May 15, 2013
BUMP AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Bump Lisk runs past a WW/P-S defender last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Senior attacker Lisk scored a goal to help third-seeded PDS post a 7-4 win over the No. 6 Pirates. The Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BUMP AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Bump Lisk runs past a WW/P-S defender last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Senior attacker Lisk scored a goal to help third-seeded PDS post a 7-4 win over the No. 6 Pirates. The Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Bump Lisk and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse  took the field from the team’s Senior Day game against Blair Academy last Wednesday, they brought a special intensity.

“This is our last regular season game and we wanted to make sure that we were playing this like a playoff game,” said senior attackman Lisk.

“At this point left with six games left, including this one, we cannot let up at all. We can’t have a bad game. We can’t say that this game doesn’t matter and just forget about it.”

The Panthers didn’t let up, jumping out to an 8-0 lead on the way to a 13-3 victory.

“I am very proud of the team,” said Lisk, who scored five goals in the win and passed the 100-point mark in his PDS career. “We played awesome.”

The Panther attack had some awesome moments in the win, producing some superb ball movement and finishing.

“It is probably the tightest offense I have had here in four years,” said Lisk. “We all get along; we all hang out together in school. It is tight. Coach Cliff [Higgins] and coach [Rob] Tuckman have us doing stuff that really helps our game. It is a tight group of guys, we seem to find each other and work well.”

In assessing his recent scoring surge, which saw Lisk tally another goal on Saturday as the third-seeded Panthers topped No. 6. WW/P-S 7-4 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals, he credited classmate Cody Triolo.

“Honestly, the secret to it is that the teams focus on Cody so much,” said Lisk, who was hoping to keep rolling as the Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.

“He is going to Lehigh, he is the best player on the field and he is probably the best player in the county. So teams focus on him so much it lets me get that third or fourth defenseman and sometimes I fall through the cracks. I think that helps a lot.”

Lisk, an ice hockey star who chose to play juniors this winter rather than skate with the Panthers, is bringing a special focus to lacrosse as he wears the PDS jersey for one last season.

“It is awesome playing juniors, but when you are doing it about you absolutely miss PDS,” said Lisk.

“You miss the fans and being around the guys. I am just trying to take it one game at a time. I am loving being with these guys; it is a great group of guys.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman believes that Lisk and his classmates have done great things for the PDS program. The team’s senior class includes Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brendan Shannon, Andrew Phipps, and Tucker Triolo in addition to Lisk and Cody Triolo.

“They are ambassadors for this program,” said Tuckman, whose team came up short in state Prep B championship game on Monday as the second-seeded Panthers lost 16-3 at top-seeded Rutgers Prep to move to 11-5.

“I knew as freshmen that they were going to make a huge impact on the program and they have and they continue to and that’s exciting.”

Tuckman is excited by the way Lisk has been playing down the stretch. “Bump is having a good time out there; he is playing well. He is exciting to watch,” said Tuckman.

“He plays with incredible confidence. Having him on that low side really opens things up because he is a force to reckon with.

PDS has proven to be a force collectively as the season headed into May. “We are peaking at the right time,” said Tuckman. “Part of why we are playing so well is that the boys really enjoy playing with each other. This is what it’s all about.”

Lisk, for his part, is enjoying his remaining time on the lacrosse field. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing,” said Lisk, who will be playing junior hockey in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa. next year.

“I am just taking it one game at a time. You can’t overlook any team. There is a sense of urgency but we are just savoring every game here.”

May 8, 2013
KC PRIME: Princeton University football star Mike Catapano, right, battles a Dartmouth lineman in action last November. Catapano, a defensive lineman who was 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season, was chosen last month by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. This week, Catapano makes his pro debut as he participates in the team’s opening mini-camp.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

KC PRIME: Princeton University football star Mike Catapano, right, battles a Dartmouth lineman in action last November. Catapano, a defensive lineman who was 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season, was chosen last month by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. This week, Catapano makes his pro debut as he participates in the team’s opening mini-camp. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

In January, Mike Catapano knew he had to stand out on the practice field as he took part in the 88th annual East-West Shrine all-star college football game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I needed to show I could play against a higher level of competition,” said Catapano, a star defensive lineman for the Princeton University football team who was the 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season.

“If I were the Player of the Year in the ACC, I would be a first round draft choice but I was coming from the Ivy League. The practices were the biggest part for me. There were a lot of one-on-one drills and a lot of NFL coaches watching the practices.”

