April 14, 2021

TRIAL BY FIRE: Princeton University wrestler Lenny Merkin gets pumped up with Sebby the Sloth, a mascot that he created, in the Utah Salt Flats. Earlier this month, Merkin competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Fort Worth, Texas, in the 67-kilogram Greco-Roman event. Senior Merkin fell 9-0 to Benjamin Peak in the first round and then lost 12-4 to Calvin Germinaro in a consolation match in his debut appearance at the event. (Photo provided courtesy of provided by Lenny Merkin)

By Justin Feil

Lenny Merkin culminated a rocky year by making his debut at the United States Olympic Trials in Greco Roman style wrestling.

The Princeton University senior was disappointed with an early exit after two matches at the Trials on April 2 held in Fort Worth, Texas, but is using it to fuel his desire to go for a spot in the next Olympics.

“Now that I got my foot in the door, I’m really optimistic about 2024,” said Merkin.

“I’ve seen the stage. I’ve competed with the best guys in the weight class. The guy who’s on the Olympic team, I had a really close match with the last time I wrestled him. He’s beaten me every time, but I think I’m finally starting to understand how to wrestle Greco on the senior level. Now is the perfect time for me to start working on the things that I’m missing. I think not qualifying is going to be my driving force for the following Olympics.”

Merkin is the only Tiger wrestler to qualify for this year’s Trials. Princeton University assistant coach Nate Jackson also qualified and competed at the Trials in Fort Worth, Texas, without winning an Olympic berth.

“It’s an important step in our process,” said Princeton University wrestling head coach Chris Ayres.

“It affirmed to me more than ever we need to get an Olympic gold medal to Princeton. That’s my goal. To have this step where we had two guys at the Trials, it made me more motivated to say we can do this thing.” more

TRIPLE CROWN: Princeton High wrestler Chloe Ayres, top, battles a foe in a 2018 bout. Last Saturday, senior standout Ayres took first at 114 pounds at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) girls’ state wrestling championships. It was the third straight state crown for Ayres at the competition, which started in 2019. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden and Justin Feil

Due to COVID-19 concerns, some key changes were made to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) girls’ state wrestling championships this year.

The finals were switched to April from March and the site of the event was moved to Phillipsburg High from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

But in the third year of the competition of the event, one thing remained constant — Princeton High star Chloe Ayres emerged as a state champ. The senior standout earned her third straight state title, prevailing at 114 pounds.

Capping her PHS career, Ayres dominated the competition last Saturday, pinning Emily Popek of Kittatinny in the quarterfinal round at 3:13 of the bout, pinning Gianna DeDreaux of Brick Township in the semis at 2:00, and then pinning Riley Lerner of Cedar Creek at 4:40 of the final.

“I went out and accomplished what I wanted to accomplish; I hope it was fun to watch, I wanted to put on a show,” said Ayres afterward as quoted on the NJ.com website. more

SWING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Connor McDowell takes a cut last summer in the “Last Dance Word Series” statewide New Jersey high school baseball tournament. McDowell is part of a strong junior class that will be leading PHS this spring. The Tigers start their 2021 campaign by playing at Hopewell Valley on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High baseball team featuring a stellar group of 11 juniors, Dom Capuano is primed to mix and match his players in order to grind out wins this spring.

“The pieces are there to be that grindy team that just works opponents to death,” said PHS head coach Capuano.

“I really think we can wear teams down offensively and defensively. It is just committing to it and understanding that we just need to be ourselves and play within ourselves. It is don’t get out of the comfort zone, don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Stay the course the entire game.”

A big piece on the mound for PHS this spring will be senior Tommy Delany.

“Tommy is going to pitch at Penn, we are going to rely on him a lot,” said Capuano.

“He is the hardest thrower on our team and he is in the upper tier of the CVC (Colonial Valley Conference) when it comes to velocity. He has got a good slider, a good changeup, and he understands pitching.”

The Tiger mound corps will also include junior Jaxon Petrone, junior Kenny Schiavone, sophomore Jon Tao, junior Palmer Maurer, junior Connor McDowell, junior James Petrone, and sophomore Wes Price. more

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Drew McConaughy controls the ball in a 2019 game. Senior McConaughy is looking to have a big final campaign for PDS. The Panthers open their 2021 campaign by hosting the Hun School on April 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team doesn’t boast strength in numbers in terms of a large roster, it is bringing a lot of emotion into the 2021 season.

