August 20, 2014
TURNAROUND PROJECT: Todd Smith is excited to take the helm of the Hun School football program. Smith brings a proven track record of success to his new post, having guided WW/P-S to a 63-22 record from 2005 to 2012 as the program’s head coach and then helping Hopewell Valley to the Central Jersey Group III title last fall as its offensive coordinator. The Raiders, who start preseason practice this week, are looking to rebound from a 1-6 campaign last fall under interim head coach John Law.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNAROUND PROJECT: Todd Smith is excited to take the helm of the Hun School football program. Smith brings a proven track record of success to his new post, having guided WW/P-S to a 63-22 record from 2005 to 2012 as the program’s head coach and then helping Hopewell Valley to the Central Jersey Group III title last fall as its offensive coordinator. The Raiders, who start preseason practice this week, are looking to rebound from a 1-6 campaign last fall under interim head coach John Law. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After a superb eight-season run as the head coach for the WW/P-S football team, Todd Smith narrowed his focus last fall, serving as the offensive coordinator for Hopewell Valley.

Building on his success at WW/P-S, which saw him guide the Pirates to a 63-22 record from 2005 to 2012, Smith’s high-powered offense helped HoVal to the Central Jersey Group III title.

But while Smith enjoyed his stint with the Bulldogs, he missed being in charge.

“I was happy at HoVal and we had a lot of success but deep down inside I knew I wanted to be a head coach again,” said Smith.

So when Smith learned that the Hun School was looking for a new football coach, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I heard through the grapevine that the position was open and I applied,” said Smith.

“The interview process was rigorous. The headmaster, Jon Brougham, was fantastic, he was very warm and kind. We established a rapport.”

The feeling was apparently mutual and Smith, 36, got the job, taking over for interim head coach John Law, who guided the Raiders to a 1-6 record in 2013.

This week, Smith hits the field looking to get the Raiders back on the winning track as the team starts preseason practice.

“I am excited, I can’t wait,” said Smith. “The public schools get the shot to start a week before and they had time all summer to work on 7-on-7s. I miss that stuff; I am ready to get going.”

Smith was excited by what he saw around Hun as he got to know the school. “I had never been to Hun, it was great to experience it,” said Smith.

“It had a different vibe from public school. The kids are really upbeat. It is a smaller setting; you could see a rapport between the teachers and the kids. Everyone said hello, even if they didn’t know you. Everybody seems really supportive of each other.”

Despite his busy schedule which also includes teaching fifth-grade in West Windsor and coaching track at WW/P-S, Smith was able to spend a lot of time at Hun this spring to get acquainted with his new players.

“I was over there after track,” said Smith, a 2001 graduate of The College of New Jersey. “I got to work out with them and meet the guys living on campus. We had a couple of meetings. My message to them was that we were going to build the team on hard work and dedication and that we were going to make the most out of the summer time and the offseason to showcase their abilities in the fall.”

To that end, Smith held a week-long mini camp earlier this summer. “I wanted the kids to come in and learn the terminology and the base stuff,” said Smith.

“It went well. The kids had fun and developed a rapport with each other. We had some 7-on-7s against other teams and I thought we held our own.”

As he looks ahead to preseason, Smith is looking to fine-tune things physically and mentally.

“We will be doing 2-a-days,” said Smith, noting former HoVal assistant Nick Steffner will be his offensive coordinator and that Law will return to coach both lines.

“We don’t have a lot of numbers so we have to be careful. We will work on fitness and tempo. We will do our fair share of hitting but health is the No. 1 priority. We will be doing a lot of film work, chalk talk, and walkthroughs.”

Smith, who is known for his voluminous playbook and developing high-powered offensive attacks, believes he can implement his full system over the next few weeks.

“We should be able to run the whole offense,” maintained Smith, noting the senior running back Christopher Sharp has already established himself as a star.

“You need a lot of pieces for everything in the playbook to come out and we have a good running quarterback, wide receivers, and offensive line. Sharp is a good starting point, he just committed to Virginia.”

While Smith faces a challenge in getting things back on the right track after last fall’s frustrating campaign, he doesn’t believe that things are desperate by any means.

“The first thing I did was watch the film from every game last year,” said Smith, who guided WW/P-S to three 10-win seasons and seven state playoff appearances in his eight seasons there.

“The record was not reflective of how well they played, they lost a couple of a games by a few points and they were hurt by turnovers. We will focus on the little things so they won’t turn into big things.”

With Hun kicking off its 2014 campaign by playing at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on September 20, Smith is looking forward to a big fall.

“It comes down to how fast they learn everything,” said Smith. “Our goal is to play mistake free football, have fun, and win the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League).”

August 13, 2014
TOUGH TO STOP: Zach Halliday races past a foe in a 2012 state tournament game during his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ soccer team. Last fall, central midfielder Halliday walked on to the Tufts University men’s soccer team and broke into the starting lineup by the end of the fall. This season, he will be joined by younger brother, Kevin, a high-scoring forward for PHS, as the pair look to help Tufts be a force in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) play.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

TOUGH TO STOP: Zach Halliday races past a foe in a 2012 state tournament game during his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ soccer team. Last fall, central midfielder Halliday walked on to the Tufts University men’s soccer team and broke into the starting lineup by the end of the fall. This season, he will be joined by younger brother, Kevin, a high-scoring forward for PHS, as the pair look to help Tufts be a force in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) play. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

For Zach Halliday, competing in soccer beyond high school has been on his radar for a while.

“I was thinking about college soccer, starting in the sixth or seventh grade,” said former Princeton High star Halliday.

“I played for PSA (Princeton Soccer Association) and I moved up to PDA (Players Development Academy). It was more intense and competitive, things really started heating up for me at PDA.”

The heat was on Halliday last August as he looked to earn a spot on the Tufts University men’s soccer team.

“I did have to walk on, that was a little stressful,” said Halliday. “When I got into Tufts, I sent the coach (Josh Shapiro) a note telling him I got in and he invited me to preseason. There were 28-29 guys and only 25-26 spots.”

Once on the field with the Jumbos, Halliday showed his trademark hustle and intensity.

“We came in and had the fitness test, only three of the eight freshman passed and I was one who passed,” said Halliday.

“It helped my confidence; it was also the first time we saw coach. I play center mid and we have a lot of players who are technically skilled at that position. I brought a different level of work rate and a willingness to do the dirty work and make the tackles that others may not want to.”

Halliday’s work paid off as he made the squad and achieved his long-held goal.

“It took a big weight off my shoulders, it is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” said the 6’0, 160-pound Halliday. “I was able to play looser, I wasn’t stressed as much, and I tried things I wouldn’t do before.”

Halliday didn’t have to wait long to make his college debut as he saw action off the bench in a 3-0 season-opening win at Bates.

“That was really fun, we were up 2-0 and there was five or 10 minutes left and coach gave me a chance,” recalled Halliday, who ended up playing in seven games and making four starts as Tufts went 8-5-2 and advanced to the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) quarterfinals. “I got a good run and I got my foot on the ball. It was a good feeling to know that I could play at this level and I knew then that it is going to be a fun four years.”

Halliday got his first college point with an assist in a 7-0 win over Suffolk in the second game of the season and then made his first college start in a 1-0 loss to MIT on October 16.

“We had lost to Connecticut College the game before and the coach chewed us out,” said Halliday, reflecting on his first start.

“We had a players-only meeting and aired some things. We needed players willing to break plays and play with an edge. Coach told me I was starting. It was great. I was super nervous but after the first few minutes, I started feeling good. I knew I wasn’t in over my head.”

In assessing his debut campaign, Halliday said the most important lesson he took from the fall was that success comes when the players are all on the same page.

“You need to buy in together, there has to be a sense of camaraderie and not just individuals playing for accolades,” said Halliday, noting that the Tufts squad includes former Princeton Day School stars Max Hoppenot and Rui Pinheiro along with Princeton resident Peter Lee-Kramer. “You have to buy into the system your team is abiding by.”

This fall, the Tufts squad will get a boost to its camaraderie when Halliday’s younger brother, Kevin, a high-scoring forward for PHS, joins the squad.

“It is exciting to play with Kevin; we are training together and it’s fun to know we are working for the same goal and same fitness test,” said Halliday.

“I can’t wait to play with him. We started on U-8 when he played and my dad was the coach. He has been a big part of my soccer life.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe credits Halliday with being a big part of his program’s success over the last four years.

“We had been tracking him since the sixth grade over at Cranbury and we knew what a quality player he was,” said Sutcliffe, noting that Halliday helped PHS win two state titles during his career.

“He showed up in the summer before his freshman year when we have games with alumni against current players and he stood out immediately. He had this vitality and ability to inspire even as a freshman and that got better and better over the four years.”

Sutcliffe is not surprised that Halliday made an impact in his debut campaign.

“He’ll take nothing for granted,” said Sutcliffe. “His ability to work hard on both sides of the ball separates him from other players. I am so proud of him, he’s a special player. We were fortunate to have him for four years.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Tufts is very fortunate to be getting the 1-2 punch from the reuniting of the Halliday brothers.

“I think it is going to be great,” said Sutcliffe. “Kevin was on the short list of their top guys. The staff is lucky to have both of them.”

Halliday, for his part, believes Tufts has what it takes to be one of the top teams in the NESCAC this fall.

“I am looking to build on the end of last season when I was starting,” asserted Halliday, who will be heading to preseason camp in mid-August with the team slated to open its 2014 season by hosting UMass-Boston on September 3.

“I want to help us win any way I can, whether as a starter or as a role player. We have a lot of talented players; I think we can make waves in the NESCAC and NCAA tournament. It is a good group; coach Shapiro is a great coach.”

SOMETHING BRUIN: Maddie Alden, right with sunglasses on her head, huddles with her boatmates and coach for the UCLA rowing varsity 4 during the NCAA championship regatta this June at the Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis, Ind. Princeton High alum Alden helped guide the Bruins varsity 4 to a 15th place finish at the event. This summer, she is coaching at the Mercer Rowing Club as she prepares for her senior season at UCLA.

SOMETHING BRUIN: Maddie Alden, right with sunglasses on her head, huddles with her boatmates and coach for the UCLA rowing varsity 4 during the NCAA championship regatta this June at the Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis, Ind. Princeton High alum Alden helped guide the Bruins varsity 4 to a 15th place finish at the event. This summer, she is coaching at the Mercer Rowing Club as she prepares for her senior season at UCLA.

Maddie Alden has no trouble voicing what’s on her mind, something I can attest to as her father.

That trait combined with her petite stature led to suggestions before entering Princeton High that she would be ideally suited to be a crew coxswain.

“One of my best friends in middle school had an older sister who did crew and their family thought I would be perfect for the role of the coxswain because I was so tiny and really loud,” said Alden.

Alden took up the suggestion and joined the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) and quickly fell in love with coxing. She worked her way up the ranks, guiding the women’s lightweight 4 to the nationals twice before coxing the women’s varsity 8 to the nationals as a senior.

Inspired by other MJRC athletes who went on to  compete at the next level, Alden, a 2011 PHS grad, ended up going to UCLA, where she was recruited by the Pacific 12 school’s rowing program.

But once out in Westwood, Alden had trouble finding her voice. “It was hard; you come from a program where you are the varsity coxswain, you are top dog,” said Alden, listed at 5’0 on the UCLA roster.

“People look up to you, because you are going to school for this, that is really impressive and then you start at the bottom again. It was really hard to go into a new program where the coaches have a completely different coaching style, you have to learn what they want and that is one of the hardest things. Coxswains are supposed to be coaches in the boat so if you are doing a drill, they expect you to do it properly and they expect you to do it right the first time, not the second time. They want practice to run smoothly and your job is to enforce the smoothness of the practice. It was hard because I didn’t know what these coaches wanted.”

Figuring out what the coaches wanted, Alden coxed the novice 4 to a win at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships in her freshman year. As a sophomore, she guided the second varsity 4 to a third place finish on day one at the San Diego Crew Classic and to a big win over USC.

This spring, she moved up to the varsity 4 and helped the boat make it to the NCAA championships where it placed 15th in the country.

“Sophomore year I kind of got my grounding; I think the biggest thing about the varsity 4 coming from the second varsity 4 was that I met with my coach (associate head coach Justin Price) twice a week and sometimes three times,” said Alden, a sociology major and education minor who has earned honorable mention Pac 12 All-Academic honors.

“I would just talk out practice and how practice was going. I would talk out future races with him. I would just really get in his head, picking his brain for what he wanted and what he saw was going on. I became more of a liaison for him, a messenger between him and the rowers. I am a connection between how they are feeling and how he is feeling to see where his head is at and to prepare the rowers for what he is thinking.”

For Alden, earning the trip to the NCAAs at Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis, Ind. was a heady accomplishment.

“I had seen my team go two years in a row and I was stuck at home watching the races,” said Alden.

“As much as I was proud of them, I wanted to be in one of those boats. It was awesome to know you have done well, you are now on the team that is chosen to go.”

