July 29, 2015
TRIAL RUN: Will Stange displays his freestyle form in a race this season for the Cornell University men’s swimming team. Former Princeton High standout Stange enjoyed a solid freshman campaign this winter for the Big Red, focusing on the 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke races. Last Thursday, Stange achieved a big breakthrough, posting a time of 2:03.56 in the 200-meter at the New Jersey Long Course Junior Olympics hosted by Scarlet Aquatics at Rutgers back to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the event.

TRIAL RUN: Will Stange displays his freestyle form in a race this season for the Cornell University men’s swimming team. Former Princeton High standout Stange enjoyed a solid freshman campaign this winter for the Big Red, focusing on the 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke races. Last Thursday, Stange achieved a big breakthrough, posting a time of 2:03.56 in the 200-meter at the New Jersey Long Course Junior Olympics hosted by Scarlet Aquatics at Rutgers back to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the event.

Even though Will Stange was sidelined by illness for over a week in the tapering phase as the Cornell University men’s swimming team prepared for the Ivy League championship meet this past February, he still produced a personal best in the 200-yard backstroke at the competition.

Former Princeton High standout Stange posted a time of 1:45.1 to place 13th, achieving the third-fastest time for the event in Cornell program history. more

BRINGING IT ON: DeQuan Holman heads to the hoop last Monday in the Princeton High gym for Bring Me Food as it faced Ivy Inn in game one of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Former PHS standout Holman scored a team-high 18 points to help second-seeded Bring Me Food defeat Ivy Inn 54-39 in the opener. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 29 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for July 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BRINGING IT ON: DeQuan Holman heads to the hoop last Monday in the Princeton High gym for Bring Me Food as it faced Ivy Inn in game one of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Former PHS standout Holman scored a team-high 18 points to help second-seeded Bring Me Food defeat Ivy Inn 54-39 in the opener. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 29 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for July 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DeQuan Holman had been a fixture in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League over the years.

During his career with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, which saw him help the Little Tigers to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals in 2009 as a senior, Holman played for the Princeton Youth Sports entry in the summer league.

After graduating from PHS, he continued to spend his summers on the Community Park courts, helping University Radiology to the league title in 2011 and then starring for Dr. Palmer.

This summer, Holman has assumed the wily veteran role for Bring Me Food as it has played its debut season in the league.

“I have actually never played with these guys before, it is actually pretty different for me,” said Holman. “I am the oldest by far, that is a new feeling for me. I am used to being the youngest.”

Last Monday evening in the Princeton High gym, Holman displayed his savvy and skill, scoring a team-high 18 points to help second-seeded Bring Me Food defeat Ivy Inn 54-39 in Game 1 of the league’s best-of-three championship series. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 29 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for July 31.

Having lost 57-48 to Ivy Inn in a regular season game on July 15, Holman and his teammates were determined to turn the tables in the rematch. more

STICKING WITH IT: Carly O’Brien heads up the field in action this spring during her senior season with the Dickinson College women’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton Day School standout O’Brien enjoyed a superb career for Dickinson, tallying 166 points in her career, fifth best in program history.  (Photo by by James Rasp, provided courtesy of Dickinson’s Office of Athletic Communications)

STICKING WITH IT: Carly O’Brien heads up the field in action this spring during her senior season with the Dickinson College women’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton Day School standout O’Brien enjoyed a superb career for Dickinson, tallying 166 points in her career, fifth best in program history.
(Photo by by James Rasp, provided courtesy of Dickinson’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sadly, Carly O’Brien ended her senior season with the Dickinson College women’s lacrosse team this spring the same way she finished her freshman campaign – with a serious knee injury.

While injuries may have hampered O’Brien during her college career, the former Princeton Day School standout accomplished a lot when she was on the field for the Red Devils.

The high-scoring 5’8 forward tallied 166 points in her career, fifth best in program history, on 114 goals and 52 assists. She ranks seventh all-time for the team in goals and fifth in assists.

“Every time I stepped on the field, it was my job to score,” said O’Brien, a three-sport performer at PDS, who played soccer and ice hockey in addition to lacrosse.

“The defense worked so hard to get the ball and I wanted to come through. Because of the injuries, I wanted to make the most of the time I was on the field.”

Coming into this spring, O’Brien was looking to make the most of her senior season.

“My first three years, we came so close to the Centennial Conference  playoffs so my main goal was to make playoffs,” said O’Brien reflecting on her mindset coming into 2015. “It was a young team with a lot of talent and potential.”

O’Brien and the Red Devils got off to a good start, going 3-0, but couldn’t get over the hump, losing some tough games to ned the season at 8-7 overall and 4-5 Centennial. more

July 22, 2015
CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton Little League (PLL) star Jackson Rho takes a big swing in recent tournament action. Rho’s power hitting and solid pitching helped PLL take third at the New Jersey State Intermediate 50/70 tournament last weekend. Rho went 3-for-7 with a homer, double, four runs, and four RBIs at the tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton Little League (PLL) star Jackson Rho takes a big swing in recent tournament action. Rho’s power hitting and solid pitching helped PLL take third at the New Jersey State Intermediate 50/70 tournament last weekend. Rho went 3-for-7 with a homer, double, four runs, and four RBIs at the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having made history by becoming the first team from the Princeton Little League (PLL) to win a sectional title, the Princeton squad was looking to write another chapter to its memorable summer as it played in the New Jersey State Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week in Winslow.

“The mood was very serious and very determined,” said PLL manager Jon Durbin. “They wanted to do the best that they could, they were dialed in and focused. It was very professional.”

PLL showed its focus as it jumped out to an early lead against West Deptford in an opening round contest at the four-team event.

“We were up 6-1 after two innings,” recalled Durbin. “Teddy (Durbin’s son) started and decided that he would only go 50 pitches so we could have him for the championship round. We pulled him and they got five runs in the next inning.”

West Deptford went ahead 9-6 in the top of the fifth inning on a three-run homer and pulled away to a 15-9 win.

“It turned into a slugfest, it was a see-saw game. The closest we got was 9-8,” said Durbin.

“It was a wild game, both teams were tight and both made more errors than you would expect.” more

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all-star Jensen Bergman races down the base path during the District 12 tournament. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Bergman helped PLL advance to the championship round of the tournament where it fell to Nottingham.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all-star Jensen Bergman races down the base path during the District 12 tournament. Leadoff hitter and center fielder Bergman helped PLL advance to the championship round of the tournament where it fell to Nottingham. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all-star team fell 17-4 to Nottingham in the first game of the championship round of the District 12 tournament, Ken Harlan didn’t see any of his players hanging their heads.

“They are very loose,” said PLL manager Harlan. “Even after the loss to Nottingham, they were goofy. They just like to have fun.”

PLL was looking to have fun as it went into a rematch with Nottingham in a winner-take-all finale last Thursday at Tantum Park in Robbinsville. “I thought we were feeling good, we were focused,” said Harlan.

Getting off to a good start, PLL scored two runs in the top of the first inning and added five in the top of the second to build a 7-0 lead. “I felt good, I was happy with the way we were pitching,” recalled Harlan.

Things took an unhappy turn for Princeton, however, as Nottingham scored five runs in the bottom of the second and then exploded for eight in the bottom of the fourth as it pulled away to a 15-9 victory and the district title.

“We just had a few plays that got away from us,” lamented Harlan. “It was the 10-year-old game. We made some mistakes in the field. We knew it was going to be a high scoring game. Unfortunately we didn’t have the higher number. They had some good hitters.” more

CLASSIC LOOK: SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich guard Eric Klacik looks to unload the ball in action this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Klacik scored a game-high 14 points to help third-seeded SAT Smart edge sixth-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy 50-47 in the league quarterfinals. The win earned the team a spot in the league semis on Friday against the victor of the July 22 quarterfinal clash between second-seeded Bring Me Food and seventh-seeded King’s Pizzarama. The other semi on Friday will match the winners of quarterfinal contests between top-seeded Ivy Inn and eighth-seeded Princeton Pi and No. 4 seed Aria Health against fifth-seeded and defending champion Winberie’s.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLASSIC LOOK: SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich guard Eric Klacik looks to unload the ball in action this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Klacik scored a game-high 14 points to help third-seeded SAT Smart edge sixth-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy 50-47 in the league quarterfinals. The win earned the team a spot in the league semis on Friday against the victor of the July 22 quarterfinal clash between second-seeded Bring Me Food and seventh-seeded King’s Pizzarama. The other semi on Friday will match the winners of quarterfinal contests between top-seeded Ivy Inn and eighth-seeded Princeton Pi and No. 4 seed Aria Health against fifth-seeded and defending champion Winberie’s. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Eric Klacik and The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team enjoyed a breakthrough season.

