and letting the big boys bring me in.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker likes the way his players have come up big over the last few weeks of the season.

“I call them the notorious nine; they have really hung in there,” said a grinning Parker, whose club won three of four games before falling 6-4 to Ewing Post 314 last Thursday to end the summer at 7-15.

“They have really hung in there tough all season, but it has really culminated itself in the last few games. I am really proud of them.”

Parker was proud of the contributions he got throughout the lineup in the win over North Hamilton.

“This was a total team effort; we got a big hit by Jon Hayden; that was beautiful,” said Parker.

“Jacob Eisenberg threw a nice game. Beau did a good job at shortstop and got two runs. Zach Tesone made some nice picks at first and had a great double. It was a great effort.”

In Parker’s view, Horan has provided Post 218 with some great leadership.

“Beau has definitely helped keep us focused, especially with the young guys,” said Parker.

“They can be in the ball game and then for a split second be distracted by something else. Baseball guys like Beau keep them focused and keep their energy up. He always has some kind of positive reinforcement if a kid comes in and is hanging his head.”

With Post 218 having picked up seven wins this summer after going a total of 5-43 the last seasons, the team is headed in a positive direction.

“It is absolutely making progress,” asserted Parker. “We have had a couple of injuries where we lost guys for the season. If we could ever get everybody here at the same time, we could be better than seven wins. I am certain of that.”

In Parker’s view, there should be a lot more wins in this group’s future. “They are all young guys, the whole team with the exception of Marcus [Henderson] is going to be back,” said Parker.

“Finishing strong can pick the momentum up. We might do a fall ball program so that the young guys who are still around can play. They asked me the other day what is the most wins I remember and I told them that we had a team that won 14 games and was just one game off the playoffs. I think this team could be as good as that team.”

Horan, for his part, is ready to get going with his new team at Williams. “I received the summer conditioning program about a week or two ago; I am itching to get that started,” said Horan.

“I start there on August 28. I really want to get started with that team and get another four years going.”

And if Horan can make as much progress over the next four years as he has with Post 218, he should have quite a career at Williams.

IN THE GROOVE: Skye Ettin, left, makes a move for University Radiology earlier this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s League. Last Monday, Ettin hit 15-of-18 free throws on his way to a 24-point effort to help third-seeded University Radiology edge No. 6 Clinton Kings 46-43 in the quarterfinals of the summer hoops playoffs. University Radiology, the 2011 league champions, will face the victor of the Winberie’s/Team TB quarterfinal matchup in the semis on Friday at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A lot of basketball players, even superstars like LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, have struggled when sent to the foul line at crunch time.

But former Princeton High and current College of New Jersey standout Skye Ettin relishes taking free throws when a game is on the line.

“I am just focused on the rim, just trying to stay confident,” said Ettin. “I don’t want to think too many plays ahead; I always have the mindset that I am going to make it.”

For Ettin, that attitude was developed during his stellar PHS career which saw him score 915 points and help the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior.

“I remember we were in a high school game and I had two foul shots and coach [Jason] Carter said ‘after he makes both those fouls shots, then we’ll get into this,’” recalled the 6’3, 170-pound Ettin, a rising junior forward for TCNJ who averaged 6.4 points a game for the Lions last winter.

“He would instill confidence in you and you would instill it in yourself. I go up to the line knowing I am going to make it and from there, I have to adjust if I do miss one.”

Last Monday, Ettin’s prowess at the line made the difference as third-seeded University Radiology edged No. 6 Clinton 46-43 in the quarterfinals of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s League playoffs.

Ettin hit 15-of-18 free throws on the evening, including eight in the last three minutes, ending up with a game-high 24 points as University Radiology started the defense of its 2011 summer league title.

In other opening night playoff action Monday night, seventh-seeded Team TB defeated No. 10 Ballstars 52-29 while eighth-seeded SMB topped No. 9 Princeton Youth Sports 66-49.

A trio of quarterfinal matchups is slated for Wednesday evening at the Community Park courts with top-seeded Dr. Palmer facing SMB, No. 4 PA Blue Devils taking on fifth-seeded Ivy Inn, and No. 2 Winberie’s/Miller Lite going against Team TB. The semifinals are scheduled for Friday with Game One of the best-of-three championship series taking place on July 30 at 8 p.m.