Alden and her boatmates put in extra effort to do well in Indianapolis. “It was intense, we had changed our lineup so you go in with an untested lineup,” said Alden.

“I had never been to a bigger race than the NCAAs. There is no bigger race besides international competition. This is it for most rowers. You go into it knowing that it is the big deal and what you have trained for. This is what I worked for seven years so finally getting to be there, I was dialed in. I remember the two weeks before all I could think about was how to make the boat go faster.”

While the varsity 4 had hoped to make the B final and have a shot at finishing 7th-to-12th in the country, Alden was happy with the boat’s effort.

“We had some tough breaks, I just remember just wanting to be the best we could be,” said Alden.

“We weren’t the fastest. I wasn’t looking to go win the grand final, I was looking to be the fastest and perform at our best. The repechage (second-chance race) was a big race for us, I wish we had gotten second to make it into that B final but it didn’t work out in our favor and that is fine. In the C final, we had a great performance. I just remember being so proud of just being there.”

For Alden, just being at the NCAA won’t be enough as she and her fellow rising seniors look ahead to their final campaign

“I am already ready to go back and get faster; I have been there, I have seen what it is like,” said Alden of the Bruins, who placed 12th overall in the team standings at the NCAAs.

“It made me want to be more successful. I think the biggest thing I took away from NCAAs is seeing the future and how strong of a senior class we have this year with 10 seniors. Knowing how strong and how close knit our senior class is and how committed we all are to being the best, the NCAAs really just amped me up. Right after I finished my last race, I thought I just want to go back and do it all again. I know what we can do, I know what we were missing this year. I know that I want to improve and just keep getting faster.”

This summer, Alden is refining her voice on the water, helping to coach the Mercer Rowing Club women’s rowers.

“Normally with a coxswain,
in an 8 especially, you see the boat and the oars in front of you, you don’t see the side view so being on the launch gives you a different perspective,” said Alden, who also guides the club’s summer learn-to-row program and proudly notes that the Mercer women won two races at the Independence Day Regatta in Philadelphia and had five first-place finishes last week at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catherines.

“You have to tell them what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. It makes me have to be sharp with my knowledge and how I can help them. It also gives me the ability to really hone in on using my vocab and making sure the girls understand what I am saying and getting my point across. So the communication of seeing a problem, addressing it and fixing it has exponentially gotten better.”

ASSUMING THE RISK: Corinne Urisko controls the ball in action last fall during her freshman season with the Babson College field hockey team. Former Princeton Day School standout Urisko emerged as a starting defender for the Beavers. (Photo Courtesy of Babson College Sports Information)

ASSUMING THE RISK: Corinne Urisko controls the ball in action last fall during her freshman season with the Babson College field hockey team. Former Princeton Day School standout Urisko emerged as a starting defender for the Beavers.
(Photo Courtesy of Babson College Sports Information)

When Corinne Urisko headed to preseason camp last summer for her freshman season with the Babson College field hockey team, she was a bit apprehensive.

“I was nervous, I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Urisko, a former Princeton Day School standout. “The team was predominantly juniors and seniors so I was a little scared.”

But with the veterans rolling out the welcome mat for Urisko, she overcame those fears and emerged as a starting defender for Babson.

“They were all so welcoming, I realized that I fit in with them,” said Urisko. “I was lucky enough to start every game and play almost every minute of the season. I started at right back and moved to center. The seniors had a big impact on me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

While Urisko had jitters in her college debut against Endicott, she found she enjoyed the challenge of playing at the next level.

“I was nervous for the first few minutes then I really got into it,” said Urisko, crediting PDS head coach Tracey Arndt with helping prepare her well for the jump to college field hockey.

“The speed of the game is completely different, it is much more upbeat. In high school, you see all ranges of skill. In college all of the players are skilled, it is a fun game.”

One of the most fun moments for Urisko last fall came when Babson played Connecticut College and former PDS teammate Carly Ozarowski.

“It was so nice to see her again,” said Urisko, recalling the game. “It was a little weird to play against her after we had worked together so much in high school.”

The Beavers did well last fall, posting an 11-9 record, winning three of four games before ending the season by falling 3-2 to Wellesley in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) semifinals.

“Beating Springfield, we were so happy for that win,” Urisko, referring to a 5-4 victory over the Pride in the NEWMAC quarters. “Losing to Wellesley in semis was a highlight because we played so well. It was a close game.”

For Urisko, keeping a close eye on her studies was particularly critical since she was spending so much time on field hockey.

“I learned that you have to balance schoolwork with playing,” said Urisko, who is studying business and notes that Babson was ranked first on Money magazine’s recently-released list of best colleges.

“There are so many things going on at campus. We are traveling a lot so you have to have your assignments prepared and keep up with the professors.”

Socially, Urisko was able to keep up with things on campus. “I made so many friends,” said Urisko, who joined a sorority. “The athletes are a close unit, most of my closest friends are on the fall sports teams.”

This spring, the field hockey team got a sense of what kind of unit it is going to be this fall.

“We have a big spring training program; we do track workouts and skill sessions,” added Urisko.

“We have a spring tournament in April. It was good practice for us to not be playing with the seniors. It gives us a preview of what things are going to be like without them.”

Over the summer, Urisko has focused on conditioning and honing her skills.

“I have been doing a big workout packet and playing some pick-up field hockey,” said Urisko.

“We have a team camp at our college called 4Goals with different coaches. We start preseason training on August 15.”

With a season under her belt, Urisko is looking to take a bigger role on the field this fall for the Beavers.

“I want to be a good influence on the underclassmen,” asserted Urisko. “I am the only returning defender so I want to emerge as a leader. It is going to be hard without the seniors, but we have a lot of talent and potential.”

August 6, 2014
WINNING FEELING: Members of the Winberie’s squad celebrate last Wednesday night at the Community Park courts after they defeated King’s Pizzarama 61-60 to clinch the title in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Pictured, from left, are Chris Hatchell, Cliff Pollard, Kurt Simmons, Jesse Krasna, Terrence Bailey, and Lou Kirkley. It was the second summer hoops crown for Winberie’s in the last three years.

WINNING FEELING: Members of the Winberie’s squad celebrate last Wednesday night at the Community Park courts after they defeated King’s Pizzarama 61-60 to clinch the title in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Pictured, from left, are Chris Hatchell, Cliff Pollard, Kurt Simmons, Jesse Krasna, Terrence Bailey, and Lou Kirkley. It was the second summer hoops crown for Winberie’s in the last three years.

With its core of veterans utilizing their playoff savvy, Winberie’s pulled out a 60-57 nailbiter over King’s Pizzarama in the opener of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League best-of-three championship series.

But in the early stages of the second game on Wednesday evening at the Community Park courts, top-seeded Winberie’s showed its age as second-seeded King’s raced out to a 22-10 lead.

Sensing that the game could be getting out of hand, Winberie’s guard Terrence Bailey implored his teammates to hang in there.

“I talked to them and said we have to pull it together and play our game and not play theirs,” said Bailey.

Displaying his multi-faceted game, Bailey’s dazzling drives to the hoop combined with some deadeye outside shooting sparked a 23-6 run that gave Winberie’s a 33-28 lead at halftime.

“In the beginning I knew,” said former Lawrence High standout Bailey reflecting on his first half heroics which saw him pour in 16 points. “When I hit the three 3s, I am ready to ball. It was game time for me.”

While the game turned dicey as King’s made some big runs, Winberie’s hung on to prevail 61-60 and win its second summer league title in the last three years.

Led by a pair of Princeton University football players, Jakobi Johnson (19 points) and Anthony Gaffney (11 points), along with Lou Conde (15 points), King’s narrowed the gap to 39-37 early in the second half and then made the last minute harrowing for Winberie’s, whittling a 61-56 deficit to a one-point margin before succumbing.

“We let up on pressure and the intensity dropped a little bit,” said Bailey, who ended up with a game-high 20 points. “We had to pull back together and play our game and we brought it back.”

Noting that he may be playing for another team next summer, Bailey was proud to come through in his Winberie’s finale.

“It was great to go out like this to get a title and bring it home for them,” said Bailey of Winberie’s which went 11-1 this summer with the one defeat coming on a forfeit when it didn’t have enough players on hand for a game against Princeton Youth Sports. “This is a great group of guys and I am happy that we accomplished it.”

Winberie’s player-coach Kurt Simmons noted that the title was the product of a group effort as Cliff Pollard scored 14 points in the clincher while Jesse Krasna added 10 and playoff MVP Chris Hatchell contributed 9.

“We have got a lot of veteran guys here,” asserted Simmons, who scored 8 points in the finale and was a force in the paint.

“You look at everybody on the team. Jess [Krasna] was a great pickup. Chris Hatchell speaks for himself the way he plays. A lot of credit needs to go to Cliff Pollard and TB (Bailey), those are two athletic and great guys. The one guy who doesn’t get as much credit as he should is Lou Kirkley. He is a guy that comes into the game, he doesn’t play that much but he does his job and he is a great asset to have on the team.”

Bailey, for his part, cited the team’s togetherness as its greatest asset.

“Chemistry is the best thing you need to have for a team,” said Bailey.

“If you don’t have chemistry then you aren’t a team, you just have individual players that come out and want play the game. When everybody has the mindset of they all want to win and play as a team and play together like a family, then you can do anything. We won every game we played, definitely chemistry is No. 1.”

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE: Winberie’s player-coach Kurt Simmons, right, thwarts Matt Johnson of King’s Pizzarama in action last week during the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Simmons’ inside play helped Winberie’s sweep the series 2-0 to win the title.                                                                                             (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE: Winberie’s player-coach Kurt Simmons, right, thwarts Matt Johnson of King’s Pizzarama in action last week during the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League best-of-three championship series. Simmons’ inside play helped Winberie’s sweep the series 2-0 to win the title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kurt Simmons helped to start the Winberie’s team in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League several years ago, he assumed a bigger leadership role this season.

With co-founder Mark Rosenthal deciding to step aside as the team’s manager to help out with league administration, Simmons became a player-coach for Winberie’s.

In reflecting on his increased responsibility, Simmons acknowledged that it initially took some adjusting.

“It was tough in the beginning,” said Simmons. “We had a lot of good guys but bringing these guys together was rough. Mark and I started this team with another guy, Dave Uitti. It was a struggle in the beginning but Mark really put in the foundation for this team and I just took over that role for him.”

Building on that foundation, Simmons guided Winberie’s to the league title last week as it swept King’s Pizzarama in the best-of-three championship series, culminating with a 61-60 win last Wednesday evening at the Community Park courts.

“We have been battle-tested throughout the season,” said Simmons, noting that the team posted a 7-1 regular season record with the one loss being a forfeit.

“Coming into tight games like this, we are ready for them. If you look at our record over the last five years, we have only lost four or five or six games. We are a pretty impressive team.”

In the finale on Wednesday, former LaSalle player Simmons produced an impressive performance in the paint, blocking several shots and chipping in 8 points.

“The legs felt good tonight,” said the 6’6 Simmons with a laugh. “I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. I didn’t want to go back to a third game on Friday. We just wanted to close this out tonight and get this championship.”

For Simmons, the squad’s solidarity, forged through past playoff battles — including a run to the 2012 league crown, was a key factor in the win.

“Having those veteran guys and that camaraderie,” said Simmons, when asked what qualities make Winberie’s special.

“A lot of us have been playing together for the last five or six years. A lot of us play together throughout the year in different leagues so coming out here and playing is just another day in the park basically.”

Holding things together as a coach made the title extra special for Simmons.

“It means a lot, this is my first year as a player-coach, technically if you take away that forfeit, I haven’t lost a game as a coach,” said Simmons.

“It is great to be able and come out and win a championship in a league that is as good as this. It means a lot, especially to be able to say we have won two in the last three years.”

TITLE TRACK: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a 2012 game. Last month, Maziarz helped her club team, FC Bucks, win the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) championship in Richmond, Va. as she gets ready for her senior year at Hun.                                                                   (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE TRACK: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a 2012 game. Last month, Maziarz helped her club team, FC Bucks, win the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) championship in Richmond, Va. as she gets ready for her senior year at Hun. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Five years ago, Ashley Maziarz decided to commute to Pennsylvania for her club soccer.

The Chesterfield, N.J. resident joined the FC Bucks program and quickly realized that she had made a wise move.

“We were pretty good from the start,” said Maziarz, a central defender whose skills have helped her star at the high school level for the Hun School girls’ soccer team.

“We kept building and we got two new coaches last year and they have really helped.”

This summer, that foundation resulted in a national title as FC Bucks won the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) championship in Richmond, Va. last month, defeating Internationals Soccer Club (Ohio) 2-1 in the final.

For Maziarz, the championship sparked a sense of redemption. “We knew it was going to be tough competition,” said Maziarz, who was joined on the FC Bucks squad by Hun teammate and fellow rising senior Jess Sacco.

“We had made it to another national tournament two years ago but we didn’t do too well. We wanted to do better.”