TCNJ posted a 15-11 record, making the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Sophomore guard Klacik, for his part, played a major role in the team’s success, averaging 9.3 points a game.

Playing in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League this year as the SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich entry, Klacik and his TCNJ teammates have continued the progress they showed this winter.

Posting a 7-2 regular season record, SAT Smart earned the third seed in the league playoffs and faced sixth-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy last Monday night in a quarterfinal contest at the Community Park courts.

In the early going of the game, it looked like SAT Smart might have been heading for an early exit as it trailed 25-16 late in the first half. But showing some of the grit it developed last winter, the squad closed the half with a 12-2 run to take a 28-27 lead into intermission.

“They  came out hitting shots, we knew we had to get on the shooters,” said Klacik. more

RAM TOUGH: James Bunn follows through on a swing in action this spring during his junior campaign with the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team. Speedy outfielder Bunn, a Princeton resident who starred in soccer, hockey, and baseball for the Pennington School, helped the VCU advance to the NCAA tournament Super Regionals this spring, a first in Rams’ program history.(Photo Courtesy of VCU’s Office of Athletic Communications)

RAM TOUGH: James Bunn follows through on a swing in action this spring during his junior campaign with the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team. Speedy outfielder Bunn, a Princeton resident who starred in soccer, hockey, and baseball for the Pennington School, helped the VCU advance to the NCAA tournament Super Regionals this spring, a first in Rams’ program history. (Photo Courtesy of VCU’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Months before the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) baseball team started its 2015 season, James Bunn sensed it was going to be a big spring.

“In the fall, me and my roommates said this team is special, there is something going on,” said VCU outfielder Bunn, a Princeton resident who starred in soccer, hockey, and baseball for the Pennington School. “We had a core of seniors who didn’t want to be denied.” more

July 15, 2015
THE RIGHT STUFF: Jackson Bailey fires a pitch for the Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all star team last week in the District 12 tournament. Bailey’s pitching and hitting has helped PLL start 4-0 in the tournament. Princeton was slated to face Nottingham on July 14 in the finals, needing one more win to clinch the crown in the double-elimination competition.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THE RIGHT STUFF: Jackson Bailey fires a pitch for the Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all star team last week in the District 12 tournament. Bailey’s pitching and hitting has helped PLL start 4-0 in the tournament. Princeton was slated to face Nottingham on July 14 in the finals, needing one more win to clinch the crown in the double-elimination competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton Little League (PLL) 9-10-year-old all star team entered the sixth inning of its District 12 tournament winner’s bracket game against Millstone-Roosevelt last Wednesday night, the mist rising in the outfield lent a Field of Dreams aura to the contest. more

FINAL CUT: John Reid connects during recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Former Princeton High standout Reid helped Post 218 enjoy a big weekend as it posted an 11-0 win over South Brunswick Post 401 on Saturday and then edged North Hamilton 5-4 a day later. Post 218, which improved to 4-19 with the victories, was slated to wrap up its season by playing at Hamilton Post 31 on July 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CUT: John Reid connects during recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Former Princeton High standout Reid helped Post 218 enjoy a big weekend as it posted an 11-0 win over South Brunswick Post 401 on Saturday and then edged North Hamilton 5-4 a day later. Post 218, which improved to 4-19 with the victories, was slated to wrap up its season by playing at Hamilton Post 31 on July 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Maselli scuffled a bit in the first inning as he started on the mound for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team against visiting South Brunswick at Smoyer Park.

Wiry right-hander Maselli gave up a single and walked another batter but got out of the frame unscathed with some help from his teammates.

“My catcher (Gideon Friedberg) really picked me up in the first inning,” said Maselli, a former Pennington School standout who just finished his freshman year at Methodist University in North Carolina.

“He threw the kid out at first and then the kid out at third. It really just helps when you make mistakes as a pitcher and your infield can pick you up and get you out of situations like that.”

Post 218 picked it up at the bat in the bottom of the first, pushing across five runs as Steve Majeski, Chris Sumners, and Nick Perez each contributed RBI singles.

“When you come up as the home team and score five, that gives you confidence,” said Maselli.

“We have been struggling this year; we haven’t been able to do as much as we would like. To come out and be leading 5-0 after one, it gives the pitcher all the confidence in the world.”

Over the next four innings, Maselli did what he liked on the mound, retiring all 12 batters he faced as Post 218 pulled away to 11-0 in a game shortened to five innings due to the 10-run rule. more

MOORE ON THE WAY: Hashim Moore heads up court in his post-graduate campaign for the Hun School boys’ basketball team in the 2012-13 season. Moore, who went on to play the last two seasons as a reserve forward for the Princeton University men’s basketball team, has switched to football. He is staying around basketball, though, by playing for King’s Pizzarama in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, he scored a game-high 21 points in a losing cause as King’s fell 58-50 to Belle Mead Physical Therapy. In other action on Monday, Aria Health defeated SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich 60-51 and Bring Me Food topped Princeton Pi 66-56.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MOORE ON THE WAY: Hashim Moore heads up court in his post-graduate campaign for the Hun School boys’ basketball team in the 2012-13 season. Moore, who went on to play the last two seasons as a reserve forward for the Princeton University men’s basketball team, has switched to football. He is staying around basketball, though, by playing for King’s Pizzarama in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, he scored a game-high 21 points in a losing cause as King’s fell 58-50 to Belle Mead Physical Therapy. In other action on Monday, Aria Health defeated SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich 60-51 and Bring Me Food topped Princeton Pi 66-56. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After helping the Hun School boys’ basketball team to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title in 2013 as a post-graduate, Hashim Moore moved across town to join the Princeton University men’s hoops program.

Over the last two seasons, Moore filled a reserve role at small forward, making seven appearances as a freshman in 2013-14 and then getting into four games last winter, scoring a total of 15 points in 28 minutes of action.

This spring, the 6’5 Moore, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., decided it was time for a change in his sporting focus, leaving the basketball program to join the Princeton football team.

“It just wasn’t for me at the time,” said Moore, explaining his decision. “I am looking for an opportunity in football.”

Looking to play tight end for the Tigers, Moore is putting in some hard work this summer to get up to speed in his new sport.

“I have been here for a couple weeks now, doing 6 a.m. workouts every morning with the football guys who are here in the summer,” said Moore.

“I haven’t played football since middle school. I feel like I am athletic enough to do the switch. The coaches are working with me to help learn the plays and get bigger and stronger. I have gained 20 pounds (going from 220 to 240) since I did the switch.”

Moore, though, is staying in basketball by playing for King’s Pizzarama in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Last Monday, after arriving at the Community Park courts with football and King’s teammate, Anthony Gaffney, just after the team tipped off against Belle Mead Physical Therapy, Moore showed flashes of his hoops brilliance. more

HIGH TECH: Aaron Shavel unloads the ball in action for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) men’s lacrosse team. Shavel, a former Princeton Day School standout, wrapped up his RPI career this spring by tallying 12 goals and three assists to help the Engineers go 10-5.(Photo Courtesy of RPI Athletic Communications)

HIGH TECH: Aaron Shavel unloads the ball in action for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) men’s lacrosse team. Shavel, a former Princeton Day School standout, wrapped up his RPI career this spring by tallying 12 goals and three assists to help the Engineers go 10-5. (Photo Courtesy of RPI Athletic Communications)

During his first two seasons with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s lacrosse team, Aaron Shavel struggled to find a rhythm at the college level.

“The game is a lot faster and the players are a lot bigger,” said Shavel, a former Princeton Day School star attacker.

“I had to be a lot quicker and more decisive, the big thing was the speed of everything. You have to refine your game. It took a while for me to grow into it; I was making a lot of turnovers.”

A coaching decision early in Shavel’s junior year changed the game for him.

“At the end of fall ball, the coach (Jim Townsend) talked to me; he said I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time but thought I could still be an asset to the team,” said Shavel.

“He said he wanted to move me to midfield. I hadn’t played that since middle school but I said anything to help the team and get on the field.”

Adjusting well to his new role, Shavel helped trigger the team’s offense in 2014, scoring 24 points on 17 goals and seven assists.

“I went from a second or third line attacker to first line midfield,” said Shavel.

