June 24, 2015
ON THE FLY: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball second baseman Matt Lambert gathers in a fly in recent action. Last Monday, Lambert, a Princeton High standout, contributed two hits and three RBIs in a losing cause as Post 218 fell 10-5 to Hamilton Post 31 to drop to 2-12. In upcoming action, Post 218 faces Hightstown Post 148 on June 27 at Mercer County Park, hosts Ewing Post 314 on June 29, and plays at Hopewell Post 339 on June 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE FLY: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball second baseman Matt Lambert gathers in a fly in recent action. Last Monday, Lambert, a Princeton High standout, contributed two hits and three RBIs in a losing cause as Post 218 fell 10-5 to Hamilton Post 31 to drop to 2-12. In upcoming action, Post 218 faces Hightstown Post 148 on June 27 at Mercer County Park, hosts Ewing Post 314 on June 29, and plays at Hopewell Post 339 on June 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the final four and a half innings last Monday evening, the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team battled powerful Hamilton Post 31 to a 5-5 standstill.

But having dug an early 5-0 hole, Princeton’s late heroics went for naught as visiting Hamilton left Smoyer Park with a 10-5 victory.

While Princeton manager Tommy Parker liked the spirit his team displayed, he acknowledged that it can’t afford lapses.

“That’s what I just told them out there, once we settled down, we did battle back,” said Parker, who got two hits and three RBIs from second baseman Matt Lambert in the defeat with catcher Steve Majeski and left fielder Ben Danis knocking in one run apiece.

“It has got to be that effort all the way. It is a game of inches, they hit it anywhere we weren’t and we hit it where they was. That’s really what it was.”

With his club having lost 10 of its last 11 games in moving to 2-12, Parker said it has been plagued by uneven play this summer.

“The issues are not hitting, that has been it more than anything,” said Parker. “We can’t make mistakes defensively, those little things, like throwing to the  wrong base, because even if you get away with it, it sets a tone. You have to think the game all the time and that has been my message, think the game and give 100 percent.”

Despite the rough stretch, Parker is seeing some good individual efforts. “It has been game to game, different guys have stepped up in different games, like Joe Studholme tonight,” said Parker.

“He has proven when he is available, that he has been hard to hi, that has been a bright spot. Tommy Pecora had an excellent game pitching against Trenton the other night and he has been getting his bat on the ball. This Paul Cooke is going to be remarkable. Chris Sumners has been playing first base and designated hitter and we discovered this kid can pitch. He had them baffled the other day in Trenton.”

With 10 games left in regular season play, Parker is looking for his players to bear down over the homestretch.

“The future is bright, I am always optimistic,” said Parker, whose team faces Hightstown Post 148 on June 27 at Mercer County Park, hosts Ewing Post 314 on June 29, and plays at Hopewell Post 339 on June 30.

“I just want to see us put our noses to the grindstone, give 100 percent and give our best effort. Let’s not give any games away. They need to stay focused, keep their heads in the game, and play baseball like they know they can.”

Parker, for his part, hopes that kind of effort will yield results that are more indicative of the team’s talent level.

“I feel for these guys, they are better than they appear,” maintained Parker.

“The fan that is not here will look at the score and say wow, these guys are bad. There are good ballplayers here, the numbers don’t necessarily say anything about the ability of this team. They are good enough to compete. They are playing against the best of the best. If you make a mistake they are going to take advantage of it, all the way up and down the line.”

INSIDE JOB: Mark Aziz of Ivy Inn handles the ball down low in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Aziz’s powerful inside game at both ends of the court has helped Ivy Inn get off to a 4-0 start this season. Ivy Inn and SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich (3-0) are the only teams remaining undefeated so far this summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE JOB: Mark Aziz of Ivy Inn handles the ball down low in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Aziz’s powerful inside game at both ends of the court has helped Ivy Inn get off to a 4-0 start this season. Ivy Inn and SAT Smart/Princeton Soup and Sandwich (3-0) are the only teams remaining undefeated so far this summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mark Aziz, last year turned out to be a lost season as he looked to help Ivy Inn go for a second straight title in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Aziz suffered a fractured jaw in the fourth game of the 2014 season and was sidelined the rest of the summer. “It was tough sitting on the sidelines and watching us lose,” said Aziz, reflecting on a season that saw Ivy Inn knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals.

Returning to action this season, Aziz, a former standout for The College of New Jersey men’s hoops program,  has been providing his customary tough play inside for Ivy Inn.

Last Friday, Aziz scored eight points and did yeomen’s work in the paint, getting key rebounds and making some blocked shots as Ivy Inn defeated Aria Health 40-27.

In reflecting on the win, Aziz was proud of how Ivy Inn put the clamps on Aria.

“Defensively, as always, we were there all the time, especially with the communication, ” said Aziz. “We got a lot of good pressure; we forced them to take difficult shots in traffic. It definitely helped.”

Aziz focuses on helping to raise the defensive intensity for Ivy Inn. “My role is anchoring the defense, first and foremost,” said Aziz, who has also played pro ball overseas.

“We have got some more scoring power with Sherm (Brittingham) and Tommy (Soulias) so that’s not my main concern. It is just a matter of playing defense and rebounding and not giving the refs a hard time.”

With Ivy Inn defeating Dr. Palmer 46-33 last Monday to improve to 4-0, Aziz believes the team could be a force this summer.

“We got a couple of new guys with us, they are gelling perfectly,” said Aziz.

“We all play well together and complement each other so well so it’s a great start for us. I am real surprised. I am real happy with how we have started so far.”

No matter how things end up this summer, Aziz is just happy to be on the court again for Ivy Inn.

“It is great to be back, for sure,” said Aziz. “It is a great group of guys and I love being here for sure. When you don’t play competitive any more throughout the year, you just look forward to getting together with these guys and taking advantage of the time together. It makes it a little more lighthearted.”

It was a muggy Thursday evening in mid-June but the atmosphere in the Hun School gym was reminiscent of a big game in mid-winter.

The bleachers in Shipley Pavilion were more than half full and the telltale sounds of whistles and squeaking sneakers filled the air.

While there wasn’t a key high school game in progress, it was a big night on the local hoops scene as it marked the opening night of the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League.

League director Bryan Caver, a former Seton Hall men’s hoops standout, was happy to see the strong turnout for the triple-header which featured an entertaining run-and-gun brand of hoops under the league’s format of four 10-minute quarters with a running clock and a 24-second shot clock.

“I just think the avid fan really wants to see some good basketball and that is what we are trying to provide, guys competing at a high level in the summer time,” said Caver of the league, which is holding triple-headers on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Hun starting at 6:00 p.m. with playoffs slated to begin on August 4.

“Guys that you get to see on TV, Charles Cook played at Dayton this year, Trey Lowe is going to Temple, you get to see them up close. You don’t realize how good these guys are until you see them up close.”

Caver, who has become familiar with the area through working for Mercer County Special Services as a Behavioral Interventionist, realized that there was a need for such high-level competition in the summer.

“I knew a couple of area guys and overseas guys that come home who play Division 1, who really didn’t have a place to play in the summer,” said Caver.

“They were just kind of watching leagues. The Jersey Shore League still exists but it is not the same competition that it was. About two years ago I kind of pondered it and I thought what I want for myself if I was still playing. We just wanted to create an environment where these guys could compete.”

Hun turned out to be an ideal environment for the league. “There were a couple of different places considered but this location is perfect,” said Caver.

“We have guys coming from all different areas so it is accessible. I really thank the Hun family for allowing us to do this, especially athletic director Bill Quirk. They love their basketball but to give an outside entity an opportunity to come and share the facility, I truly appreciate that.”

Caver was taken aback by the number of guys who wanted to get an opportunity to play in the league.

“The moment we started contacting these colleges and universities, they were all for it,” said Caver, pointing out that the league is NCAA-sanctioned.

“We had two tryouts because of the response. We thought we would have some area talent but the vast amount of talent has been a surprise. We have players from Rider, Princeton, and Rutgers. There are some from D-3 schools and some overseas guys. We have guys coming from as far away as Bloomfield. It is a vast array of talent and players.”

While Caver is happy with the talent the league has attracted this summer, he sees it as only a start.

“This season, I want to see an influx of guys, this is what the pro-am is about,” added Caver,

“Guys hearing about it and making room for those guys who want to compete and play in this league. I want the NBA guys to know there is a place they can come to near home. I want to get even more talent and raise the level. I want more than eight teams, I want 16 teams.”

Buoyed by the promising start, Caver is confident that the league can become a fixture on the local sporting scene.

“We hope to keep this going for many years to come,” said Caver, noting that Victory Sports is looking to start programs in other sports, including soccer, field hockey, and football.

“I feel there was a place for this. As you can see, we have some talent and these guys are competing. I just really want people to come out and watch and enjoy the level of competition that we have and the level of the basketball that we are bringing to this area. There is nothing like this in the area and there hasn’t been in a long time.”

PAYING THE PRICE: Amir Bell heads upcourt this winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. This summer, point guard Bell is honing his skills by playing for the T. Rowe Price team in the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am summer basketball league. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAYING THE PRICE: Amir Bell heads upcourt this winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. This summer, point guard Bell is honing his skills by playing for the T. Rowe Price team in the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am summer basketball league. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing for the T. Rowe Price team on opening night last Thursday in the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am summer basketball league, Amir Bell displayed his competitive fire.

The rising sophomore guard for the Princeton University men’s basketball hit the floor hard at the Hun School gym, diving for loose balls and intensely going to the hoop.

Bell’s grit and 11 points, though weren’t enough as T. Rowe Price fell 77-64 to P.E.M.G.

Afterward, Bell showed another side of his competitive nature as he glumly assessed the defeat.

“We didn’t play defense down the stretch; we missed a lot of shots that we were making in the first half,” said a frowning Bell.

“We have to keep pushing through when we get tired. We should have won that game. That is what summer league is for, to get better at things like that so we have to continue working.”

Bell is looking forward to pushing himself in the summer league. “You get to play, make sure you stay fresh and solid until the season comes,” said Bell. “It should be a really good opportunity, really good competition.”

With incoming Princeton freshmen hoops players Myles Stephens, Devin Cannady, and Noah Bramlage, joining Bell on the T. Rowe Price roster, he is getting the opportunity to take his new teammates under his wing.

“We are trying to build some chemistry, teach them some things that will happen during the season,” said Bell. “We want to help them out, make them run parts of the system.”

Coming off a superb debut campaign, Bell is looking to build up his game individually.

“I have been working on my midrange jump shot and my three-point game,” said Bell, a 6’3, 160-pound native of East Brunswick who averaged 8.8 points a game as a freshman and dished out 77 assists. “I want to be a better leader and a better communicator with my teammates next year.”

Bell and the Tigers are poised to do better than last winter when they posted an overall record of 16-14 and went 9-5 in Ivy League play.

“It should be a really big year for us, trying to bring momentum that we gain over the summer into the season,” said Bell.

“We have a lot of guys who are back and have some experience. We are hungry and we have pretty big expectations for ourselves. It should be fun.”

NATIONAL IMPACT: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) display the medals they won at the  recently-held USRowing Youth National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. The Women’s Youth Eight plus coxswain took silver while the Women’s Youth Lightweight Eight earned bronze. Pictured in the front row, from left, is the lightweight crew of Elise Gorberg, Eileen Hu, Lauren Miller, Jenna Kugel, Katarina Stough, Hannah Ash, Kathryn Miller, Celia Varga, and Sara Hansen. In the back row, from left, is the open eight of  Badia Shehab, Caitlin Cleary, Kelly Fischer, Hayley Bork, Kate Edmondson, Katie Lustig, Kate Hickey, Alex Natale, Rena White, and coach Ted Sobolewski.

NATIONAL IMPACT: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) display the medals they won at the recently-held USRowing Youth National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. The Women’s Youth Eight plus coxswain took silver while the Women’s Youth Lightweight Eight earned bronze. Pictured in the front row, from left, is the lightweight crew of Elise Gorberg, Eileen Hu, Lauren Miller, Jenna Kugel, Katarina Stough, Hannah Ash, Kathryn Miller, Celia Varga, and Sara Hansen. In the back row, from left, is the open eight of Badia Shehab, Caitlin Cleary, Kelly Fischer, Hayley Bork, Kate Edmondson, Katie Lustig, Kate Hickey, Alex Natale, Rena White, and coach Ted Sobolewski.

Coming up big on the national stage, the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) rowers won a silver medal in the Women’s Youth Eight plus coxswain event and a bronze medal in the Women’s Youth Lightweight Eight plus coxswain event earlier this month at the USRowing Youth National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.