For much of Monday evening, it looked like University Radiology wasn’t going to be advancing as it trailed 22-18 at halftime and 37-35 with less than three minutes to go in the contest.

“We got off to a slow start; it is hard when you have only five or six players,” said Ettin, noting that the team was missing such key players as Brian Dunlap, DeQuon Basnight, and Ike Robinson on Monday due to injury or other commitments.

Coming into the second half, Ettin and his teammates weren’t looking to do anything fancy.

“We just needed to play more aggressively; they were scoring a lot of garbage points because they were beating us to every loose ball and they got every offensive rebound,” said Ettin.

“When a team kills you on offensive rebounding, you give them three or four chances to score. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the team is, they are going to score.”

A turning point in the game came with seven minutes remaining in the second half when a Clinton Kings player got called for a flagrant foul and University Radiology cashed in with two free throws from Eamon Cuddy and a three-pointer from Devon Holman to pull into a 34-34 tie.

“That was definitely a huge momentum boost,” recalled Ettin. “It was a hard game going back and forth; both teams were giving it their all. It is hard to keep your composure the whole time in a hotly contested game where everyone wants to win. He lost his temper a little bit and we benefitted.”

Down the stretch of the game, University Radiology benefitted from the fact the core of its team has been together since their PHS days.

“I think our overall experience helped; we have been playing with each other for so long,” asserted Ettin, who is one of a group of former Little Tigers on the squad together with Dunlap, Cuddy, Matt Young, and the Holman brothers, Devon and DeQuan.

“I think that we learned to pull some games out in high school and then last year we pulled some games out in this league. We won the first game in the championship series and then we lost the second and then we had to pull out the third at the end. I don’t know if we would have got this one two years ago.”

In Ettin’s view, the narrow escape on Monday could give University Radiology the momentum to make another title run.

“Coming from behind the whole game and finally pulling it out, we know if we stay levelheaded and keep our composure we can pull them out in the end,” said Ettin, whose club will face the victor of the Winberie’s/Team TB matchup in the semis. “It is definitely going to help us going forward, no matter who we play.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Sophia Monaghan delivers the ball in action for the Lawrenceville School girls’ water polo team. Monaghan, who also stars for the Tiger Aquatics program based at Princeton University, will be competing on the international level next month as she plays for the USA Women’s Junior National Team at the Under-19 Pan American Championships in Canada.

As a ten-year-old, Sophia Monaghan had her sights set on being a swimming star.

But when her NJ Stingrays swim club coach suggested that she try out for the team’s water polo program, Monaghan decided to broaden her horizons.

After learning the ropes of the game with the Stingrays program, Monaghan stepped up and joined the more intense Tiger Aquatics program based at Princeton University.

“The Stingrays is [for] a lower age group, so once you get to be around thirteen or fourteen, there aren’t many kids playing at a higher level,” said Monaghan.

“When I went to Tigers, it started out as Masters, which is mostly forty-year-old men, and it was a chance to play somewhere where you weren’t even close to being the best, and that’s how you get better.”

Improving her game through exposure to such competition, Monaghan, 16, is now fully committed to being a water polo star.

Monaghan matriculated to the Lawrenceville School, in part, because it boasts the strongest high school program in the area and is a rising senior star for a Big Red girls’ water polo squad that went 17-3 last fall. She has ratcheted up her involvement with the Tigers program, practicing with the club several days a week during the year and throughout the summer.

For the past four years, Monaghan has gone to the Junior Olympics, and last year, her team placed sixteenth in the platinum bracket (seeds 1-24), the best-ever result for a women’s east coast team.

“It was a huge accomplishment for us, and this year we’re just hoping to build off of that,” said Monaghan of the competition, which will take place in early August in Northern California.

“We’re at a higher level now, but everyone has improved from last year, and our goal is to show that we can assemble a strong team. We have great players, and we want to show that we’re not only the best on the east coast, but we’re also a force to be reckoned with on the west coast.”

Acknowledging that the west coast is the hotbed for the sport, Monaghan has to adjust her game when she is going against California players.