The 6’4, 270-pound Catapano caught the attention of the pro coaches and ended up getting selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on April 27.

This week, Catapano will be looking to turn heads as he makes his pro debut by participating in the team’s opening mini-camp.

“I want to make a great first impression and show the coaches that I am going to be their hardest worker,” said Catapano. “I want to show that I have a high motor.”

When Catapano arrived at Princeton in the fall of 2008, it was hard to imagine him as a future NFL draft choice. He was a 215-pound fullback before being switched to defensive line. Gaining 50 pounds between his freshman and sophomore year, the Bayville, N.Y. native grew into a force.

After earning second-team  All-Ivy League honors in 2011, Catapano caught the eye of NFL scouts and he realized that his dream of playing at the next level was viable.

Getting the chance to come back for a fifth season in 2012 due to being sidelined as a freshman, Catapano decided to hone his skills by working with former NFL player Chuck Smith, who has been training defensive linemen and pass-rushing outside linebackers through his company, Defensive Line Inc., since 2000 in Suwanee, Ga.

“I took the spring off from school so I could play that fifth year,” said Catapano.

“I couldn’t play spring ball because I wasn’t in school. I saw an online clip from Osi Umenyiora (former New York Giants star defensive lineman) talking about a six-sack game in the day and how he had been helped by Chuck Smith. I called him and sent some tapes. I stayed there a month and a half; we did pass rush drills everyday. It was mostly technique-oriented. It was developing an arsenal of moves. It paid off last fall.”

As a senior, Catapano led the Ivies with 12 sacks and helped Princeton go 5-5 as it bounced back from two straight 1-9 campaigns. As a result, NFL scouts made daily pilgrimages to Princeton to check out Catapano.

“There was one at every single practice my senior year,” said Catapano. “They don’t talk to me. You see them there. They would talk to the coaches, my defensive line coach and my strength and conditioning coach. They would go up in the office and look at film.”

After the season, Catapano’s first stop on the road to the NFL was the East-West Shrine game. He then headed up to northern Jersey to train for nine weeks at the Parisi Speed School to get ready for his pro day at Princeton where he performed running, jumping, and weight lifting drills. Catapano ended up posting some impressive numbers in the March 20 session, putting up 33 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, running the 40-yard dash in 4.75, and doing a vertical leap of 37.5 inches.

Between pro day and the draft, Catapano had contact with several NFL teams. “I was able to do workouts on site for local teams, the Giants and the Jets,” said Catapano.

“I was able to work out for other teams at Princeton or my high school. The Vikings sent their defensive line coach and the Eagles sent a coach. I visited other teams out of the area and I was only able to do physicals and interviews with them. I went to New Orleans, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Cincinnati.”

Once the draft started on April 25, Catapano was based at home in Long Island as he waited to be chosen.

“I watched the draft in Bayville with a small group of family and friends,” said Catapano, who was not picked on April 25 or 26 as the first three rounds were completed.

“I knew who was calling my agent. I was confident and hopeful. I tried to stay positive and not let negative thoughts flood in.”

As Catapano woke up on April 27, he was confident that he would get some good news. When the seventh round approached at around 5 p.m., it became clear that his dream of getting a shot at the NFL was about to come true.

“I heard from my agent that a couple of teams were ready to take me with their next pick,” recalled Catapano.

“Then I got a call from Missouri from the Chiefs’ general manager asking me if I wanted to get aboard the big red train. I was passed to coach [Andy] Reid and then the defensive coach. I was flooded with emotion; I couldn’t think. I can’t remember what I said; I hope it was good. It was so emotional seeing my name flash up on the board.”

The Chiefs have told Catapano that they plan to have him switch positions. “They want me to play outside linebacker,” said Catapano. “

There is a lot of pass rushing and I get to show my athleticism by stepping back in coverage. It is a good mix of the things I have been doing.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, a former assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, is confident that Catapano will do the things necessary to succeed in the NFL.

“I saw that he had the work ethic and professionalism,” said Surace, recalling his first impressions of Catapano after he took the helm of the program for the 2010 season.

“He was a guy who was going to work harder than anyone else; that is a trait that separates good players from great players. It is like Jason Garrett [former Princeton star quarterback and Surace’s college teammate] even though he played a different position. When he wanted to get better on his three-step draw; I had to make 500 snaps a day.”

