May 14, 2014
QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For John Reid, starring on the ice for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team last winter has helped him on the diamond this spring.

“I think I am constantly ready to compete,” said junior Reid, a forward in hockey and an outfielder for the PHS baseball squad.

“I think my competitive drive has actually increased this last year with the great hockey season that we had. I think it definitely benefits my game.”

Batting in the cleanup spot, Reid has emerged as an offensive threat this spring for the Little Tigers.

“I think last year, I was a year younger and I hadn’t seen any varsity pitching,” said Reid.

“Going forward into this year, I was a little more comfortable in the box. It is still tough but I think I have been seeing some better pitches and I have been a little more patient.”

PHS showed its toughness last week, topping Pennington 10-0 on May 5 and then blanking Lawrence 6-0 a day later to clinch a spot in the upcoming state tournament.

“We knew that we had to win those two games to get into the state tournament for the first time since 2001,” said Reid.

“We really put an emphasis on making sure that we got guys on and we got them in. The pitching was great. We knew that we had to win those two games and we ended up doing that.”

In Reid’s view, making the states is important for the PHS in both the short term and the long term.

“I think with the team we have this year, there are some guys that felt bad not being in states for a while,” said Reid.

“I think it means a lot for the program to do that and hopefully build on it for next year as well.”

Things didn’t go as well for PHS last Friday as it fell 4-0 at Nottingham with Reid contributing two infield hits in a losing cause.

“I think lately I have been swinging earlier in counts and I am seeing some more fastballs,” said Reid, reflecting on his performance in the defeat.

“I think it was a tough day today; they kind of lulled us into a slow game and I think that is what brought us down.”

While PHS head coach Dave Roberts was pleased with how his team came through to earn the state berth, he was disappointed to see his team subsequently fall 5-2 to Pennington in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on Wednesday and then lose to Notttingham.

“The early week was positive; it is hard to remember that we did have a .500 week,” said Roberts.

“We can’t score 16 runs in the first two games of the week and then score two in the next 14 innings. It doesn’t make for a recipe for success.”

Roberts acknowledges that playing in the states will be a huge positive for the program.

“It is exciting; it looks like we will be matched up against Wall; they are a real good shore conference team,” said Roberts.

“It will be great, the seniors deserve a state game and they got themselves a state game. It will be tons of fun.”

Reid’s progress this spring has been exciting for Roberts. “John scratched out a couple of hits today which was nice to see because he had been struggling mightily before that,” said Roberts of Reid who went 1-for-2 last Monday to help PHS defeat Notre Dame 6-2 and improve to 7-11. “It was nice to see him get a little bit back on track today.”

Sophomore Hayden Reyes has given PHS a nice lift, sparking the offense from the No. 2 spot in the lineup and starring at shortstop and pitcher,

“Hayden has been phenomenal since last year,” said Roberts. “Every time we step out here, I definitely feel like whenever he is playing shortstop, he is in the top three shortstops in the CVC defensively and even offensively. He has pitched all his life. He throws strikes, he doesn’t walk people and most importantly he works quick.”

The PHS pitching rotation has been led by sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt.

“Joaquin has been tremendous all year, he has been dominant on the mound,” said Roberts of the Hernandez-Burt, who yielded three hits and a run in five innings to earn the win in the victory over Notre Dame.

“He’s been our absolute workhorse; every single outing he had would qualify as a quality start. He has two shutouts; he’s been awesome on the mound.”

With a roster featuring a number of sophomores and juniors, Roberts believes the program has a quality foundation going forward.

“Hopefully they are learning every day and from every single experience that we have, especially the county tournament game that we lost on Wednesday and the game we lost today,” said Roberts.

Reid, for his part, believes that the lessons learned this year will benefit PHS in the future.

“Pretty much our whole infield is going to be juniors next year,” said Reid. “You take that experience and the few juniors that we do have on the team this year, we should continue with that success.”

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

James Radvany came into the spring expecting that his main duties for the Princeton Day School baseball team would center on playing first base and providing punch in the middle of the lineup.

But when mound ace Cole McManimon was injured in the season opener and sidelined for all of April, Radvany’s portfolio changed as he became the team’s workhorse starting pitcher.

Befitting his stature as a team quad-captain, Radvany willingly assumed the additional responsibility.

“It has been tough, I have had to throw a lot of innings this year,” said junior Radvany.

“My arm wasn’t really ready for that but I have done the best I could and I have labored on.”

Last Wednesday, Radvany put in some hard labor on the mound as he started and went four innings in a 9-1 loss to Hamilton in the opening round of the Mercer  County Tournament.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today but they are a good team,” said Radvany, who gave up seven runs in the first two innings but only one after that.

“They grind out at-bats, they are all good baseball players at the front of their lineup. I had some two-strike counts but they had some good swings. I started to get the ball down a little bit, I left it up in the first two innings. I had some good plays behind me in the last two innings so that helped out.”

After struggling at the plate earlier in the spring, Radvany has been swinging the bat better in recent weeks. He had a single and scored the only run in the loss to Hamilton.

“I started to turn it around pretty well; I have had three or four doubles in the last few games,” said Radvany, who has committed to attend Villanova University and play for its baseball program.

“I have had a lot more hits. I am just trying to stay through the middle. I have had to change my approach a little but I think it is starting to turn around at the right time and that was what I was hoping for.”

While things haven’t turned out this spring as PDS had hoped with the Panthers dropping to 4-10 after losing 2-1 to Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday in the opening round of the state Prep B tourney, Radvany and his teammates are staying upbeat.

“Losing Cole in the first game was tough but we have hung in there,” said Radvany.

“We only have one senior but the freshmen have given a lot more than we thought. They have all been great, they have all been better than we expected. It is what you hope for; we have hope for next year.”

May 7, 2014
SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton High softball team trailing Lawrenceville 8-0 in the fourth inning last Friday, Dave Boehm urged his players to relax.

“It was just come out swinging,” said PHS head coach Boehm, reflecting on his message to his charges.

“We are looking at too many good pitches; we let good pitches go by and we are swinging at bad ones.”

PHS responded with two runs in the fifth as sophomore Natalie Campisi got things rolling with a single and then her older sister, senior tri-captain Jessica Campisi, along with freshman Kayla Volante delivered RBI hits.

“We got a couple of hits but we have to keep going,” said Boehm, whose team went on to lose 9-2 as the Campisi sisters and Volante all had two hits in a losing cause.

Having dropped nine of its last 11 games, PHS is struggling to get in synch.

“It is just mental mistakes,” said Boehm, whose team fell 6-2 at Lawrence High last Monday to lose its fourth straight game and drop to 3-12 on the season.

“I think it is a learning process for these girls. A lot of them didn’t play varsity last year and they are learning now that the speed of this game is a lot faster than they thought. By the time they think of where they have got to throw, it is already too late.”

Volante threw well in relief against Lawrenceville, holding the Big Red to one run over the last three innings.

“She is not the fastest kid throwing but she has nice movement on her pitches, especially her curve,” said Boehm, noting that Volante has also emerged as a batting threat for the Little Tigers. “It drops out a little bit on the bottom so she will hold us into games.”

Two of PHS’s veterans, junior Sarah Eisenach and senior Liana Bloom, have been holding their own in recent action.

“Sarah is also hitting the ball well,” said Boehm of Eisenach, the team’s top pitcher who performed well in the circle against Lawrence on Monday in a losing cause, recording nine strikeouts.

“I would say the last three games, Sarah has hit the ball very well. Liana Bloom is doing a good job at first base, she is filling in for Emily DiLella, who twisted her knee in Ewing. She is playing well in the field.”

Boehm is confident there are good times ahead for the Little Tigers, who have two freshmen, two juniors, and six sophomores seeing a lot of action this spring.

“I think they will come along,” said Boehm. “We have got a good young nucleus, mostly sophomores. There are only a couple of seniors that are really playing.”

In Boehm’s view, the Little Tigers need to stay loose as they head into a busy homestretch, which includes the start of the Mercer County Tournament and regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9.

“Next week, we have six games,” said Boehm, whose club is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at No. 5 WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.

“We start the county tournament on Saturday. I told them at the end there that no one expects you to beat them now so just go out there swinging and play the best you can.”

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Morgan Foster and the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, its state Prep B tournament opener last week against Montclair-Kimberley Academy wasn’t just the beginning of the postseason, it represented a vital step in a healing process.

The April 29 contest marked the team’s first action in 12 days as its games the previous week were cancelled after the passing of Nancy Dwyer, the mother of PDS junior goalie Sara Dwyer.

“This game was definitely important for us,” said PDS junior star Foster. “We had a lot riding on it, especially because it is a tournament game and, in light of recent events, you really want to go out there and show that we still have got it.”

Foster didn’t waste any time showing that her finishing skills were as sharp as ever, scoring two goals in the first 6:01 of the game as the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“It got the ball rolling, it got the momentum up,” recalled Foster, who ended up with three goals and an assist on the day as the Panthers prevailed 13-12. “It was going our way for a while. I was really happy that I was able to get the opportunity to score.”

As the team helped Dwyer deal with her loss, it has used that situation as an opportunity to become even closer.

“We really made sure that we were there holding each other’s hands the whole time,” said Foster. “We made sure that every single person was on the same page. We are only as strong as our weakest link.”

Foster acknowledged that PDS had to fight through some weak moments as Montclair Kimberley narrowed an 11-6 PDS lead to 11-10 to turn the game into a nailbiter.

“Towards the end, we were put in situations that we were not exactly happy to put ourselves in,” said Foster.

“But we think it is important that we were able to practice them on such a big stage and get a little bit more experience under our belts for that one.”

The battle-tested Foster, a starter since the beginning of her freshman season, is utilizing her experience.

“As a junior, I am stepping into the role of becoming a senior and having a bigger voice on the team and having the girls look up to me for advice,” said Foster.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas credited Foster with being a catalyst for her teammates in the win over MKA.

“Morgan just got us going, she set the tone,” said Thomas. “She always brings her best to the field. She did a great job of going to goal and finding out what worked against this goalie and then everybody followed suit so that was really good.”

Sophomore Hope Anhut was really good in the win, scoring five goals to lead the PDS attack.

“Hope has taken it to another level; she is more confident,” said Thomas. “We have used our plays to work to her a little bit. They are working well. You have your top dogs out there and they are all together.”

Showing a high level of commitment and courage, junior Kirsten Kuzmicz, normally a midfielder, stepped into goal for Dwyer and made 10 saves.

