February 1, 2012

PRODUCTIVE RETURN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Danielle DiCesare speeds up the ice in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward DiCesare chipped in a goal as Princeton edged Robert Morris University 3-2 in returning to action after a 16-day hiatus for exams. The Tigers, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3 and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having spent much of January dealing with exams, Danielle DiCesare was bursting with energy when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted Robert Morris University last Monday.

“We were excited to get out of the library and finally have a game, for sure,” said senior forward DiCesare, a native of York, Maine.

“We haven’t played Robert Morris yet so we didn’t know what to expect. We were fired up and ready to go.”

DiCesare got the Tigers off to a good start in their first action since a loss at Cornell on January 14, scoring a goal late in the first period to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over the Colonials.

“We always pass on our line when we have scoring opportunities,” said the feisty 5’4 DiCesare, reflecting on her fifth goal of the season and the 25th in her Princeton career.

“So this game, every time we had a chance, we wanted to shoot. That was exactly what Cookie [Kelly Cooke] did and it was a great rebound. It was great to see the line effort.”

The Tigers continued that effort in the second period as defensemen Rose Alleva and Ali Pankowski scored to give Princeton a 3-1 edge heading into the final 20 minutes.

“All of our goals were team efforts; that was nice to see,” added DiCesare. “There were assists on each goal.”

Things weren’t so nice in the third period for Princeton as the Colonials scored to narrow the gap to one and got a late power play and then pulled the goalie to add an extra attacker to put the pressure on Princeton.

DiCesare, together with Cooke, Alleva, and Gabie Figueroa, held the fort on the penalty kill as the Tigers ultimately prevailed 3-2.

“The 6-on-4 is always interesting; it was definitely dicey,” said DiCesare. “We almost got it out a couple of times but then it got fumbled. We had our defensemen blocking shots and Rachel [Weber] made some great saves. We got it done.”

With Princeton now at 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey play, the Tigers will need to get it done if they are to earn home ice for the playoffs. Princeton currently sits in seventh place in the ECACH standings, six points away from fourth and the last spot to host a series.

“We have six huge games to set us up for the playoffs,” said DiCesare. “It was really nice to get back; normally we don’t have a game before we get back into the ECAC play. It was awesome to get this game and get ready. We know what we have to do for the next six games.”

In DiCesare’s view, the formula for success is simple. “We just need to play consistent; I think we just beat ourselves in the first half of the season,” asserted DiCesare.

“We came back after the holiday break and we put together six consistent games and we had a pretty good record and now we need to do the same thing.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, for his part, liked how his players took care of their business on and off the ice during the exam break.

“The kids worked really hard during exams,” said Kampersal. “They definitely paid attention to their academics and did well there. The captains and the seniors made sure that they were down here. There was not a lot of quantity time but just quality with a half hour, or 40 minutes to do their work and get on with their academics. They stayed in great shape, just like over the holiday break.”

The Tigers showed fresh legs in the early stages of the game against Robert Morris.

“I thought we played really well; we had the advantage for sure,” said Kampersal. “Robert Morris is a solid team but they had played a tough weekend against Niagara so it was their third game in four nights. We definitely understood that.”

DiCesare’s early tally gave the Tigers an advantage. “Danielle worked hard; Cookie made a nice play throwing it to the net,” recalled Kampersal. “Danielle took it from her skate to her stick so it was a nice goal.”

The tallies by Alleva and Pankowski were the products of some good work.

“Rosie made a nice fake and shoot on her goal,” said Kampersal. “We have been working on the power play with Pankowski. Corey [Stearns] made a nice pass to her. Ali has an absolute bomb, it was a nice catch and shoot for Pankowski.”

Kampersal acknowledged that the Colonials put a scare into the Tigers over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“I think we were expecting to come out a little stronger and I think they found their second wind in the third period and we were holding on for dear life,” said Kampersal.

With 5:36 remaining in regulation, Kampersal called a timeout to settle things down.

“I told them they have worked so hard and that they are starting to let it slip away and that their will should outlast their skill right now,” said Kampersal, recalling the message he gave to his players.

The Tigers showed iron will on the game-ending penalty kill. “Cookie, Rosie, Gabie, and Cheesy [DiCesare] did a phenomenal job,” said Kampersal. “They showed a lot of heart and soul at the end there; that is what we need.”

In Kampersal’s view, the Tigers needed the challenge presented by Robert Morris before they get back into ECACH action by playing at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3, and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later.

“We wanted to play a good, solid hockey team,” said Kampersal. “Hopefully it will get us ready for next weekend. I don’t think we could have gone three weeks without a game and then go on the road against Harvard and Dartmouth and expect to compete the way that we want to against those guys.”

Princeton’s seniors are primed to compete hard as they put the finishing touches on their superb careers.

“Now we have the last six ECAC games with four at home,” said Kampersal, whose group of seniors includes Charissa Stadnyk, Paula Romanchuk, Heather Landry, and Julie Johnson in addition to DiCesare and Weber.

“They know that the home games are coming to an end at some point so hopefully they take advantage of each and every one. It is a special group; I know they realize how special this time is.”

DiCesare, for her part, is ready to take advantage of her last few weeks in a Princeton uniform.

“I am just trying to have fun, that’s my biggest thing,” said DiCesare. “I will give my best effort every game because I am not going to have anything left.”

January 25, 2012
PDS Boys Hockey

RENEWING HOSTILITIES: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Conrad Denise, left, battles Jess Norman of Lawrenceville for the puck last Thursday. Junior forward Denise contributed an assist as the local rivals skated to a 2-2 overtime draw in their first meeting in five years.

Bump Lisk and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team brought plenty of intensity last Thursday as they renewed their rivalry with Lawrenceville.

“Going into the game, everyone wanted to play Lawrenceville,” said junior defenseman Lisk, reflecting on the first matchup between the schools in five years. “This is one we really circled on our calendar.”

Supported by a raucous student section dressed in white lighting up one corner of a jam-packed McGraw Rink, the Panthers circled the wagons as they battled a Lawrenceville team featuring players from such hockey hotbeds as Minnesota and Canada with some post-graduate performers.

PDS fell behind 1-0 minutes into the game and trailed 2-1 midway through the second period only to knot the contest at 2-2 on a Ross Colton tally with 14:07 left in regulation.

The game went into overtime and PDS nearly surrendered a goal seconds into the extra session. After surviving that scare, the Panthers frightened the Big Red, producing one point blank shot that went awry and several other good chances.

With the crowd in an uproar, Lawrenceville went on the power play with 1:37 left in overtime. The Panther defenders held on for dear life as several PDS players dove at shots to keep the Big Red from scoring and the game ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

“There was not a single guy in our locker room who didn’t give everything they had,” said Lisk.

“It was an important game and the guys would have killed to win. At the end, guys would have blocked shots with their neck if they had to.”

The fact that the game ended up in a tie was a killer for the Panthers, according to PDS head coach Scott Bertoli.

“I love the fact that my team is in there kicking and screaming,” said Bertoli, whose team was outshot 35-33 in the thrilling contest.

“They felt like they could have won a hockey game so I like that mentality. I like the fact that not only do they they think they can compete, they think they can beat that team over there. The benchmark for hockey in this area is Lawrenceville and we want our program to be at that level and we will continue to push to get to that level.”

PDS junior forward Conrad Denise voiced the team’s frustration at not cashing in on its chances.

“We are upset; it just shows how much we care,” said Denise, who assisted on Colton’s third period tally.

“We knew in the beginning of the game and before the game even started that we are the better team. When you go out and play a team you know you are better than and you don’t win, it is almost worse than losing when you tie them. It is not like they really outplayed us; we had so many opportunities to control the game and we didn’t do it. It is unacceptable in any game.”

Bertoli likewise rued his team’s failure to put Lawrenceville away. We had an opportunity to win the game,” said Bertoli, whose team did go on to pick up a win last Monday as it topped Seton Hall 8-0 to improve to 12-4-1.

“For a good portion of that game, in the second period and the first half of the third period, I thought we outplayed them. We outchanced them and carried the play. You don’t want to get on guys because they are working hard to get the scoring opportunities but at the end of the day, you are out there to score goals. When we are put in spots on power plays and situations, we really do need to convert on those situations.”

In Bertoli’s view, the renewal of the rivalry after a five-year hiatus was a great opportunity for both schools.

“It’s fun, I told the kids this is the kind of thing you are going to remember,” said Bertoli.

“They will remember this type of environment, playing in front of all your friends and family, girlfriends, and whoever else shows up to watch. Enjoy it, thrive in it. As long as they are agreeable to do it again, it is something we will do. I think it is good for the area. These two teams have been playing for 40 years. I have kids on my team whose dads played in the game 30 years ago.”

Bertoli certainly enjoyed the play of his junior goalie Connor Walker, who made 33 saves in the tie.

“That kid is awesome; he has to be one of the best goalies in the state,” asserted Bertoli.

“He singlehandedly keeps us in games; we put so much pressure on him. Our defense gets so involved and our forwards collapse and what ends up happening is the other teams go on an odd-man rush the other way and thank god you have this kid in the net. He bails you out more often than not.”

Bertoli also tipped his hat to his corps of defensemen which includes C.J. Young, Eddie Meyercord, Grahame Davis, Tyler Olsson, and Taran Auslander in addition to Lisk.

“I think our defense has been our strongest part to date; I have six guys that I can count on to play,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 25 and Notre Dame on January 27 before playing at Rye Country Day School (N.Y.) on January 30.

“They kill penalties, four of them are on the power play on a regular basis. The biggest difference between this team and teams we have had in previous years is their ability to make plays. They are confident to go defense-to-defense and to handle the puck in the neutral zone. It has allowed our forwards to be more efficient on the rush; we get pucks in stride and we take advantage of odd man situations.”

Lisk, for his part, sees an increased confidence level in the PDS program collectively.

“My freshman year, something wasn’t there with the program and now it is,” said Lisk.

“We have just developed so much as a group, especially the juniors. There is a ton of guys in that class, Cody Triolo, Conrad Denise, Rob Colton, me and we have grown together. Everybody works and we all want the same thing, to get another prep championship.”

The disappointment surrounding the stalemate with Lawrenceville will spur the Panthers to work even harder.

“I think that is going to motivate us even more in the long run,” asserted Lisk.

“Everybody here wanted a win and we are going to take this 2-2 tie and not think of it as a tie but almost as a loss because we think we are the better team. We’ll get back on the horse tomorrow and have a good practice.”

PDS fans react to their team's first goal

SUPPORT NETWORK: Going in white-out mode, Princeton Day School students cheer for their boys’ hockey team during last Thursday’s clash against Lawrenceville. The Panthers gave their student supporters plenty to cheer about as they rallied twice from one-goal deficits to tie Big Red 2-2 before a capacity crowd at Lisa McGraw Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt Hoffman

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hoffman dribbles the ball upcourt last Friday in PHS’s 61-48 win over Steinert. Senior guard Hoffman contributed 16 points in the win with classmate Davon Black scoring 18 as PHS improved to 6-7. Hoffman has caught fire as he heads down the stretch of his Little Tiger hoops career, averaging 14.6 points a game in PHS’s last five contests. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on January 27 before playing at WW/P-N on January 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Applying a mindset that helped him star for the Princeton High boys’ cross country team, Matt Hoffman has developed a finishing kick on the basketball court.

“In the beginning of the game, I am a little cold,” said PHS senior guard Hoffman.

“But as the game goes on I get into it and get into the flow. I can feel the adrenaline
in my body.”

As PHS heads into the homestretch, Hoffman is saving his best for last, having averaged 14.3 points a game in his last four games before last Friday’s contest against visiting Steinert.

“As a senior, there is a different mentality,” explained Hoffman, who served as a captain this past fall for a PHS boys’ cross country team that won a sectional title.

“Last year, I would be a little scared. If I make a mistake, it doesn’t get to me. Last year, it got to me. Now I just keep running the floor. With the cross country, that’s easy for me.”

Hoffman and fellow senior, Davon Black, have gone out of their way this winter to pass on some lessons to the younger PHS players.

“In practice, Davon and me always take the time to go over to them and ask them about their lives,” said Hoffman, who also stars for the PHS baseball team.

“I talk to them to make sure they keep their heads up because they are young. If they get their heads down, it is hard to come back.”

In the game against Steinert, Hoffman helped PHS rally after it got down 22-20 in the wake of a 6-0 Spartan run early in the third quarter and head coach Jason Carter called a timeout to read the riot act to his charges.

“Coach told us the way we got our lead was playing defense,” recalled Hoffman. “He said to play defense when we go back in. I think, personally, that we play better when we are angrier. I think that is the key sometimes.”

Hoffman channeled that anger into some big offensive plays, hitting a left-handed lay-up and a long 3-pointer as the Little Tigers responded with a 7-0 run to regain momentum.

PHS went on to pull away to a 61-48 win with Hoffman tallying 16 points and Black scoring 18.

“It was definitely good to get a home win; it always sparks interest,” said Hoffman, reflecting on the victory which lifted PHS to 6-7. “This part of the season is the toughest part to get through. It is midway and the guys are a little tired.”

PHS head coach Carter liked the way some of his younger players performed on Friday.

“We do have some young guys, even though the roster says juniors, they are first-time varsity guys and some of them are first-time varsity athletes,” said Carter, who got some good play off the bench from juniors Ellis Bloom and Lior Levy in the win over Steinert.

“We are just getting their feet wet and getting them a little bit of experience. Hopefully you are going to see it down the road in the next month or so. We are taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. We have had really, really good practices the last few days.”

That work in the gym paid dividends down the stretch on Friday as the Little Tigers outscored the Spartans 25-17 in the fourth quarter.

“We just wanted them to play the passing lanes; they weren’t that great of a passing team,” said Carter.

“We wanted to cut down the lanes and try to get some deflections and hopefully the deflections will lead to turnovers and fast break points. We wanted to play more of an up and down game instead of a half court game. We were really proud of how they responded.”

Carter is proud of Hoffman’s play and the senior leadership he is exhibiting. “Matt has been playing well; he has grown a lot in the last two months or so,” added Carter.

“He has been providing some leadership on and off the court. He has been able to come up big when we need someone to step up and make a play. We were in little bit of a lull in the third quarter and he got into the paint with a left-handed layup. We need for a senior to step up and he was able to deliver.”

In Carter’s view, Black is also delivering on a more consistent basis.

“Davon dedicates himself to the team and he has dedicated himself to the game,” said Carter, whose squad hosts WW/P-S on January 27 before playing at WW/P-N on January 31.

“He had some struggles early in the season when some guys were keying up on him. He has learned how to play through being double-teamed and triple-teamed and how to make the team better through that. He has also learned to take advantage when he does have 1-on-1 opportunities.”

Hoffman, for his part, is determined to help PHS take advantage of the opportunities that come its way down the stretch.

“I think we just need to keep our spirits up,” said Hoffman, who will be heading to either Michigan or Cornell next year.

“I think sometimes we get a little bit down and we will have bad games. That’s normal. With coach’s practices recently, we have been more energetic and we feel the sense of urgency. It is coming to the end and we really need to step it up.”

Matt DiTosto

GOING TO THE MATT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Matt DiTosto heads up the ice in a game last season. This winter, junior forward DiTosto has emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring with 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists through the first 12 games. Last Friday, DiTosto contributed a goal and two assists as the Little Tigers topped Nottingham 12-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt DiTosto admits that he misses playing with older brother, Dean, on the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

“My brother was a big loss,” said the junior forward, referring to the graduation of sibling Dean, a star defenseman and two-time team captain. “His loss affects our defense a lot and the leadership as well.”

As an assistant captain for this year’s PHS team, DiTosto is trying to apply some of the leadership lessons he learned from his brother.

“I am leading by example which is probably the best thing,” said DiTosto. “It is always good to stay positive going into a game but you don’t overlook an opponent. If you have any teammates who are feeling down or joking around that is not good; you have to get everyone focused on the game.”

DiTosto has been having a positive impact offensively, emerging as a top offensive threat for PHS, leading the team in scoring with 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists through the first 12 games.

“I don’t really think about me leading the team in scoring,” said DiTosto. “I try to think about how well the team is doing. We are not really at where I hoped we would be; I feel like we are a pretty skilled team.”

DiTosto joined sophomore teammate Mike Wasson on the Mercer Chiefs club team to help improve his skills.

“That was a step up from my old travel team,” said DiTosto. “It is triple-A level and it is much harder competition. Playing that has developed my hockey sense a little better. My puck work with Mike is obviously really good.”

Last Friday, DiTosto put in some good work, notching a goal and two assists as PHS cruised to 12-1 win over Nottingham.

“These games are dangerous for us because if someone gets hurt, it will affect a much harder game,” said DiTosto, reflecting on the victory which improved PHS to 8-4-2.

“In these type of games I like to get goals for kids that don’t always see ice time. That is just a good thing to do.”

It was also good for PHS to bounce back from a disappointing 5-2 loss to Hopewell Valley four days earlier.

“I felt like we didn’t have our best effort against Hopewell,” acknowledged DiTosto.

“We had a really good practice session on Thursday and to come out and get a win, no matter how you get it is always nice after a bad loss.”