In Surace’s view, Catapano’s success reflects well on the Princeton program.

“It is great; first and foremost, you want the 25 seniors to all get jobs in the fields they have chosen,” said Surace.

“It is great to see that happen for Mike, you know how much this means to him and how hard he has worked for this.”

Drawing on his NFL experience, Surace has given Catapano some advice on making himself invaluable to the Chiefs.

“I told him to find out who is the special teams coach and live in his office,” said Surace.

“Mike is a tough, hard-working, no-nonsense guy but there are a limited number of players who can dress for games. The late-round and middle-round picks need to be able to play special teams. I think he can be a good special teams player, he is explosive. He has a motor that doesn’t stop, that is what the pro guys all say after they watch him.”

Catapano, for his part, believes he is already on the same page with coach Reid, who in his first year with the Chiefs after 13 seasons guiding the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I look at what he wants as he starts a new era for Kansas City,” said Catapano. “He drafted tough-minded guys, that was the commonality. I like that he appreciates my college career and what I bring to the table.”

After exceeding expectations in his college career, Catapano has some big goals as he enters the NFL.

“I am not satisfied,” said Catapano. “I want to earn a spot and show the league that I can be a starter. I want to be in the Pro Bowl. I have been used to setting the bar high.”

While choosing to play Ivy football made Catapano a longshot to end up in the NFL, he wouldn’t trade his Princeton years for anything.

“In the end, it was a blessing,” asserted Catapano. “It was not the normal path but it was so fulfilling. It was such a long road, there was so much emotion. There were so many up and downs and some really low moments. It was a great experience.”

FINAL SALVO: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore midfielder Orban scored the winning goal in overtime as Princeton topped Cornell 14-13 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Two days later in the Ivy title game against Yale, Orban scored a goal but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 12-8 to the Bulldogs. The loss left Princeton with a final record of 9-6 as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL SALVO: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore midfielder Orban scored the winning goal in overtime as Princeton topped Cornell 14-13 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Two days later in the Ivy title game against Yale, Orban scored a goal but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 12-8 to the Bulldogs. The loss left Princeton with a final record of 9-6 as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team ended regular season play by falling 17-11 to Cornell on April 27, Chris Bates sensed things would be different when the teams met in the Ivy League tournament semifinals last Friday evening in Ithaca, N.Y.

But even head coach Bates could not have foreseen the spectacle that ensued as the Princeton outlasted Cornell 14-13 in overtime on the Big Red’s home field, with each team scoring six goals in the fourth quarter before the Tigers got the final salvo of the evening on a Kip Orban tally.

“We knew that it was going to be that kind of game and a dogfight,” said Bates.

“It was a matter of who was going to have the ball last. The game really exploded in the fourth quarter. From a fan’s standpoint, it was a great game, going back and forth. It was one for the ages in terms of the number of goals scored in the fourth quarter and overtime.”

Tiger sophomore Mike MacDonald produced a performance for the ages, scoring nine points on seven goals and two assists.

“MacDonald was lights out, that was a game that will go down in history,” said Bates. “He had seven goals on eight shots. They were really tough shots, we witnessed something really special.

Things ended on a tough note, though, for the Tigers as they didn’t turn the tables on Yale, falling to the Bulldogs for a second straight year in the Ivy championship game, dropping a 12-8 decision.

While Princeton picked up where it left off on Friday, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Orban and Tom Schreiber, it ran out of steam.

We started off quickly, Tom rips a shot that literally rips the net and caused a delay,” recalled Bates, whose team had beaten Yale 10-9 on March 22 but lost 20-of-24 face-offs on Sunday and was outscored 6-2 over the last 23:08 of the title contest.

“We seemed to lose some momentum after that. I give Yale credit, they were hungry. I think Friday night caught up with us in the second half and we were hurt by our lack of depth. It is tough to get and keep momentum against a kid [Dylan Levings] that is facing off like that. They got the ball and played a good possession game. I think our defense got a little tired and Eric [goalie Eric Sanschagrin] wasn’t his sharpest.”

While the loss to Yale kept Princeton from getting the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament, the Tigers were hoping that they could get an at-large bid as they did in 2012. But Princeton received another setback later in the evening when the NCAA bracket was released and Cornell turned out to be the only other Ivy team to get a berth in the national tourney.