“What can you say, not bad for three days,” said Thomas, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s performance in the cage.

“She stepped in there and she was tough the whole time. It takes a special person to step in and do what she did today and do it well.”

Thomas was proud of how her players stepped up collectively under tough circumstances.

“It was good to get back; we are just all there for everybody,” said Thomas, whose team fell 17-11 to WW/P-S last Thursday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament before losing 23-16 to Morristown-Beard last Monday in the Prep B semis. “They have been there for each other the whole week and that has been good.”

Foster, for her part, is determined to be there for her teammates. “I definitely feel like I am out here to score and I am out here to assist and make other people look good,” said Foster. “I would like to think of my play as a balancing act.”

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Brendan Black scored two goals as the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team topped visiting Peddie 13-5 last Monday in the state Prep A semis, the junior star prefers seeing others take care of the finishing duties.

“I just try to quarterback the offense as much as I can and get the other guys good looks because they can stick them in, that’s for sure,” said attacker Black, who had seven assists in the victory, which improved the Raiders to 10-4 and earned them a date with perennial state champion Lawrenceville in the Prep A final. “I just roll with whatever comes.”

One of Black’s favorite targets is his younger brother, sophomore midfielder Owen Black, who tallied two goals for second-seeded Hun in the victory over No. 3 Peddie.

“We do have a connection on the field, I love playing that wing with him,” said Black, who is committed to join the Villanova University men’s lacrosse program along with his brother.

“I know where he is going to be and he knows where I am going to be. We have been playing together forever. We are going to keep playing together for years to come.”

Having defeated Peddie 10-5 in a regular season contest on April 25, Black knew that the Falcons presented a challenge in the tournament rematch.

“They are a great team and we knew they were a threat; they have a really good face-off guy, a good goalie, and good attackmen so they have the formula to win,” said Black.

“We knew that they were going to be a threat. We were nervous but I think we handled them well. We knew if we jumped on them early we would be able to have them. We had great face-off play from Alex Semler so that really helped us get it going offensively.”

Things have been going very well for the Raiders as they have won seven straight games and 10 of their last 11.

“We knew from the start of the year that we were going to have some rough games off the bat but that is always what we want,” said Black.

“Our motto is that it is not about winning at the beginning of the season, it is about May. I feel like now we are really starting to click as a team and it is May 5 and we are getting going now.”

Black credits Hun’s defensive unit with playing a critical role in getting the team going.

“Our defense led by Jim Jannicelli, Cam Dudeck, Chase Goulburn, and Chris Fake is a sound defense,” said Black.

“Our longstick midfielder Tucker Stevenson and our defensive middies, Mike McMenamin and Matt Bruno, don’t get a lot of credit, but they are really a sound group of guys. They protect Jon and Jon makes great saves. The defense is the backbone of our team and they always have been. Without our defense, we wouldn’t be getting the ball on offense.”

In the view of Hun head coach MV Whitlow, the Black brothers also give the team some backbone.

“Brendan is a team captain and is the older brother,” said Whitlow. “Owen brings an on the field leadership with his poise and his lacrosse IQ.”

Sophomore Semler gave the Raiders some intelligent play in the middle of the field.

“I think the biggest difference in the game was Alex Semler at the face-off X because Nick Donahue is one great player and a great face-off guy. We had a face-off-enhanced possession disadvantage in the last game and Alex did a good job at the X so we weren’t at such a possession deficit.”

Once Hun got the ball, juniors Cole West and Drake Roy capitalized with West tallying two goals and four assists and Roy contributing a game-high four goals.

“Cole is a very dynamic player,” said Whitlow. “He is very quick and he has great vision, that’s a good combination. He feeds off other people; he likes to get the ball distributed. He finishes his own looks but he does like to look for his teammates so that brings everybody together. Drake is a great finisher and he is showing great leadership in his shooting touch.”

In Whitlow’s view, veteran leadership has played a key role in Hun’s hot streak.

“We just promoted four guys to assistant captain, who are all seniors in Matt Bruno, Mike McKeon, Chase Goulburn, and Corey Reynolds,” said Whitlow.

“We are getting good leadership from our senior class and as your seniors go is how your team is going to go. It is a good group of guys, it is a tight group of guys.”

Whitlow likes the way Hun has tightened up things at both ends of the field. “It has always been our goal to play our best lacrosse in May,” asserted Whitlow.

“We have been working real hard on a lot of different fundamentals and those things have come to fruition now and we are starting to play our best lacrosse right now.”

Hun will need to play its best lacrosse in order to topple top-seeded Lawrenceville, which has won 13 straight Prep A titles.

“We were always going to define success on our own terms and we are thankful to be able to play in a championship game,” said Whitlow, noting that a date for the title contest is to be determined after both teams wrap up play in the upcoming Inter Ac tourney.

“We have a lot of respect for the Lawrenceville program and the Lawrenceville players. It sets up to be a nice championship game.”

Black, for his part, believes that the Raiders have the game to hang with the Big Red.

“We are really looking forward to it, they are a great, great team with great history,” said Black.

“We know it is going to be a great game and we want to get after it. We feel we are really clicking at the right time. Hopefully, we will keep going until the end.”

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Gideon Friedberg displayed his development as a hitter last Saturday as the Hun School baseball team hosted the Blair Academy.

After looking overmatched against the Blair pitcher with two swings and misses in the second inning, Hun junior Friedberg connected for a solid single to right field. He then stole second base and went on to score on an error as Hun jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

“I was behind the first two so I figured that he wasn’t going to give me anything off-speed because I didn’t come close to the other two,” said Friedberg. “My approach is to go to right field and I got it and hit it on the line.”

Friedberg’s run, though didn’t hold up as Hun gave up four runs in the top of the sixth and another in the seventh to fall 5-1.

With Hun having dropped four straight heading into the Blair game, Friedberg acknowledged that the team has had trouble closing out games.

“We started out pretty strong there but obviously we weren’t able to string the hits together like we needed,” said Friedberg.

“He pitched a heck of a good game and we just sort of let up, that is the problem we have been having. In the last game we had five strong innings and one bad one and that is what undoes us.”

Despite the recent slump, the Hun players are not hanging their heads. “We are approaching it the same way,” said Friedberg. “We have really good team chemistry and everybody is pulling for each other. It is tough.”

Friedberg, who went to Princeton High for two years before transferring to Hun, is having a good experience with the Raider squad.

“I always knew coach (Bill McQuade) through camps as a young kid and I really liked the culture here and the program and the school is a good fit,” said Friedberg. “I am very happy to be here.”

Getting the chance to play third base this spring in addition to his natural position of catcher, Friedberg believes he is making good progress.

“I grew a little bit and I was in the weight room over the winter getting stronger,” said Friedberg.

“It is a transition over to third but I have a lot more confidence swinging the bat. It is just having another year, getting more confident. I am one of the older guys now.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade likes the growth he has seen in Friedberg.

“Gideon has a great arm, he has great, soft hands,” said McQuade.

“Like so many of these kids, they have just got to believe in themselves a little more. He can look like he is out of sync and then all of a sudden, he will lash one out to left center or right center. I see that he is playing the game with more intensity and staying more focused. He is a big kid; he is not the little guy that transferred here.”

In reflecting on the loss to Blair, McQuade acknowledged that his team lost focus as the Buccaneers took the lead with a two-run homer in the sixth and then tacked on two more runs in that frame to seize momentum.

“George Revock was on a roll; he had them confused up there and we scratched out the one run,” said McQuade, referring to his sophomore starting pitcher.

“With a couple of hits we could have gotten more. We haven’t been getting key hits in big situations so that hurt us again. The homer changed things but there was a missed cutoff in the outfield and there was a bad pickoff play here. I think that rattled George a little bit and then he threw one over the middle of the plate and the guy yanked it out of the ballpark and that was the difference in the game. One play can turn everything around.”

Dealing with a lot of roster turnover, McQuade sensed that his team was going to be in for a rocky road this spring.

“We knew that coming in; we had young kids or inexperienced older kids so either way you looked at it, we were inexperienced,” said McQuade, whose team came through with a 5-0 win over Peddie last Monday to improve to 7-8.

“We weren’t as physical as we were before. But it makes some of the young kids step up. Now, what is happening is that they are finding out what it is like playing at the varsity level against good competition. But when we revisit the games as coaches, we feel we could have won a number of these games.”

As Hun heads into the postseason, starting action in the Mercer County Tournament this week with the state Prep A tourney around the corner, McQuade believes his team can raise the level of its play.

“They are keeping their heads up, they are still fighting because they know they have to get better and that is what we keep preaching, get better,” said McQuade, whose team is seeded 10th in the MCT and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.

“It is not going to happen overnight. You are never going to get better if you put your head down. So our mantra all along with these kids is to hang in there.”

Friedberg, for his part, is confident that the Raiders can turn some heads come tournament time.

“We just need to have timely hitting,” said Friedberg. “We work together, we have a solid team. We are still coming with the same good attitude.”

April 30, 2014
LEAPING INTO HISTORY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse midfielder Emilia Lopez-Ona leaps up to take a shot. Last Thursday, senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona notched the 300th goal of her PHS career as she tallied six goals in a 14-10 win over Allentown. She added to her total last Monday, tallying five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 to improve to 11-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEAPING INTO HISTORY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse midfielder Emilia Lopez-Ona leaps up to take a shot. Last Thursday, senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona notched the 300th goal of her PHS career as she tallied six goals in a 14-10 win over Allentown. She added to her total last Monday, tallying five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 to improve to 11-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Emilia Lopez-Ona, getting the 300th career goal in her Princeton High girls’ lacrosse career didn’t come easy.

After scoring her fifth goal against visiting Allentown last Thursday with 22:20 left in the second half to reach the 299 mark, Lopez-Ona started misfiring.

“After I scored five goals, I think I missed four shots,” said senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona.

“They were open shots. My shooting string loosened up so I had zero whip in my stick. I fired one over the goal. I took one to the pipe.”

With 5:45 left in the contest, Lopez-Ona found the back of the net to hit the 300 milestone. The game was stopped and the PHS players mobbed Lopez-Ona, waving posters and posing for photos.

The moment was special for Lopez-Ona on several levels. “I am glad I scored it here at home; my dad was able to see it, he missed my 100th because he was coming back from a business trip,” said Lopez-Ona, who ended the day with six goals as PHS pulled away to a 14-10 victory over the Redbirds.

“It means a lot that my teammates would do that; they were truly happy for me. Watching them do that for me it feels really nice.”

