May 15, 2019

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse goalie Connor Green, middle, gets ready to clear the ball against Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday. Senior goalie Green made 10 saves to help PDS rally from a halftime deficit to edge the Irish 7-6 and win its fourth straight county crown. PDS ended the spring with a 13-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Connor Green found himself in an unfamiliar position as the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team faced Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday evening.

With PDS having rolled to victory in the last three MCT finals, senior goalie Green yielded three unanswered goal to start the game as upset-minded Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

“Literally everything that could have gone wrong for us went wrong, and everything that could have gone right for them went right,” said Green. “This is a situation we haven’t really been in before, being down in a championship game.”

While the top-seeded Panthers rallied to knot the contest at 3-3 early in the second quarter, they were outscored 3-1 by the Irish over the last 9:02 of the quarter to fall behind 6-4 at intermission in the game played at WW/P-North. more

SEEING RED: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Mariana Lopez-Ona races upfield against Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last week. Senior star Lopez-Ona tallied four goals and three assists as second-seeded PHS defeated third-seeded Allentown 14-8 in the May 7 contest. Two days later in the final, Lopez-Ona had three goals and an assist but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 13-7 to top-seeded and three-time county champion Lawrenceville. PHS, now 15-2, will be looking to rebound from the loss to the Big Red as it competes in the NJSIAA Central Group 4 sectional tournament where it is seeded first and slated to host a quarterfinal contest on May 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team trailed two-time defending champion Lawrenceville 7-2 heading into the second half of the Mercer County Tournament final last Thursday, Mariana Lopez-Ona and her teammates weren’t about to give up.

“We knew that we could play better than we were putting it out there,” said Tiger senior standout Lopez-Ona.

“We started out really individualistically. We knew to get together and play together and we showed what we could be in that second half.”

With Lopez-Ona tallying two goals, PHS reeled off four unanswered goals in the first six minutes of the second half to narrow the gap to 7-6 in the game played at WW/P-North. more

LYING IN WAIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Lila Doran controls the ball in recent action. Junior defender Doran helped second-seeded PHS defeat third-seeded Allentown 14-8 in the MCT semis last week. The Tigers fell 13-7 to top-seeded Lawrenceville in the title game on Thursday. In upcoming action, PHS, now 15-2, will be starting play in the state tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Despite having posted two wins over Allentown in regular season action, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team knew it had to tighten things up when they foes met for round three in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last week.

“I think the energy going into the game was incredible; we knew playing a team three times is really tough,” said Doran, noting that both of the PHS wins had been by one goal, 12-11 on April 30 and 16-15 on April 11.

“Communication was definitely a key part of that. We were telling each other where we are on the field at all time. We really focused on the crease game because we were getting beat a lot there in the previous games.” more

SEE HER RUN: Princeton High runner Siena Moran shows her form in a cross country race. Last Saturday, senior Moran came up big at the Mercer County Championships last Saturday at Steinert, winning the 800-meter run, the 1,600, and helping PHS win the 4×400 relay. The Tigers finished second in the team standings to WW/P-North. The PHS boys also had a big meet, taking a close third behind champion Nottingham and runner-up WW/P-North. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although neither the Princeton High girls’ or boys’ track squads placed first in the team standings at the Mercer County Championships last Saturday, PHS produced some of the finest performances of the meet.

The unheralded Tiger girls’ team placed a strong second to powerful WW/P-North in the meet held at Steinert High, paced by junior Colleen Linko, the winner of the 200 and 400-meter races, and senior Siena Moran, who prevailed in both the 800 and 1,600. The pair also helped the 4×400 relay to victory.

PHS totaled 101 points in the competition with WW/P-North piling up 120 in winning the title. more

ENCORE PERFORMANCE: Members of the Stuart Country Day School track team celebrate after they won the state Prep B outdoor track championship meet at Newark Academy earlier this month. Stuart piled up 150 points in winning its second straight Prep B outdoor crown with Villa Walsh coming in second at 98.

By Bill Alden

Things didn’t start well for the Stuart Country Day School track team as it competed in the state Prep B championship meet last week.

Stuart junior star Alex Ottomanelli false-started in the 400 meter hurdles, the first event of the meet, to get disqualified and cost the team some valuable points.

Instead of sulking at that misfortune, the Tartans used it to fuel them to greater heights at the meet, which was held on May 6 at Newark Academy.