“We held out hope and when we got off the bus we said we’ll see how everything goes and regroup,” said Bates, whose team ended the season at 9-6 and ranked 14th in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll of the regular season.

“I think we had the sense that we were going to be on the outside looking in. It was hard to see them taking three teams from the Ivy League, the numbers didn’t add up for us.”

Bates was left with a sense of what might have been as Princeton battled several of the teams in the NCAA field on even terms, losing by one goal to top-seeded Syracuse and fifth-seeded North Carolina and posting victories over Cornell and Yale.

“We beat one of the top teams in the tournament and we had one-goal games with some of the other teams in the field,” said Bates. “It is emotional for the seniors to have it end after being so close.”

While the emotions were raw on Sunday, Bates believes that the program can draw plenty of positives from a 2103 campaign that saw it top Hofstra, Johns Hopkins, and Villanova in non-conference play in addition to other league victories over Harvard and Brown.

“It is Princeton and expectations are high regardless of any circumstance,” said Bates.

“We had a good year, I am pleased by the big wins. I am disappointed that we didn’t beat Yale and get the chance to show ourselves in the NCAAs. We showed that we can play with and beat anybody in the country.”

In the wake of the disappointing end to the campaign, Bates will engage in some tough analysis.

“It is a blank slate,” said Bates. “I don’t reinvent the wheel but I look critically at everything.”

Things are looking up for Princeton, according to Bates. “We have a really solid foundation; there is cause for optimism,” asserted Bates, whose team returns five of its top six scorers in MacDonald, Schreiber, Orban, Ryan Ambler, and Ivy Rookie of the Year Jake Froccaro.

“We have reinforcements on the way. We have a spectacular class of high school seniors coming in. We have players coming back from season-ending injuries (Tucker Shanley, Forest Sonnenfeldt, Rob Castelo) and that will help. We will have more depth and on day one next year we will be a better team than we were at the end of this season.”

Bates didn’t waste any time setting the tone for next season. “We texted the high school seniors on Sunday night and said the process to play on championship weekend begins tonight so they know what our DNA is and what the expectations are,” said Bates. “I am anxious to take the next step and get back to competing.”

LIGHTING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8 shows its form in a race earlier this season. Last Sunday, the Tigers took second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif.     	              (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LIGHTING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8 shows its form in a race earlier this season. Last Sunday, the Tigers took second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Paul Rassam knew that his Princeton University women’s lightweight crew was going to hit some choppy water last spring.

“I think some coaches are afraid to use the word rebuilding but that is where we were at last year,” said Princeton head coach Rassam. “We had a great season in 2011 and then we took our lumps last year.”

It became clear early this spring that Rassam’s rowers had been steeled by last year’s struggles. “Things started really promisingly,” said Rassam.

“We handled Wisconsin easily, I think part of that was because they hadn’t been on the water as much as we had. What was even more promising is when we went out to San Diego and had two hard-fought races with Stanford [defending national champion]. That gave us confidence that the rebuilding had paid off and we had arrived back to where we want to be.”

Last Sunday, Princeton built some more confidence as its varsity 8 placed second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8.

“It was a step in the right direction from the race in Boston,” said Rassam, referring to Invitational Lightweight Cup held on the Charles River on April 21 which saw it place third in 7:17.5 with Radcliffe first in 7:05.7 and Stanford second  at 7:11.1.

“We were in lane four and there was a strong crosswind. To weather that and to stick with Radcliffe much longer than in Boston was great. We think we can get even closer.”

Rassam credits his group of seniors with playing a major role in getting the program back up to speed.

“We have a senior class of five that has been amazing for us,” maintained Rassam of the class which includes Christy Kaelin, Alex Morss, Olivia Panaccio Tresham, Alexa Powers, and Madigan Stanley. “They are different, some are quite vocal and others are quiet and steady.”

Senior co-captain and U.S. U-23 rower Morss sets the tone around the boathouse.

“It would be a mistake to think that she is just a phenomenal athlete and that is why she is successful,” said Rassam of Morss.

“That is only a piece of it. She is a very hard worker; she loves to train. She enjoys pushing herself. We have a lot of underclassmen. They are talented but they are still underclassmen. They need to see the next level of commitment.”

With Princeton next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif., Rassam is looking for a high level of commitment over the next few weeks.

“The Sprints are earlier than usual and we have a whole month to prepare for the IRAs,” said Rassam.