In east coast competition, Monaghan generally plays the center position, where the strongest players are placed and most of the goals are scored, but when going against players from the west coast, her position shifts to being a defender.

“I’m used to being the biggest or fastest or strongest, but when I go out to California, I’m not even close to the best, and it gave me a reality check of how many incredible players there are,” said Monaghan, who still swims competitively, starring for Lawrenceville during the winter and the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings over the summer.

“It’s helped me to become a better player because I’ve been motivated to compete at their level.”

Later in August, Monaghan will be competing at an even higher level as she heads to Canada as part of the USA Women’s Junior National Team that will play in the Under-19 Pan American Championships.

“It’s really exciting to think that you’re competing to play for your country,” said Monaghan, reflecting on the tourney which will take place from August 10-18 at the Olympic Park’s Sports Center in Montreal, Quebec.

After all the progress Monaghan has made in water polo, she is looking forward to an exciting future in the sport which could include playing in college for one of the west coast powers in the sport.

“If I go out to play water polo on the west coast, it’s going to be to get a good education, because that’s how I’m going to get a job,” said Monaghan, who was named to the 2010-11 USA Water Polo All American list which honors student athletes who excel in both the pool and the classroom.

“My main focus in college is to get the best education I can and water polo is going to help me to do that.”

July 18, 2012

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Soren Thompson displays his epee form. The former Princeton University fencing standout is returning to the Olympics after a 2008 hamstring injury nearly ended his career in the sport. Thompson, a 2005 Princeton alum, excelled in the 2004 Athens Games, placed seventh in the epee, the best U.S. result in the event since 1956 and the second-best all-time. (Photo by Mike Dote)

After producing a breakthrough performance in the epee at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Soren Thompson was looking to make more history four years later at the Beijing Games.

The former Princeton University fencing star, who placed seventh in the men’s individual epee at Athens, the best U.S. result in the event since 1956 and the second-best all-time, had visions of an encore performance.

But right before the 2008 qualification process, Thompson, a 2005 Princeton alum, suffered an injury in training that knocked him out of Olympic consideration and left him fearing that he could be ultimately finished in the sport.

“I had a fully torn right hamstring; it was off the bone,” said Thompson, a native of San Diego, Calif. who was a four-time All-American and 2001 NCAA champion during his storied Princeton career.

“The doctors didn’t know how bad it was right way. There were six weeks before qualifiers. I competed in the initial qualifiers but it was so difficult and understandably my ranking started going down. It took a year before I started feeling better; I thought it could be all over.”

As a result, Thompson put fencing on the back-burner and devoted his energies to a job with Hycrete, a clean-tech company based in Northern Jersey.

In the fall of 2010, though, Thompson caught the Olympic bug. “The schedule of events for the Olympic qualifications came out and I thought if I want to do it again, I have to start,” said Thompson.

“I started doing a little bit of training everyday. The U.S. events went well and I did good enough in the international events.”

Thompson left his day job in April, 2011 to focus exclusively on fencing and kept doing well. This spring, he qualified to
represent the U.S in the epee in the upcoming London Olympics.

For Thompson, overcoming the hurdles he faced since 2008 makes his return to the Olympics all the sweeter.

“It has been a real ride, there have been a lot of ups and downs,” said Thompson, 31.

“I am highly motivated. It feels good. I had my own ideas about what would work and it all worked out better than I hoped. It is very satisfying to have that happen.”

In one critical respect, Thompson went his own way, deciding to go without a coach.

“A coach is a partner who can help you progress with a sport,” explained Thompson.

“I wanted to be in New York City and I didn’t find what I wanted in a coach. I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I have an incredible data base, I just need to execute. I have a fencing style based on an open approach. I like to do more bout-like competition drills in practice. It wouldn’t be long before I would be prompting a coach for different drills. I had my best competitive year so it worked being unorthodox.”

Thompson is drilling hard in the buildup to the London Games. He recently competed in an event in Buenos Aires where he helped the U.S. epee team take fourth and solidify its No. 1 overall world ranking. He is currently at a two-week U.S. training camp in Paris that will wrap up just before the July 27 Opening Ceremonies in London.

Having previous Olympic experience gives Thompson an extra boost of confidence.

“The Olympics is a very special event; it is a singular event in the way the athletes prepare and the pressure you face,” said Thompson.

