July 25, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2012

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

Donn Cabral dominated the competition this spring in the steeplechase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LONDON EYE: Katie Reinprecht looks for an opening in action for the U.S. national field hockey team. Rising Princeton University senior star Reinprecht recently made the U.S. Olympic squad and will be heading to the London Games in a few weeks. (Photo courtesy of USA Field Hockey/Yuchen Nie)

Over her first three years with the Princeton University field hockey team, Katie Reinprecht distinguished herself as a gifted playmaker.

The midfielder from North Wales, Pa. was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a freshman and sophomore and earned first-team All-America honors as a sophomore and junior.

But Reinprecht knew she had to raise the level of her game if she was going to make the U.S. team for the 2012 London Olympics.

“The international game is a lot different; it is a lot faster and your skills have to be a lot sharper,” said Reinprecht, who piled up 44 goals and 31 assists in the first three years of the Tiger career. “You don’t have as much time on the ball.”

As a result, Reinprecht put her senior season at Princeton on hold and moved to San Diego last summer to train with the U.S. national team for the 2011-12 campaign.

Throwing herself into the team’s arduous conditioning routine, Reinprecht has seen the benefits.

“The training regimen depends on the day,” said Reinprecht. “We do lifting, running, and scrimmaging. We do long runs and a lot of different running workouts. We have sessions where we just work on corners. I would like to think I am the most fit I have ever been.”

The work was made a little easier for Reinprecht with the presence of her sister Julia, a rising junior star for the Tigers together with Princeton teammates Kat Sharkey and Michelle Cesan.

“It was nice to have friends but it was even better to have my sister there,” said Reinprecht. “We are best friends; it is nice to have a family member to share things with.”

Reinprecht got to share the joy of making the 16-player U.S. team with her sister. “The majority of the team wanted to hear face-to-face,” said Reinprecht, who will also be joined in London by teammate Cesan, an alternate on the squad with Sharkey not making the team.

“We found out on Saturday and the team was announced on Monday. The whole week there was added pressure and nerves. I was shaking going into the room. It was a remarkable feeling when I found out I was going; it was like a weight off of my shoulders. Julia went in right before me and was standing in the hall. The coaches told me, by the way, Julia is going too.”

The U.S. squad didn’t have to wait until the summer to find out if was going to the Olympics as the team qualified by virtue of topping Argentina 4-2 in the Pan American Games gold medal contest last October.

“Winning the Pan Am games was huge for a number of reasons,” said Reinprecht.

“Argentina was the No. 1 team in the world at the time. It was huge to know that we were in the Olympics and we didn’t have to focus on qualifying. We could start preparing. It made it easier to get games against the best teams since they knew we were going to be in the Olympics.”

Reinprecht is prepared to go hard when she is on the field. “I am an attacking midfielder,” said Reinprecht. “I am a two-way player; I am back on defense a lot.”

Even though the U.S. is ranked 10th in the world rankings, it isn’t about to back down.

“It is something we have been saying since we have qualified, we don’t want to go there and just be happy to be there,” said Reinprecht.

“We want to get on the medal stand. We have to live in the moment and enjoy the experience but not get distracted.”

The U.S. will face some tough foes in its Olympic Pool B, which includes No. 2 Argentina, No. 3 Germany, No. 6 New Zealand, No. 7 Australia, and No. 12 South Africa. The squad will open the summer games by playing Germany on July 29. The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals which will take place on August 8 with the gold medal game slated for August 10.

In Reinprecht’s view, the team’s success depends on taking care of the little things.

“At this level, it comes down to the small details because the teams are all good,” said Reinprecht.

“We need to put the ball in when we are dominating possession. It makes such a difference to get ahead. We need to capitalize on our opportunities.”

VIDEO GAMES: Nate Franks surveys a drill in 2010 as an assistant coach for the Bucknell University field hockey program. Franks, a 2007 Princeton University graduate, came back to his alma mater last year as an assistant coach for the Tiger field hockey program. Later this month, Franks will be heading to the London Olympics as the performance analyst for the U.S. women’s field hockey team. His duties at the Olympics will center on video analysis and breakdown of game action. (Photo Courtesy of Bucknell Athletic Communications)

Nate Franks had just about given up on his dreams of going to the London Olympics as this spring rolled around.

The Princeton University field hockey assistant coach had been seeking a position as a performance analyst with the U.S. women’s Olympic field hockey team since winter but it looked like it wasn’t going to come through.

“I had been talking to the women’s team since last December, asking them to keep me in mind for this,” said Franks, who had filled a video coaching role for the U.S. men’s national team this past fall at the Pan American Games.

“They said no in January, February, March, April, and May. They said they had no credential for me.”

But in late May, Franks’ luck changed while he was on the sidelines at a U.S. field hockey event.

“I was coaching at High Performance and they called and told me I was going,” said Franks.

“I was a little surprised. I wasn’t able to speak coherently for a few minutes. I was pumping my fists and yelling.”

A month earlier, Franks had displayed his abilities on an extended basis for the U.S. program.

“I worked for the women’s team in April in New Zealand for a four nations tournament,” said Franks, a 2007 Princeton graduate who worked as volunteer field hockey coach and women’s lacrosse team manager for the Tigers during his undergraduate days.

“They saw what I could do. The assistant coach of the team was Nick Conway, the guy who brought me into the men’s team.”

His role for the team will draw heavily on his expertise with cutting edge technology.

“I will break down games, sitting in front of a computer, using the Sports Code system,” said Franks, noting that he can code possessions, shots, and other statistics and transfer data utilizing up to 1,200 individual codes.

“With SportsCode, I can spit out info in a matrix and give the coaches salient information on a head set. I radio facts down to them at halftime and at the end of game. I then do a debrief after game.”

Franks’ in-game analysis centers on providing tactical information. “If we are not maintaining possession on the right side of midfield, for example, I can let coaches know and they can adjust things,” said Franks.

The use of the SportsCode system is also valuable in assessing foes. “I will also be scouting; I will be at every single game in the first round since we don’t know who we will be playing from the other pool,” said Franks. “The coaches have a good idea about the other teams. If I notice anything specific, I can pass that on.”