“It was better for my skill set; I was able to get my hands free. I also got to play on the man-up unit. When you are on attack, you are on the field the whole time. As a midfielder, you are on for 30 seconds and then off for two minutes. Being on the man-up got me one or two more runs. I was on low left; I had a comfort level there and it helped me get a rhythm.” more

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Members of the the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad  celebrate last Thursday after they edged Ocean Township 5-4 at Farmview Fields to win the Section 3 50/70 Intermediate tournament. It is the first-ever sectional crown won by the PLL program. The team will now go for a state title and faces West Deptford in the first round of the states on July 15 in the four-team competition being held at Winslow Township.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Members of the the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad celebrate last Thursday after they edged Ocean Township 5-4 at Farmview Fields to win the Section 3 50/70 Intermediate tournament. It is the first-ever sectional crown won by the PLL program. The team will now go for a state title and faces West Deptford in the first round of the states on July 15 in the four-team competition being held at Winslow Township. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having gone undefeated in tournament play this summer, the Princeton Little League (PLL) 50/70 Intermediate squad found itself trailing Ocean Township 4-2 in the fifth inning of the final round of the Section 3 tourney last Thursday.

But PLL star infielder Ben Petrone wasn’t overly concerned about the deficit. more

July 8, 2015
IMPROVING SITUATION: Jessica Frieder guards the goal this season for the Dartmouth College women’s lacrosse team. Frieder, a former standout lacrosse and soccer goalie at Princeton Day School, started all 14 games for the Big Green this spring in her senior campaign, posting a 10.60 goals against average and making 101 saves. Frieder, who had only made five appearances in her first three seasons at Dartmouth, won the team’s Most Improved Player award.(Photo Courtesy of John and Matt Risley/Dartmouth Athletics)

IMPROVING SITUATION: Jessica Frieder guards the goal this season for the Dartmouth College women’s lacrosse team. Frieder, a former standout lacrosse and soccer goalie at Princeton Day School, started all 14 games for the Big Green this spring in her senior campaign, posting a 10.60 goals against average and making 101 saves. Frieder, who had only made five appearances in her first three seasons at Dartmouth, won the team’s Most Improved Player award. (Photo Courtesy of John and Matt Risley/Dartmouth Athletics)

In her first three seasons with the Dartmouth College women’s lacrosse team, Jessica Frieder played in just five games, seeing a total of 46 seconds playing time as a sophomore and junior in her back-up goalie spot.

Despite her lack of game action, Frieder still felt very much a part of the team.

“I was behind Kristen Giovanniello, who was All-Ivy League and a great player,” said Frieder, a former Princeton Day School standout who was a star goalie in both soccer and lacrosse for the Panthers.

“I took pride in being in practice and working hard and helping the team. I was on the field every day, I was just not in 16 days. There are 30 players on the team and not everyone is going to be on the field in the games. It is not about playing time but preparing the team to play. It is a team effort and I never felt like I wasn’t a part of the wins.”

With Giovanniello graduating in 2014, Frieder earned the starting job this spring for her senior campaign.

“I think coming into the season I was nervous; I hadn’t had the playing time,” said Frieder

“As a senior leader, the defense was young and I was able to guide them. When I got the start, I kept in there.”

Frieder showed her leadership in an 8-5 loss to Princeton on March 7, making 12 saves as the Big Green nearly upset the eventual Ivy league champion Tigers.

“It was a lot of fun for me, I was very excited to play against my hometown team and show them what I could do,” said Frieder.

“Princeton and Dartmouth have a great rivalry, the girls always get excited for that one. It was the first Ivy game and we were coming out of the gates. We played really well, we just didn’t come out on top. Princeton was my breakout game. I was pretty confident after that. I was able to command the defense; I was seeing the ball well and making saves.”

While the defeat to Princeton was part of Dartmouth’s nine-game losing streak to start the season, Frieder and her teammates weren’t discouraged.

“We had a tough start but we had a really tough schedule,” said Frieder. “We were making progress every game, we were playing better each time out.”

On April 4, the Big Green broke through with a 10-9 overtime win against Cornell, triggering a late-season run which saw Dartmouth go 3-2 in its final five games to end the spring at 3-11 overall and 3-4 Ivy.

“I think that was a turning point, to finally get that win, especially in overtime; Cornell was a great team,” said Frieder.

“We just connected, we clicked. We were more consistent. Before that we were playing well for 15 minutes at a time. In the Cornell game, we played well for 60 minutes. It was a confidence builder.”

Frieder and her classmates ended their careers on a high note with a 9-8 overtime win against Columbia in the regular season finale.

“We were so determined to win, there was never a doubt in our minds,” said Frieder, who made nine saves in the victory.

“It was not as smooth as we wanted it to be. We had to fight hard and it was great to pull it out. There were definitely tears after the game, it was bittersweet. I really loved being on the team. It was sad to be done.”

While it was sad to be finished, Frieder can look back on a lot of happy times over the last four years.

“We had great careers; we won the Ivy tournament and we went to two NCAAs,” said Frieder.

“The seven of us grew together from the experiences we shared with the team. We played with a lot of heart. We were supportive of each other and we were role models to the underclassmen. We would work hard in practice.”

Frieder’s hard work paid off as she won the team’s Most Improved Player award.

“That was great, it was voted on by my teammates,” said Frieder, who started all 14 games this spring for the Big Green, posting a 10.60 goals against average and making 101 saves. “It was nice to see that they respected me. They showed confidence in me.”

Going through the ups and downs of her college lacrosse career has given Frieder extra confidence as she heads into life after Dartmouth.

“I learned so much from playing the last four years; I am grateful for the opportunity,” said Frieder, a geography major who is looking to get into the business world after graduating in mid-June.

“I loved being at the school; everyone was supportive. I was in close contact with the alums, they kept in touch. They were always sending e-mails and texts. You feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. I learned life values that will help me in the real world. There were tough times, tough practices. You learn to be mentally tough playing in the cold like that.”

MAN UP: Sam Smallzman looks for a hit last Wednesday in the Sunshine Football Classic. The recently graduated Princeton High star linebacker Smallzman helped the West squad to a 21-0 win in the all-star contest held at The College of New Jersey.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAN UP: Sam Smallzman looks for a hit last Wednesday in the Sunshine Football Classic. The recently graduated Princeton High star linebacker Smallzman helped the West squad to a 21-0 win in the all-star contest held at The College of New Jersey. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sam Smallzman has been a spectator at The College of New Jersey stadium for two Sunshine Classic all-star games in recent years, cheering on teammates from the Princeton High football team.

“I watched my senior captains playing in my freshman year, Alex Mitko and Jeff Barsamian along with Eric Shorter,” said Smallzman. “Last year, it was Liam Helstrom in the game.”

Last Wednesday, star linebacker Smallzman added to that program tradition as he was on the field at TCNJ for the West squad in the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC along with PHS teammates Joe Hawes, Tad Moore, Tommy Moore, Omar Moustafa, Colin Buckley, and Brian Lemus-Camey.

“It was a great opportunity to play one more football game with my boys,” said Smallzman.

“I was just grateful to play. It was different than in the season. It was laid back, we had fun.”

The West had a lot of fun on Wednesday evening, rolling to a 21-0 win over the East. The game was scoreless after one quarter and the West seized momentum by outscoring the East 14-0 in the second. After neither team scored in the third quarter, the West added a touchdown with 4:57 left in regulation to seal the win.

With the West players huddled up and joyously chanting in unison in the wake of the game to celebrate their victory, it was clear that the squad had developed instant chemistry.

“We all knew each other for just a week,” said Smallzman. “Even though we played against some of these guys, we got really tight in the practices, having fun and joking around. It was everybody, coaches and players, there were a lot of great guys on this team.”

The West produced some great plays on defense, holding the East to 154 total yards, including just one pass completion for 33 yards.

“It was just ball out and have fun, that was it,” said Smallzman, reflecting on the defensive effort which was highlighted by a blocked field goal in the second quarter when the West was clinging to a 6-0 lead. “It was play your keys but don’t be afraid to make mistakes and just go after it. I think our defense had its own attitude.”

Heading to the University of Pennsylvania where he is playing for its sprint football program, Smallzman is bringing a positive attitude to the next stop in his gridiron career.

“I was looking at that school throughout high school,” said Smallzman, who currently weighs 185 pounds and will have to cut some weight to make the 172-pound threshold for sprint football. “I talked to the sprint coaches down there. I think I will like it.”

For Smallzman, the Sunshine Classic experience proved to be a fitting culmination to a special final campaign that saw PHS go 8-2 in 2014 after posting a 0-10 record the year before.

“I think this was a great moment,” said Smallzman. “It was for a great cause, helping kids with cancer. It was giving back for all the support we got. It was a good way to end that senior season.”