FC Bucks qualified for the ECNL nationals by winning their group in playoffs held in Seattle. The team pulled a draw in its finale to earn one of the eight spots in Richmond, where the format involved two groups of four teams with the winners of each group meeting in the title game.

Coming into the competition, Maziarz had a good feeling about the team’s prospects.

“I think we were playing better; we knew we were going to be playing really good teams in Virginia,” said the Lehigh-bound Maziarz.

“We enjoy moving the ball around and keeping possession. We are not a kick and run team. We like to work it around.”

Starting the nationals with a 2-1 win over the Utah Avalanche gave Maziarz and her teammates the feeling that they could go on a title run.

“I think we had a lot of energy; we were nervous but when we got on the field and started the game we did what we had to do to win,” said Maziarz.

“Our two forwards work well together and they were really clicking. We gained confidence from that win. We realized that we had a shot to win this.”

After topping the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois SLSG-Metro team 2-0 and the East Meadow (N.Y.) Soccer Club 3-2, FC Buck won Group B to set up a clash with the Group A winner, Internationals SC, in the ECNL national title game.

The title contest proved to be a nailbiter with some late drama. “It was back and forth the entire game, near the end they got a penalty kick and our goalie saved it, that was big,” said Maziarz.

“We had about 10 minutes left after the saved PK. We were really, really determined to win. We let go of the fatigue and didn’t think about the heat. They had the trophy on the sidelines and we were looking at it. We wanted to get it.”

Earning that trophy triggered a raucous celebration. “We ran into a pile and we were screaming, it was exciting and awesome,” said Maziarz. “Now we have to live up to that standard. Next year, everyone is going to be looking at us as national champs and trying even harder to beat us.”

This fall, Maziarz and Sacco, who has also committed to Lehigh, are looking for an exciting final season at Hun as the Raiders look to build on an inspiring 2013 campaign that saw them rebound from a 0-7 start to make the state Prep A championship game.

“Jess and I talked about it, we want to win title this year,” asserted Maziarz, who is a team co-captain along with Sacco.

“We are on the same page as to what we want for the season. We saw how this team did at the end of last year and its potential and we want to work as hard as we can.”

Maziarz is primed to continue working hard at the next level. “When I went to Lehigh, I fell in love with the campus,” said Maziarz, who plans to study biomedical engineering.

“I enjoyed the coaches; they made me feel happy when I went there. I met a lot of the girls and they were welcoming, they made me feel comfortable.”

Having Sacco matriculate along with her adds an additional layer of comfort. “We are going to be rooming together; we are close and know each other’s quirks,” said Maziarz. “I am happy to have made the decision.”

BUCKLING DOWN: Hun School girls’ soccer star Jess Sacco, right, battles a Pennington player for the ball last fall in the state Prep A title game. Last month, rising senior and Lehigh-bound Sacco helped her FC Bucks U17 squad win the Elite Clubs National League championship in Richmond, Va.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BUCKLING DOWN: Hun School girls’ soccer star Jess Sacco, right, battles a Pennington player for the ball last fall in the state Prep A title game. Last month, rising senior and Lehigh-bound Sacco helped her FC Bucks U17 squad win the Elite Clubs National League championship in Richmond, Va. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Jess Sacco started her junior season with the Hun School girls’ soccer team on the sidelines as she recovered from a Lisfranc foot injury.

The central midfielder returned to action late in the campaign and helped Hun advance to the Prep A championship game where it fell to perennial power Pennington.

This summer, though, Sacco gained a title as she helped the FC Bucks U17 team win the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) championship in Richmond, Va. as it edged Internationals Soccer Club (Ohio) 2-1 in the final.

“At the beginning of the season, our coaches said this might be our last shot for a national title with this group because so many are going off to college,” said Sacco, who has committed to Lehigh University where she will be competing for the school’s women’s soccer team.

“I wouldn’t want to win with any other group, we have been seeing each other five times a week with practices and games.”

In order to make it to Richmond, the team had to raise its game in the playoffs in Seattle.

“We had to do well in the regular season to qualify for the tournament in Seattle,” said Sacco, who was joined on the FC Bucks squad by Hun teammate and fellow rising senior Ashley Maziarz.

“There were eight groups of four teams and the top team from each group made it to the nationals in Richmond.”

Coming into its final contest in Seattle, FC Bucks had to win or tie to earn one of the coveted eight spots.

“It was tough; we were shorthanded because two girls had to fly back due to prior flight arrangements,” said Sacco. “We were all tired, we played well and pulled out the tie.”

Sacco had the feeling that the team was going to keep playing well in Richmond.

“I could tell that everyone was nervous but we were also fired up,” said Sacco. “I had never seen the team so excited. Seattle gave us momentum. We had been undefeated in our last eight or nine games. I think we all wanted to win.”

FC Bucks kept up its winning ways in pool play, topping the Utah Avalanche 2-1, the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois SLSG-Metro team 2-0, and the East Meadow (N.Y.) Soccer Club 3-2 to win Group B and earn a matchup with the Group A winner, Internationals SC, in the ECNL national title game.

Sacco and her teammates were fired up for the contest, having lost to Internationals in the teams’ last two meetings.

“We really wanted to take it to them,” said Sacco. “Our defense played well. Our goalie made an insane save on a penalty kick with 10 minutes left. Our central defender fouled one of their girls in the box and I was thinking the ref isn’t going to call this with a national title on the line. I was crushed but then our goalie saved it. I had never felt that kind of emotion; that made us fly the last 10 minutes of the game.”

In Sacco’s view, the emotional connection between the FC Bucks’ players helped the club prevail.

“It is the bond,” said Sacco. “Honestly, the teams at this level can be pretty cutthroat. We are really close. We support each other and push each other.”

Looking ahead to her final season with Hun, Sacco and close friend Maziarz are hoping to push the Raiders to a championship campaign.

“For Ashley and me, one of the biggest things is to motivate everyone to go out and play hard every game,” said Sacco, who will be serving as a co-captain of the squad along with Maziarz.

“The summer is important, we have been having captain’s practices. I think the biggest thing is working hard and working together. Even if we don’t have the most talent, I think we have the heart. Last year, the freshmen and sophomores had to play and they stepped up. We told them they could do it and they got better and better.”

Sacco is excited about going to Lehigh to play at the next level. “They have a great engineering program and I am thinking about chemical engineering,” said Sacco, who will continue her partnership with Maziarz as she is also heading to Lehigh and will play for the soccer team.

“You know how they say you will be walking at a school and you can see yourself going there, that is how I felt when I was on campus. I did a camp after I had decided and I thought I can see myself playing on this field. It is great to have it over with; we still have to work hard at everything this year.”

July 30, 2014
SNEAKING BY: Jesse Krasna of Winberie’s heads up the court in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Krasna got off to a late start in the league’s best-of-three championship series as he forgot his sneakers and had to head home to retrieve them. Hitting the court in the second half, guard Krasna scored 5 points and got a big steal in the waning seconds as top-seeded Winberie’s edged King’s Pizzarama 60-57. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 30 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for August 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SNEAKING BY: Jesse Krasna of Winberie’s heads up the court in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Krasna got off to a late start in the league’s best-of-three championship series as he forgot his sneakers and had to head home to retrieve them. Hitting the court in the second half, guard Krasna scored 5 points and got a big steal in the waning seconds as top-seeded Winberie’s edged King’s Pizzarama 60-57. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 30 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for August 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jesse Krasna’s mom unwittingly gave Winberie’s a big assist in its win over King’s Pizzarama last Monday in the opener of the best-of-three championship series in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

Upon arriving at the Community Park courts, Winberie’s point guard Krasna realized that he had forgotten his sneakers and he reached out to his mom.

“I came right from work and I thought I had packed my show the night before but I got here and opened up the trunk and they weren’t there,” said Krasna.

“I still live at home, about a half hour away in the Bucks County area. My mom is a doll, she met me halfway with the shoes. I have got to go home and give her a big hug and a kiss. I would have felt really bad if I wasn’t here and we weren’t able to pull this one out.”

Upon getting into the fray with 14:25 left in the second half, Krasna played a key role in helping top-seeded Winberie’s pull out a 60-57 win, scoring 5 points and getting a big steal in the waning seconds to hold off a furious rally by second-seeded King’s.

“I shot around a little bit and got loose,” said Krasna. “I was able to come in and I had my legs right away.”

After Krasna made a three-point play to give Winberie’s a 53-44 lead, King’s  came on strong, going on a 13-3 run to forge ahead 57-56 with 30 seconds left in regulation.

“I think King’s Pizzarama just played really hard and scrappy,” said Krasna. “They made a lot of plays. To their credit, they took us out of our rhythm. They are a young team that really wants it.”

After Winberie’s regained the lead at 58-57 on two free throws by Chris Hatchell, Krasna made a steal with five seconds left to take the wind out of King’s sails.

“That was a big steal, the ball came right to me,” said a smiling Krasna. “I really didn’t do much, it was a lucky bounce. That was big because it was a one-point game. Paul [Johnson] got to the foul line and knocked down some big free throws for us.”

Hatchell led Winberie’s with 17 points with Cliff Pollard and Paul Johnson chipping in 10 points apiece. Matt Johnson tallied 14 points for King’s with Princeton University football players Anthony Gaffney and Jakobi Johnson contributing 12 and 10 points, respectively. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for July 30 at the Community Park courts with Game 3, if necessary, slated for August 1.

In Krasna’s view, the fact that veteran Winberie’s is battle-tested in summer league playoff battles, having won the crown in 2012, gave it an edge down the stretch.

“We know where to go; we have the experience,” said the 6’0, 164-pound Krasna, who recently wrapped up an outstanding career for Ursinus College men’s hoops program, scoring more than 1,000 points and earning second-team All-Centennial Conference honors this winter in his senior campaign.

“Chris Hatchell is a great leader for us. I think everybody on our team really trusts him so when things start to go haywire, he is there to calm us down and get us a good shot and get us a stop.”

Having previously played for the now-defunct PA Blue Devils in the summer league, Krasna is relishing the experience of getting to play for Winberie’s as he joined the squad this summer.

“Kurt Simmons of Winberie’s e-mailed me right away and told me he would love to have me,” said Krasna.

“We never could get by Winberie’s so when I saw that it I was excited; if you can’t beat them, join them.”

For Krasna, getting into the flow with Winberie’s has come easily. “I love playing with these guys, everyone is so unselfish,” asserted Krasna.

“They play really hard and they took me and the Sibols [former Blue Devils John and Zach Sibol] in right from the start. Those guys are easy to get along with and play because they all share the ball and look for each other. I knew what to expect  coming it. I think our biggest problem with the Blue Devils is that we didn’t have more size so whenever we ran into these guys, it was tough. So I am finally on a team with a bunch of big guys. I am one of the steadying guards so it has been a pleasure playing with them; I hope we can make it work for years down the road.”

After the close call on Monday, Winberie’s will need to work out some kinks in order to overcome King’s and earn the title.

“I think we need to take care of the ball under pressure,” said Krasna. “If we can break their pressure and get easy shots, they won’t be able to press us as much and that won’t affect us. I think we got away from the pounding the ball inside. Playing outside, with the wind like this, it is important that we stay disciplined and stay with that game plan.”

 

CATCHING HER BREATH: Eva Petrone of the Community Park Bluefish swim team competes in a breaststroke event earlier this summer. Last week, Petrone took fifth in the 12-and-under 50 backstroke and 10th in the 50 breaststroke at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championships. The Bluefish placed third of six clubs in the Division 1 team standings at the meet. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CATCHING HER BREATH: Eva Petrone of the Community Park Bluefish swim team competes in a breaststroke event earlier this summer. Last week, Petrone took fifth in the 12-and-under 50 backstroke and 10th in the 50 breaststroke at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championships. The Bluefish placed third of six clubs in the Division 1 team standings at the meet. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Utilizing its strength in numbers, the Community Park Bluefish swim team proved to be a force last week at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet.

“We did well, we bumped up from fourth place last year,” said Bluefish head coach Andy Sichet, whose squad placed third of six teams in Division 1 with 2,075.50 points, trailing host Flemington-Raritan Community Pool, the winner of the meet at 2,2804.50 and runner up Lawrenceville Swim Association at 2,407.50.

“We took a bigger team than last year. Officially we have the biggest team in the league. We had a lot of kids who swam well and dropped a lot of time.”

Recent Princeton High grad and Cornell-bound Will Stange had a good time in his final PASDA appearance. Stange took first in the 18-and-under 50-meter backstroke and the 50 butterfly and helped the Bluefish to first place in the 200 medley relay and second in the 200 free relay.

“It was Will’s last year so it was an extra special swim and an extra special meet for him,” said Sichet. “He broke the team record in the backstroke at 27.74.”

While Stange led the way, the 18U boys piled up a lot of points for the Bluefish with Gabe Bar-Cohen placing second in the 18U 50 breaststroke and fifth in the 50 fly, Matt Shanahan finishing third in the 50 breast, and Stephen Kratzer coming in sixth in both the 50 free and 50 fly.