“In 2004, I showed that I thrive in the Olympic environment. I made history; I was very happy with my preparation.”

As he looks ahead to the London games, Thompson believes he can make more history.

“I am a better fencer now; I want to improve on what I did in Athens,” said the 6’3, 181-pound Thompson.

“There is no limit to what I can achieve but that being said, fencing has a lot of great athletes and it is going to be tough. I need to put myself in a position to succeed and execute. I expect to be prepared.”

But that preparation doesn’t ensure success due to fencing’s inherent capriciousness.

“Fencing is a matchup sport as opposed to running,” said Thompson, noting his disappointment that there won’t be a men’s epee team competition at the London Games, a particular blow since the U.S. won the title at the 2011 World Championships.

“In track, you try to run your best time and the results fall within a certain range. In fencing, things jump all over the place, there are different styles and people match up against some better than others.”

As a result, Thompson is going to focus on perfecting his style. “The rankings don’t matter much, you see upsets all the time,” said Thompson.

“You have to bring your best game and know what you want to do no matter who you are going against.”

In making it back to the Olympics, Thompson has proven that doing things his way can be a route to success.

SPECIAL QUALIFICATION: Susie Scanlan, second from right, and Maya Lawrence, second from left, celebrate this spring after they qualified to represent the U.S. in epee at the upcoming London Olympics. Scanlan took a hiatus from her Princeton University career midway through her junior year in 2011 to concentrate on making the U.S. Olympic team. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton alumna, will be competing in the first Olympics of her career. Scanlan and Lawrence will be joined on the U.S. epee squad by Notre Dame alumna Courtney Hurley with Hurley’s sister, Kelley, serving as an alternate. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Susie Scanlan still has three semesters to go before graduating from Princeton University but her U.S. passport is totally marked up and in need of an insert.

For St. Paul, Minn. native Scanlan, that predicament results from being a fencing prodigy who has been competing on the international level since she was a sophomore in high school.

In a few weeks, Scanlan will be taking part in the grandest world sporting event of them all as she represents the U.S. in the epee at the London Olympics.

Scanlan’s journey to London started with a trip around the corner from her Minnesota home.

“I thought it would be cool to do swordfighting,” said Scanlan, who was inspired by dueling scenes in the movies. “I looked in the phone book and found a fencing club 10 minutes away.”

Scanlan took up the sport at the Twin Cites Fencing Club when she was nine years old and was competing by the time she was 12. An early breakthrough came for her when she placed in the top 8 in the epee in the U-12 division at the nationals.

By the time she was a sophomore in high school. Scanlan was competing
overseas in such far-flung sites as Budapest, Hungary, Leipzig, Germany and South Korea.

“It opens your eyes to how hard you have to work to be good,” said Scanlan, reflecting on how fencing at the international level impacted her development.

Working with coach Roberto Sobalvarro at the Twin Cities club helped open Scanlan’s eyes to her potential in the sport.

“Ro has been my coach for a very long time; he taught me fencing,” said Scanlan.

“When I started, he was the national epee coach for the 2000 Olympic team. He took a break and came back for the juniors and is now back with the senior team. He is very good.”

The presence of Zoltan Dudas as Princeton’s fencing coach helped influence Scanlan to head east for college.

“When it came to choosing college, coaching made a difference for Scanlan. “I knew I wanted to go to a top school, I had Zoltan as a coach at the Notre Dame camp and I liked his coaching style,” said Scanlan, who was also looking at Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Penn State. “When he became coach at Princeton, I thought that would work.”

“The international competition helped prepare me but the NCAA is a different format and I had to adjust,” said Scanlan. “Fencing on a team is different.”

Scanlan also had to get used to juggling international competition with her Princeton fencing and academic schedule.

“It is a long season; I was still competing in junior and senior events,” said Scanlan, who earned All American honors in her first two seasons at Princeton. “I traveled internationally during exams and went to nationals another year.”

Midway through her junior year, Scanlan decided that if she was going to have any chance of making the London Olympics, she would have to take a hiatus from Princeton.

“By the end of my sophomore year, I was really burned out,” said Scanlan, who started out in the Class of 2012 and will resume her studies in January 2013. “I was not getting enough sleep. If I was going to focus on the Olympics, I knew I had to take a leave.”