PERFECT STORM: Teddy Durbin of the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad takes a swing in Intermediate 50/70 tournament action. Last Friday, Durbin was the starting pitcher and combined with Jake Renda and Jackson Rho to produce a perfect game as Princeton beat Metuchen 13-0 in five innings in its opening game at the Section 3 tournament. Durbin and PLL went on to top Middletown 6-1 on Saturday and Ocean Township 5-2 on Sunday to advance to the final round of the double elimination tournament. Princeton is next in action on July 9 at Farmview Field, needing one win to clinch the sectional title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PERFECT STORM: Teddy Durbin of the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad takes a swing in Intermediate 50/70 tournament action. Last Friday, Durbin was the starting pitcher and combined with Jake Renda and Jackson Rho to produce a perfect game as Princeton beat Metuchen 13-0 in five innings in its opening game at the Section 3 tournament. Durbin and PLL went on to top Middletown 6-1 on Saturday and Ocean Township 5-2 on Sunday to advance to the final round of the double elimination tournament. Princeton is next in action on July 9 at Farmview Field, needing one win to clinch the sectional title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Teddy Durbin’s pregame preparation helped pave the way for a spectacular pitching effort as the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad hosted Metuchen last Friday in the opener of the Section 3 Intermediate 50/70  tournament.

“I like to watch the teams in their batting cages when they warm up and I saw that they weren’t really catching up to some fastballs so I focused on pounding the plate,” said Durbin, a rising ninth grader headed to Princeton High. “I would mix in a few changeups and curveballs in there if I needed to.”

Durbin retired all five batters he faced, striking out four before being lifted after 22 pitches to preserve his availability under the tournament pitch limits. Jake Renda relieved Durbin and then Jackson Rho came on to close out the game. Both Renda and Rho retired every hitter they faced giving the PLL a five-inning perfect game as it rolled to a 13-0 win in a game shortened by the 10-run mercy rule.

While Durbin was proud to take part in the perfect game, the main emphasis was on how the team took care of business collectively.

“It is pretty exciting but I think we are mainly focused on powering through right now and just trying to win games,” said lefty Durbin. “It was really important and we just wanted to get this one done.”

Getting it done at the plate, Durbin contributed two hits as Princeton jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back.

“It felt pretty good today,” said Durbin. “The team looked pretty good overall swinging the bat.”

Durbin’s father, PLL manager Jon Durbin, felt very good about the pitching effort he got in the opener.

“The pitchers were totally on today and I think the whole pitching staff right now is understanding the concept that when you play in Little League international tournaments, it is incredibly important to be efficient,” said manager Durbin.

“You don’t want to get into deep pitch counts because these games are so stacked on top of each other. Teddy got us going right out of the gate. He powered through the first four or five guys in the lineup followed by Jake Renda who came in and did the same thing and then Jackson Rho shut them down at the end.”

Princeton showed plenty of hitting power with Ben Kioko blasting a homer well over the left field fence in the second inning to highlight an attack which saw Judd Petrone and Cameron Gray contribute run-scoring doubles.

“The thing we focused on in practice this week to get them ready for the tournament was that we did all the batting practice on the field with live pitching,” said Durbin.

“We didn’t do any substantial hitting in the cages this week. We wanted them to see live pitching so it was a combination of teammates actually going live and pitching to them as well as graduates from the program who came back, who were older and could throw harder with other kinds of breaking balls. Last night they had a great hitting practice and it just worked beautifully for us. You could see that their bats were really dialed in.”

PLL continued to be dialed in the rest of the weekend, topping Middletown 6-1 on Saturday and then beating Ocean Township 5-2 on Sunday.

In the win over Middletown, Teddy Durbin produced another sterling mound effort, giving up no runs on three hits with 11 strikeouts in six innings of work. The offense was triggered by leadoff hitter Ben Petrone, who went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Kioko who went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs.

Against Ocean, Rho pitched superbly, going 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs and two hits with eight strikeouts and two hits. Kioko hit a two-run homer in the first inning to get the PLL offense going. In the top of the seventh, Durbin, Rho Gautam Chalwa had RBIs to account for PLL’s final three runs.

The wins over the weekend advanced PLL to the final round of the double elimination tournament. Princeton is next in action on July 9 at Farmview Field, needing one win to clinch the sectional title.

“We are very excited to advance to the sectional finals,” said manager Durbin.  “No PLL Team has ever gotten this far, but we are not satisfied with just getting to the finals. We’ll stick with the approach that has been serving us well in practices with increasing the power and the speed of all our drills. All of the pitchers will be rested and ready to go come Thursday, so we are in a good place right now as the only undefeated team and with such strong, well-rested pitching.”

In the view of the younger Durbin, the lessons learned from getting knocked out of last year’s sectional has served PLL well this summer as it goes for the title.

“We are definitely more experienced this year,” said Durbin. “Last year, it was pretty obvious that we were nervous coming out in the first game but this year we are feeling comfortable on our home field.”

BOUNCING AROUND: Michael Dowers of Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) dribbles through traffic in recent action in the  Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Dowers scored 12 points in a losing cause as PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the summer league, fell 58-42 to Belle Mead Physical Therapy. In other action last Monday, Bring Me Food fell 42-36 to Winberie’s to suffer its first loss of the season and King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Pi 69-64.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOUNCING AROUND: Michael Dowers of Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) dribbles through traffic in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Dowers scored 12 points in a losing cause as PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the summer league, fell 58-42 to Belle Mead Physical Therapy. In other action last Monday, Bring Me Food fell 42-36 to Winberie’s to suffer its first loss of the season and King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Pi 69-64. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team dug an early 16-0 hole against Belle Mead Physical Therapy last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, it could have folded.

Instead, PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the summer league, outscored Belle Mead 19-12 over the rest of the half to narrow the gap to 28-19 at halftime.

Midway through the second half, PYS pulled within 42-35 when Michael Dowers hit a three-pointer from the corner. But with only six players on hand, the team ran out of gas down the stretch on a humid night inside the PHS gym as Belle Mead pulled away to a 58-42 win.

Head coach Mark Shelley was proud of the way PYS kept battling. “I feel like we are more competitive this summer than we have been the last couple,” said Shelley, who will be entering his fourth season at the helm of the PHS program this winter.

“We won the first game this season. Not having Matt Hart tonight hurt, that game is five or 10 points closer. He is really good. He is away at an exposure camp all week in Boston so that is good. I am pleased with the competitiveness because a couple of years ago and to some extent last year, we just got run out of almost every game. There were some 30, 40 point games.”

Rising senior Michael Dowers, who tallied 12 points in the loss, is showing more game this summer.

“He is not just a three-point shooter; now, he is going to the basket some and that is going to have to happen,” said Shelley.

“When Matt is not here or he is hurt or Z (Zahrion Blue) is hurt, we need a third scorer. Michael has emerged, his defense has gotten better.”

Blue, who emerged as a star for PHS last winter in his sophomore campaign, got to the basket on Monday, scoring a team-high  of 15 points. “I thought Z was forcing a little bit early but then I think he settled in,” said Shelley.

“We ran a couple of easy sets I drew up just to get him the ball in a good spot, not necessarily to get a layup but just so they couldn’t clog the lane on him. We got him on the baseline a couple of times.”

Point guard Cristobal Silva is showing some good things this summer. “Cristo cuts very well, he has a good basketball IQ,” said Shelley of the rising junior.

“We have got him and Sam Serxner, who is not here tonight, who are both point guards. They are both good players but they are different players. Silva does some really nice things. He didn’t shoot as well as normal tonight, they were putting some pressure on him but he is a good shooter. He is a pure shooter. What we need him to do is to handle the pressure. I saw some growth from last week to this week.”

Rising senior Patrick Lafontant has been providing some good shooting this summer for PYS.

“Patrick was on JV last year and he has a scorer’s mentality,” said Shelley. “He is gym rat if there ever was a gym rat. If the gym was open at 3 a.m., he would be shooting at 3 a.m. He is there all the time. I told him after the game that your minutes are going to be determined by how well you improve defensively. He has got a lot of room to grow there but he can certainly help us. He is a good athlete, he has a great shot.”

In Shelley’s view, playing in the summer league, which features college age players and older, will help the team grow. “We talk about individual and collective improvement,” said Shelley, whose team dropped to 1-6 with the loss on Monday.

“So we want individual improvement, whether it is being a better shooter or for someone like Michael Dowers, it is being able to put the ball on the floor and finish inside. And there is some collective, like helping Zahrion emerge. At the end of the year, he became one of our two main guys. It is also letting some kids who played JV get a taste of a very tough opponent in terms of the speed of the game and toughen them up a little bit. I always give the guys a choice, do you want to play in this or a conventional summer league and they always want to do this. It is fun for them.”