“We usually just have two weeks between Sprints and IRAs. We have time to make changes. We want to improve everything and keep the upward trajectory. We need to be faster out of the blocks and get in an early rhythm. We need to be settling harder in the first 30 or 40 strokes.”

In Rassam’s view, his rowers are poised to keep up their progress. “In other years, we were going well early and we had to hold on to that,” said Rassam.

“In 2011, we had such an experienced crew, it was holding your breath that they would maintain their speed. Each week this season, we are getting better and better. Our best is coming in a month, everything points in that direction.”

In early April, Sheryl Severance was concerned that her Princeton High boys’ golf team might be in for a long spring.

“Initially, it started off rough,” said longtime PHS head coach Severance. “It was freezing cold and a little windy. We were a little nervous and had some bad scores.”

But as the weather warmed up, the scores have gone down for PHS. “We had a 205 in a win over Hightstown on April 19 and that really helped,” said Severance, whose team was 6-8 coming into this week and has been under 220 in most of its recent matches. “They saw they could play with anyone.”

Junior Laura Burke has proved that she can play with anyone this spring, emerging as PHS’s top performer.

“Last year she was in our top five or six; usually in mid-to-high 40s,” said Severance of Burke, who recently finished second in the girls’ Mercer County Tournament and has qualified for the state girls’ tourney to be held on May 23 at Cherry Valley.

“She is a different player this year. She is very confident; the major difference is that she is not afraid to go against anybody. Her drives are long, right down the middle. Her approaches are accurate and her short game and putting are strong. She has the best average on the team at 40.8.”

Another junior girl, Diane Karloff, has developed into a strong player for the Little Tigers.

“Diane picked up the sport as a freshman; it was golf or tennis and she liked golf,” said Severance.

“She works very hard. She gets lessons constantly and it is practice, practice with her. Sometimes she will ask to go to the driving range during practice. She is very dedicated, she has some great scores recently and she is getting better.”

Freshman Andrew Huang has been getting better and better as the season has unfolded.

“Andrew has fit right in; he is a good kid,” said Severance, whose team was slated to play in the MCT on May 7 before playing at Hightstown on May 8 and hosting Lawrence on May 9.

“I would say that he is pretty straight with his drives and long irons. He needs some tweaking around the green but that comes with experience.”

PHS has drawn strength from the experience that senior Robert Morelli brings to the table.

“Robert is our only senior in the top six; he provides a lot of leadership,” said Severance, who is getting some good contributions from a pair of veterans, juniors John Blair and Paul Murray.

“The kids go to him when they have questions or concerns. He doesn’t say much; he is a quiet leader. He is into it. He knows the scores of the other teams and the other players; he gives us information. He is a little more serious about it. Last year, it was just for fun.”

STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Smith contributed a goal as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Lawrence 19-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The win lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Smith contributed a goal as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Lawrence 19-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The win lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Dana Smith’s excellence at both ends of the field helped the Princeton High girls’ soccer team win the Central Jersey Group III sectional title.

This spring, junior Smith is assuming a similar role for the PHS girls’ lacrosse team, sparking the Little Tigers with savvy defense and some gritty play in the crease.

As third-seeded PHS hosted No. 14 Lawrence last Saturday in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, Smith’s two-way prowess was on display. The speedy Smith raced up the field to score the first goal on the contest, picked up several ground balls, and helped PHS stymie the Cardinals on the way to a 19-2 win.

Afterward, Smith said she is relishing the chance to play a bigger role for the Little Tigers.

“This year I have been able to get on attack a lot more; I have always been on the defensive side,” said Smith.

“So now I get to move both ways, which has given me the opportunity to get to call plays, to lead plays, and to run through things. I am helping to organize everything; it is a really great position. I really enjoy working with our team since we have so many really talented underclassmen.”

Smith and her teammates enjoyed their MCT victory over the Cardinals. “Lawrence was actually our first game; it feels like our season has come full circle, seeing them again in the counties,” said Smith, reflecting on the win which lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9.

“So we knew the team and we were ready to perform against them. We have grown so much since that first game. We have learned new plays, new motions.”

PHS’s growth was demonstrated in the Lawrence game by its balanced attack as Gabrielle Gibbons, Oona Ryle, Liz Jacobs, and Emilia Lopez-Ona each scored three goals with Julia Ryan and Taylor Lis chipping in two apiece.