The national championship regatta featured more than 1700 athletes from 163 clubs and high school rowing programs from 30 states competing in 18 sweep rowing and sculling categories.

The women’s open eight trailed early in the Grand Final but moved into third place behind Saugatuck Rowing Club (Conn.) and Holy Names Academy (Wash.) half way through the 2000-meter race.  Just before the 1500-meter mark, PNRA/Mercer pulled ahead of Holy Names and continued to gain on Saugatuck through the last 500 meters. As the race ended, PNRA/Mercer clinched the silver medal spot, missing the National Championship by less than 1.4 seconds as it clocked a time of 6:35.960 with Saugatuck coming in at 6:34.599.

Senior star Rena White credited PNRA/Mercer head coach Ted Sobolewski with providing the vision that helped inspire the boat to reach new heights.

“When Coach Ted came to coach Mercer in fall of 2012, he told us our goal is to win a medal in the premier Women’s Youth Eight event, even though we never even had a girl’s eight crew reach the Grand Final at Nationals,” said team co-captain White, a senior at Princeton High who will be rowing at Stanford University in the fall.  “It seemed like a really lofty goal at the time, but we achieved it within three years.”

In addition to White, the crew included co-captain senior Hayley Bork (Robbinsville High) who will row at UCLA in the fall, senior Alex Natale (The Hun School) who will row at the University of Virginia in the fall, seniors Kelly Fischer who will row at the University of Notre Dame next year and Badia Shehab who will row at the University of Tennessee in the fall (both from Hopewell Valley Central High), juniors Kate Hickey (Notre Dame High) and Caitlin Cleary (Princeton High School), sophomore Katie Lustig (Council Rock North High) and coxswain senior Kate Edmondson, who will cox at the University of Miami in the fall.

The women’s lightweight eight also battled to the end in taking bronze, trailing the second place finisher Oakland Strokes by only 0.4 seconds. Saugatuck took first in a time of 6:48.229 with Oakland next in 6:52.055 and Mercer third in 6:52.454.

Rowers in PNRA/Mercer’s lightweight eight included senior Hannah Ash (Princeton High) who will swim for Occidental College in the fall, freshman Sara Hansen and junior Eileen Hu (both from WW/P-S), juniors Elise Gorberg (WW/P-N), Jenna Kugel (Montgomery High), as well as sisters junior Kathryn Miller and sophomore Lauren Miller (Steinert High) and sophomore Celia Varga (Princeton Day School).

In reflecting on the boat’s bronze medal performance, coxswain Katarina Stough said it was the product of a competitive mindset.

“Coach Ted has instilled a winning attitude in all of us, which is something that I will carry with me in all aspects of my life” said Stough, a PHS senior who will cox for Georgetown University next year.

Stough provided leadership for the lightweight crew which included several underclassmen competing at the national level for the first time.  Rounding out the girls’ accomplishments at Youth Nationals, PNRA/Mercer finished 13th in the nation in Women’s Youth Four with coxswain category.

The PNRA/Mercer boys are seeing their own progress under first-year coach Justin Ochal, a collegiate teammate of Sobolewski’s at Northeastern University.  PNRA/Mercer finished 11th in the nation in the Men’s Youth Eight with coxswain category and finished 12th in the nation in the Men’s Youth Lightweight Four with coxswain.

June 17, 2015
STARTING POINT: Dana Smith heads upfield in action this spring during her freshman campaign for the Lafayette College women’s lacrosse team. Smith a former Princeton High standout, started 16 of 17 games for the Leopards on defense, picking up 21 ground balls and causing 12 turnovers.(Photo provided courtesy of Lafayette College)

STARTING POINT: Dana Smith heads upfield in action this spring during her freshman campaign for the Lafayette College women’s lacrosse team. Smith a former Princeton High standout, started 16 of 17 games for the Leopards on defense, picking up 21 ground balls and causing 12 turnovers. (Photo provided courtesy of Lafayette College)

Dana Smith was a bundle of nervous energy as she headed to make her debut for the Lafayette College women’s lacrosse team this February at Monmouth University.

“It was very exciting, it was a Saturday game so we went to team breakfast and then had a bus ride,” said former Princeton High standout Smith.

“In college, the games are farther away. It is good and bad to have that much time to think about it.”

Smith did get playing time in the opener, coming on as a substitute. “I got in at the end of the game,” recalled Smith. “I just got to play 15 minutes. I was able to hold my own; I had learned a lot from the fall.”

Utilizing her speed and Energizer Bunny approach to the game, the 5’1 Smith more than held her own over the rest of the season, starting the team’s next 16 games, picking up 21 ground balls and causing 12 turnovers.

For Smith, the move up to college lacrosse was daunting at first. “It was a big change, the amount of hours you put in, even in the offseason,” said Smith, who also starred for the PHS girls’ soccer team.

“It was unlike anything I had experienced; there was such a learning curve with the style and speed of play. Even the rules were different. I had a lot of great role models, playing for my club coaches and older girls who I knew had told me what to expect. I don’t know how it was going to feel but I was going to be prepared.”

Smith had to learn a new position as she was switched to defense from her customary midfield spot. “We had a lot of changes on defense,” said Smith.

“I played defense earlier at PHS so I have always been comfortable on defense, I played a zone defense for the first time. One of the things I love about this sport is that it is constantly changing. It has been fun learning zone defense and getting to play that.”

It was fun for Smith to test herself against the skilled players she competed with and against at the college level.

“Every game I had to give it my best shot,” asserted Smith. “There are 27 amazing players on our team so when you get on the field, you have to make the most of it. That was the mind-set.”

A 14-12 victory over UC Davis on February 22 and a solid effort in a February 28 loss to Temple, in which she had three ground balls and two caused turnovers, helped Smith gain a comfort level on the field.

“It was my first college win,” said Smith, referring to the UC-Davis game. “It was great to see what it felt like to win a game at Lafayette. In the Temple game, I felt I understood what I was supposed to do and I really contributed.”

While Lafayette didn’t get as many wins as Smith would have hoped as it went 4-13 overall, Smith sees a bright future for the Leopards.

“Our team was very young, we have an awesome sophomore class and a class of 10 freshmen,” said Smith, noting that the team went 2-3 in its last five games with two of the losses being by one goal.

“The juniors who are going to be seniors are going to give us really good leadership. We had a freshman goalie and we got better working with her. Last year, our assistant coach, Anna White, was one of the best on draw controls, she was the Patriot League record holder. We had trouble figuring that out for a while and we got better and better working together.”

Things came together for Smith off the field as well this year. “I have a lot of great friends on and off the lacrosse team,” said Smith, who was joined on the lax squad by fellow freshman and former Princeton Day school star Lucy Linville.

“Everyone in the class gets along. There are a lot of other athletes. It is a small school so we get to know each other.”

Smith will be spending the summer coaching with the Ultimate Lacrosse club and honing her game.

“I am working on my speed because in college the game is so fast,” said Smith.

“I want to take every inch because I don’t have the height. You don’t have much time to make decisions.”

Looking ahead to her sophomore year, Smith is primed to take things to a higher level.

“I think I will be a lot more confident,” said Smith. “When I was a captain in high school, I was able to direct things on the field. As a defender this year, I felt timid about speaking up. Getting into 17 games, I had to make decisions and there is not as much indecision. I was very gratified to get in. You feel good, I have worked hard and it has paid off. I was able to help the team; next year I will be able to contribute more.”

SHOOTING STAR: Hun School boys’ lacrosse star Chris Donovan heads to goal in a game this spring. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan scored 105 points on 56 goals and 49 assists to help Hun got 19-1 and win its first state Prep A title since 1998.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHOOTING STAR: Hun School boys’ lacrosse star Chris Donovan heads to goal in a game this spring. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan scored 105 points on 56 goals and 49 assists to help Hun got 19-1 and win its first state Prep A title since 1998. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Arriving at the Hun School as a post-graduate and boarding student this past fall, Chris Donovan quickly developed a comfort level with his new surroundings.

The lacrosse star forged bonds with new teammates and fellow post-grads Brendan Rooney and Chris Aslanian as they were in the same boat, moving to the school and living in the dorm.

“Half of the team boards and we are up with each other until 1 in the morning talking about lacrosse and the state championship before going to bed,” said the Georgetown-bound Donovan, who hails from Morristown. “Aslanian is my roommate, we talk about lacrosse all the time.”

It didn’t take long for the attack unit of Donovan, Rooney, and Aslanian to become the talk of local lacrosse circles as highly touted Hun posted wins over Don Bosco, Somerville, and national power IMG Academy (Fla.) in its three games.

The 6’0, 175-pound Donovan, for his part, served notice that he was going to be a force, tallying eight points on three goals and five assists in the 16-5 opening day win over Don Bosco.

As the season went on, Donovan and Hun kept rolling, going 15-0 in regular season play, highlighted by victories over perennial state Prep A champion Lawrenceville, St. Augustine, Episcopal (Pa.), Shawnee, Bergen Catholic, and Hill (Pa).

In the process, Hun gained national attention, climbing to the top 10 in the Under Armour Power Rankings and the Lax Power computer rankings.

“Chris, Rooney, and me had a great connection,” said Donovan, who had five goals against Lawrenceville, a goal and three assists against St Augustine, six goals and an assist against Episcopal, six goals and four assists versus Bergen Catholic, and two goals and four assists in the Shawnee win.

“We stay after practice everyday, catching passes. Rooney has taught me a lot of things I will never forget, like behind the back shots.”

Competing in the state Prep A tournament and the Inter-Ac Challenge after the season, Hun did a lot of good things with Donovan triggering the attack. In a 19-4 win over Peddie in the Prep A semifinals, Donovan chipped in two goals and two assists. As for the Inter-Ac Challenge, Donovan had three goals and three assists to help Hun beat Academy of New Church 13-4 in the quarters and then contributed two goals and four assist as Hun topped Episcopal 9-4 in a rematch of their regular season contest.

Donovan was at his best when the titles were on the line. Against top-ranked and undefeated Haverford School (Pa.) in the Inter-Ac final, Donovan distinguished himself in a losing cause, tallying six points on two goals and four assist as Hun fell 15-8.

Coming into the Prep A title game three days later against 13-time champion Lawrenceville, Donovan and his teammates were determined to end the season on a high note.

“Bouncing back from Monday night was very tough,” said Donovan. “We gave it our all against the No. 1 team in the nation, they played incredibly. We knew we had to come out hard, we knew we were going to be tired. This got pushed back because of that. We are just hungry and humble, that is our motto this year.”

Showing his hunger to score, Donovan fired in a game-high four goals and added an assist as Hun rolled to a 14-6 win over the Big Red to earn its first Prep A crown since 1998.

In helping the Raiders go 19-1 and finish No. 4 in the Under Armour poll and sixth in the Lax Power rankings, Donovan led the team with 105 points on 56 goals and 49 assists. He scored at least two points in every game he played, and he scored three or more goals 11 times.

After the win over Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game, Hun head coach MV Whitlow put into perspective what Donovan’s presence this year meant for the Raiders.

“Chris is an inspiring player; his performance Monday night against Haverford was truly an inspiring performance,” said Whitlow.

“They were shutting him off today so I put him in the midfield to let him be the athlete that he is and he had four goals. He is truly a generational player, no doubt about it. We are very fortunate to have had him here because he is such a good young man from a great family.”

For making such a great impact as he helped Hun to its best season in a generation, Donovan is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the spring season.

Top Female Performer

This year’s senior class on the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team has gone through a lot.

During the last four years, the program has had three head coaches, been hit with some key injuries, and saw a star player leave the team in midseason this spring.

But amid the upheaval, Mira Shane has been a rock for the Class of 2015. Starting in goal from day-one as a freshman and never leaving her post, Shane provided dependability, a fiery competitive spirit, and skill.

As David Schlesinger took the helm of the program this spring, he quickly realized he had something special in Shane.

“I am incredibly fortunate to inherit a goalie like Mira Shane,” said Schlesinger.

“As great a goaltender as she is, she is a better person. She is one of our tri-captains.”

Shane’s leadership came in handy as the team hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, losing six in a row to fall to 5-10.

“We lost a lot of seniors from the year before, we needed to shape a new team, not building off what we had done,” said Shane.

“This season was about establishing a new foundation. I kept saying we need to grow up. It was about growing up and having the best head and heart to play lacrosse and be better people to see what a loving team can do.”

With Shane producing some incredible play in the cage, PHS showed that it could be a title contender. The fifth-seeded Little Tigers advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals where they dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame with Shane making 16 saves in a losing cause.

“Mira is amazing; she is so athletic and so quick,” said Schlesinger, who consoled Shane afterward as the goalie slumped over in tears near the team huddle after giving her all physically and emotionally.