Toughening up this summer should pay dividends in the winter for PHS. “We are looking forward to a good season,” said Shelley. “I think we will be improved from last year. That’s our goal, to do better.”

July 1, 2015

Caitlin Cleary’s approach to rowing changed when she joined the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) women’s top open 8 last spring.

“I stroked for the 4 in the fall and then moved to the 8 in the spring,” recalled Cleary, now a rising senior at Princeton High.

“It was a really good experience, there was a lot of high level racing. It was great to be in boat with such experienced rowers. They gave me a template of what I needed to do to prepare for races. Rena White inspired me, doing extra work on the ERG (ergometer) and doing extra running.”

Cleary enjoyed a memorable experience as the boat finished fifth at the 2014 USRowing Youth Nationals at Lake Natoma near Sacramento, Calif. “I was very surprised that we made the grand final,” said Cleary. “I didn’t know what to expect. After that, I wanted to work even harder in the summer.”

 Coming back for another year with the top 8, Cleary and her boat mates expected to do even better on the national stage this season.

“We only lost our cox and bow; the unspoken goal to medal at national,” said Cleary. “We worked hard all year towards doing that. We wanted to see how far we could take it.”

That work started paying dividends last fall as the boat nearly won its division in the famed Head of Charles regatta in Boston in October.

“We were second at Head of Charles and we realized we could really do something this year,” said Cleary.

As the boat went through the spring, it got better and better. “We were gaining a lot of speed, our splits were faster,” said Cleary. “We were fitter, our times on the ERG were better. There were seven of us that had rowed together for two years. We had good technique and we were really good in the middle 1000.”

Utilizing that speed and technique, the boat achieved its goal of medaling at nationals, placing a close second to Saugatuck Rowing Club (Conn.) in the Grand Final last month at the USRowing Youth National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.

“We wanted to make small moves, we are not the greatest at starts,” said Cleary, reflecting on the grand final which saw PNRA/Mercer mount a furious rally as it clocked a time of 6:35.960 over the 2,000-meter course with Saugatuck coming in at 6:34.599.

“We wanted to throw in some hard 5s. We started in fifth but we moved up in the middle 1000. We have a rhythm and a powerful stroke together. With 750 left, we were in third. We passed Holy Names and in the last 500 we were going after Saugatuck. We sprinted like we never had before. We were behind them and then it was neck and neck, they beat us by 1.4 seconds. It was really exciting.”

It was exciting on many levels for the boat to achieve its breakthrough. “It was a big moment for the crew and a big moment for the club,” said Cleary, who was joined on the boat by Badia Shehab, Kelly Fischer, Hayley Bork, Kate Edmondson, Katie Lustig, Kate Hickey, Alex Natale, and White. “It was the best that an 8 had done. We wanted to put Mercer on the map.”

Cleary credits head coach Ted Sobolewski with putting PNRA/Mercer in position to compete for a national title.

“He has helped us with technique, fitness and conditioning,” said Cleary. “He has really pushed us. He has a vision, he is always one to say if you want it, you have to go out and get it.”

In reflecting on her crew experience, Cleary believes that pushing herself hard has helped her out of the water as well.

“It has taught me to persevere mentally and physically,” said Cleary. “I have learned about dedication, teamwork, and overall grit. If you really put in the work, you can go places.”

 Being elected as a team captain for her senior year, Cleary is determined to help PNRA/Mercer solidify its place among the elite programs in the nation.

“I was thrilled when I found out I was going to be a captain, it is really an honor to know that your teammates trust you to push the team to the next level,” said Cleary, who plans to row in college and will start looking at Division I programs later this summer.

“I want to lead by example and put in the extra work and have the other girls follow. If you put in the work, you can get better. If we can outwork the other crews, we can beat them.”

PATIENCE OF A SAINT: Robby Dowers controls the ball in action this spring during his senior season with the St. Lawrence University men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton High standout Dowers, who served as a team captain for St. Lawrence, tallied a goal and an assist with nine ground balls and three caused turnovers in 2015 to help the Saints post a 9-8 record.

PATIENCE OF A SAINT: Robby Dowers controls the ball in action this spring during his senior season with the St. Lawrence University men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton High standout Dowers, who served as a team captain for St. Lawrence, tallied a goal and an assist with nine ground balls and three caused turnovers in 2015 to help the Saints post a 9-8 record.

Robby Dowers only got into five games in his sophomore season with the St. Lawrence University men’s lacrosse team but he saw plenty of progress.

“I adjusted to the speed of the game; there were still four or five upperclassmen ahead of me but I was competing with them everyday in practice,” said Dowers, a former Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player who was a four-year starter for the Little Tigers. “I was playing on the man-down unit, anything to get on the field.”

In the fall of his junior year, Dowers put himself in position to see a lot of playing time. “We had a couple of guys graduate and I knew if I worked hard, I was going to start at the end of fall ball,” said Dowers, a 6’3, 195-pound defender. “I had a meeting with coaches and they said if you keep working hard, we see good things.”

Starting every game his junior year in 2014, Dowers did a lot of good things, getting 25 ground balls with 13 caused turnovers to help the Saints go 8-6.

“It was a four-man rotation, then one kid broke his thumb and I was getting on the field. In college, you study a lot of film and you see what a person likes to do and you try to take that away. I tried to do that and it worked sometimes.”

Dowers produced some of his best work that season in a 10-9 win over Nazareth, getting a ground ball and a caused turnover.

“One of my favorite games was against Nazareth; they had beaten us by three the year before,” said Dowers.

“It was an intense game. At one point, I was clearing the ball, I saw an attacker and passed to him and then he threw to another attacker who scored. I thought to myself, I get this.”

Dowers’ play got the respect of his teammates as he was elected as a co-captain for the 2015 season.

“It means a lot, it says a lot about my character,” said Dowers, reflecting on being chosen as a captain.

“I was a captain at PHS and it was cool to be captain both in high school and college. I try to set an example on the field and do the right things.”

Before the team even played a game, Dowers faced a leadership test as teammate and fellow senior Garrett Gagne was killed in a car accident on New Year’s day.

“It happened on January 1, everyone was in shock,” said Dowers, reflecting on the tragedy.

“On January 2, I called each guy on the team to make sure everyone was okay. It was three or four hours on the phone. Guys were thankful that someone was checking on them. It was the toughest thing I had done. It definitely made us closer and realize how we care for everyone on the team.”

Dowers faced a tough situation early in the 2015 season when he was sidelined by a knee injury.

“We were practicing inside, I got caught and fell on my knee,” said Dowers, who had notched his first career goal in a season-opening 19-10 win over Castleton.

“It was swollen, I couldn’t bend it. There was no ligament damage so the trainer said I would be out 10 days to two weeks. Missing two weeks of practice was tough, a lot of things change.”

 Upon returning to action, Dowers felt a special sense of urgency. “When I came back, I had a practice and then a game,” said Dowers, who ended up tallying a goal and an assist with nine ground balls and three caused turnovers in 2015 to help the Saints post a 9-8 record.

“I started every game junior year and every game this season before the injury. I missed two games and sat in a third. I got up to full speed. I started playing lacrosse in third grade and I was thinking this it for organized sports, I may be playing in summer tournaments and things like that but it is not the same.”

Reflecting on his college lacrosse experience, Dowers believes it has gotten him to be more disciplined on and off the field.

“You learn a lot from organized sports; it shaped the way I am as a person,” said Dowers, who majored in economics and minored in math and is looking to get a job in finance.

“It helped me with decision-making. I feel I am good at it, I make the right decisions. It has helped me with time management skills. You have to go to class, eat, sleep and take care of yourself. You know you have practice each day and that it takes three or four hours with lifting, watching film, and meetings.”

Taking up wrestling helped Omar Moustafa reach new heights as a football player in his senior season at Princeton High.

“I joined the wrestling team as a junior and that helped with leverage, being in control when blocking or tackling a guy,” said Moustafa.

“Wrestling made me a better athlete. Rashone (PHS wrestling head coach Rashone Johnson) put us through tough workouts.”

With the PHS football coming off a 0-10 season in 2013, Moustafa and his teammates were determined to make themselves tougher last fall.

“The thing about my junior year is that we knew we had potential but we had so many inexperienced players,” said Moustafa.

“What turned around from my junior year to senior was the effort that everyone put in, we really worked hard. We were confident going into the season. We had gone through adversity and had worked so hard.”

That confidence proved justified as the Little Tigers roared out of the gate with a 5-0 start on the way to an 8-2 campaign.