“We have really been working on getting every single player on the field to have their stick skills really sharp and really solid,” said Smith.

“We can trust everyone single player on our attack now. It is really great. It has helped us a lot with our recent success; we have been on a roll recently.”

For Smith, the time she has spent playing defense in soccer has helped her be more effective on attack in lacrosse.

“I play a very similar position in soccer actually,” said Smith. “I think with my experience as a defender I have seen a lot on attack. I watch a lot of attack so now I get to use what I have seen and observed. I get to step back and see where the ball should move next, see the cuts, see the field.”

Smith’s next stop in lacrosse will be Lafayette as she has already committed to play for the Leopards.

“I was looking to play lacrosse in college; I was looking at some great schools,” said Smith.

“Lafayette was the perfect fit for me, close to home, great athletics, and great academics. I really liked the team, the location is perfect. I am so excited to go there after finishing up this season and next season.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman was excited to see her team go full throttle in the victory over Lawrence.

“Today was good because we kept our intensity the entire game,” said O’Gorman.

“In the past, when were up against Allentown and against North (WW/P-N), we let that drop and we let them come back and get the win. Coming out today and keeping that intensity up all over the field for the entire 50 minutes is what is going to make us one of the stronger teams.”

The Little Tigers showed its strong depth on Saturday. “We got to try some new plays and some new concepts and strategies,” noted O’Gorman.

“We were able to just seal the deal and make everyone feel confident, comfortable, and involved. We did have quite a few players involved; everyone stepped up today.”

Involving more players has helped team chemistry. “The biggest thing is team bonding,” asserted O’Gorman.

“We hold the rope for each other. We make up for each other’s errors. As a whole, everyone leaves with a smile on their face. That’s what we want. We learned from our two losses. I think that sometimes losing in the beginning of the season is what you need. You bounce back from it.”

Talking about Smith’s impact puts a smile on O’Gorman’s face. “She is a really a strong asset for the team,” said O’Gorman.

“We have her on attack, we have her on defense, running both sides of the field. She is quick, she hustles to every ball. She is feisty. She is respectful, composed, and very reliable. She will definitely pull a player aside and she knows how to verbalize in a direct manner that isn’t offensive.”

With PHS looking at the possibility of seeing No. 3 WW/P-N in the county semis and top-seeded Allentown in the finals, O’Gorman believes her players will be ready to attack if they get that chance.

“I know those losses are something that is going to fuel us,” said O’Gorman, whose team fell 11-10 to WW/P-N on April 8 and 13-11 to Allentown on April 16.

“You can see that. We just want to see them again. These girls always want to be in competition with those teams. We just know that it is going to be exciting if and when we get to those games.”

Smith, for her part, is confident that the Little Tigers can compete with anybody if they stick to their game.

“We really have to focus on staying strong on our basics, catching, throwing, and running with the ball,” said Smith.

“We need to work on being really solid and keeping our heads; not getting too frazzled or confused because that is when we have problems holding on to the ball. We just need to keep each other up and stick together as a team. We want to be patient, we want to move the ball, we want to spread the field and that goes back to us being able to trust every single player on the field.”

ADVANCE SKILLS: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo races past a foe in action last year. Last Monday, senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13. The Panthers, now 8-4, are also playing in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded third and will host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ADVANCE SKILLS: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo races past a foe in action last year. Last Monday, senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13. The Panthers, now 8-4, are also playing in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded third and will host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cody Triolo fell to his knees on the sideline to catch his breath early in the fourth quarter as the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team found itself in a tight battle with the Hill School.

But as PDS got the ball into its offensive zone, Triolo sprang to his feet and raced into the game.

Moments later, the senior star and Lehigh-bound midfielder buggy-whipped the ball into the net to give the Panthers an 11-9 lead.

That tally proved critical as PDS went on to a 12-11 win over Hill, culminating a gritty rally that saw the Panthers overcome an 8-5 deficit early in the third quarter.

In Triolo’s view, the win was a product of PDS’s team unity. “We actually played pretty sloppy as a team in the first half; what was really great about it was that we stuck together,” said Triolo.

“We came in at halftime and said this isn’t us. They score two goals in the beginning of the second half. After they pump those in, we could have folded. It just shows where our team is at in terms of bonds and brotherhood to come together and get those goals back and get back in that game.”