In addition to providing video and computer knowledge, Franks does some hands-on coaching.

“I go with Nick and help with goaltenders,” said Franks, who played professional field hockey in Ireland and coached at American and Bucknell before joining the Princeton staff last year.

“Once we get over there, I will be on field less because I have to be at so many other games.”

Franks is thrilled that current Princeton players Julia Reinprecht, Katie Reinprecht, and Michelle Cesan made the U.S. team and will be at the London Games with him.

“It is tremendous for the players and the program,” said Franks of the Reinprechts, who made the 16-player squad and Cesan, who was named as an alternate.

“I have known Julia since she was 14. I went to school with Sarah [older sister Sarah Reinprecht] and know their parents. It means a great deal that they will be there as well.”

It means everything to Franks to see his Olympic dream come true. “It is an unbelievable opportunity; it is the highlight of my hockey career,” said Franks.

“It gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I have made it to this point. I have been fortunate to find the right people at the right time to motivate me and gave me a lift, like finding Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] in 2003 and finding Nick Conway in 2010. I realize how fortunate to have male and female role models who have been equally inspiring.”

YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE: Scott Bechler bounces up the court in a game this past winter for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, rising senior guard Bechler scored a team-high 14 points for Princeton Youth Sports but it wasn’t enough as the squad fell 53-45 to Team TB in Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League action.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Anthony Brown enjoyed a fine career with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

But when Brown took the court for Team TB last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League against Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS hoops entry in the league, he wasn’t feeling any love for his alma mater.

“We knew they were no pushover,” said Brown a 2006 PHS alum. “I was not going to let these little guys steal one from us; I would never hear the end of it.”

For a while, it looked like PYS would steal one as it trailed only 24-23 at halftime and forged ahead 36-35 seven minutes into the second half.

But utilizing its savvy and maturity, Team TB outscored PYS 18-9 over the rest of the contest to pull away to a 53-45 victory.

In other action Monday night at the Community Park courts, Ivy Inn topped the Clinton Kings 40-33 while Dr. Palmer upset previously undefeated Winberie’s/Miller Lite 57-55.

In reflecting on Team TB’s win, which lifted it to 3-4, Brown asserted that a show of character made the difference.

“We stepped it up on the defensive end,” said Brown. “I know our guys were tired but we stuck it out and dug deep.”

Brown helped Team TB on the offensive end, scoring 11 points with Daniel Waynic tallying a game-high 17.

“They know I am a shooter,” said Brown. “I tried to give them a pump fake and got to the basket.”

Team TB was pumped up to get back into the win column after a tough 50-43 loss to league frontrunner Winberie’s/Miller Lite last Friday.

“We had a tough loss against the No. 1 seed,” said Brown. “This is a win we definitely needed so we took advantage of it.”

In Brown’s view, Team TB has what it takes to come up with some more wins.

“We know we can compete with the best of them; we just have to get over the hump and beat some of the top teams,” asserted Brown.

Utilizing its talent and some key intangibles, Team TB figures to be a tough out in the playoffs.

“I think we will be very dangerous come playoff time; I don’t think anyone wants to see us,” said Brown, noting that the team draws additional strength from being named after Tim Best, a popular local figure who passed away in 2010. “We have the crowd behind us; this is the neighborhood team.”

July 3, 2012

MAKING HER PITCH: Lisa Sweeney and Princeton University Director of Athletics Gary Walters are all smiles after Sweeney was named as the new head coach of the Tiger softball program. Sweeney, who served as the assistant coach at Penn the last two seasons, rewrote the record books during her college career at Lehigh from 2006-09. The Lumberton, N.J. native was named the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year four times and the league’s Player of the Year in 2008. She is replacing Trina Salcido, who stepped down in May after five years as Princeton head coach. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

It was a bit of a lark when Lisa Sweeney hooked on as a volunteer coach for the Lehigh University softball program for the 2010 season.

“It was my fifth year at Lehigh and as I worked on my masters, I wanted to be around my former teammates,” said Sweeney, who rewrote the record books during her sensational career for the Mountain Hawks, getting named as the Patriot League Pitcher of the Year four times. “I am a teacher by trade.”

But after that year, Sweeney got the chance to really get into the coaching trade.

“I got a phone call asking me to be assistant coach at Penn; recalled Sweeney, a 2009 Lehigh graduate.

“They were looking for a pitching coach; it is a fantastic school that I wanted to be part of. I wanted to see if I really wanted to coach.”

The answer to that question quickly became clear for Sweeney. “I fell in love with it; the uniqueness of the team and the fact that each individual brings something special to the team,” said Sweeney.

“You have to find a way to motivate everybody and get the players to improve everyday.”

Sweeney accomplished that goal, helping Penn to a 51-38-1 record over the last two seasons, including the 2012 Ivy South title. In addition, she helped guide freshman pitcher Alexis Borden to an outstanding debut campaign this spring as she earned Rookie of the Year and All-Ivy accolades.

Now Sweeney will be looking to help the Princeton University softball program improve as she took the helm of the Tigers last month.

While Sweeney acknowledges that her resume is a little slim, she is confident she can get the job done.

“It is certainly a fantastic opportunity; some may call it a leap as I have never been a head coach,” said Sweeney, the replacement for Trina Salcido, who stepped down this May.

“Gary [Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters] has done a fantastic job of encouraging young coaches and putting trust in them. I don’t have the experience but I have the right resources to be successful.”

Sweeney, though, has been around Division I softball for a long time. “I was lucky as a kid, growing up around my sister and sister-in-law who both played at the D-1 level at college,” said Sweeney, a native of Lumberton, N.J.

“I went to a bunch of their games. I got to be around college softball and have an idea of what it is about and I wanted to be part of that.”

During her career at Rancocas Valley Regional High, Sweeney certainly marked herself as a player headed to a college career.

The right-hander was a two-time Courier Post South Jersey Player of the year and threw a no-hitter in the state Group IV championship game as a senior to cap a senior season which saw her go 31-2 with an ERA of 0.15.

“We had a really fun team: I loved the day-to-day interaction,” said Sweeney, reflecting on her high school career.