“Beating Hamilton West meant everything,” said Moustafa, reflecting on the team’s 28-7 win over Hamilton in the season opener, which snapped a 10-game losing streak and was the program’s first win since topping New Brunswick 22-14 on November 16, 2012.

“It set the tone and helped us do well. We knew we were going to do better but there were some unknowns. Starting 5-0 was great.”

Playing at guard and tackle on the offensive line and at defensive tackle, Moustafa was a mainstay in the trenches for PHS. “I showed versatility, I played well where I was put,” said Moustafa.

Moustafa’s versatility and good play was rewarded as he was chosen to play for the West Squad in the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1 along with Little Tiger teammates Sam Smallzman, Ben Danis, Tad Moore, Tommy Moore, Colin Buckley, Brian Lemus-Camey, and Joe Hawes.

As he looks forward to playing in the all star game, which is taking place at The College of New Jersey with a 7:00 p.m. kickoff, Moustafa points to a night game this past September as a high point of the season for the Little Tigers.

“Shutting out Ewing for homecoming was great, there was a crowd of 3,000  under the lights,” said Moustafa, referring to PHS’ 7-0 win over the Blue Devils.

“It was a feeling like no other, it felt like football was back in Princeton. I glanced up after warmup and looked around and said that is a lot of people.”

Moustafa and his teammates felt great after their regular season finale when they topped WW/P-N 47-21 to earn West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title outright.

“We knew we were going to have at least a tie for the title no matter what happened but we didn’t want to share it with North,” said Moustafa.

“They had two good running backs and their quarterback, Kevin Murphy, was a good scrambler. We had a game plan, we wanted to move with him and contain him. We wanted to be undisputed champions.”

A much-improved PHS defense helped pave the way to the title. “One thing I noticed is that we were more hard-nosed,” said Moustafa, reflecting on the campaign which ended with a 48-12 loss to Brick Township in the state playoffs. “We hit harder, we played faster, we tackled better.”

Playing football helped Moustafa do better in other areas of his life. “It was the first sport I was actually passionate about,” said Moustafa, who is heading to Monmouth University and is thinking about walking on to the school’s football team.

“I was not the best student as a freshman but when I started playing as a sophomore, it helped me with time management. I started doing better in school, I had a 3.6 GPA in my junior year. It taught me so many lessons, discipline, being respectful.”

Getting the chance to play in the Sunshine Classic is a windfall for Moustafa.

“When I learned I had been picked, it was great,” said Moustafa. “I was disappointed that I might not get to play another football game and now I get to play with the best of the best.”

The best part of the game for Moustafa is the opportunity to take the field again with some of his PHS teammates.

“I am really good friends with all of those guys, we didn’t just hang out at school and say hi in the halls, we would go out to Chinese buffets and things like that,” said Moustafa. “The chance to play with them again is special, they are brothers to me.”

BUCKING UP: Princeton High senior fullback Colin Buckley makes a block last season. Buckley’s hard-hitting play at fullback and defensive end helped PHS go 8-2 in 2014 and earned him a spot on the West team in 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BUCKING UP: Princeton High senior fullback Colin Buckley makes a block last season. Buckley’s hard-hitting play at fullback and defensive end helped PHS go 8-2 in 2014 and earned him a spot on the West team in 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High football team was coming off a 0-10 season in 2013, Colin Buckley sensed that things would be a lot different last fall for his senior campaign.

“We definitely changed the culture,” said PHS fullback/defensive end Buckley.

“We were tired of everyone talking about us as losers and going 0-10. I was telling people that we were going to turn it around.”

Buckley and PHS didn’t waste any time turning things around as they opened the 2014 season by defeating Hamilton 28-7.

“It was a huge win,” said Buckley. “They were picked to win the division and we had been written off.”

Over the course of the fall, PHS wrote one of the best turnaround stories in recent years, going 8-2 and winning the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division crown.

As a byproduct of that success, Buckley was chosen to play for the West Squad in the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1 along with Little Tiger teammates Sam Smallzman, Ben Danis, Tad Moore, Tommy Moore, Omar Moustafa, Brian Lemus-Camey, and Joe Hawes.

PHS showed that it had plenty of stars as it started 5-0, featuring a potent offense and a hard-hitting defense. “We were on a roll, we were gaining confidence,” said Buckley.

Moving to fullback from guard, Buckley helped spark the running game by clearing holes for junior star Rory Helstrom as he rushed for 1136 yards on the season.

“It is fun blocking for a running back like Rory who can break it at any time,” said Buckley.

The powerful Buckley got his turn to carry the ball, rushing for 289 yards on 46 carries for six touchdowns

“It was a lot of fun running the ball, the offensive line did a really good job,” said Buckley.

On defense, Buckley helped anchor things from the trenches in his defensive end spot.

“Sam Smallzman coming back from an ACL was huge, he called the signals and made a lot of tackles,” said Buckley, who also stars on defense for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team. “Having Tommy Moore at defensive end was big.”

It was big for PHS to earn a division title. “It meant a lot, we would stop in the hall to look at the trophy,” said Buckley, who is headed to Texas Christian University where he is considering playing intramural football, club lacrosse and rugby.

“I think we had age and commitment. It shows what you can do if you put the hard work in.”

Looking ahead to the Sunshine Classic, which is being played at The College of New Jersey,  Buckley is committed to doing his best.

“I am definitely excited,” said Buckley. “It is one more chance to put on the pads. It had been fun but it is tough learning a whole new offense. They have me at fullback.”

Buckley is particularly excited to be back on the field with his PHS teammates.

“It feels great, you know they have your back and I have their back,” said Buckley. “I just want to have fun, we are playing for a great cause.”

THIRST FOR SUCCESS: Princeton High football star Joe Hawes grabs some water during a game last fall. Hawes has made an immediate impact for PHS, taking up football for the first time after serving as the backup goalie for the Little Tiger boys’ soccer team. The lanky Hawes ended up emerging as the team’s main deep threat in the passing game, making 24 catches for 568 yards and eight touchdowns. Hawes, who is headed to Howard University where he will be joining its football program, was chosen to play for the West team in the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1 (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THIRST FOR SUCCESS: Princeton High football star Joe Hawes grabs some water during a game last fall. Hawes has made an immediate impact for PHS, taking up football for the first time after serving as the backup goalie for the Little Tiger boys’ soccer team. The lanky Hawes ended up emerging as the team’s main deep threat in the passing game, making 24 catches for 568 yards and eight touchdowns. Hawes, who is headed to Howard University where he will be joining its football program, was chosen to play for the West team in the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1 (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Taking up football for the first time last fall, Joe Hawes wasn’t sure what his role would be on the Princeton High team.

“The toughest thing was finding my spot and where I fit in with everyone playing,” said Hawes, who had been a backup goalie for the PHS boys’ soccer team in addition to playing goalie for the boys’ ice hockey team and starring at defense on the boys’ lacrosse squad.

Utilizing his multi-sport background, Hawes caught on quickly. “There was one time in practice where Beamer (PHS quarterback Dave Beamer) threw it wide and I did a full-out dive like a soccer goalie move to make the catch,” said Hawes. “The hand-eye coordination also helped.”

Hawes helped PHS from the start, producing a spectacular scoring play in the ream’s season-opening 28-7 win over Hamilton.

“That was great, there is nothing like catching an 80-yard TD in your first football game,” said Hawes.

The lanky Hawes ended up emerging as the team’s main deep threat in the passing game, making 24 catches for 568 yards and eight touchdowns. He also started at defensive back and handled the punting duties.

Hawes’ superb debut campaign earned him a spot on West Squad for the 19th Sunshine Football Classic sponsored by Fisher Capital LLC on July 1 along with Little Tiger teammates Sam Smallzman, Ben Danis, Tad Moore, Tommy Moore, Omar Moustafa, Colin Buckley, and Brian Lemus-Camey.

“I expected to be chosen but it is still nice to be considered one of the best players in the area,” said Hawes.

With PHS coming off a 0-10 season in 2013,  few expected the Little Tigers to end up as one of the best teams in the area. Building on the win over Hamilton, PHS got off to a 5-0 start and ended the fall at 8-2, winning the the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division crown in the process.

“That gave us hope,” said Hawes “At halftime we were down but we pushed through, showing that we were not that 0-10 team and that we had the players.”

Even though PHS got pushed around a little bit in its season finale, falling 48-12 at Brick Township in the state playoffs, Hawes and his teammates drew positives from that experience.

“On the bus ride home, no one was sad, everyone was happy,” recalled Hawes.

“We knew we had made history for PHS. We played a pretty good game, the score was not indicative. I had 135 yards receiving and we put up some good offensive numbers.”