“The 18U boys was the strongest part of our team, which it never is,” noted Sichet. “When the boys hit 14, they start going to other sports ands swimming isn’t always a priority.”

The squad’s younger boys also showed plenty of strength. In the 14U  boys’ division, Matthew O’Boyle was second in the 50 free and fifth in the 50 back while Karl Lackner was second in the 50 back and the 100 individual medley. The pair of O’Boyle and Lackner together with Charles Yandrisevits and Phillip Lacava helped CP win both the 14U 200 free and medley relays. Ethan Rizzi, Gafen Bar-Cohen, and Jason Kratzer stood out in the 12U division as Rizzi placed fifth in the 50 back while Bar-Cohen was third in the 50 breast, and Kratzer finished fifth in the 50 fly. Alex Pendrous showed his versatility, winning the 10U 25 breast and taking second in the 25 fly and seventh in the 100 IM. In the 8U division, Brett Torgerson and Brendan Dombrowski proved to be a solid one-two punch. Torgerson took third in the 25 back and fourth in the 25 free while Dombrowski finished fourth in both the 25 back and 25 breast.

As for the CP girls’, Ella Jones emerged as a standout for the CP girls as she won the 8U 25 free, 25 breast, and 100 IM. Piper Dubow placed first in the 8U 25 back and fourth in the 25 breast.

“Ella Jones has become a powerhouse for us,” asserted Sichet. “She keeps going and going no matter who we have her training with. She is naturally talented and has a lot of passion for swimming. She is a wonderful kid to have on the team.”

Sichet noted that CP received some wonderful family efforts at the meet.

Three Maslanka sisters joined the team this year and made an immediate impact. Sara Maslanka displayed her all-around abilities, taking fourth in the 10U back, fifth in the 100 IM, and sixth in the 25 free. Carolyn Maslanka placed fifth in the 14U 50 breast while Rebecca Maslanka placed third in the 18U 50 back.

A stalwart CP family, the Petrones, was ably represented as Jaxon Petrone placed first in the 10U 25 free and fourth in the 100 IM while older sister, Eva Petrone, was fifth in the 12U 50 back and 10th in the 50 breast

“The Maslankas did well as a group,” said Sichet. “The Petrones are a big Bluefish family. They have been with the Bluefish for years and they are very dedicated, they come to every practice and work very hard.”

The Bluefish got some good work from a number of other girl swimmers as Piper Dubow placed first in the 8U 25 back and fourth in the 25 breast with  Isabelle Phillips taking fourth in the 100 IM, Emily Becker finishing ninth in the 50 free, Charlotte Singer coming in fourth in the 18U 50 breast, and Jessica Bai taking third in the 18U 50 fly.

All in all, the CP numbers added up to something special as the team went 4-1 in dual meets before its strong showing in the championship meet. “We had some fantastic swimming throughout the summer,” maintained Sichet.

 

BAY AREA: Daniel Baytin of the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings displays his freestyle form in a race earlier this summer. Last week at the PASDA (Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association) championship meet,  Baytin took first in the 8-and-under 25-meter freestyle, 25 breaststroke, and 100 individual medley. He also helped Nassau take first in the 100 medley relay. Nassau placed second of five teams in the Division 2 standings at the meet.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BAY AREA: Daniel Baytin of the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings displays his freestyle form in a race earlier this summer. Last week at the PASDA (Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association) championship meet, Baytin took first in the 8-and-under 25-meter freestyle, 25 breaststroke, and 100 individual medley. He also helped Nassau take first in the 100 medley relay. Nassau placed second of five teams in the Division 2 standings at the meet.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Morgan Sawin, the PASDA (Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association) championship meet was a key litmus test for her Nassau Swim Club Lemmings team.

“I sent an e-mail to the parents putting an emphasis on this meet,” said Nassau head coach Sawin, a former Boston University swimming star who hails from nearby Bridgewater.

“I told them it was a chance for swimmers to showcase how much they have improved this summer.”

The Nassau swimmers seized that opportunity with aplomb in the meet held at the Flemington-Raritan pool, taking second in the Division 2 standings at the PASDA meet, piling up 1,855.50 points, trailing only champion Ben Franklin with 3,315.

“We definitely did really well, better than expected,” said Sawin. “We had a good turnout. On paper, we were the third place team in league and we ended up second in the championships.”

On the boys’ side, Daniel Baytin did a really good job, taking first in the 8-and-under 25-meter freestyle, 25 breaststroke, and 100 individual medley. He also helped Nassau take first in the 100 medley relay.

“Daniel Baytin is very tall and he trains all year round,” said Sawin. “We get a lot of kids who are summer specific; they play other sports and just swim in the summer. He is a swimmer. It is pretty rare to find an 8-year-old who has already picked out his sport.”

The trio of Javier Lee, Toby Richmond, and Pierre Soumeillant combined with Baytin to help Nassau dominate the 8U age group. “Lee and Richmond were good, we put together a great relay,” said Sawin, whose 8Us also won the 100 free relay with Coll Wight joining Lee, Richmond, and Soumeillant.

“The fourth guy, Pierre Soumeillant, was new and flailing at the beginning and he was on the top relay by the end of the season. It was great to see that improvement.”

The Lemmings got great efforts from some of its other boy swimmers as Simon Sheppard won the 10U 25 free and 25 back while Andrew Koehler was fourth in the 10U 25 back, Lorne Wight was third in the 10U 25 breast and 100 IM and fourth in the 25 breast, Henry DeCheser won the 12U 50 butterfly and took fifth in the 50 free, and Calvin Ristad took second in the 12U 50 breast and fourth in the 50 free.

“Simon is pretty strong, he trains with the older group as does Andrew Koehler; they are ahead of things with their age group,” added Sawin.

“Henry was not expecting to win so that was a nice surprise for him. We had a new kid from England, Lorne Wight who was our go-to breaststroker. He decided he was going to do the IM and he did a good job with that.”

Among the younger Nassau girl swimmers, Sabine Ristad had a nice meet, winning the 8U 25 fly, taking second in the 25 free, and third in the 25 breast.

“Ristad can pretty much do everything,” asserted Sawin. “She is a swimmer, she is not tall but she is built for it, she is strong. She has got it, she has great technique for a 7-year-old.”

In the 10U group, Emma Hopkins took second in the 25 free and fifth in the 25 free with Kimi Wei placing third in the 100 IM and fourth in the 25 back and Sophia Burton was the fourth-place finisher in the 25 breast. Nassau took second in both the 100 free relay and 100 medley relay.

“Hopkins, Wei and Burton were our three strong swimmers in the 8-9 group,” said Sawin.

Isabelle Monaghan put in a strong performance in the 12U division, winning the 50 back and taking second in the 100 IM.

“Isabelle is always up there; she is a full-time swimmer,” said Sawin, noting that her older sister, Sophia Monaghan, was a star swimmer for Nassau who recently helped Stanford win the NCAA women’s water polo title. “She is following in the footsteps of her sister.”

A sister act, Julia, Margaret, and Anna Hill, gave Nassau some depth. “The three Hill girls helped us,” said Sawin.

“They moved up here last year from Virginia. Margaret is 11 but she acts like she is 18, she is very mature. Anna Hill swam up at the championships because we needed to fill in the lineup.”

As for the team’s older girls, Rachel Adlai-Gail took second in both the 14U 25 fly and 100 IM with Maddy Troilo winning the 100 IM and placing second in the 50 free. Becca Adlai-Gail was third in both the 18U 50 fly and 100 IM while Emily Klockenbrink took fifth in the 18U 50 back.

“The Adlai-Gail girls did well for us,” said Sawin. “Klockenbrink was a swimmer and a coach. She would coach 1 ½ hours and swim 1 ½ hours, She was juggling a lot, she was one of the busiest people on the team.”

Sawin liked the way the team saved its best for last. “I was pretty happy; we lost the first two meets and it was really, really nice that we got to win the last two and that they were at home,” said Sawin, who has previously coached at BU and other summer programs and works as a math teacher at Montgomery High. “We are building a team; we really need the older kids to stay.”

Having taken the helm of the program halfway through the 2013 season, Sawin enjoyed guiding the Lemmings all summer long this year.

“It was nice to start from the beginning and get to know how much the kids got better,” said Sawin.

“It was hard to tell last year when I came in the middle. There is a computer program that I put all the times into and see how much improvement there was. Some of the 8-year olds improved 20 seconds in the 25 free. It was fun to see the 5- and 6-year olds making big, big jumps.”

It was fun for Sawin to see the Lemmings display their customary camaraderie from the start. “I was shocked at the first meet, we started relays and the whole team was at the end of the pool doing an organized cheer,” said Sawin.

“I asked my assistant if she organized that and she said no, it came from the kids. There was a lot of team spirit.”

 

July 23, 2014
ON COURSE: Fraser Graham displays his form in action for the University of Delaware men’s golf team. Former Princeton High standout Graham enjoyed a solid junior campaign this year for the Blue Hens, competing in 25 rounds and compiling a 78.28 average, fourth best on the squad. He will be serving as a team co-captain in his final college campaign.(Photo Courtesy of University of Delaware Sports Information)

ON COURSE: Fraser Graham displays his form in action for the University of Delaware men’s golf team. Former Princeton High standout Graham enjoyed a solid junior campaign this year for the Blue Hens, competing in 25 rounds and compiling a 78.28 average, fourth best on the squad. He will be serving as a team co-captain in his final college campaign. (Photo Courtesy of University of Delaware Sports Information)

Fraser Graham enjoyed a smooth ride during his career with the Princeton High golf team.

As a junior for the Little Tigers, the 2011 PHS grad won the state Tournament of Champions, the Garden State Cup, and the Mercer County Tournament individual title. In his senior season, Graham repeated as county champion and won the South Central Group III sectional title.

But when Graham joined the University of Delaware men’s golf team in the fall of 2011, he hit some bumps in the road.

“It got a lot more difficult for me personally; it was a big transition,” said the multi-talented Graham, who also starred for the PHS boys’ hockey team.

“You are on your own, you are not playing on the same course. You are always trying to make the team for the next tournament. I wasn’t happy with the way I played freshman year. I went from winning Tournament of Champions to competing to make the team. You learn from every tough experience.”

In his freshman year with the Blue Hens, Graham posted an average of 78.39 in 18 rounds. As a sophomore, he played 11 rounds with an average of 82.91.

Learning from those seasons, Graham assumed a greater role as a junior, competing in 25 rounds and compiling a 78.28 average, fourth best on the squad.

“This fall, I had some great rounds and I had some great rounds this spring,” said Graham, who placed T-33rd in the Navy Fall Classic last September before  taking T-20 in the Binghamton Fall Invitational in October, T-14 in the Wildcat Invitational in April, and ending the season with a finish of 36th in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championships.

“I think my putting has gotten a lot better over the last season. There are a lot of good players in college; I have learned a lot.”

As a result of his greater consistency and maturity, Graham has been named as a team co-captain for his senior season.

“I am making the transition to leading by example; I went through it the first three years,” said Graham.

“Being captain is a big responsibility; we need to all push each other hard. We also need work on developing camaraderie; that is a big responsibility for the captain.”

In order to have a big senior year, Graham is pushing himself hard on the course this summer.

“I am trying to get my putting better,” said Graham. “I am also working on my short game. I hit it long so I have a lot of wedge shots from 100 yards and in.”

Graham is also putting in work this summer on some long-range plans outside of golf.

“I am a finance major; I am doing an internship right now at Equinox Financial,” said Graham. “I work three days a week so that works well for me. When I am not there, I am practicing.”

As he looks ahead to his final college campaign, Graham would like to see his practice pay off in a breakthrough.

“I would like to win a tournament,” said Graham. “I won a few tournaments in high school. It is tougher in college. All the guys were high school stars.”

Whether or not he wins a tournament, Graham believes the Blue Hens will be tough to beat.

“This coming year looks good; we have four good freshmen coming in,” said Graham.

“I am looking forward to it, we are going to have a good team. The goal for the team is always to win the conference title and go on to the NCAA regional. It takes three good days to do that.”

COMING CLOSE: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball star Ellis Bloom heads to first base in action this summer. Former Princeton High standout and current Gettysburg College player Bloom had a solid season at the plate and in the infield. Post 218 ended the summer with a final record of 8-17, two wins away from the Mercer County American Legion League’s (MCALL) final state playoff spot.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COMING CLOSE: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball star Ellis Bloom heads to first base in action this summer. Former Princeton High standout and current Gettysburg College player Bloom had a solid season at the plate and in the infield. Post 218 ended the summer with a final record of 8-17, two wins away from the Mercer County American Legion League’s (MCALL) final state playoff spot. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the American Legion baseball state district playoffs started last weekend, Princeton Post 218 manager Tommy Parker rued what might have been.