“The consistent feeling across the board is that we are happy to be together,” said PDS head coach Joe Moore, reflecting on the mood around the squad as it returns to the field after the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

“We have a pretty strong senior class that was really disappointed last year. Seeing what the seniors went through last year has definitely lit a fire under us but also has made us really just appreciate being back together. From a performance standpoint, we have some holes to fill so we are just trying to learn as much about one another as quickly as we can here.”

The heartbreak triggered by the passing away of beloved longtime coach Pete Higgins last June at age 57 is adding more fire to the Panthers on a daily basis. 

“His loss is still fresh in the PDS community and for all of the kids that are in our program right now,” said Moore.

“We are playing with him on our hearts. We will be doing some things to recognize him with the shooting shirt under our jerseys and stickers on our helmets.” more

YOUNG AT HEART: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Jordan Young looks to pass the ball in a 2019 game. Last Monday, senior Young contributed three assists as PDS defeated the Pennington School 14-6 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Panthers play at Pingry School on April 14 and at Stuart Country Day on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After dealing with the disappointment of having the 2020 season canceled due to the pandemic, it didn’t take long this spring for Jill Thomas to get fired up about her Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

“It has been great, I couldn’t even tell you how much, walking up that hill the first time to the field was wonderful,” said PDS head coach Thomas.

“There is an amazing vibe out there, it is all about opportunity. I guess when something is taken away from you and you get it back, it is amazing. That is how the girls feel and how Tracy [assistant coach Tracy Young] and I feel. We haven’t had that vibe in a long, long time.”

The squad’s veterans have played a big role in creating that positive vibe.

“We are loaded at the top, we have eight seniors,” said Thomas, whose Class of 2021 includes Vanessa Devin, Anna Ellwood, Alex Hollander, Ella McIntyre, Caroline Topping, Hailey Wexler, Rachel Richter, and Jordan Young.

“We have a ton of juniors too and we have some newcomers that are going to wow people for the next four years. We have got good leadership all the way around and just a wonderful bond.”

The Panthers boast some very good offensive firepower with such skilled performers as junior Elle Anhut, senior Young, freshman Tessa Caputo, sophomore Sophie Jaffe, sophomore Paige Gardner, and junior Maggie Zarish-Yasunas. more

ABBY ROAD: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Abby O’Brien, right, heads upfield last Friday against a Blair Academy defender. Freshman attacker O’Brien tallied six goals in the contest but it wasn’t enough as the Raiders fell 14-10. In upcoming action, Hun, who moved to 1-1 with the defeat, plays at the Pennington School on April 14 and at the Blair Academy on April 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Abby O’Brien came out firing as the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team hosted Blair Academy last Friday afternoon.

Sophomore attacker O’Brien tallied three goals in the first eight minutes of the contest to help Hun jump out to a 3-1 lead.

“I was very excited; I think it is all about the timing and noticing when you have that opportunity to take the shot,” said O’Brien in assessing her hot start.

Having transferred to Hun from Montgomery High, where she never got to see the field last spring as the season was canceled due to the pandemic, O’Brien is making up for lost time.

“This is my first year of playing high school, it is my second game,” said O’Brien, who tallied four goals in her debut as Hun defeated Peddie 12-6 in its season opener on April 6.

“It is just so fun being out here with my teammates. The athletic office and the administration worked so hard for us to be able to get out here.”

Against Blair, Hun worked hard, leading 6-4 and then trailing 7-6 at halftime before the Buccaneers pulled away to a 14-10 win.

“I think there are some adjustments that we need to make on both sides,” said O’Brien, reflecting on the setback.

“We definitely fought until the end, we will be excited to get back into practice.”

O’Brien has adjusted well in making the move to Hun.

“I have a lot of family that came here, my dad came here,” said O’Brien. “It is such a great community.” more

April 7, 2021

SPECIAL EFFECT: Stephen Carlson gets ready for a special teams play this past fall for the Cleveland Browns. Former Princeton University standout Carlson ‘19 played in all 16 regular seasons, helping the Browns make the NFL playoffs for the first time in 18 years. Tight end Carlson excelled on special teams, making nine tackles over the season and recovering an onside kick late in the season finale to help clinch a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh and secure a playoff spot for Cleveland. (Photo provided courtesy of PU’s Office of Athletic Communications/Cleveland Browns)

By Bill Alden

As an undrafted and unheralded free against coming out of the Ivy League in 2019, Stephen Carlson was a long shot to make the Cleveland Browns.