 While Hawes wonders what might have been if he had taken up football before his senior year, he has no regrets.

“If I started earlier, who knows what would have happened and who would have been recruiting me,” said Hawes, who is heading to Howard University and will be joining its football team.

“I am happy the way it turned out. I made football friends. I won two MCT titles in lacrosse, that was also a highlight. I still have some great soccer friends. I wouldn’t really want to change anything.”

Buoyed by his experience this fall, Hawes is excited about continuing his football career at the next level.

“I am going to Howard and will be playing football,” said Hawes. “I got in and I e-mailed the coach and he said we have a place for you in camp. It starts August 7.”

 Hawes is using the preparation for the Sunshine game, which will be played at The College of New Jersey, as a way to speed up his football education.

“I am getting to learn,” said Hawes. “The HoVal coach is great; Hun had a great season and their line coach is here. I don’t feel that I am much behind these guys. They have me at tight end. They had a lot of wide receivers and I am in on passing plays. It is getting me fired up; I see the intensity the other players have.”

No matter how much he gets the ball in the game, Hawes is fired up to be back on the field with his PHS teammates.

“It is like a flashback to our great season,” said Hawes. “If a PHS player makes a good play in practice, I remember a play from the season that was exactly like it. We have the most players on the West team.”

Looking ahead to his college football career, Hawes knows that he has to hit the weights in order to be a playmaker for Howard.

“The biggest thing is strength-wise; I didn’t lift that much for soccer,” said Hawes.

“I need to get stronger and faster. I have the agility and the hands. Howard sent me a program. I am seven weeks behind but I have a month before I go. I will be lifting and working everyday.”

BIG BEN: Ben Kioko of the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad delivers a pitch last Thursday in the finals of the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament. Kioko pitched four strong innings and contributed four RBIs at the plate to help Princeton defeat Millstone-Roosevelt 15-3 and win the title. PLL will be hosting the Section 3 tournament at Farmview Fields, starting on July 3.

BIG BEN: Ben Kioko of the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad delivers a pitch last Thursday in the finals of the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament. Kioko pitched four strong innings and contributed four RBIs at the plate to help Princeton defeat Millstone-Roosevelt 15-3 and win the title. PLL will be hosting the Section 3 tournament at Farmview Fields, starting on July 3.

After the Princeton Little League (PLL) team defeated Millstone-Roosevelt 15-3 last Thursday to win its second straight District 12 Intermediate 50/70 title, Ben Kioko saw the repeat performance as exemplifying the squad’s maturity.

“I think it just shows that we have really grown from our first year being 11s to now,” said pitcher/third baseman Kioko, a rising eighth grader at John Witherspoon School.

“In our last year as 13s, we have gotten really better; we have improved. We have been able to take it home twice.”

In the title game, Kioko showed his improvement on the mound and at the plate. Starting the game at pitcher, Kioko went four innings and gave up two runs before being relieved by Judd Petrone for the fifth and final inning in a game shortened by the 10-run rule. He contributed two hits and four RBIs to the offense, batting in the cleanup spot.

“The curve ball was really effective and I liked how the fastball had a lot of speed,” said Kioko, reflecting on his pitching effort which saw him strike out four and give up three hits.

“I was being quite accurate. I don’t think I wasted too many pitches. I like the fact that I could come up and get the two RBIs in the first inning and then come back on the mound and get outs.”

 Kioko likes the unity the team has developed over the years. “I think camaraderie is a strength,” said Kioko. “We are well mended; we work together a lot.”

Showing its power and strength, PLL broke open the game with a seven-run fourth inning.

“It was the long ball that got us going,” said manager Jon Durbin. “The other day it was Ben Amon hitting a homer and today it was Jake Renda who smoked that one out by the batting cages. He is a 12-year-old and he is a big boy for being a 12-year- old. I think you can tell our team is pretty big physically compared to the other teams.”

Princeton also benefitted from the big pitching effort provided by Kioko. “I think he has got a really good fastball, he is one of the hardest throwers around for this age group,” said Durbin referring to Kioko.

“He has developed a nice curve, slurve pitch. There are four guys on the Millstone team that can really hit the ball and we had talked to him before the game about the importance of not just throwing them a lot of fastballs, even their first time up which normally you would just challenge them. You need to mix it up and not just try to overpower them.”

Kioko complemented his mound work with some powerful hitting. “His swing is good and fundamentally sound, he really hits the ball hard,” said Durbin.

“That one hit was a ground ball through the infield that went all the way to the fence.”

Durbin was proud to see his team go all the way to a District 12 title for a second straight year.

“It is a big deal and we are honored to do it,” said Durbin, reflecting his team’s encore performance.

“I think knowing that the team is so senior and so experienced that, for us, we really have our eye on winning the sectionals.”

With PLL hosting the Section 3 tourney at Farmview starting on July 3, Durbin believes his team has to play even sharper in order to prevail in that competition.

“When we start playing in the sectionals, the level of the game is going to increase several notches,” said Durbin.

“There is going to be a lot more speed and power. We will adjust the practices. In batting practice, the ball is going to be coming in a lot faster. When we do infield and outfield, we will be hitting the balls a lot harder to the infielders and we will be hitting fly balls that are a lot higher and deeper so they get adjusted to navigate that kind of stuff. So that is the game plan on top of what we normally do in terms of building the team camaraderie and unity to get things going.”

Durbin is confident that his players are up to the challenge. “I think they are into it, they want to go the distance,” said Durbin. “I think they really sense that they have the potential to go some places and get down the road.”

Kioko, for his part, believes that Princeton can go the distance. “I think we just need to take a very serious approach and not make any mental errors,” said Kioko.

“Physical errors are going to happen but we have got to be sharp mentally. I think we could definitely make it past sectionals.”

FEEDING FRENZY: Davon Black heads upcourt in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. This summer, former Princeton High standout Black has helped new league entry “Bring Me Food” get off to a hot start in its debut campaign. Last Friday, he scored 14 points to help the team beat SAT Smart 56-33. On Monday, Bring Me Food topped King’s Pizzarama 62-52 to improve to 5-0 (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEEDING FRENZY: Davon Black heads upcourt in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. This summer, former Princeton High standout Black has helped new league entry “Bring Me Food” get off to a hot start in its debut campaign. Last Friday, he scored 14 points to help the team beat SAT Smart 56-33. On Monday, Bring Me Food topped King’s Pizzarama 62-52 to improve to 5-0 (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Davon Black acknowledges that the newly-formed “Bring Me Food” team wasn’t on the same page as it made its debut this June in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

“Kyle Froehlich is a Princeton High senior this year who just graduated; he just made a business called Bring Me Food and he wanted to enter a team in the men’s summer league,” said former PHS hoops standout Black, adding that the business is a food delivery service app with five drivers.

“He told me to get five of my guys and he brought five of his guys. The first game was a big struggle, there are a lot of egos on the team and we couldn’t figure out who was going to bring the ball up.”

Bring Me Food won its opener 55-34 over Princeton Youth Sports on June 12 and things started to come together.

“In the second game, we figured out that I am going to bring the ball up and control the offense and not really score as I have been used to scoring,” said Black, a 2012 PHS alum.

“This team has eight guys who can put it up. If I have to lower my scoring to win, that is what I am going to do.”

Featuring an inside-out game with Bert McCallum and Lior Levy providing yeomen’s work in the paint along with Kevin Kane and Nick Davidson producing from the perimeter, Bring Me Food has been piling up the wins.

Last Friday, the team pulled away from SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich 56-33, starting the second half with a 26-13 run to win its fourth straight game on the season.

“We found a groove; Kevin (Kane) has played in the league for four years with the high school team, he is a good shooter,” said Black, who scored 14 points in the win over SAT Smart with Kane tallying 15 on five 3-pointers and McCallum chipping in 11.

“I told him to have confidence. Bert is a monster down low, they didn’t have anyone to stop him. Lior is also good. It is inside-out, we are playing good ball.”

As Bring Me Food, which topped King’s Pizzarama 62-52 last Monday in improving to 5-0, heads into the second half of the regular season, Black is confident that it can contend for a championship.

“We are a different team than what I have brought to the park recently; I have tried to play with my friends from PHS, that was more fun basketball,” said Black, noting that he has enrolled at Mercer County Community College and is planning to play for its men’s basketball team under head coach Howard Levy, a former Princeton hoops standout and assistant coach.

“Now this year, we are looking to make a push. We are young and hungry. We have the young legs. We are coming for a title.”