“It was literally the way the ball bounced,” said Parker, reflecting on his club going 8-17, two wins away from the Mercer County American Legion League’s (MCALL) final state playoff spot.

“We were hitting the ball well but right at people, that was the story all season. We were as talented as anybody, we had several one-run losses and four extra inning games and we lost three of them. We got hit by the injury bug. We could have been playing this weekend if a couple of those one-run games had gone our way when we were shaking off our spring rust.”

Princeton played hard in the last week of the regular season, going 2-2 after dropping a twinbill to MCALL champion Bordentown on July 12.

“We did bounce back after the double header,” said Parker, whose team topped Hopewell Post 339 4-3 on July 13 and North Hamilton 6-4 July 14 before falling to Robbinsville 3-0 last Wednesday and Allentown 10-5 last Thursday.

“We fell off a little in midweek but we were still in the playoff hunt, fighting until the last pitch. We played more inspired as the week went on.”

Parker got inspired play all season long from a trio of veterans, Ellis Bloom, Rohit Chawla, and Jon Hayden.

“Ellis was my pit bull, he was ready for bear every game,” said Parker of the former Princeton High star who walked on to the Gettysburg College baseball team.

“When he started throwing, he had some good outings. He also played shortstop and third. Rohit is the vocal leader. He and Jon led the team in hitting, he caught fire with the bat and was among the league leaders in hitting. I called him my iron man; he was always ready to take the ball. He was our fearless leader, he was a leader on the field and on the bench. When the players had meetings, he would speak up. Jon gave us punch, he led the team in hitting and really did the job for us.”

Two rising college freshmen, centerfielder Alex Deutsch and infielder Austin Taylor, made some noise.

“Alex Deutsch was first time player for us, he was an excellent asset,” said Parker of former Hun School standout and Middlebury College-bound Deutsch.

“He hit the ball well and defensively, this guy was great. He went field to field out there; he had the ability to get the ball. Austin Taylor did a good job. He played third when we needed him to and we put him over at first.”

The squad’s younger players showed plenty of ability as well. “We had some seasoned young guys,” said Parker.

“Chris Sumners played first and outfield; he is in his second year with us and he just finished ninth grade. Ben Grass came on a lot with his pitching. He kept us in a couple of games and he just turned 17. Steve Majeski will be back. He came up through the junior system like a lot of the guys. He is a super utility guy, he caught a couple of games and he played across the outfield. John Reid is coming back next year, he played great for us. Big Jay Barry did well.”

Two Hun School standouts, catcher Gideon Friedberg and infielder Peter Schintzler, came up big for Post 218.

“Friedberg did yeomen’s work behind the plate,” added Parker. “He is a general on the field like a catcher should be. Schintzler looked like he had been playing Legion ball for years. He is very schooled and a very smooth infielder. I was as comfortable with him at shortstop as at second base. He was on pace to be among the league leaders in hitting until he got hurt. He was definitely our rookie of the year; he was completely unruffled.”

In Parker’s view, his players kept their heads collectively as they dealt with frustrating losses.

“All these guys pitched in and contributed; nobody got down,” said Parker. “Everyone got to play. I believe in these guys, I tell them they have to believe in themselves as well.”

Ever the optimist, Parker believes the future is bright for Post 218.

“We were right there for a second year in a row,” noted Parker.

“We have some really impressive players coming back. If we get the chemistry working again and stay injury free, we should be good.”

TOUGH FINISH: Davon Black of Northeast Realty heads to the basket last Monday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League playoff action. Former Princeton High standout Black had a game-high 18 points but it wasn’t enough as seventh-seeded Northeast fell 51-42 to No. 2 King’s Pizzarama in the league quarterfinals. In other playoff action on Monday, ninth-seeded Princeton Youth Sports topped No. 8 Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt 48-43 and third-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy topped No. 6 Princeton Interventional Cardiology 36-33 in overtime. King’s will play Belle Mead in one semi on July 25. The other semi on Friday will feature the victors of quarterfinal contests this Wednesday pitting top-seeded Winberie’s against Princeton Youth Sports and fourth-seeded Tortuga’s Mexican Village versus fifth-seeded and defending champion Ivy Inn.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH FINISH: Davon Black of Northeast Realty heads to the basket last Monday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League playoff action. Former Princeton High standout Black had a game-high 18 points but it wasn’t enough as seventh-seeded Northeast fell 51-42 to No. 2 King’s Pizzarama in the league quarterfinals. In other playoff action on Monday, ninth-seeded Princeton Youth Sports topped No. 8 Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt 48-43 and third-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy topped No. 6 Princeton Interventional Cardiology 36-33 in overtime. King’s will play Belle Mead in one semi on July 25. The other semi on Friday will feature the victors of quarterfinal contests this Wednesday pitting top-seeded Winberie’s against Princeton Youth Sports and fourth-seeded Tortuga’s Mexican Village versus fifth-seeded and defending champion Ivy Inn. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Davon Black put in extra preparation as his seventh-seeded Northeast Realty squad got ready to face No. 2 King’s Pizzarama last Monday in the quarterfinals of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League playoffs.

“We were down here yesterday for four hours, working hard trying to get ready for tonight,” said former Princeton High hoops standout Black, who was joined by teammate Javon Pannell for the training session.

The pair’s hard work paid dividends in the first half of the contest at the Community Park courts with Black scoring 8 points and Pannell chipping in 11 as Northeast took a 23-19 lead at the break.

“We were hungry for an upset,” said Black. “We were bigger than them and we played like that in the first half. We got inside; it was working.”

But in the second half, Northeast ran out of gas as it fell 51-42. “I liked where we were at but it always happens when we get up in the first half; we come out lackadaisical and a team just jumps on us,” said Black, who ended the evening with a game-high 18 points. “They get three or four points and get right back in the game and that kills us.”

Black tipped his hat to King’s, which got 14 points apiece from Anthony Gaffney and Matt Johnson in pulling away to the victory.

“They are a good team, they play well together,” said Black of King’s, who will advance to the semis on July 25 where they will play third-seeded Belle Mead Physical Therapy, a winner in overtime against sixth-seeded Princeton Interventional Cardiology on Monday.

“They got us running. When we were stopping their fast breaks, that is when we were up. Once they started getting the break, that is when they went up. They were finishing.”

Finishing the night with a dunk at the buzzer, Black said that the team was undeterred despite posting a 2-7 record in its first season in the men’s summer hoops league.

“Most of us have played together since we were on that AAU team coached by Bobby Davison,” said Black, noting that Northeast teammates Fernando Silva, Ian Finnen, and Ben Harrison joined him on that youth squad.

“We were right there. It is tough; I think we are going to stick together, though.”

Black proved he was up there with the best players in the league, averaging more than 15 points a game to rank in the top three in individual scoring.

“I feel like I have come a long way from being in high school, just getting bigger and stronger and being able to finish,” said Black, who is going to Mercer County Community College where he plans to play for the school’s men’s hoops team with an eye to playing down the road for a four-year college program. “I have a big body now and I can finish with the big guys.”

LOCKED IN: Coach Miles Cava, right, and a relay team for the Princeton Tigers Aquatics Club (PTAC) interlock arms as they get fired up before a recent meet. PTAC is based at Princeton University’s DeNunzio Pool and also boasts a water polo program. Cava, a Princeton High alum and former swimmer for the Princeton University men’s team, has been a coach with the program since 2010.(Photo Courtesy of PTAC)

LOCKED IN: Coach Miles Cava, right, and a relay team for the Princeton Tigers Aquatics Club (PTAC) interlock arms as they get fired up before a recent meet. PTAC is based at Princeton University’s DeNunzio Pool and also boasts a water polo program. Cava, a Princeton High alum and former swimmer for the Princeton University men’s team, has been a coach with the program since 2010. (Photo Courtesy of PTAC)

Miles Cava has been a fixture on the local swimming scene for years.

The Princeton native joined the Eastern Express swimming club as a kid and competed for the program through high school. He also swam for one season with Princeton High. Going to college in his hometown, Cava was a member of the Princeton University men’s swimming team. During his college career, he got into coaching, working with the Whitewaters club and the Community Park Bluefish.

After graduating from Princeton in 2007 with an architecture degree, Cava worked in the construction business before deciding that he wanted to help build something special as a swimming coach. He joined the Princeton Tigers Aquatics Club (PTAC) program in the fall of 2010 as an assistant coach.

The club is based at Princeton’s DeNunzio Pool and also boasts a water polo program.

“I am lucky enough to be doing what I love,” said Cava, who became the PTAC senior group (ages 15-18) coach in 2011 and will be the head coach of the club’s swimming program starting this fall.

“My coaching style combines some of what I saw at Eastern Express with my experience at Princeton under coach Orr, who is such a funny guy. I combine hard work with some wackiness and humor, I am always trying to get the kids to laugh.”

The fun starts early for PTAC swimmers. “One thing I liked about Tiger is that the coaches are a lot of fun,” said Cava, noting that Princeton water polo head coach Luis Nicolao oversees the club’s two programs.

“They get the younger swimmers to work hard but it is with a smile on their faces. Ana Carolina Juvenal is amazing with the younger swimmers. You usually hear the coaches getting the kids going, but with her, you hear the kids cheering each other on.”

Cava has focused on getting the club’s older swimmers to go hard. “I had a lot of success with the seniors with my training program,” said Cava, who also coaches masters swimming for the Princeton Recreation Department.

“It is a system we call progressive overload. We very closely monitor what the swimmers do each day, every workout is written down. We are adding yardage and speed each day, increasing the density of practice. We make it a small step more difficult each day; that gives them a challenge every day and keeps them improving. We have weekly, monthly, and season-long training cycles. We train the body. We work hard the whole time … don’t have a lot of meets like the high school season. We want to swim much faster in one or two meets, we do the highest level of training and then taper. The point of swimming is to get the fastest time possible.”

PTAC has produced a lot of fast swimming over the years. The club boasted numerous NJ Junior Olympic Qualifiers last year and has seven current swimmers who qualified for the North East Sectional Championship. Two of the club’s younger swimmers, Matthew Lequang, 12, and Ethan Feng, 10, have excelled in the NJ Junior Olympics High Point competition and hold Long Course event times in the top 100 in the U.S. in their age groups.

Success has extended outside of the pool as PTAC graduates have gone on to college at Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Villanova, Michigan, Penn State, NYU, George Washington, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech.

In Cava’s view, undergoing the arduous training helps PTAC swimmers develop discipline and camaraderie.

“The progressive training system is difficult,” said Cava. “We encourage the swimmers to communicate with each other in the pools and help each other get through it. We want them pushing each other to get better. Everyone is cheering for everybody.”

The club encourages swimmers of all levels to participate. “We have about 100 swimmers, it fluctuates and it goes down in the summer,” said Cava, noting that those interested can go to http://tigersswimming.aquanite.com for more information on the club’s swimming and water polo programs.

“We are always looking to bring in new swimmers. Most of the kids live in the Mercer County area, mainly from Princeton High, the West Windsor schools, and Montgomery High. The coaches do a good job of training the kids. The coaches are competitive and we are competitive with the other clubs.”

Competition, though, is a means to an end for PTAC. “We build lasting relationships,” said Cava, adding the club has been involved in community service projects, raising money for the Trenton YMCA and participating in Swim Across America to help fight cancer.

“We are a family that really supports each other. We are a close-knit team. It is not just at the pool, we do things together out of the pool for team bonding.”

July 16, 2014
STICKING IT OUT: Doug Bryant heads upfield in action this spring in his senior season for the University of Michigan men’s lacrosse team. Bryant, a former Princeton High standout, tallied seven goals and two assists this spring to help the Wolverines go 5-11.(Photo Courtesy of Michigan’s Office of Media Relations)

STICKING IT OUT: Doug Bryant heads upfield in action this spring in his senior season for the University of Michigan men’s lacrosse team. Bryant, a former Princeton High standout, tallied seven goals and two assists this spring to help the Wolverines go 5-11. (Photo Courtesy of Michigan’s Office of Media Relations)

When the University of Michigan men’s lacrosse team played its first-ever varsity game at the Division I level in 2012, Doug Bryant got things started with a bang.

The former Princeton High standout scored the first two goals for the Wolverines against Detroit as they made the jump from the club level.

“That was pretty crazy; I was in the right place at the right time,” said Bryant, recalling those historic tallies in the 13-9 loss.

“It was like my whole career, coming to Michigan and walking on to a club team and then the club becomes a D-1 program.”

While Michigan predictably struggled in its first D-I campaign, going 1-13, Bryant showed the right stuff, scoring 16 points on 13 goals and three assists.

But the 6’2, 199-pound midfielder ran into some tough times in the latter stages of the campaign.

“I was injured my sophomore year and that carried into fall ball,” said Bryant.

“I had a torn PCL in my knee. I injured it in the middle of my sophomore year and I kept playing on it which made it worse. I had to take time off in the fall to let it heal.”

The lost time doomed Bryant to a tough junior campaign in 2013, as he scored just one goal in five appearances.