“Her understanding of the position has grown so much this year, the way she plays angles and now she is a step ahead of the shooters. She knows what she wants to give up. She is forcing the shooters to shoot where she wants them to shoot. She is an amazing leader, a great player.”

In the North Group 3 sectional, ninth-seeded PHS topped eighth-seeded Roxbury 13-9 in the opening round and then pulled off one of the upsets of the season as it stunned top-seeded Northern Highlands 7-4 in the quarters.

In Shane’s view, that win spoke volumes about the team’s character.

“I think it just showed the amount of heart we had,” added Shane. “We had faced a lot of adversity this year. It was an up and down season.”

While the season ended on a down note as PHS fell 9-8 in overtime to fourth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the sectional semis, Shane believed that the final record of 10-13 didn’t accurately reflect the kind of team that PHS developed into this spring.

“I was really proud of what we accomplished,” said Shane, who made 14 saves in the finale. “We may not have the killer record to reflect that but we grew as a team.”

Shane certainly accomplished a lot in her career making over 200 saves this spring and around 700 in her stellar career.

Shane’s intensity, skill, and leadership make her the pick as the top female performer this spring.

Top Newcomers

Earning the first singles spot on the Princeton High boys’ tennis team over two seniors was the first sign the freshman Noah Lilienthal was something special.

In describing Lilienthal’s game, PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert noted that he possessed a maturity on the court. “Noah is a very consistent player,” said Hibbert. “He is a seasoned tournament player. He is mostly a baseliner but has a good all around game.”

Lilienthal’s combination of skill and experience was on full display when he produced a breakout performance in the final day of the Mercer County Tournament in late April, overcoming a one-set deficit to upset top-seeded and defending champion Jerry Jiang 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the semis and then beating second-seeded Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S 6-3, 6-4 in the finals to earn the first singles crown.

The county title surprised even Lilienthal. “It was really exciting,” said Lilienthal, who was seeded third. “At first I couldn’t believe it, and that was the same with the last match. It is a win that will give me confidence but I am the same player I was yesterday and the same player I was the day before that. It just shows that I have been putting in the hard work and hopefully I can continue.”

Hibbert, though, believed all along that Lilienthal had such a performance in him.

“Noah is great, everyone today got to see his quality of tennis on display, his shotmaking, his feet, his footwork, his movement, all of that,” said Hibbert.

“The presence as a freshman to be able to take out last year’s champion in the semi and then take out another highly experienced, solid player in the finals back-to-back, he had an amazing day.”

Showing his presence, Lilienthal helped PHS win the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title for the first time since 2008 and top Tenafly in the Group 3 semis before falling to perennial power Millburn in the state championship match.

Lilienthal, for his part, was thrilled to see PHS advance to the final.

“We have worked really hard to get to this spot, we all do it as a team,” said Lilienthal. “We all contribute. It shows that we have really good character and I was happy we could do it for Princeton.”

For making a huge contribution to that success, Lilienthal is the choice as the top male newcomer this spring.

Coming into this spring, it was clear that the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team was undergoing a youth movement.

The Panthers’ roster featured 12 freshmen and and five sophomores with the only seniors being co-captain Morgan Foster and Kirsten Kuzmicz.

Looking ahead to the season, longtime head coach Jill Thomas believed that what her team lacked in experience, it could make up for with skill and enthusiasm.

“This team is a great group of girls who are fun to work with every day,” said Thomas. “There is lots of energy, potential, and talent. We will look to Morgan Foster and Kirsten Kuzmicz to lead this young team throughout the 2015 season.”

But from the outset, the young guns were on target for the Panthers. In the team’s season-opening 15-6 win over Sewickley Academy (Pa.), freshman Madison Mundenar tallied five points on three goals and two assists with freshman Kyra Hall adding three goals and sophomore Morgan Mills chipping in six goals.

Mundenar, for her part, kept up a torrid pace, scoring four goals with an assist in a 14-2 victory over WW/P-S and adding three more goals in an 18-7 win over Shipley (Pa.) as the Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start.

While the Panthers suffered some growing pains in the middle of the season, going 4-4 after the sizzling start, Mundenar helped lead the way as the squad rolled to the state Prep B title.

The speedy, skilled attacker scored four goals as first-seeded PDS defeated eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the Prep B quarterfinals and had two more in a 15-5 win over the Ranney School in the semis.

Saving her best for last, Mundenar contributed five goals and an assist as the Panthers defeated second-seeded Pennington 18-11 in the Prep B championship game. Her outburst in the finale gave Mundenar 54 points on the season with 40 goals and 14 assists as PDS went 11-6.

During the title celebration, Thomas tipped her hat to her freshman contingent.

“They are not freshmen any more,” said Thomas. “They have grown so much and that is pretty darn terrific.”

By growing into a star who helped PDS earn a state title, Mundenar is the choice as the top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

In 2013, MV Whitlow took over a Hun School boys’ lacrosse program that wasn’t in great shape, coming off a disappointing 7-11 campaign the previous spring.

Whitlow righted the ship guiding the Raiders to an 11-6 record and an appearance in the state Prep A title game where they fell 17-6 to perennial power Lawrenceville. He continued to solidify that foundation as Hun went 13-7 in 2014, making another trip to the Prep A finals, creeping closer to Lawrenceville, losing 11-6.

As Whitlow looked ahead to this spring, he believed that his players were poised to take things to a higher level.

“I think the guys are very committed to the team success and not individual stuff,” said Whitlow.

“We have high character guys who care a lot for each other. A theme we have shared is to focus on the process, consistent winning comes from the process; not focusing on the outcome. We have ramped up the schedule and the guys are hungry and ready to take the next step.”

The Raiders displayed their hunger and skill as they rolled to a 15-0 regular season campaign, beating such formidable foes Don Bosco, national power IMG Academy (Fla.), perennial state Prep A champion Lawrenceville, St. Augustine, Episcopal (Pa.), Shawnee, Bergen Catholic, and Hill, (Pa.).

Hun’s prowess turned heads nationally as the team made the top 10 in the Under Armour Power Rankings and the Lax Power computer rankings.

In the postseason, the Raiders showed that they belonged among the nation’s elite. In the prestigious Inter-Ac Challenge, Hun advanced to the finals where they fell 15-8 to top-ranked and undefeated Haverford School (Pa.) in a hard-fought battle. Three days later, the Raiders put the crowning touch on a memorable campaign as they topped Lawrenceville 14-6 to snap its 13-year title streak and win its first Prep A crown since 1998.

In the wake of earning the Prep A crown, Whitlow lauded his team for its achievements and character.

“I really wanted these guys to have champions next to their name and they will have it now and we will hang a banner,” said Whitlow, whose team ended the spring with a 19-1 record, ranked fourth nationally by Under Armour and sixth by LaxPower.

“This team will live on at the school because they deserve that and they worked for it. The group really didn’t care about individual stuff, they were all about the team and the teammates. They really worked hard in the offseason and they were a truly selfless, high character group of young men.

Whitlow’s role in bringing the group together to produce a legendary season makes him the choice as the top coach of a male team this spring.

After serving as an assistant coach for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team for 15 years, Liz Cook was ready to take a break from high school lax.

Planning to limit her coaching to club programs, Cook stepped down from her PDS post at the end of the 2014 season.

But weeks later, she got the chance to take the helm of a struggling Hun girls’ program coming off a 1-11 season and decided she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“Hun is very much like PDS, there are a lot of similarities between the kids at both schools,” said Cook, a former three-sport star at PDS who went on to play field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse at Brown University.

“I knew some of the players from Garden State Elite. I knew they were struggling; it was a chance to really make a difference. It was a good fit.”

In looking to reverse Hun’s fortunes, Cook took an upbeat approach. “My philosophy for this year is to make everything positive,” said Cook.

“We have a team motto, ‘TNT’, meaning today, not tomorrow; do it now. Each girl picked a word that is special to them and they will focus on that in addition to the team.”

After getting off to a 1-3 start, Hun got on the right track rallying to a 14-13 overtime win against PDS, the eventual state Prep B champions.

In Cook’s view, that win reflected how the squad had come together.

“They believe in each other and stand by each other, they have a gift in that way,” said Cook.

“There isn’t any drama on our team and they take care of each other. They knew when we were down, we could come back and they believed. They kept saying we believe and that was what our motto, believe. Before we went to bed we had a group chat last night, we were saying goodnight, we believe, we believe.”

That self-belief led to a number of impressive wins over the course of the season as Hun topped Prep B finalist Pennington, Mercersburg (Pa.) and posted two victories over Stuart Country Day. A major highlight came in late April when the Raiders edged Blair 10-9 in the state A quarterfinals.

In reflecting on the season which saw the Raiders improve to 7-8, Cook said the team’s progress came down to focusing on daily effort.

“I told them the culture of losing is over; they see that they are able to attain anything they go after,” said Cook.

“I told them they needed to improve every day in practice and in every game and they did that. They always had the talent, they just needed some guidance.”

For providing the guidance that changed the culture around the Hun team and helped it improve dramatically, Cook is the pick as the top coach of a female team this spring.

RETURN TO ACTION: Chris Hatchell heads upcourt last year for Winberie’s as he helped the team win the championship in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. After announcing his retirement from the league, Hatchell changed his mind and was back in action for Winberie’s last Monday as it topped King’s Pizzarama 63-54. In other action on Monday, Dr. Palmer defeated Princeton Youth Sports 50-30 and Princeton Pi topped Aria Health 67-64.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RETURN TO ACTION: Chris Hatchell heads upcourt last year for Winberie’s as he helped the team win the championship in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. After announcing his retirement from the league, Hatchell changed his mind and was back in action for Winberie’s last Monday as it topped King’s Pizzarama 63-54. In other action on Monday, Dr. Palmer defeated Princeton Youth Sports 50-30 and Princeton Pi topped Aria Health 67-64. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Hatchell appeared to have gone out in a blaze of glory last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Hatchell, the sharpshooting guard and longtime stalwart for Winberie’s, helped the team top King’s Pizzarama 2-0 in the best-of-three championship series and then said he was retiring from the league as he approached his 40th birthday.

But Hatchell couldn’t stay away from the game and he was back on the court for Winberie’s last Monday as it dueled King’s at John Witherspoon School in a rematch of last year’s finals.

“I wasn’t going to play but I asked Kurt to put me down on the roster too because a lot of guys don’t always show,” said Hatchell.

“When you have been playing the game for as long as I have been playing it is hard to get away from and I got an itch. I can still play. I probably won’t make all the games; it is more about staying in shape.”

Hatchell also had some family reasons for returning to the fray. “My son is two and I want him to see a little bit more,” said Hatchell, gesturing to the boy who was sitting in a corner of the gym.

“He was out there last year but he is a little older and I want him to see me running up and down the court.”

With Winberie’s trailing 17-7 in the early going on Monday, Hatchell caught fire from the outside to help the team forge ahead 31-30 at halftime.

“We are an older team so we just have to get into the rhythm of things,” said a smiling Hatchell who scored all six of his points on the evening in the first half.

With the game tied at 44-44 with about nine minutes left in regulation, Winberie’s went on a 19-10 run to pull away to a 63-54 win.

“In close games we have the advantage because of our experience,” said Hatchell, reflecting on the team’s late surge in a game that saw Terrence Bailey score a game-high 19 points for Winberie’s with Princeton University football star Anthony Gaffney scoring 18 for King’s in a losing cause.

“We had a little size against those guys so we were able to post up down low.”

Experiencing a 49-46 loss to Aria Health in its season opener last Friday helped Winberie’s sharpen its focus, according to Hatchell.

“I think it is kind of good to lose early with a new team because now we have the loss under our belt and we should be playing together a little bit more,” said Hatchell.

“We are a veteran team; as the season goes on and we get our legs back under us, we will be OK.”

In Hatchell’s view, the team’s veteran leadership makes it formidable. “I can’t say enough about our core, Kurt (Simmons), Chris (Edwards), and Cliff (Pollard),” said Hatchell.

“I think as long as we stay together and we just add pieces, we will be able to play for a long time.”

Having made the decision to keep playing with his buddies, Hatchell is poised for another title run.

“I didn’t come back for nothing,” said Hatchell with a laugh. “Kurt said let’s do it again so I said one more time.”

June 10, 2015
FINAL CUT: Princeton High baseball player John Reid follows through on a swing in a game this spring. Senior outfielder Reid hit .333 this season with 10 RBIs to help PHS post a final record of 10-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CUT: Princeton High baseball player John Reid follows through on a swing in a game this spring. Senior outfielder Reid hit .333 this season with 10 RBIs to help PHS post a final record of 10-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High baseball team didn’t culminate its season with an appearance in the state tournament, it still had plenty to play for in the last week of action.