Noting that she never expected to hit the 300-goal mark when starting her PHS career in the spring of 2011, Lopez-Ona said that her progress reflects a love of the game.

“Part of the beauty of the sport is in terms of the growth and the ability of someone to improve,” said Lopez-Ona.

“The sport allows for people to make rapid transitions throughout their career. I know that I have watched a lot of the younger players on our team raise the level of their games.”

PHS raised the level of its game as it overcame a tough and talented Allentown squad.

“We were able to pull together, the theme of this game was controlling tempo,” said Lopez-Ona.

“They did a great job in the first half of running the motion offense. Our defense was able to hold them for a really long time. To be able to build that lead and change in the second half to control that tempo I think shows a lot of the growth in our team.”

With PHS having prevailed in a number of close games recently, Lopez-Ona believes the team is growing into something special.

“When we do need to make changes as a team, we can control the tempo and the possessions in the middle of the game to gather ourselves,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 last Monday to improve to 11-2. “That shows a lot of maturity.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way PHS took control of the Allentown game.

“It is always nice to beat Allentown, especially on your home turf because they are just a great team,” said O’Gorman.

“It is great to have a competitive matchup and we have had a lot of those this year. They play tough the whole game. They picked up their intensity and we picked up ours. A lot of great lacrosse was played today. We had a lot of great contributions from many of our players.”

It was a great moment for the program to celebrate Lopez-Ona’s achievement.

“It was an exciting day for Emilia; I think the biggest thing about her is that she contributes all over the field,” said O’Gorman.

“She is the definition of a midfielder, look at her on the draw, look at her on the circle and on the line. With her knee hurting her and everything, she fights through. She had a lot of fouls on her today and you never see her go where’s the call, she is composed out there. She has had to be dealing with that pressure since she was a sophomore.”

While Lopez-Ona possesses athletic gifts in terms of speed and coordination, it is her diligence that has made her so prolific.

“It didn’t come easy; she works really hard,” added O’Gorman. “Those 300 goals came from coming out here when no one is on the turf with a bag of balls and shooting nonstop. She has worked hard for this milestone. I am really proud of her; it is phenomenal to coach a player like her.”

O’Gorman likes the way PHS is working collectively as it heads into postseason play.

“We are playing smart and taking care of the ball in crucial situations,” said O’Gorman, whose team starts action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded third and is slated to host No. 14 Ewing in a first round contest on May 3.

“I think when we played Notre Dame we had errors nonstop and they kept piling up. Now we are making up for each other’s errors. We have adjusted to the draw a little better. We are ready, it is great to gather that momentum. It is a new season.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, is confident that PHS can ride that momentum to some deep tournament runs.

“I think if this team stays on the right track in terms of what we are doing with the 50/50 ground balls,
our draw controls, keeping our turnovers low, and controlling the tempo of the game, we can make that change to coming out on top in these bigger games,” said Lopez-Ona.

DAY TRIP: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday races upfield in recent action. Last Friday senior star Halliday tallied seven goals and two assist to help PHS top Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 and improve to 9-2.  The Little Tigers wrap up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1 and will then start postseason action by competing in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DAY TRIP: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday races upfield in recent action. Last Friday senior star Halliday tallied seven goals and two assist to help PHS top Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 and improve to 9-2. The Little Tigers wrap up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1 and will then start postseason action by competing in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday’s propensity for dazzling runs to goal made him one of the deadliest scorers in recent years for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

Halliday’s finishing ability caught the eye of college coaches and he will be playing for the Tufts University men’s soccer team this fall, once again joining forces with his older brother Zach, who is a member of the Jumbos’ squad.

The skills that Halliday displays in the fall have proven transferable to the spring as the talented senior is also a top gun for the PHS boys’ lax team.

Last week against visiting Robbinsville, Halliday was a force, tallying three goals and an assist as the Little Tigers pulled away to a 12-5 victory over the Ravens.

Halliday took off on several trademark end-to-end jaunts over the course of the game and provided one of the highlights of the day with a brilliant solo effort in the third quarter, racing past and through the Raven defense to make it 8-4.

“I try to implement athletic knowledge in general,” said Halliday, reflecting on the highlight reel tally.

“Whenever I see a break, hopefully I can open a guy up and give a pass. That time I saw the lane and I thought I would take it. Whenever you are running in front of a guy with his back turned to the goal it is kind of easy.”

Things hadn’t come easy for PHS over the previous week as it lost 17-4 to Lawrenceville on April 14 and 14-2 to Summit on April 19.

“It was definitely important to bounce back after two losses in a week, albeit to good teams,” said Halliday.

“We wanted to take what we learned in the past week and really put it to use today.”

While the Little Tigers sputtered in the first half against Robbinsville, the team got rolling in the second half.

“In the first half, we struggled but I think in the second half we gave it a pretty good effort,” said Halliday.

“It was much sharper, especially in the clearing and the ground balls. In the first half, we couldn’t clear it and we kept giving them second chances by turning the ball over.”

Halliday and freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona looked sharp as they connected on several goals.

“I love little Johnny; he is a great guy,” said Halliday of the precocious Lopez-Ona, who tallied four goals and an assist in the victory over Robbinsville.

“He has been doing really well this year. I think he is a good finisher and he is really impressive being a freshman. I think it is good that we are getting him touches and building up his confidence because that is important as a freshman. He is a great hustler; he knows the game. I am really excited for this program with him coming up the next four years.”

As Halliday plays his last season for the PHS program, he is savoring his final weeks in the game.

“This is it for me in lacrosse,” said Halliday, who exploded for seven goals and two assists last Friday as PHS topped Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 to improve to 9-2.

“I had fantasies of maybe trying out for the team at Tufts. I thought that would be fun but I think it is time that I focus on soccer. I have to choose one by the time I am in college. I will still love lacrosse. I will still play it when I am back here.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton loves the  way Halliday plays lacrosse.

“Kevin is fantastic,” asserted Stanton. “He has the things that you can’t coach — the quickness, the change of direction, creativity, and vision. He is just a special athlete.”

Junior goalie Kenan Glasgold displayed some athleticism and vision as he made nine saves in the Robbinsville contest.

“Kenan had a couple of clutch saves at clutch moments,” said Stanton. “He had a couple on the doorstep. He saw the ball a lot better today, he was relaxed. What tends to happen when we are playing those tough games is that the goalie is a little bit tight, a little bit tense. They start guessing and saves that they might have been able to make, they take themselves out of it. Today being relaxed, he was able to make saves.”

The one-two punch of juniors Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres adds toughness to the PHS defense.

“Our defense is built around Colin and Jackson controlling the middle of the field,” said Stanton. “If we are able to limit shots to the perimeter, we feel like that is going to give us a chance.”

In Stanton’s view, getting the chance to play perennial powers like Lawrenceville and Summit helps PHS build resilience.

“That’s why we play them, you get exposed, your weaknesses get found out,” added Stanton, whose team wraps up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1. “You also get to see who can play well under pressure. The films that we get from those games are very valuable.”

The pressure is on for PHS as it heads into the postseason this week, starting with the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on May 3.

“We are on short time,” said Stanton, who guided PHS to the 2013 MCT crown.

“We have Christian Brothers on Friday and that is another one of these big games. We hope to see the progress in that game. After that, it is two games and if we win, then we are CVC champs and then its the county tournament and the state tournament so it is the time to do it.”

Halliday, for his part, believes that the recent losses to high-powered foes can pay dividends for the Little Tigers over the next few weeks.

“Just about any team we see in the county or state tournaments, we can say hey we played guys better than this team and we don’t have to shudder,” said Halliday.

“We can go straight at them and give it our all. I think playing good teams like Summit and Lawrenceville will give us the ability to have the poise and confidence in the postseason.”

SECOND WIND: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devulapalli smacks a forehand last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior Devulapalli placed second at second singles to help PDS take third of 17 schools in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SECOND WIND: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devulapalli smacks a forehand last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior Devulapalli placed second at second singles to help PDS take third of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Neeraj Devulapalli was ready to go the distance as he competed in his final Mercer County Tournament for the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team.

After winning his two preliminary round matches at second singles on Tuesday, senior Devulapalli arrived at Mercer County Park on Thursday hungry for a title.

In his semifinal match against Notre Dame’s Joe Sison, Devulapalli dropped the first set 7-6 but was undeterred, rallying to win the next two sets 6-1, 6-2 in advancing to the finals.

“It was tough, I was up 5-2 in the first set and I lost,” recalled Devulapalli. “It was nice to come back after that.”

Taking on Vashishta Kalinadhabhotla of WW/P-N in the championship match, Devulapalli dug another hole, losing the first set 6-2.

But showing his resolve, Devulapalli roared back to take the second set 6-2.

“I wasn’t being aggressive enough in the first set, I took it to him a little more in the second,” said Devulapalli, reflecting on his rally.

The PDS senior, though, ran out of gas in the decisive set. “He came through in the end; I wasn’t able to keep the momentum going,” said Devulapalli.

“I have been playing him since I was 10 years old so we go a ways back, both of us played well. I wish I could have won because I wanted to do well for the team.”

The Panthers proved to be one of the top teams at the tourney taking third behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up WW/P-N in the competition which included 17 schools.

“I love the team,” said Devulapalli. “I love Anupreeth [Coramutla] at first singles. He is playing really well, he is a very talented player. Scott [Altmeyer] had a great tournament. It is a luxury to have someone like that at third singles. At most other schools, he would be playing No. 1.”

PDS head coach Will Asch liked how his team performed at the MCT. “I couldn’t be prouder of how our boys played in the tournament,” said Asch. “I was real pleased.”

Asch was especially pleased with Devulapalli’s effort. “Neeraj had a great day; I was very pleased with both of his matches, he never gave up,” said Asch.

“He was one set down and he came back against a very strong player in the second match. I thought he battled him right to the end. I was real pleased with the way he played down to the last shot, the other kid was just playing too well today, that’s all.”

In Asch’s view, Devulapalli displayed his maturity as he fought through early deficits.

“I think he seemed very positive throughout the whole day,” said Asch. “Experience is helpful; kids grow up.”

Sophomore standout Altmeyer got some great experience at third singles, making it to the championship match where he fell to Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S, who posted a 6-1, 6-0 win.

“Scott was great; I think he was a little overmatched against Kabir but there is next year,” said Asch.

“He has been playing great, he played a tournament this weekend and he won it. He loves to play.”

At first singles, freshman Coramutla produced several great moments as he advanced to semifinals and ultimately finished fourth.