But former Princeton University star receiver turned tight end Carlson beat the odds, making the team’s practice squad and then getting promoted to the active roster midway through the campaign, ultimately seeing action in seven regular season games.

After that promising start, however,  Carlson felt like he was starting over a year later when the Browns brought in a new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, and then COVID-19 hit and halted in-person activities.

“In a lot of ways I thought of it as like my rookie year again with a new playbook and a new coaching staff,” said the 6’4, 240-pound Carlson, 24.

“I had to make good first impressions with the last coaching staff. They learned to know who I am and know what kind of player I am. I had to prove myself all over again. In a lot of ways, I was pretty nervous because of the offseason stuff. I was doing everything on my own, I didn’t know how everyone else is treating it.”

As fellow Ivy Leaguers, Carlson bonded with coach Stefanski, a former Penn standout defensive back.

“There was a lot of banter back and forth, especially at the beginning,” said Carlson with a chuckle. more

SHOWING RESILIENCE: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Grace Rebak controls the puck in a game this season. Junior star defenseman Rebak made an impact at both ends of the ice as PHS went 1-2 in 2021. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With a squad of only around ten players, the Princeton High girls’ hockey team utilized a blue collar mentality to get through the winter.

“We had nine, 10 girls and I told them look we have got to play with what we have, it is what it is,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog, noting that his team practiced early mornings at the Ice Land Rink in Hamilton as its usual home, Princeton’s Hobey Baker Rink, was not open.

“We need to do the best that we can, we might end up with a loss but we are not accepting it from the get-go. It was bring the hard hat, the lunch pail, and go to work.”

Taking that message to heart, the Tiger players brought an energy to the ice.

“The girls were excited to be there for the opportunity to play,” said Herzog, whose team went 1-2 in an abbreviated season. “Many of them were not the more experienced players.”

The squad’s two most experienced players, junior Grace Rebak and sophomore Catie Samaan, proved to be the workhorses for the squad.

“They provided some really good leadership, they definitely logged a ton of minutes,” said Herzog. more

FRESH APPROACH: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Adriana Salzano heads up the court in a game this winter. Freshman point guard Salzano enjoyed a superb debut campaign for PDS, which posted a 1-7 record in 2021. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Trailing Princeton High 21-13 heading into the second half of its season finale, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team could have thrown in the towel.

Instead, PDS outscored their crosstown rivals 13-7 in the third quarter to turn the game into a nail-biter. While the Panthers ended up falling 39-29 in the March 4 contest, PDS head coach Seraphine Hamilton liked the way her squad battled to the final buzzer.

“I was really proud of our push to come back in the third quarter,” said Hamilton, whose squad had edged PHS 30-29 a day earlier to break into the win column.

“The team is resilient, if nothing else. We rebound really well and that is what kept us going. Adriana Salzano got hot, she hit two threes pretty close together. She was a good spark for us.”

The squad’s closeness helped it make the most of a 2021 season limited by  COVID-19 concerns.

“We continued to emphasize this that we have to take what we can get, we have to be grateful,” said Hamilton, who guided the Panthers to a 1-7 record in her first year at the helm of the program.

“They really are a good group. Our seniors are really composed and our underclassmen go really hard; they are intense. It was a nice balance for the two, the seniors reminded them to have fun and the underclassmen kept us focused and disciplined. It was really great in that way.” more

BIG APPLE: Hun School baseball player Carson Applegate heads to first base in a 2019 contest. Last Monday, junior star Applegate came up big on the mound and with the bat, pitching a perfect game with 12 strikeouts and contributing a double and three RBIs to help Hun defeat Blair Academy 11-0 in a game that ended after five innings due to the 10-run rule. In upcoming action, the Raiders, who moved to 1-1 with the victory, play at the Pennington School on April 12 and Princeton Day School on April 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Hun School baseball team suffered a tough 7-6 loss to LaSalle College High (Pa.) last week in its season opener, Tom Monfiletto saw the setback as a valuable experience for his squad.

“That is the exact atmosphere that we want to expose our players,” said Hun head coach Tom Monfiletto, reflecting on the March 30 contest.

“It was a very loud, electric atmosphere, a really good program, and a really well-coached team. It was a perfect first game to have. Obviously we would have liked to have won. We saw some great things and we saw a lot of things that we really need to work on. We have addressed that stuff this week and we will continue to address it but it was a good one to start the season with. Now we know what these big-time programs are going to look like and how very little room for error we have in those games.”