Since leaving Princeton in early 2011, Scanlan has split her time between St. Paul and New York City when she is not in competition. The focus on her sport had the desired effect. “My fencing has gotten a lot better,” said Scanlan. “I had to do 13 events to qualify.”

Boosted by a big performance in Budapest, where a 16th place finish in a Grand Prix event moved her up to third in the U.S. rankings, Scanlan booked her spot for London.

Even when Scanlan realized that she had mathematically clinched a berth on the team, she had trouble believing her Olympic dream was really coming true.

“After the last World Cup event in March, I knew from the points standings that I had qualified,” said Scanlan.

“In April at the nationals, they told us officially. To be honest, over the last year and a half, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I have a big family with 35 cousins and they kept asking me about it and I would say it is going fine and change the subject. After I made the team and started thinking about the things that go along with it, I was like holy crap, this is really happening.”

One thing that has gone along with her Olympic qualification is some intense training.

“When I am not in competition, I am training five-to-six hours a day, including conditioning, drills, and everything,” said Scanlan, who will compete individually and in the team event for a U.S. squad that also includes 2002 Princeton alum Maya Lawrence.

But as Scanlan looks ahead to London, she knows that hard work is only one ingredient to potential success.

“I need to get a lot of sleep the week before, getting power sleep of 10-11 hours a night,” said Scanlan. “Being happy also makes a big difference. When I am rested and happy, I tend to do my best.”

In assessing her  Olympic prospects, Scanlan acknowledges that her event is a bit of crap shoot and she could benefit from some divine intervention.

“It depends on the given day,” said Scanlan. “I will be focusing on fencing the best I can and hope God will speak to me on the day of the competition and the points will be mine.”

CATCHING ON: Jon Scott handles catching duties this spring for the Bryant University baseball team. Former Princeton Day School standout Scott made big progress this spring in his sophomore campaign, hitting .255 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games after appearing in just three games as a freshman. Scott’s solid play helped the Bulldogs win the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season title as the team went 33-21 overall and 24-8 in league play.
(Photo Courtesy of Bryant’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Jon Scott will long remember getting the initial hit of his Bryant University baseball career.

Scott, a former Princeton Day School standout catcher, pounded out an RBI single in a 12-1 win over Harvard on April 7, 2011.

“That was real exciting; getting that first hit was a good feeling,” said Scott. “My teammates were all cheering for me.”

But there weren’t many other cheers for Scott that spring as the single marked the only hit of a tough freshman campaign.

“I really wasn’t ready to play at that level,” said Scott. “I was not in the best shape. It was really frustrating because I knew I could do it.”

Scott used that frustration to fuel an arduous training regimen last summer.

“I knew what I had to do to get better,” said Scott, who played in only three games and had one other at-bat besides his appearance in Harvard game.

“Ike Ballard is my trainer and Mike Halpern also helped. They helped get me in the best playing shape. I did weightlifting, cardio and stretching. They helped me with everything, including nutrition.”

That work paid dividends as Scott hit .255 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games this spring, helping Bryant win the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season title.

Upon arriving on campus for his sophomore year, Scott could feel the difference.

“I was in much better shape; I knew I could end up starting some games if I played well,” said Scott. “I played well in the fall, the coaching staff helped me.”

Scott got the first start of his career against Liberty on in mid-March and made the most of it as he helped the Bulldogs to a 6-2 win.

“The start against Liberty was a good moment,” recalled Scott. “I had a lot of adrenaline; they are a top team. I hit a homer against them.”

Another big moment for Scott came in a 4-3 loss to Monmouth in early May.

“I also had a homer against Monmouth,” recalled Scott. “They didn’t recruit me and I was a New Jersey player so that meant a lot.”

Playing behind senior star Mike Delponte helped Scott learn the ropes of catching at the college level.

“That helped me a lot; it really made me want to play,” added Scott. “I learned a lot watching how he handled things.”

Scott handled his position well, ending up with a fielding percentage of 1.000, making no errors in 110 chances and throwing out six-of-14 runners attempting to steal.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” said Scott. “I like being a good defensive catcher and helping the pitchers.”

