July 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2012

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

Donn Cabral dominated the competition this spring in the steeplechase.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 27, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It may have been early evening but the temperature was hovering in the 90s last Thursday as pitcher Jacob Eisenberg toed the rubber for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Hightstown Post 148.

The gritty lefthander, however, was undeterred by the oven-like feeling at Smoyer Park.

“It is pretty hot but you have to pitch to the conditions and both teams have to play in it,” said Eisenberg.

Although Eisenberg wasn’t at his sharpest, he didn’t wilt in the heat. “I had trouble finding the zone at the beginning,” said Eisenberg, who starred on the mound this spring in his senior season at Princeton Day School, earning All-Prep B honorable mention.

“I didn’t have my best stuff; sometimes you just have to battle through it. The defense played real well behind me.”

Working in and out of trouble, Eisenberg gave up four runs in four innings and left with an 8-4 lead. He also added a two-run single to help the cause.

“I didn’t get to hit this year at school; I have never hit in my life before,” said Eisenberg, who has been playing first base for Post 218 when he isn’t pitching.

“That was nice. I am just trying to help the team win. If they want me to go out and pitch, I go out and pitch. I love to play, whatever they need me to do.”

Things didn’t go so nicely for Post 218 in the top of the fifth as Hightstown rallied for four runs to knot the game at 8-8.

Showing character, Princeton rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by a triple from Marcus Henderson and an RBI single by Josh Harris. Post 218 gave up a run in the top of the sixth but hung in for a 10-9 win.

Eisenberg saw the win as a step forward for a Post 218 team that started the summer going 0-6.

“We have a lot of young guys; we have a lot of versatility,” said Eisenberg, who picked up the win on the mound last Monday as Princeton edged Broad Street Post 313 5-4 to earn its fourth victory in its last five games.

“We have to play smart baseball if we want to win. We are not going to hit three home runs a game. If we do everything right, we have a good team.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker liked the way his players righted themselves against Hightstown.

“They have learned to come back under adversity,” asserted Parker. “They didn’t get their heads down; they played solid. They came up in the bottom of the fifth and turned it around.”

Princeton is learning that it can depend on Eisenberg to carry the load on the mound.

“He is giving us real solid innings and the defense is coming together and playing well behind him,” said Parker. “He has been a bit of a workhorse.”

The squad has been getting some good work from such young players as Zach Tesone and Jon Hayden.

“Tesone has actually been one of our better hitters and stellar pitchers,” said Parker, noting that Matt Pilkewicz and Jay Barry did yeomen’s work at catcher against Hightstown filling in for Jess Russo and Colin Frawley.

“The other night he got a save that was a well pitched inning. He stayed focused; he stayed tight. Jon Hayden is a ballplayer; he also has real potential.”

Parker is relying on veterans Henderson and shortstop Beau Horan to help the younger guys reach their potential.

“I told Marcus and Beau at the beginning of the season that you guys have to lead by example, you have the most experience,” said Parker.

“Beau has done a stellar job for us at shortstop and Marcus is playing well in centerfield so we are strong up the middle. If they kick one, they don’t get down or hold on to it; where to the young guys, it is the end of the world. These guys pick them up so it has been a good thing.”

With Post 218 having picked up some wins over the last week, Parker is hoping the team can do some damage in July.

“If you get everybody here at the same time, these guys can do a tremendous job,” said Parker, whose team is slated to host West Windsor-Plainsboro on June 28, Hopewell Post 339 on June 29, and Allentown on July 1.

“That is what I told these guys; everybody is going to get an opportunity to play. These guys are doing a great job. They work very well together; they have a very good chemistry.”

Eisenberg, for his part, believes that Post 218 could do some very good things over the rest of the season.

“We have been hitting the ball a lot better in the last three games consistently up and down the order,” said Eisenberg.