With the 2020 season having been canceled due to the pandemic, there is a great atmosphere around the Hun squad as it has returned to the diamond.

“The preseason went great, I think everybody was really excited to see each other every single day, that was the fun thing,” said Monfiletto, crediting Hun Co-Athletic Directors Bill Quirk and Tracey Arndt, the school’s health services staff, and his coaching staff of Pat Jones, Steve Garrison, and Rich Volz with putting in yeoman’s efforts to help make the season possible.

“Everybody was chomping at the bit to get back out there again and be together. Everybody was just dealing with the school the way that it is with one day when they are in school and one day when they are at home. They are getting some everyday normalcy. Being able to compete and work hard outside of school is something that everyone is enjoying from our best players to some of the players who are playing for their first year.” more

PLAYING TAG: Hun School softball catcher Hanna Babuschak makes a tag in a 2019 game. Senior star Babuschak is looking to enjoy a big final campaign for the Raiders. Hun was slated to start its 2021 season by hosting the Peddie School on April 6 and Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 7 before playing at Blair Academy on April 10 and Conwell-Egan Catholic High (Pa.) on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Year in, year out, the Hun School softball team looks forward to its spring trip to balmy Florida to help get it sharp for the upcoming season.

But with COVID-19 concerns preventing any jaunt to Florida this spring, Hun had to battle some wintry weather in getting ready for the 2021 campaign as it got back on the field after the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

“We had our preseason on the turf because our field was completely covered with snow,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, whose team was slated to open its season by hosting the Peddie School on April 6 and Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 7 before playing at Blair Academy on April 10 and Conwell-Egan Catholic High (Pa.) on April 12.

“It wasn’t as good as going away to Florida, but they are excited. We have been working hard.” more

By Bill Alden

Starring at soccer, track, and lacrosse for Hunterdon Central helped put Kathleen Jaeger on the path to coaching.

“I was just very fortunate to go to a high school where sports were so competitive,” said Jaeger.

“That is what led me into coaching because I want to give that opportunity to other people.”

In order to achieve that goal, Jaeger headed to The College of New Jersey where she studied special education and competed in cross country, indoor track, and lacrosse from 2015-19.

Jaeger’s experience with the school’s powerhouse lacrosse program influenced her approach to coaching.

“One of my main takeaways is the team itself, the environment that was created among the girls,” said Jaeger, who was an All-American in both lacrosse and track at TCNJ, tallying 169 goals in lax, tied for the 15th-most in program history, and excelling in the 800 on the track.

“That is an aspect I wanted to make sure that I carry with me to teams that I coach in future. Each year it was a different group of starters but everyone on the team came together. It was just so impactful.” more

NET GAIN: Stuart Country Day School volleyball player Laila Fair makes a play at the net in recent action. After wrapping up a stellar hoops career for the Tartans in early March, Fair has been making an impact for the volleyball squad as the season was moved to the spring from the fall due to COVID-19 concerns. Stuart, now 5-1, is playing at Colonia High on April 7 before hosting Delaware Valley on April 9 and Princeton Day School on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In early March, Laila Fair wrapped up a stellar career for the Stuart Country Day School basketball program, starring at forward as the squad went 7-6 against a gauntlet of tough foes.

In previous seasons, Fair, who is headed to St. Joseph’s where she will be playing for its Division I women’s hoops squad, would be back in the gym over the spring honing her game.

But this March, with the New Jersey high school volleyball season moved to the spring from the fall due to COVID-19 concerns, Fair is taking advantage of the chance to take her talents to another court, starting for the Tartan volleyball team.

The 6’1 Fair has emerged as a towering figure for Stuart, using her height and athleticism to dominate at the net.

Last week, she piled up five kills, two blocks, three digs, one assist, and three service points to help the Tartans defeat Princeton Day School 2-0 (25-19, 25-16). Senior Shirley Xie played a key role in the win over the Panthers, with one kill, 12 digs, six assists, and three service points.

Fair, who first played volleyball for Stuart in the fall of 2019, is enjoying her final campaign in the sport.

“This is my second year playing volleyball, I wouldn’t say it is a hard transition,” said Fair. more

March 31, 2021

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Former Princeton University men’s golf standout Evan Harmeling displays the trophy he earned for winning the Savannah Golf Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour last October. Harmeling ’12 is currently ranked 41st on the Korn Ferry money list with earnings of $146,374 as he looks to crack the top 25 and earn a spot on the PGA Tour next year. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

While many of his Princeton University classmates went into business, law, or medicine, Evan Harmeling was driven to pursue a different career path.