Entering this spring, Bryant was determined to end things on a high note.

“I was excited to be coming back,” said Bryant. “The coaches emphasized that whoever worked hardest in practice would get to play. I worked my way up to the second line.”

Bryant enjoyed a solid start to 2014, picking up seven goals and two assists in Michigan’s first eight contests, highlighted by a goal against perennial lax powerhouse Johns Hopkins.

“That was definitely special,” said Bryant, reflecting on the tally at Hopkins. “It was something I had been working for; to get it at Homewood was great.”

Bryant, though, got hit by the injury bug once again, rupturing his spleen in a March 15 win over
Bellarmine.

While Bryant did return to the field, he wasn’t 100 percent going down the stretch.

“I came back for the last couple of weeks,” said Bryant. “I was a little behind; it is tough to be out for a month in the middle of the season.”

With Michigan going 5-11 this spring after posting a combined 2-26 record over the previous two seasons, Bryant believes the squad will be tougher to beat in the future.

“We had a really good group of underclassmen guys, they followed our lead and they were very coachable,” said Bryant.

“I am excited to see how things go in the future; things are starting to turn around. Five wins wasn’t great but it was a lot better than one win in two straight years. It was great for the underclassmen. There is going to be a Big 10 lacrosse league next year with Hopkins, Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan.”

Bryant led the way in terms of conditioning, earning the program’s 2014 Weight Room Warrior Award.

“It was for the guys who trained the hardest,” said Bryant, reflecting on the honor. “I was in Argentina last summer and I had access to a great gym. Lacrosse is a year-long thing for me.”

Playing lacrosse at Michigan gave Bryant some great lessons on battling through tough times.

“It was definitely about sticking with things and being persistent; I went through ups and downs,” said Bryant, a cellular and molecular biology major who is planning to apply to medical school after taking a gap year.

“Junior year was a downer. I had a lot of injuries but I persevered. It was incredible to play for Michigan athletics, particularly for someone who wasn’t even recruited for the club team. My closest friends were on the lacrosse team. It is definitely a great sports environment. We played our home games this spring in the Big House (the 110,000-seat Michigan Stadium).”

CARDINAL RULE: Sophia Monaghan poses for a team photo this spring in her freshman season with the Stanford University women’s water polo program. Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville school star Monaghan enjoyed a memorable debut campaign, helping the Cardinals win the NCAA title. (Photo Courtesy of Stanford’s Office of Athletic Communications)

CARDINAL RULE: Sophia Monaghan poses for a team photo this spring in her freshman season with the Stanford University women’s water polo program. Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville school star Monaghan enjoyed a memorable debut campaign, helping the Cardinals win the NCAA title.
(Photo Courtesy of Stanford’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sophia Monaghan feared that she might be in over her head when she joined the Stanford University women’s polo team last fall.

With Stanford boasting a roster containing mainly California natives, some of whom are national team members, Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville School star Monaghan realized that she was stepping way up in class.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Monaghan. “I thought I may not get much playing time but that I would learn a lot.”

Exceeding her expectations, Monaghan scored six goals this spring in her freshman campaign, seeing action on defense and at utility.

“I was surprised by how much I got to play,” said Monaghan. “I had never played at that high a level. I rose to the occasion.”

In the process, Monaghan helped Stanford rise to the top of the college water polo world as the Cardinals won the NCAA title, topping UCLA 9-5 in the championship game.

For Monaghan, the moments after the national title win seem surreal even two months later.

“I could see the coach taking his phone out of his pocket and taking off his watch with a minute left; we had our arms interlocked on the bench,” recalled Monaghan.

“We were up by four goals and I realized we are going to win this game. All the people went in the pool. Everything seemed crazy, things were out of focus. I was thinking did we just spend the last 9 months of our life working hard for this. We were getting hats and t-shirts; we had to be respectful when UCLA got its trophy. It was a slow, gradual process for it to sink in.”

Getting ready for the season entailed a grueling process that started last fall.

“Being on the junior national team, I was used to short bursts of long practices,” said the 5’9 Monaghan, who helped Lawrenceville capture the Eastern Championships in 2011 and 2012.

“This was an entire year of hard training and spending a lot of time with your teammates. We did three lifts a week in the fall and we would do swimming before and after. We had five 20-hour weeks in the fall with 2½ hours practice in the afternoon and one hour in the morning. We had a three-day camp during winter break, going six hours a day. After winter break, we had another camp and then we had a scrimmage tournament.”

Showing the fruits of that training, Monaghan scored a goal in the team’s 16-3 opening day win over UC Davis on February 1.

“It was a pass across the pool, I caught it and fired it in, like the way we practiced it,” recalled Monaghan. “It showed the trust I had built with my teammates over the previous four or five months and the communication that we had developed.”

Two weeks later, Monaghan tallied three goals in a doubleheader sweep of UC Davis and Pacific.

“That was the peak of my season; it was the last game that I scored in before I got a concussion,” said Monaghan. “I got knocked around and I had to sit out a week.”

With Stanford having lost to USC 10-9 in quadruple overtime in the 2013 NCAA title game, the Cardinal players were hungry to knock off the competition in this year’s national tournament.

“We had a meeting the day before the first game, one of the players had made a slide show of the season and it got emotional,” said Monaghan. “We saw how much the team meant to all of us. Also, we talked about how much the loss to USC the year before had hurt and how we didn’t want that feeling again.”

While Monaghan’s playing time was reduced during the tournament she did get a goal in an 18-2 victory over Indiana in the quarters and saw action in a 12-8 win over Cal in the semis.

While Stanford wasn’t feeling great in the title game as it fell behind 5-2, the Cardinal players showed what they had learned from their 2013 loss to USC as they rallied to win their third NCAA crown in the last four years.

“We started off slowly but at halftime I was looking at the seniors and the girls who were playing and I saw that no one was panicking,” said Monaghan.

“We are beyond confident and we know we can do this. We had been a second half team all year. We were so composed, both the players in water and those on the bench. It was just natural, we started scoring goals and played good defense.”

The experience that Monaghan gained this season has given her a lot of confidence going forward. “I am 100 percent better definitely,” asserted Monaghan. “My knowledge of the game is better. I am more comfortable with the people I am playing with. I am making plays, I am using my voice. People had to talk to me at first, telling me to speak up. My shooting has improved and my defending is better.”

Since the end of the school, Monaghan has continued to improve. “We went to Europe; we played the Dutch national team in the Netherlands and we played the French national team in Nice,” added Monaghan, who has competed for the Princeton Tigers Aquatics water polo club and the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings swim program in past summers.

“There was a lot of training, the trip went from June 19-July 3. Right now we are doing more training, we are practicing from 6-to-8 every morning. We have one tournament, it is optional. For me, it is a great way to get competition. We go through July and then I come home.”

Out of the water, Monaghan has found a home at Stanford. “I love it, the people are so humble,” said Monaghan, who is studying human biology and is thinking about eventually going to medical school and working overseas for Doctors Without Borders.

“A girl in my dorm is a famous fashion photographer and another classmate won the Fortune innovator award but they never talk about it. The academic people have so much respect for the athletes, saying I can’t believe you are doing that. Everyone has school spirit, people are for the football games even if they know nothing about it.”

Having earned the respect of her teammates, Monaghan is looking to be more of a factor for the Cardinals next season.

“I want to take on a greater role and be more of a presence,” said Monaghan. “I want to increase my playing time and be that first, second, or third sub off the bench.”

JUST RIGHT: Justin Leith is all smiles after being named as the new director of athletics at the Stuart Country Day School. Leith, a former basketball star at Princeton Day School, started his tenure earlier this month. He is the replacement for Kim Ciarrocca, who is moving to Michigan where her husband coaches for the Western Michigan football team.(Photo Courtesy of Stuart Country Day School)

JUST RIGHT: Justin Leith is all smiles after being named as the new director of athletics at the Stuart Country Day School. Leith, a former basketball star at Princeton Day School, started his tenure earlier this month. He is the replacement for Kim Ciarrocca, who is moving to Michigan where her husband coaches for the Western Michigan football team. (Photo Courtesy of Stuart Country Day School)

For Justin Leith, transferring to Princeton Day School from Nottingham High in 1996 during his sophomore year proved to be a transformational event.

“The whole PDS experience was the biggest game-changer in my life,” said Leith, a Hamilton native and basketball star for the Panthers who scored more than 1,400 points in his career and helped the team win two state Prep titles.

“You can take everything and it goes back to that and the opportunities there. It was all of those lifelong things. There was certainly a learning curve but I buckled down and was able to catch up.”

Now, Leith is looking to be a game-changer across Great Road at the Stuart Country Day School as he returns to Princeton to serve as the school’s new director of athletics.

“There is an energy here I felt; other places had great energy but this place had the best energy,” said Leith, the replacement for Kim Ciarrocca, who is moving to Michigan where her husband coaches for the Western Michigan football team.

“I felt an unbelievable connection and I felt so comfortable here. I didn’t want to come to a place where this is the position and just keep things the way that they are.”

Leith, 33, is bringing varied experience to the position, having starred for the Merrimack College basketball team before playing pro ball in Europe, Asia, Central, and South America. He also had a two-year stint as the strength and conditioning coach at the Peddie School and most recently was at the Asheville School in North Carolina from 2011-14, where he served as associate athletics director, an admissions officer, and boys’ basketball coach.

Playing basketball overseas from 2004-5 and 2007-11 reinforced Leith’s belief that relentlessly pursing a goal constitutes victory, no matter what the result.

“It was amazing, you put everything into something and you have no regrets,” said Leith, a 6’6 forward who had pro stops in the Czech Republic, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Malaysia after a stellar college career that saw him score more than 1,500 points and grab more than 700 rebounds.

“Was the ultimate goal to play in the NBA, of course it was, but I was paid pretty well to play basketball and I put everything into it. It is like the man in the arena quote, at least I know I put myself out there and there is nothing wrong with that. The definition of success is really putting your all into something and whatever the outcome is, you are successful.”

For Leith, serving as the strength and conditioning coach at Peddie between 2005-07 gave him a glimpse of his future course.

“I lived on campus, I was a faculty member in residence,” recalled Leith. “I loved the academic setting. I always talk about the access you have to the kids. It is a boarding school, an independent school environment. I am a kid that came from an independent school so I know that academic rigor.”

Heading to the Asheville School after completing his pro career, Leith wore many hats as he immersed himself into that school’s environment.

“It was a great experience,” said Leith, whose fiancée, Meredith, joined him at the school and worked in the admissions office as they looked forward to their wedding that took place this June.

“After my first year, I was given the title of associate director of athletics. and was handed a lot more responsibility around school. I was doing a lot more admissions work. I was an advisor to six students. Boarding school is an animal. You are just working all the time. We both lived on campus; it is a lot but we enjoyed it. We loved the kids. When everything else is all said and done, you know people professionally but it is about the kids. That is what was so hard about leaving.”

Meeting the Stuart kids when he interviewed at the all-girls school helped convince Leith that he was making the right move.

“It is on the itinerary for the day that I am going to meet with some third graders,” said Leith.

“The head of the middle school brought in seven or eight third grade girls into one of the rooms here and left for 15-20 minutes. I was grilled. It becomes like OK, I cross my arms and I am going to fire back right at them. It put such a big smile on my face and I had such a good time with them. What a highlight, they were funny, they were articulate. They exuded so much confidence. That is what any father or parent would want from their daughter, especially at such a young age and obviously all the way through high school. It was like that all day, meeting the young ladies. I was at the student council meeting and they were asking questions. They were fantastic.”

One of Leith’s main goals as he takes the helm of Tartan athletics is to get more students playing sports.

“There are ways to do that; I have a lot of ideas about that,” noted Leith, who plans to resurrect Stuart’s upper school soccer program.

“The school that I am coming from is 275 kids, cut that in half, we are a similar sized school at the high school age and we fielded a lot more sports than here. There are requirement things that can be done.”

In addition to getting wider participation, Leith is determined to see the Stuart teams win more games.

“I want, in the next few years, through the department mission statement and our coaching, to have our athletic success meet our academic success because this is a great place for that,” asserted Leith.

“There seems to be a feeling, especially in the independent school world, that you do one or the other. You are either a strong academic school who is weak athletically or you are considered a weaker academic school and super strong in athletics.”

In Leith’s view, having the school’s varsity athletes reach out to Stuart’s younger students will help make that success possible.

“One of my goals for sure, is to have our varsity girls work with our middle school girls to help grow our programs,” said Leith.

“I really believe that needs to happen so when young ladies are in middle school, when they are around a varsity girl and they go to their games, they are looking up to them and saying that can be us someday. It is a great yield tool, going into our high school to keep our girls really excited about being here. If they are constantly understanding the mission of Stuart and it is embedded in them, they want to stay a part of it.”

While Leith has only been part of the Stuart community for a matter of days, he is already passionate about the school’s mission.