“Anupreeth had a very tough first set in the third place match; he lost it in a tiebreaker,” said Asch. “John Hu (of WW/P-S) is more experienced and I think his experience really showed.”

The first doubles pair of Josiah Meekins and D.J. Modzelewski showed some resilience by shaking off a Round of 16 loss to prevail in the consolation bracket.

“They won the backdraw very easily,” said Asch. “I thought that they would have a good chance to get to the semis and possibly get in the finals. It was a disappointing loss to PHS but they rebounded well. They did a good job; they are a good team. They like each other very much and they work together as a team very well.”

Asch likes his team’s chances as it pursues another state Prep B championship in early May. “I expect that we will have a good showing there so I am very, very pleased,” said Asch, who guided the Panthers to a share of the 2013 Prep B title along with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley.

“I thought the boys learned a lot here, they are very easy to talk to. I think they know what they have to work on.”

Devulapalli, for his part, is ready to keep working for a title. “It is bittersweet, I came in second at preps and MCTs last year so I was hoping for a win somewhere this year,” said Devulapalli.

“I think the competition in the counties is a little bit better than in the preps. I just hope to do better in the next tournament.”

REPLACEMENT VALUE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Lucas Mitchell goes after a ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After playing doubles all spring, Mitchell moved into the singles lineup for PHS at the MCT due to injury and ended up taking third at third singles. The Little Tigers placed fourth of 17 schools in the team competition, which was won by WW/P-S.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REPLACEMENT VALUE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Lucas Mitchell goes after a ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After playing doubles all spring, Mitchell moved into the singles lineup for PHS at the MCT due to injury and ended up taking third at third singles. The Little Tigers placed fourth of 17 schools in the team competition, which was won by WW/P-S. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lucas Mitchell got a big surprise last Tuesday when he arrived to compete for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team in the opening day of the Mercer County Tournament.

Having played first doubles all spring for PHS, sophomore Mitchell learned that he was going to be playing third singles at the MCT.

“I was supposed to play doubles but Adib (Zaidi) had a neck sprain so he couldn’t come so we had to make a last minute change in the morning,” said Mitchell.

Unfazed by the last minute change in plans, Mitchell was ready for the opportunity to move up in the Little Tiger lineup.

“I was actually excited,” said Mitchell. “I like to be challenged.”

Mitchell proved up to the challenge as he won three matches to advance to the semifinals.

“I did like the way I played on Tuesday, I thought I was pretty consistent,” said Mitchell.

In the final day of the tourney, Mitchell fell to eventual champion Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S in the semis before winning the third-place match with a hard-earned 7-5, 7-6 victory over Patrick Blake of Hopewell Valley.

In reflecting on the third place finish, Mitchell acknowledged that he had to gut things out.

“That was a really close match, there were a few times when I almost had given up mentally and I just hung in there,” said Mitchell.

“In the end it just came down to a few points. I made an overhead shot and that was it.”

Noting that he has played a lot of singles over the years, Mitchell’s improved net game helped him come through last week.

“I feel more aggressive and I feel more confident, so I know that I could go into the net more,” said Mitchell.

PHS head coach Christian Herzog liked the aggressiveness he saw from all of his players at the MCT as the Little Tigers placed fourth in the team competition won by WW/P-S.

“I was impressed with the boys’ performance, especially considering that it wasn’t our original lineup,” said Herzog. “We talked about going for every ball and every point of the match.”

The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Zack Kleiman took third but had Herzog going a little batty.

“It looked like they were taking it easy a little too much; it was making me stress out,” said a smiling Herzog. “We joke that sometimes they like to get down to bring out the best in them. They like to make the match harder than it has to be.”

At second doubles, Andrew Lin got called up from the JV and acquitted himself well, playing with Andrew Wei.

“Andrew Lin stepped up and they ended up fourth,” said Herzog. “They took the first set and then had a little bit of a meltdown but that goes to experience. We had a guy that was on the JV and Andrew Wei was the last guy to be cut from the team last year.”

Mitchell was the guy that drew some of the highest praise from Herzog. “I can’t say enough positive things about Lucas; he has really worked hard,” said Herzog, whose team fell 4-1 to WW/P-S last Monday in a dual match to move to 6-1 and will play at WW/P-N on April 30 before hosting Hightstown on May 2 and Nottingham on May 5.

“Even when were doing the ladder in the beginning of the season, it was a really close match between him and Adib. It was a tiebreaker in the third and that’s how Adib beat him out. Lucas’ game is a stronger singles game. He can play doubles. I think he would prefer to play singles but he will do whatever the team needs.”

Mitchell, for his part, believes last week’s experience will help him be a better doubles player over the rest of the spring.

“I will go back to doubles; this has definitely helped my confidence in myself,” said Mitchell.

“Playing first doubles isn’t shabby at all. I feel pretty confident with my partner. Zach (Hojelbane) is a great doubles partner and he is great at the net. He is a real wall, as they say.”

A CUT ABOVE: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu takes a cut in recent action. Junior star and Boston College-bound Alu has been a triple threat for the Panthers this spring, starring at pitcher and shortstop while also swinging a hot bat. PDS, which fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday, is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A CUT ABOVE: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu takes a cut in recent action. Junior star and Boston College-bound Alu has been a triple threat for the Panthers this spring, starring at pitcher and shortstop while also swinging a hot bat. PDS, which fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday, is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Taking a 4-2 lead into the top of the seventh inning over Gill-St. Bernard’s last Wednesday, the Princeton Day school baseball team was on the verge of a much-needed win.

But the Knights scored two runs in the frame to force extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Gill scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead.

While PDS could have folded, it put the pressure on as it loaded the bases and brought the potential winning run to the plate. A fly out ended the rally and sealed the 7-4 defeat but PDS head coach Ray O’Brien tipped his hat to his club.

“We had that tough inning, they took the lead and we still managed to get the bases loaded and we still had a shot,” said O’Brien.

“I like the way they are battling. They are all sticking together, which I like. Hopefully we can take something away from this.”

In O’Brien’s view, the loss provided some valuable lessons for his young squad.

“We are just making the mistakes that are costing us games right now; it is part of the growing experience,” said O’Brien, noting that he only has 13 players currently available on his roster.

“We scored three in the first. We relaxed a little and we didn’t keep the pressure on them and that’s another part of the learning experience. We just have to grind it out. We have four freshmen that are a solid part of this team and three sophomores who are as well.”

Junior star and quad-captain Jake Alu gave the Panthers a solid performance in the loss to Gill St. Bernard’s, pitching five strong innings and chipping in three hits.

“Jake pitched well; I don’t like him to throw that much because he is mainly a shortstop,” said O’Brien, noting that the team has been without the services of junior pitching ace and quad-captain Cole McManimon, who hurt his hand in the first game of the season and has been sidelined ever since. “He did a tremendous job on the mound. He is hitting well.”

O’Brien is getting some good work from his two other captains, senior centerfielder Ford Schneider and junior pitcher/first baseman and Villanova-bound James Radvany.

“Ford is having a real nice year, he is hitting the ball well and he is playing a nice center field,” said O’Brien.

“He is a great leader. I am really happy with Ford. JP has picked up the slack for Cole and he is not a natural pitcher. His hitting has been up and down. I just hope we all get hot at the right time when the tournaments start.”

While it has been a tough year for the Panthers so far, O’Brien believes the team can pick it up down the stretch.

“We are making progress; right now we can’t afford to have any lapse,” said O’Brien, whose team fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday and is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3.

“It is a good group of guys, they work hard. They are a little down and they will come back. It is going to take a little while for us to learn to win. We are right there and I am happy with that.”

STICKING WITH IT: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Bri Barratt eludes the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) defense last Saturday. Senior star and Syracuse-bound Barratt scored four goals in the game but it wasn’t enough as Hun lost 20-13. The Raiders, now 1-10, are slated to wrap up their season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING WITH IT: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Bri Barratt eludes the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) defense last Saturday. Senior star and Syracuse-bound Barratt scored four goals in the game but it wasn’t enough as Hun lost 20-13. The Raiders, now 1-10, are slated to wrap up their season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bri Barratt and the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team came out firing as they hosted the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) last Saturday.

“Our first two minutes were great; we were up 2-0,” said senior star Barratt.

The next 35 minutes or so didn’t go as well for Hun as Mercersburg built a 9-5 lead by halftime and extended its advantage to 17-7 with 11:04 left in the contest.

Over the last 10 minutes of the game, the Raiders found a rhythm, outscoring the Blue Storm to narrow the final gap to 20-13.

“I think we really played as a team,” said Barratt, reflecting on that final stretch in the game on an afternoon which saw her score a team-high four goals.

“We were connecting in our transitions and our passes were working. We just needed to finish a little more.”

While Hun has taken its lumps this spring as it has gone 1-10, tri-captain Barratt has maintained an upbeat approach.

“I just want to bring all this positive energy to the team,” said Barratt, whose fellow captains are classmates Francesca Bello and Hanna Bettner. “I think as a captain and as a leader, positive energy is the best thing you can bring.”

Barratt also brings lacrosse savvy and skill to the field for the Raiders. “I am older and more mature,” said Barratt. “In the past I wasn’t as confident. As a senior, I feel like I can help lead the team.”

Barratt is excited to be joining another team this fall as she has committed to attend Syracuse University and play for its women’s lax program.

“I am looking forward to playing next year at Syracuse,” said Barratt, noting that the Orange are currently ranked second in the nation. “Gary Gait, Regy Thorpe, and Katie Rowan [the Syracuse coaches] are three of the best players ever in lacrosse, that had a huge influence on my decision.”

In the view of Hun head coach Haley Sanborn, Barratt has what it takes to succeed at the next level.

“Bri has demonstrated much discipline this season in all areas of her play, specifically in her stick skills,” said Sanborn.

“She exhibited more composure under pressure on attack and created some fantastic scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates. Bri emerged as a fierce competitor this season right from the start and made her presence known in every competition. Bri also took many draws for us this season and did fantastic, a tribute to her versatility as an athlete.”

Barratt’s competitive fire has helped hold the Raiders together this spring as they have gone through some growing pains.

“Bri has kept us on the scoreboard in many games this season and has lead the team in goals,” said Sanborn, who had two goals each from Erica Dwyer, Shannon Dudeck, and Bello in the loss to Mercersburg with Katie Consoli, Lindsay Ruddy, and Maura Kelly adding one apiece.