Bringing an 8-15 record into its final two games, PHS was determined to hit the 10-victory mark, something the program had not achieved under current head coach Dave Roberts in his seven seasons at the helm of the program.

With its bats booming, the Little Tigers achieved that goal, beating sectional quarterfinalist Nottingham 13-3 and then pulling away from Trenton 11-2 in its season finale.

Head coach Roberts, for his part, was thrilled to see his squad end on a high note.

“We were all very excited to win that game; to beat them by 10 was really nice,” said Roberts, referring to the victory over Nottingham.

“Against Trenton, the guys did a great job of wearing down their No. 1 pitcher and getting to their bullpen.”

For Roberts and his players, getting that 10th win was sweet. “We had gotten to nine and nine the last two years,” said Roberts. “As a team, no doubt getting to 10 wins was the biggest positive.”

Another big positive this spring was PHS’s productivity with the bat, as it posted a team batting average of .339 and averaging 5.7 runs a game. Freshman Paul Cooke led the hit parade for the Little Tigers, pacing the team in batting (.442) and RBIs (16). Junior Hayden Reyes batted .420 and classmate Joaquin Hernandez-Burt hit .403 with a team-best 12 doubles. Senior Steve Majeski hit .362 with senior John Reid and junior Matt Lambert both coming in at .333, junior Colin Taylor batting .311, and senior Ben Danis finishing at .306.

“The offensive performance was terrific; I think the highest team average we have had since I have been here was .270,” said Roberts.

“It was a talented group of kids who worked hard; all we did in March was hit. They were aggressive. They were listening to what we were telling them. We executed a lot of hit and runs; we had a lot of kids who could handle the bat. The offensive production and the infield play were the stories of the season; we had a great infield.”

Another great story of the season was the play of the squad’s seniors, three of whom (Majeski, Ben Grass, and Marcus Henderson) played junior varsity last year.

“The seniors were fantastic; Ben Grass and Marcus Henderson were huge on the mound, they hadn’t played at the varsity level before and they had six wins between the two of them,” said Roberts who got a 4-4 season from Grass with Henderson going 2-5. “Majeski, Reid, and Danis did a phenomenal job with the bat.”

With a good core of players returning, highlighted by a junior group of seven, PHS appears poised to take things to a higher level next season.

“I have been excited about them for a long time; the core three of Reyes, Taylor, and Hernandez-Burt have proven to be stellar,” said Roberts, referring to his junior class.

“You add Matt (Lambert), Tim (Frawley), and Micah (Daley-Harris) to that and Dan Gross should be back. Paul Cooke had a phenomenal year for a freshman with 34 hits; he has a really sweet swing. We took a huge step forward, it was good stuff from everyone. I think everybody who is returning left excited; wishing they could start next season a day later.”

LEAPING LEVY: Princeton High girls’ track star Noa Levy clears the bar at 5’2 in the high jump at the Meet of Champions last Wednesday at South Plainfield. The jump was a personal record for sophomore Levy and gave her a 15th place finish at the meet.(Photo by John Dowers)

LEAPING LEVY: Princeton High girls’ track star Noa Levy clears the bar at 5’2 in the high jump at the Meet of Champions last Wednesday at South Plainfield. The jump was a personal record for sophomore Levy and gave her a 15th place finish at the meet. (Photo by John Dowers)

Youth was served for the Princeton High track team as a number of its top athletes competed at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions last Wednesday at South Plainfield.

Sophomore distance star Alex Roth continued his strong spring campaign, taking 15th in the boys’ 3,200 with a time of 9:20.32.

Roth’s classmate, Noa Levy, produced a breakthrough performance in the girls’ high jump. With the competition starting at 5’2, a height she had never cleared, Levy made it on her second attempt. Her personal record jump gave Levy a 15th place finish at the meet.

In the boys’ 4×800, PHS took 15th as the quartet of sophomore Patrick O’Connell, sophomore Alex Roth, junior Noah Chen, sophomore Cy Watsky, and senior Ben Siegel posted a time of 8:16.58. The Little Tigers girls’ 4×800 of senior Paige Metzheiser, junior Lou Mialhe, senior Julie Bond, and sophomore Annefleur Hartmanshenn placed 23rd in a time of 9:46.64.

The girls 4×400 relay of junior Maia Hauschild, freshman Jackie Patterson, junior Jordan Vine, and Metzheiser, finished ninth in 3:59.03. Paced by two big splits from Hauschild (57.9) and Patterson (58.9), the quartet posted the  second best 4×400 in school history.

Hauschild made some history on her own, running in two open meets last week, one on June 2 and another last Saturday, producing two consecutive personal bests in the 400 meters, running 57.85 and then 57.47. Her 57.47 is a top-five time in Mercer County for the last five years.

PHS athletes will be looking for some more top performances as they compete in the 2015 New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet from June 19-21 at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.

SENIOR LEADER: Princeton High softball player Sarah Eisenach displays her pitching form. Senior Eisenach went 4-9 this spring with a 4.40 ERA and 80 strikeouts as PHS went 7-16. Eisenach, the team’s lone senior, also contributed at the plate, hitting .263 with a team-high 15 RBIs.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR LEADER: Princeton High softball player Sarah Eisenach displays her pitching form. Senior Eisenach went 4-9 this spring with a 4.40 ERA and 80 strikeouts as PHS went 7-16. Eisenach, the team’s lone senior, also contributed at the plate, hitting .263 with a team-high 15 RBIs. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at WW/P-N in the Mercer County Tournament, the Princeton High softball team showed its potential.

Despite having previously lost 18-5 and 13-2 to the Northern Knights in regular season play, 11th-seeded PHS defeated sixth-seeded WW/P-N 8-3.

In reflecting on the upset, Little Tiger head coach Dave Boehm credited his squad with producing a sharp effort in all phases of the game.

“We didn’t make mistakes, we made the plays,” said Boehm, who got two hits apiece from Nancy Gray, Kelli Swedish, and Kayla Volante in the win with pitcher Sarah Eisenach going the distance, striking out seven and giving up two hits.

“We didn’t let things snowball. Sarah [Eisenach] pitched a heck of a game and we got some clutch hits.”

Unfortunately, the team’s 10-3 loss to Notre Dame on May 16 in its season finale was a more accurate reflection of how things went this spring as PHS posted a record of 7-16.

“In the Notre Dame game we were tied 3-3 in the fifth inning,” recalled Boehm, whose team was defeated in the MCT quarterfinals by third-seeded Steinert.

“There are two outs and there is a close play at first, they get the call, the next girl hits a single and then the next girl hits a three-run homer and we are down 5-3. They added some more. I said to the girls that the game summed up our season. We played well but it would be one bad call or giving the other team an extra run and it looks like a blow out but it was actually a better game.”

In reflecting on the season, Boehm acknowledged that he had hoped to see his team post a better record.

“Going 7-16 is a little disappointing, it is the same record we had last year,” said Boehm.

“I thought we could add to our win total. We lost some close games, we had two one-run losses to WW/P-S, a 7-6 loss to Trenton, and a 4-3 loss to Nottingham.”

The Little Tigers, though, had some memorable games this season “Winning the Teaneck tourney and beating WW/P-N in the counties were highlights,” said Boehm. “I think our best game was a 3-1 loss to Steinert in the regular season.”

Senior pitcher-first baseman Eisenach gave PHS her best effort over the last four years.

“She was our only senior and she was the leader of the team,” said Boehm, who went 4-9 with 80 strikeouts and hit .263 with a team-high 15 RBIs.

“She got the girls to run and work out. She wasn’t on a team that did great the last four years but she always played well. We are going to miss her. She pitched and could play first, second, or even shortstop.”

In Boehm’s view, PHS has potential to be a very good team next year in light of its group of returning players.

“I am looking forward to next year, I think we can do well,” said Boehm.

“We could have an infield of Swedish (.344 batting average in 2015) at third, Gray (.270) at shortstop, (Stephanie) Wu (.283) at second, (Emily) DiLella (.276) at first, and (Christina) Cuomo (.186) at catcher. Volante (2-7 record with 4.82 ERA and 69 strikeouts) will be the main pitcher, Gray will see some time in the circle. She has been working with a pitching coach. We will have six seniors; we realize that we only have them for one more year but we are hoping they can have big final year. We have a good core of sophomores with Volante (.314 battling average), Gray, and Cuomo. (Bianca) Guidi (.263) was a good freshman player.”

BIG THREE: Princeton Day School senior baseball stars, from left, Cole McManimon, Jake Alu, and JP Radvany, take a break during the team’s preseason trip to Florida. The trio were the mainstays of the program over the last four years and helped PDS go 10-14 this spring and reach the state Prep B semifinals. Each will be going on to play at a Division I college program with McManimon heading to Lehigh University, Alu to Boston College, and Radvany to Villanova University.

BIG THREE: Princeton Day School senior baseball stars, from left, Cole McManimon, Jake Alu, and JP Radvany, take a break during the team’s preseason trip to Florida. The trio were the mainstays of the program over the last four years and helped PDS go 10-14 this spring and reach the state Prep B semifinals. Each will be going on to play at a Division I college program with McManimon heading to Lehigh University, Alu to Boston College, and Radvany to Villanova University.

Murphy’s Law appeared to govern the Princeton Day School baseball team much of this spring.

In posting a 10-14 record, PDS lost eight games by one run and suffered five walk-off defeats. It had a potential win over Hamilton taken away from it when a game-tying 2-run homer in the bottom of the last inning was disallowed after one of the umpires made a hotly-disputed call that the batter didn’t touch home plate.

While senior star, James “JP” Radvany could have been bitter about how things unfolded, he was able to draw positives from the experience.

“It was a crazy up and down year; we had a lot of bad luck but we were also in a lot of exciting games and that was fun,” said Radvany.

“It was great to play one last season with Jake (Alu) and Cole (McManimon). It was not the year that we wanted to have but it was the most number of wins we have had in a season while I was at PDS. With everything that happened, we were still one out from making the Prep B finals. It was tough at times to go through a season like that but it was a really close group of guys. We leaned on each other and we really enjoyed playing with each other.”

Radvany enjoyed some big games this spring, hitting two homers and getting seven RBIs in an 11-10 loss to Allentown in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament and starring in a 12-9 win over Pennington in an MCT consolation contest.

“That was one of my better games in high school; I was seeing the ball well,” said Radvany, referring to the Allentown game.

“The game against Pennington in the MCT consolation game was a highlight; we had lost to them before. I got my 100th career hit and got the win on the mound in relief.”

Over the spring, Radvany hit .371 and tied McManimon for the team lead in RBIs with 31. Radvany ended his PDS career ranked first in program history in RBIs and third in hits.

“That is surreal,” said Radvany, who also starred for the PDS boys’ basketball team and won the school’s Gold P senior athletics award. “I should stay in the record books for a while. It is a good form of recognition.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien lauded what his big three of Radvany, Alu, and McManimon brought to the program, both this spring and over the last four seasons.

“It is not often that three kids come in and step right in as freshman starters and have the career that they had,” said O’Brien, whose other seniors included Sean Flahive, Cody Meagher, and Davin Bialow.

“JP ended up third in hits and first in RBIs. I have been coaching at PDS for 10 years and I have not seen anyone have the all around season that Jake had (a team-best .523 average with 45 hits, 38 runs, 10 doubles, three triples, and three homers). It was a terrific year for him from start to finish. He ended up as the all-time hit leader. Cole was healthy in Florida for our spring trip and pitched a great game against Hill with a one hitter and 15 strikeouts. Cole couldn’t pitch as much as we wanted him to because he had a stress fracture in his shin (3-3 record, 2.11 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 2015) but he had a great year batting for us (.359 with a team-high four homers to go with 31 RBIs).”

In reflecting on the season overall, O’Brien lamented the team’s run of bad fortune.

“We started off 5-1 and then had that Hamilton game and it seemed like the baseball gods were against us after that,” said O’Brien. “You can’t believe all of the things that went wrong for us, injuries, bad breaks, and bad hops.”

A heartbreaking defeat to Gil St Bernard’s in the Prep B semis exemplified the team’s star-crossed campaign as PDS brought a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the last inning only to lose 8-7 on a walk-off grand slam.

“That game was a microcosm of the season,” said O’Brien. “On two separate occasions we were one strike away from going to the prep finals. The last inning you just couldn’t believe with bad hops, bloopers, two strikes on last batter who then hits a fly ball into the wind that turns into a grand slam.”

O’Brien believes he has a good core of returners in place with sophomore catcher Paul Franzoni, junior third baseman Dom Gasparro, and junior second baseman Sam Guarino along with a group of young pitchers.

“Paul is getting bigger and stronger; Dom had a good year, he was particularly good in the field,” said O’Brien.