“All of us were really competitive; many of us had dreams of playing in college. Finally senior year, we won the state title. We had been to the semis before that. We had a good group of seniors.”

Sweeney’s dream of playing college ball came true at Lehigh University. “Lehigh had that balance b etween academics and athletics but was really competitive,” said Sweeney. “It had a track record of high achievement and attracting really good players.”

Being around those kind of players was inspirational for Sweeney. “With the name of college across your chest, there is a different accountability and a pressure to play for your school,” said Sweeney.

“Lehigh may not be a big-name D-1 team but wearing brown and white, we were doing everything we could to win. There was a different energy and intensity everyday in practice.”

Sweeney got a first-hand taste of that energy and winning spirit in her debut campaign as Lehigh went 43-14 overall and 19-1 in Patriot action on the way to making it to an NCAA regional title game.

“Competing for Patriot League title and automatic bid to NCAA tournament is something to play for,” added Sweeney.

“We didn’t just want to win our league, we wanted to win a regional. In my freshman year, we knocked off Texas A&M in the regional and they were No. 13 or something like that in the country. That was the culmination of a lot of hard work and camaraderie. We built a true team on and off the field; I never took it for granted.”

Over the rest of her career, Sweeney never stopped excelling, ending up as the top pitcher in Patriot history in wins (94), shutouts (31) and strikeouts (928). But while Sweeney is proud of those records, she wasn’t focused on statistics during her college career.

“I think what they speak to is that I did everything I could for the team to be successful,” said Sweeney, who was the league’s Player of the Year in 2008 and also earned Academic All-American recognition.

“Whatever awards or records I have are the result of doing my best for the team.”

In Sweeney’s view, the Princeton team has the foundation in place to compete with the best in the Ivy League.

“I think it is a program that has had ups and downs the last few years,” said Sweeney, who is taking over a club that went 14-32 overall this spring with an 8-12 Ivy mark.

“They have had some standout weekends, like battling Cornell last year. You can see the resilience of Princeton and the character of the kids in the program. The girls are really special and not just for academic excellence. The softball program has a huge tradition of success.”

Sweeney is determined to add to that tradition of success. “I am a huge team person; I see power in the group,” said Sweeney.

“We have a strong group of young women and building on that is really important. I want to instill a commitment to excellence and doing whatever we can do on a daily basis to get better. I am looking forward to getting started; 2012-13 is going to be a good year for Princeton softball.”

GREEN WAVE: Mike Olentine heads upfield during his stellar career with the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team. Olentine just completed his sophomore season with the Dartmouth College men’s lax team and is emerging as a key player for the Big Green. This spring, he tallied 16 points on 10 goals and six assists, helping Dartmouth produce a late surge that saw it win three of its last four games. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

During his record-setting career with the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team, Mike Olentine was a crowd pleaser.

The elusive, skilled attacker Olentine scored a program-record 140 points in his senior season at PHS in 2010 on the way to joining the Dartmouth College men’s lax program.

Coming home this April as Dartmouth played Princeton at Class of 1952 Stadium, Olentine put on a show for the fans, tallying two goals including the first score of the contest.

“I was fired up; growing up I had watched Princeton a lot in that stadium,” said Olentine, reflecting on his homecoming.

“There was a huge crowd there to support me; I was really surprised. Scoring that first goal was great.”

While things didn’t go great for Dartmouth as it fell 21-6 to the Tigers, the Big Green did enjoy a late surge, winning three of their last four games.

“I think that is something we can build on,” said the 5’11, 160-pound Olentine, who tallied 16 points this spring on 10 goals and six assists as the Big Green finished at 5-9 overall and 1-5 in Ivy League play.

“We got eliminated from the Ivy League tournament and we weren’t going to get an at-large bid. We looked at the last four games as the first four games of the next season. We wanted to win all four and we won three. It was a good way to end the season.”

Upon arriving at Dartmouth in 2010, Olentine saw that he had a ways to go to be a contributor.

“When I got there in the fall, one thing that was clear is how good everyone was,” said Olentine.

“There were no weak links. Every drill was at 100 percent speed like a game. All three coaches are high energy guys, I really liked that.”

Thriving in that environment, Olentine made the traveling squad that spring and didn’t waste any time making an impact.

“My first goal was against Mercer in the third game,” recalled Olentine. “I had taken a lot of shots but nothing had fallen. That was great.”

Olentine, though, did have to change his game a bit as he was shifted to a new position.

“They moved me to offensive midfield; I hadn’t played there since middle school but I was only going to play on offense,” said Olentine, who ended up with four goals and an assist in his freshman season.

“I played middle for a while and then in the second-to-last game, I got in against Penn on attack and scored two goals.”

Over the summer and fall, Olentine worked hard to hone his scoring skills.

“I tried to play as much as I could; I played in tournaments in Vail and at the shore,” added Olentine.

“I worked on conditioning, running as much as I could, and lifting weights. The fall is a good time to work on your game; the juniors are usually on semester abroad and there is more individual coaching. We have practices by positions.”

When this spring rolled around, Olentine was ready to solidify his position on the team.

“I had a really good opportunity; Kip Dooley went down eight minutes into first game and I got in and scored two goals in a blizzard against Colgate,” said Olentine.

“We won the game; that was a great day. After Kip came back, I was getting into the rotation late in games. I came in against Yale and Cornell to give a spark.”

Currently, Olentine is in Hanover, looking to take advantage of academic and athletic opportunities.

“I will be spending sophomore summer at Dartmouth,” said Olentine, referring to the school’s mandatory program which will see him taking two courses in the term.

“I will be doing conditioning workouts with the team and we will be doing lacrosse stuff on our own.”

For Olentine, going to summer school is no problem as he has relished his Dartmouth experience.

“I really have enjoyed every minute of it and getting really close to my teammates,” said Olentine.

“The academics are challenging but older teammates can help you work through that.”

As Olentine looks ahead to his junior season, he is determined to be there when it counts for his teammates.

“I want to be a more complete player and become a go-to player for our offense,” said Olentine.

“I am working on accuracy and having shots on the cage and shooting well with both hands.”