While PHS head coach Tim Campbell liked the way his team took care of business, he knows that one-sided games have limited value.

“I have never been a big fan of these games but it is a good opportunity to work on things that we need to work on,” said Campbell, who got two goals apiece from Connor McCormick,  Gabe MacGregor, and Will Greenberg in the win over Nottingham with Kirby Peck, Jack Andres, Chris Munoz, Kevin Quinn, and Danny Kingsley also finding the back of the net.

“Early on, we had a couple of different forechecking systems that I wanted to work on. In all honesty; I am adverse to 10-goaling people. I try to avoid that but there comes a point where the games just needs to come to an end. It was really nice to see a few of our guys get their first goal; we had three first goals of careers tonight. That’s always fun to see, the guys enjoy that.”

Campbell has enjoyed seeing DiTosto mature into a star. “Matt has made a lot of progress physically,” said Campbell.

“He’s always had a lot of raw physical talent; he has gained a lot of confidence over the years playing with his brother and playing with Fraser [Graham] last year. He is only a junior so he leads by example for the guys below him.”

PHS needed that leadership as it looked to rebound from the loss to Hopewell.

“It was a wake-up  call; we had a practice last night that was probably the best practice of our entire season,” asserted Campbell.

“We were full speed, communicating, concentrating, passes were tape to tape. It was night and day. I have been banging my head against the wall, trying to figure out what the formula is with these kids, trying to get them mentally prepared for big games.”

In Campbell’s view, the Little Tigers have what it takes to do well in the big games ahead.

“Something I mentioned to them in the locker room tonight was that we have hit our stride at the end of January and into the postseason which is fine but we need to do that,” said Campbell, whose team plays WW/P-S on January 25 at the Mercer County Park rink before facing Cranford High on January 27 at Baker Rink.

“We need to continue that on a consistent basis. It is just frustrating when we give away games that could help us with seeding and things like that but it is what we have to work with.”

DiTosto, for his part, believes the Little Tigers can repeat history and produce another stellar stretch run.

“Usually this part of the season we start to pick up our game a lot more and that’s what I am hoping,” said DiTosto.

“We can get some wins in our last games to get a good seed for the MCT and the state tournament as well. So getting wins, no matter how we do it, is what I am focusing on. I am trying to make sure that everyone stays positive.”

Gabby Vukasin

WALKING TALL: Gabby Vukasin races up the ice for the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team in recent action. Sophomore forward Vukasin, a former hockey and soccer star at Princeton High, walked on to the Williams team as freshman. This winter, she has emerged as a star for the Ephs, tying for the team lead in goals with 12 through 16 games.

Blessed with good size and athleticism, things came naturally for Gabby Vukasin during her high school ice hockey career.

Vukasin was the go-to player for the Princeton High girls’ team from the moment she hit the ice and also starred for the Princeton Tiger Lilies and New Jersey Colonials club programs.

Her success had Vukasin looking to join a college hockey program. “I started thinking about playing in college when I was 16 and everyone was talking about recruiting,” said Vukasin, a 2010 PHS grad who was also a star goalie for the Little Tigers girls’ soccer team.

But no schools ended up seriously recruiting Vukasin and Williams College (Mass.) emerged as her first choice.

“I visited Williams twice and when I went to other schools, I realized I was comparing them to Williams,” said Vukasin.

“I met with the hockey coach and she said she had a big freshman class coming in and she couldn’t push for me.”

But Vukasin was offered the opportunity to walk on to the Williams hockey team and she pushed her way on to the squad last winter.

“I did the summer workouts and then I had to try out in the first three practices,” said Vukasin.

“It was very nerve-wracking, I never had to fight for a spot like that. I definitely could hold my own. In the second practice I separated my shoulder. They must have liked what they had seen because I made the team. I was ecstatic. It was a great feeling; I felt like I had really accomplished something.”

For Vukasin, playing at the college level prompted some uneasy feelings at first, as she got up to speed.

“There was definitely an adjustment period,” said the 5’6 Vukasin, who scored two goals and had two assists in 22 appearances last winter.

“It is a quicker game. There is a lot more crisp passing. On turnovers, the puck goes right up the ice. There is so much emphasis on each game. There are more systems. We do a lot of video work and watch other teams and plan how to deal with their systems. It took most of the year to get used to it.”

With a season under her belt, Vukasin focused on her conditioning over the summer.

“I didn’t play as much hockey this past summer,” said Vukasin. “I lifted more and I worked out more.”

It didn’t take long for Vukasin’s fitness and intensity to catch the eye of new Williams head coach Meghan Gillis.

“The first thing with Gabby is her work ethic, she competes hard when it comes to every practice,” said Gillis. “She is tall, fit, and strong. She is a power forward.”

Parlaying that power into productivity, Vukasin has become a go-to player for Williams this winter, as she is tied for the team lead in goals with 12 through 16 games.

Last Saturday, Vukasin scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Ephs edged Colby 4-3 to improve to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) play, more than doubling last season’s win total of four.

“I didn’t expect it,” Vukasin said of her scoring prowess this winter. “I didn’t do as well with scoring last year, it takes a while. I don’t have great stick-handling skills but I have found a pretty good role in the front of the nest. I am decently sized for a NSCAC player and I use my size.”

Vukasin’s teammate and fellow Princeton resident, senior Sarah Herr, notices the difference in Vukasin this season.

“Gabby worked hard over the summer,” said Herr, who skates on the same power play unit with Vukasin. “She is aggressive around the net; she goes after rebounds like nobody’s business.”

In Gillis’ view, Vukasin is just scratching the surface of what she can achieve.

“Gabby has a good skill set and size for this league,” said Gillis. “Clearly with the numbers she is putting up, she can get better and better. I am looking forward to seeing what she can do over the next two years.”

Vukasin, for her part, believes the team can do some good things over the rest of the winter.

“I think we are working things out,” said Vukasin. “Last year, we had so many close games that we lost. Now they are starting to go our way. We are working hard to correct things. Communication is key between the players and between the players and the coaches.”

And Vukasin’s good work has certainly been a key to Williams’ success this winter.

Sarah Herr

FACING THE END: Sarah Herr, right, gets ready for a face-off in a game earlier this winter for the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team. Senior Herr, a Princeton native and former Lawrenceville School standout, is enjoying a superb final campaign for the Ephs. Having recently moved to forward from defense, Herr has contributed six assists to help Williams post a 9-7 record through last weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information)

For Sarah Herr, playing defense has been her calling card as she worked her way up the ice hockey ladder.

“I am a natural defender; I think of myself as a defenseman,” said Herr, a Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville star who is a senior on the Williams College (Mass.) women’s hockey team.

But earlier this winter, Herr was moved from her comfort zone around the blue line up to forward. While the shift didn’t thrill her, Herr was determined to master her new role.

“If my coach wants me to play center, that’s what I am going to do,” said the 5‘2 Herr. “She asked me for a reason and I am going to do my best.”

Herr has proven to be a catalyst on the forward line for Williams, picking up six assists and giving the Ephs power play a lift.

Williams head coach Meghan Gillis is pleased with how Herr has responded to the move.

“We were looking for depth at the center position to get more players on the ice,” said Gillis.

“Our center has a lot of responsibility in the d-zone; almost like a third defender. With her defensive experience, Sarah provided immediate stability. She also brings composure and a sense of maturity to the power play. She has done a great job quarterbacking that for us; we now have the leading power play in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference).”

Over her Williams career, Herr has been forced to deal with a lack of stability as the program has had a different head coach four straight seasons. While that situation has been challenging, Herr has relished her experience with the Ephs.

“Playing college hockey and developing the relationships with the other girls has been everything I have dreamed of,” said Herr.

“The coaching changes were not what I dreamed of. The members of the senior class have relied on each other; we have had to be there for one another.”

Herr and her classmates are determined to end their careers on a high note.

“I came into this season excited to play and make this season great,” asserted Herr.

“The senior class wants to make the season great for ourselves and the team. I am holding myself accountable to set an example. We have a very, very young team with 14 or 15 underclassmen.”

Gillis, for her part, credits the senior group with providing inspiration for the squad’s younger members.

“I had three coaches in four years when I was in college so I know what they have gone through,” said Gillis, a star forward at Bowdoin.

“They have been appropriately supportive and vocal. They want what’s best for the program and they want to leave a legacy for the younger players.”

Gillis’ arrival has been a big plus for the program, according to Herr. “I like her; it may not matter as much to my class since we are leaving but we don’t want another class to deal with new coaches and the challenges associated with that,” said Herr, who has helped freshman forward Perry McCarthy, a fellow Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville teammate, deal with the challenges of college hockey.

“Coach Gillis is doing a good job; she is a merit-based coach. If you play well, you will see ice time.”

The Ephs have been playing very well recently, having gone 7-2 in the 2012 portion of their schedule to improve to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in NESCAC play.

“I think we have been making progress,” added Herr, reflecting on a season which has seen the Ephs already more than double their win total of four last winter. “The non-conference games were  good for the young players to get time and for the team to work on things.”

In Herr’s view, starting the New Year with a 9-0 win over Plymouth State helped get the Ephs rolling. “It was more than a win; we had great team play,” said Herr, who has 24 points so far in her Williams career on six goals and 18 assists.

“People weren’t trying to do things on their own. We had good control of the puck and good teamwork all the way through. Before, we weren’t playing our game and some games slipped away. It was great to see us stick to our game.”

Herr believes Williams is developing the game to do some damage down the  home stretch.

“The NESCAC is a very close league and I think it is going to be even closer this year,” said Herr.

“We need to be ready for every single game and work every game. We can accomplish as much as we want. We have talent; people have to want to play with each other.”

Over her four years, Herr has accomplished a lot as person and a player.

“It has help me come into my own,” said Herr, a history major who will be working for Credit Suisse in Raleigh, N.C. after graduation.

“I am more self assured than I was as a freshman; that is to be expected. I have also gained a self reliance. Academically, it is challenging everyday and hockey is the same thing. Everyday you are expected to give your best. Some days, you may only be at 80 percent but you learn to give all of that 80 percent.”

Skye Ettin

SKYE HIGH: Skye Ettin heads to the basket in recent action for The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team. Sophomore forward Ettin, a former Princeton High star, transferred to TCNJ this season and has made an immediate impact on the program, averaging 7.5 points a game. Earlier this month, Ettin enjoyed one of the more memorable games of his basketball career, coming home to score 15 points at Jadwin Gym as the Lions lost 79-68 to Princeton. (Photo Courtesy of TCNJ Sports Information)

Skye Ettin has spent a lot of time at Jadwin Gym over the years.

“I have been to so many Princeton University games at Jadwin and I played there in camps when I was young,” said Ettin, a former Princeton High boys’ hoops star.

Earlier this month, Ettin enjoyed his most memorable visit to Jadwin, playing for The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team as it faced Princeton.

“I was very excited to be on the court, I was soaking it all in” said Ettin, a sophomore forward for the Lions reflecting on the January 8 contest between the local foes.

“I saw my family and a lot of friends behind our bench. On the other side of the court, there were a lot of PHS guys. I knew that coach Carter [PHS boys’ hoops coach Jason Carter] had sent out an e-mail and I knew some people were planning to come. I saw all my buddies from my class on the high school team. I didn’t expect that many people.”

Ettin put on quite a show for his legion of fans, scoring a team-high 15 points as Division III TCNJ fought valiantly in a 79-68 loss to the Tigers.

“I did my best; I didn’t want to disappoint all the people that were there,” said Ettin, reflecting on his performance which saw him hit 3-of-5 three-pointers and drew raucous cheers from his supporters on both sides of the gym.

“I was hoping to have a good game and help the team do well. We played with them for a good amount of the game. We were ahead 20-16. We didn’t fold; we gave them a competitive game.”

The 6’3, 170-pound Ettin is thrilled to be competing at TCNJ. After a superb career at PHS which saw him score 915 points and help the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior, Ettin headed south to Guilford College in North Carolina where he made the basketball team as a walk-on. Ettin, though, broke his foot before the season began and never saw any game action.

Having nearly chosen to go to TCNJ after high school and still feeling a comfort level with the program, Ettin decided to come back to the Princeton area to get a fresh start in his college hoops career.

“Everyone was real welcoming,” said Ettin. “We had a lot of new players, five transfers and three or four freshmen,” said Ettin.

“There were a lot of guys in the same boat. Doing open gym, working out and running, we were coming together. Things were jelling and are still jelling.”

Ettin enjoyed his formal welcome to college hoops as he made his debut on November 19 in an 84-66 loss to NYU.

“It was real exciting; it was my first real game since PHS,” said Ettin, who had four points in 19 minutes in the opener.

“It was a great experience. NYU was a really good team, it was a good test. We are a young team and we made some mental mistakes. We played tough; they have some big boys.”

As Ettin has picked up experience, he is adjusting to the demands of college basketball.

“In college ball, the players are a lot more physical and faster,” said Ettin. “A D-I player may be 6’8 but in D-III they are 6’4 and 200. It is a lot faster pace and everyone can shoot.”

Ettin’s shooting touch helped him have a breakout game, scoring 16 points against Drew on December 5.

“We played at home; there was a decent crowd,” recalled Ettin, who went 8-for-12 from the field. “I got a couple of good looks and some shots fell. It got my confidence flowing.”

Shortly after his outburst against Drew, Ettin moved into the starting lineup.

“We were not getting off to fast starts and we were making up for it after that,” said Ettin. “Coach was looking to mix it up and try different lineups. I was excited and trying to contribute the best way I can. Before that, I was playing good minutes off the bench.”

TCNJ head coach Kelly Williams likes what Ettin has been contributing to the Lions.

“Skye is one of those guys who has been one of our glue guys,” said Williams. “I think he appreciates the opportunity of coming back to the area and playing. He is really taking this opportunity very seriously and he is a guy we are going to look to in the near future to add some more character to this program.”

In Ettin’s view, the Lions have the opportunity to do some good things over the rest of the season.

“We are going to try to make the playoffs, anything can happen from there,” said Ettin, who is currently averaging 7.5 points a game for the 8-11 Lions.

“We have a lot of home games coming up so hopefully we can get jump-started and get some momentum. I need to stay more consistent. My play has been up and down. I need to bring more energy and rebounding.”

Ettin has enjoyed coming home to get his college hoops career rolling.

“It has been a great fit; it is nice to be 20 minutes from home and be able to help my parents,” said Ettin.

“I like being at a small school and I like my classes. The people have been great. I became friends with the guys on the team and have met people through them. I am living with some of the guys next year in a house.”

For Ettin, strengthening the foundation of the program is his main focus.

“I am determined to get better and help the program,” said Ettin. “I want to give everything I have got to make the team better.”

January 18, 2012

MAKING HIS CASE: Hun School boys’ hockey star Alex ­Vukasin chases down the puck in recent action. Junior forward Vukasin has emerged as the top offensive weapon for the Raiders, having tallied a team-high 10 goals so far this season. Hun, now 6-3, heads to Maryland this weekend where it will play at the Landon School on January 20 and at Calvert Hall on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally had some misgivings as his Hun School boys’ hockey team got an extended holiday break.

“We took two whole weeks off and before the break we had two games cancelled there,” said first-year head coach McNally.

The break, though, seems to have done the Raiders good as they have started 2012 off by going 3-1, beating Hill 6-0 on January 6, Episcopal 7-1 on January 9, and Pennington 4-0 on January 13 with a 3-1 loss to LaSalle last Wednesday.

McNally believes the time off reinvigorated his players. “The break gave them a little time away for them to kind of miss it and want to compete again instead of just doing the same thing everyday,” said McNally, whose team improved to 6-3 with the win over Pennington. “I was very surprised; we came in from the break and have been playing very well.”

While McNally was disappointed with the loss to LaSalle last Wednesday, he still saw some positives in the effort.

“We certainly were sluggish at the start,” said McNally, whose team trailed 3-0 after two periods.

“In the third period, we dictated the play a little bit. If we hadn’t spotted them a lead, it might have been a different story. We started the year fairly strong and we have only gotten better every week. Unfortunately we lost today. It is not something I am going to worry about. In our league play, we have won every game and we are in first place so a lot of things are going right.”

The play of junior forward Alex Vukasin is certainly one of the things that has been going right for the Raiders.

“We expected Vukasin to be a dominant force on our team and since the break, he really has been,” said McNally of the speedy Vukasin, who scored four goals in the win over Episcopal.

“The Episcopal game was a coming out party for him this year. He dominated the game, he was on a plane of his own. We had to go without him for a couple of weeks before the break because he had hit his head. It wasn’t until after break that he was ready to actually do what he is capable of doing and now we are seeing what it is. We are certainly happy to have him healthy and playing.”

McNally is also happy with the play of sophomore forwards Alec Karanikolas and Spyridon Avgoustiniato.

“Alec has been given a bigger role this year,” said McNally. “He got his feet wet as a freshman and now he is has a regular shift and is a go-to guy as a sophomore. He has done great with it; he scored a couple of goals the other day. He is very coachable; he has been a gem for us. Spy keeps knocking in goals. He has three or four on his own; he just seems to find them. He is one of those kids who hangs out in front of the net and all of a sudden the puck comes and he bangs it in. He is definitely a right place, right time kind of guy.”