“Everybody rallied around the fact that we are going to have to step up,” said Stuart head coach Len Klepack. “It was a rallying point for everyone to do a little bit more.” more

By Bill Alden

Jack Erbeck wasn’t going to let lack of rest keep him from starring on the mound for the Hun School baseball team as it hosted Trenton Catholic Academy in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday.

“Coming off a four-day rest is very tough,” said senior standout Erbeck, who had pitched a shutout in Hun’s 2-0 win over Seton Hall on May 3. “I battled; I kept my pitches down and I was throwing first pitch strikes.”

Showing toughness, righty Erbeck held eighth-seeded TCA hitless through five innings, striking out eight, walking three and leaving with top-seeded Hun leading 4-1.

“I had to trust my stuff and work off my curve ball as well and my off speed pitches,” said Erbeck, who went went 1-for-2 at the plate with an RBI to help his cause. “I had to trust my defense behind me and I got the job done.” more

COOL CAT: Hun School softball player Abby Zucatti takes a swing in recent action. Last Friday, junior center fielder and co-captain Zucatti went 1-for-3 with an RBI double as Hun fell 5-3 to the Blair Academy. A day later, Zucatti picked up three walks and scored a run as the Raiders defeated Hopewell Valley 5-1 to improve to 9-5. Hun will competing in the state Prep A tournament this week where it is seeded third and slated to play at second-seeded Lawrenceville in a semifinal contest on May 14 with victor advancing to the title game on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Abby Zucatti’s heroics with her bat and glove helped spark the Hun School softball team as it waged a valiant fight against powerhouse Blair Academy last Friday.

With Hun trailing the Buccaneers 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning, junior center fielder Zucatti lashed a double to the fence to drive in Gigi Venizelos, who led off the inning with a single.

“I have been working really hard with hitting; I have been changing my swing a little bit just to make sure I get hard contact so I had confidence,” said Zucatti, noting that she had shortened her swing. more

May 8, 2019

JUMPING FOR JOY: Hun School boys’ lacrosse players Grant Hansen, right, and Jake Wright celebrate a goal last Monday as top-seeded Hun defeated second-seeded Lawrenceville 10-7 in the state Prep A championship game.Junior midfielder Hansen tallied three goals and two assists in the win while Wright chipped in two as the Raiders won their second second straight Prep A crown and improved to 10-2. Hun plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 10 and then hosts Bergen Catholic on May 13 before competing in the National Prep Championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team dug an an early 3-1 hole against Lawrenceville in the state Prep A championship game last Monday, the squad’s veterans took control.

“Coach [MV Whitlow] stepped back and said ‘leaders this is up to you,’” said Hun junior midfielder Grant Hansen.

“We looked at our captains, Jack [Ruddy] and Devon [Cowan], and they said let’s play. This is for each other, the work we do in the practice, the shots we take and how hard we work on the field. It is for each other. We looked left and right and we got the courage and strength to just go out there and play harder.” more

TWIN TERRORS: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Ethan Parker hits a serve as his twin brother Dylan guards the net in a match last week at the Mercer County Tournament. The Parker boys took second at second doubles at the MCT, helping PHS place sixth of 17 schools in the team standings of the event won by WW/P-South. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

One of the major challenges facing a high school tennis coach on an annual basis is figuring out the right combinations for the two doubles teams in the lineup.

This spring that task was a little easier for Princeton High boys’ tennis coach Sarah Hibbert as a pair of sophomore twins, Dylan and Ethan Parker, emerged as the team’s second doubles pair.

“Their communication is good, they get along well,” said Hibbert, noting that the twins bring extra athleticism as they both play for the PHS boys’ soccer team. more

By Bill Alden

Simon Hwang has bounced around the Princeton High boys’ tennis lineup over the last few years.

As a sophomore in 2017, Hwang played at second singles behind Kevin Yang with stars Noah Lilienthal and Jerry Gu taking a hiatus from the team.

Last spring, Hwang competed at first doubles with Lilienthal and Gu returning to play the top two singles spots and Yang moving to third.

This year, Hwang has taken over the first singles spot with Lilienthal and Yang having graduated and Gu getting sidelined by injury.

“With Noah and Kevin gone, it has been a lot more difficult for us this season,” said Hwang.