CLUB LEADER: Haley Carstensen fires the ball in action this spring in her senior season for the Dartmouth College women’s water polo club team. Carstensen, a Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville School standout, ended her career on a high note. Serving as the team captain, Carstensen scored 56 goals in helping Dartmouth take seventh at the National Collegiate Club Championships. She was named as the 2012 New England Division MVP, a second-team All-American, and a second-team All-National Collegiate Club Championship performer. (Photo Courtesy of Collegiate Water Polo Association)

Coming out of the Lawrenceville School in 2008, Princeton resident Haley Carstensen had the chance to play water polo for some college varsity programs.

But when Carstensen got accepted to Dartmouth College, it was a no-brainer for her to head there even though the school only had a women’s club program in water polo.

After arriving in Hanover, Carstensen joined that club and quickly realized that her passion for water polo would be more than satisfied.

“We had two practices a week before the season started,” said Carstensen.

“In season, we practice five nights a week with two or three morning workouts. A 100 percent attendance rate is expected. You are a student first but you can’t skip practice to study for an exam.”

Having starred for the Big Red in high school and also having played in the Junior Olympics, Carstensen fit right in with the Dartmouth squad.

“I felt I was able to make more of a contribution than I would have if I had been on a varsity team at another school,” said Carstensen, who earned All-New England Division second team honors as a freshman.

“There were a lot of talented girls. I learned a lot from them, especially in terms of conditioning.”

Applying those lessons, Carstensen emerged as a mainstay for the Big Green over her career, getting named as an All-New England performer all four years and serving as team captain this past spring in her senior season.

Carstensen saved her best for last, scoring 56 goals this season, getting named as the 2012 New England Division MVP, a second-team All-American, and a second-team All-National Collegiate Club Championship performer as she helped Dartmouth finish seventh in the national club tournament.

For Carstensen, serving as captain may have been the most meaningful accolade of her Dartmouth water polo experience.

“It was such an honor; I loved every single girl on the team,” said Carstensen. “Nobody was difficult; no team-building was necessary.”

The position brought plenty of responsibility in the student-led organization.

“You handle budget, finances, and making travel arrangements,” said Carstensen, who also displayed her leadership skills at Dartmouth by serving as a student director of the Upper Valley Special Olympics.

“We didn’t have a coach until after the first tournament so I had to run captain’s practices.”

The Big Green culminated their season by coming up big in its final tournament of the year, the National Collegiate Club Championships.

Eleventh-seeded Dartmouth upset sixth-seeded Notre Dame 11-8 in the first round to get off to a good start in the competition. In the quarterfinals, the Big Green fell 7-4 to No. 2 Michigan. Dartmouth ended the tourney by topping Lindenwood University (Mo.) 5-4 to take seventh place in the event.

For Carstensen, the win over Notre Dame ranks as one of the sweetest triumphs in her college career.

“We had played Notre Dame at Foothill College in California and they had beaten us 14-2,” said Carstensen, who scored four goals in the upset victory.

“We had some girls just coming back from junior semester. We thought the  best thing we had going for us was that they thought we were going to crush us. We thought if we could get the lead and then shoot, we had a chance and that’s what we did.”

Against Michigan, Dartmouth had its chances to pull off another upset. “In the Michigan game, we were ahead 3-2 at half but then we lost our utility player who got kicked out,” said Carstensen. “She is one of our best players; she never makes a mistake. It was tough; it was still a really good game.”

Carstensen and her teammates had to tough it out to edge Lindenwood for seventh.

“It was one of the most physical games; they were doing a lot of dirty stuff,” said Carstensen, who tallied two goals in the finale. “Our coach said we aren’t going to do that, we are going to win our own way.”

In reflecting on her water polo experience, Carstensen believes she learned some important stuff that will serve her well after college.

“Playing sports, no matter whether you are a pro or playing soccer at Community Park on Saturdays, is about being able to work with people whose personality isn’t like yours,” said Carstensen, who recently started working as an analyst for Barclays Capital in New York City.

“You come together as a group. You have to think on your feet because don’t know what the other team is going to do.”

SHORTER ROUTE: Eric Shorter, right, goes after the ball against D’Andre Davis of Florence last Thursday in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game at The College of New Jersey. The recently graduated Princeton High star made one catch for six yards for the West squad as it topped the East 16-6 to snap a four-game losing streak in the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eric Shorter only made one catch for six yards but he was all smiles after the 16th Annual Sunshine Football Classic all-star game last Thursday evening.

For recently graduated Princeton High star receiver Shorter, helping the West squad to 16-6 victory was his main focus.

“It was great; the West side hasn’t won in five years so I feel like it is a little start for them next year,” said Shorter, who celebrated the win afterward with family and friends on a corner of the field at The College of New Jersey.

“The quarterbacks wanted to spread the ball out as much as possible which is fine. As long as we got the win, that was good for me.”

As the team went through practice over the last week, Shorter could sense that the players were coming together.

“There was a lot of friendship going around,” said Shorter, who made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall for PHS and is headed to Monmouth University where he will be joining the football program.

“There was a lot of picking each other up. Even though we don’t know each other that much, it was kind of a bonding session.”

Shorter got to deepen his bonds with PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko, who also played on the West squad.

“That was special; we are going our separate ways after high school so it was good to play with each other,” said Shorter of the Penn-bound Barsamian and the Hamilton College-bound Mitko.

Barsamian. for his part, was glad to take the field one more time with Shorter and Mitko.

“That was a lot of fun; I didn’t expect to ever play with them again,” said Barsamian.

“It was a nice surprise when I found out I would be playing in this game and be able to play with them again,”

Barsamian liked playing with West quarterback Ray Mastroianni of Bridgewater-Raritan, who rushed for 70 yards and passed for 88 in getting named the game’s Most Valuable Player on an evening which saw the West build a 16-0 lead and outgain the East 383 yards to 162.

“He was a playmaker,” said Barsamian of Mastroianni. “I was trying to hold the blocks as long as I could and he was just zipping by all the way down the field.”

Like Shorter, Barsamian could sense that the West team was hungry coming into the contest, having not won since a 14-6 triumph in the 2007 game.