Senior forward Harry Hagen has been showing the right stuff for the Raiders.

“Harry Hagen has definitely been one of our strongest players to this point,” said McNally.

“He is scoring goals and he is also being a very good leader as the senior he is. We have only two seniors and we are kind of hurting for somebody to step up in that role. He does a lot of the little things right and he always wants to be on the ice.”

On the blue line, defensemen Eric Szeker and Brad Stern have been doing some good things. “We lean pretty heavily on Eric and Brad,” added McNally.

“They log the majority of the ice time and they have put up some points themselves. Brad is more of an offensive guy and Eric is more of a defensive guy. We have them playing at least half the games; they don’t get many breaks. They have been steady and reliable for us back there.”

Sophomore goalie Devin Cheifetz  has emerged as a reliable performer. “We knew Devin was a very key member of our team and we were just waiting for him to take over,” added McNally of Cheifetz, who had 41 saves in the loss to LaSalle.

“The Episcopal game was a huge one for him too. We won by a bunch of goals but it wasn’t a lopsided game. He definitely had a big part of that; I told him that was his best game of the year so far and today he was extremely active. He stopped the puck well and played the puck well. We have gotten to the point where we can not only feel comfortable with him but rely on him to greatly contribute to us winning.”

In McNally’s view, the team is headed in the right direction. “As we go forward, we are going to make sure week to week that we continue on this trajectory where you are playing your best hockey when it matters at the very end instead of being on a roller-coaster and going up and down every week,” said McNally, whose team heads to Maryland this weekend where it will play at the Landon School on January 20 and at Calvert Hall on January 21. “For us, the focus is to focus.”

SCORING SURGE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Lauren Johnson heads to the basket last Wednesday in PDS’s 35-18 win over Stuart Country Day School. Junior guard ­Johnson tallied 12 points in the victory. A day earlier, Johnson exploded for a career high, pouring in 22 points in a come-from-behind 41-37 triumph at Pennington. The Panthers, now 5-5, host Abington Friends on January 18 before playing at Lawrenceville on January 20 and South Hunterdon on January 23 and then hosting Hun on January 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Lauren Johnson took the court for the second half at Pennington last week, some parental advice was going through her mind.

“My dad always tells me to score more,” said junior guard Johnson. “I realized this is the time to do it. We always relied on Janie [Smukler], Tiff [Patterson], and Sarah [Godwin] last year. Without them, we have to learn how to score on our own.”

Johnson took her dad’s words to heart, exploding for 12 points in the third quarter.

“I had no idea what was going on,” recalled Johnson, who had scored only two points in the first half of the contest which saw the Panthers trailing 20-12 at the break. “It just happened, everything was falling. I wasn’t going to question it.”

With the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter as PDS cut the Pennington lead to three points, Johnson coolly sank 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch as the Panthers pulled out a 41-37 triumph.

“I was breathing; I had to stay calm,” said Johnson, reflecting on her mindset at the line as she put the finishing touches on her career-high 22-point outburst.

“During practice, I work on my free throws. I just learned, yeah it is a tight game but it doesn’t change your free throw shot.”

Coming into the game, Johnson and her teammates had to change some things as they had lost 39-22 to Pennington in December.

“We wanted to slow it down and run through our offense because last time, we were all fresh in new positions since we had just lost Janie,” said Johnson, referring to Smukler’s season-ending knee injury.

“Our main goal was to stay calm and be confident and strong with the ball. Team-wise, we were better than last time but we had expected to be even better. We did that in the second half.”

In the fourth quarter, the Panthers tightened things up on the boards and defensively to close the deal as they outscored the Red Raiders 12-5 in the period.

“We realized that this is obviously a winnable game and all we need to do is box out and play the way we know we can play,” said Johnson.

PDS head coach Mika Ryan saw defense as the key to turning the tables on Pennington.

“After many hours of looking at the DVD from the last game, I recognized that we needed to play good half court defense,” said Ryan.

“We are not able to run with a team like this. We needed to block out and allow no second shots and no shots in transition. That’s what we really focused on, good halfcourt defense, whether it was man or zone.”

At halftime, Ryan didn’t feel that her team was executing the game plan. “I challenged them at halftime,” said Ryan. “I didn’t think they were playing anywhere near their potential. I didn’t think they were playing smart.”

Ryan certainly liked the way Johnson answered the challenge. “LJ takes it to heart; I have never seen her play like that,” asserted Ryan.

“I thought her floor game was good too. She made good decisions; she ran the floor well. She always surprises me; I don’t know how I put words on this one. We have already talked about her becoming our point guard for next year and I said your job is going to be distribution and making sure that everyone else is happy and getting the ball. Then she comes out and scores 22; point guards can score too.”

Johnson’s passing led to one of the key buckets of the game as she set up a jumper by Tess Zahn with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.

“I knew in my heart that we were going to win this game when Zahn made that jumper,” said Ryan.

“She had just missed two free throws and I thought she was going to start hanging her head and she hit that shot and I am thinking we are going to win this game. Some things like that, you just know.”

PDS got some good things in the win over Pennington  from junior stalwart Hannah Levy.

“I thought Hannah Levy was outstanding; she just does so many little things that don’t get attention,” added Ryan, whose team went on to top Stuart 35-18 last Wednesday to post its third straight win and improve to 5-5.

“She got some key rebounds and the shot she made when she got hammered, I thought was a big shot. She is tough, I thought she was terrific, with key shots, key rebounds, and a good floor game.”

With the Panthers having been using just six players due to a rash of injuries, Ryan was looking for some toughness as they went through a stretch of three games in five days.

“We looked at the last two games plus the Stuart game as a three-game season,” said Ryan, whose team hosts Abington Friends on January 18 before playing at Lawrenceville on January 20 and South Hunterdon on January 23 and then hosting Hun on January 24.

“I said come Wednesday night, we want to be 3-0 on this season and then we have time to rest. I said I need everything you have for these three games. I need your focus; I need your energy. We are just trying to take it a step at a time and stay healthy so we can continue our season. That is always in the back of my mind.

In Johnson’s view, the win over Pennington could end up as a big step forward for the Panthers.

“I feel like the season is going to pick up from here,” said Johnson. “It has been challenging endurance-wise. I feel like I have learned to be more confident with the ball because I have to be point sometimes and I am not really used to that so I have to suck it up. A lot of us have learned that we do have a shot and we have become more confident in ourselves.”

GOOD GIG: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Marisa Giglio flies through the water in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Giglio posted wins in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke to help PHS top Steinert 114-56 and improve to 7-1. The Little Tigers have a meet at Notre Dame on January 20 before hosting Hightstown on January 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Marisa Giglio and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ swimming team brought a little extra motivation into their meet last Thursday against Steinert.

After losing 100-70 to powerful WW/P-S two days earlier and tasting defeat for the first time this season, the Little Tigers were ready to put that setback behind them.

“After a hard loss at South, it is nice to have a good hard meet and come out and work really hard,” said junior star Giglio.

PHS put in some good work as it cruised to a 114-56 win over the Spartans and improved to 7-1.

“I am really happy that we didn’t get down from South and that we came back and did really well in this meet,” said Giglio.

With wins in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, Giglio certainly did well in the victory over Steinert.

“If you lose your own race at say South, then you get yourself a little bit down and you need to come back from that,” added Giglio, who also helped PHS to victories in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.

The Little Tigers will be looking to come up big this week as they take on WW/P-N and Notre Dame.

“We have had a good season; we could be even faster,” said Giglio. “We are hoping to do better with meets like North and Notre Dame coming up.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the way his girls team came through against Steinert as it bounced back from the WW/P-S loss.

“There is an adage about controlling the things that you can control but nobody likes to lose on the scoreboard,” said Hand, whose other individual winners in the Steinert meet included Serena Deardorff in the 200 individual medley, Nicole Kratzer in the 500 free, and Christie Samios in the 100 backstroke.

“I think our kids seemed to understand that the attitude is based on truth and they work hard. I know it would be more disappointing to lose to a team in a squeaker; South is just very strong. The good thing about swimming against South is that they always swim with enthusiasm. The challenge of swimming against a good team is to see if you can do your best against the best.”

Hand depends on Giglio to be one of his best swimmers. “Marisa did a real nice job in both of her swims today; she has trained hard through the break,” said Hand.

“She is a very committed athlete. It may be happening inside but she doesn’t appear to worry too much about her own performance. She just seems to get in there and do the best that she can; that is a positive influence on everybody.”

Giglio, for her part, is confident that PHS can produce a positive finish to its season.

“We are getting really excited and we are starting to think about what we are going to swim individually,” said Giglio, reflecting on the county championship meet which is slated for February 4 at Lawrence High.

“It is an exciting time right now. Everything is coming, the counties and the state meets.”

Addison Hebert had an ice pack on his left shoulder and a smile on his face after helping the Princeton High boys’ swimming team top Steinert last Thursday.

Fighting through tendinitis, the PHS senior star played a major role in the 119-51 victory, winning the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly and swimming legs for the victorious 200 medley and 200 free relays.

For Hebert, the win in the 200 IM was a personal highlight. “I am just coming back from a shoulder injury,” said Hebert, who was sidelined for about a month in the early stages of the season.

“It was actually a great swim for me. I dropped two seconds and it put a lot of positive perspective for me to know that there is more to come. I am going to start training even harder and the rest of the team will follow suit and we will all get better and swim faster.”

Hebert was also heartened by his swim in the butterfly “I was really pleased with what I did,” said Hebert.

“It was tough right after the 200 medley; I was exhausted. I am glad I gave it all I had. I wasn’t far off my best time so it was nice. I had a good time doing it.”

It wasn’t easy for Hebert to pull off that double as his shoulder was bothering him.

“It was hurting today,” said Hebert. “I was glad I was able to hold back that pain and do the swims I did.”

Unfortunately, Hebert has gained a lot of experience in swimming through pain during his PHS career.

“Believe it or not, all four years in high school I have had an injury,” said Hebert, who had bouts with tendinitis in his freshman and sophomore seasons before cracking his elbow last year in a bicycle accident.

“I always wished that I would have been able to stay in the groove and continue training all year without having to take a month and a half pause. I deal with what is given to me and I make the best out of it and keep a positive attitude all the time. Now that I am back in the season, I have to pick my game up. I have to start working even harder.”

Hebert enjoys working with his classmates as they have helped transform PHS into a dominant force, winning three straight Public B Central Jersey sectional crowns and cruising to the county title last year.

“We have been with each other for four years and we have all been doing so well,” said Hebert, whose fellow senior stars include Victor Honore, Matt Kuhlik, Derek Colaizzo, Harun Filipovic, and Jacques Bazile.

“It has been a great bonding experience for all of us. We have grown so much together as a team. We have all learned to deal with the stress as a team and to deal with the wins and losses. It is just great to have them here; it is almost like a big family.”

That senior group is shooting to add another win in the county meet to their already stellar resume.

“Hopefully we will be able to repeat last year,” said Hebert, reflecting on the county championship meet which is slated for February 4.

“We have a really solid lineup with great depth all around. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get a lot of firsts and seconds there and win it again. It will be pretty awesome.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his team displayed an awesome presence as it improved to 8-0 with the victory over Steinert.

“I was paying attention to how they looked; I thought we had a great chemistry on the deck today,” asserted Hand, who also got wins from Peter Kalibat in the 200 free, Kuhlik in the 50 free, Colaizzo in the 100 free, Honore in the 500 free, and Will Stange in the 100 backstroke.

“It is our best job this year in having a nice, loose but very focused attitude. There was a lot of cheering and a lot of positive feedback after races. They were not over activated in the sense about worrying about stuff. I think that is important for going down the line. On the day when we have to swim our fastest,  it is good to come out feeling really relaxed and be ready to perform physically rather than being uptight.”

It is important for PHS to have Hebert swimming at full strength. “Addie is versatile but he also has specific things that he brings to us, particularly in butterfly and IM,” said Hand.

“So as we move into  the final phase, he allows us to think about the shape of our medley and our free relays. Assuming he keeps coming along in his butterfly, I see him as being in four events now instead of having to be limited to freestyle. Time will tell but the more secure he feels, the better we are.”

While the county meet is on the horizon, PHS isn’t looking ahead to that.

“What is really nice is that we have hardly thought about counties at all,” said Hand, whose team was slated to swim at WW/P-N on January 17 and at Notre Dame on January 20 before hosting Hightstown on January 24.

“We have got big meets next week with North and Notre Dame and we are focusing on that. We want to be real fast on one of those days.”

Hand knows that his swimmers will have to be fast if they are to make a second straight appearance in the Public B state championship meet.

“First of all, we want to be one of the top four power point teams if we can,” said Hand, whose team fell 90-80 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the title meet last winter.

“If we can’t, so be it. If we have to swim a championship meet early, we will do it. Summit has been on the radar, Scotch Plains is all over the radar. They swim very fast and they swim against very good teams. Haddonfield, Mountain Lakes, and Ocean are all there. I don’t think getting one of the top seeds is an automatic.”

Hebert, for his part, will be maintaining his customary positive approach, no matter who PHS ends up facing in the states.

“We are keeping all the pressure off of us; we are just going into it,” said Hebert.

“If we get into states, we are going there to swim fast. We are not defending anything or any title. We are not seeking revenge. We are going in strong and we just want to win states.”

SUPPORTING CHARACTER: Princeton University women’s basketball player Laura Johnson drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior reserve guard Johnson has embraced her supporting role, providing leadership and outside shooting off the bench as Princeton has started 13-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play. The Tigers are currently on exam break and will be back in action when they host Brown on February 3 and Yale on February 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Laura Johnson knows that she doesn’t have to be a star to be a major contributor for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

As one of three seniors on the squad, reserve guard Johnson has soaked up some telling lessons on leadership during her college career.

“The past two years when we won the Ivy League we have been led by really good seniors,” said Johnson.

“We have had a wide range as to what role those seniors have played on the team. We have had someone like Tani [Brown] who didn’t really play that much but was a leader on and off the court; she was vocal and everyone’s best friend. Then we had someone like Addie [Micir] who was the Ivy Player of the Year.”

The affable Johnson is crafting her own leadership style this winter. “I just looked at them and realized that no matter what my role is on the court, I can always be that leader,” said Johnson, who is averaging 3.1 points in 12.6 minutes a game this season. “I can be vocal and show the freshman how it is done and be the voice of support to my teammates basically.”

Last Sunday against visiting Columbia, Johnson provided some deadeye shooting to go with her words of encouragement.

The 5’8 Johnson scored 12 points on 4-of-7 three-pointers in 18 minutes off the bench as Princeton routed the Lions 94-35 before 742 at Jadwin Gym to improve to 13-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy play.

Acknowledging that Princeton had been sluggish in a 64-35 win over Cornell on Friday, Johnson said the Tigers were looking to be sharp against Columbia as they played their last game before going on an 18-day exam hiatus.

“We had a sour taste in our mouths after the game Friday; we won big and the points looked good but we had a lot of turnovers and we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked,” said Johnson.

“Our first five came in really big for us and set the tone immediately. It is really easy going in off the bench when you have a first five that takes care of business in the beginning.”

The Tiger reserves took care of their business as they helped extend the Princeton lead to more than 50 points for a good portion of the second half.

“It is good to get the second group coming in more and getting some more playing time together in the game,” added Johnson, a native of Lower Gwynedd, Pa., who now has 424 points in her Princeton career.

“It gets everyone feeling really good when they start making some shots. Mariah [Smith] was doing really well; Alex [Rodgers] came in and hit some shots. Meg Bowen went off. Getting people like that to get shots up and start getting the confidence they need really helps us as we move into the rest of Ivy League play.”

Getting off to a 3-0 start in Ivy play sends the Tigers into the break feeling good about themselves.

“We are happy with what has happened so far,” said Johnson. “It is a tough period for us because no one wants to be studying all day. Practicing without playing is also tough in general. We are happy that our last game before that period was a good game for us. Coach was happy so we know she is not sitting and brooding about this weekend. It really sets a good tone for us going into these next three weeks so we will just keep practicing.”

Princeton head coach Banghart set an intense tone Sunday, making it clear that she didn’t want a repeat of the effort she saw against Cornell.

“It is basically you don’t want me crabby for the next three weeks,” said a grinning Banghart, who got 21 points from Niveen Rasheed in the win over Columbia with Lauren Edwards chipping in 19.

“Also, these guys have so much pride, they know they didn’t play well on Friday. I was about to tell them I am going to quit on your transition game and you don’t want me to get to that point. I think they showed ‘coach don’t quit on our transition game, we are willing to push it and take open shots.’ They did that, as you saw, which is really hard to guard. We had over 100 rebounds in two games [57 against Columbia and 55 against Cornell]; we just want to own the glass all season long.”

Banghart likes the pride the Tiger reserves have shown in pushing the starters.

“The only way they can gain experience is to get it,” added Banghart. “You  earn it in practice. They are sitting behind some very talented players so they have to stick with it. I thought defensively there were a couple of lapses but you would expect that. They haven’t had a lot of game experience yet but overall I think they are growing up.”

In Banghart’s view, Johnson has grown into a key leader for the Tigers. “LJ has had to develop into appreciating and executing in a reserve role,” said Banghart.