“I am extremely excited to be here,” said Leith. “My first day here, there is a buzz that is going on, people are working hard. It is all business but it is all for the benefit of Stuart. I hit the pavement running, it is a lot of stuff. It is a lot of small things. You have to put together scheduling, get stuff up on the internet, and return e-mails. We are looking for a trainer right now. I have a bunch of coaches that I need to hire. It is fun so far to be a part of it. It is only a week but when you walk down the hall there is constantly stuff going on already. Everyone is working together and being like a team.”

VILLAGE CHIEF: Skye Ettin heads up the court in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last week, Ettin, a former Princeton High star and rising senior captain for the The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, assumed the role as player-coach, helping Tortuga’s Mexican Village edge Northeast Realty 43-41. In summer hoops action last Monday, King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Interventional Cardiology 55-49 while Winberie’s edged Ivy Inn 64-57 and Belle Mead Physical Therapy defeated Northeast Realty 48-35. The regular season concludes on July 16. The first round of the playoffs tips off on July 21 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

VILLAGE CHIEF: Skye Ettin heads up the court in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last week, Ettin, a former Princeton High star and rising senior captain for the The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, assumed the role as player-coach, helping Tortuga’s Mexican Village edge Northeast Realty 43-41. In summer hoops action last Monday, King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Interventional Cardiology 55-49 while Winberie’s edged Ivy Inn 64-57 and Belle Mead Physical Therapy defeated Northeast Realty 48-35. The regular season concludes on July 16. The first round of the playoffs tips off on July 21 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Skye Ettin couldn’t buy a basket as Tortuga’s Mexican Village played Northeast Realty last week in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Although the former Princeton High standout Ettin managed only four points for Tortuga’s, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, it turned out to be an educational evening for him.

Serving as a player-coach, Ettin called out plays and defensive sets, directing his teammates all night long as Tortuga’s pulled out a 43-41 win, prevailing on a buzzer beating jump shot by Jayson Johnson.

“This is going to be my third year as captain so I have taken on that leadership role,” said rising TCNJ senior Ettin, a 6’4, 170-pound forward who averaged 7.9 points and 1.9 rebounds a game last winter as the Lions went 8-17.

“I try to direct on the court as well as off the court. With coach [Jason] Carter not here today, it was on me to do a little bit of coaching and playing. I did a lot more coaching than playing for sure.”

While Tortuga’s looked unsure of itself as it fell behind 19-9 in the early going of the June 30 contest, it started playing better, reeling off a 14-0 run to take a 23-19 lead at halftime.

“I think we just had to settle down, we really weren’t getting out to shooters and identifying who was going to hurt us,” said Ettin.

“I think then defensively we went on a stretch where we held them to one basket every couple possessions. We also wanted to get it down low and make them play defense. We weren’t pushing the ball; we weren’t running any sets so we ran one set to kind of get us going. We tried to get it down low to Bobby Brackett and establish him. If you establish him, they have to double him and everything else opens up.”

In the second half, Tortuga’s built its lead to 38-27 but then struggled down the stretch as Northeast knotted the game at 41-41 with a minute left in regulation. In the waning seconds, Johnson proved to be the hero as he dropped in a jumper just before the buzzer.

“We were able to get it together a little bit and even though that is not the way that we want to play, that is going to help us come late in the season next year,” said Ettin.

“We will be in a tight game where we are not playing our best but we will know that we can make a show and have the ability to pull games out.”

Ettin is looking to take a shot at coaching after graduating from TCNJ and is working with Princeton University men’s basketball program this summer.

“I am interning in the basketball office so I have been helping out with the director of basketball operations,” said Ettin.

“I have done camps, to film breakdown, to office work. They have been really great in showing me the life of a coach everyday. I love it. I feel like I am leaps and bound ahead of where I was in the coaching field just from a month and a half of  working with them. I never got to do anything like film breakdown; they told me how to do all of that. I have been able to sit in on some of the meetings to see what they are doing as far as recruiting. They have all been so great in helping me so it has been good.”

The game against Northeast gave Ettin a good opportunity to apply some of the lessons he has learned this summer.

“It is beneficial for me honestly to be able to coach and see it from a coach’s perspective with my own team,” said Ettin.

“As one of the seniors on the team and a captain, it helps me for coaching to be able to direct the guys.”

From Ettin’s perspective, Tortuga’s has what it takes to be a title contender this summer.

“I think last year we had a great run; it was our first year in the league and we lost in the championship,” said Ettin of the squad who improved to 4-3 with the win over Northeast.

“We have had a different team almost every game this summer. I think in the playoffs when we hopefully get our whole group, we’ll be able to get it together. I feel confident that we can make a push in the league, we have some experience. If I don’t play great or someone else doesn’t play great, there are other members that can pick it up. Jayson hit the game-winning shot tonight so it is not always on one person.”

July 9, 2014
SHINING MOMENT: Liam Helstrom takes a break on the sideline last week at the Sunshine Classic all-star football game played at The College of New Jersey. Former Princeton High star Helstrom made two catches for 42 yards for the West team but it wasn’t enough as the East prevailed 14-7. It was the last game of organized football for Helstrom, who is headed to Clemson University this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHINING MOMENT: Liam Helstrom takes a break on the sideline last week at the Sunshine Classic all-star football game played at The College of New Jersey. Former Princeton High star Helstrom made two catches for 42 yards for the West team but it wasn’t enough as the East prevailed 14-7. It was the last game of organized football for Helstrom, who is headed to Clemson University this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

J.T. Bucsek and Liam Helstrom are going in different directions this fall when it comes to football.

Former Hun School standout Bucsek is heading to Muhlenberg College where he will be playing for the school’s football team and looking to make an impact on the offensive line.

Helstrom, a Princeton High star receiver and linebacker, is moving south to Clemson University and will be seeing a lot of big-time football games from the stands.

Despite their varying prospects, both Bucsek and Helstrom found playing for the West squad in last week’s Sunshine Classic all-star football game to be a valuable experience.

“Coming in I knew two people so you meet everyone, and everyone is a really good player,” said Bucsek, who was joined on the West squad by Hun teammate Muhammad Wainwright and coach John Law. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Helstrom, for his part, enjoyed the level of competition he found on the West squad.

“It was awesome,” said Helstrom. “It is fun playing with kids that know what they are doing and are real good. I made a lot of new friends, kids I knew from reading the papers.”

While the West ended up losing 14-7 in the July 1 contest played at The College of New Jersey’s Lions Stadium, both Helstrom and Bucsek had good nights.

Helstrom had two receptions for 42 yards, highlighted by a spectacular 35-yard catch and run down the sidelines in the second quarter. Bucsek saw a lot of action at guard and got some reps on the defensive line as well.

Flashing a wide grin, Helstrom beamed as he recalled his big first half play. “It was a double post; I cut in and the kid gave me the inside,” explained Helstrom.

“The corner seemed like he was manned up on cover 3 so I cut in and he bit and I caught it.”

Helstrom was also happy with his second reception. “They were cheating back on us a lot so the hitch was there,” added the 6’1, 195-pound Helstrom. “It was good. I got thrown to twice and I caught both balls.”

In reflecting on his performance, Bucsek was satisfied with how things went for him in the trenches.

“I thought I did really well, there were a couple of plays here or there where I could have done better,” said the 6’0, 240-pound Bucsek, in assessing his play at guard.

“I played some nose tackle and defensive end; the defensive line coach brought me in because I knew the systems. It was good competition; I felt like from line to line, we were all pretty even.”

Playing in the Sunshine game helped Bucsek get ready for the competition he will face at the college level.

“It is good preparation because in high school there are few good players but when you come here everyone is good,” said Bucsek.

“I report on August 13 to Muhlenberg; they sent me a packet with all of this running and lifting so I stick pretty much to that. I will probably play center or guard. It was good playing guard tonight because I had played center the past three years.”

Helstrom, for his part, won’t soon forget his final night of organized football.

“This is actually my last game so I wanted to play like I always do,” said Helstrom.

“I played with some kids that were real good and could actually play ball. It made me want to play better.”

RETURN FIRE: Rohit Chawla fires a pitch in recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. ­Chawla, a former Princeton High star who played club baseball this spring in his freshman year at Rutgers University, has sparked Post 218 on the mound and at the plate in returning for his last campaign of Legion ball.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RETURN FIRE: Rohit Chawla fires a pitch in recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. ­Chawla, a former Princeton High star who played club baseball this spring in his freshman year at Rutgers University, has sparked Post 218 on the mound and at the plate in returning for his last campaign of Legion ball. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Looking to address some unfinished business, Rohit Chawla decided to return this summer for another season with the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team.

“Because we were one game away from the playoffs last year, I felt good about coming back this year,” said Chawla, a former Princeton High star who played club baseball this spring in his freshman year at Rutgers University. “I felt we were going to be right in there this year.”

Playing club ball kept Chawla sharp as he looked ahead to the summer. “We had 20-22 games,” said Chawla.

“We had weekend series against Delaware, Hofstra, and other colleges around here. I played shortstop and I pitched a lot during the end of the year. I got a couple of starts and some relief appearances. Our main pitcher was also a shortstop. I played short when he was pitching and when I was pitching, he was playing shortstop.”

This summer, Chawla has assumed a similar role for Post 218, serving as one of the team’s starting pitchers and playing shortstop when he isn’t on the mound.

In assessing his pitching, Chawla acknowledged that he has been a little inconsistent.

“I started pretty good but I am getting a little tired now,” explained Chawla. “It’s tough because I didn’t throw a lot during the school year so now I am working back. I am going to step it up now.”

Chawla has stepped things up at the plate and in the field. “I hit well during the school year, that was one of my stronger assets when I was playing club ball,” said Chawla, who had a sharp single last Thursday as Post 218 played Ewing Post 314 in a game that was suspended in the fifth inning with Princeton trailing 6-3.

“Now I feel good at the plate. I am seeing pitches well and I am staying hot. It is helping our team out because we need to hit better. I feel comfortable at shortstop.”

Post 218 has picked things up offensively as it has gone 4-4 after starting the summer by losing five of its first six games. “We were pitching well in the beginning and we weren’t hitting and then we were hitting but not pitching,” said Chawla.

“We are hitting; we had eight runs against South Brunswick and 14 against Lawrence. We just have to put everything together. We have solid pitching, as we did last year, and once our bats come around, we will be really dangerous.”

Utilizing his experience, Chawla has provided some solid leadership this summer for Princeton. “I try to encourage the guys as much as possible, especially the pitchers,” said Chawla.

“Pitching over all of these years, I have a decent idea of what to do on the mound. Like Ben Grass going out there today (against Ewing), he hasn’t thrown much and he is a pretty young guy. I tried to help him throw first pitch strikes and not walk the leadoff hitter and all of that stuff. He is learning out there; he is doing a good job. That is basically what I try to do. I use my experience and what I see and try to help out the other guys.”

Noting that Post 218 has a good group of guys, Chawla believes the players will keep competing hard down the stretch, with the team slated to host South Brunswick Post 401 on July 9 and play at Hightstown Post 148 on July 11 before hosting Bordentown Post 26 for a doubleheader on July 12 and North Hamilton on July 14.

“We have a lot of chemistry; we have fun,” said Chawla. “It is frustrating when we lose those close games. We are feeling more confident putting runs on the board now; it was just a matter of getting the rust off and now everyone is producing. Everyone can play. Once we play to our capabilities, we’ll be right there.”

WINNING EFFORT: Chris Hatchell of Winberie’s dribbles upcourt in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Hatchell tallied 20 points as Winberie’s edged Northeast Realty 66-61 in triple overtime to remain undefeated on the summer, improving to 6-0. In summer hoops action on Monday, Belle Mead Physical Therapy topped Princeton Youth Sports 50-42 while King’s Pizzarama posted a 52-42 win over Ivy Inn and Tortuga’s Mexican Village edged Northeast Realty 43-41 in a buzzer beater by Jayson Johnson.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WINNING EFFORT: Chris Hatchell of Winberie’s dribbles upcourt in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Hatchell tallied 20 points as Winberie’s edged Northeast Realty 66-61 in triple overtime to remain undefeated on the summer, improving to 6-0. In summer hoops action on Monday, Belle Mead Physical Therapy topped Princeton Youth Sports 50-42 while King’s Pizzarama posted a 52-42 win over Ivy Inn and Tortuga’s Mexican Village edged Northeast Realty 43-41 in a buzzer beater by Jayson Johnson. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Getting caught in the deluge that hit the area last Wednesday evening, Chris Hatchell was running late to hit the court for Winberie’s as it faced Northeast Realty in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Arriving as the contest was about to tip off in the Princeton High gym, Hatchell hurriedly peeled off his warm-ups, realizing he was needed to be the fifth player for his squad.

Taking a while to get into the flow of the game, Hatchell had just four points in the first half.

“I didn’t try to force anything,” said Hatchell. “I was sitting back and letting my legs get together first and then taking a couple of shots.”