“The coaches were bringing up that the West hasn’t won in five years so I think that was on everyone’s mind,” said Barsamian.

“Everyone stepped it up, trying to get that ‘W.’ Coach Smith [WW/P-S head coach Todd Smith] is a funny guy. He really brought the team together. He had a lot of fun with us the past week.”

As Shorter heads to Monmouth in early August to start his college career, he is looking forward to a fun experience.

“The coaching staff was very nice; I met Miles Austin [former Monmouth standout and current Dallas Cowboys starting receiver] which was a big thing,” said Shorter. “I am going to be a wide receiver; they would like me to start freshman year.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, right, heads up the court last Wednesday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League play at Community Park. Edwards scored a game-high 16 points to help Winberie’s top University Radiology 58-46. It was a sweet win for Winberie’s as the squad improved to 5-0 this season and got a measure of revenge against a University Radiology team that edged it in the league’s 2011 championship series.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

It looked like the Princeton Little League 10-year-old all stars may have been in over their heads last week when they started play in the District 12 tournament.

Princeton started the double-elimination tourney by losing 7-0 to Sunnybrae on June 23 and trailed West Windsor 3-0 midway through an elimination game a day later.

But the Princeton players kept their heads and rallied for a 5-4 victory to stay alive in the competition.

Building on that success, Princeton topped HTRBA 12-1 and Lawrence 14-12 to make it the final six of the competition. Princeton’s run ended on Saturday when it fell 10-2 to Robbinsville in a game that was scoreless through four innings.

In reflecting on his team’s superb District 12 performance, manager Jon Durbin saw the rally against West Windsor as pivotal.

“I think the big turning point and why this turned into a good run was last Sunday when we played West Windsor, which is one of the powerhouses in District 12  baseball,” said Durbin.

“We were down 3-0 going into the bottom of third and we came out and scored three runs in the  bottom of the third including this acrobatic steal of home and that kind of ignited our whole team and turned everything around. We got off to a slow start against Sunnybrae and then we had five runs against West Windsor. Then we came back with 12 against HTRBA on Monday and then 14 on Wednesday against Lawrence.”

In addition to batting prowess, Princeton showed some guts. “Last year when this team would get behind, their heads would go down and they didn’t show a lot of resiliency,” said Durbin.

“One of the things I liked in this tournament is that we were down 3-0 to West Windsor and came back to knock them out. We were up 5-0 against Lawrence and let them go up 8-5. In the very next inning, we came out and scored nine runs to go up 14-8. You have to have that kind of resiliency if you really want to be a championship team in the long haul.”

The team’s fighting spirit was the product, in part, of an increased commitment to the game.

“The other big thing that happened this past year is that a lot of the families put their kids into 1-on-1 pro coach training,” added Durbin. “To be honest, that just elevated our players dramatically.”

That training paid dividends this summer. “I think the top part of our lineup, Nick Trenholm, Jackson Rho, Nick Mindish, my son Teddy, and Ben Kioko, all stepped up,” said Durbin.

“If you look at those stats, I think those five guys had 80 percent of our hits through last night’s game. Last year, even those guys were really struggling against good pitching like this. They are bigger and stronger one year later but it is the individual pro coach training that they all did in the past 12 months that just made a huge difference.”

In his post-game address to the players last Saturday as they sat in left field, Durbin emphasized their strong play.

“I think the big message was that this was a huge run for us,” said Durbin, noting that his squad battled Robbinsville to a 0-0 standstill through four innings and that a couple of bad breaks changed the tone of the contest.

“Until about three years ago, Princeton Little League was a doormat. We made it to the Final 6 so this is a great run. You can’t focus on the fact that we lost the last game. You’ve got to think about how well we did in the whole tournament. We can’t sit here and hold our heads down again; I think that is part of the resiliency message.”

The players are not going to sit pat when it comes to sharpening their game.

“We are going to keep working hard at it,” said Durbin. “Now we are enjoying some success. Whereas last year was rough, we have made that jump.”

—Bill Alden


Chris Edwards and the Winberie’s/Miller Lite team ended their 2011 campaign in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League on a sour note.

After going undefeated in the regular season and two rounds of the playoffs to make it 11 straight wins, Winberie’s reached the best-of-three championship series where the club fell 2-1 to upstart University Radiology.

Edwards and his teammates had the 36-34 loss in the series finale on their minds when the teams met last Wednesday on the Community Park courts in a regular season rematch.

“It was a big game tonight; we were trying to get some revenge,” said Edwards, reflecting on the matchup which saw Winberie’s come into the evening at 4-0, the only undefeated team and in the league, with University Radiology at 3-1.

“But it is only a regular season game so we are trying to get the kinks worked out. We want to get ready for the final run of the regular season and get hot going into the playoffs.”

Edwards helped Winberie’s get off to a hot start Wednesday night, scoring 10 points in the first half as the team built a 29-22 lead at intermission.

“We knew they didn’t have an inside threat,” said Edwards, a power forward who dominated things around the basket. “Plus we have a lot of big bodies so we have got to start using that to our advantage and try to get the chemistry right now.”

In the second half, Winberie’s showed its chemistry and toughness as it dealt with a University Radiology rally which saw the lead get cut to 46-41 with just under five minutes remaining in the second half. Winberie’s outscored its foes 12-5 down the stretch to pull away to a sweet 58-46 win.

In Edwards’ view, the victory and the team’s undefeated record so far this summer is the product of some hard-earned savvy.

“I would say that we are one of the older teams now,” said Edwards, who ended the evening with a game-high 16 points with fellow Winberie’s inside threat Evan Johnson chipping in 15.

“We have been around a while. We have the same core pieces; we are just trying to add those extra little pieces to get over the hump.”

A key piece for Winberie’s is sharpshooting guard Chris Hatchell, who rejoined the team last summer and then started the 2012 season with Ivy Inn before coming back to the fold.

“That was huge,” said Edwards, referring to Hatchell’s in-season return to the squad.

“That was a missing piece for us last year so we had to have him this season.”

Winberie’s is confident that it can end this season on a high note. “Moving the ball and sharing the ball is key; I would say this is the first time where we moved the ball like we were doing last year,” asserted Edwards.