“We don’t have a sure out in the order. We are definitely starting to roll; hopefully we can continue going forward.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Lior Levy looks for an opening this past winter in action for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, Levy scored a game-high 19 points to help previously winless Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) edge the PA Blue Devils 45-40 in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. PYS, which improved to 1-2 with the victory, got 13 points from Elliot Golden with Scott Bechler chipping in 9 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lior Levy and the Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team knew they faced a stern challenge when they took on the PA Blue Devils last Monday in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the league, has not done well historically against the Blue Devils, a team stocked with Division III college players.

“The past few years I have been in the league, this team has killed us,” said Levy, a rising PHS senior.

But PYS, who entered the night at 0-2, did bring some extra confidence into the seeming mismatch with the 3-1 Blue Devils.

“We just went to a team camp last week at DeSales University (Pa.) and we were able to play together a little bit more,” said Levy. “I think the chemistry was just there tonight.”

The weekend work paid dividends in the early going as PYS rebounded from an early 10-2 deficit to take a 22-21 lead at halftime.

The 6’7 Levy played a critical role in the rally, pouring in 12 points, hitting from the outside and using his size in the paint.

“I have been playing a lot of basketball the last few weeks at different camps and the summer league and stuff,” said Levy.

“I think I am finally getting the hang of it and making a few more shots here and there.”

Levy dazzled the crowd on hand at the Community Park courts as he drained two sweet hook shots in his first-half barrage.

“I have been working on that,” said Levy, referring to the shot which he has honed with the help of his dad, Howard Levy, a former Princeton University hoops standout and assistant coach and the current head coach of the Mercer County Community College men’s team.

“It is a shot I always look for. It is one of my best shots I think. Tonight it was on I guess.”

In the second half, PYS withstood several runs from the Blue Devils to pull off the 45-40 stunner.

“I thought that was the best part of the game,” said Levy, who got plenty of help in the win as Elliot Golden scored 13 points and Scott Bechler added 9.

“The fact that we were able to take some of their pressure and keep moving forward even though we were knocked down a few times. It was a very good win.”

Levy knocked down two key free throws in the last minute to help clinch the victory.

“I have missed a few of those in the past so it was nice to just conquer the pressure,:” asserted a grinning Levy.

Other teams who came through under pressure last Monday included Team TB, a 52-25 winner over the Ballstars, and Winberie’s, a 43-35 victor over Ivy Inn as it remained undefeated on the summer.

In Levy’s view, playing against the seasoned players in the men’s league can only help the PHS squad when the winter rolls around.

“A lot of these players are playing college basketball or have played college basketball so it is good to get the competition,” said Levy. “The competition here is a lot better than some of the teams we’ll see later.”

Levy knows that he has to muscle up if he is going to excel against better competition.

“I am going to try to get stronger,” said Levy. “I am a little weak right now so I am going to get in the weight room.”

On Monday, however, Levy showed that his game has plenty of strengths.

June 20, 2012

SURE SHOT: Jess Hubbard prepares to unload a shot during his legendary career in the 1990s with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program. Hubbard, who set Princeton team records for single-season goals (53) and career goals (163) that still stand, was recently named to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Hubbard, who helped Princeton to national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998, was a key member of a U.S. squad that won the 1998 World Championship. The Washington, D.C. native went on to a superb career in the pro ranks, retiring in 2008 as the leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse history with a total of 248. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Jesse Hubbard’s place in lacrosse history.

During his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program from 1995-98, the sharp-shooting Hubbard set team records for single-season goals (53) and career goals (163) that still stand.

Hubbard lifted his game come playoff time, scoring 43 points on 33 goals and 10 assists in 11 NCAA tournament games as he helped Princeton to national titles in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

After graduation, Hubbard was a key member of a U.S. squad that won the 1998 World Championship. He went on to a superb career in the pro ranks, retiring in 2008 as the leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse history with a total of 248.

So when Hubbard was recently named to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Class of 2012, it was a no-brainer to most.

But to Hubbard himself, the honor came as a surprise. “They announced the nominations through their website,” said Hubbard. “The other names were such great players; I didn’t think I would get picked.”

The understated Hubbard, true to character, downplays his record-shattering Princeton career.

“It was just my job; it was my role to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Hubbard, 36, a Washington, D.C. native.