For Scott, being behind the plate when the Bulldogs clinched the NEC title with a sweep of Wagner in mid-May was the major highlight of his sophomore campaign.

“I think catching the final game when we won the conference title was a great memory,” said Scott, reflecting on a spring that saw Bryant go 33-21 overall and 24-8 in league play.

“Our team worked hard; we knew we could do it. There were a ton of fans there. It was great seeing that last groundout and being in the dog pile when we won.”

In Scott’s view, Bryant could be seeing some more celebrations in the near future.

“We have won the conference two of the last three years and hopefully we can win it again,” said Scott, noting that the program will be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament next year as it completes a transition to Division I from Division II.

“We have a ton of young talent and the head coach [Steve Owens] knows how to win. We are excited to keep working hard.”

It was exciting for Scott to see his hard work pay off this spring. “I always knew I could play,” said Scott. “It just came down to proving that and I did.”

As he looks ahead to the final two years of his college carer, Scott knows he can do even better.

“I want to focus on just having fun and enjoying my teammates and the games,” said Scott, who is honing his skills this summer by playing for the Mohawk DiamondDawgs in the Perfect Game Collegiate League in upstate New York.

“I want to be the best catcher in the conference which is something I can do. I want to help the team win as many games as possible and be up there with the top teams in New England. We can definitely compete with those teams.”

And after the progress he made as a sophomore, there is no question that Scott can compete at the D-I level.

INSIDE STUFF: Ivy Inn’s Mark Aziz goes up for a lay-up earlier this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Aziz scored a game-high 17 points to help Ivy Inn top SMB 49-37. In other games on Monday, the Clinton Kings edged Team TB 48-46 while University Radiology defeated Princeton Youth Sports 54-46 and the PA Blue Devils beat the Ballstars 64-42. Regular season play wraps up on July 18 with the playoffs beginning on July 23 at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although Jesse Krasna is playing in just his second season with the PA Blue Devils in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, he has some deep bonds with his teammates.

“We have all been playing with each other since basically in the fourth grade,” said Krasna, a former Pennsbury High standout who is a rising junior guard for the Ursinus College (Pa.) men’s hoops team.

“John Ryan Wolff, Mike Fee, the Sibol boys [Zach and John] and me have all been playing together for a long time.”

The team’s chemistry was on display last Monday night as the Blue Devils overcame a shaky start against the Ballstars to pull away for a 68-42 win.

“We came out a little sloppy but the Ballstars really shot the ball well and moved the ball and played together so you have to give credit to them,” said Krasna, who had a team-high 17 points as the Blue Devils improved to 6-3 while former Princeton High star Matt Hoffman tallied 22 points for the Ballstars to lead all scorers.

“We got things going. I think we are at our best when we are running because we have a bunch of ballhandlers and everyone is really unselfish. It is the most fun when you can get out and run and play together.”

Krasna has a lot of fun sparking the team’s running game from the backcourt.

“John Ryan and I are both point guards,” said Krasna. “Sometimes he brings it up and runs the offense or I will bring the ball up and trigger it. It is really nice having both of us being able to do that because we are interchangeable.”

After producing a superb debut season last summer for the Blue Devils that saw him get named as league Newcomer of the Year, Krasna is thrilled to be competing again on the Community Park courts this summer.

“I love it; there is nothing like it,” asserted a smiling Krasna. “I can definitely see all of us sticking around and playing. Some of these guys are in their 40s or even in their 50s.”

Playing in the summer league also helps Krasna sharpen up for the college season.

“It gets us in great shape,” added the 6’0, 164-pound Krasna, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a game as in his sophomore campaign and is joined by Ursinus teammate Kevin Janowski on the Blue Devils. “There are a ton of great teams in this league and it is right in our backyard.”

In Krasna’s view, the Blue Devils have what it takes to be in the mix for a championship in the league’s upcoming playoffs.

“If we come to play every night and play defense and our shots are falling we could make a run at it,” said Krasna.

“We got to the semis last year and we want to build on that. The top five teams are all very, very solid and anyone can beat anyone on a given night so that is why it is really important that you don’t take anyone lightly. It is good not going into the playoffs undefeated because you go in levelheaded and you know you have to bring it every night.”