“We know that we have a lot of threats; we need to be taking it inside and outside. No team in the league has enough guys to guard all the offensive threats we have. It is just getting into that flow.”

June 27, 2012

TRIAL PROCESS: Princeton University women’s swimming star Lisa Boyce cheers on teammates in a meet this winter. Rising junior Boyce is competing this week in Omaha, Neb. at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Lisa Boyce started swimming at age 6 and it didn’t take long for her to establish a long-term plan in the sport.

“When I was 8 years old, I knew I wanted to swim in college,” said Boyce, a  native of Champaign, Ill.

As Boyce competed for the Champaign County heat, she proved that such an ambition wasn’t a pipe dream, establishing herself as one of the top young sprinters in the country.

She reached the 100 freestyle championship final at the 2010 Speedo Junior National Championships and qualified for the Long Course Senior Nationals in 100 backstroke. In addition, Boyce was named as one of The News-Gazette’s Top 10 Swimmers of the Decade and the Swimmer of the Year while competing for University High.

Highly sought after by a number of college swimming programs, Boyce decided to come east to Princeton in 2010.

“My top 3 were Stanford, Northwestern, and Princeton,” said Boyce. “When I came on my recruiting visit to Princeton, I felt comfortable. These were people I wanted to be like; I could see myself fitting in.”

Boyce fit in nicely with the Tigers, setting a program record in 100 back with a time of 54.10 in the Big Al Open in her freshman year. She went on to win the 100 back at the Ivy league championship meet and took second in the 100 free and third in the 50 free.

In her sophomore season this past winter, Boyce won the Ivy titles in the 100 back, 50 free, and 100 free. She went on to compete in all three events at the NCAA Championships, placing 38th in the 100 back, 49th in the 50 free, and 31st in the 100 free.

This week, Boyce is in Omaha, Neb. and is racing against the best swimmers in the country at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Boyce, who is competing in the 100 back and 100 free, is being joined at the meet by several current and former Tiger teammates including rising sophomore Courtney Ciardiello (100 butterfly and 200 back), recently graduated Meredith Monroe (200 back), and 2011 alum Megan Waters (50 free).

The Princeton men’s swimming program is sending recently graduated Colin Cordes, (100 free, 200 free, and 200 back), rising senior Will Lawley (200 and 400 free), rising juniors Paul Nolle (1500 free), Daniel Hasler (200 breast, 200, and 400 IM) and Eric Materniak (200 breaststroke) together with a quartet of rising sophomores in Oliver Bennett (200 fly), Conner Maher (200 individual medley), Caleb Tuten (400 IM), and Harrison Wagner (50 free).

In getting ready for the trials, Boyce stayed east to put in extra training.

“We are doing two-a-days at Princeton and I have been adding a few more weight sessions,” said Boyce. “A group of us are training together; it is definitely good. Right now, we are dropping down and tapering.”

For Boyce, getting used to the increased training load was a major adjustment she faced in making the adjustment to college swimming.

“I never did doubles during the school year,” said Boyce. “It was one practice a day during school year and two-a-days in the summer. Doing that and balancing Princeton schoolwork was tough.”

Princeton assistant coach Suzanne Yee believes that Boyce quickly found a good balance as a freshman.

“The thing that struck me was how open she was to learning and doing different things than she was doing before,” said Yee, who works with program’s sprinters.

“Lisa is very passionate about swimming. When she gets in the pool, that is all she is focusing on. In the freshman year, you have a learning curve and hers was easier. Lisa picked up things quickly. In high school, things are more general; you are training for different events. In college, you can specialize and focus on the events that you are best at.”

While Boyce didn’t have her best results at the 2011 Ivy championship meet, Yee saw it as a necessary step in her development as a swimmer.

“As a freshman, there is a lot of pressure at a conference meet,” added Yee. “With Princeton trying to continue its success and the meet being at home, I think she tried too hard to go fast. When you focus on going a certain time, it becomes hard to go that time.”

Boyce, for her part, gained some extra mental toughness from the high stakes competition.

“I felt like I could have swum faster,” said Boyce. “I was very nervous; it was emotionally overwhelming, particularly for a freshman.”

As a sophomore, Boyce felt more at ease. “I was more comfortable with my position on the team and how I fit in,” said Boyce.

“It was really great to qualify for the 100 free at the trials. I made it on the first swim before the qualifying times even came out. The Ivy meet was a lot better.”

Doing so well this winter helped Boyce take another step up the swimming ladder as she qualified for the NCAA championships. “I had wanted to do NCAAs ever since I had heard about them,” said Boyce. “The more I compete at that level, the more comfortable I get.”

In Yee’s view, Boyce has taken things to a higher level in her sophomore campaign.

“One of the differences with Megan Waters graduating is that Lisa stepped up and filled a role on the team as a leader and as a swimmer people can count on,” said Yee.

“She was very consistent at maintaining a higher level. This year, she has been able to focus on the bigger picture and one or two things. She was able to have more fun and swim faster.”

Boyce has the potential to do some special things over the rest of her Princeton career, according to Yee.

“It just depends on what she wants to do; it is an individual sport within a team format,” said Yee, noting that Boyce is naturally gifted in her underwater kicking and is equally adept at the free and the back.

“Going forward, if she keeps working like she is, I could see her scoring at the NCAA meet. That is a very reasonable goal. I don’t know how high she could go; I’d like to see her in top 8.”

Boyce, for her part, is primed to put in some good work this week in Omaha.

“I would like to get my best times but the main point of this is to get experience,” asserted Boyce, who will be competing later this summer at the U.S. Open Swimming Championships looking for a spot in the 2013 World University Games.

“It is one of the fastest meets in the world and it will be great to be around it. One of the key things is to improve mentally so I don’t get overwhelmed when competing at higher levels.”

MIDDLE OF THE ACTION: Hannah Epstein, left, eludes two foes in action this spring in her senior season on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team. Epstein, a former basketball and lacrosse standout for the Princeton Day School, ended her Middlebury career with a bang as she helped the Panthers advance to the NCAA Division III Final 4.
(Photo Courtesy of Middlebury College Athletic Communications)

It was a message that Hannah Epstein and her teammates on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team saw everyday this spring.