While Triolo contributed an assist and a goal to help narrow the gap to 8-7 and ended the afternoon with three goals and two assists, he doesn’t see himself as a catalyst for PDS.

“I think we all just play together and make our runs together,” said Triolo, who scored a goal on Monday as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in overtime in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13.

“Everybody takes turns making their dodges. We have a great system with cuts and pops and everything. Honestly our team chemistry on offense right now is unreal. It is spreading the wealth.”

In addition to developing chemistry, the Panthers are showing character. “One of the big things our coaches really challenge us with is being real and dealing with gut check time,” said Triolo.

“You are going to face adversity, not only in lacrosse but it translates into life. That’s one of the things they have been pushing. I was really happy to see the team face adversity and come through with a big win. That was definitely tough.”

It is tough for Triolo to be wrapping up his PDS career. “It is kind of scary; it is flying by,” said Triolo, who also starred for the PDS boys’ hockey team and helped it earn a share of the state Prep title this past winter.

“It seems like the preseason trip to Hilton Head was last week. We are really remembering this and taking it all in. It is awesome. At the same time, you want to leave everything you have on the line. These are some of the last high school games we will ever play.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was proud of how his team played hard and came through on a day when it wasn’t at its sharpest.

“I think we play our best when we just settle down; we went through a period of about four minutes where we got frazzled and started making mistakes,” said Tuckman.

“I think all day we struggled technically but the kids gutted it out and that’s the most important thing.”

The PDS defense showed some guts as it held the fort down the stretch. “When a mistake was made with 43 seconds left and caused the ball to go down to the defensive side of the field, the defense knew that they had to step up and play a role and I think they did that,” said Tuckman.

“Nelson had some really great saves. I think our defense has been solid throughout and that’s been a nice thing for us.”

Another nice thing for Tuckman is the balance he has been getting on the offensive end.

“I thought Taran Auslander had a great game today,” said Tuckman of the senior star who scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Mo-Beard as the Panthers improved to 8-4.

“Jacob Shavel had three goals and two assists, that’s five points for him. We had good balance and that is what has really been the mark of this team.”

While PDS benefits from spreading the wealth, Tuckman credits Triolo with being the team’s catalyst.

“Cody sets the tone, he really does,” said Tuckman, whose team was seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11.

“He is a leader, both in his style of play and in his intensity. While I think it is complete and total team effort, Cody sets the one for everybody to play to and I think they do. They play up to it.”

Triolo, for his part, believes the Panthers are up for a big postseason run. “I think we have definitely got the drive and we want to play for each other and the school,” said Triolo.

“I am excited to play in the tournaments. Lacrosse is a game of runs and you have to keep your cool when they are on a run and you have to keep pushing when you are on your run.”

 

BRIGHT SCHADE: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Maddie Schade heads to goal last Friday in Mercer County Tournament action as ninth-seeded Hun played at No. 8 Robbinsville. Senior star Schade scored a goal in a losing cause as the Raiders lost 26-15. On Monday, Schade had an assist as Hun fell 16-4 to Oak Knoll in the state Prep A semis. The Raiders, now 5-8, will look to get back on the winning track when they host Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then play at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BRIGHT SCHADE: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Maddie Schade heads to goal last Friday in Mercer County Tournament action as ninth-seeded Hun played at No. 8 Robbinsville. Senior star Schade scored a goal in a losing cause as the Raiders lost 26-15. On Monday, Schade had an assist as Hun fell 16-4 to Oak Knoll in the state Prep A semis. The Raiders, now 5-8, will look to get back on the winning track when they host Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then play at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things started out well for the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team last week.

Playing in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament on April 29,  fourth-seeded Hun edged No. 5 Blair 19-18 as senior star and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks scored 10 goals.

Three days later, the Raiders topped Pennington 19-15 with Weeks scoring eight goals and classmate Maddie Schade chipping in six.

But the week ended on a down note last Friday as ninth-seeded Hun fell 26-15 to No. 8 Robbinsville in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

While Hun head coach Haley Sanborn had hoped for a different result, she had no qualms with the effort she got from her players in defeat.

“It wasn’t one of our best games,” said Sanborn. “We played them in our first scrimmage. We are a different team now and they are too. I am not disappointed; I think we played well. We knew coming in that the Mercer County Tournament was going to be tough to begin with but I am proud of them. They all worked hard.”