“Sam was really good at second, he turned 20 double plays and started hitting at the end. We have some sophomore pitchers (Ryan Sparks, Chase Fleming, Russ Kirczow) that are still developing. As they mature and get bigger, our pitching will be OK.”

The returning players, though, have quite a void to fill as they follow the likes of Radvany, Alu, and McManimon. Each of the team’s big three is going on to play at a Division I college program with Radvany heading to Villanova University, Alu to Boston College, and McManimon to Lehigh University.

“For me and the seniors, it is a tough way to go out,” said O’Brien. “We felt that we had the best team in the preps. It is rare that we have 3 D-I players at the same time; they will be sorely missed.”

Radvany will certainly miss playing with his PDS teammates. “It has meant a lot, a lot of people say that high school ball is what you will enjoy the most, because it is not the pressure of college ball,” said Radvany.

“It was great to play with two of my best friends, all three of us are going on to play D-1. We are like brothers, we had dinner on Thursday night before graduation to talk about some of the glory days.”

As he looks ahead to starting his college carer, Radvany is determined to give it his best.

“The main thing in the summer is to get bigger and stronger physically; I am going from the oldest to the youngest and will be one of the frailest physically,” said Radvany, who is playing for the Lawrence Post 414 American Legion team this summer.

“There are a lot of studs. I am also making a transition into being more of an outfielder. They have an opening in the outfield. They have a senior at first base who is one of the best players in the Big East. If I have to sit a year and learn from him that would be fine but I want to do whatever I can to get on the field. As an athlete, you are always looking for a challenge and I am ready for the challenge.”

WINNING POSITION: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s establishes an inside position in a game last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Edwards helped Winberie’s win the 2014 championship series and will be back to help the team defend its title this summer. The league tips off its 27th season on June 10 with a triple-header at the Community Park basketball courts.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WINNING POSITION: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s establishes an inside position in a game last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Edwards helped Winberie’s win the 2014 championship series and will be back to help the team defend its title this summer. The league tips off its 27th season on June 10 with a triple-header at the Community Park basketball courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Winberie’s faced King’s Pizzarama last July in the best-of-three championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League, it was a clash of grizzled veterans against young turks.

Utilizing its savvy, Winberie’s was able to prevail over upstart King’s, posting two tightly contested victories to win the series 2-0.

As the summer hoops league tips off its 27th season on June 10 with a triple-header at the Community Park basketball courts, league commissioner Evan Moorhead expects a similar scenario to play out this year.

“I think the overall theme will be, can the old guard, Winberie’s, Ivy Inn, and Dr. Palmer, hold off the young guns, like King’s, Aria Health, Belle Mead Physical Therapy, and SAT Smart,” said Moorhead, noting that the league will have 10 teams this summer, up from nine in 2014, and that there has been a key rule change as it will take seven team fouls rather than 10, as in the past, to trigger one-on-one bonus free throws.

“The older teams have experience but not the youthful legs any more. Experience tends to win it, with Winberie’s and Ivy Inn winning the last two years.”

Winberie’s and Ivy Inn appear poised to lead the old guard again this summer.

“The big story is that Chris Hatchell is officially retired,” said Moorhead, the assistant director of the Rec Department.

“Kurt Simmons is the GM. Cliff Pollard, Chris Edward, and Terrence Bailey are back. Any time you have Bailey, you can score points. Ivy Inn is back and Skye Ettin (former Princeton High and TCNJ standout) is going to be playing with them. Shahid Abdul-Karim, Buddy Thomas, and Mark Aziz are all back.”

Another veteran unit, Dr. Palmer, has returned after a one-year hiatus from the league. “Dr. Palmer is back with some new names but also some familiar players,” added Moorhead. “They have Mika Palmer, Gary Wilson, Larry Upshur and Brad Billmeier. They say they have a 6’10 player.”

Last year’s finalist, King’s Pizzarama, figures to be a powerful young gun. “King’s will have a similar team; they had a really good season last summer,” added Moorhead.

“They have the two Princeton football players, Anthony Gaffney and Jakobi Johnson. They have also added Justin Leith (a former Princeton Day School standout and current Stuart Country Day athletic director who played pro basketball overseas).”

Another young gun, Jesse Krasna, who gave Winberie’s some young legs to help its title run last summer, will be heading a new league entry, Aria Health.

“Jess has broken off and has a new team,” said Moorhead. “He has the Sibol twins (John and Zach) from the old Blue Devils team. Jesse is a heck of a player and he brings people together. He has experience in the league and he knows what it takes to be competitive so I am assuming his team will be tough.”

SAT Smart, the TCNJ entry, has the potential to be a tough team. “Bobby Brackett will be one of the top players in the league,” said Moorhead. “They have a couple of guards back. They will be competitive if the guards can get Bobby the ball in the post.”

Princeton Youth Sports (PYS), the Princeton High boys’ hoops entry, along with Princeton Pi, Bring Me Food, and Belle Mead Physical Therapy, will be hoping to be competitive with rosters stocked with young players.

PYS should feature high-scoring Matt Hart, an ALL-CVC performer last winter for PHS while Princeton Pi returns last summer’s leading scorer, Juwan Harrison. New entry, Bring Me Food, figures to get firepower from Davon Black, a former PHS standout who was a first-team All League performer last summer for Northeast Realty. Belle Mead boasts strength on the perimeter with All-League performers Jalen Parham, Jonathan Gregory, and Matt Johnston.

Moorhead, for his part, believes the action on the Community Park courts will heat up with the temperatures.

“We have started to hit up the social media,” said Moorhead. “With the rain last week and 58 degree temperatures, it is hard to think about summer hoops. Hopefully the temps will be going up and that will bring people out.”

June 3, 2015
GOOD AS GOLD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Kenan Glasgold guards the crease in a game this season. Senior star Glasgold made 121 saves this season as PHS rebounded from a 2-6 start to finish with a 9-9 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD AS GOLD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Kenan Glasgold guards the crease in a game this season. Senior star Glasgold made 121 saves this season as PHS rebounded from a 2-6 start to finish with a 9-9 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On April 1, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team had to hang on for a 9-7 victory over Hightstown.

When the CVC foes met seven weeks later in the South Group 3 sectional quarterfinals, there was no drama as fourth-seeded PHS jumped out to a 7-1 first quarter lead and never looked back on the way to a 14-6 win over the fifth-seeded Rams.

For Little Tiger head coach Peter Stanton, the different margins of victory in the contests reflected a progress borne of resilience.

“After the game, their coach said ‘wow your guys are so much better than before,’” said Stanton.

“It was good to hear that from someone else. We answered the bell every time; we had a few bad games where we got beat by large margins. A lesser group could have given up but this group never stopped working.”

In the sectional semifinals at top-seeded Shawnee, PHS put in some good work, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. The roof fell in on the Little Tigers as they were outscored 8-1 and ended up losing 15-5 in the May 21 contest.

“The game plan was what we executed well in the first quarter — which was to play aggressively and go out and attack; we played to our strengths,” said Stanton, reflecting on the season-ending defeat.

“They are a mature and athletic team. They are a team comprised of seniors with a lot of success in football and lacrosse. I said to the guys it was liking holding a beach ball under water, eventually you lose your handle on the ball.”

Stanton liked how far his team came this spring as it rebounded from a 2-6 start to post a final record of 9-9.

“What we are most happy about is that we made progress,” said Stanton.

“Looking back at what I know now, the expectations were high and we held the boys to that. I think that is the only way to really progress. You can’t say, hey let’s just be OK, it is hard to make progress that way. We had seven sophomores on the field a lot of the time, that is an awful lot to ask of them.”

As a result, Stanton asked a lot of his team’s veteran-laden defense, which was spearheaded by senior defenders Jackson Andres, Joe Hawes and Colin Buckley along with senior goalie Kenan Glasgold.

“On defense we felt like we had so much talent that they could keep us in games and give us a chance to win and they did that against Rumson-Fair Haven (a  6-5 loss on April 27) and in the win over HoVal (7-6 on May 5),” asserted Stanton.

The senior class, which included attacker Chris Diver and midfielder Stephen Clark in addition to the defensive stars, provided talent and character.

“I have not had as many players who worked as hard as Colin; he would stay after practice running additional sprints,” said Stanton, noting that Andres, Buckley, and Hawes were named as first-team All-CVC performers while Glasgold was a second-team choice.

“Jackson has a rare combination of talent and passion for the game. Joe Hawes made the switch to defense. He didn’t play much lacrosse before coming to high school; it is amazing how far he came. Kenan gave us reason to believe that we could stay in games. Chris had a difficult transition to attack from midfield and by the end of the season, he really got it. Clark came a long way on the field.”

In Stanton’s view, there is plenty of reason for optimism going forward, considering the team’s progress this spring and the return of such talented players as junior midfielder Rory Helstrom, a first-team All-CVC selection, and sophomore attacker Johnny Lopez-Ona, an honorable-mention All-CVC performer.

“We are definitely excited about the future,” said Stanton, who was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“Like I told the players after the last game, I am finishing my 20th year and the fact that the team improved so much and we have a good amount coming back makes me as excited as I have been to keep coaching.”

FAST COMPANY: Princeton High boys’ track star Patrick O’Connell, right, races through a turn as he helped the 4x800 relay take fourth in the Group 3 state championship meet last weekend in South Plainfield. By placing in the top 6 at the meet, the PHS quartet of O’Connell, Alex Roth, Noah Chen, and Cy Watsky booked a spot in the Meet of Champions (MOC) on June 3 at South Plainfield. The PHS girls’ 4x800 team took sixth to advance directly to the MOC while the girls’ 4x400 relay, Alex Roth (3200 meters), and Noa Levy (high jump) were chosen as wildcard entries to the meet.(Photo by John Dowers)

FAST COMPANY: Princeton High boys’ track star Patrick O’Connell, right, races through a turn as he helped the 4×800 relay take fourth in the Group 3 state championship meet last weekend in South Plainfield. By placing in the top 6 at the meet, the PHS quartet of O’Connell, Alex Roth, Noah Chen, and Cy Watsky booked a spot in the Meet of Champions (MOC) on June 3 at South Plainfield. The PHS girls’ 4×800 team took sixth to advance directly to the MOC while the girls’ 4×400 relay, Alex Roth (3200 meters), and Noa Levy (high jump) were chosen as wildcard entries to the meet. (Photo by John Dowers)

Excelling in group efforts, the Princeton High track team made its mark in relay events as it competed in the Group 3 state championship meet last weekend in South Plainfield.

The boys’ 4×800 team of sophomore Patrick O’Connell, sophomore Alex Roth, junior Noah Chen, and sophomore Cy Watsky took fourth in 8:00.17 to book their spot in the Meet of Champions (MOC) on June 3 as a top-six finisher. The quartet took a step closer to their goal of beating the 34-year old school record of 7:57.1.

On the girls’ side, the 4×800 team of senior Paige Metzheiser, junior Lou Mialhe, senior Julie Bond, and sophomore Annefleur Hartmanshenn took sixth in 9:40.40 to earn its way to the MOC, which is being held in South Plainfield.

Another relay, the girls’ 4×400, also advanced to the Meet of Champions as a wildcard based on time. Junior Maia Hauschild, freshman Jackie Patterson, junior Jordan Vine, and Metzheiser combined to break 4 minutes for the first time, running 3:59.46 in placing seventh at the group meet. Three of the girls had sub-60 second splits.

Also advancing to the MOC as individual wildcards were Roth in the 3,200 after taking eighth in 9:28.45, and sophomore Noa Levy, the eighth-place finisher in the high jump with a mark of 5’0.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse junior stars, Julia Maser, right, and Tori Hannah go on attack in recent action. Hannah scored a team-high 56 goals this spring while Maser chipped in 42 as the Tartans posted a final record of 7-9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse junior stars, Julia Maser, right, and Tori Hannah go on attack in recent action. Hannah scored a team-high 56 goals this spring while Maser chipped in 42 as the Tartans posted a final record of 7-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ending the spring with a bang, the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team made the most out of the last week of its season.

Over a five-day stretch from May 7-12, Stuart reeled off three wins, topping Hightstown 15-12 and Hamilton 15-13 before edging Lawrence 10-9 in its season finale.

Stuart first-year head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way her squad kept making progress.

“We had a really strong finish; it depicted that the girls really improved,” said O’Gorman. “They played smart in some tight games. Overall you could see them carrying out decisions and playing smarter.”

In O’Gorman’s view, her team’s increased lacrosse IQ was one of the biggest pluses to come out of the spring as the Tartans posted a final record of 7-9.

“I think it was decision-making all over the field,” said O’Gorman. “We had a lot fewer turnovers and everybody started playing their roles and playing as a team.”