June 24, 2015
SPECIAL RUN: Merrell Noden displays the ready smile that was a hallmark of his approach in coaching the Princeton Day School cross country program over the last four seasons. Noden, who passed away on May 31 at age 59 after battling lung cancer, strove to get his runners to enjoy the sport. Running was at the core of Noden’s being as he set track records at the Lawrenceville School, competed for the Princeton University cross country team, and later ran at Oxford as a grad student. In addition to competing, he wrote about the sport for Sports Illustrated and other publications.

SPECIAL RUN: Merrell Noden displays the ready smile that was a hallmark of his approach in coaching the Princeton Day School cross country program over the last four seasons. Noden, who passed away on May 31 at age 59 after battling lung cancer, strove to get his runners to enjoy the sport. Running was at the core of Noden’s being as he set track records at the Lawrenceville School, competed for the Princeton University cross country team, and later ran at Oxford as a grad student. In addition to competing, he wrote about the sport for Sports Illustrated and other publications.

In coaching the Princeton Day School cross country program over the last four seasons, Merrell Noden was thrilled whenever his runners were at the front of the pack.

But his main ambition in leading his charges wasn’t centered on achieving personal records or top-3 finishes.

“My goal is to have the kids learn something about running and cross country, to make them enjoy it and stay with it, and to improve,” said Noden in a 2013 interview.

For Noden, who passed away on May 31 at age 59 after battling lung cancer, running stayed at the core of his being until the end.

As a student at The Lawrenceville School, Noden ran a 4:11.9 mile on a distance medley team that set a U.S. high school indoor record; and, on his own, he set an Eastern high school indoor 880 record of 1:54.0. At Princeton University, he ran cross-country for four years while graduating summa cum laude.

After a stint teaching at Princeton Day School, he earned an MPhil in English Literature at Oxford University. While at Oxford, he trained and raced with the North London Athletics Club and earned an Oxford Blue. He would continue to run for pleasure and competition throughout his life.

Returning from Oxford, he started writing for Sports Illustrated and produced a number of insightful stories on track athletes, among many other subjects. After a distinguished tenure at SI, Noden branched into freelancing, contributing to a variety of publications.

In 2011, he took the helm of the PDS boys’ and girls’ cross country teams and found a new audience to regale with his love of running.

Reflecting on his time with Noden, PDS assistant cross country coach Chris Devlin said that Noden clicked with the young runners.

“He was very knowledgeable about the sport,” said Devlin, who joined the coaching staff in 2012. “He had run at Princeton and written for Sports Illustrated but you would never know that from talking to him. He was one of the nicest and most down-to-earth guys. The kids really related to him.”

Emma Kaplan, a member of the cross country team for the last three years who recently graduated from PDS, credited Noden with inspiring a love of running.

“He helped everyone appreciate the sport,” said Kaplan. “He told us stories about his experiences as a runner and some of the people he had run against. He helped everyone set goals.”

Noden, in turn, appreciated seeing the PDS runners achieving their goals.

“He recognized everyone’s improvement, not just the top five runners,” said Kaplan.

“He was good at recognizing the accomplishments of others. He had a special connection with everyone on the team.”

Devlin and the runners, though, recognized that Noden was struggling with his illness, which first manifested itself in 2012, when he missed a few practices and ran less regularly with his athletes. By 2013, he was using a cane and a walker to get around. Last fall, he would customarily coach sitting in a golf cart or a chair.

There was no thought, however, on Noden’s part of taking the easy way out and giving up his coaching duties.

“His brain may have said stop coaching but his mind and heart said not yet,” said Devlin.

“It was a love of the sport and a love of the team, he wanted to be there for the kids. He was inspirational; he would get dropped off at the bottom of the hill and would make his way to the pagoda. He never mentioned anything about his illness. I made sure I got a golf cart whenever I could for him. He was like a military service guy, never bringing up anything about what he was going through.”

While Noden may have suffered in silence, his steadfast presence spoke volumes about his commitment to the sport and team.

“It was hard to see him go through that much pain, especially when you had seen how active he was before,” said Kaplan.

“He still came out to practice even though sometimes he was not able to walk and the other coaches had to help him. He wanted to come out and support us. I think it was because he loved the sport so much, everyone who knew him knows that he loved running so much. He enjoyed coaching us as well. At one point his son, Sam, was on the team.”

Noden’s love for the sport and his runners leaves a major void for the PDS program.

“It is going to be really hard to fill his shoes,” said Kaplan. “He was so understanding and connected so well with everyone.”

For Devlin, it is hard to imagine coaching without Noden. “I will miss the bus trips,” said Devlin.

“He would tell stories on the bus. His friendship and the knowledge he had was special. We would talk about fantasy football. He knew I was a big Notre Dame fan and he would joke about whether he was going to bet on them. He took me on as a coach when I had hardly any background in running and taught me what I know about the sport. We haven’t just lost a coach, we have lost a friend and a mentor. One of the kids said on a web post that he may be gone but he will always be there with me when I am running.”

This reporter got a first hand exposure to Noden’s gift for imparting running lore at the 2013 Mercer County Championships. As Noden was sitting hunched over near the finish line at Washington Crossing State Park waiting for his runners, we struck up a conversation. He talked about how one of his athletes had competed for the Thames Valley Harriers in London and spoke glowingly of his time with the North London club. Noden’s eyes sparkled as he then recalled how he used to do 20-milers in and around the park we were sitting in to train for marathons.

As the runners approached the finish line, Noden smiled and turned his focus to the race at hand, looking right at home notwithstanding how bad he must have felt being confined to his chair.

Things started quietly for the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad as it started the defense of its District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament title against Millstone-Roosevelt last Sunday afternoon.

PLL trailed 1-0 after two innings and it appeared that the game was going to be a nail-biter in the competition, which utilizes a modified baseball field using a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths and is open to players ages 11-13.

But Ben Amon led off the third inning for PLL with a bang, lining a homer over the right field fence at the Farmview Fields. Later in the frame, Teddy Durbin added a long single to drive in two runs to give PLL a 3-1 lead.

PLL never looked back from that point, coasting to 13-1 win a game that ended after the fifth inning due to the 10-run rule. The team’s outburst included a three-run double by Jackson Rho, a towering three-run homer over the left field fence from Jake Renda, and a run-scoring double from Durbin. Jackson Rho started on the mound and went four innings to get the win while Ben Kioko came on in relief in the fifth and struck out the side.

In reflecting on the victory, PLL manager Jon Durbin said that the third inning was the turning point of the contest.

“I think when we came out in the first inning we were a little on the tight side, even though we hit the ball,” said Durbin.

“Once Ben Amon hit his home run, everything settled down. We got a run back and it was OK, we are on the board now. I think you saw our bats come out. We were starting to smoke the ball and everyone was hitting. We had eight hits that generated the 13 runs. Jackson Rho, Teddy and then Jake Renda all had big hits with multiple runners on base and that is going to generate a lot of runs fast.”

In Durbin’s view, the team drew confidence from having won the District 12 title in 2014.

“This year we are the defending champs and a lot of the guys are back from last year’s team,” said Durbin.

“Our team has nine 13-year-olds and three 12-year-olds so this is the most senior, experienced team that we have field in the three years the 50/70 districts have been going on.”

That experience was reflected in PLL’s fundamentally sound play in all phases of the game.

“I think our defense was actually stellar today,” asserted Durbin. “The double play that Ben Petrone, Nick Trenholm and Teddy turned was fabulous. It is hard on this size field to turn one that quick and have it come off like that.  Then  there was Judd Petrone’s catch in centerfield against the fence, he basically took a home run away from the other team. Coach (Chris) Trenholm was making the point that it is fantastic that we are hitting the ball and that Jackson Rho pitched so well but when your defense is good, it really makes it tough on the other team, even if they are a good hitting team.”

The victory advanced Princeton to the final round of the District 12 against the winner of the elimination game between Millstone-Roosevelt and East Windsor. The finals start on June 25 at Farmview with Princeton needing just one win in the double-elimination format to to clinch the crown.

“The big challenge this year for us this year is making sure that we stay focused in districts,” said Durbin.

“We are using districts this year as a way to bring the team together and really to get ready for the sectionals tournament. We are saying don’t take  anything for granted, don’t get overconfident just because we won big today. You want to come out here and play the game the way you are supposed to be very fundamentally sound.”

With Princeton hosting the sectional tourney, which starts on July 3, Durbin is confident his team can give the home fans plenty to cheer about.

“I think the message has been pretty consistent, get the whole team working together during districts and then, knock on wood, if we win districts, we’ll be ready to go for sectionals,” said Durbin.

“The level of competition at the sectionals goes up several notches. We are in the Central Jersey section and it has all the shore towns so you are going to see teams like Middletown and Lacey.”