“We sat at the captains’ house before the season and we all wrote down individual and team goals,” recalled Epstein, a former Princeton Day School basketball and lacrosse standout.

“We all had NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) and NCAA champions on our lists. We all really wanted that. We had a piece of paper up in our locker room with the goals.”

While Middlebury just missed achieving those goals, taking second in the NESCAC tourney and falling in the NCAA Division III semis, Epstein won’t soon forget her senior campaign.

“It was heartbreaking to lose in the Final 4,” said Epstein. “But our coach said it is not so sad that we didn’t win a national championship, it is sad that it was over and we wouldn’t have another day together. It was such an incredible group. The chemistry this year was unbelievable; we were truly best friends on and off the field. I really enjoyed going to practice. We were all on the same page, there were no cliques whatsoever.”

For Epstein, her experience this spring culminated a lacrosse journey that would have seemed unlikely when she entered PDS seeing basketball as her main sport. The sharpshooting Epstein was a four-year starter at guard for the Panther girls’ hoops program but eventually got the message that her sporting future lay in lacrosse.

“My mom was recording one of my basketball games to send to a coach and Jill Thomas (PDS lacrosse coach) said what are you doing,” recalled Epstein.

“My mom said she was making a tape for college coaches and Jill said she’s not playing basketball in college, she is playing lacrosse. That stuck with me.”

As a result, Epstein became more serious about her lacrosse. “I had been playing both basketball and lacrosse in the summer,” said Epstein. “In the summer after my junior year, I joined a club lacrosse team and played in summer tournaments.”

When it came to joining a college lax program, Epstein found a good fit in Middlebury.

“It was really a no-brainer,” said Epstein. “From the moment I drove on the campus at Middlebury, I found it aesthetically pleasing. I fell in love with the school. I met with the coach [Missy Foote] and she was fantastic. It is great academically and it is one of the top Division III programs.”

In reflecting on her freshman year, Epstein said she had to adjust to the Middlebury program’s rigorous fitness standards.

“It was the conditioning,” said Epstein. “We have a conditioning test in the fall. There is also one at the start of the spring season in February. We have other tests along the way. There is distance running. There is a timed two-mile run and a track component.”

After riding the bench as a back-up midfielder during her freshman campaign, Epstein’s college career got on track when she switched to defense the next spring.

“I was not playing a huge amount freshman year,” said Epstein. “I made a solid switch to defense in my sophomore year. It was a natural progression for me. I loved playing defense at this level. I could use my sprint speed and then take a break. I also could use the basketball footwork when you get low and slide. The big difference from high school is you have to make contact with the player and learn to do that effectively.”

In her junior season, Epstein and the Panthers started to develop the spirit that sparked their success this spring.

“We have outstanding players every year; we just became a more cohesive unit that year,” asserted Epstein reflecting on a 2011 campaign which saw Middlebury go 11-6 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Coming into this spring, there was a lot of optimism around the squad. “We had so much talent; we had big expectations coming into the season,” said Epstein.

“The two captains were also on the field hockey team and they went to the national championship game in the fall. They were saying we really could do it. It was very obvious from the first game that we had a special team.”

Epstein’s love of basketball, though, resulted in her missing some game action once the spring rolled around.

“I played intramural basketball all four years and I got a very bad high ankle sprain in the first week of January,” said Epstein.

“I was out for two months, I was doing rehab for the first half of the season. I stepped on the field for our second game of the season against Skidmore. I played 10 minutes to see how it felt but it wasn’t right. I didn’t come back until the Colby game.”

Epstein made up for lost time, starting nine games down the stretch and getting credit for 20 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. Her defensive work helped Middlebury defeat Tufts and Amherst in the NESCAC tournament before falling 11-10 to eventual national champion Trinity in the conference title game.

Rebounding from that loss, the Panthers went on a superb NCAA run which saw them top Norwich, Montclair State, and 2011 national champion Gettysburg on the way to the national semis.

For Epstein, the 15-9 triumph against Gettysburg in the regional final left an indelible memory.

“The win over Gettysburg was one of the greatest games,” said Epstein. “We were excited to play Gettysburg and it was a really good game. It was closer than the score indicated; they pulled their goalie near the end and we got some possessions and empty net goals.”

Earning the Final 4 spot marked the culmination of a long process for Epstein.

“It was so special,” said Epstein. “It sounds cheesy but it was a dream come true. This is what you have been working for since fourth grade when you watch the NCAAs and see teams win.”

Although the Panthers fell 15-7 to Salisbury University in the national semis, the sting of the defeat pales in comparison to the bonds shared by Epstein and her teammates this spring.

“There are some teams where the mindset is more aligned than others,” said Epstein. “It means that much more to have it happen as a senior.”

Being part of such a group effort left Epstein with lessons that she will carry into life after college.

“Sports teaches you to work for a goal greater than your own interest,” added Epstein, a film major who aspires to someday be a cinematographer.

“The coach worked us as hard as possible. I did workouts I never thought I could handle. It helps you in other areas of life like being able to stay up late and work on a paper.”

GOOD RUN: Alex Mitko takes off on a quarterback scramble in action for the Princeton High football team. On Thursday, the recently graduated Mitko will be playing for the West team for the Sunshine Classic All-Star football game at The College of New Jersey. This fall, Mitko will be heading to Hamilton College where he will be joining the school’s football program.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After enduring a 0-10 season in his junior year on the Princeton High football team in 2010, Alex Mitko was looking forward to the season opener at Northern Burlington last fall.

“We had a lot of players working in the offseason,” said quarterback/defensive back Mitko. “We wanted to get back on the field and try again.”

The Little Tigers came through with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington to snap an 11-game losing streak but Mitko’s joy over the win was tempered when x-rays showed that he had broken his thumb in the contest.

While it looked like Mitko might not see the field much in his senior season, he was fitted with a cast and was ready for action by game three.

“When I found out I could play with the cast, I went to the coach [Joe Gargione] and said play me wherever you want, I will play my heart out,” recalled Mitko. “He asked if I could hold the ball in my left hand. I tried it out and I could.”