“There are a lot of great No. 1 singles players in our area. I used to play very competitively when I was younger, but I stopped because of other commitments, especially music. Whenever I come out to the court now, especially playing kids who are top 50, top 100 in the nation, it is almost an honor.” more

OH MY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jimmy O’Connor races upfield in a game last spring. Last Saturday, senior attacker O’Connor tallied three goals and seven assists to help top-seeded and three-time defending champion PDS defeat eighth-seeded PHS 18-3 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. The Panthers, who improved 11-3 with the win, were slated to face fifth-seeded Robbinsville in the semis on May 7 with victor advancing to the title game on May 9 at WW/P-North. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming off a heartbreaking 12-11 loss to Lawrenceville in the state Prep A semis early last week, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was primed to turn the page as it started action in the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday.

Hosting eighth-seeded Princeton High in the MCT quarterfinals, three-time defending champion and top-seeded PDS didn’t waste any time taking control of the contest, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

“Coming into this one we just knew MCTs is something that has been a big part of our season the last four years,” said Panther senior attack man Jimmy O’Connor. more

TRUE WEST: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Dylan Westerman fires the ball up the field in a game this season. Last Thursday, senior midfielder Westerman tallied four goals and an assist as eighth-seeded PHS topped ninth-seeded Lawrence 17-7 in the second round of the Mercer County Tournament. On Saturday, Westerman chipped in a goal and an assist in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 18-3 at top-seeded and three-time defending champion Princeton Day School in the MCT quarterfinal and moved to 5-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Dylan Westerman was ready to shoulder more responsibility on offense for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team as it hosted Lawrence High last Thursday in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament.

With senior star Alex Park sidelined due to injury, Westerman was determined to pick up the slack for his friend and classmate as the eighth-seeded Tigers faced off against the ninth-seeded Cardinals.

“Someone has to step up; being a captain, I have been doing my best all season but I have been trying to pick up a little more on the offensive end, getting things organized,” said Westerman. more

By Bill Alden

Anna Gill wasn’t at full speed as the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team hosted Robbinsville in a Mercer County Tournament play-in game.

“I have an injury on my foot, it is harder for me to run,” said Stuart freshman midfielder Gill. “It is just willpower.”

Displaying both willpower and skill, Gill tallied a goal and an assist to help 12th-seeded Stuart pull away to a 13-6 win over 13th-seeded Robbinsville in the April 30 contest.

“As a team, we are all working really hard to make everyone do their best,” said Gill. “Today we just brought it out, it was just really good.”

With Stuart trailing 4-3 late in the first half, the Tartans went on a 3-0 run at end of first half to seize momentum. more

GOING FOR IT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Aaron Phogat chases down a backhand in action last week at the Mercer County Tournament.  Sophomore standout Phogat took third at third singles at the MCT, helping PDS placed seventh of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star Aaron Phogat got off to a rough start in the last day of action at the Mercer County Tournament last week.

Sophomore Phogat suffered a tough 6-3, 7-5 loss to Pennington School rival Deon Kraft in the semifinals of the third singles last Wednesday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

But Phogat didn’t let the setback dampen his competitive spirit as he returned an hour later to face Siddbanth Deepak of WW/P-North in the third place match.

“Playing against Deon is always nice; he is a nice kid and is great sportsman,” said Phogat. “I wasn’t too harried about the loss. I am OK,  good for him, he has a really good shot at winning the finals so it didn’t feel too tough to bounce back actually.”

Bouncing back nicely, Phogat posted a solid 6-2, 6-3 win to earn third place. more

May 1, 2019

PLAYMAKER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Shaylah Marciano cradles the ball in recent action. Last Monday, junior standout Marciano tallied three goals and three assists to help PHS edge Clearview 13-11. The Tigers, now 11-1, will start play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded second and slated to host a quarterfinal contest on May 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Shaylah Marciano came out firing as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team hosted perennial powerhouse Hunterdon Central last Thursday.

The junior midfielder tallied two goals and two assists in the first 7:21 of the contest as PHS jumped out to a 4-1 lead.

“We knew they were a really good team coming in, we have lost to this team before,” said Marciano.

“We really wanted to start out strong so we could continue the momentum throughout the game.”   