“I was just playing the game. Records are meant to be broken and I’d love this one to be broken because that would mean that someone was doing a lot of scoring for Princeton.”

Part of Hubbard’s reticence to take too much credit comes from the fact that he views himself as one cog in an attack unit for the ages along with classmates Jon Hess and Chris Massey.

“Jon and Chris are two of my very best friends,” said Hubbard of the trio which combined for 618 points over their storied careers.

“It is very unique. We were three guys who meshed so well on the field with the way we played and off the field, we meshed with our personalities. Two of us were always thinking that the third was the best. We had respect for each other.”

In Hubbard’s view, his selection to the Hall of fame is a reflection of what the unit achieved collectively.

“That’s what I said to Jon and Chris; it is nice to have people remember what we did,” said Hubbard. “A big part of this is representing the whole era.”

When Hubbard looks back on his Tiger era, he takes great pride in the program’s three-peat.

“It is pretty amazing that we could win three titles in a row; I watch college lacrosse now and it is so competitive and unpredictable,” said Hubbard, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the 1996 NCAA final against Virginia.

“You see a team like Loyola win this year, they came into the season unranked. To win one is awesome, to get two is pretty difficult and to win three in a row is amazing. It is a testament to the coaching staff and the way the players stepped up under the pressure.”

Hubbard credits Princeton head coach Bill Tierney with impacting his development on and off the field.

“The thing with Coach T is that although you didn’t realize it at the time, he was preparing you for life,” added Hubbard, who is a driving force of Motive Pure, a company that markets a rehydration solution, and runs the Jesse Hubbard Experience lacrosse camps

“Whether you were in corporate world, teaching, or coaching, he taught lessons you needed to succeed. The first lesson was preparation; he was obsessed about preparing for every possible scenario. The second was having high standards and not settling for anything less. He rode the best players harder than anyone in order to get the most out of them.”

Coach Tierney, for his part, quickly realized that Hubbard could emerge as one of his best players.

“When we first saw him, we said ‘wow this guy can really shoot the ball,’” said Tierney, noting the fact that Hubbard’s older brother, Andy, was a midfielder for the Tigers helped ease the recruiting process.

Things took off for Hubbard when he was teamed with Hess and Massey as a sophomore.

“It was ridiculous when we got them on the field,” said Tierney, acknowledging that he had Hubbard miscast as a midfielder in his freshman campaign.

“The description of those guys was always feeder, dodger, and shooter. They complemented each other and moved toward each other as their careers went on.”

But Hubbard will stand out to Tierney as having a sniper’s mentality. “We would talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the other goalies,” said Tierney, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame himself in 2002. “He told me after he graduated that he shot at the strengths. He said he knew if he could beat them there he would kill them on their weaknesses.”

The feats of Hubbard and running mates Hess and Massey helped strengthen Princeton’s stature in the lacrosse world.

“Scott Bacigalupo ’94 and Kevin Lowe ’94 were the faces of Princeton lacrosse when we turned the corner,” said Tierney of the pair who were inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2010 and 2009, respectively. “Hubbard, Hess, and Massey were the faces when we gained legitimacy.”

Tierney is not surprised that Hubbard is the first of the trio to get the call for the Hall of Fame.

“Since Jess continued his career in MLL and was on a world championship team, I thought he was clearly the first one to get in,” said Tierney.

“It kind of rekindles what we all knew and how great they were.

Hess should get in but Massey tends to get overshadowed.”

Hubbard, for his part, believes his selection to the Hall of Fame speaks to the greatness of the Princeton program and what it has achieved since the early 1990s.

“I went to Kevin Lowe’s induction and he had a chip on his shoulder,” said Hubbard, who will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame on October 20 along with Brian Dougherty, Roy Colsey, Jen Adams, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Tim Nelson, Cindy Timchal, and Missy Foote.

“He thought Princeton hadn’t got the respect it deserves. He said you will be seeing a lot more of us in here. It is a tremendous honor; I look at the list and they are all guys I admired and looked up to in the game.”