Gargione inserted the 5’11, 165-pound Mitko at running back and he starred, grinding out yardage, highlighted by rushing for more than 90 yards in a 26-7 win over WW/P-N. “I went full speed,” said Mitko. “I didn’t have any jukes; it was fun.”

Mitko returned to quarterback in late October and helped engineer a 26-0 win over Ewing.

“We were looking at film and coach said that when you are scrambling out of the pocket, you are a running back and when you are passing, you are a quarterback, “ said Mitko.

The Little Tigers ended the fall at 3-7 and, in the process, left a positive legacy going forward.

“The football team really came back; there are more people coming out,” said Mitko.

“The players coming back know what they can do. The effort that people made paid off. We didn’t have any huge superstars. The guys saw that if we played hard on every play, we could be successful.”

Mitko’s role in that success helped him get selected to the West team for the 16th annual Sunshine Classic All-Star football game which will take place on June 28 at The College of New Jersey.

For the recently graduated Mitko, soaking up knowledge during his first two seasons with PHS helped put him on the path to the Sunshine game.

“Looking back, when I was freshman and a sophomore, I looked up to the older guys,” said Mitko, noting that he learned a lot from star quarterback Mike Olentine while serving as his backup in the fall of 2009.

“They taught me a lot of things. When I was a junior and a senior, I tried to resemble them, knowing that freshmen and sophomores were looking up to me.”

During PHS’s tough 2010 campaign, Mitko got to apply some important leadership lessons.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle after Tom Borchert got hurt and some other guys went down,” said Mitko, who also played on the PHS baseball team.

“Obstacles came our way; I tried to rally the kids. When the team is down in the third quarter you can’t give up. The team is looking to you to provide energy and spirit. It taught me a lesson about looking forward and not dwelling on the past.”

Mitko believes that his Sunshine Classic appearance will be a good learning experience as he prepares to start his college football career at Hamilton College this fall.

“I am really excited to be playing in it,” said Mitko, who will be joined on the West squad by PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko along with Princeton resident Phil Pecora, a star for the Pennington School.

“It means more to me than getting a trophy, being in a game against the best guys in the area. I have talked to kids who have played in it and they said it is the best competition you will have gone against. It is the closest thing to college, everyone is faster and quicker.”

In Mitko’s view, going through the ups and downs of the PHS program has helped prepare him well for college.

“I realize how much the program has given me and how it impacted what kind of person I have become,” said Mitko, noting that he will be playing defensive back in the game and for Hamilton. “I miss the atmosphere of going to practice everyday and working together.”

PHS is certainly going to miss Mitko’s leadership and playmaking ability.

FAMILY TRADITION: Lineman Jeff Barsamian, left, and older brother, Steve, an assistant coach, are all smiles after the Princeton High football team beat WW/P-N 26-7 last fall. The younger Barsamian will be playing in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game on Thursday at The College of New Jersey. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of another older brother, Trevor, who played in the 2010 Sunshine game.

Two summers ago, Jeff Barsamian enjoyed the action at the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game, sitting in the stands at The College of New Jersey as his older brother, Trevor, starred on the field.

This Thursday evening, Barsamian will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother as the recently graduated Princeton High standout plays for the West team in the 16th annual Sunshine game.

For Barsamian, being the second member of his family to play in the all-star contest means a lot.

“I am super excited; I remember when Trevor played in it two years ago,” said Barsamian, a center/defensive end.

“I was looking at the program and all the awesome players who have been in the game. It is an honor.”

Barsamian has taken a circuitous route to earn the all-star honor, having played two years at Lawrenceville before transferring to PHS in time for the 2010 season.

The transition went smoothly for Barsamian. “I felt like part of the team right away, the guys were welcoming,” said Barsamian, who had played mainly JV ball at Lawrenceville. “I only played two years at PHS but it felt like I was there all four.”

While Barsamian emerged as a valuable two-way performer on the line right away for the Little Tigers, he acknowledged that the 2010 season turned into a long year for the program with PHS struggling to a 0-10 record.

“The team was devastated at end of the year that we didn’t win a game,” said Barsamian.

“The junior class got together. We decided right there and then that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen again.”

Barsamian and the Little Tigers wasted little time getting back in the win column, starting the 2011 season with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington.

“That was an emotional game; everyone was ecstatic,” recalled Barsamian.

“All of us had been working ridiculously hard. The seniors were having meetings and discussing what we needed to do. We said let’s get that first win right now. We remembered what it was like to win and we wanted to win more.”

While PHS showed lots of progress last fall as it ended the season at 3-7, Barsamian thought the team could have won even more.

“We lost some tight games; we lost to Lawrence by an extra point and to Allentown by a field goal,” said Barsamian.

“I feel the season was a success but the 3-7 record didn’t represent how well we played.”

This fall, Barsamian will be looking to play well at the college level as he heads to the University of Pennsylvania where he will be competing for the school’s sprint football team.

Although there is a weight limit of 172 pounds in the sprint football league, Barsamian doesn’t think that should be a problem, especially since he has been used to dropping weight as a wrestling star for PHS.

“Right now, I am weighing about 183,” said Barsamian. “I am not really worried. I have been able to drop 10 pounds in a hurry for wrestling. I have to lift lighter weights. I can’t do the heavy lifting; that will put too much weight on.”

Playing in the Sunshine Game should give Barsamian a lift as he girds for college football.

“I am going to go after it and see how I match up against some of the better players in the area,” said Barsamian.

“It will be intense. I have  been playing against those guys for last two years and now they are on the same team.”

Barsamian is looking forward to playing with fellow PHS stars Alex Mitko and Eric Shorter in the game.

“That is awesome; they are both huge playmakers,” said Barsamian. “It is sad that I won’t get to play with the other guys again.”

But Barsamian is certainly not sad that he made the move to PHS. “I think it was the best decision I ever made,” asserted Barsamian.

“The PHS football team had a really great group of guys. We were like brothers; we had a lot of fun.”

And Barsamian should have plenty of fun Thursday as he follows in his brother’s footsteps.