After an up-and-down career with the Princeton University men’s golf program, Harmeling ’12 decided to take a shot at the pro game.

“The interesting thing about golf is that it is all about what you shoot,” said Harmeling.

“There is no draft, there is no you have a lot of potential so we are going to take a shot on you and give you a chance. Everyone, except for the very few guys at the top of the college game who are getting some match sponsor exemptions, is starting from scratch. From that standpoint, college careers are not as important in terms of establishing your professional career.”

Over the last eight years, Harmeling, now 32, has scratched and clawed his way up to the Korn Ferry Tour, the development circuit that is one step below the PGA Tour.

Having won the Savannah Golf Championship last October, Harmeling is looking to work his way into the top 25 of the Korn Ferry money list and thereby earn PGA Tour status for next season. He currently ranks 41st on the Korn Ferry money list with earnings of $146,374.

Harmeling’s journey to the pro ranks began nearly 30 years ago, getting into the game at age 2 when his dad cut down some clubs for him.

As a grade schooler, Harmeling made his debut into competitive golf and enjoyed it right away.

“I played my first tournament when I was 10 or 11,” recalled Harmeling.

“It was on a par 3 course, Firefly, in Rhode Island. I remember that day, that first tournament, it is exciting. It is a different animal when you get a scorecard and you have got to post a score next to your name.”

Going to Phillips Academy for high school, Harmeling, a native of North Reading, Mass., started taking the game more seriously. He was named the Massachusetts Golf Association Junior Golfer of the Year in 2005 and was part of a twosome that won the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship in 2007. After graduating from Phillips, where he also played squash, Harmeling qualified for the 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship. more

TWO-FISTED: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Yani Ince returns the ball in recent action. Senior star and co-captain Ince is stepping up in her final campaign, piling up kills at the net. In upcoming action, PHS, now 1-6, plays at Rancocas Valley on March 31, at Princeton Day School on April 1, and at WW/P-North on April 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After having lost its first three matches of the 2021 season by 2-0 scores, the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team got off to a promising start as it hosted Hopewell Valley last Thursday.

Hustling after balls and playing aggressively at the net, PHS won the first set 25-15.

“We decided that we were losing on our own mistakes and today we tried to be a little bit more on our toes,” said Tiger senior co-captain Yani Ince. “We played really, really well in the first set.”

The Tigers, though, got on their heels as they dropped the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-17, to fall 2-1 to HoVal.

“I think we relaxed a little bit in the second set,” said Ince, who ended up with a team-high 11 kills in the defeat. “In the third set, I think we were a little too slow.”

In reflecting on the setback, Ince believed PHS can take a valuable lesson from the experience.

“We need to work on maintaining a high level of energy throughout the entire game,” said Ince. “We need to work on that in our practices.”

A day later, Ince and the Tigers reached a higher level, breaking through with a 2-0 win (25-23, 25-19) over Northern Burlington as they split a doubleheader with the Greyhounds, losing 2-1 (25-20,17-25, 20-25) in the other match on the day.

“This is a game to see who makes the least mistakes,” said Ince.

“So when we are making mistakes, it is saying let’s shake it off, let’s move on to the next play, it is a new play. It is maintaining positive energy on the court.” more

DEVINE INSPIRATION: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Nora Devine puts up a shot in a game this season. Junior forward Devine’s superb play in the paint this winter helped PHS go 7-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Deciding to speed things up on the court, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team enjoyed a good run this winter.

Bolstered by an infusion of talented freshmen, PHS employed an uptempo style to end the campaign with a final record of 7-3, a marked improvement on the 5-20 mark the program posted in the 2019-20 season.

“The fact that more players were able to play bodes well for the future as far as that exciting brand of basketball,” said Tiger head coach Dave Kosa. 

“We had our end of season meetings; we went uptempo in practice and a lot of the girls said it was just fun to go to practice.”

PHS had a lot of fun in its season finale, defeating New Egypt 39-29 on March 6.

“New Egypt is always strong, it was a good last game,” said Kosa, who got 11 points and six assists from freshman star Casey Serxner in the win with Sofia Aguayo chipping in eight points and five rebounds and Nora Devine contributing six points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“It was nice to finish unbeaten at home. We didn’t have that many home games but of the home games that we did have, I think we were 4-0. We played well, we led from beginning to end and we played great defense.”