After the Red Devils went on a 5-2 run to knot the game at 6-6, the Tigers reeled off six unanswered goals to build a 12-6 lead at halftime. more

BIG-TIME PERFORMANCE: Princeton High boys’ track star Nils Wildberg displays the watch he earned for being the top U.S. finisher in the boys’ long jump at the famed Penn Relays last weekend in Philadelphia. Wildberg had a best jump of 23’8 as he came in fourth overall. Fellow PHS senior Paul Brennan was the top U.S. finisher in the boys’ discus with a personal best, school record, NJ #1 of 186’11, taking third overall in the event.

By Bill Alden

Entering the Penn Relays last week at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Princeton High track stars Paul Brennan and Nils Wildberg didn’t appear poised to make a major impact at the world famous competition.

“Paul was really sick last weekend and actually lost in the discus to the kid from Lawrence High school at the county relays,” said PHS coach Ben Samara.

“I think that was a huge wakeup call, it was like ‘oh my god, I am mortal, I can lose.’ Nils has been doing some short run jumps at the beginning of the season. He did some long run jumps at the county relays and it didn’t go well. He was having a lot of trouble getting off the board and getting up in the air.” more

BIRCH BARK: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Maddy Birch carries the ball upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star Birch tallied three goals and three assists as second-seeded PDS defeated seventh-seeded Pennington 15-5 in the state Prep B quarterfinals in improving to 7-5. The Panthers will host a Prep B semi on May 6. In addition, PDS will be starting play in the Mercer County Tournament this week where it is seeded fifth and will host a second-round contest on May 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maddy Birch wasn’t about to take a defeat in her Senior Day for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

With PDS knotted in an 8-8 tie against visiting Somerville at halftime last Saturday in its regular season home finale, senior attacker Birch took over the intermission pep talk from head coach Jill Thomas.

“Maddy sat them down at halftime and she said, ‘we are better than this, we are playing down,’” recalled Thomas.

“She said we needed to step it up and get it together. She walks the walk, she is the glue man for the team like we said at the Senior Day ceremony.”

Birch, for her part, knew that the Panthers could do much better in the second half.

“We came out strong, we knew that we better than this team and we could take them,” said Birch. more

DOING IT ALL: Hun School baseball player Andy Blake displays his hitting form in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, post-graduate and Columbia-bound Blake displayed his all around-skills as Hun defeated the Hill School (Pa.) 12-0. The right-hander pitched a complete game shutout, striking out eight and yielding just four hits. At the plate, Blake went 2-for-3, legging out a pair of doubles and contributing two RBIs. The Raiders, now 13-1, play at Seton Hall Prep on May 3, face Steinert on May 4 at Veterans Park in Hamilton, and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Emilie Petrone)

By Bill Alden

Andy Blake demonstrated his all-around diamond brilliance as the Hun School baseball team hosted the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday.

The lanky postgraduate right-hander pitched a complete game shutout as Hun prevailed 12-0, striking out eight and yielding just four hits.

At the plate, Blake went 2-for-3, legging out a pair of doubles and contributing two RBIs.

“I just tried to use all of my stuff, execute, hit my spot,” said Blake, reflecting on his mound outing. more

April 24, 2019

STEPPING UP: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Simon Hwang displays his serving form. Senior Hwang has stepped into the first singles role for PHS this spring. The Tigers, now 4-2, host Hamilton West on April 24 and play at Trenton Central on April 25 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 29 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Losing two singles stars to graduation and another due to injury, the Princeton High boys’ tennis team has a new look at the top of its lineup.

“We are not looking at same strength in our singles lineup,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, whose Class of 2018 included standouts Noah Lilienthal and Kevin Yang with current senior Jerry Gu sidelined by injury.

“But the guys that are there want to be there. They are working hard, they are trying their best. We will take each match as it comes and work as hard as we can.”

After dropping matches to HoVal and WW/P-North to start the 2019 campaign, PHS has reeled off four straight wins, highlighted by a dramatic 3-2 victory over Hightstown on April 8. more

GETTING IN THE SWING: Princeton High baseball player Aiden Regan follows through on a swing in recent action. Junior first baseman Regan is emerging as a key contributor for the Tigers in his first varsity campaign. PHS, who moved to 3-7 with a 6-3 loss to Notre Dame last Thursday, plays at Princeton Day School on April 24, at Robbinsville on April 26, and at Allentown on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Aiden Regan, moving up to the Princeton High baseball team after spending two years on the junior varsity hasn’t been an easy process.

“Down there, it is much different,” said PHS junior first baseman Regan.

“It is a challenge on varsity, but it is a good adjustment. I am working in here. There are some great guys ahead of me, so it is anything I can do to help the team.”