And there is no question that Hubbard belongs on any list of the greats of the game.

PROMOTIONAL EVENT: Megan Griffith, right, and Melanie Moore survey the action in a game for the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Griffith, a former Columbia hoops standout who had been serving as the Director of Basketball Operations, was recently promoted to assistant coach for the Tigers, replacing Moore, who left Princeton to join the staff at the University of Michigan. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

As Megan Griffith wrapped up her high school basketball career 10 years ago and considered her options for college ball, playing in the Ivy League wasn’t high on her list.

“I wanted to stay in the area for college basketball,” said Griffith, a native of King of Prussia, Pa.

“I am from outside the Philadelphia area and I wanted to go somewhere my parents could watch me. I wasn’t looking at the Ivies but then a Columbia assistant saw me in late July and became interested. It was my best opportunity.”

Griffith headed to New York City in 2003 and made the most of her opportunity at Columbia, captaining the Lions for three seasons, earning All-Ivy honors in 2006 and 2007 and becoming the eighth player in program history to score more than 1,000 points in her career.

For Griffith, the Columbia experience was transformative on several levels.

“I had to learn to juggle a lot of things, academic course load, basketball, and the city,” said Griffith.

“I learned a lot about myself. Basketball is a good platform for life lessons and learning to stick with it.”

After graduating from Columbia in 2007, Griffith stuck with basketball, playing three years of professional ball in Europe, Finland, and the Netherlands.

But deciding to put her playing career on hold, Griffith returned to the Ivy League in 2010, taking the post as director of basketball operations for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Now, Griffith is going to experience another slice of Ivy life as she was recently promoted to assistant coach for the Tigers in the wake of Melanie Moore’s recent move to the University of Michigan.

Despite engaging in a heated rivalry with Princeton over her college career, Griffith didn’t have to think twice about joining the Tiger program in the operations post two years ago.

“I called my coach from Columbia and I told him I was thinking about stopping playing and I asked him about coaching opportunities,” recalled Griffith.

“He told me that Princeton had the operations position open and he knew that Courtney [Banghart] and her staff are doing some great things and it would good for me to be part of it so I applied. Once I got on campus, I knew I wanted to be part of it. I think there is a special vibe on the Princeton campus. There is a sense of community and support that transcends athletics.”

Griffith liked the vibe she found around the Princeton team. “I got to meet the players that fall,” said Griffith, noting that her Columbia background helped her bond with the players. “They are a great group; they really complement each other. I was always excited to come to work.”

The work, which included handling administrative and logistical duties such as making travel arrangements, film exchanges, managing the recruiting data base, working at camps, and producing the team newsletter, helped Griffith establish her value to the group.

“The coaching staff really allowed me to be part of the team,” said Griffith.

“Game day is great with the competitive environment. It is great to be part of a united front and being right in there giving input.”

For Griffith, the time was right to have more input into the workings of the program.

“When I applied to be director of operations, I was hoping to achieve a coaching position,” said Griffith.

“I am extremely blessed to be in this position. As Courtney said, from day 1 I was applying to be on her staff as a coach. I was hopeful it would happen this way. I feel ready to do this. I am looking forward to coaching and recruiting. I have been on the staff for two years and I have been able to observe things. I am looking to be more instrumental on the court.”

With Princeton having won three Ivy titles in a row and coming off a 24-5 season which included a 14-0 league mark, Griffith sees good things ahead.

“I am excited, each year brings challenges and we have to find the identity of what this team can be,” said Griffith.

“We will have four seniors and some good players coming in. I am confident the seniors can bring things

HIGH FIVE: Kelly Curtis shows off the plaque she earned for taking fifth place in the heptathlon last month at the NCAA Division III championships in wrapping up her track career for Springfield College (Massachusetts). Curtis, a former Princeton High track and hoops standout, earned All-American status as a result of her fifth place finish. Earlier this year, she placed seventh in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III indoor meet to make All-American in that event. (Photo Courtesy of Springfield College)

Kelly Curtis is well aware of her family’s special athletic legacy at Springfield College.