Stuart came through at both ends of the field in its season-ending win. “The last game was 10-9 at Lawrence,” recalled O’Gorman. “It was great to end on a strong note, they went away in good spirits.”

The team’s two seniors, goalie Harlyn Bell and attacker Nneka Onukwugha, lifted spirits throughout the season.

“Harlyn just led the team so well; her attitude was always upbeat,” said O’Gorman of Bell, who passed the 400-save mark in her Tartan career.

“She is a great role model. She was also very consistent, that is not easy for a goalie. Nneka is quieter; she is very level-headed. She used her athleticism from basketball. She could turn it on offensively and defensively. It was a two-person senior class but it seemed like more. You always knew what you were going to get from them.”

With a large and talented group of juniors featuring Tori Hannah (56 goals and 7 assists in 2015), Julia Maser (42 goals, 6 assists), Sam Servis (10 goals, 5 assists), Harley Guzman (28 goals, 6 assists), Rose Tetnowski (1 goal, 1 assist), Izzy Engel (10 goals, 3 assists), Armani King, and Kimberly Rodas, the Tartans should continue getting better and better.

“It is a well-balanced class, there are good players on offense, defense, and in the midfield,” said O’Gorman.

“They trickle experience and talent all over the field, which will help the new players we get and the younger players we already have. They have already stepped up and I am sure they will step up more.”

O’Gorman, for her part, enjoyed stepping into the Stuart program. “It was nice to have a small team,” said O’Gorman, who was previously the head coach of the Princeton High girls’ lax squad.

“We were able to focus and concentrate on specifics of the game, whether long or short term. The progress was gratifying, they were able to compete and we had some nice wins.”

May 27, 2015
GETTING IT DONE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Donovan heads to goal last Thursday in the state Prep A title game against Lawrenceville. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan tallied four goals and an assist to help Hun prevail 14-6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Donovan heads to goal last Thursday in the state Prep A title game against Lawrenceville. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan tallied four goals and an assist to help Hun prevail 14-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was lights, camera, action for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team as it started last week by facing Haverford School (Pa.) in the championship game of the Inter-Ac Challenge.

The battle of unbeatens between No. 4 Hun and top-ranked Haverford at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pa. on the evening of May 19 was billed as a national championship game and was broadcast on TV over the Comcast network.

The Raiders proved ready for prime time, battling the Fords hard for three quarters, trailing 10-7 entering the fourth. Haverford, though, pulled away over the last 12 minutes to earn a 15-8 victory.

Three days later, another crown was at stake as Hun hosted 13-time champion Lawrenceville in the state Prep A title game.

After licking their wounds from the Haverford game, Hun post-graduate star attacker Chris Donovan and his teammates weren’t going to let disappointment and fatigue stand in their way as they went for the program’s first Prep title since 1998.

“Bouncing back from Monday night was very tough,” said Donovan. “We gave it our all against the No. 1 team in the nation, they played incredibly. We knew we had to come out hard, we knew we were going to be tired. This got pushed back because of that. We are just hungry and humble, that is our motto this year.”

In the early going against the Big Red, Hun looked a little tired as it ended the first quarter clinging to a 4-3 lead. In the second quarter, however, the Raiders clicked at both ends of the field, outscoring Lawrenceville 7-1 to seize control of the contest.

“I think it was getting back to it, we were a little tired and took time getting the feel of the game again,” said Donovan.

“A lot of emotions were spent on Monday night obviously but getting back here was great. We knew what was at stake. We hadn’t won one since 1998; that was in the back of our minds. We just got back to practice and worked on things we needed to work on and obviously it showed here.”

In the second half, the Raiders took care of business, weathering a couple of Lawrenceville flurries to earn a convincing 14-6 win.

“We knew they were going to come back strong, they are a very talented team with a lot of big, strong guys,” said Donovan, who ended up with four goals and an assist on the day.

“I bounced right off of one of them and I was like oh my god. They have great players. We just kept going.”

In reflecting on Hun’s great campaign, which saw the Raiders post a 19-1 record, Donovan pointed to chemistry as a key ingredient in the squad’s success.

“I think it is just everybody loves each other, I have to say that,” said Donovan. “Half of the team boards at the school and we are up with each other until 1 in the morning, talking about lacrosse and the state championship. Since the fall, we have been going to bed every night dreaming about this.”

The attack line of Georgetown-bound Donovan and fellow post-graduates, Yale-bound Brendan Rooney and Hobart recruit Chris Aslanian, gave Hun’s foes nightmares this season.

“Chris, Rooney, and me had a great connection,” said Donovan, who led Hun in scoring this scoring with 105 points on 56 goals and 49 assists.

“Aslanian is my roommate, we talk about this all the time. We stay after practice every day, catching passes. Rooney has taught me a lot of things I will never forget, like the behind the back shots. Chris Aslanian is a great kid, a great person, a great athlete.”

Hun head coach MV Whitlow was thrilled to see his squad show its greatness in the win over Lawrenceville.

“The mindset was to finish,” said Whitlow. “I think the willfulness of this team and the character of the team really was evident coming off of that loss on Monday night to the No. 1 team in the country. Being able to rebound emotionally and physically and play a state championship game just says a lot about these boys and their character. This is a really special group of young men, a very high character group of men and they were a pleasure to coach.”

It was a pleasure for Whitlow to watch his team go on its 7-1 second quarter run.

“I think we opened the game up a little bit, we got into transition,” said Whitlow.

“We figured out what their defensive schematic was after one quarter and we knew where the openings are and we took advantage of them.”

Whitlow noted that Donovan has been particularly adept at taking advantage of his scoring chances.

“He is truly a generational type player,” asserted Whitlow, who also got three goals from Aslanian in the win with Rooney and Cole West chipping in two apiece.

“The level of lacrosse in the Princeton area is very good this year and I think some of that is due to Chris Donovan and his level of play. His performance Monday night against Haverford was truly an inspiring performance. They were shutting him off today so I put him in the midfield to let him be the athlete that he is and he had four goals.”

Achieving the goal of winning the Prep A title was sweet for Whitlow, a former assistant coach at Lawrenceville.

“It means everything to these guys,” said Whitlow. “I really wanted these guys to have champions next to their name and they will have it now and we will hang a banner. This team will live on at the school because they deserve that and they worked for it.”

In Whitlow’s view, the title run was fueled by a focus on team. “The closeness of the group, the selflessness stands out,” said Whitlow.

“The group really didn’t care about individual stuff, they were all about the team and the teammates. They really worked hard in the offseason and they were a truly selfless, high character group of young men.”

Donovan, for his part, will always remember his year with the group.

“It has been great, this school has given me everything I could ask for,” said Donovan. “I am going to miss the hell out of it.”

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team display the trophies they earned last week as the program won its third straight state Prep B title. PDS scored 12 points at the competition as runner-up Montclair Kimberley had nine. The Panther championship line-up included Anupreeth Coramutla at first singles, Scott Altmeyer at second singles, Lex Decker at third singles, Josiah Meekins and Vivek Sharma at first doubles with Hari Rajagopalan and Jacob Chang at second doubles. The team’s head coach is Will Asch and the assistant is Ed Tseng.

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team display the trophies they earned last week as the program won its third straight state Prep B title. PDS scored 12 points at the competition as runner-up Montclair Kimberley had nine. The Panther championship line-up included Anupreeth Coramutla at first singles, Scott Altmeyer at second singles, Lex Decker at third singles, Josiah Meekins and Vivek Sharma at first doubles with Hari Rajagopalan and Jacob Chang at second doubles. The team’s head coach is Will Asch and the assistant is Ed Tseng.

While most tennis players aspire to be singles stars, Josiah Meekins relished playing doubles throughout his career with the Princeton Day School boys’ squad.

“I was coming off eighth grade and I played high singles,” said Meekins. “In high school, I was more part of a team. I didn’t mind playing doubles. I would be ecstatic to play singles but I wanted to help the team. In terms of the team aspect, that was more fun for me, there was more camaraderie, playing with someone else.”

Meekins’ outstanding play at doubles and team-first attitude over the last four years has helped the PDS team emerge as a force in state Prep B circles.

In 2013, the Panthers shared the Prep B crown in a three-way tie before winning it outright this spring.

Coming into this year’s tourney, first doubles star Meekins and his teammates were primed to achieve a three-peat.

“We were pretty confident, we knew our matchups because we got the draw pretty early,” said Meekins, who helped PDS sweep all 10 matches in the preliminary rounds on May 17 as PDS clinched a tie for the title before the final round was even contested. “I was surprised but confident that we could sweep the matches on Sunday.”

The Panthers took care of business in the finals on May 19 at Wardlaw-Hartridge as junior Scott Altmeyer prevailed at second singles and freshman Lex Decker won at third singles to clinch the championship outright as PDS piled up 12 points with runner-up Montclair Kimberley scoring nine.

Meekins and his teammates weren’t in the mood to share the title. “I was tired of having our name next to someone else so that was lots of motivation,” said Meekins. “We wanted to three peat.”

Accomplishing the three-peat was a special way for Meekins to end his PDS career.

“I know it meant a lot to everyone but especially to Hari (Rajagopalan) and me as seniors,” said Meekins, who is heading to Goucher College where he will be playing for its men’s tennis team.

“We had such a good group of guys, we really wanted to win it for them.

I think this was one of the closest group of guys.”

Meekins developed a good chemistry this spring with his doubles partner, freshman Vivek Sharma.

“In my first season, I won a second doubles Prep B title with James Sanderson,” said Meekins.

“I was a freshman and he was a senior. This year, it was reversed. I was the senior. I tried to motivate Vivek and pull him through. It made my year. I brought him along and we played really well.”

PDS head coach Will Asch credited the affable Meekins with setting a positive tone for the team.

“Josiah was a great leader, he is such an excellent kid,” said Asch of Meekins, who also starred for the PDS boys’ hoops team and received the school’s “Frankie K” sportsmanship senior award along with classmate Katie Alden. “Everyone got behind him, everyone wanted to play doubles with him.”

Meekins’ fellow senior, Rajagopalan, produced an excellent finish at second doubles.

“Hari had a great season, he really came on in the last few weeks,” asserted Asch. “He played the best tennis of his four years in the last few weeks of the season. He made a dramatic improvement. Andy Erickson played with Hari most of the year, in practice, some of other kids can beat them in singles but in a match, the seniors are much better, they are much more coachable. They had a lot of experience playing together.”

There wasn’t much drama involved in connection with PDS clinching the outright title.

“Coming into Tuesday, there wasn’t really any doubt,” said Asch. “We had a very nice practice on Monday, the boys had a lot of fun. All Scott had to do was win; he was playing a guy Lex had beaten 0 and 0 earlier. It was nice, we were all very relaxed; it was a coronation really. We were there to have a good time. Scott played fast, his match was over in about 20 minutes. Lex won 0 and 0 in his but it took about an hour.”

With a singles lineup that features sophomore Anupreeth Coramutla at No. 1 along with junior Altmeyer and freshman Decker, PDS boasts a strong core of young talent.

“We have three really good singles players,” said Asch. “Anupreeth is a very talented kid, his best days are ahead of him, he could get a lot better. Scott just keeps getting better. He keeps coming at you, he is very aggressive. He hits the ball hard. Anupreeth is more of a defensive player. Lex is very crafty, he has slices, he hits drop shots, he has an excellent forehand. They all like each other.”

Asch likes the team’s prospects so much that the program is thinking about competing in Prep A next season.

“We are so good at second and third singles, we are thinking about moving up to Prep A next year,” said Asch. “Doubles is going to be a challenge for us. If you want to win tournaments you have to get a few wins at doubles. We have talented players but the question is at what point do they develop chemistry.”

Meekins, for his part, is ready to move up to college tennis. “I am ready to make tennis my life; I loved basketball, but that chapter of my life is closed,” said Meekins.

“I am going to go down to Goucher this summer and hit with the guys, I also want to play a lot of tournaments in the New Jersey area and hit with my PDS teammates.”

NOAH’S ARC: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Noah Lilienthal shows his forehand form. Last Wednesday, freshman Lilienthal posted a 6-0, 6-1 win at first singles to help PHS edge Tenafly 3-2 in the Group 3 state semifinals. The Little Tigers went on to lose 5-0 to powerful Millburn in the Group 3 championship match later that day to finish the spring with a 17-3 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NOAH’S ARC: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Noah Lilienthal shows his forehand form. Last Wednesday, freshman Lilienthal posted a 6-0, 6-1 win at first singles to help PHS edge Tenafly 3-2 in the Group 3 state semifinals. The Little Tigers went on to lose 5-0 to powerful Millburn in the Group 3 championship match later that day to finish the spring with a 17-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Noah Lilienthal was nervous as he took the court for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team at first singles in the Group 3 state semifinals against undefeated Tenafly last Wednesday at Mercer County Park.