Last week, Regan helped PHS with his bat, stroking a double in a 1-0 loss to Nottingham on April 16 and then went 1-for-3 with a single in fourth inning rally as the Tigers fell 5-1 to Hamilton. more

HOT HAND: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cal Caputo heads upfield in a 2018 game. Last Thursday, junior attacker Caputo tallied three goals to help PDS defeat the Hill School (Pa.) 9-6. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 7-2, host Robbinsville on April 24, Pennington on April 25 and Notre Dame on April 27. In addition, PDS will be starting play in the state Prep A tournament, where it is seeded third and playing at second-seeded Lawrenceville in a semifinal contest on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having played seven of its first eight games on the road, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was excited to be at the friendly confines of Baker Field as it hosted the Hill School (Pa.) last Thursday.

Giving their fans something to cheer about early, the Panthers tallied three unanswered goals in the first 1:09 of the contest.

“We were hyped up to get a home game and we came out firing and ready to go,” said PDS junior attacker Cal Caputo.

In assessing the hot start, Caputo pointed to controlling the face-off as a key factor.

“Trevor Mackles, our freshman face-off guy, has been winning them all year,” said Caputo. more

By Bill Alden

Jennifer Johnson possesses a world of experience, literally, when it comes to the game of tennis.

Growing up in West Virginia, Johnson took up the game at an early age and went on to play Division I tennis at Penn State and Bradley University. She served as a team captain and played No. 1 singles for Bradley as a senior in 1989.

She later coached the Waynesburg University women’s tennis team for six years from 1993-99 and was named as the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) coach of the year in 1994.

With her husband being transferred Europe for his work, Johnson ended up coaching in Zurich, Switzerland and London, England. more

ATTACK MODE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Trevor Deubner looks for an opening in recent action. Junior attacker Deubner has triggered the offense for Hun as it has produced a 7-0 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders play at Shawnee High on April 24 before hosting national powerhouse IMG Academy (Fla.) on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Trevor Deubner set up shop behind the Peddie goal, quarterbacking the offense for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team as it hosted the Falcons last week.

With the Hun junior attacker deftly passing into the crease to set up teammates and darting in front of goal to take shots when lanes opened up, the Raider attack clicked on all cylinders as the rolled to a 17-1 win in the April 16 contest.

“I am just trying to let the game come to me and not turn over the ball too much,” said Deubner, who ended up with three goals and four assists in the victory. “I try to make plays when they are there and not force it.”

Having started since his freshman year, Deubner is more savvy with the ball.

“I would say attack is 100 percent mental,” added Deubner, who has committed to attending the University of North Carolina and play for its high-powered men’s lacrosse program. more

April 17, 2019

GIVING DIRECTION: Princeton High softball head coach Marissa Soprano, right, instructs one of her players during a recent game. Going with a number of young players, PHS has taken it lumps in the early going this spring. The Tigers, now 0-6, host Hamilton on April 17 and then play at Notre Dame on April 18, at WW/P-South in April 22 and at Steinert on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Marissa Soprano chattered constantly to the players on her Princeton High softball team as it hosted Allentown last Friday afternoon.

PHS head coach Soprano positioned her players, gave them fielding and hitting tips, and told them to take a deep breaths as part of her running commentary.

“The team is really new, we are doing a lot of teaching this year,” said Soprano, whose starting lineup against the Redbirds included three freshmen and two sophomores.

“We are just trying to teach them the basics of the game. It is hard when you play against girls who have been playing long time.” more

BIG BEN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Ben Quinones carries the ball up the field in recent action. Junior defender Quinones has emerged as leader on the PHS back line this season. Last Saturday, Quinones chipped in a goal and an assist and scooped up six ground balls to help PHS defeat South Brunswick 12-6 and post its second straight victory. The Tigers, now 3-5, host WW/P-N on April 18 and Hightstown on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mired in a five-game losing streak coming into its game against visiting Robbinsville last Thursday, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was looking for a fresh start.

“It was ‘take it like the first game of the season and just play with fire,’” said PHS junior defender Ben Quinones. “We wanted to come out calm and collected but intense.”

Displaying intensity at both ends of the field, the Tigers jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Ravens nearly 15 minutes into the contest.

“It is not something we have been accustomed to this season; it was something we were all excited to see happen,” said Quinones. more