Her father, John was an All-American split end for the Massachusetts school in 1970 while her older brother, Jay, went on to be a Freedom Football Conference all-star for the Pride in 2002.

When the youngest Curtis decided to transfer to Springfield from Tulane in 2010 and join the school’s track program, she felt some pressure.

“It was tough,” said Curtis, a former Princeton High basketball and track standout who did a post-grad year at Lawrenceville and won prep titles and athletic awards for the Big Red.

“I always thought of it as my dad’s school and my brother’s school. My dad is in the Hall of Fame there and I have been to a lot of reunions.”

It didn’t take long for Curtis to add a special chapter to the family’s history at Springfield as she won the heptathlon at the storied Penn Relays last spring.

This year, Curtis made her case for a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame, earning All-American status in the pentathlon indoors and the heptathlon outdoors and defending her Penn Relays title with a second place finish.

While it would appear that Curtis had a smooth ride to success as a senior, there were some bumps along the way.

“My indoor season was a little rough; I had a shaky start,” said Curtis. “I didn’t get to train much over the summer. I had an internship in D.C. and went to Gallaudet two days a week for some strength and conditioning. I didn’t run cross country as a senior; I was not at the same conditioning level.”

But at the NCAA Division III indoor meet at Grinnell College in March, Curtis proved she could compete at the highest level, placing seventh in the pentathlon to earn All-American status.

“Once nationals came around, I did well,” said Curtis, who scored a season-high point total of 3,309 at the meet. “I was pleased to be seventh.”

About six weeks later, Curtis headed to Philadelphia to compete in the heptathlon at the Penn Relays to defend her title. While Curtis fell short of a repeat, she acquitted herself well, piling up 4,628 points to take second behind Ithaca’s Emma Dewart (5,006 points).

“I didn’t know who was going to be in the field until the night before,” said Curtis.

“Junior year, I was just thrilled to be there. Senior year was icing on the cake. It was being in such a big event as an athlete from a small school. It didn’t go as well as the year before. My focus was in the nationals so I was trying to peak for that.”

Upon arriving at Claremont College in California in late May for the NCAA Division III track and field championships, Curtis hit an unexpected hurdle.

“I was feeling good until the day of the competition; I woke up feeling sick as a dog,” recalled Curtis. “Instead of focusing on the competition, I was just fighting through each event.”

Curtis didn’t feel any better when she went to the track for the second day of the competition but soldiered on to take fifth place and earn All-American honors.

“It turned out that I had tonsillitis,” said Curtis. “My throat was very sore and it was hard to eat and refuel which is not too good when you are in an event that takes five hours. I didn’t have any energy. I have to be pleased with what I did under the circumstances.”

In reflecting on her transfer to Springfield, Curtis couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

“I loved the transition and how welcoming the school was,” said Curtis.

“It is more relaxed and more fun than being at a D-I school. The coaches really appreciate you. I hope I have made a little mark in track.”

The school made an indelible mark on Curtis. “They really emphasize the mind, body, and spirit,” said Curtis, an honors graduate who is starting a masters program in sports management at Georgetown this fall and aspires to someday become a college athletics director.

“Athletics is just one component of that. The track team won the Pride challenge which is more than athletics, it deals with community service and giving back.”

And like her father and brother before her, Curtis certainly gave a lot to Springfield.

WATER WORKS: Robin Linzmayer, second from left, pulls hard for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s lightweight 8 in action this spring. Earlier this month, Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School, helped the boat take eighth at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo Courtesy of MJRC)

Hockey has been Robin Linzmayer’s passion since grade school but getting hurt on the ice two winters ago helped her find another sporting love.

“I injured the meniscus in my knee in December of my freshman year,” said Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School who stars on the Panther girls’ ice hockey team and also plays for the Princeton Tiger Lilies travel hockey club.

“I played for six weeks and then got an MRI. I had to sit out and have surgery. The recovery time was three months. My dad rowed in college and he told me it would be good exercise. I talked to my doctor and since rowing was easier on the knee and low impact, he said I could try it.”