“Her leadership on offense has been seen in her intensity in getting the ball into our attacking end. Bri has been a solid, dependable, and talented member of our team since she came to Hun, and she will graduate having left her mark on the Hun lacrosse program — she will be missed significantly.”

In Sanborn’s view, Hun’s late surge in the Mercersburg game showed the mark it can make as it gains experience.

“We are a young team but do have much talent that has been maturing throughout the season,” said Sanborn, whose team lost 17-4 to Kent Place last Monday in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament and is slated to end the season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30.

“The 6-3 run at the end of the game worked well because we were playing as a team, letting the ball do the work, communicating and riding the wave of intensity and hustle that we had created. It was a great last home game for our seniors. I do think we had an opportunity to run away with the game at one point, but nonetheless there were some beautiful moments of pristine lacrosse displayed by the team. Mercersburg is a well-coached team and it was great competition for us.”

Barratt, for her part, believes there are some good moments ahead for Hun. “We are a real young team, I wish them the best of luck next year,” said Barratt.

“They are going to do great. There is a lot of young leadership and I think we are ending on a good note.”

April 23, 2014
FIELD WORK: Princeton High baseball player Jeff Gleason throws to first last Monday as PHS took on WW/P-S. Senior infielder Gleason and the Little Tigers fell 5-3 to the Pirates to drop to 3-6. In upcoming action, PHS plays at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIELD WORK: Princeton High baseball player Jeff Gleason throws to first last Monday as PHS took on WW/P-S. Senior infielder Gleason and the Little Tigers fell 5-3 to the Pirates to drop to 3-6. In upcoming action, PHS plays at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things seemed out of whack last Wednesday at Steinert High’s Rich Giallella Field as the Princeton High baseball team was clad in their home white uniforms and batted last.

There was a reasonable explanation for the apparent curve ball as the game was originally scheduled for PHS’s Valley Road field but with the diamond still under construction, it was moved to Steinert and the Little Tigers were designated as the home team.

For PHS, it marked its sixth road game in its first seven contests with just one home appearance at Smoyer Park.

While PHS head coach Dave Roberts is frustrated by the situation, he credits his players for rolling with the punches. “They handle it well, they are kids, they do a good job with that,” said Roberts.

“Steinert was nice enough to let us be the home team, most teams have been accommodating.”

Once the game started, however, the Spartans weren’t very accommodating, building a 5-0 lead after two innings on the way to a 10-0 victory.

In reflecting on the setback, Roberts acknowledged that his squad struggled at the plate and on the mound.

“That kid (John Mastrangelo) is a very good pitcher; he is definitely the best pitcher we have seen up to this point this year,” said Roberts, referring to the Spartan hurler.

“As a staff we are walking too many guys. It is starting to catch up with us. Our strikeout to walk ratio is about even and that’s not good. I think we walked the leadoff man five times today.”

With PHS off to a 3-6 start, Roberts is seeing some encouraging signs. “I like the things we are doing,” said Roberts, whose team brought a two-game winning streak into the Steinert contest. “I like the way we are playing.”

Roberts likes the work he is getting on the mound from sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt.

“Joaquin has picked it up,” said Roberts, noting that Hernandez recently had a 3-0 shutout win over South Hunterdon. “He is out there and he is beating teams that he should beat. He is a young kid but he has nice stuff. We take him out of the equation and our strikeout to walk ratio is terrible.”

Sophomore infielders Hayden Reyes and Colin Taylor have been giving the Little Tigers some nice play.

“Hayden is going to be a good defensive player,” said Roberts. “From my perspective, he is one of the top three defensive shortstops in the county. Colin has been a welcome addition, he is hitting over .300 and he is playing a pretty solid third base.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior second baseman Jeff Gleason and junior outfielder John Reid, have made a solid contribution this spring.

“Jeff is holding his own as a senior, he really wants to have a good year,” said Roberts.

“He is doing a great job for us. He picked up some of the relief pitching today. His hitting is doing well. Reid is smoking the ball, he has been on fire.”

Roberts is looking for his players to take a more fiery approach to the game as the spring unfolds.

“I think our overall energy needs to be more focused on baseball,” said Roberts, whose team fell 5-3 to WW/P-S on Monday to move to 3-6 and is slated to play at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28.

“On Monday we were shutting a team out and you would have thought we were down by 10. You couldn’t tell what the heck was going on. It is just trying to be positive for our team.”

TAKING OFF: Hun School softball star Julia Blake runs the bases in a game earlier this spring. Junior shortstop Blake’s sizzling hitting and sharp fielding has helped Hun produce a 3-2 start. Last Thursday, Blake smacked a triple and proceeded to score the lone run in Hun’s 1-0 win over Delaware Valley. The Raiders are slated to host Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING OFF: Hun School softball star Julia Blake runs the bases in a game earlier this spring. Junior shortstop Blake’s sizzling hitting and sharp fielding has helped Hun produce a 3-2 start. Last Thursday, Blake smacked a triple and proceeded to score the lone run in Hun’s 1-0 win over Delaware Valley. The Raiders are slated to host Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Julia Blake, staying in the present has helped her produce some big moments this spring for the Hun School softball team.

Last Thursday, with Hun locked in a 0-0 tie against visiting Delaware Valley in the bottom of the sixth inning, junior shortstop Blake wasn’t worried about the fact that she had struck out and popped up in her two previous at-bats.

“I take it pitch by pitch, it doesn’t matter what happened the pitch before or the at bat before,” said Blake.

“I just see the pitch and hit the ball. I just got up there and visualized myself hitting the ball, especially after two strikes, you can’t get down on yourself in that clutch position. I did my best.”

Blake proceeded to come up big, blasting a triple to the left field fence. “I think I was thinking run,” said Blake. “I think I knew I came through.”

Displaying her base-running skill, Blake came home on a sacrifice bunt by Vicki Leach to score the lone run in a 1-0 victory for Hun as the Raiders improved to 3-2.

“We work on that one with my club team; being smart on the bases and watching what the field players do,” said Blake, who plays for the Finch’s Aces club team. “I just had to watch what she did and I ran my hardest.”

Hun was looking to play smarter last Thursday in the wake of a disappointing 11-10 loss to Hill on April 14.

“Hill was a tough loss for us and we realized that we had to bounce back and I think that is definitely what we did today,” said Blake.

“We had to tighten up the defense, we had a better mindset at the plate, and I think it really paid off, especially on defense.”

Leading the infield at shortstop, Blake made several sparkling plays in the victory.

“I am focused on breaking it down step by step, seeing the ball in my glove,” said Blake, reflecting on her defensive approach.

The Hun players have also focused on adopting an upbeat mentality this spring.

“The one thing we have worked on this season is just staying up and being positive and having each other’s backs because that is what wins games,” added Blake.

Blake has also put a lot of work into her hitting and has produced all spring, coming up with several multi-hit performances.

“I came out really banging my freshman year; last year I struggled in some places offensively,” said Blake.

“I came back this year saying I am a leader and I am going to try my best. I am going to take it pitch by pitch and visualize myself hitting the ball and just believe and that has really helped me. The biggest thing is that I am having fun again.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk is having fun watching Blake blossom this spring.

“Julia is doing a nice job for us with her enthusiasm; her leadership as a junior is outstanding,” said Quirk.

“I told her that even though she is not a captain, she can still be a leader. She is doing a great job with the bat. I think she is a little more confident at the bat. She is a little bit more selective at what she is hitting and she just drives the ball.”

Quirk likes the outstanding work she is getting from junior Vicky Leach at second base.

“I am really pleased with her; she has stepped up,” said Quirk. “She should have been our catcher but we needed her at second base and she did what I asked her to do. She is doing a great job.”

Two other Hun veterans, Kristen Manochio and Kameran McNair, are giving the Raiders what they need.

“Kristen at third base has stepped it up; she has always been an outfielder for us so it has been a new experience for her,” added Quirk. “Kam McNair at first base has come in and done a nice job for us.”

Sophomore pitching ace Alexis Goeke sparkled in the win over Delaware Valley, yielding one hit and striking out four.

“The pitcher (Alexis Goeke) has been struggling and we have been working hard with her,” said Quirk. “She is doing what we are asking her to do and today she did that and it showed.”

With Hun headed into a busy week with home games against Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29, Quirk is hoping her team can build on its performance last Thursday.

“I am very pleased; I am hoping we move on from here,” said Quirk. “We have Peddie next Tuesday (April 22) and I think this is something that has given them the confidence to move on. We had a good practice yesterday and I told them you can play with the best if you want and you have to have the confidence to do it.”

Blake, for her part, is confident that Hun can play with anyone. “Our big thing was defense today and it really stayed tough,” said Blake.

“If we can be that tough against Peddie and our other games next week I think we will be successful.”

MASER BEAM: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Julia Maser goes after the ball in recent action. Last week, sophomore star Maser tallied six goals and two assists in a 13-12 loss to Hun as the Tartans dropped to 3-3. Stuart plays at Nottingham on April 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASER BEAM: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Julia Maser goes after the ball in recent action. Last week, sophomore star Maser tallied six goals and two assists in a 13-12 loss to Hun as the Tartans dropped to 3-3. Stuart plays at Nottingham on April 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team played the Hun School in 2012, it wasn’t much of a contest as the Tartans fell 17-6 to their crosstown rivals.

Things were a lot different when the local foes met last week at Stuart as the game, played in a downpour, turned into a nailbiter.

Stuart trailed 7-5 at halftime and was down 12-8 midway through the second half and then reeled off four unanswered goals to make it a 12-12 contest. Hun scored to make it 13-12 and then the Tartans had a last-gasp effort, missing a free position with 20 seconds left to fall just short.

“It was a good game,” said Stuart head coach Caitlin Grant, whose team dropped to 3-3 with the one-goal defeat.

“In the first part of the second half, they got up four goals and we really started working hard in the last part of the game. Tori [Hannah] had two goals, Julia [Maser] had two goals. Everyone came together. The defense had a sense of urgency; they realized that we needed the ball and they got it for us. Sometimes, they play off the offense but they were all over them. We stayed right in it, they had to work for that win.”

With the program coming off a 4-9 campaign last spring, Grant believes her team is headed in the right direction. “I am pretty happy with the way we are playing,” said Grant. “The games where we have won, we have looked great.”

The squad’s core of sophomores, Hannah and Maser along with Sam Servis, Harley Guzman, Armani King, Kim Rodas, and Rose Tetnowski have made great progress.

“They have a year under their belts,” said Grant. ”They have really improved and they are really leaders for us.”