“That role is as important as everybody else’s. She has bought into it and is making a difference when she is in. That’s all we can ask. I always say you don’t remember individual performances, you remember the senior class of every team you are on so be the senior class that wins another title. Lauren is quiet, she barely has a pulse; Devona is a thinker so she is really pensive and LJ is a perfectionist so the three of them together cover all the spectrums. It is a very eclectic group.”

That class has the Tigers on track for another special season. “I am very pleased; I would never have guessed we would be 13-4 given the schedule we gave them,” said Banghart.

“The kids really had to find and discover their roles and our leadership had to find their voices. To go 13-4 with the schedule we had is remarkable.”

Banghart believes her team can build on its superb start when it returns to action in February.

“The good thing is that we have three weeks now and then we have two very important back-to-back weekends and we’ll be ready,” asserted Banghart, whose club hosts Brown on February 3 and Yale on February 4.

“We got what we needed to get and now we have time to get better at certain areas. We will bring the boys in so we play against bigger, stronger, and faster people. That will help us get sharper because we need to get sharper by February.”

Johnson, for her part, is ready to savor the last few weeks of her college career.

“I know I am going to miss it; the seniors try to take a picture at every away game on the court,” said Johnson, who will be working after graduation for Deutsche Bank in New York City, doing sales and trading.

“It is getting very sentimental; I don’t think it has really 100 percent hit home yet that this will be the last few games I will ever play competitive basketball in my life. I am trying to take the little moments and not take them for granted, just cherishing this experience.”

JERSEY GUY: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday against visiting Colgate, freshman forward Kesselman, a native of Mays Landing, N.J., produced a breakout game, scoring two goals and adding an assist as Princeton topped the Raiders 6-2. The Tigers, who tied Cornell 3-3 on Saturday, are 6-10-5 overall and 5-8-2 in ECAC Hockey play. Princeton is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it hosts Connecticut on January 31. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Jersey guy Aaron Kesselman didn’t need a lot of arm-twisting when it came to joining the Princeton University men’s hockey program.

“My sister went here; she graduated this past spring,” said freshman forward Kesselman, a native of Mays Landing, N.J., referring to sister Megan, who rowed for the Princeton women’s lightweight program.

“When she would come home, she would tell the family how it was. The way she described things, it seemed almost too good to be true. When I was invited on my visit here, I was like you are absolutely right about everything you said. I loved it.”

While it was love at first sight for Kesselman when it came to Princeton, it has taken him a little longer to get up to speed on the ice. The 5’11, 190 pound Kesselman appeared in 12 of Princeton’s first 19 games, notching just four points on two goals and two assists.

“The beginning of the year was the toughest part,” said Kesselman, who played three seasons with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs of the EJHL, scoring 96 points in 112 games.

“You have to adjust to the speed of the game and how quickly you need to get the pass up to the guys. It’s just the next step from juniors to this level.”

Coming into the 2012 portion of the season, Kesselman started to feel a comfort level.

“Coach [Bob Prier] talked to us at individual meetings and told us how the second half of the season should be easier because you are already used to it,” said Kesselman.

“You come back after break feeling great. You are not really a rookie any more, you have that experience from the first half under your belt.”

Last Friday against visiting Colgate, Kesselman didn’t look like a rookie, tallying two goals and an assist as the Tigers cruised to a 6-2 win over the No. 12 Raiders.

As Kesselman took the ice Friday night, he had a feeling that Princeton was primed for a big effort.

“We definitely came out with a lot of energy; we had our best week of practice by far, the most intensity for sure,” said Kesselman. “We had momentum from this week and we came in confident.”

The Tigers gained momentum from the play of Kesselman and his linemates, Brodie Zuk and Will MacDonald as they were responsible for three of Princeton’s goals, including two in a 4-0 second period outburst.

Kesselman tallied the first and third Princeton goals and assisted on the fourth.

“On the first goal, I got a little piece of it,” recalled Kesselman “I thought someone else got it in but I will take it. In the second one, I kept my stick on the ice and went to the net and got a great pass from Brodie and it just went in. Coach is always telling the second guy to crash the net.”

In Kesselman’s view, his outburst Friday could be a turning point for him.

“I’d like to think so; that would be great,” said Kesselman. “I am just going to keep working my hardest. Definitely the way we practiced this week benefitted all of our games, myself included. We brought ourselves to the playoff mentality that we need to be at and we are just going to keep on getting better and hopefully I can do the same.”

Princeton head coach Prier believes that Kesselman is getting better and better.

“He is a kid who plays hard; he is a tough kid,” said Prier, whose team showed its toughness a day later against No. 9 Cornell, fighting back from a 3-0 third period deficit to tie the Big Red 3-3 and move to 6-10-5 overall and 5-8-2 in ECAC Hockey play.

“He is starting to figure out the game at this level and understanding that opportunities are a little more limited than in juniors. He really capitalized on it tonight. They were hardworking goals, going to the net. He stuck around for one and he beat a guy to the net on the other one. He kept his stick on the ice.”

Prier liked the way his players kept their noses to the grindstone in the win over Colgate.

“They came out and played physical; they reloaded the forecheck so much,” said Prier, who got two goals from Jack Berger in the win with Matt Farris chipping in another.

“They had an opportunity to hem in a really good team; they outworked them and they were rewarded. Outworking the opposition in this league is the main ingredient for success and the guys did it.”

After some early struggles as it has adjusted to new coach Prier and his staff, Princeton appears to be finding a rhythm.

“We needed a game like that; I think the guys have been working hard to try to get one and we needed to pop,” said Prier.

“You could kind of see it coming the last few games since they came back from Christmas break refocused and reenergized. They have done great in the second half, we have one blemish so far and that was at Yale [a 6-2 loss on January 7].”

Princeton’s progress this weekend bodes well for the rest of the second half of the season.

“Confidence breeds confidence; wins breed winning,” said Prier, whose team is on exam break and returns to action when it hosts Connecticut on January 31.

“Now we have to start stringing some together. These guys have been great here in the second half. From here on out, it is kind of playoff mindset. You are fighting for positioning going into the playoffs so you have to start playing like it is the playoffs. You can’t pass up on any hits, you have to crash nets. You have got to stop at the net. Doing those little things is going to pay off down the stretch.”

Kesselman, for his part, is confident that the Tigers can produce a big stretch drive.

“We have had a ton of road games; that is tough and we battled through it,” said Kesselman.

“All of our wins have been a really great team effort; tonight was a perfect example of that. I don’t see any complacency in the locker room after this. We are going to keep building on this and be a better team.”

January 11, 2012

Over the course of her career with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Massachusetts native Heather Landry has produced some of her biggest highlights against Harvard.

In her freshman season in 2008-09, Landry scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Princeton victory at Harvard. A year later, she notched the game-winning tally in a 2-1 win over the Crimson.

Last Friday evening, Landry was up to her old tricks when Princeton hosted 10th-ranked Harvard at Baker Rink. The 5’5 senior forward notched two assists as the Tigers posted a 3-0 triumph.

Afterward, Landry acknowledged that her success against Harvard was no coincidence.

“I think it is definitely a Boston-area kid thing; especially when I go there because I usually have 40 fans in the stands,” said Landry, who hails from Lexington, Mass.

“I think everyone here is up for them. Part of the thing is that they are always ranked and on top. They are someone to shoot for and they are someone we can beat so it is always a big game.”

Landry helped Princeton get a big shot of momentum late in the first period as she set up Sally Butler on a goal; that put the Tigers up 1-0.

“Denna [Laing] was coming wide I just went to the net to bother the goalie,” said Landry.

“I was trying to see if there was anything I could do. The goalie came out really far and the puck was sitting there and Sally came in and knocked it right in.”

Minutes into the third period, Landry tormented Harvard again as she fed Butler for an insurance goal.

“I was coming along the boards and I knew Sally was right next to me,” recalled Landry.

“Their defense was closing up on me and I kind of put it behind me knowing Sally would get it. It is sort of a dangerous play but I knew she would get it. She took a nice shot right through their five hole.”

Landry knows she is lucky to be teamed up with sophomores Laing and Butler, having recently been moved to that line after Olivia Mucha was sidelined.

“Those two work well together and it is fun to play with them,” asserted Landry.

“I think they are both really good goal scorers. If I give them the puck, they will score; that’s good. When I was a freshman I was playing with seniors; it is fun to play with different people.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal had fun seeing Landry pestering Harvard.

“Our Massachusetts kids definitely looks forward to the opportunity to play Harvard,” said Kampersal, a Boston-area native himself.

“Harvard has been a top program for so long; I always think there is extra incentive to play them because of their excellence.”

In Kampersal’s view, his team produced its top performance of the season so far in the win over the Crimson.

“We got two good efforts against Ohio State but this is our best in terms of being disciplined and our execution,” said Kampersal, whose team had two ties in its recent trip to Ohio State.

The Tigers did get a break as an apparent Harvard goal was disallowed after a video review by the officials.

“Being down 1-0 in the first minute would not have been a great way to start,” said Kampersal, who got a 20-save effort from senior goalie Rachel Weber as she posted her third shutout of the season.

“It was a fluky play but our kids, whether they were up or scrambling, kept their composure the whole time. They never really panicked so I thought it was a good solid team effort. Everyone chipped in and contributed. The defense broke out when they needed to break out for us and got it in deep when they needed to get it in deep.”

The Tigers got another big effort from Butler, who has emerged as the team’s top finisher.

“Sally was a monster out there today; she had a lot of jump in her step,” said Kampersal of Butler, who has a team-high 11 goals.

“Her skating was good; she is always good around the net. We need that finishing touch and it is nice to see her get in double digits for goals. That is the kind of effort we need out of her everyday. If we get it, we’ll be in really good shape.”

Kampersal is hoping that the win over Harvard will get Princeton rolling.

“It is definitely a big win; we will definitely enjoy it but we need to have a good consistent effort against Dartmouth tomorrow,” said Kampersal, whose team ended up skating to a 2-2 tie with the Big Green on Saturday to improve to 7-9-4 overall and 6-6-2 in ECAC Hockey play and move up to third in the league standings. “I thought all the lines played well.”

Landry, for her part, is determined to enjoy the final weeks of her college hockey career.

“I think all of us realize coming after the Christmas break, half the season is over,” said Landry, who will look to keep rolling this weekend as Princeton plays at Colgate (8-11-1 overall, 3-5-1 ECACH) on January 13 and at third-ranked Cornell (12-2 overall, 8-1 ECACH) on January 14.

“I think we have a really good group; we are all really close. There is a sense of camaraderie. We really want to put all we have into it because it is the last time that we will get to play together and play in a really competitive environment.”

After spending the last two seasons as a member of the supporting cast for the Stuart Country Day basketball team, Parris Branker is ready to shoulder more responsibility this winter.

“It’s difficult but it’s fun; I like being a leader on the court,” said senior guard Branker.

“I have a lot of help from the other two seniors, Jen Dias and Angela Gallagher. They help out and encourage the team.”

Things proved to be a little difficult for Branker and her teammates as they battled Northern Burlington last Wednesday in their first action since late December.

The Tartans fell behind 11-4 after one quarter and trailed 22-13 at half. Stuart narrowed the gap to 22-18 early in the third quarter but never got closer than that as they lost 52-33.

“I think it was a little holiday rust,” said Branker. “In the first quarter, we were having trouble. In the second quarter, we started getting things together. We were getting more in the flow.”

Branker certainly got in the flow offensively, displaying some fine outside shooting as she scored a team-high 15 points.

“I had to have coach [Tony Bowman] encourage me to shoot a little more,” said Branker.

“I have not been that confident in my shooting. As soon as I started to get a few more shots in, I felt like I could make some more.”

Head coach Bowman is looking to pump up Branker’s confidence. “She is developing,” said Bowman. “We are trying to get her to do more; to think outside the box.”

Bowman acknowledges that his squad needs to think as one on the court. “We are developing individuals who have not been in lead positions before,” said Bowman.

“We are learning to play as a group; we are not as cohesive as we have been in the past.”

Stuart’s lack of cohesion has predictably led to some inconsistent play. “We have shown spurts of being a good team and then we are lax for two or three minutes,” said Bowman, whose team fell 45-26 to South Hunterdon last Thursday to drop to 0-5.

“We are not being consistent. If we become more consistent and confident as a team, we will do better.”

In Bowman’s view, his players need to ratchet up their work ethic to gain more confidence.

“We are not as aggressive as I would like, offensively and defensively,” said Bowman, who will be looking for more intensity as his team plays at Princeton Day School on January 11 before hosting the Solebury School on January 17.

“I believe that preparation and working hard gets you that win. I said today, are you working hard in practice because if you are, these are the kind of games you win. If you are not, this is a kind of game you can lose.”

Branker, for her part, believes the Tartans can raise the level of their game.

“We need to be more confident in ourselves and to take even more risks,” said Banker.

“Today was one of the first times I felt like we could take more risks and shoot more. That’s how we were able to make it closer. We need to not be so stressed out and just play the game.”

Rashid Epps missed out on a lot last winter for the Hun School boys’ basketball time as he struggled with a leg injury.

The 6’4 senior forward was sidelined for half the season due to a balky hamstring.

Following a regimen of stretching, Epps has bounced back this season, giving the Raiders a jolt in the paint.

“I see my role as bringing energy and being there to pick up the garbage, so to speak,” said Epps. “Doing the hard work stuff, getting those rebounds and getting steals too.”

Last Saturday against visiting Peddie, Epps provided energy and offensive production, scoring a game-high 15 points as Hun cruised to a 54-23 triumph.

“I just stayed calm,” said Epps, reflecting on his performance. “I got a lot of my points off of steals because defense leads to a great offense.”

Coming off a disappointing 66-46 loss to Blair two days earlier, Epps and his teammates were looking to set the tone with defense.

“Our defense against Blair was pretty bad so we stepped it up in practice,” said Epps.

“It is all about staying together after that loss. We had a good practice yesterday and we came out and bounced back.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone liked the way his players bounced back from the disappointing performance at Blair.

“We were not good on Thursday; they knew it, I knew it,” said Stone, whose team improved to 6-6 with the win over the Falcons.

“It is always nice to see us respond; I think the guys did a great job of it tonight.”

In Stone’s view, his guys produced a superior defensive effort against the Falcons.

“I think our defense was tremendous, especially in the first part of the third quarter,” said Stone, whose club held Peddie to eight points in the second half. “It was just playing hard and rotating well which was fun to watch.”

It was also fun for Stone to see his backcourt of Bo McKinley and Fergus Duke loosen up the Peddie defense with some deadeye shooting.

“I think Bo hitting some of those 3s early helps out Fergus at the 1,” added Stone, who got 11 points apiece from his star guards.

“I think we have some guys who can score inside. I think the balance is the key to our team. In all honesty, when we are playing together is when we are playing well. We certainly played together tonight.”

Stone liked the way Epps played as he wreaked havoc in the low post along with Will Kelly.

“It is kind of how Rashid plays, with high energy,” said Stone. “He has the ability to do a lot of different things. He was finishing off his steals today; he rebounds the ball so well. He certainly did a lot for us but again it was a pretty solid team effort. Will Kelly did a lot of great things out there; I know he didn’t score a ton but he made some big baskets. His presence was tremendous.”

With Hun being plagued by inconsistency so far this winter, Stone is hoping his team can put together a solid run.

“That is what I just told them, some consistency would be nice,” said a grinning Stone, whose team plays at the Academy of New Church (Pa.) on January 11 before hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on January 14.

“We don’t need all these highs and lows. I think we are still learning and growing as a team and as a unit. We have made some nice strides at times and then we have taken some steps backwards. The key is that we keep moving forward and eventually jell together a little bit more. We don’t have a superstar but that is not a bad thing. I think that is the sign of a good team if we can have that balance.”

Epps, for his part, believes that the win over Peddie could help Hun jell into something special.

“I think it can but we have to take each game one by one,” said Epps. “We can’t just focus on this win because we have a tough schedule. We have to stay together after a loss and think about what we can work on.”

It looked like Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Zeeza Cole might be down for the count last Sunday when she was sent sprawling to the ice in the second period as the Panthers hosted Shady Side Academy (Pa.).

The junior forward lay motionless on the ice for minutes before gingerly skating to the Panther bench.

At that point, Cole wasn’t sure if she would be back in the contest which saw PDS trailing 2-0 at the time.

“I have had a lot of concussions,” said Cole. “After the whistle, a girl fell on top of my head so it got hit a little bit. I was a little nauseous and my head started hurting.”

After spending some time with the trainer, Cole returned to the game and proceeded to inflict some pain on the Indians, scoring two power play goals to knot the game at 2-2 heading into the third period.

“We knew we had a 5-on-3 and we just wanted to get the goal,” said Cole. “We definitely did capitalize. In the first period we could see that the goalie was letting up tons of rebounds and we knew that we could get some off that. It was nice, getting back at them for roughing up some of our players, including myself. We have been working on a lot of rebound opportunities like that. It is good that we are working on that and could score on two rebounds.”

In the third period, though, PDS couldn’t convert any rebounds as it ended up falling 4-2.

“We came out strong in the third period; we have a really short bench,” said Cole.