While Linzmayer is comfortable gliding up ice, she found hitting the water a bit unsettling as she took up rowing with the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) last spring.

“It was a little scary at first,” said Linzmayer. “Those boats rock more in the water than I thought.”

It wasn’t long before Linzmayer began rocking in her new sport. “The novice coach helped me out a lot,” said Linzmayer. “He put me in some boats with girls who had rowed before. It was really good.”

Earlier this month, Linzmayer showed how far she has come in her second sport, competing for the MJRC women’s lightweight 8 at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Linzmayer’s trip to Tennessee marked her second appearance in a national competition in three months as she had skated with the Tiger Lilies’ 19U team at the USA Hockey Tier II Nationals in Dallas this past March.

For Linzmayer, getting the opportunity to make the rowing nationals resulted from some eleventh-hour heroics from the lightweight 8.

“We were put together three or four days before the regionals,” said Linzmayer, who rowed from the boat’s five seat. “It worked immediately; we were second at the regionals.”

After earning its shot at the nationals, the boat worked hard to improve. “We rowed every morning from 5:30 to 6:45 and then came back to the boathouse after school for two hours,” said Linzmayer. “We were feeling light and fast.”

Coming into the national regatta, the boat was primed to go fast. “I think as a boat we wanted to see how we compared to some of the faster boats in the country,” said Linzmayer. “We wanted to pull as hard as we could; that is all you can do.”

While the boat fell just short of making ‘A’ final, it never stopped working hard, taking second in the ‘B’ final to place eight overall nationally.

“We pulled as hard as we could in the semis and ended fourth, five seconds behind,” said Linzmayer.

“In the final, we wanted to get off the line hard. We gave it our all. At the end, no one was disappointed. Our coach said how proud she was of us; I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”

Getting exposed to the high level of competition in Tennessee has given Linzmayer motivation to hone her rowing skills.

“I had such a great time rowing at the nationals,” said Linzmayer. “It was fun just watching some of the faster boats. It was so inspiring to row against those boats. You get to see how fast you are and what more you can do to be faster.”

Reflecting on her appearance at the hockey nationals, Linzmayer gained a similar inspiration.

“It is always fun to play against players from all over the country and see the different styles of hockey,” said Linzmayer, who helped the Tiger Lilies advance to the national quarterfinals. “You see room for improvement and what you need to do to get better.”

In Linzmayer’s view, taking up crew has made her a better hockey player.

“It has helped me much more than I expected,” asserted Linzmayer, who will be taking part in several hockey camps this summer.

“I never realized how intense rowing is. From a physical standpoint, the lifting and cardio stuff helped. Mentally, it was great. You learn to push yourself as hard as you can over that seven minutes of the race. That carries over into hockey. You go out for a two-minute shift and play as hard as you can. You learn to push through limits.”

STEPPING AHEAD: University Radiology’s DeQuan Holman drives to the hoop against SMB in action last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Former Princeton High star Holman scored 19 points as defending league champion. University Radiology hung on for a 51-47 win over SMB and improved to 2-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the University Radiology team was seeded second entering the playoffs last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, many thought the team wasn’t ready for a title run.

With a lineup featuring recently graduated Princeton High hoops s tars Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, University Radiology didn’t have the experience and maturity that has characterized past champions.

But growing up in a hurry, the squad advanced to the best-of-three title series and took down Winberie’s 2-1 to earn the crown.

As University Radiology begins its title defense this summer, star guard Holman recognizes that some see last year’s championship as a fluke.

“We feel a little pressure because people don’t think we should have won it,” said Holman. “They think it was a down year last year and all that type of stuff. We weren’t expected to win.”

Holman knows that there is a bull’s eye on the backs of University Radiology.

“We are looked at as a good team now and teams are pretty much gunning for us,” said Holman.

“We have a tough Ivy Inn opponent; Winberie’s is still pretty strong. The league is pretty good this year, there are no slouches this year.”

Last Friday, University Radiology got shot down as they fell 60-58 to a hungry PA Blue Devils team.