Maser, for her part, has emerged as one of the leading scoring threats in the area. “Julia runs all over the field, she is a machine,” said Grant of Maser, who tallied six goals and two assists in the loss to Hun.

“She plays in an outside league. She is a threat this year and she knows it. Last year she would pass it to the older players sometimes.”

The Tartans are also getting some good play from this year’s crop of freshmen.

“They have stepped up,” said Grant. “Mary O’Boyle is one who just picked up the stick this year but you would never know. We needed a low attacker and she stepped into that role. She has taken it upon herself to get extra practice, she is playing a lot of wall ball. Isabelle Engel has been playing at low attack, she is pretty seasoned. She sees the field and understands the game, she knows where to cut.”

Senior star Amy Hallowell brings a lot of game to Stuart. “Amy is always all over the field, from one end to the other,” said Grant.

“I can rely on her to never slack. If there is a ground ball or missed shot, she is there going after it. She is one of the captains and she keeps the momentum of the team going. She will take it upon herself to call out the girls.”

Sophomore goalie Harlyn Bell’s superb play in the crease has given the team momentum.

“Harlyn played awesome against Hun,” said Grant of Bell, who had 16 saves in the loss. “She went to two camps last summer and she has really improved. I am really impressed with the way she is playing.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans are ready to get over the hump in the close games.

“We are going to be the team that gets better and better,” said Grant, whose team plays at Nottingham on April 24.

“We are on the cusp. We have shown we can compete against the seasoned teams. We just need to do the little things and we’ll be winning some of these close games.”

YOUNG GUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Connor Fletcher heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, sophomore midfielder and Cornell-bound Fletcher tallied two goals and two assists as PDS defeated Pennington 14-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 6-1, host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Connor Fletcher heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, sophomore midfielder and Cornell-bound Fletcher tallied two goals and two assists as PDS defeated Pennington 14-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 6-1, host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though he is just a sophomore, Connor Fletcher knew that he had to step up this spring for the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team.

With PDS losing eight seniors to graduation from a 2013 squad that went 11-6 and advanced to the state Prep B championship game and the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, midfielder Fletcher has emerged as a top scoring threat for the Panthers.

“I feel this year we had our work cut out for us with a big senior class leaving,” said Fletcher.

“I feel like the unity with our six guys out there this spring is really developing well. As a freshman, you are a little timid out there but getting more playing time, I am definitely more comfortable. I am getting the chance to hopefully form into a leader out there. I am just trying to help the younger guys learn like I did.”

Last Monday at Pennington, Fletcher took a lead role, tallying two goals and two assists as PDS rolled to a 14-1 win over the Red Raiders.

“Obviously whenever we get a chance to get out here to run the offense and give everyone some touches, it is always a good time,” said Fletcher.

“We don’t get a lot of practice so getting out here is always great for us. I feel like we are putting ourselves in a really great spot right now, getting towards the end of the season, getting towards championship season.”

In Fletcher’s view, PDS took a good step forward with its 10-7 win on April 10 over defending Prep B champions Rutgers Prep.

“That is definitely one we had circled on our calendar; we were ready from the start,” said Fletcher.

“It was great for us to take it to them, it was a real confidence booster. We are  excited to hopefully see them at the end of the season in the championship of Prep B again.”

Fletcher gained confidence from starring this winter for the PDS boys’ hockey team, helping the Panthers to a state Prep championship.

“A big thing for me is staying in shape, bulking up, and physically developing,” said Fletcher. “Playing hockey gives me a better look at offense and defense; it is bringing  me different looks playing on the lacrosse field.”

Having recently committed to play lacrosse at Cornell University, Fletcher is in great shape for the future.”

“My dad went there and I have wanted to go there ever since I was a little kid,” said Fletcher, reflecting on his college decision.

“It has been been my No. 1 spot. They gave me the offer so I took it right away, it is my dream school.”

With the Panther offense starting to click on all cylinders, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman is hoping for a dream finish this spring.

“They play well together; this is a team that is going to be made up of six guys and not one guy,” said Tuckman, referring to his offensive unit that includes Chris Azzarello, Jacob Shavel, Joey Levine, Jonah Tuckman, and Will Brossman in addition to Fletcher.

“We are  getting some productivity. If you look at my stat sheet right now, I have got goals being scored pretty consistently by six or seven guys. We are getting multiple points. We are real pleased and now it is about sustaining it. We are not deep. We are talented but we are thin. As long as we can stay healthy and play the game that we know how to play, I think we are going to have fun in the second half of the season.”

The Panther defensive unit is also having a lot of fun so far this spring. “The defense has been playing with confidence ever since Hilton Head,” said Tuckman.

“We are excited about some of the things that we are doing with our defense and continue to do with our defense. We have four sets that we run defensively and we run them through and it is both a response to and trying to get a hand up on offenses that we face.”

The Panthers face a tough second half of the season as they host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26 before starting play in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament.

“It was a good opportunity for us to get ourselves ready for the second half of the season,” said Tuckman, reflecting on the win over Pennington.

“We are gearing up for a pretty strong second half of the season. The prep seeds will come out tomorrow. If everything goes as it should, we will have the second seed and a bye. Morristown-Beard will get the first seed and then it will fall in from there.”

Fletcher, for his part, believes that PDS is primed for a strong finish. “We have Peddie coming up on Wednesday so that will be a big one,” said Fletcher.

“I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We definitely have a great group of guys and we are totally capable of putting up two banners at the end of the season. Everything is coming into full circle right now.”

April 16, 2014
RAISING CANE: Davon Reed dribbles upcourt in action this winter during his freshman campaign with the University of Miami men’ s basketball team. The former Princeton Day School standout averaged 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game this winter in his debut season for the Hurricanes.

RAISING CANE: Davon Reed dribbles upcourt in action this winter during his freshman campaign with the University of Miami men’ s basketball team. The former Princeton Day School standout averaged 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game this winter in his debut season for the Hurricanes.

At times, Davon Reed seemed to be a man among boys during his stellar career with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

Starring from day one as a freshman in 2009, Reed led the team in scoring every year and totaled a program-record 2,102 points in leading the Panthers to three state Prep B title games.

Heading south to the University of Miami this winter to continue his basketball career Reed has been forced to man up in order to keep pace in the high-powered ACC.

“I have always played hard but here you have to play that much harder,” said Reed. “The players are more athletic and physical and they are much tougher.”

While going through the bumps in the road that inevitably come with a freshman season, Reed proved tough enough to thrive at the D-I level, starting 10 games for the Hurricanes and averaging 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game.

For Reed, getting on the floor in the opener against St. Francis Brooklyn on November 8 was a special moment.

“It was exciting to play my first college game even though we didn’t get a win and I didn’t have the best game,” said Reed, who scored 3 points in 18 minutes of action as the Hurricanes fell 66-62. “It was something I was very grateful about.”

A week later, Reed had a breakthrough moment, scoring 11 points in an 84-69 win over Texas Southern.

“That was one of my first games with a higher scoring day,” said Reed, who shot 4-of-8 from the floor in the game. “As the season went on, I got more confidence even with the ups and downs.”

Playing at point guard rather than his natural shooting guard position ended up being a confidence builder for Reed.

“I just wanted to do what I could to get on the floor,” said Reed, who ended up with 37 assists on the season. “I am not a natural No. 1 but I have handled the ball my whole career. I enjoyed it and it really helped my ball-handling improve.”

Reed acknowledges that he hit a down stretch when Miami got into conference action.

“When ACC play started, I kind of struggled a little bit,” said Reed. “I wouldn’t say it was the intensity level. It was just a new set of teams and bigger games. Once I started playing freely, I had some good games.”

In reflecting on his debut campaign, Reed is proud to have produced some highlight games.

“I remember big scoring nights like against Arizona State (19 points) and Syracuse (16 points),” said Reed.

“I would like to say that one of my special ones was the Florida State game when I came in late and changed the way the game was going for us. That was a big win.”

While Miami didn’t get as many wins as it would have hoped, posting an overall record of 17-15, Reed is optimistic about the program’s future prospects.

“This year was definitely a rebuilding year,” said Reed. “Even though the W-L record didn’t show it, there were a lot of games that could have we could have won but we didn’t get the bounces. We still made a lot of progress.”

Over the course of the winter, Reed made plenty of progress individually. “I think as the season went on I continually became more confident,” said Reed.

“Even if there were some things I couldn’t do, I can work on those in the offseason. Some of my decision-making got better and the 3-ball was good for me.”

Reed is looking forward to putting his nose to the grindstone in the offseason.

“I want to get bigger, stronger, faster and handle the physical aspect,” said the 6’6, 208-pound Reed, who raised his bench press to 250 pounds from 175.

“I want to be more consistent with my jump shot and be a better ball-handler. Defense was one of my strong points and I want to continue that.”

Reed’s experience at PDS gave him a strong foundation for excelling off the court.

“I had a pretty good first semester and I am doing better this semester,” said Reed.

“I have had a good year academically, there has been lots of balancing between the basketball and the books. Going to a school like PDS has helped me with time management.”

All in all, Reed had the time of his life this winter as he achieved his goal playing big-time college basketball.

“I didn’t know what school I was going to go to but I wanted to play in the ACC where you go out every game and compete against the best of the best,” said Reed. “I thank God that I have the chance to play the game that I love at this level.”

NET BENEFIT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack hits a volley in action last spring. Junior Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles this spring and is making a positive impact in his new spot in the lineup. The Little Tigers topped Hightstown 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-0. PHS hosts Steinert on April 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET BENEFIT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack hits a volley in action last spring. Junior Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles this spring and is making a positive impact in his new spot in the lineup. The Little Tigers topped Hightstown 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-0. PHS hosts Steinert on April 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ tennis team, its match last Wednesday against Robbinsville proved to be a good early season wakeup call.

Getting pushed hard by the Ravens, PHS prevailed 3-2 and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

“It is the only big test we have had so far,” said PHS coach Christian Herzog, who is guiding the team this spring with veteran head coach Sarah Hibbert taking a backset role as she comes back from maternity leave.

“They went into Robbinsville thinking it was going to be easy and it turned out to be a 3-2 win. Their No. 1 and 2 singles guys are good. It was good to see Rishab (first singles player Rishab Tanga) take his guy down. It was the windiest day we have had since tryouts.”

In Herzog’s view, junior standout Tanga will be taking a lot of matches this spring.

“Rishab is looking good; he is calculating on the court,” said Herzog, whose team improved to 5-0 with a 5-0 win over Hightstown last Monday.