“I started a little bit slow,” said freshman star Lilienthal. “I was a little tight, these are pretty big matches, being in the state semifinals.”

Showing his talent and composure, the precocious Lilienthal found his rhythm and rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Scott Einsidler.

“I started getting into my groove and just focused on improving after every shot,” said Lilienthal, who won the first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament earlier this season.

“It was probably my transition balls, getting up to net and putting balls away. I did that better than I usually do and my return of serve was also working pretty well.”

Lilienthal’s win helped PHS pull out a 3-2 victory and earn a trip to the finals. The freshman was thrilled to see PHS make it up to the top level of Group 3.

“I am really happy that we are in this position,” said Lilienthal “We have worked really hard to get to this spot, we all do it as a team. We all contribute. It shows that we have really good character and I was happy we could do it for Princeton.”

The team’s veterans showed their character earlier in the season as they welcomed Lilienthal to the fold without jealousy or rancor.

“It was really great, before the first ball had even been hit before the season, everyone was really looking forward to having me on the team, especially Rishab (Tanga) and Tyler (Hack),” said Lilienthal.

“It was not easy for them to give up their positions. They are my biggest supporters, they have really helped me and they have stepped it up.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was proud of the way her team stepped up against Tenafly as the second doubles team of Eric Lin and Kevin Yang prevailed in a third set tiebreaker and senior Tyler Hack posted a hard-earned 6-4, 6-4 victory at third singles to give the Little Tigers the three points needed to advance.

“We didn’t really know much about their team but I just told everyone to go out and do the best they could,” said Hibbert.

“Both doubles teams had really close matches. Second doubles did a great job of getting through that tiebreaker and not letting the second set affect them and coming back to win a clutch point for us. Tyler did a great job. He has been fighting his allergies and was not feeling well all week. He knew that we needed him and he worked hard. He was able to close out a great game at 5-4 to clinch the match for us. Noah is Noah, he played a fantastic match.”

Later in the day, the Little Tigers were unable come up with another great match as they fell 5-0 to perennial power Millburn in the Group 3 final.

While Hibbert would have liked to have seen her squad give Millburn a better fight, making the state finals was a major accomplishment.

“We haven’t been able to get out of our sectional for the last several years, I think ’08 was the last team,” said Hibbert.

“It was nice to not only get out of the area but also to be able to make it to the final. Millburn is a tough team, they have won the Tournament of Champions over and over again. They just outplayed us but we worked hard to get there.”

Throughout the spring, the Little Tigers put in some good work as the team posted a final record of 17-3.

“Overall, we had a very strong season, especially considering that we had four new players in the lineup,” said Hibbert.

The future looks bright as the team is only graduating Hack and second singles player Rishab Tanga.

“Obviously losing Rishab and Tyler will be tough for the team to replace,” said Hibbert.

“Having Noah back will be huge, he is an incredibly strong addition to our lineup.”

Lilienthal, for his part, believes that PHS has developed the mindset to keep getting better.

“I think it is that we all try to improve,” said Lilienthal. “It is not just about getting the win, it is the gradual everyday grind and making progress.”

FIRING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane fires the ball upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 14 saves but it wasn’t enough as ninth-seeded PHS fell 9-8 in overtime to fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the North Group 3 sectional semifinals. The loss left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane fires the ball upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 14 saves but it wasn’t enough as ninth-seeded PHS fell 9-8 in overtime to fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the North Group 3 sectional semifinals. The loss left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bringing an 8-12 record and a two-game losing streak into the state tournament, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team seemed destined for an early exit.

But PHS senior goalie Mira Shane and her classmates were determined to help the ninth-seeded Little Tigers make a run in the North Group 3 sectional.

“We went into the states looking to stay alive,” said Shane. “We had four seniors with three of of us playing and one hurt and we said this is it. This team is super important to all of us.”

Playing at eighth-seeded Roxbury in the first round, PHS stayed alive with a 13-9 win, bouncing back from a 5-4 defeat to Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals and a 10-8 loss to Hopewell Valley in the regular season finale.

“The Roxbury game gave us some momentum,” said Shane. “Coming out of MCTS, we were angry. In the Hopewell game, we were beaten down in the first half and came back in the second half.”

The win over Roxbury earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Northern Highlands in the sectional quarters and the Little Tigers thrived in the underdog role, jumping out to a 4-1 halftime lead on the way to a 7-4 upset win.

“Honestly for that game, we just wanted to show that we can play at their level,” said Shane, who will be playing lacrosse at the next level for the University of Michigan.

“We only knew about one team that they played. We scouted them and we did some research on some of their players but it was about us. We were trying to match and surpass their intensity. It is all about energy. We had energy in that game, especially on defense. It was good to close it out in the second half. Coach (David Schlesinger) was talking about shocking the world.”

In Shane’s view, the stunner spoke volumes about the team’s character.

“I think it just showed the amount of heart we had,” added Shane. “We had faced a lot of adversity this year. It was an up and down season. We had a tougher schedule and we were feeling out a new coach, who is an awesome guy and an intense coach.”

Playing at fifth-seeded HoVal in the sectional semifinals last Thursday, the Little Tigers produced another intense effort but fell just short in losing 9-8 on overtime to end the season.

“We definitely wanted to start from the second half of the previous game,” said Shane, who recorded 14 saves against the Bulldogs in a losing cause.

“We watched the film of the first game the day before to see what we did wrong in the first half. The second half was much better but it wasn’t our best. We wanted to bring our best. It was awesome to see the transition of the team from one week before; certain players really stepped up. I would have liked us to have a few more offensive possessions and not the turnovers that we had. We played a lot of defense, I think that got us in the end. They also did some good things on offense.”

While PHS finished with a 10-13 record, Shane believes that the squad did a lot of good things over the course of the spring.

“We lost a lot of seniors from the year before, we needed to shape a new team, not building off what we had done,” said Shane.

“This season was about establishing a new foundation. I kept saying we need to grow up. It was about growing up and having the best head and heart to pay lacrosse and be better people to see what a loving team can do. I was really proud of what we accomplished. We may not have the killer record to reflect that but we grew as a team.”

The seniors experienced a lot of growth as they went through a roller-coaster ride over the last four years.

“The senior class feels indebted to the awesome lacrosse program, athletic department, and the school in general,” said Shane, whose fellow seniors included Oona Ryle, Campbell McDonald, and Robin Reigle.

“We had a great learning experience and we showed that we can fight through adversity. It was beautiful to see the different teams come through.”

Shane gave PHS some beautiful play in goal over the years as she made around 700 saves in her career, starting from day one as a freshman.

“I would say as a freshmen, it was more about athleticism and less about technique,” said Shane.

“As a junior, I started to understand it was about fundamentals and staying calm. This year I worked on patience, it was like a meditation, getting that extra second to not take a step. I think as a goalie you have power too. The shooter knows where they want to shoot but I have gotten better at baiting shooters and getting in position before the shot comes.”

Looking forward to starting her career at Michigan, Shane is pumped up to take her shot at college lacrosse.

“I am getting a workout packet on June 1; I am totally excited,” said Shane. “It will be conditioning and lifting. I have been mentally and physically preparing for this a long time. Even when I was in basketball last winter, I was doing additional lifting and conditioning. School starts around September 10 but I am going out in late August to be with the team. I think it is going to be a good second team for me after my great PHS team.”

BIG STRIDES: Princeton High star runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a cross country race earlier in her career. Last weekend at Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, senior Metzheiser took third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22) to help PHS place fourth in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG STRIDES: Princeton High star runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a cross country race earlier in her career. Last weekend at Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, senior Metzheiser took third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22) to help PHS place fourth in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Featuring strength from the sprints to the distance events, the Princeton High girls’ track team used that balance to excel last weekend at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet.

“I think a big part of our success this season has been on the track and that theme continued this weekend,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk, whose team placed fourth of 18 teams in the sectional held at Northern Burlington High and saw a number of athletes earn the top-6 finishes necessary to book them spots in the upcoming state group meet.

Junior Maia Hauschild set the pace in the sprints, taking fourth in the 200 (25.97) and second in the 400 (58.57). Freshman Jackie Patterson took sixth in the 400 (1:00.02).

“Maia has had moments this season where she has looked brilliant and other times where she looked like she was trying to figure things out,” said Smirk. “She figured things out last weekend. She has also been a mentor for Jackie Patterson who has learned a lot from her.”

In the middle distance events, senior Paige Metzheiser continued her superb final campaign, taking third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22).

“Paige is an amazing athlete for us; she has always been a team player,” asserted Smirk.

“She said she wanted to take a shot at the mile, she has been watching it and she had a personal record against a quality field. She has been a go-to athlete all season in the 800.”

Junior Lou Mialhe stepped up in the 3,200, taking fifth (11:16.83) with senior Mary Sutton coming in eighth (11:41.16).

“Lou has been a miler and we put her in the 2-mile and she didn’t disappoint,” said Smirk of Mialhe, who also took eighth in the 400 hurdles. “She had a personal best of 11:16.”

Youth was also served for PHS at the meet as sophomore Noa Levy tied for second in the high jump (5’0) with sophomore Aileen Wu taking eighth in the 800 (2:26.88), freshman Chloe Taylor placing 11th in the 3,200 (11:58.16), and sophomore Annefleur Hartmenshenn helping the 4×800 relay take second (9:43.58).

“In the winter, Noa was inconsistent, the focus was fitness,” said Smirk, whose team is next in action when its qualified athletes compete in the Group 3 meet from May 29-30 at South Plainfield.

“She was patient and that is hard for a young athlete. It is paying off. Aileen Wu had breakout race in the 800. Annefleur Hartmenshenn did well in the 4×800. We were wondering who was the fourth girl in the 4×800 and she stepped right in there.”

May 20, 2015
DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton University women’s lacrosse goalie Ellie DeGarmo guards the cage in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore DeGarmo made eight saves and picked up three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 7-3 to third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The loss to the Blue Devils left the Tigers with a final record of 16-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton University women’s lacrosse goalie Ellie DeGarmo guards the cage in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore DeGarmo made eight saves and picked up three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 7-3 to third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The loss to the Blue Devils left the Tigers with a final record of 16-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In stifling sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the second round of the NCAA tournament earlier this month, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team produced a superior defensive effort.

Last Saturday, the tables were turned on the Tigers as they fell 7-3 to third-seeded and stingy Duke in a NCAA quarterfinal contest.

Bringing an eight-game winning streak into the game, Princeton was confident that it could keep rolling.

“I think we were excited to play Duke,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer. “We were riding a high, we were playing so well. We thought we matched up well with them.”

After taking a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game on a goal by Anya Gersoff, Princeton was blanked for the rest of the half and trailed 3-1 at intermission.

“We struggled to find a rhythm on offense,” said Sailer. “They were playing really good defense and we were not getting great looks, they did a good job of taking (Erin) Slifer and (Erin) McMunn out of the game.”

Picking up where it left off against Stony Brook, Princeton played some good defense of its own as it put the clamps on a Duke team that came into the game averaging 12.9 goals a game.

“We played exceptional defense throughout, they got a goal in the last few seconds so we basically gave up just six goals over most of the game,” said Sailer, who got eight saves from sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo with junior defender Liz Bannantine causing three turnovers and getting three ground balls. “I would have thought we would win if we could do that.”

But it was the Duke defense that carried the day, holding Princeton to its lowest output since a 16-3 loss to Virginia in 2006.

“Hats off to them, it is highly unusual for us to just get three goals,” said Sailer, whose team finished the season with a 16-4 record.

“We had opportunities. We had 16 shots but just made three, that is not our normal shooting percentage. They were getting out on our hands, making good slides, and making us rush shots.”

While Princeton was disappointed to get knocked out of the tourney, Sailer is proud of what her team accomplished this spring.

“It is hard to be that close to making the final 4 and feeling that you didn’t play your best game at the end,” said Sailer.

“We had a great season, everyone knows that, everyone appreciates that. It was one of best seasons we have had at Princeton in a decade. We went 7-0 in the Ivy League and won the title outright. We won the Ivy tournament, and made NCAA quarters. We beat the sixth-seeded team. In other years before the bracket was expanded, two wins in the tournament would get you to Final 4.”

With most of the team returning, Sailer sees a lot of wins on the horizon for the Tigers.

“We were predominantly underclassmen, it is a very young team,” noted Sailer.