“We are down two of our stars so it’s definitely hard. Everyone stepped up; we tried hard so it is not something to be ashamed about. We never gave up. We kept trying; we were in it until the end.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook liked the way her team persevered as it fought to dig out of a hole after Shady Side scored two goals within a 10-second span early in the first period.

“Going 2-0 early definitely caught us off guard,” said Cook. “We came out pretty flat so we deserved to be down 2-0. The focus was not on what already happened but on how do we bounce back from this and how do we get them to regroup. I think that slowly it got a little better.”

Things were a lot better for the Panthers after weathering the early storm. “The second period was much stronger; we came out hard,” said Cook, whose team started the weekend by edging Holton Arms (Md.) 3-2 on Saturday.

“I thought we caught a break with the 5-on-3 and we were able to take advantage. That is what hockey is about, capitalizing on those opportunities.”

Cook was not surprised that Cole took advantage of the scoring opportunities.

“The girl jumped on Zeeza after the play; I thought it should have been a penalty,” said Cook. “She took a little bit of a break and she wanted to go back out there and make up for it. She knows how to finish.”

Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t finish things off in the third period.

“We spent too much time in the box; the girls fought really hard to not give up a power play goal there,” said Cook, reflecting on the loss which left PDS with a 5-3 record.

“It is just unfortunate that they were able to get a good bounce and get that third goal. After that, it just seemed like we didn’t get any breaks to go our way.”

While the Panthers didn’t get the breaks over the last 15 minutes of the contest, they showed a resolve that should help them over the rest of the winter.

“It was a positive that they were able to come back from going down early and not get too caught up in that,” added Cook, whose team plays at Summit High on January 13.

“We had a very short bench; the fact that they were able to kill off a lot of those penalties is a huge positive. Especially since we had players killing who don’t usually kill. It makes you feel a little better even coming off a loss to know that they were able to bounce back.”

In Cook’s view, the team learned a valuable lesson about focus. “You always need to make sure you treat it as though it is going to be your toughest game of the year and just go out hard,” said Cook.

“You can never take anything for granted. Typically, we have had pretty strong first periods and today the second period was much stronger.”

Cole, for her part, is confident that the Panthers can get tougher. “I think we need to just keep working as a team,” added Cole.

“Getting stronger and capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes and just coming out strong every period.”

Mike Wasson started the New Year with a bang for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team.

The sophomore forward opened 2012 action by notching four goals in a 9-5 win over Lawrence High on January 2 and then tallied three more two days later as PHS topped Steinert 7-1.

“I am actually feeling good out there,” said Wasson after the Steinert win. “I have been feeling better on my skates than in the beginning of the season.”

Wasson and his teammates weren’t feeling so good midway through the second period as they found themselves tied 1-1 with the Spartans.

“We started out well but they came back with one,” said Wasson. “We weren’t too frustrated; we knew the goals would come. We were putting shots on him; he was playing well.”

Over the last 15 minutes of the contest, Wasson helped the Little Tigers pull away as he notched two goals.

“In the third, we had a lot of confidence,” said Wasson. “We got our scoring back. We came out strong and kept putting the goals in.”

Wasson’s connection with junior forward and linemate Matt DiTosto gives him extra confidence.

“Matt and I are also on the same club team,” said Wasson, who is on the Mercer Chiefs club team.

“We have a real connection going. We are always in synch on the ice. We always know where each other is going to be.”

Wasson has put in extra time to become the best player he can be. “Over the summer, I got bigger, stronger, and faster,” said Wasson. “I gained a little bit more confidence. My speed has come along well; I have been working with my other coach. Staying on the ice all the time really helps. I improved my hands over the summer. I am always looking to get better.”

PHS head coach Tim Campbell feels that Wasson is getting better and better.

“Mike has got hands, he’s got presence, he is a student of the game,” asserted Campbell.

“He is a student of the game; he is just so smart. He puts himself between the defender and the puck. He knows where to be and he knows where to put the puck when his teammates are looking for it.”

The combination of Wasson and DiTosto on one line and senior captains Will Greenberg and Kirby Peck on the team’s other top line have triggered the PHS offense.

“He and Matt DiTosto are like peanut butter and jelly; they go together,” added Campbell.

“It is Will [Greenberg] and Kirby [Peck], Mike and Matt and the other forwards are picking up on it. John Reid is getting in the mix. Connor McCormick is getting in the mix which is really nice to see.”

It wasn’t nice for Campbell to see his team get lax in the defensive zone as the Little Tigers took control of the contest.

“Whenever we dominate on offense, we get lazy on defense,” said Campbell, whose team fell 5-4 to Paul VI last Friday to move to 6-3-2.

“We came in at intermission and made some adjustments. We can’t be a 30 or 35-minute team, we have got to be a 45-minute team. We have to keep our foot on the gas and just keep grinding for 45 minutes. We definitely need to tighten up when we get into closer games; good defense wins tight games. That’s where we really have to focus.”

In Campbell’s view, now is the time for his players to have a tight focus. “We are looking for a huge January,” said Campbell, whose team faces Hopewell Valley on January 16 at Mercer County Park. “We came out flat against Lawrence; we had better effort, better intensity tonight.”

Wasson, for his part, believes the team will be bringing plenty of intensity as it heads into the homestretch.

“We are looking at our schedule, saying we could get all the Ws from here on out,” said Wasson. “That is what we are looking for going into the postseason.”

For Brendan Connolly, the win by the Princeton University men’s basketball team over The College of New Jersey last Sunday wasn’t just the last tune-up before entering Ivy League play.

After struggling offensively all season long, junior center Connolly used the game against Division III TCNJ as a launching pad to gain some confidence in his scoring touch.

The 6’11, 255-pound native of Brentwood, Tenn. poured in a career-high 16 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers posted a 79-68 win over their local foes.

“It is nice to see the ball go through the basket; that was something that was lacking for most of the first part of the year,” said Connolly, who had been averaging 2.9 points a game this year with a season-best of just six.

“I would say the past few days in practice have been more so or just as much. I have been working a lot on it.”

Connolly is hoping that his performance will be a harbinger of things to come over the rest of the winter.

“As long as it keeps going in that direction for myself, it will be fine,” said Connolly, who added a game-high nine rebounds to go with his scoring output as the Tigers improved to 9-7 before a crowd of 2,246 at Jadwin Gym.

“It felt nice to have a breakthrough; I have just got to keep it going in the Ivy League season.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson will be looking for his team to play better defense when it starts the defense of its Ivy crown with games at Cornell (5-9) on January 13 and at Columbia (11-5) on January 14.

“Tonight, I thought we played a little like a team that was feeling good about itself,” said Henderson, whose team had trouble stopping former Princeton High star Skye Ettin as he led the Lions with 15 points, drawing cheers from his many fans on hand.

“Our defense has actually been pretty good in practice. We have identified and earmarked our defense as the thing that is going to help us win games. They had 35 points at the half which I think is way too many.”

The matchup with the D-III TCNJ afforded Henderson the opportunity to get a good look at his bench players.

“We wanted to play everybody if we could; I think everybody got a chance to play,” said Henderson.

“If anything, it identified some of the things we can get better at, that is what we are about. We come to work, that is what we do.”

In Henderson’s view, reserve guard Ben Hazel gave the Tigers some good work.

“I liked that we were able to get Ben Hazel some time today,” added Henderson of the sophomore who chipped in four rebounds, two assists, and two blocked shots in 15 minutes of action. “I thought he brought energy and talk. It was something we needed and he brought it.”

With the Tigers heading to New York this weekend to resume a road swing that will ultimately see them play 12 of 13 games away from Jadwin, Henderson is looking for his players to bring physical and mental energy.

“It has been hard but I think if you have a team like this, you can get through it,” said Henderson, reflecting on Princeton’s travels.

“You really need great leadership, not just from the staff but from the seniors because they know what it takes to win games on the road in the league. I like to look at it this way; we are certainly not looking ahead but if we can start off the right way, we finish up nicely at home.”

Connolly has the sense that the Tigers have been steeled by their time away from home.

“Going into those games, we are going to know what it is like to be on the road a lot,” said Connolly.

“It should be nothing new for us. We have had some success on the road in these past few games. We know what we need to do in order to get the wins.”

January 4, 2012

Competing in the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis, Minn. last weekend, the Princeton University men’s hockey team drew a tough opening round assignment.

The Tigers were matched against Northeastern, who brought a six-game winning streak into the game with victories over No. 18 UMass Lowell, No. 2 Notre Dame, and No. 11 Michigan during that stretch. Moreover, the Huskies held a 25-13-3 edge in the all-time series with Princeton.

Tiger head coach Bob Prier realized his team had its hands full with Northeastern.

“It was a tough challenge; they have eight [NHL] draft picks,” noted Prier.

Building on some good practice sessions last week after returning from the holiday break, the Tigers proved to be up for the challenge.

Battling back from three one-goal deficits, Princeton knotted the game at 3-3 midway through the third period and forced overtime.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the extra session, necessitating a shootout to determine which team would advance to the championship game.

The shootout turned into an eight-round marathon with Northeastern prevailing after Princeton goalie Mike Condon had stymied its first seven shooters.

“It was extremely disappointing to lose the shootout,” said Prier, who also got goals from Jack Berger and Tyler Maugeri in the game with junior goalie Condon making 38 saves.

“It is a lousy way to end a hockey game but it had to happen. I thought we had the advantage going into the shootout because Condon was playing great. He was great in the shootout, we just couldn’t get one past their guy.”

While the ending left Prier with a lousy feeling, he thought his players did gain from the experience of battling the Huskies.

“It was the right test for the guys,” said Prier. “We need to compete against those type of teams; we got a lot out of it.”

A day later, the Tigers got a second tough test as they faced another hot team in Niagara, which had gone 3-0-3 in its six games prior to the Minneapolis trip.

This time, Princeton held two one-goal leads. The Tigers went up 2-1 early in the third period on a goal by senior captain Marc Hagel and gained a 3-2 advantage with 7:34 left in regulation as senior forward as Brody Zuk found the back of the net.

But taking a penalty in the waning moments, Princeton got burned as Niagara scored on a 6-on-4 situation with 54 seconds left in the third to force overtime. That was the last tally of the contest as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.

Prier wasn’t pleased by his team’s second tie of the weekend. “We didn’t play as well as we did against Northeastern; at the same time, they are also one of the hotter teams,” said Prier, whose team moved to 4-9-4 with the tie.

“I feel like it was a loss, when you have a lead like that. Not to take anything away from them, we let that game get tied. You take a late penalty that gives them a 6-on-4; that is a pretty good advantage. I hope that we have learned from that.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers can take some good lessons from the weekend. “We played two tough teams on the road and came out of it with two points,” said Prier. “We need to take that kind of play when we come back to the league.”

Princeton got some tough play from senior defenseman and assistant captain Derrick Pallis as he played through illness to notch a goal and an assist against Niagara.

“Pallis had a very good game against Niagara,” said Prier, whose team got 35 saves from sophomore goaltender Sean Bonar in the tie with Niagara.

“Certainly offensively with a multi-point game and he was really good on defense. He competed like we need him to. He was under the weather; he had a flu and I didn’t play him against Northeastern. He still looked like death; I think he lost 12 pounds. It is nice to see him do really well, maybe it was good for him to watch a game and see that he needs to really bring it when he is on the ice.”

With Princeton currently in 10th place in the ECAC Hockey standings sporting a 3-7-1 league mark, the Tigers will need to bring it if they are going to get points out of this weekend when they play at Brown (6-6-1 overall, 3-3 ECACH) on January 6 and at No. 20 Yale (7-5-1 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on January 7.

“Brown is a lot better than people think; Yale is going to be tough,” asserted Prier.

“We have to be spot-on the whole time to get a sweep on the road. We have got to have focus and prepare well. We have to be prepared to outwork them. We need to pay attention to detail and be in the right place.”

The Tigers are in a good place health-wise, so Prier has the depth to make things tough for Princeton’s foes.

“Health will do that; we are in good shape,” said Prier. “People have to compete to play and practices are elevated. You have to work harder if you want to be in it. We have the legs and speed to get in the grill of other teams and frustrate them. At this point, you have to do it all the time; you can’t do it on eight of 10 shifts.”

SUPER SAVER: Princeton University women’s goalie Rachel Weber stands tall in the crease in recent action. This past weekend in a pair of games at Ohio State, Weber came up big, making 38 saves in a 2-2 tie on Friday and then posting a career-high 44 stops a day later as the teams skated to a 1-1 draw. Princeton, now 6-9-3 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey action, hosts Harvard (8-4 overall, 6-2 ECACH) on January 6 and Dartmouth (6-5-1 overall, 4-3-1 ECACH) the next day.

Although the Princeton University women’s hockey team didn’t pull out a victory in its two-game set last weekend at Ohio State, it showed a spirit that should help it post some wins down the homestretch of the ECAC Hockey season.

Getting outshot 86-46 over the weekend in Columbus, Ohio, the Tigers still rallied to pull out a 2-2 tie on Friday and a 1-1 stalemate the next day.

“The compete level was really good; we played hard 65 minutes two straight days,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team moved to 6-9-3 overall with the two ties.

“We came from behind in both games; there was no letdown in the second game. It was a good sign.”

Coming into the trip to the midwest, Kampersal had a good feeling about his team’s mindset.

“We got back to practice on December 26,” said Kampersal. “It was a travel day so we were a little out of synch. The girls had gotten the rest they need but they have stayed in shape. We practiced hard on Tuesday and Wednesday. When they practice hard like that, they usually play well on the weekend.”

In the opener on Friday, the Tigers played well in spurts. After the Buckeyes scored in the second period to take a 1-0 lead, sophomore defenseman Gabie Figueroa notched her first goal of the season to knot the contest at 1-1. Ohio State scored early in the third period but sophomore forward Sally Butler scored with 3:19 left in regulation on a feed by classmate Rose Alleva to force overtime and the game ended at 2-2.

“The first three shifts on Friday were some of the best we have had in a while; we had Ohio State on their heels,” said Kampersal.

“Ohio State came back and had us on our heels; they have some firepower. We battled back, the kids played hard the whole time.”

It was encouraging for Princeton to see defensemen Figueroa and Alleva firing away.

“Figueroa started off slowly this season with her injury,” said Kampersal. “She and Rose had a really good weekend; they have been both been battling injury. They are starting to look like they did at the end of their freshman year.”

Butler continued to look good offensively the next day as she notched a second period goal that ended up giving Princeton a 1-1 draw.

“Sally has a good nose for the net,” said Kampersal of the 5’9 forward from   Etobicoke, Ontario who has a team-leading nine goals on the season. “She knows where the puck is and is strong on the puck.”

The strength of the Tigers, though, continues to be the superb goaltending of senior Rachel Weber, who made 38 saves on Friday and then posted a career-high 44 stops a day later.

“Weber was really sharp, no question,” said Kampersal, referring to Weber who has started all 18 games this winter for Princeton, compiling a 2.11 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

“She looked like she did during her shutout streak last year. She was even crisper on Friday than Saturday. They had a lot of breakaways and quality shots in that first game.”

With Princeton having gone 5-6-1 in ECACH play to tie St. Lawrence for fifth in the league standings, the Tigers will have to be crisp collectively as they host Harvard (8-4 overall, 6-2 ECACH) on Friday and Dartmouth (6-5-1 overall, 4-3-1 ECACH)  the next day.

“It was good for us to get going,” said Kampersal. “We need to pick up some points in the ECAC. There is not a better time than with Harvard and Dartmouth coming in. They have a great tradition. I think the girls always get fired up for the Ivy League games.”

When Ian Snyder broke his collarbone early in his freshman season with the Princeton High wrestling team in 2008, the setback could have soured him on the sport.

Instead, the injury helped spark Snyder’s commitment to become one of the best wrestlers in the area.

“That is when I decided to really dedicate myself to getting better,” said Snyder, who was a 90-pounder as a freshman competing at 103 pounds.

“I started working out that spring. I was going to RAW 241 Academy in south Jersey; coach [Rashone] Johnson was driving me an hour both ways. I started entering some high profile tournaments.”

Snyder’s hard work paid off as he emerged as a high profile performer for the Little Tigers the next year.

“I was very confident coming into my sophomore season,” said Snyder. “I had gained 20 pounds of muscle and I just had to lose a few pounds to make weight at 103. I took second in the districts and had 29 wins. I was still doing other tournaments before my junior year; I went to the Cornell camp. I went 25-5 as a junior and took third in the districts. I was disappointed with that.”

As Snyder gets his senior campaign underway, he is determined to not have any disappointments cloud the memories of his final season.

“I did a lot of work after my junior year, I was wrestling three or four times a week and lifting weights,” said Snyder, who is competing at 120 pounds this season.

“I am looking to make a statement in my senior year. I want to win a state championship. I have put in the work; I want to get to that podium.”

Snyder has put in years of work when it comes to wrestling, having taken up the sport when he was seven years old.

“I first started in 2002 when I was in second grade,” recalled Snyder, who also played soccer and lacrosse before deciding to specialize in wrestling as a PHS freshman.

“My dad wrestled in high school and I started with the PAWS program. It came naturally in the beginning; I enjoyed it.”