The squad’s quintet of freshmen Serxner, Leah Rose-Seiden, Delaney Keegan, Riley Devlin, and Gabby Bannett, proved to be a nice addition to the program. more

ON POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Gibson Linnehan controls the puck in recent action. Senior standout forward Linehan’s solid play helped PDS go 4-1-1 this winter. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While Scott Bertoli was happy to see his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team post a 4-1-1 mark this winter, a winning record isn’t what will stand out when he looks back on the 2021 campaign.

“The results aside, it was the way we ended up getting through it,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, referring to the manner in which his players dealt with the COVID-19 protocols this winter.

“We were on the ice all nine weeks. We weren’t shut down at any point. Our kids did a good job. The school’s mask policy was effective and our kids showed a willingness to buy into that. I understand it is challenging. Even when I would hop on the ice for drills fully masked, it was hard to get adjusted to.”

PDS played hard to the end, topping St Augustine 4-0 on March 4 to avenge its only defeat of the season and then defeated crosstown rival Princeton High 6-0 a day later in its season finale.

Bertoli was proud of how his squad performed at both ends of the ice in the win over St. Augustine as it evened the score in the rivalry after having lost 3-2 to the Hermits in mid-February.

“I think the kids just naturally got excited; we always took the approach that you didn’t know what tomorrow was going to bring,” said Bertoli, who got two goals and two assists from senior star Drew McConaughy in the win with junior goalie Tim Miller making 25 saves in earning the shutout. more

HAIL STORM: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Hailey Wexler, left, races up the ice in a game this season. Senior forward Wexler’s offensive production helped PDS go 5-0-1 this season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

John Ritchie was expecting big things from his Princeton Day School girls’ hockey this winter.

Looking ahead to the season, PDS head coach Ritchie asserted that his squad possessed the depth and talent to post one of the best records in program history.

Ritchie’s confidence proved to be well-founded as the Panthers ended up going 5-0-1.

While Ritchie was proud of his team’s undefeated season, he was disappointed that COVID concerns and inclement weather led to the cancellation of scheduled clashes against some of the elite teams in the state.

“We will take it, we finished it on a good note for the seniors by not losing,” said Ritchie, whose team skated to a 2-2 tie against Trinity Hall in its season finale on February 22.

“It is one of those situations where you don’t have much control. I would have loved to play some of those other teams. We scrimmaged Summit but we didn’t get to play them in a real game. We didn’t get to play Mo-Beard, we didn’t get to play Pingry. We count those teams as the top of the state and they showed that again this year. Unfortunately with this group we didn’t get a chance to test them this year.”

The PDS group had a good time on a daily basis as it got plenty of ice time at McGraw Rink. more

NICK OF TIME: Hun School boys’ hockey player Nick Dimatos controls the puck in a game during the 2019-20 season. Senior defenseman and team captain Dimatos didn’t get many games during his final campaign as the Raiders went 0-3 in a season abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Hun School boys’ hockey team, the theme of the 2021 season turned out to be what might have been.

Boasting a squad with seven seniors and some talented younger players, Hun featured depth throughout the lineup.

But paused by COVID-19 concerns and having opponents cancel games due to similar issues, the Raiders only played three games this winter, the last one coming on February 17.

“It was tough to not think about an unfortunate waste, more so than any other year, this was when we could have been good,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally.

“It is so unfortunate that this is the year that it happened. It was almost like we never got started, that it wasn’t a season.”

The Raiders ended up losing all three contests they did have, falling 6-1 to Morristown-Beard on February 12, 5-4 to Bergen Catholic on February 15, and 4-2 to Don Bosco on February 17.

“We did as well as we could, unfortunately, the three games that we were able to get in were no slouches,” said McNally.

“We played Mo Beard, we were pretty rusty and they smoked us. We played Bergen Catholic, we played hard and we fought back. We played Don Bosco and we played hard. We were never able to have the full team because of quarantines. It was whoever was available, played. We tried our best and then we went home.” more

March 24, 2021

ALOHA HAWAII: Jerome Desrosiers dribbles upcourt during his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Senior forward Desrosiers is heading west to finish his college hoops career, having committed to play in the 2021-22 season as a grad student for the University of Hawaii. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jerome Desrosiers was struck by Eran Ganot’s goal to see his men’s basketball players happy at the University of Hawaii.