The Raiders worked hard to the final whistle, outscoring Robbinsville 4-2 over the last six minutes of the contest.

“Kate Weeks did keep pressing forward,” said Sanborn, who got eight goals from Weeks in the loss with Brianna Barratt adding three.

“Schade and Barratt played well. Lauren Apuzzi was great on defense. Amanda Barbour is always a consistent defender for us. Fresca [Francesca Bello] has been having good games for us. Katie Consoli played excellent.”

On Monday, the Raiders played well but came up short again as they fell 16-4 at top-seeded Oak Knoll in the Prep A semis.

In Sanborn’s view, the losses have taught Hun some important lessons. “They have got to use each other; they can’t just rely on running up the field on their own,” said Sanborn, whose team moved to 5-8 with the loss to Oak Knoll and will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then plays at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10.

“The defense needs to be a little tighter. We need to mark better man-to-man. We just need to be on the same page.”

Sanborn and her players have developed a tight bond this spring. “They are awesome kids; I can’t say enough good things about them,” said Sanborn.

“They encourage each other, they support each other. They are just genuinely good kids. It is a dream for me. Obviously we want to win but I think the camaraderie is great. As a coach, I learn from them as well. It is a wonderful situation so regardless of what happens, the season has been successful.”

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High baseball player Zach Tesone rounds third base in recent action. Last Saturday, junior first baseman Tesone had two hits in a losing cause as 16th-seeded PHS fell 11-2 to No. 1 Notre Dame in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers have won four of their last six games after a 1-10 start. PHS will look to keep on the right track as it plays at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High baseball player Zach Tesone rounds third base in recent action. Last Saturday, junior first baseman Tesone had two hits in a losing cause as 16th-seeded PHS fell 11-2 to No. 1 Notre Dame in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers have won four of their last six games after a 1-10 start. PHS will look to keep on the right track as it plays at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Continuing its recent surge, the Princeton High School baseball team opened the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on a high note.

Hosting Trenton last Wednesday in an MCT play-in game, the 16th-seeded Little Tigers topped the No. 17 Tornadoes 9-3. Andrew Frain led the way, going 2-of-4 with two runs and four RBIs while Ben Gross went 2-for-3 with three runs and Hayden Reyes had two hits with a run and an RBI. Rohit Chawla got the win on the mound.

After edging Princeton Day School 3-2 on Thursday in a regular season game for its fourth win in five games, PHS faced a stern test in the opening round of the MCT as it played at top-seeded Notre Dame.

Digging a 4-0 hole in the first inning, the Little Tigers fell short in its upset bid as the Fighting Irish went on to an 11-2 win. Senior third baseman Ellis Bloom and Chawla had RBIs in a losing cause as PHS moved to 5-12 on the season.

The Little Tigers will look to keep on the right track as they play at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10.

After losing to PHS on Thursday, PDS couldn’t get its bats going as the third-seeded Panthers hosted No. 11 WW/P-S on Saturday in its MCT opener. The Panthers managed only three hits as they fell 5-0. Sophomore pitcher Cole McManimon took the loss as he moved to 5-2.

On Monday, the Panthers had a rematch with WW/P-S in a regular season contest and did hit better as Jake Alu and J.P  Radvany delivered RBIs but it wasn’t enough as the Pirates prevailed 7-4.

PDS, who is 8-7 and will play at Steinert on May 8 in an MCT consolation contest, are still in the hunt for the state Prep B title. The Panthers are slated to host Montclair-Kimberley in the Prep B quarterfinals on May 9 with the winner advancing to the semifinal game on May 14.

Eddie Paparella had three RBIs for third-seeded Hun as it hosted No. 14 Nottingham last Saturday its MCT opener but that wasn’t nearly enough as the Northstars rolled to a 16-4 win. The Raiders made five errors on the day as they trailed 7-1 after two innings and 12-3 after four.

Hun did bounce back from the defeat with a 14-1 win over Peddie last Monday. Post-graduate star Brett Ender led the way, pitching a no-hitter and going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs as the Raiders improved to 12-5.

Like PDS, Hun has another title to shoot for as it starts play in the state Prep A tournament on May 15 in a quarterfinal contest. The Prep A semis are slated for May 18 with the championship round scheduled to take place at Lawrenceville on May 19. In addition, the Raiders have a regular season game at Robbinsville on May 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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