As Snyder reflects on his freshman season at PHS, he acknowledges that it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

“It was a huge adjustment; I realized I just can’t do what everyone else is doing,” said Snyder. “I had done mostly PAWS to that point and I needed to work harder.”

Snyder set a tone in terms of work ethic for a program on the rise as it comes off a 9-7 season in 2010-11.

“The kids started working harder in the offseason, practicing at the high school,” said Snyder. “Coach Johnson was bringing in guys to wrestle with.”

Johnson has been a big help to Snyder as well. “He has been really supportive; he has motivated me,” said Snyder of Johnson. “He really, really wants us to be good.”

That influence helped Snyder land a spot on the wrestling team at Duke University as he recently committed to join the Blue Devils this coming fall.

“There was a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wrestle in college,” said Snyder.

“I have been spending my whole life wrestling and I couldn’t see myself not doing it. Duke was always my first choice; my mom went to Duke undergraduate and my dad went to the business school there. The wrestling coaches told me in August that they would support my application and I took an official visit in September. I met all the guys; they are all really into the team.”

In the meantime, Snyder is into doing his best for PHS. “I like the way I am wrestling; I have more refined skills,” said Snyder, who improved to 4-0 this season after pinning Hamilton’s Matthew Dempsey last Friday as the Little Tigers fell 39-36 to the Hornets.

“My technique is sharper; I have gotten good on my feet. I truly believe I can win; if you don’t feel that way, you are not going to win.”

Based on the first two games of the season, it looked like the same old story for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team.

Coming off a winless campaign in 2010-11, PHS dropped its opener this winter 7-3 to Pingry and then fell 11-2 at Princeton Day School on December 15.

With the Little Tigers heading up to Summit High one day after the PDS defeat, PHS head coach Christian Herzog had a heart-to-heart chat with his players.

“We talked after the PDS game,” said Herzog. “I told them they could sit and let it fester or they could come out and be better players for it.”

The players clearly adopted the latter approach and authored a new script, pulling out a dramatic 4-3 win over Summit in finally returning to the win column.

In the victory over Summit, the Little Tigers came out hard. The game was knotted 1-1 after one period with freshman Lucy Herring tallying the PHS goal. Goals by senior standouts Abby Hunter and Keely Herring gave the Little Tigers a 3-2 lead over the Hilltoppers heading into the third period.

Herzog liked the way his players kept their focus as the Summit game unfolded.

“We talked about taking it period to period,” said Herzog. “When I talk to the girls, we set lofty goals but once the puck is dropped they lose sight of the goals. I told them to stick to the game plan. I tightened up the bench.”

In the third period, Summit tied the game up 3-3 and Herzog sensed that his players were having some feelings of deja vu.

“I know they were thinking here we go again,” recalled Herzog, whose team had gone 0-17-1 in its last 18 games with its last win coming against PDS in late February 2010 in the WIHLMA (Women’s Ice Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) playoffs. “I said ‘no heads down ladies, we are going to win this game.’”

Minutes later, freshman Campbell McDonald helped make Herzog’s words come to fruition as she notched what turned out to be the game winner.

“Abby blasted the puck and Campbell looked up and it bounced off her,” said Herzog.

The team had a blast on the ride home after the triumph. “It was interesting,” said Herzog. “There was a lot of singing and celebrating.”

Herzog sung the praises of senior goalie Tobi Afran, whose clutch play was a key factor in the win.

“Tobi had a big game; she had 30 saves exactly,” said Herzog. “She stepped up in the third period. They had a few odd-man rushes and some 1-on-0 situations.”

Senior defenseman and co-captain Vinita Su helped save the day for PHS, diving to stop a point blank shot by Summit late in the contest.

“Not too many kids would lay down and possibly take it on the chin,” said Herzog. “She stepped up and covered it up.”

The play of freshmen McDonald and Lucy Herring together with senior star Abby Hunter has helped the PHS offense take things up a notch this season.

“Campbell is aggressive; she is not afraid to mix it up,” said Herzog. “Lucy Herring has been getting a point a game for us. Abby has also progressed; she has more of a finishing attitude. She is always someone who has worked hard but she has more goals than Keely so far this season.”

In Herzog’s view, the breakthrough should lead to more wins this winter for PHS.

“I think so,” said Herzog. “We have a big weekend coming up. We have Shady Side and Holton Arms at PDS. We tied Shady Side last year.”

IRON LADY: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball star Molly ­Rubin looks to pass in a game last winter. With the PDS roster whittled down to six players due to a rash of injuries, senior Rubin has taken the Panthers on her shoulders. Last Thursday, she scored 10 points to help PDS top Nottingham 34-18. The Panthers, now 2-4, play at Rutgers Prep on January 5, at the Solebury School on January 7, and at Pennington on January 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The World War II drama, The Dirty Dozen, stands as one of the hit movies of 1967, turning a profit of more than $18 million in ending up as the top-grossing film that year.

After taking some big injury hits in the early going, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team is rekindling the spirit of the soldiers portrayed in the film.

“We came up with a nickname, the ‘dirty half-dozen,’” said PDS head coach Mika Ryan, whose roster has been whittled down to six players. “I got them camo T-shirts. We are trying to turn negatives into positives.”

Ryan saw a lot of positives as her team split two games last week in its PDS Invitational, falling 51-38 to Allentown in the opening round of the tourney on December 28 before topping Nottingham 34-18 in the consolation game a day later.

In Ryan’s view, the score of the Allentown game was deceiving as the game was practically even through three quarters with PDS trailing 34-30 heading into the final eight minutes.

“We only had five players available,” said Ryan, whose team will bring a 2-4 record into 2012.

“I pressed too much in the third quarter and didn’t use timeouts. We got to the fourth quarter and we had nothing left in the tank. We played hard, smart, and executed well.”

While Ryan wasn’t overly pleased with her team’s overall performance in the win over Nottingham, she saw the game as a confidence builder for her short-handed squad.

“We didn’t play as well in the Nottingham game as we did in the Allentown loss,” said Ryan.

“In the third and fourth quarters against Nottingham, we were outstanding on defense, the girls imposed their will. We wouldn’t let them shoot.”

Senior Molly Rubin showed an iron will in the tournament, scoring 13 points in the loss to Allentown and 10 in the victory over Nottingham.

“Molly played an excellent game; she has done so much for the team,” asserted Ryan.

“She played the center position the whole tournament. I told her she is a point center. She guarded the best player on each of the teams and they happened to be centers. We are also asking her to handle the ball and score.”

Ryan is asking other players to take on a variety of roles, noting that she had Lauren Johnson running the PDS offense in the tournament.

“We used LJ at point guard last week,” added Ryan. “Not only are we dealing with injury, every game is an adventure as to what their role is going to be. To say two days before a tournament, that you are going to be the point guard is tough.”

Not having enough players to conduct a scrimmage, PDS has toughened itself up by playing against some of the boys’ teams at the school.

“I can’t tell you how much the boys have helped,” said Ryan. “Brian Dudeck, the freshman coach has been great, he has practiced with us a lot; he had his team in at 8 in the morning one day to practice with us. Rome [Campbell] has kept his 8th grade team late to practice with us. You can’t do anything at game speed unless you scrimmage. The freshman boys have been our scout team, duplicating what our opponents were doing. We would have been blown out in both of those games if we hadn’t had the chance to work with them.”

While Ryan thought about slowing the pace with her short rotation, she decided to maintain her up-tempo approach.

“We thought about playing more zone and being more passive and we talked about that,” said Ryan.

“But that is not who I am or how I coach and that’s not who they are. We decided that is not our style; we will push forward and keep the same philosophy. We just need to be more fit; I am giving this team more rest than I have given other teams.”

Ryan is confident that her players can emulate the character displayed by the misfit unit of the Dirty Dozen film as it courageously went about its mission.

“Underneath my southern accent, I am a streetfighter and I want the girls to be like that too,” said Ryan, whose team is playing at defending state Prep B champion Rutgers Prep on January 5, at the Solebury School on January 7, and at Pennington on January 10.

“They have been fighting and giving their all. They are giving a lot, showing resilience and resolve. They are working their way through this. High school sports isn’t all about wins and losses. I am hoping they will value this experience.”

December 28, 2011

MR. BIG SHOT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Douglas Davis heads to the basket in Princeton’s 59-57 loss to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past March. It was Davis’ buzzer beater in a 63-62 win over Harvard in the Ivy League championship playoff game that punched Princeton’s ticket to the Big Dance. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

In the local sports scene, 2011 was a year that saw senior leadership make a big difference for several championship teams at Princeton University while new faces and young players spiced up a number of area high school programs.

Over at Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym, senior stars Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox developed into star players and gritty leaders, sparking the Tigers to a 25-7 season and the Ivy League title. Guard Mavraides earned second-team All-Ivy recognition and passed the 1,000-point mark in his career while the 6‘8 forward Maddox controlled the paint on the way to being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Ivy choice.

Sharpshooting senior guard Addie Micir turned out to be the linchpin for the Tiger women’s hoops squad. The 6’0 Micir became the first player in program history to be named the Ivy Player of the Year as she led the Tigers to a second straight league title and 24-5 record.

Displaying her will and talent, senior distance star Ashley Higginson helped the Tiger women’s track team to both the Indoor and Outdoor Hep crowns. In the winter meet, the Colts Neck native won both the 3,000 and 5,000 runs. Outdoors, she won her third straight steeplechase title.

When spring rolled around, the Princeton baseball team displayed a renewed commitment to excellence as it looked to rebound from a dismal 2010 season that saw the Tigers set a program record for losses with a 12-30 record. Led by captains Matt Connor, Matt Grabowski, and David Palms, the team’s senior group was determined to rekindle the passion that has made the program a consistent winner. They succeeded as Princeton went 4-0 in its first Ivy weekend and never looked back in winning the Gehrig Division title. The Tigers went on to defeat Dartmouth 2-1 in the Ivy championship series to give the program its 17th league title but first since 2006.

A pair of seniors, attacker Lizzy Drumm and goalie Erin Tochihara, helped the Princeton women’s lacrosse team write its own turnaround story. Coming off a 6-10 season in 2010, the Tigers got hot late, winning the Ivy tourney and topping James Madison in the first round of the NCAA tournament on the way to a 12-7 season.

Sparked by a quartet of seniors, Ashton Brown, Emily Reynolds, Michaela Strand, and Lauren Wilkinson, the Princeton women’s open crew top varsity boat made history. The Tigers went undefeated in regular season regattas and then triumphed in both the Eastern Sprints and NCAA grand final.

With its four top players taking a leave of absence to train with the U.S. national program, it looked like it could be a rough fall for the Princeton field hockey team. Instead, a core of seniors, Rachel Neufeld, Alyssa Pyros, Erin Jennings, Allison Behringer, and former Princeton High standout May-Ying Medalia, held things together as the Tigers overcame a shaky start to win their seventh straight league title.

Senior Donn Cabral showed his toughness and talent as he braved a rare October snow storm and a spill to take third at the Ivy League Cross Country championships, helping the Tiger men’s squad to its second straight team title and fifth in the last six years.

At DeNunzio Pool, senior captain and center Mike Helou provided leadership and offensive production (25 goals and 15 assists) to help guide a young Princeton men’s water polo team to the NCAA Final 4 where it ended up finishing third.

For area high school teams, youth was served time and time again as new faces and underclassmen made key contributions for several programs.

In winter action, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team emerged as a dominant squad, breezing to the county title and missing a state crown by a few points. A key factor in the team’s rise was the arrival of a quartet of precocious freshmen, Will Stange, Matt Purdy, Peter Kalibat, and Colburn Yu.

The clutch play of sophomore forward Alex Nespor and sophomore goalie Connor Walker helped the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team win the state Prep title while freshmen Mike Wasson and Pat McCormick together with sophomore Matt DiTosto played an integral role in helping PHS take the county crown.

Once spring hit, Hun girls’ lacrosse sophomore attacker Kate Weeks renewed her assault on the program’s record book, tallying 61 goals on the season as she passed the 100-goal mark in her career. Sophomore pitcher Austin Goeke stepped into the role as the mound ace for the Hun baseball team, helping the squad win the state Prep A championship. Freshman Elizabeth Jacobs and sophomore Emilia Lopez-Ona made valuable contributions as the PHS girls’ lax team caught fire and won the Mercer County Tournament.

The Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team took the first county title of the fall season, as the freshman doubles team of Emily Dyckman and Hope Boozan piled up some key points in support of junior star Samantha Asch, the first singles champion.

The PDS girls’ soccer team featured five freshman starters, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stefany, as it went went 10-7-1 while the Hun girls’ soccer squad saw two freshmen, Jess Sacco and Ashley Maziarz, play vital roles on the way to a 10-5-2 season.

A sophomore newcomer, Conor Donahue, became a frontrunner for a PHS boys’ cross country team that won its first sectional title in 25 years while three freshman starters, Julia DiTosto, Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald, helped the Little Tiger field hockey team go 11-6.

Winter Winds

When sophomore star Niveen Rasheed went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-December, it looked like it might be a long winter for the Princeton University women’s basketball team. But with senior guard Addie Micir showing leadership and raising the level of her game, the Tigers continued their domination of the Ivy League.

Princeton went 13-1 in Ivy play under the guidance of head coach Courtney Banghart on the way to a second straight Ivy title. The Tigers ended up falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament to a Big East foe for the second season in a row as they lost 65-49 to Georgetown a year after losing to St. John’s in the first round of the 2010 tourney.

The loss, though, couldn’t dim the luster of Micir’s final campaign as she was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, the first member of the program to attain that honor. Point guard Lauren Polansky was named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Year with Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood achieving All-Ivy recognition as the Tigers went 24-5.

The men’s hoops team rose to the top of the Ivy League but it had company as it battled Harvard in a two-horse race for the title. The rivals ended up tied at the wire and had to meet in a one-game playoff to decide the winner.

In what became the signature moment for Princeton sports in 2011, guard Douglas Davis, a former Hun School standout, hit a buzzer beater to give the Tiger the title and a trip to the NCAAs. The win was particularly sweet for senior stars Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox, who went from afterthoughts earlier in their career to stars.

Head coach Sydney Johnson’s club produced a riveting effort in the NCAA tournament as it took traditional power and eventual Final 4 team Kentucky down to the wire, falling 59-57 and ending the winter at 25-7.

Afterward, Johnson shed tears of disappointment at the post-game press conference in reflecting on his team’s heroic effort. Weeks later, there were tears in Tiger nation as former Princeton standout Johnson unexpectedly left his alma mater to take over the Fairfield University program.

In April, one of Johnson’s former Princeton teammates, Mitch Henderson ’98, took over the program, returning to his alma mater after a decade as an assistant coach at Northwestern.

Over at Baker Rink, the men’s hockey team looked like it could be headed for some postseason heroics. Displaying the freewheeling style instilled by head coach Guy Gadowsky, the Tigers produced a 14-6-1 start and were ranked No. 19 in the country heading into February.

Princeton, though, struggled down the stretch, going 3-7-1 the rest of the way. The season ended with a thud as 6th-seeded Princeton fell to No. 11 St. Lawrence in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs. Princeton’s Class of 2011 ended their careers as the winningest class in program history with 72 triumphs. One of the leaders of that class, senior defenseman Taylor Fedun, was a first-team All ECACH and All-Ivy pick. Freshman forward Andrew Calof was a third-team All-ECACH choice and the Ivy Co-Rookie of the Year.

In late April, the Tigers suffered a huge loss as the dynamic Gadowsky left to become the first head coach of the Penn State men’s hockey program after seven years at Princeton that included ECAC and Ivy League championships, and two NCAA tournament appearances. One of the architect’s of Princeton’s loss in the ECACH playoffs, St. Lawrence assistant coach, Bob Prier, was tabbed to take over for Gadowsky.

For the women’s hockey team and head coach Jeff Kampersal, things looked bleak by early December as the Tigers started 3-10-1. But with junior goalie Rachel Weber emerging as a star, Princeton caught fire. The 5’9 native of Hudson Wisc. got so hot that she ended up setting an ECACH record with a shutout streak of more than 289 minutes.

Sparked by Weber’s brilliance, Princeton went 13-3 over its last 16 regular season games to climb to fourth in the ECACH standings and earn home ice for the quarterfinals. The Tigers’ late surge ended in disappointment as Quinnipiac won two tight games to eliminate Princeton in the best-of-three series. Weber and senior defenseman Sasha Sherry earned second-team All-ECACH honors.

Princeton also suffered a loss on the coaching front as longtime top assistant Amy Bourbeau left the program to become the head coach of the Brown women’s hockey team. She was ultimately replaced by Cara Morey, a former Brown hockey and field hockey standout.

The men’s swimming team saved its best for last, producing a dramatic finish as it held off the host Harvard by a mere 5.5 points to win the 2011 Ivy League title for its third straight championship. Head coach Rob Orr’s squad was led by junior Jon Christensen, a first-team All-Ivy performer in two individual events and three relays and classmate Colin Cordes, who made first-team All-Ivy in one individual event and three relays.