“That’s kind of how I lead my life,” said Desrosiers, a senior forward for the Princeton University men’s hoops squad, referring to the Hawaii head coach’s approach. “It related to me that way.”

When Desrosiers entered the transfer portal last semester, it was with an idea of finding a school where he could be happy playing one final season of college basketball after the Ivy League did not allow competition in his final year at Princeton. Desrosiers has finalized his commitment to Hawaii, where he will study either finance or marketing in his graduate season.

“The obvious reason is, it’s Hawaii,” said Desrosiers. “It’s not a bad place to go for an extra year.”

It’s more than the climate and scenery as Desrosiers believes he can help Hawaii, who ended the 2020-21 season with an 11-10 record (9-9 Big West). Desrosiers has been watching some of their games as he prepares to join the new team next winter. He’s also excited about how he can fit in their style.

“That’s one of the reasons why I decided to go there,” said Desrosiers, a 6’7, 230-pound native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

“Their four man (power forward) touches the ball a lot. He makes a lot of decisions. The ball moves a lot, just like the offense at Princeton. They’re not afraid to shoot it. They’re aggressive on defense and offense. I consider myself versatile with my position. I play the four or five (center), sometimes the three (small forward) rarely. Their four man is someone that can do a lot of things. I feel the same way about my game. They felt the same way. That’s how I’m going to fit in the offense and defense. It was perfect really.” more

COMING UP FOR AIR: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Ella Caddeau displays her breaststroke form in recent action. Senior star Caddeau’s versatility and leadership has helped PHS post an 8-0 record. The Tigers will look to end the winter undefeated as they face Lawrence and Steinert in virtual meets this week to wrap up the 2021 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After taking a hiatus from the Princeton High girls’ swimming team the last two years, Ella Caddeau returned to the program this winter for her senior campaign.

“I was just super excited to be part of a high school team again, there is more spirited energy, especially for meets,” said Caddeau, who swam for PHS as a freshman and continued to compete on the club level over the last two seasons.

“I was just super busy the past couple of years. This is one of the only ways I can be connected to PHS because I am not going into school.”

Despite the COVID restrictions at the pool, which limit how many people can be in the pool at one time, Caddeau has still been able to connect well with her teammates.

“We were all just happy that we had pool time and a season in the first place,” said Caddeau.

“During practices we are spread out six feet apart; we are not all jumbled on the wall together like we usually are. It takes more effort to make sure that we are still getting to have conversations because we are kind of spread out. Everybody is just more grateful that we are just having a season so there is a good energy.”

The Tigers showed good energy last Wednesday as they took part in a coed virtual meet against Trenton, rolling to 130-36 victory.

“Coach Mis [PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz] does a great job of motivating us before the meets,” said Caddeau. more

200 free Tennant

BIG TEN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Owen Tennant heads to victory in the 200-yard freestyle last week in a virtual meet against Trenton. PHS posted a 130-36 win over the Tornadoes to improve to 9-0. The Tigers will look to culminate an undefeated campaign as they take on Lawrence and Steinert in virtual meets this week in their final action of 2021. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Owen Tennant has been a stalwart of the Princeton High boys’ swimming team over the last three years, but he wasn’t sure if he would get the chance to have one final campaign in the water.

“COVID was getting bad and I think what was discouraging was that the season was pushed back all the way to February,” said Tennant.

“When it was originally pushed back, I truly didn’t think we were going to have a season.”

Fortunately, those fears proved to be unfounded as PHS decided to go ahead with a 2021 campaign.

“In mid-January, coach Mis [PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz] said they were looking to have a season and it would only be six weeks,” recalled Tennant. “That came out to be true, I am happy it did happen.”

With schools competing through virtual meets, which has each team swimming separately at its own pool and then sharing times to calculate the score, Tennant acknowledges that it has been an adjustment.

“We are not able to meet the teams and race them,” said Tennant.

“The atmosphere is very different because I feel as though you get a lot of your motivation from racing the other team. You have the scores posted, they keep getting updated. Now they could be swimming a few days later.”

Still, Tennant has been able to push himself, winning the 200-yard freestyle as PHS defeated Trenton High 130-36 in a virtual meet last week to improve to 9-0.

“That is the thing with swimming, it is a very individual sport,” said Tennant.