July 12, 2012

PODIUM POSITION: Donn Cabral displays the trophy he earned for winning the steeplechase title at the NCAA Championships last month. In late June, recently graduated Princeton University track star Cabral made another podium as he finished second in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., booking a spot for the upcoming London Summer Olympics. Cabral will be heading to Italy next week to train and compete in some races on the European circuit as he prepares for the London Games. The preliminary round of the Olympic steeplechase is scheduled to take place on August 3 with the final slated for two days later. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Donn Cabral dominated the competition this spring in the steeplechase.

During the course of his final season with the Princeton University track team, Cabral cruised to victory in the 3,000-meter event at the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Championships and then won the 2012 USATF Oxy High Performance Meet clocking an American college record of 8:19.14.

Saving his best for last, Cabral won the steeplechase title at the NCAA Championships on June 9 as he competed in his final college race wearing the orange and black. It was the program’s first outdoor national championship since Tora Harris won the 2002 high jump and was the first individual track national champion since 1934 when William Bonthron won the mile.

But when Cabral uncharacteristically failed to finish at the head of the pack at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., it wasn’t cause for disappointment.

The Glastonbury, Conn. native took second in the final, booking his spot on the U.S. team for the upcoming London Olympics.

As Cabral prepared for his shot at making the Olympics, he struggled in training after his NCAA triumph.

“At first it was pretty disappointing, I was starting to question how much was left in my legs after the season,” said Cabral.

“I didn’t have the spring and pop in my legs. I concentrated on resting and staying off my feet when I wasn’t training.”

A few days prior to the competition in Eugene, Cabral headed to Portland and started to feel himself again.

“We stayed there and my legs were feeling good again,” said Cabral. “I was supposed to do a workout with 45-46 second 300 meter reps and I was running them in 41. It felt pretty good, it was a sign that the spring was back in my legs.”

In the preliminary round, Cabral took care of business, clocking a time of 8:30.64 to finish second in his heat and easily qualify for the final.

“My plan was to be up front near the leaders, get close enough to qualify and then run for the win,” recalled Cabral. “I had a little difficulty getting to the front. I was moving up on the last lap and I passed a lot of guys at the end.”

As Cabral looked ahead to the final, he knew he had to pick it up and probably run near his personal best to get in the top three and ensure his place for the London Games.

“I didn’t know if I had an 8:19 in me; I thought I could be close to that,” said Cabral.

“I wasn’t sure if I was better or just maintaining the speed I had. I wanted to do a better job of getting to the front. I wanted to run the first 150 meters fast instead of just the first 100.”

Following that blueprint, Cabral ran with the lead pack and then picked off everyone but winner Evan Jager.

“I did a good job of staying near the front for the rest of the race,” said Cabral, who clocked a time of 8:19.81 with Jager just ahead in 8:17.40.

“There were never too many people in front of me. I let the space go a little too much between Kyle [Alcorn], Evan, and me. I was closing the gap between me and the leaders but one hurdle threw me off and I lost a little space on Evan.”

Rounding the last curve, Cabral was able to enjoy the moment and his achievement.

“I was just thinking I was really happy to get second place,” said Cabral, the first Princeton track athlete to make the Olympics since Harris competed in the 2004 Athens Summer Games.

“On the last water jump, I knew I had it. I was soaking it all in and enjoying the last 100 meters. At the finish, I was thinking oh my god it has finally happened, the thing I have been thinking about for the last year and a half and my dream since I was a child.”

Now Cabral will be chasing more dreams as he competes in London with the preliminary round to take place on August 3 and the final slated for two days later.

“I think it is a very reasonable goal to make the final,” said Cabral, who is heading to Italy this week to train and compete in some races on the European circuit.

“I want to take the preliminaries as the biggest races of my life and give it all I have got. Getting a medal is not really a goal; it is more of a dream. It is something that may be more realistic in the future.”

Cabral sees a bright future for American steeplechasing. “I do think we can make an impact,” asserted Cabral, who signed with Team Nike after the trials.

“This is going to be a step, we want to do better than we have done in the past. There are two world championships before the next Olympics.”

In reflecting on the last year, Cabral knows he has taken some big steps.