No such drama took place as the women’s swimming team cruised to the Ivy title, with Princeton winning 12 of the 21 events and four of the five relays to score 1,562 points with Harvard finishing second at 1,496. It was the 10th Ivy title in the last 12 years for Tiger head coach Susan Teeter. Princeton was led by senior Megan Waters, a first-team All-Ivy performer in three individual events and four relays, and freshman Lisa Boyce, who made first-team All-Ivy in one individual event and four relays.

Junior distance star Donn Cabral led the way as men’s track breezed to its second straight Indoor Ivy League Heptagonal, piling up the most points in meet history. Cabral won the 3,000 and 5,000 in getting named as the Male Outstanding Performer of the meet to help the Tigers accumulate 215 points, 43 more than runner up Harvard. Coach Fred Samara’s team boasted two other double first-team honorees in Austin Hollimon and Mike Eddy who won the 400 and 500, respectively, and were also members of the winning 4×400 relay quartet.

Distance running stars set the pace as women’s track won its second straight Indoor Heps crown and third in the last four years. Head coach Peter Farrell’s squad was led by Ashley Higginson, the winner in the 3,000 and 5,000, sophomore Alexis Mikaelian, the first place finisher in the mile and a member of the winning 4×800 relay, and junior Alex Banfich, who took second in both the 3,000 and 5,000.

Sophomore Todd Harrity captured the attention of the college squash world, winning the College Squash Association (CSA) national individual championship in dominant fashion, posting 3-0 sweeps in every match of the competition. Harrity became the first American-born player to win the title in 21 years. Head coach Bob Callahan’s squad finished third in the CSA team championships.

The women’s squash team matched the men’s finish as they also took third in the team standings in the Howe Cup national championships. Head coach Gail Ramsay’s squad was led by sophomore Julie Cerullo, who ended up advancing to the CSA individual semifinals.

Sophomore Garrett Frey was the standout for the wrestling team, making it to his second straight NCAA championship meet at 125 pounds. Head coach Chris Ayres squad went 5-12 in dual match competition, highlighted by a 21-16 win over Brown.

Spring Surges

The baseball team had nowhere to go but up this spring after enduring a dismal 2010 season that saw the Tigers go 12-30, setting a program record for single-season losses. Led by a group of determined seniors who instilled a renewed commitment to winning and a bevy of talented younger stars, the Tigers started Ivy play with a 4-0 weekend and never looked back.

Head coach Scott Bradley’s team went 15-5 in Gehrig Division play and faced Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series. With Sam Mulroy triggering the offense, the Tigers won the decisive third game of the series 8-5 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

The Tigers fell 5-3 to Texas and 3-1 to Texas State to end their campaign at 23-24. Junior catcher-outfielder Mulroy was named as a first-team All-Ivy selection while freshman pitcher-first baseman Mike Ford, a former Hun standout, was the league’s Rookie of the Year.

The women’s lacrosse team also produced a reversal of fortune. After going 6-10 in 2010, Hall of Fame head coach Chris Sailer guided the Tigers to the championship in the Ivy tournament. Princeton knocked off top-seeded Penn 10-8 in the semis and then edged Harvard 12-10 in the title game.

Advancing to the NCAA tournament, Princeton kept rolling as it nipped James Madison 11-10 in the first round. The Tigers fell to Maryland in the NCAA quarters to end with a 12-7 record. Junior defender Lindsey deButts earned All-American and first-team All-Ivy status while senior Lizzy Drumm joined her as a first team All-Ivy performer with junior midfielder Cassie Pyle being named to the second team, while honorable mention accolades were given to senior goalie Erin Tochihara and sophomore attacker Jaci Gassaway.

At the beginning of the spring, the women’s open crew first varsity boat was ranked No. 2 in the country. By the end of the season, head coach Lori Dauphiny’s crew was unquestionably the top boat in the country, going undefeated in regular season regattas before rolling to the Eastern Sprints title and winning the NCAA grand final, edging Ivy rival Brown for the title.

A quartet of seniors Ashton Brown, Emily Reynolds, Michaela Strand, and Lauren Wilkinson together with junior coxswain Lila Flavin were recognized as Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) first-team All-America selections while Dauphiny was named as the Coach of the Year.

Nearly matching the feats of their open counterparts, the women’s lightweight first varsity produced a breakthrough season. Under head coach Paul Rassam, the Tigers went undefeated in regular season regattas and topped perennial nemesis Wisconsin to win the Eastern Sprints.

In the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final, Princeton missed a perfect season as they fell to Stanford with the Cardinal clocking a time of 6:32.39 over the 2,000-meter course at Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J. with the Tigers second in 6:33.07. The top boat was led by seniors Yuna Sakuma, Michaela Glaeser, Emma Bedard, Lauren Sykora, Caroline Clark, and Elena Martinez.

Under the tutelage of head coach Greg Hughes, the men’s heavyweight crew continued its progress. The Tigers placed second at the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA grand final. Princeton was led by a stellar group of seniors including coxswain James Connolly, Ian Silveira, Jack Lindeman, Blake Parsons, Philip Thalheim, Michael Protesto, and Carl Thunman.

Heading into late April, the Tiger men’s lightweight boat appeared to be on track for a three-peat of its Eastern Sprints and IRA crowns. Head coach Mary Crotty’s top boat was undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally coming into its annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton regatta. The Tigers finished second that day and never regained their form.

The first varsity took fourth at the Eastern Sprints and faded to fifth at the IRAs. Those results were a disappointing finale for the boat’s senior stars, cox Mike Perl, Nick Donald, Christian Klein, and Robin Prendes, but they left Princeton with a special legacy including their back-to-back Eastern and IRA titles together with a Temple Challenge Cup win at the Royal Henley Regatta.

It turned into a painful spring for the men’s lacrosse team as it saw five players suffer season-ending injuries and a total of 15 get hurt. The injury bug derailed things for head coach Chris Bates as the Tigers ended up 4-9 overall and 2-4 in Ivy action. Princeton did receive some high-level play from those who made it through the season as goalie Tyler Fiorito, defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, and midfielder Tom Schreiber earned third-team All-American honors.

Tragedy struck before the season started for the softball team as freshman infielder Khristin Kyllo died of natural causes in January. A cloud seemed to follow head coach Trina Salcido’s team through the spring as the Tigers went 16-26 overall and 7-13 in Ivy play. Juniors Kelsey VandeBergh and Nicole Ontiveros and sophomores Lizzy Pierce and Alex Peyton provided some highlights as they earned All-Ivy League recognition.

The men’s track team accomplished a rare feat, winning the Outdoor Heps to give the program three Ivy titles in the school year as the Tigers won the 2011 Indoor Heps and the 2010 Cross Country Heps. Distance star Donn Cabral stood out for head coach Fred Samara’s squad, being named the outstanding male performer of the meet after winning the steeplechase and the 10,000.

In addition to Cabral, the Tigers boasted a bevy of first-team All-Ivy performers including freshman Tom Hopkins in the long jump and the 4×400, senior Mark Amirault the 1,500 and the 5,000, junior Austin Hollimon in the 400 and in the 4×400, seniors Mike Eddy and Ricky Kearns as part of the 4×400 and Craig Peace in the hammer throw.

Cabral went on to take second in the steeplechase and eighth in the 5,000 at the NCAA championship meet with Amirault taking 12th in the 5000.

Showing balance and depth, the women’s track team matched the achievement of their male counterparts, winning the Outdoor Heps to get their triple crown. Head coach Peter Farrell’s team featured several first-team All-Ivy performers, as junior Eileen Moran took home double first-team honors in the 100 and 4×100, sophomore Alexis Mikaelian in the 4×800, sophomore Tory Worthen in the pole vault, senior Ashley Higginson in the steeplechase, freshman Kristin Smoot, freshman Molly Higgins, and sophomore Greta Feldman in the 4×800, sophomore Abidemi Adenikinju, sophomore Erin Guty, and freshman Lily Miller in the 4×100.

Higginson went on to take fifth at the steeplechase at the NCAA championships while junior Alex Banfich finished 20th in the 5,000.

The women’s water polo team produced a solid season, going 18-11 and finishing fifth at the Eastern Championships. Head coach Luis Nicolao’s team was led by freshman Katie Rigler and sophomore Brittany Zwirner, who each received CWPA Southern first-team honors, while junior Kristen Ward and freshman Molly McBee were named as second-teamers.

Led by junior Hilary Bartlett, the women’s tennis team went 12-9 overall and 5-2 in Ivy action, giving it eight straight winning seasons in league play. Bartlett was a standout performer for head coach Megan Bradley’s squad, making first All-Ivy League in singles and doubles along with Taylor Marable.

Junior Rachel Saiontz received second-team singles honors for the third straight year and second-team doubles honors for the second straight year after receiving honorable mention in doubles in 2009. Sophomore Monica Chow, Saiontz’s doubles teammate throughout the league season, also received second-team All-Ivy doubles honors.

Sophomore Matija Pecotic sparked the men’s tennis team to a superb season that saw the Tigers go 13-7 overall and 6-1 in Ivy play. With an undefeated Ivy League record atop Princeton’s singles ladder, Pecotic was unanimously chosen as the Ivy Player of the Year, the fourth Princeton player to earn that honor since the award began in 1987.

Head coach Glenn Michibata’s team also got excellent play from freshman Augie Bloom, who earned second-team All-Ivy League singles honors, compiling a 6-1 record while playing six of the seven Ivy League matches at third singles.

The men’s golf team took fifth at the Ivy League Championship, as head coach Will Green’s team had three players in the top 20. Senior Eric Salazar was 14th while junior Evan Harmeling was T18 and sophomore Bernie D’Amato was T20.

Senior Rachel Blum ended her career with the women’s golf team on a high note, tying for third overall as the Tigers placed third in the Ivy championships. Freshman Kelly Shon emerged as a star to watch for head coach Nicki Cutler’s squad, finishing T5 at the Ivy tourney and then going on to compete in both the U.S. Amateur Public Links Tournament and the U.S. Women’s Open over the summer.

Undergoing a rebuilding campaign, the men’s volleyball team went 3-19 overall. Head coach Sam Shweisky’s squad figures to be stronger in the future as it only lost senior Vincent Tuminelli to graduation.

Fall Fates

With four of its top players, Kathleen Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, and the Reinprecht sisters, Julia and Katie, taking a leave of absence to train for the U.S. national program, it looked like the field hockey team’s domination of the Ivy League might come to an end. Head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, though, welcomed the situation as a coaching challenge.

Things got very challenging for the Tigers as they lost their Ivy opener to Dartmouth and a seventh straight league title looked unlikely. Led by seniors Rachel Neufeld, Alyssa Pyros, Erin Jennings, Allison Behringer, and former Princeton High standout May-Ying Medalia, Princeton regrouped and went on to win the Ivy crown, its 17th league title in the last 18 seasons.

Princeton fell 3-2 to No. 4 Connecticut in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to end 10-8 but the disappointment of that loss couldn’t take away from what the team accomplished this fall. Seven Tigers earned All-Ivy recognition with freshman Allison Evans, sophomore Amanda Bird, junior Charlotte Krause, and Pyros getting first-team recognition with Jennings, and freshman Sydney Kirby being chosen as second-team selections and junior Amy Donovan getting honorable mention. Evans, the team’s leading goal scorer, was the league’s Rookie of the Year.

There was a buzz around DeNunzio Pool regarding the talented freshman class that joined the men’s water polo team this fall. Skillfully blending those freshman standouts with a core of battle-tested veterans, head coach Luis Nicolao’s wasted no time showing its skill, producing a 10-1 start.

The Tigers went on to take second in the Southern Championships to Navy and then avenge the defeat to the Midshipmen by pulling out a 10-7 win over their rivals in the Eastern Championships title game. That triumph earned Princeton a spot in the NCAA Final Four for the second time in three years. Princeton ended up taking third, edging UC San Diego 10-7 in the third place game to finish the season at 22-10.

Freshmen Drew Hoffenberg, Matt Weber, Kayj Shannon, and Thomas Nelson have made an immediate impact for Nicolao’s squad while such veterans as junior Tim Wenzlau, senior Mike Helou, senior Chris Cottrell, junior Tommy Donahue, and sophomore Kurt Buchbinder provided stability.

Battling through a rare October snowstorm, the men’s cross country team won its second straight Heps crown and fifth in the last six years. Senior star Donn Cabral set the pace for head coach Steve Dolan’s team, placing third in the individual standings. Senior Peter Maag was fifth while sophomore Tyler Udland was seventh and sophomore Chris Bendtsen took 10th in the race which was run at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields course. Cabral went on to finish 19th at the NCAA championship meet to lead the Tigers to 19th place in the team standings.

The women’s runners couldn’t overcome the snow and the competition at the Heps as they saw their five-year winning streak at the event come to an end. Head coach Peter Farrell’s team took third with senior Alex Banfich placing third in the individual standings. Banfich later placed fifth at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish at that meet in program history.

Coming off a magic 2010 season that saw it go undefeated in Ivy play, the men’s soccer team saw the bounces go against it this fall. Suffering some key injuries and developing a penchant for losing close games, head coach Jim Barlow’s team went 5-10-2 overall and 1-5-1 in league play with eight 1-goal losses along the way.

Senior Antoine Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout, and juniors Mark Linnville and Matt Sanner were named first-team All-Ivy performers while freshman Julian Griggs earned honorable mention. Hoppenot, the 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year, was a three-time first team All-Ivy choice and tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his stellar career.

The women’s soccer team suffered a similar fate to their male counterparts as they had five 1-goal defeats on the way to a 6-10-1 overall record and a 2-5 Ivy mark. Head coach Julie Shackford’s squad did show some promise for the future as her junior-laden team went 5-2 in its last seven games.

Senior Sara Chehrehsa and junior Jen Hoy were first-team All-Ivy selections while freshman Lauren Lazo and senior Kim Menafra earned honorable mention.

The arrival of former Tiger star and assistant Sabrina King as head coach gave the women’s volleyball program a jolt of energy. Under the guidance of King, Princeton went 18-8 overall and 11-3 in Ivy play.

Senior Cathryn Quinn and junior Lydia Rudnick were named as first-team All-Ivy performers while freshman Ginny Willis got second-team honors and senior Hillary Ford was an honorable mention pick.

The rebuilding process continued for the football team as it went 1-9 for the second straight season. Head coach Bob Surace’s squad featured several young performers who give hope for the future.

Freshman running back Chuck DiBilio made the biggest impression, producing a record-breaking campaign which saw him rush for 1,068 yards, the most ever by a true freshman in Ivy history. DiBilio was named the league’s Rookie of the Year and was a first-team All-Ivy choice.

Junior defensive lineman Caraun Reid also garnered first-team All-Ivy League recognition while senior offensive lineman Matt Allen, senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano, junior punter Joe Cloud, senior linebacker Steven Cody senior kicker Patrick Jacob, and junior Andrew Starks each earned second-team All-Ivy League honors.

Hun School

Led by a core of seniors, the Hun School boys’ basketball team showed some flashes of brilliance as it posted big wins over Hill, Rutgers Prep, and St. Benedict’s. But head coach Jon Stone’s team couldn’t get over the hump in postseason action as it went 12-15.

While the team’s group of seniors, Dylan Sherwood, Doug Macrone, Jared Cotton, Lou Adesida, Will Wise, Grant Fiorentinos, and Dylan Setzekorn, had hoped for a better ending to their Hun careers, most of them will be playing at the next level.

Longtime Hun girls’ hoops head coach Bill Holup faced a different situation with his team as he welcomed eight new faces. The team jelled early as it started 8-0 but hit some bumps down the stretch. Still, the Raiders ended with a 13-12 record, an improvement in the 9-14 mark posted the season before. With such returning starters as Ashley Ravelli, Jackie Mullen, Johnnah Johnson, and Carey Million, Hun appears to be headed in the right direction.

Led by seniors Terry Ryan, Matt Johnson, Will Sweetland, Greg Seelagy, and Nick Pierce, the Hun boys’ hockey team was competitive as it went 8-10-2.

Head coach Francois Bourbeau left the program over the summer when his wife, Amy, became the head coach of Brown University women’s hockey team. Former Princeton University player Ian McNally took the helm of the program as it looked to build on the progress of last winter.

The Hun baseball team gained momentum as the spring unfolded, climaxing with an 11-2 win over Peddie in the state Prep A championship game. Dave Dudeck, Stevie Wells, and Gavin Stupiensky triggered the offense for head coach Bill McQuade while sophomore Austin Goeke became the ace of the pitching staff as the Raiders went 12-7 in winning their first Prep A title since 2008.

A pair of senior stars, pitcher Meghan Hayes and first baseman MacKenzie Pyne, provided inspired play and leadership as the Hun softball team enjoyed another winning season. Head coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 10-6 and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals. With such returners as Emily Kuchar, Carey Million, Kristen Manochio, Stefanie Fox, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal, Hun looks poised to maintain its winning tradition.

With new head coach Beth Loffredo taking the helm, the Raider girls’ lacrosse team went through a transition season. Hurt by a series of injuries, Hun went 4-9. Sophomore Kate Weeks solidified her status as one of the top players in the area, scoring 61 goals to give her more than 100 in her career.

With a quartet of seniors, Will Sweetland, Scott Munley, defenseman Brian Patriarca, and goalie Mike Buckbinder, setting a positive tone, the Hun boys’ lax team went 9-8. Head coach Tom Kelso stepped down over the summer and was replaced by Steven Bristol.