“He is calm, collected and knows how to pick apart his opponent. You don’t have to talk to him during matches.”

Junior Tyler Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles and is making his presence felt in his new spot.

“Tyler is a rock, he is a great kid,” asserted Herzog. “It is tough losing him at doubles, it was almost an automatic point. He is a lefty, he has that wicked shot down the line. He has a lot of topspin coming over. He has got an all around game.”

At third singles, junior Adib Zaidi brings some punch to the lineup. “He has a great first serve, he has a lot of power,” said Herzog. “He likes hot weather and he should get better and better as the weather warms up.”

Herzog has been tweaking the doubles lineup, now pairing senior Zach Hojelbane with sophomore Lucas Mitchell at first doubles.

“I am going to put Zach H. with Lucas Mitchell,” said Herzog. “Zach H. has experience and he is aggressive going for points. Lucas has improved his volley so much. He has worked a lot with Glenn Michibata (former head coach of the Princeton University men’s tennis team). He is a lot more consistent and has a lot more confidence.”

At second doubles, Herzog believes that senior Zack Kleiman and sophomore Andrew Wei will prove to be a winning combination.

“Zack K. is very easy going, he can play with anyone,” said Herzog.

“Andrew is coming up for the JV so I think that will be a good match.”

Herzog believes his squad can play with anyone as it heads into the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park.

“For the guys, I just want them to be aggressive,” said Herzog, who is looking to see his team better its fourth place in the 2013 MCT.

“Every match counts and I want the guys going for every single point and chasing down every ball. There is a time and place for saving your energy but this is not it.”

CAMP FIRE: Princeton High softball infielder Jessica Campisi fires the ball to first last Friday as PHS hosted Hamilton. Senior tri-captain Campisi contributed 3 RBIs in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 16-11. The Little Tigers, now 2-4, are slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAMP FIRE: Princeton High softball infielder Jessica Campisi fires the ball to first last Friday as PHS hosted Hamilton. Senior tri-captain Campisi contributed 3 RBIs in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 16-11. The Little Tigers, now 2-4, are slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High softball team fell behind Hamilton 6-0 last Friday, Jessica Campisi was confident that PHS could get back into the game.

“Over the course of the next few innings we really got used to the pitcher,” said senior tri-captain and shortstop Campisi.

“We started putting together a rally of hitting, which we always do against this school.”

Sure enough, the Little Tigers scored unanswered six runs to knot the game at 6-6 with Campisi contributing an RBI.

But the Hornets responded with five straight runs to take an 11-6 lead. Once again the Little Tigers clawed back, rallying to tie the game at 11-11 heading into the last inning. Campisi delivered a big blow in the comeback, smacking a two-run double in the fifth inning as PHS cut into the deficit to 11-10 at that point.

“I was getting ready to bat and I was ready to let it go,” recalled Campisi.

“One of my teammates Genna [Garlock] was saying you can’t rely on superstition, you are a good hitter and I went out and hit the double.”

While PHS went on to lose 16-11, Campisi believes the Little Tigers are headed in the right direction.

“I think as we have more games, we are getting better,” said Campisi. “I think we are learning to adjust more to pitchers. Yesterday we had a moderate pitcher, today she was a little faster but we are pulling together.”

Campisi is assuming extra responsibility to bring PHS together as she is the lone senior captain, leading the team along with junior tri-captain Sarah Eisenach and sophomore tri-captain Kelli Swedish.

“I have been on the team the longest but we all sort of have different roles as captain,” said Campisi.

“I definitely feel I have a  strong role as a senior captain. I would hope to be a role model for them.”

Having played some stints in the outfield this season, Campisi was happy to be in the infield for the Hamilton game.

“Moving back to shortstop, I felt a little more comfortable,” said Campisi.

“I feel like I can help more with a leadership position, there is an issue with lack of talking in the infield.”

While PHS head coach Dave Boehm liked the way his team never stopped battling against Hamilton, he was disappointed with its defensive sloppiness in crunch time.

“We fought back but we gave them six outs in the last inning,” said Boehm. “We threw it back over the pitcher’s head, we did that twice. We have moved people around but we just had bad throws.”

Coming into the afternoon, Boehm was anticipating a topsy-turvy contest. “This is one of those games, it is a division game like Hightstown, you never know who is going to come out on top,” said Boehm, whose team fell 9-2 to Steinert on Saturday to drop to 2-4 and is slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. “It is not going to be a pretty game and it lived up to the billing today.”

Campisi, for her part, acknowledges that PHS needs to be sharper in the field.

“We had a team meeting after the Robbinsville game and one of the things I think is huge for us is to have more effective practices,” said Campisi.

“We need to be doing more drills during practice where we need to be cleaner and faster. We need to do more situations rather than hitting balls straight to us.”

GUT CHECK: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Azzarello takes a stick in the stomach last week as PDS hosted the Hun School. Junior attacker Azzarello scored three goals in a losing cause as the Panthers fell 8-7 to Hun in the April 8 contest. Two days later, Azzarello tallied four goals to lead PDS to an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep. The Panthers, now 3-1, play at Phillipsburg on April 16, host Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then play at Pennington on April 21.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GUT CHECK: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Azzarello takes a stick in the stomach last week as PDS hosted the Hun School. Junior attacker Azzarello scored three goals in a losing cause as the Panthers fell 8-7 to Hun in the April 8 contest. Two days later, Azzarello tallied four goals to lead PDS to an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep. The Panthers, now 3-1, play at Phillipsburg on April 16, host Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then play at Pennington on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In recent years, the annual boys’ lacrosse clash between Princeton Day School and the Hun School squads has produced a series of nailbiters.

When the foes met last week for the latest installment of the crosstown rivalry, it looked like Hun may flip the script as it jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one quarter.

But with PDS settling down and taking advantage of some man-up opportunities, the April 8 contest developed into a cliffhanger befitting a matchup of teams who both advanced to state Prep title games (PDS in Prep B and Hun in Prep A) last spring.

With junior Chris Azzarello and sophomore Jonah Tuckman finding the back of the net, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 5-3 at halftime. Another Azzarello tally plus goals from sophomore Connor Fletcher and senior Zack Banks knotted the game at 6-6 late in the third quarter.

Hun forged ahead 8-6 early in the fourth but Azzarello answered to make it 8-7 with 5:05 remaining in regulation. The Panthers did have two possessions with a chance to tie but couldn’t come up with another tally as they fell 8-7.

Afterward, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman tipped his hat to both of the combatants.

“It was a good battle, we started out a little flat but credit to this team, we chipped away and got out of that hole,” said Tuckman.

“You got a Division I goalie in there (Hun’s Jon Levine, a Princeton University recruit) and we hit him every which way. He’s outstanding and he played an outstanding game. They beat us because they were just a little bit better than we were today.”

Tuckman did see some flashes of outstanding play from his offensive unit, with Fletcher scoring two goals and Azzarello ending up with three tallies on the afternoon.

“What Connor does is that he draws attention, he is a strong, fast kid,” said Tuckman, whose team turned heads on Thursday as it posted an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep with Azzarello leading the way with four goals and an assist and Fletcher chipping in a goal and four assists.

“We are a six-man offense this year. Connor played really well but his support staff was there doing some great stuff too. We had some great finishes today. Chris had a great game. Zack Banks had that great finish. Jonah had that one from up top. Jacob Shavel played a strong game. We have to remember that these guys are being defensed up by some solid guys.”

PDS’ last line of defense, senior goalie Culver Duquette, came up big with 14 saves, several of them on point blank shots.

“I think Culver came out and he needed that first save to get his wits about him and then he was able to settle in and he made some outstanding saves,” added Tuckman. “Today was a great defensive and goalie exhibition. There was some good physical play.”

In Tuckman’s view, the game could have gone either way. “I think the positives are that we don’t roll over and die regardless of the score,” said Tuckman

“Lacrosse is a game of runs. We kept in it; we had our chances. We had a couple of mistakes at the end that could have gone differently and had it gone differently, you never know.”

Based on last week’s efforts, it looks like PDS, now 3-1, has a chance to produce a special spring.

“Moving forward we take from it that we are going to make a mark this year,” said Tuckman, whose squad plays at Phillipsburg on April 16, hosts Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then plays at Pennington on April 21.

“It is a great team. We are young and we are getting better and better every game and that’s what you hope for. We have some work to do and we’ll get that work done and I think we’ll have some fun come May.”

JUSTIN TIME: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella takes a swing last Wednesday as Hun hosted the Hill School (Pa.). With junior first baseman Pontrella contributing three hits in the contest, including a pair of bases-clearing doubles, Hun cruised to a 13-3 win. In upcoming action, Hun, now 4-2, plays at Princeton Day School on April 16 and at Pennington on April 17 before hosting Rutgers Prep on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JUSTIN TIME: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella takes a swing last Wednesday as Hun hosted the Hill School (Pa.). With junior first baseman Pontrella contributing three hits in the contest, including a pair of bases-clearing doubles, Hun cruised to a 13-3 win. In upcoming action, Hun, now 4-2, plays at Princeton Day School on April 16 and at Pennington on April 17 before hosting Rutgers Prep on April 22.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing on the Hun School’s junior varsity baseball team in 2013, Justin Pontrella struggled in the early going this spring as he made the move up to the varsity.

With Hun hosting the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, Pontrella decided he needed some extra work.

“Coming into this game, I wasn’t hitting well,” said junior first baseman Pontrella.

“I got down the field real early today and did a lot of easy swings. I got back into the groove and started feeling my hands again.”

In the bottom of the third inning, Pontrella’s work paid dividends as he drilled a liner through the infield.

“I got a base hit single and that was a confidence booster,” said Pontrella. “I started letting it fly.”

Pontrella flew high the rest of the day, belting bases-clearing doubles in the fourth and fifth innings.

While his first double was a hard grounder past the third baseman, the second was a towering shot to the left field fence. “I feel like I got a hold of it and I was on second base as soon as I got out of the batter’s box,” said Pontrella, reflecting on the fifth inning blast.

After getting the spring off to a disappointing start with a 7-6 loss at the Blair Academy in a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) contest, the Raiders have caught fire, winning three of four games, including a 9-5 win over Lawrenceville on April 8 and a 10-0 victory over Peddie last Friday.

“Our first game was against Blair and we lost that; we kind of used that as motivation,” said Pontrella.

“In the next two MAPL games, we were pretty fired up and we got two wins.”

In Pontrella’s view, Hun’s team unity has helped the squad come together quickly.

“It has the best chemistry out of any team I have played on because it has young talent,” said Pontrella.