“There is a team aspect but it is really an individual sport so it is just you against the clock. You always try to push yourself to get that best time so it doesn’t really matter who is around you. It can help obviously because of the emotion and you are right next to someone and in the last 25 you are going to give your all.” more

GETTING A GRIP: Princeton High wrestler Martin Brophy, right, controls a foe in recent action at 120 pounds. Sophomore Brophy got off to a 3-0 start as PHS went 2-1 last week in its first action of the 2021 season. The Tigers wrestle at Steinert on March 25 and at Hopewell Valley on March 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

March 1 wasn’t a holiday, but it felt like one for the Princeton High wrestling team as it got together for the first practice of the 2021 season.

“To tell you the truth, it was like Christmas morning, the level of excitement was there,” said PHS head coach Jess Monzo, reflecting on the mood in the room.

“The kids were happy to be back, wrestling gave them that sense of normalcy. Some of them were still going to their club and working out on their own but being back brought that family unity they were missing.”

There is unity of purpose to go along with that family feeling after a promising 2019-20 campaign that saw the Tigers finish fourth in the Mercer County Tournament with two champions and a runner-up. PHS ended up qualifying three wrestlers for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) state championships in Atlantic City with James Romaine making the boys’ tourney at 152 pounds and Chloe Ayres finishing first at 107 in the girls’ competition and Ava Rose taking second at 100.

“The kids were coming out of their shell last year and seeing success helped them build off of it,” said Monzo.

“When they came in the room this year, they were a year older, they were a year more mature. They get it, especially my young guys, my freshmen who became sophomores. They see that we can do this, we can hang so the young guys are really stepping up.”

A trio of seniors, Ayres, Romaine, and Chris Sockler, are setting a good example for the program’s younger wrestlers.

“They have been tremendous leaders in the room,” said Monzo. “The young guys pick up on it and follow along so that has been tremendous. Some of them like to lead by talking and being vocal, others lead by setting the pace in the room and working hard. It is really starting to show.” more

WILLPOWER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Kennedy Wilburn, left, drives to the basket in a game this winter. Post-graduate forward Wilburn provided an inside presence that helped the Raiders win their last four games on the way to a 5-3 final record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Battling to the final moments of the 2021 campaign, the Hun School girls’ basketball team rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 47-44 win over rival Peddie in its season finale.

Trailing the Falcons 38-36 entering the final eight minutes of the March 2 contest, the Raiders tightened up their defense and rode the perimeter shooting of senior Kennedy Jardine and some clutch free throws from senior Izzy Lalo to earn the victory.

Hun head coach Bill Holup was not surprised to see his squad display resilience to the final buzzer.

“I give the girls all of the credit in the world for following through this year,” said Holup, whose players dealt with strict COVID restrictions, practicing and playing with masks.

“What I said to the girls after the game is that everything they went through this year should definitely prepare them for any adversity that they face in the future going forth. What they were able to accomplish and get through to stay committed,  work hard, and stay dedicated is really tremendous.”

The Raiders saved their best for last in edging Peddie. “The girls played a great game,” said Holup, whose team overcame an injury to junior star Kiera Hahn early in the game that sidelined her for the rest of the contest. “It was good to win a game against a MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) team as well.” more

March 17, 2021

LAX BROS: Phillip Robertson, right, stands at attention alongside his younger brother, Joe, before the start of Duke University men’s lacrosse game earlier this season. Former Princeton star Robertson is currently playing for Duke lax as a grad student on a fifth year of eligibility resulting from the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attackman Robertson has tallied five goals and two assists to help No. 2 Duke get off to an 8-0 start. (Photo provided by Duke’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Phillip Robertson was part of something special last year with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

Starring as a senior attackman, Robertson helped the Tigers get off to a 5-0 start and rise to No. 3 in the national rankings.

“We had a great senior class, we were extremely close,” said Robertson.

“As summer went on and going into the start of last year, we really tried as a group to buy in. We wanted to change things around. We had an extremely close-knit team our freshman year and we wanted to get that same kind of feel back.”

Just as Princeton was feeling like it could do some really special things in 2020, the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I remember going into the locker room, it was just really sad,” said Robertson, who tallied 13 goals in 2020 and ended his Princeton career with 67 goals and three assists.

“As the senior class, we knew that was probably it. We sent out the message that if the worst thing that ever happened in our lives was that our season got canceled, we have lived pretty blessed lives.”

This spring, Robertson is feeling blessed as he is taking care of some unfinished business, joining the Duke University men’s lacrosse team for a fifth year of eligibility resulting from the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, getting to play with younger brother, Joe, a senior standout for the Blue Devils, and former Tiger teammate Michael Sowers. more