Junior Chris Seitz added to his impressive resume, placing second at first singles in the Mercer County Tournament and then winning the event in the Prep A tournament. Head coach Todd Loffredo’s squad placed sixth in the MCT team standings and fourth in the Prep A.

Entering the fall, Hun football head coach Dave Dudeck liked the talent he had on hand but he wasn’t sure how the pieces would mesh. But as Hun stoically juggled its preseason training around after the school’s fields were damaged by hurricane Irene, Dudeck sensed a special resilience around his team.

The team’s character was displayed as the Raiders pulled out a 20-13 win at Episcopal in its opener and went on to prevail in several tight battles over the course of the fall. The passing combination of quarterback John Loughery and wide receiver David Dudeck, the coach’s son, provided points to go with the resilience as Hun went 7-1 and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

Led by a trio of senior standouts, defender-midfielder Nicole Campellone, goalie Lexi Golestani, and striker Holly Hargreaves, the Hun girls’ soccer team was a force to be reckoned with.

Head coach Ken Stevenson’s squad got off to an 8-1-2 start with wins over Lawrenceville and PDS and a dramatic 0-0 draw with perennial state Prep A champion Pennington. The Raiders ended up advancing to the semifinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep A tourney and finished with a 10-5-2 record.

Welcoming a bevy of new faces, the Hun boys’ soccer team struggled in the early going, losing its first 10 games. But with head coach Pat Quirk providing steady leadership, the Raiders made some nice progress. Jared Golestani and Peter Stoddard provided some inspired play down the stretch as Hun ended the fall at 4-13.

Younger players also sparked the Hun field hockey team. Sophomore Francesca Bello and junior Carey Million provided offensive punch while junior Lauren Apuzzi, sophomore Alex Kane, and freshman goalie Reina Kern spearheaded the defense. Head coach Kathy Quirk’s team posted a 7-8-1 record and has the pieces in place for greater success in 2012.

The second doubles team of junior Cansu Cabeci and senior Lexi Gray advanced to the Prep A finals to provide a major highlight for the Hun girls’ tennis team. Head coach Joan Nuse’s squad showed progress all around, doubling its win total from 2010 with senior Katie Seitz providing stability at first singles.


A pair of senior captains, Skye Samse and Peter Blackburn, set a serious tone for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team as they went after a state Prep title that had eluded them during their careers.

Their determination combined with the clutch play of sophomore forward Alex Nespor and sophomore goalie Connor Walker helped the Panthers achieve that goal in dramatic fashion.

Hosting defending state champion Pingry in the prep title game, head coach Scott Bertoli’s team pulled out a 4-2 win. PDS, which also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, finished the winter at 16-9-1.

The one-two punch of senior center Tiffany Patterson and junior guard Janie Smukler made the PDS girls’ basketball team one of the best in the area. Under new head coach Mika Ryan, the Panthers advanced to the state Prep B final for a second straight year and made it to the county semis.

The Long Island University-bound Patterson ended her career with over 1,000 points while Smukler passed that mark in December as the Panthers posted a final mark of 16-9.

With sophomore guard Davon Reed emerging as a star and attracting the attention of major college programs, the PDS boys’ hoops team had a promising season. Head coach Paris McLean’s team went 15-11 and made it to the county quarters.

The arrival of freshman forwards Mary Travers and Mimi Matthews, freshman defenseman Robin Linzmayer together with sophomore transfer Daisy Mase at goalie gave the PDS girls’ hockey team a lift.

That influx of talent combined with such veterans as junior forward Megan Ofner and sophomore Zeeza Cole helped head coach Kat Smithson’s team prosper. The Panthers went 11-5-5 and won the ‘B’ bracket tournament at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) playoffs.

In the spring, the combination of seniors stars Carly O’Brien, Katie Gibson, Jacqui Stevens, and Jess Frieder helped the PDS girls’ lax team enjoy another solid campaign. Head coach Jill Thomas’ squad went 11-5 and advanced to the county semifinals and state Prep A semis.

Led by seniors Aaron Shavel, Peter Blackburn, Dan Reynolds, and Will Kearney, the PDS boys’ lacrosse team made strides. Head coach Rob Tuckman’s team went 10-5. With such returning players as Garret Jensen, Tyler Olsson, Mike Davila, and Cody Triolo, the Panthers are poised to continue their ascension.

It was a rebuilding year for the PDS baseball program as it dealt with the loss of nine players to graduation from a squad that won the state Prep B title in 2010. Head coach Ray O’Brien’s squad posted a record of 4-14 with seniors Skye Samse, Jon Walker, and Kevin Francfort having big years to end their careers in style.

The softball program nearly had to take the year off as it started the season with eight players. With Stuart Country Day School’s Margo Schmiederer joining the team, PDS was able to field a team. Head coach Heather Pino-Beattie’s team went 1-7 but showed promise as freshmen Dina Alter and Jess Toltzis had solid debut seasons.

The loss of star Neil Karandikar to graduation left a major void for the PDS boys’ tennis program. New head coach Will Asch focused on developing his young players as the Panthers placed 10th at the MCT.

In the fall, Asch’s daughter, junior star Samantha Asch, played a pivotal role as the PDS girls’ tennis team won its first county team title since 1986. Asch cruised to her second straight title at first singles, not losing a set.

First-year head coach Ed Tseng’s team got good performances from Nicole Keim at second singles and Mary Atkeson at third singles together with the freshman pair of Emily Dyckman and Hope Boozan at first doubles as it edged Princeton High 17.5-16.5 to pull out the team crown. Asch went on to win the state Prep B title at first singles as PDS placed fifth in the team standings in that event.

A core of senior stars, Rui Pinheiro, Paul Zetterberg, Connor Gibson, and Jacob Eisenberg, helped the PDS boys’ soccer team remain competitive despite heavy graduation losses from a 2010 squad that won both the Prep B and county titles.

Head coach Malcolm Murphy guided the Panthers to a second straight trip to the Prep B title game where it fell 3-0 at top-seeded Montclair Kimberley to end the fall at 9-7-2.

The PDS girls’ soccer team only had one senior in Janie Smukler but her tenacity and finishing skills alone were enough to keep the Panthers in most games. The combination of Smukler and five talented freshman starters, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer, and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stefany, helped head coach Pat Trombetta’s squad get off to an 8-2 start.

A series of injuries derailed the Panthers down the stretch but the team still managed to finish with a 10-7-1 mark. Smukler was the team’s leading scorer for a fourth straight season, tallying 25 goals on the fall to give her 73 in her stellar career.

A pair of juniors, goalie Sarah Trigg and attacker Andrea Jenkins, provided some major highlights for the PDS field hockey team. Head coach M.C. Heller’s squad struggled in midseason as the team was hit with some key injuries. PDS played some of its best hockey down the stretch, advancing to the state Prep B semis and finishing with a record of 7-8-1.

The PDS cross country program said goodbye to legendary coach Eamon Downey and welcomed Merrill Noden to the helm. Noden presided over a youth movement as the Panthers underwent a rebuilding campaign.


Sparked by a talented corps of juniors and the addition of some precocious freshmen, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team became a dominant force.

Head coach Greg Hand’s team cruised to the county title and the Public B Central Jersey sectional championship.

After beating Haddonfield in the Public B state semis, PHS suffered its only defeat of the winter as it narrowly lost to Scotch Plains Fanwood in the championship meet.

The group of juniors featured Victor Honore, Matt Kuhlik, Addison Hebert, Harun Filipovic, and Derek Colaizzo while the freshmen standouts were Will Stange, Matt Purdy, Peter Kalibat, and Colburn Yu. With all of that talent returning, the Little Tigers will have their sights set on taking one more step in the 2012 state tourney.

While the PHS girls’ team didn’t have the depth of its male counterparts, it produced a stirring run in the state tournament. Sparked by sophomore stars Serena Deardorff, Marisa Giglio, and Jen Enos, the Little Tigers won the sectional title.

Coach Hand’s squad fell to Chatham in the state semifinals but that loss couldn’t dim what the team achieved over the course of the winter.

The leadership and skills of senior co-captains Fraser Graham and Dean DiTosto helped the PHS boys’ hockey team skate to the county crown. Head coach Tim Campbell’s team topped WW/P-N and Hopewell Valley on the way to the finals and then defeated Notre Dame 4-1 in the championship contest.

Junior goalie Josh Berger was the MVP of the tournament as PHS enjoyed it first MCT title since 2005. The Little Tigers then produced some more drama as they made their first appearance in the state tournament since the 2006-07 season. The Little Tigers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Bernards 4-3 in overtime in the opening round and then fell 5-2 to Middletown South in the next round to finish 18-5.

Senior star Eamon Cuddy provided inside punch and junior guard Davon Holliday-Black guided the backcourt as the PHS boys’ hoops team returned to the state tournament for a fourth straight season. Head coach Jason Carter’s team edged Hopewell Valley 51-47 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional before falling to Colts Neck in the quarters to finish with a 12-13 record.

Senior guard Molly Barber provided a major highlight for the PHS girls’ basketball team, hitting the 1,000-point mark in her career. Head coach Steffanie Shoop’s team struggled with injuries as it finished 7-14.

Focusing on developing skills and camaraderie, the PHS girls’ hockey team went 0-14-1. Head coach Christian Herzog’s squad featured some fine individual performances by junior stars Keely Herring and Abby Hunter.

The PHS wrestling team also got some fine individual performances as it posted a 9-7 record in dual matches. Head coach Rashone Johnson’s team showed improved depth as Ian Snyder, Tim Miranda, Frank Bozich, Jeff Barsamian, and Nick Gillette had superb seasons.

Tragedy turned to triumph for the PHS girls’ lax team as it wrote one of the more inspiring stories in recent years. Getting off to an uneven start, the squad was shocked by the passing of senior player Emma Brunskill in April.

Head coach Christie Cooper’s team came together in the face of its grief, going on a hot streak that culminated with the team winning the program’s first-ever county title. Senior Taylor Blair, a close friend of the late Brunskill, scored eight goals in the title game as the Little Tigers topped WW/P-N 11-8. PHS advanced to the second round of the state tournament where it fell to West Morris to finish with an 11-5 record.

Featuring a battle-tested defense, the PHS boys’ lax team nearly won its first county title. Senior defenders Robby Dowers, Michael Irving, and Dean DiTosto together with goalie Griffin Peck shut the door on the opposition as PHS advanced to a championship showdown against Notre Dame.

Head coach Peter Stanton’s squad fell behind the Fighting Irish 6-3 heading into the fourth quarter. The Little Tigers outscored the Fighting Irish 4-1 in the quarter to force overtime but ended up falling 8-7. Rebounding from that setback, PHS advanced to the Group III state quarterfinals where they fell 10-5 at Ridge to end the spring at 14-5-1.

Led by senior distance star Zaid Smart and junior sprinter/jumper, the PHS boys track team had a solid season. Head coach John Woodside’s team placed ninth in the county meet and 14th at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet.

The combination of distance runners Elyssa Gensib, Amelia Whaley, and Jenna Cody together with jumping standout Rebekka Vuojolainen helped the PHS girls’ track team enjoy another strong campaign. Head coach Jim Smirk’s team placed fifth in the county meet and fifth in the sectionals.

Senior star Fraser Graham solidified his place as one of the greatest players in PHS boys’ golf history, winning his second straight county crown and taking the Central/South Sectional title. The heroics of the Delaware-bound Graham helped head coach Sheryl Severance’s squad take fourth in the county team standings.

The PHS boys’ tennis team maintained the program’s winning tradition, going 15-3-1. Head coach Sarah Hibbert’s team advanced to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals and with singles players Robert Zhao, Eddie Percarpio, and Julian Edgren slated to return, the future looks bright for the Little Tigers.

With sophomore Marisa Gonzalez establishing herself as one of the top players in the area, the PHS softball team continued to make progress. Head coach Craig Haywood’s team finished 8-14 and made a second straight trip to the state tournament.

It was another frustrating spring for the PHS baseball team as it finished with a 5-19 record. Head coach Dave Roberts is optimistic going forward with such young players as Nico Mercuro, Ellis Bloom, Matt Farinick, Clay Alter and Mike Dunlap making strides in 2011.

Featuring the stingy defense that has become the hallmark of the program, the PHS boys’ soccer team posted a third straight undefeated regular season. Head coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team went on to win the MCT title and the Central Jersey Group III sectional crown. It was PHS’s fourth county championship in the last five years and its fourth sectional title in the last eight years.

Going for a second state title in the last three years, PHS fell short as it outshot Timber Creek in the Group III semis but ended up losing 2-0. While Sutcliffe and his players were disappointed over falling short of their ultimate goal, the plusses surely outweighed the minuses in a 20-1-2 campaign. Afterward, Sutcliffe lauded his group of seniors, Ben Davis and Kyle Ehrenworth, George Kusserow, Bruce Robertson, Ajami Gikandi, and Kellen Kenny, for what they contributed to the program in helping PHS go 53-3-7 over the last three years.

With sophomore Conor Donahue hitting his stride, the PHS boys’ cross country team broke a long drought as it won its first sectional crown since 1986.

Donahue finished sixth in the meet with Will Flemer taking eighth and Sage Healy placing ninth. For head coach John Woodside, a member of a PHS team that won the sectional title in 1973, that breakthrough made it one of the more memorable seasons in recent years.

Led by a core of six seniors, the PHS girls’ tennis team produced a breakthrough of their own as they won the sectional title, the program’s first crown in the competition since 1999. The team’s Class of 2012 featured Sarah Cen, Keely Herring and Alyssa Taylor at singles with Helena Ord, Lena Sun, and Vinita Su playing doubles.

Head coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad ended the season by dropping a 3-2 nailbiter to Montville in the Group III state semis. Hibbert was proud to see her seniors get that far and credited them with leaving a legacy of achievement and class.

Senior Jenna Cody also ended her career on a high note, winning the individual title at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet. Cody went on to place seventh at the Group III state meet, helping head coach Jim Smirk’s team place 11th in the team standings.

A pair of senior defenders, Mia Haughton and Katie Reilly, combined with junior goalie Lauren Ullmann to give the PHS girls’ soccer team one of the stingiest defenses in the area. While head coach Greg Hand’s team had trouble scoring goals, the Little Tigers rode that defense to the MCT quarterfinals and the sectional quarterfinals. PHS ended the season at 10-4-4, yielding only eight goals all fall.

The arrival of three promising freshmen, Julia DiTosto, Lucy Herring, and Campbell McDonald, gave a lift to the PHS field hockey team. The combination of that trio and veteran standouts Sydney Watts, Vivien Bazarko, Tobi Afran, and Emilia Lopez-Ona transformed the Little Tigers into one of the more dangerous teams in the area. Head coach Heather Serverson’s team went 11-6 as it advanced to the MCT quarterfinals and made the state tournament.

The PHS football team didn’t wait long to snap the 11-game losing streak it brought into 2011, edging Northern Burlington 20-14 in the season opener. Head coach Joe Gargione’s squad continued to progress through the fall, going 3-7. Senior receiver Eric Shorter produced one of the best seasons in program history, making 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Battling through injury, senior guards Amber Bowman and Jasmine Smarr, gave their all in their final campaign with the Stuart Country Day School basketball team. Head coach Tony Bowman’s squad ended up 6-11 as it dealt with the lineup juggling necessitated due to the injuries. With such returning players as Paris Branker, Angela Gallagher, and Jen Diaz, the Tartans will be looking to regain their winning ways in the 2011-12 season.

Undergoing a youth movement, the Stuart lacrosse team predictably took some lumps. Head coach Sara Wagner’s team went 2-10 as it focused on developing skills.

Wagner credited her group of seniors, Kristi Hallowell, Katie Keith, Whitney Charbonneau, and Kate Neubert, with holding things together and setting a good example. Such young players as Meghan Shannon, Christine Zeppfield, Emily Tindall, Cat Reilly, and Isabel Soto made progress and laid the foundation for future success.

In the fall, the Tartan field hockey team also featured a bevy of new faces as it went through a transition year. Head coach Julie Martelli guided the squad to a 5-7-1 mark with the team showing progress down the stretch by beating Hun 1-0 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and topping Blair 3-2 in regular season contest. The team’s seniors, Colleen Baker, Ani Hallowell, Susan Knox, Angela Gallagher, Kassidy McNair, and Margo Schmiederer, set a positive tone which aided the development of the younger players.

The Stuart tennis team made strides as it finished 12th at the Mercer County Tournament. Head coach Dede Webster saw juniors Mariah Guarnaccia and Kanika Sharma place first at second doubles in the MCT backdraw consolation bracket while Kyra Bradley advanced to the semis of the backdraw at third singles. First singles player Katherine Hagestad advanced to the second round of the main draw.

With new athletic director Kim Ciarrocca taking the helm, Stuart started a club soccer program. Under the direction of head coach Megan Lipski, the Tartans played against mainly JV teams and posted three wins. Senior stars Lexus Rodriguez and Amethyst Carey were key factors in the team’s progress. The success enjoyed this fall in terms of number of players and on-field competitiveness has the program on track to reaching varsity status in the next few years.