“We kind of beat ourselves in that one,” said Holman, reflecting on the loss to a Blue Devils team that features some Division III performers.

“We have other people who are joining the team and we have to get our team chemistry together. We are just trying to get our flow together.”

On Monday, University Radiology rebounded from the setback, edging SMB 51-47 to improve to 2-1 on the summer.

“At first, Skye and I were penetrating and we were passing well,” said Holman, who scored a game-high 19 points on the evening with Ettin chipping in 17.

“We were moving the ball a little bit and then we got stagnant in the second half. We were going one-on-one too much and that got us in a little trouble. We were able to get through it. We won the game. At the end of the day, that is what we wanted to do.”

Other winners in Monday night action included Dr. Palmer, who got 18 points from Charles Cooke, as it posted a 55-38 victory over the Clinton Kings and Ivy Inn, who topped Team TB 37-23 as Mark Aziz led the way with 14 points.

In Holman’s view, University Radiology has the pieces in place to successfully defend its title.

“We think we have what it takes, especially once we get everybody and get our chemistry together,” asserted Holman, who is attending Florida Atlantic University and is planning to try out for the FAU men’s hoops team this fall.

“When we play enough together, we’ll be fine. We are confident every time we step out there. It is just competition; it is fun.”

FINISHING KICK: Acasio Pinheiro edges Jeremy Taylor last Wednesday in one of the five heats of the second annual Princeton Community Mile held at the Princeton High track. Pinheiro clocked a time of 5:59.7 to take sixth in the heat with Taylor coming in at 6:00.7 to place seventh. The event, which was sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew more than 60 runners. Princeton resident Michael Fonder set an event record with a time of 4:27.2 in winning his heat. (Photo by Andrew Servis, Courtesy of Princeton Athletic Club)

The mile run is an event that has captivated athletes since the 1700s when it came into vogue as a distance for wagered running contests in England.

Roger Bannister’s 1954 feat of running the first sub-four minute mile ranks as one of the great moments in track history.

Last Wednesday evening, the allure of the mile was evident as more than 60 local runners turned up at the Princeton High track to take part in the second annual Princeton Community Mile.

The event, sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew participants ranging in age from 8-to-65 with runners grouped into five heats so the the athletes were matched with those in a similar pace range.

“The weather was great, 75 degrees and sunny, and we had a great turnout,” said Princeton Community Mile event director David Kimmel.

“There were people who participated for the second year in a row and also a lot of new faces. It was also great to see families sign up and run.”

Princeton resident Michael Fonder set a new Princeton Community Mile record with a time of 4:27.2 as he competed in the fifth and final heat. Chris Sallade finished second in 4:45.3 and Steven Sipprelle third in 4:47.8.

The race of the night took place in the third heat where Princeton resident Antonio Pinheiro clocked a time 5:35.4, closely followed by Jeremy Cohen in 5:36.7 and Richard O’Brien in 5:43.7.

The top finisher in the first heat was 12-year-old Princeton resident Gus Binnie in a time of 7:21, followed by Ethan Jones in 7:28.6 and Luke Wingreen in 7:36.1.

In the second heat, Lawrenceville resident Tim Christian finished first in 6:35.7, followed by Armand Meyer in 6:45.3 and Angela Pinheiro in 6:49.

Skillman resident Fraser Marlow won the fourth heat with a time of 5:22.4, with Jeff Knoll next in 5:25.3 and Chuck Hetzler third in 5:26.9.

Jen Found of Hopewell recorded the fastest female time of the evening in 5:36.8.

The Princeton Community Mile is the first of three running events being sponsored by the PAC this June. The PAC is a nonprofit running club that organizes group runs and sponsors several running events for the community each year. It is a member club of the USA Track and Field New Jersey and Road Runners Club of America.

Next up in the Wednesday evening series is a June 20 Cross County 5k and youth mile at Rosedale Park in Pennington and a June 27 All-Comers Track Event (3000 meters, 100 meters, 800 meters, 4×400 relay) at the PHS track.

For more information and to sign up online, log onto www.princetonac.org.