“Some of the juniors who played were relatively inexperienced. We grew a lot over the course of the season. The future looks bright, we have the whole defensive unit back. Losing Slifer and McMunn from attack is a huge loss, they are No. 1 and No. 2 in program history in assists. (McMunn with 91 and Slifer with 81.) There was a great connection between the two of them. Our offense will change but we have a lot of good players coming back and a great freshman class coming in.”

In Sailer’s view, the team’s Class of 2015 which included Erin Curley, Erika Grabbi, Jess Nelson, and Annie Woehling in addition to McMunn and Slifer, made a great impact that won’t be soon forgotten.

“There were two starters and two who played a lot but the class as a whole was phenomenal, setting an example and giving to the program,” said Sailer.

“They did anything they could to help the team even if it came at their personal expense and cut into their playing time. They handled it the right way, they are leaving a great legacy.”

CHAMPIONSHIP FORM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Tyler Hack displays his backhand form. Last Monday, Hack posted a straight sets win at third singles to help top-seeded PHS defeat sixth-seeded Hopewell Valley 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHAMPIONSHIP FORM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Tyler Hack displays his backhand form. Last Monday, Hack posted a straight sets win at third singles to help top-seeded PHS defeat sixth-seeded Hopewell Valley 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tyler Hack didn’t waste any time taking care of business as the top-seeded Princeton High boys’ tennis team hosted fifth-seeded Hightstown in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional semis last Thursday.

The PHS senior star dispatched Ritesh Neelamagam 6-0, 6-0 at third singles in a match that took less than an hour.

“I think my forehand was a very strong weapon today and also my first serve percentage,” said Hack.

“I was told if I have a very high first serve percentage that his returns would crumble over time and that is exactly what ended up happening. I think also consistency off of my backhand side which combined with the offense of the forehand was a winning combo.”

On Monday, Hack enjoyed another winning effort, rolling to a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Harrison Fu of Hopewell Valley as PHS defeated the sixth-seeded Bulldogs 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi.

“I am really proud of the team this year,” said Hack. “We have got in some great matches, ones that I will certainly remember for a while.”

Hack has posted some memorable victories in his final campaign. “I think this is my strongest year in terms of fitness,” said Hack, who placed second at third singles in the Mercer County Tournament earlier this season.

“Experience had helped with that. I am stronger mentally as well. I have been through a lot of tough matches.”

The experience of playing four years with classmate Rishab Tanga, the team’s second singles players, has been a highlight for Hack.

“We are great friends, I am sure we will stay in touch many years from now,” said Hack.

“We still have this one photo of us freshman year which is pretty funny to look back on.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert appreciates the great contribution she has gotten from Hack and Tanga.

“Tyler has been a great addition to the team, he is a hard worker, you can always count on him to do everything he can,” said Hibbert.

“He is a great kid. He and Rishab have been a great addition to the program, starting at second doubles together freshman year and then gradually moving into our singles lineup. They have been staples in our lineup for the last four years and we are obviously going to really miss them, both their personalities and tennis ability. I have been really grateful for their presence on the team the past four years.”

It has been great for PHS to have freshman star Noah Lilienthal at the top of the lineup this spring.

“Any time you bring in a player of Noah’s caliber to the team, it just helps you,” said Hibbert of Lilienthal, who won the MCT crown at first singles and didn’t lose a set in his three team sectional matches.

“We don’t have attitudes on the team, Rishab and Tyler were perfectly happy to be bumped down a spot because they know what that added to them. They knew they had a better shot of winning. They knew how it helped the team and how it helped them.”

Hibbert believes PHS has a good shot of challenging for a state crown. “Overall, we seem to be doing well, hopefully we are peaking at the right time,” said Hibbert.

“At the beginning, we talked about the season  being challenging and choppy. We had an early county tournament and I was pleased with how well the guys did there considering how little practice they had. As we have gotten into the heart of the season, they have been getting better. It is a nice group of kids, they work hard. They are playing well when it counts so hopefully we will be able to continue the run.”

Hack, for his part, has relished his final run with PHS. “It seemed like we just got through all of the rainy days last week; the season has really flown by,” said Hack, who is headed to Santa Clara University where he plans to play club tennis.

“I think I will look back on this as a great opportunity. It has been a lot of fun. I have made good friends with these guys, on and off the court.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres, right, thwarts a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior defender and Drexel University-bound Andres helped fourth-seeded PHS blank 13th-seeded Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. Andres contributed a goal and an assist as the Little Tigers improved to 8-8. PHS was slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres, right, thwarts a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior defender and Drexel University-bound Andres helped fourth-seeded PHS blank 13th-seeded Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. Andres contributed a goal and an assist as the Little Tigers improved to 8-8. PHS was slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a 15-2 defeat by Princeton Day School in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament on May 9, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team went back to basics last week as it prepared for the state tournament.

“It was rough,” said PHS senior defenseman Jackson Andres. “We had a nice week with five days of practice. We worked on everything, offensive plays, defensive stuff, just to get back from that upsetting loss.”

The team’s hard work paid dividends last Saturday as fourth-seeded PHS blanked No. 13 Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. The win improved the little Tigers to 8-8 and earned them a spot in the sectional quarterfinals where they are slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21.

“We planned on coming out real strong,” said Andres. “We didn’t want to let anything up, no let-up goals, no nothing.”

Andres was a bit surprised that PHS was able to post a shutout. “It is rare, I think we were just talking more,” said Andres.

“Colin Buckley is the glue for the defense, he was shutting down their best player. Ian Jacobs is a freshman and he is really stepping up. Tooker Callaway is such a solid player. Kenan Glasgold was playing unbelievable in goal today. We are all just jelling.”

Showing his versatility, Andres picked up an assist and scored a point blank goal off a nice feed by classmate Chris Diver.

“It was just nice ball movement from me and Div,” said Andres, reflecting on his goal. “We are good friends. We know where each other is on the field. It is fun playing with my friend.”

Andres had fun helping out on the offensive end this season. “I have been looking to get involved,” said Andres. “We have been in need of an extra scorer so I have filled that role pretty nicely. I am just trying to do what I can to help the team out.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton liked the way his guys went about their business in the wake of the loss to PDS.

“It is to the boys’ credit that they took a disappointment and they channeled it into hard work,” said Stanton.

“We were a more talented team today but we played really good lacrosse. That was the lacrosse that we thought we could play all season long.”

The Little Tigers played some stellar defensive lacrosse in stifling Jackson Liberty.

“Their player #40, Troy Wolf, is very talented; it looked on film that he could create offense for his team and it all started with him being able to beat his man,” said Stanton. “We put Colin Buckley on him and Colin frustrated him early. A really key sequence early in the game was when they were man up and we shut him off with Luis Lazo who didn’t give him an inch to breathe. He acted a little frustrated and I think he made a foul. We got the ball and scored right after and then it was OK, we are in their best player’s head.”

Andres has established himself as one of PHS’s best players. “Jackson is such a valuable defender, basically people don’t dodge at him,” said Stanton.

“It is like if he is guarding me, I am passing the ball. He is able to take players out of the game, he is able to take areas of the field away. He is a two-time All-American for a reason.”

Senior Diver showed some game on attack, tallying two goals and three assists in the win.

“Chris played at midfield last year and with what we graduated at attack, we converted him down there,” said Stanton, who got four goals and three assists from sophomore Johnny Lopez-Ona with junior Rory Helstrom chipping in four goals and two assists.

“He has really good sports sense but even still, it was a big adjustment for him. The field looks a lot different from attack. It was great to see him do well, exactly what he did today was what we had hoped he would be able to do for us this year, finish those balls in transition and make the extra pass.”

The way PHS rebounded last week has Stanton confident that the team can produce a big finish to the season.

“Sometimes a setback like we experienced last Saturday will make you doubt yourself and make you look forward to doing other things,” said Stanton.

“Our guys have really shown a lot. It started on Monday when we came back and we worked hard and we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We didn’t get down on ourselves, we just worked. If you have boys who are going to do that, you absolutely plan on making a run.”

Andres, for his part, wants to extend his PHS lax career as long as possible. “It went by so much faster than I thought it would; all the seniors in the past have always said it goes by so fast,” said Andres, who is headed to Drexel University where he will be playing for its men’s lacrosse program.

“The first three years are slow and then the fourth is just a blink. It is bittersweet, I don’t want it to end. It is going to be tough, it has been fun. I love these guys, I love this team. I have loved all four years.”

HANGING TOGETHER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jacob Shavel, center, celebrates with teammates after a goal. Last Thursday, senior star and RPI-bound Shavel tallied two goals and an assist in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 9-7 to top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. The Panthers, who also advanced to the state Prep B semifinals, finished the spring with an 11-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HANGING TOGETHER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jacob Shavel, center, celebrates with teammates after a goal. Last Thursday, senior star and RPI-bound Shavel tallied two goals and an assist in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 9-7 to top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. The Panthers, who also advanced to the state Prep B semifinals, finished the spring with an 11-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After it was over, there were just the sounds of muffled voices and the thuds from one bear hug after another.

In the wake of its season-ending 9-7 loss to Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team observed its tradition of thanking its seniors.

The five members of the squad’s Class of 2015 stood together on one side of the field at Princeton High and the rest of the players and the coaches solemnly went through one by one, hugging and consoling each other after the tough loss.

For senior attackman Jacob Shavel, the appreciation was a two-way street.

“It is just thanking the seniors for all they have done,” said Shavel, whose classmates on the squad included Chris Azzarello, Chris Markey, Christian Vik, and Kevin Towle.

“Honestly I wish it could be the other way, I want to thank these guys for all they have done for me. It has been the most incredible year of my life playing with these guys.”

It was a tough year for the squad as it suffered some tough losses on and off the field.

“I think it centers around Jonah and Elon Tuckman,” said Shavel, referring to the brothers whose mother passed away during the season after a long battle with cancer.

“They are the heart and soul of this team, what they have gone through this year, the amount of resilience and courage those two guys have displayed, honestly, is beyond incredible. It has been the heart and drive of this whole team. They are the core.”

PDS showed heart in the loss to HoVal as it was tied 3-3 at half and 5-5 heading into the fourth quarter, said RPI-bound Shavel, who had two goals and an assist in the defeat which left the Panthers with a final record of 11-7.

“We always give it our all,” said Shavel. They got a few looks, the ref gave them a few calls, that is how it went. We didn’t get the amount of looks we would have liked. We didn’t get the result we wanted.”

While the final result was disappointing, Shavel and his classmates, who are all going on to play college lacrosse, forged deep bonds.

“The five of us have been through a lot these past four years and we have done it together, every single day out there working,” said Shavel.

We were out in the middle of the winter, shooting after shoveling snow off the turf. These are four guys I know are going to be my brothers for life. I wish them all the luck as we all go and play against each other the next four years.”

In Shavel’s view, there are some good years ahead for the PDS program. “I think that anyone betting against this program is completely wrong at this point,” said Shavel.

“We have proven in the past few years how we can grow. I wouldn’t want to play against us if I was anyone else right now.”

PDS first-year head coach Rich D’Andrea was proud of the way his team grew over the course of the season.

“We knew it was going to be a tough year going in when we added some pretty competitive teams to our schedule,” said a subdued D’Andrea, speaking barely above a whisper.

“I can’t be more proud of these guys, they battled through it. They stayed together the entire time and ended up learning a lot about themselves in the process.”

PDS stayed together against HoVal but fell short as the Bulldogs scored two goals over the last three minutes of the contest to pull out the victory.

“They played hard today, it didn’t go how we wanted it to go,” said D’Andrea, who got a goal apiece from Azzarello, Joey Levine, Will Brossman and the Tuckman bothers.

“We were a man down a bunch, a couple of breaks didn’t go our way. You have to give Hopewell a lot of credit; coach (Rich) Siris had his guys ready to go and they did a great job.”

In D’Andrea’s view, his seniors did a great job over their four years with the program.

“It is a special group here, it is actually my first group that I came in with,” said D’Andrea, who was an assistant coach with the program before taking the helm.

“It has been a neat process for me to see them go and grow into the young men that they are right now. They are tremendous leaders. All five of them are starters, all five of them are impact players. All five of them are going on to play in college and all five colleges are lucky to have them.”

With a number of good players returning, D’Andrea expects PDS to make an impact over the next few years.

“We have some nice pieces in place over the last few years here,” said D’Andrea.

“It is one of the neat things with such strong leadership at the top from the juniors and seniors, the younger guys feed on that. They know what the program’s expectations are and they know they have to work hard if they want to find a place with us.”

Shavel, for his part, found a special place in the PDS program. “This team is really a band of brothers, the stuff that we have gone through this year as a team has forged us together,” said Shavel.

“You look at these pink shirts we are wearing and those are shirts these guys are going to wear the rest of their lives. This is my team for the rest of my life.”