“I was 19th at the cross country nationals last fall and I was third in the Heps Indoor 3k,” said Cabral.

“Now I am running the 3k steeplechase in Europe as an Olympian. I have come a long way in a year.”

DEFENSIVE ATTITUDE: Julia Reinprecht, right, battles for the ball in a recent game for the U.S. national women’s field hockey team. Rising Princeton junior defender Reinprecht will be looking to thwart foes at the upcoming London Summer Olympics. (Photo courtesy of USA Field Hockey/Yuchen Nie)

Although Julia Reinprecht is the youngest player on the U.S. Olympic women’s field hockey team, she doesn’t feel out of place.

“There are a couple of girls from college and I fit in with them,” said Reinprecht, who turns 21 on July 12 and is a rising junior with the Princeton University field hockey team. “The players have all been welcoming.”

On the field, defender Reinprecht welcomes the chance to play around some veterans.

“We have two defenders who went to the 2008 Olympics as did the goalie so I am playing around a lot of experienced players,” said Reinprecht, a native of North Wales, Pa. who tallied a total of 14 goals and 20 assists in her first two seasons at Princeton.

In order to maximize her chances of becoming a member of the U.S. team’s defensive crew, Reinprecht decided to take a year off from Princeton to live and train with the national squad at its San Diego facility.

“The decision was completely the best thing I have done; it was worth it,” said Reinprecht.

“At school, there are distractions. Here you play with your teammates and focus on practices and lifting. The most important thing is competing with your teammates.”

Having older sister, Katie, a rising senior star for Princeton, plus Tiger teammates Kat Sharkey and Michelle Cesan along with her in San Diego made things go smoother for Reinprecht.

“Being with my sister and teammates really helped the transition,” said Reinprecht, who will also be joined in London by her elder sister and Cesan, an alternate on the squad with Sharkey not making the team. “It was like freshman year of college, you have to adjust.”

In going through her daily paces in San Diego, Reinprecht had to adjust her game.

“We have some extremely fast and talented strikers; it has helped my tackling skills and outletting,” said Reinprecht.

“I am learning to communicate and organize better. I didn’t do that as much before; I realize how important that is.”

The U.S. players took an important step when they beat Argentina 4-2 last October in the Pan American Games gold medal contest to clinch a spot in the London Olympics.

“That solidified things for us; we were able to grow off of that,” said Reinprecht, reflecting on the triumph over Argentina, the top-ranked team in the world at the time.

“We want to recreate those moments of excellence. It was great that we didn’t have to worry about qualifying later; we were able to completely dedicate ourselves to preparing for the Olympics.”

There were some nervous moments before Reinprecht’s Olympic trip was confirmed as each athlete in the player pool had a face-to-face meeting with the coaches to see if they had made the cut for London.

“I had all the nerve symptoms; I had the shakes; it was completely nerve-wracking,” recalled Reinprecht. “Hearing that I made it was rewarding; it was pretty awesome.”

It was awesome for Reinprecht to learn minutes later that her older sister had also made the 16-player squad.

“She came out; she was smiling,” said Reinprecht. “I was already on the phone with our father and I put Katie on with him and then we hugged.”

As Reinprecht and her teammates look ahead to the Olympic competition, they know they will have to put in a superior effort to have a chance at a medal. The U.S., currently ranked 10th in the world, will be playing in Pool B with the top two teams from each group advancing to the medal round.

“It is nice having so many veterans who went last time; they were thrilled by the experience but disappointed by how the U.S. did,” said Reinprecht, noting that the U.S. placed eighth at the Beijing Games.

“We believe the U.S. can do well; we want to go out and compete well. We are in a tough pool. If we are able to get out of this pool, that will be the best preparation for the medal round.

In Reinprecht’s view, the U.S. has the pace and spirit to do well. “We need to execute basic skills; we believe speed is our advantage,” said Reinprecht.

“If we get in that medal round, we have to use that American spirit and fight really hard.”

While the last year has sped by for Reinprecht, she hasn’t let her relative youth keep her from savoring the experience.

“It has been exciting; everything has gone so fast,” said Reinprecht. “It was a thrill winning the Pan Am Games. A lot of things have happened. The team is looking good; we are growing. It is great to be part of that.”