Ending up with only six players, Winberie’s labored, trailing 25-21 at half and 39-31 in the second half as former PHS stars Anthony Brown and Davon Black provided some sharp shooting for Northeast.

Despite the deficit and being shorthanded, Hatchell wasn’t fazed. “We are a veteran team and as long as we play defense, we can claw back into the game here or there,” said Hatchell.

With Hatchell catching fire from the perimeter, Winberie’s did claw back into the game, nudging ahead 42-41 and then hanging on as the teams headed into overtime, locked in a 50-50 tie at end of regulation.

“I was looking for it a little more instead of trying to come off screens,” said Hatchell, who scored 11 points in the second half.

“I just wanted to bring the ball up and try to create a little bit and if I didn’t have it, kick it to one of my teammates.”

The fierce battle turned into a marathon with Winberie’s finally prevailing 66-61 in three overtimes as it remained undefeated on the summer, improving to 6-0.

Hatchell acknowledged that Winberie’s made things hard on itself in the overtime.

“We made a couple of mental mistakes and a couple of turnovers when we were up by two,” said Hatchell.

“We could have stalled the ball out instead of scoring real quick. It is all about the time and possession, it is not about the actual score.”

Coming through with a big score, Hatchell hit a long three-pointer to give Winberie’s a 57-54 lead with seconds left in the second overtime that was answered by a trey from Brown.

“I knew if I could get a good look, I had a good chance of making the shot,” said Hatchell, who added a basket in the third overtime to end up with 20 points while Brown tallied 19 in a losing cause with Black chipping in 18.

“I just needed to create a little bit of space to get my shot off; it happened and it went in.”

With Winberie’s off to a very good start this summer, Hatchell believes the squad can contend for the title.

“We have been playing together for a while and as we got older, we actually got younger guys,” said Hatchell of Winberie’s, who fell in the summer league 2013 semis after winning the title in 2012.

“We got the three guys from the PA Blue Devils (Jesse Krasna, Zack Sibol, and John Sibol) to come over along with Jay Frank and Terrence Bailey so we added more youth to the veterans. It is a great mix, we just have to get used to playing together a little more. All of these guys scored in high school or college so it is really all about our defense. If we get our defense together, we’ll be OK.”

Seeing the end of his hoops career fast approaching, Hatchell is playing with a sense of urgency.

“This is my last year,” said Hatchell, acknowledging that he is closing in on his 40th birthday.

“I am a plumber and pipefitter and I come straight to the games from work so I am tired. I have just been playing for the love.”

July 2, 2014
SMASHING DEBUT: Samantha Asch chases down a shot in action this spring for the Wake Forest women’s tennis team. Former Princeton Day School standout Asch enjoyed a solid debut campaign for the Demon Deacons, stepping up in the spring portion of the schedule, going 14-19  and compiling a 21-8 record with Luisa Fernandez in doubles.(Photo by Brian Westerholt, Courtesy of Wake Forest’s Office of Athletic Communications)

SMASHING DEBUT: Samantha Asch chases down a shot in action this spring for the Wake Forest women’s tennis team. Former Princeton Day School standout Asch enjoyed a solid debut campaign for the Demon Deacons, stepping up in the spring portion of the schedule, going 14-19 and compiling a 21-8 record with Luisa Fernandez in doubles. (Photo by Brian Westerholt, Courtesy of Wake Forest’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Samantha Asch couldn’t wait to start her college tennis career at Wake Forest but soon learned that she had some growing up to do.

Finishing up at Princeton Day School in December, 2012, six months ahead of her classmates, tennis standout Asch arrived at Wake in January and plunged into her schoolwork and hit the court with the Demon Deacons.

“The work was tough and I learned a lot,” said Asch, a four-time Mercer County Tournament singles champion during her storied PDS career.

“I was the youngest person at Wake which isn’t easy. It was an adjustment. I was on a team with a lot of upperclassmen. I made the team but we weren’t so good and the coach wanted me to redshirt.”

Putting those hard-earned lessons to good use, Asch was primed to get into action last September.

“Nothing was a surprise in the fall,” said Asch. “It was like playing the best players in juniors everyday. There is competition just to make the lineup.”

Asch proved to be up to the competition, playing well in the season-opening William and Mary Invitational.

“It was really good,” said Asch, who combined with classmate Luisa Fernandez to win their doubles flight at the competition.

“I got my first win off of a ranked player, she was #51. It was a good win for me, I got a big lead and then almost choked it away.”

In order to be a winning player at the college level, Asch quickly realized that she had to get bigger physically.

“I am one of the smaller players and I was weak,” acknowledged Asch. “I worked a lot on my strength, the coaches really pushed that. I did weight training and running.”

Getting ill last fall weakened Asch and stunted her progress. “I wasn’t cleared until a week before the spring season started,” said Asch. “I was thrown into the lineup at No. 2. I lost my first two matches and four of my first five; it was discouraging. I was a little rusty and lacking strength.”

Once she regained her strength, Asch produced a solid spring campaign, going 14-19 in singles and compiling a 21-8 record with Fernandez in doubles.

“The doubles went really well, we had some really good streaks,” said Asch. “I think we won four in a row at one point. Doubles was important. We won a lot of matches 4-3 and the doubles point turned out to be the clincher.”

Clinching a 4-1 win over Maryland in the ACC tournament proved to be a highlight for Asch.

“I honestly didn’t think I was playing well that day,” recalled Asch, who won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 singles and combined with Fernandez for a come-from-behind 8-7 win in doubles.

“We were down 7-4 in doubles and our third doubles was losing so we knew we had to win it to get the point. In singles, our No. 3 was getting killed and our No. 1 lost so I knew I had to win my match. It was our first win in the ACC tournament in five years.”

Along the way, Asch posted some other big wins. “One weekend, I played at No. 2 and we played Miami and I beat a highly ranked player who had wins over some big players,” said Asch, referring to her 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (8) victory over Miami’s Clementina Riobueno. “I played my best match of the year. My doubles team reached the final of an invitational in California.”

Being at her best at the college level has required Asch to raise the level of her game, physically and mentally.

“College is a whole different ball game,” said Asch. “January to May is unreal. You are out there every week and you always have to have your game. It is extremely mental, there is a lot of pressure on you.”

Withstanding that pressure has Asch aiming for some big things over the rest of her Wake Forest career.

“I feel like I am a more solid player,” said Asch, who is planning to be a math/business double major.

“I think being an All-American would be my ultimate goal. The season was a huge improvement for the team and we want to keep getting better.”

 

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Akira Nishiu fires a pitch for the Princeton Little League squad against Bordentown in the final round of the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week at Farmview Fields. Nishiu’s superb mound work and a clutch two-run single helped Princeton top Bordentown 8-3 on June 24 to clinch the title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Akira Nishiu fires a pitch for the Princeton Little League squad against Bordentown in the final round of the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week at Farmview Fields. Nishiu’s superb mound work and a clutch two-run single helped Princeton top Bordentown 8-3 on June 24 to clinch the title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Akira Nishiu was fired up as he took the mound for the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad against Bordentown in the final round of the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week at Farmview Fields.

“I wanted to win again because we lost last year to Bordentown,” said Nishiu, a native of Osaka, Japan talking through translation provided by his father. “I wanted to get revenge.”

With starter Nishiu pitching well, Princeton got payback as it topped defending champion Bordentown 8-3 to win the competition, which utilizes a modified baseball field using a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths and is open to players ages 11-13.

Holding Bordentown to a pair of runs on three hits in three innings and picking up three strikeouts, Nishiu helped Princeton seize momentum in the contest. “I wanted to spot it low and away on both the straight and breaking ball,” said Nishiu, reflecting on his mound effort.

Nishiu helped Princeton break the game open as he delivered a key two-run single in a four-run rally in the third inning.

“I wanted to bring the two runners home so I hit the ball hard,” said Nishiu, recalling the hit.

Princeton manager Jon Durbin credited Nishiu’s pitching with helping to get things off on the right note.

“He had the Bordentown hitters baffled again,” said Durbin, whose team took a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

“That is pretty much what he has done in all three games. I think getting off to the early start made a huge difference because once again it showed to us that we could definitely play with them.”

The squad’s four-run fourth inning made a big difference. “That was huge,” said Durbin. “Teddy [Durbin] getting a hit to get one run in and then Jackson [Rho] and Akira getting the two big hits to open up the game gave us a lot of confidence.”

In Durbin’s view, the title is the product of years of diligence. “I think for the team it is the fruition of all the years of hard work that they have been putting in,” asserted Durbin, whose team went 4-0 in the District 12 tournament, outscoring its foes 46-6 in the process.

“These three age groups, in particular, are the beginning of revitalization and transformation of the Princeton Little League program. This is the first cohort where we really started to systematically put through more rigorous training, both within the PLL and encouraging them to play travel baseball and working with pro coaches. All three of these groups are lined up together sequentially, which is one of the reasons that this came together so well. We really took it to the competition in this tournament. Now between the 11s, 12s, 13s on the team, you can see how well trained they are and how much poise they have.”

Princeton also blended a good chemistry with the training and poise. “I think the biggest thing that I noticed in this tournament was the total unselfish attitude towards the team,” added Durbin.

“For this group to come together the way they did in basically one week as a select all-star team and to play so unselfishly as a team with no complaints was totally different from last year’s experience.”

Experiencing success in the double-elimination Section 3 tournament in Lacey, which was slated to start on July 1, would earn Princeton a return trip to Farmview Fields.

“I think knowing that the state championship is going to be back here in Princeton definitely turned out to be the hidden motivating force,” said Durbin.

“They didn’t go crazy tonight. I think a lot of them were already starting to focus on the sectionals. We are going to the sectionals and we are playing to come back to compete in the state championships in Princeton.”

Nishiu, for his part, believes the club can compete with anyone. “I believe in my teammates, coaches, and manager,” said Nishiu. “I think they are the best.”

 

FEELING THE HEAT: Kevin Kane of Princeton Youth Sports (PYS), right, looks for an opening as he gets guarded by Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn last week in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Kane and PYS, Princeton High boys’ basketball entry in the league, fell 68-49 to Northeast Realty. In other action on Monday, King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt 71-62 as Anthony Gaffney scored 21 points for the victors while Juwan Harrison poured in 33 points in a losing cause.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING THE HEAT: Kevin Kane of Princeton Youth Sports (PYS), right, looks for an opening as he gets guarded by Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn last week in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Kane and PYS, Princeton High boys’ basketball entry in the league, fell 68-49 to Northeast Realty. In other action on Monday, King’s Pizzarama topped Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt 71-62 as Anthony Gaffney scored 21 points for the victors while Juwan Harrison poured in 33 points in a losing cause. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team took its lumps last Monday as it fell 68-49 to Northeast Realty in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League but that’s OK with Shahid Abdul-Karim.

For PYS, the Princeton High boys’ basketball entry in the league, the goal is to be tested by tough competition, not post easy wins.

“They played well, they played hard but it is tough for them,” said PHS assistant coach Abdul-Karim, reflecting on the loss that dropped PYS to 0-4 this summer.

“It is frustrating. That is why we put them in there so they can get beat up and understand what it is like to go against some older, bigger, and faster guys bumping them around. Now with this league being so young, you have the TCNJ team and guys who are still playing in college.”

Playing well in the first half, PYS jumped out to an 18-17 lead and trailed just 33-25 at halftime.

“We played decent in the first half; we did a pretty decent of job of penetrating, kicking, and making some shots and we were in it. We had some cuts and some backdoors. We were making shots.”

Abdul-Karim acknowledged that PYS struggled defensively down the stretch of the contest.

“In the second half, our transition defense was down the drain and that is what I was talking to them about so we have to do a better job on transition.” said Abdul-Karim.

“We didn’t have a big man tonight, we were missing two of our inside guys to rebound. Timmy and Tad Moore weren’t here so it was tough. We had all guards and no one is used to playing down low.”

The team’s guards, Michael Dowers, Kevin Kane, and J.C. Silva, kept firing away. “Dowers did a good job, he made some shots early,” said Abdul-Karim, who got 12 points from Silva with Dowers chipping in 10.

“Kevin Kane made some shots, he was getting down in transition and made a couple of baskets. J.C. Silva got some baskets and got to the line on that three-pointer and made all three.”

Although PYS hasn’t posted a win yet this summer, the players haven’t lost their confidence.

“They see some of the teams and think we can win,” said Abdul-Karim. “That is a good thing for them to have going into the game, thinking they can win.”

In the view of Abdul-Karim, a former PHS hoops standout who went on to play at Springfield College, the best thing about playing in the summer league for PYS is developing some extra grit.

“We have been doing this since I was in high school and even before,” said Abdul-Karim, noting that the team just finished a camp at Princeton University and is getting extra work in weekly open gym sessions.

“The main thing is the toughness. We just want them to be tougher and understand that when we get into the season, the mentality is that we played against men all summer and we want to show and apply that. It is a pretty busy summer but that is good, the more basketball, the better.”