“We have got a lot of guys who really want to be here. No one feels like they are better than anyone. We are all here to do it together.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade senses a one-for-all, all-for-one spirit on the team.

“The interesting thing that I have seen so far is that they pull for each other; it is not cliquey,” said McQuade.

“We don’t have those kids right now who are going big-time D-I or anything like that. We have good ballplayers. I like to say that we have good high school players that can play at the next level, some of them can play D-III. Those kids win if they put it all together. Teams win; individuals rarely ever win.”

McQuade likes the way Pontrella has put things together in his debut campaign for the varsity.

“He hit the ball well on the JVs; he has power which he shows,” said McQuade.

“He takes as much extra batting practice as anyone. He bats on the weekends, he comes down here on the weekends and steals my baseballs out of the cage and hits all weekend. He loves the game. He has got some of the softest hands at first base of any first baseman I have ever had. He has saved our infield of I don’t how many errors already and we have only played three or four games.”

In the win over Hill, senior pitcher Patrick Donahue gave the Raiders some good work.

“Donahue hung in there,” said McQuade of the senior hurler who gave up three runs in five innings of work to earn the win.

“He tends to throw a lot of pitches. I think he got frustrated with a couple of calls and then he overthrew. I told him we need you to go 6 and 7 innings, not 5 innings which means that you can’t turn around and throw the ball as hard as you want to, you have to locate it. He’s tough inside, he has a great attitude.”

Hun could end up with a tough pitching rotation, based on how junior ace Jason Applegate and a pair of sophomores, George Revock and James Werosta, have performed so far.

“If App rounds into form, it will be good,” said McQuade. “He walked two in the first inning against Lawrenceville and didn’t walk anyone the rest of the game, that is huge for us. George Revock throws strikes. Jimmy Werosta in only a sophomore but he just comes in and throws strikes. He did a great job against Episcopal his first time out, doing the same thing. He shows no emotion.”

The Raiders did a great job of running itself into rallies against Hill, utilizing stolen bases to get players into scoring position all day long.

“We don’t have last year’s speed but we have a couple of kids who are good base runners so they get decent jumps,” said McQuade.

“If we think we have a good matchup with their pitcher’s time release and the catcher’s time release, we will run all day and that’s what it was here. That entered into the game and the final score because that put them on the defense. Virtually every time we got to first, we were on second.”

McQuade is having a good time this spring , noting that his young squad has been making solid progress.

“We had that Blair game, it was 6-4 in our favor going into the last inning and we had made six errors already up to there and they made one or two,” said McQuade.

“To come back the way we did right after that, we played Episcopal

and won (5-2), we played Lawrenceville and won and now we have played another good team and we won that.”

Pontrella, for his part, isn’t surprised by the resilience Hun has displayed so far. “As far as talent, we are not the best team,” said Pontrella. “But the way we play together, come together and work hard, we battle better than anyone.”

STICKING TOGETHER: Members of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team celebrate after scoring a goal last week against Princeton Day School. Hun edged crosstown rival PDS 8-7 in the April 8 contest. The Raiders, now 4-4,  host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING TOGETHER: Members of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team celebrate after scoring a goal last week against Princeton Day School. Hun edged crosstown rival PDS 8-7 in the April 8 contest. The Raiders, now 4-4, host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a longstick midfielder, Tucker Stevenson knows that playing strong defense is his primary responsibility for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team.

But the versatile junior star likes to employ his athleticism to get involved in the Hun attack.

“It is not always my position to be a two-way player but I just like to get up and down the field,” said Stevenson.

“Playing soccer and dabbling in basketball, I have decent stamina so I can get up and down a little bit. It just gives us another dimension. Sometimes when another team has to sub I just stay out on and get up there so it works out well.”

Last week, Stevenson provided that added dimension for the Raiders as they played at Princeton Day School. Stevenson scored a first quarter goal and then assisted on a fourth quarter tally by Corey Reynolds that proved to be the game-winner in an 8-7 victory for Hun.

Stevenson’s goal resulted from his athleticism. “It was a nice reward,” said Stevenson. “They were just locking off and I had a little speed on the kid.”

The assist on the game-winner was the product of a joint effort.

“It was a great face-off by Liam Fitzgerald and they were putting a lot of pressure on my back but I was able turn out of it,” recalled Stevenson.

“Corey was open and I gave it to him, he did all the work. People were moving, giving him space. It was good play all around.”

Showing his all around game, Stevenson assumed responsibility for locking down PDS star midfield Connor Fletcher, holding him without a goal in the fourth quarter.

“He was torturing us, they ran some good sets for him,” said Stevenson. “At the end of the game we decided to  shut him off and make it easier. He is good kid, he is going to be good for a long time.”

The win was a good step forward for Hun as it began the spring by dropping two-one goal contests on the way to a 0-3 start.

“We have been on the other end of a couple on one-goal losses already,” said Stevenson.

“We were able to stick together as a team. No one really stood out, it was a team win at the end.”

Hun head coach MV Whitlow was relieved to see his team pull out the victory.

“We expected a one-goal game and that is what we got,” said Whitlow. “We started off our season with a pretty tough schedule and we had some hiccups with some one-goal losses. With the weather and those one-goal losses,  I think we are not quite where we want to be offensively. Today our offense did step up for us and our defense wasn’t quite what is has been the last couple of weeks but that is what a team victory is all about so we were happy about that.”

Whitlow has been happy with the play he has been getting from Stevenson.

“Tucker has been a real bright spot all season,” asserted Whitlow. “We knew coming into the season that he was going to be a spark for us. He is a playmaker, he is an energy guy, he is a skill guy. He has a great feel for the game and that was a big game for him today to create the offense that he did in the midfield but then to clamp Connor down in the fourth quarter.”

Goalie Jon Levin showed his skill and resolve in closing the door on the Panthers down the stretch.

“Jon Levin is a Princeton commit; he is a high caliber young man and he is a great ball stopper,” said Whitlow.

“He has a day like today where he let a couple in but he is not going to let it faze him, he is going to work through it and make the next save.”

The Raiders got some good work on the offensive end from Julian Williams and Reynolds.

“Julian’s skills are coming along; I have said to Julian all year that I am really looking forward to seeing him play in May,” said Whitlow of Williams who tallied two goals in the contest.

“He just picked up the stick again, his teammates love him. He is a great  teammate and he is obviously a great athlete. I thought Corey Reynolds had a good game, he made some good decisions.”

For Hun, beating PDS was a critical triumph as the team is running a gauntlet of tough foes this spring.

“We wanted to increase the level of our schedule and I think we did that,” said Whitlow, whose squad defeated defending state Prep B champion Rutgers Prep 11-7 last Saturday to improve to 4-4 and will host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22.

“Any time you lose two one-goal games in 24 hours, it rattles you a little bit. We have a young team, we got a little rattled but we worked through it. Winning  three in a row is big.”

Stevenson, for his part, believes that Hun has the ability to earn a lot of big wins this spring.

“We have a lot of good individual talent but we haven’t been able to put it together; we are starting to to do that,” said Stevenson. “We have to get tougher and play as a team.”

While the Hun School boys’ tennis dropped all three of its matches last week, Todd Loffredo wasn’t discouraged.

“We have had a busy week; we had illnesses and absences so we had to use different lineups,” said Hun head coach Loffredo, whose team fell 3-2 to Pennington on April 8, 4-1 to Princeton Day School last wednesday, and 3-2 to Rutgers Prep on Friday. “We definitely had some improvement; each player got to feel good.”

Loffredo is feeling good about the play he is getting from junior Foster Broad at first singles.

“I can’t tell you how much he has improved from last year,” said Loffredo, noting that Broad picked up a solid straight-set win in the Rutgers Prep match

“He plays tennis two or three times a week now. He is a total athlete; he can play any sport. He is doing well not just because he is an athlete but because he is a tennis player.”

At second singles, sophomore Adam Doynow has made a big jump this spring in terms of tennis savvy.

“Adam’s maturity is the biggest difference,” said Loffredo. “He has always been a strong tennis player. I see a difference on the court, he is much more cool, calm, and collected.”

Senior Rohit Malhotra is making a difference for the Raiders at third singles.

“Rohit had a good win against Pennington,” added Loffredo.

“If he can stay healthy, he is going to be good. He has a tennis elbow thing. He is a senior and he is doing a good job leading the team.”

The pair of juniors James Mogilever and Max Kislyansky is giving Hun good work at first doubles.

“Max is Russian and James’ parents are Russians so they speak Russian to each other,” said Loffredo.

“I think it gives them a connection. They complement each other on the court. They are always talking to each positively and they always have their heads in the game.”

Senior Maxime Vounatsos has been the constant at second doubles so far, playing with some different partners.

“Maxime was on the JV last year and as a senior he has brought us leadership and reliability,” asserted Loffredo. “He is always fighting to win, he always has a smile on his face.

Loffredo wants his players to show some fight when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament next week.

“We are looking to improve on last year; we had our worst finish at the county tournament since I have been here,” said Loffredo, whose squad tied for 12th in the 2013 MCT team standings

“If our guys are playing well, they can beat most people. I want them to believe in themselves. I know the odds are against us. It is fun to be there around all the other teams and I want them to enjoy that.”

April 9, 2014
FINISHING STRONG: Gabby Vukasin looks for the puck during a game this winter in her senior season for the Williams College women’s hockey team. Former Princeton High standout Vukasin served as the team’s co-captain and helped Williams win its first NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) title. Vukasin, who joined the program as a walk-on, tallied nine goals and nine assists this winter and 61 points in her career of 34 goals and 27 assists.(Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information Department)

FINISHING STRONG: Gabby Vukasin looks for the puck during a game this winter in her senior season for the Williams College women’s hockey team. Former Princeton High standout Vukasin served as the team’s co-captain and helped Williams win its first NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) title. Vukasin, who joined the program as a walk-on, tallied nine goals and nine assists this winter and 61 points in her career of 34 goals and 27 assists. (Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information Department)

Gabby Vukasin could see the end of her college hockey career approaching like a freight train and she wasn’t about to go out quietly.

With her Williams College women’s hockey team trailing Trinity 1-0 heading into the third period of the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) quarterfinals in early March, the senior forward and former Princeton High star spoke up.

“We just weren’t playing our game,” said Vukasin, one of the squad’s co-captains. “Between the second and third period, I pulled the girls aside and said we had a chance to keep playing or end the season and it was up to us.”

Vukasin took matters into her hands assisting on the game-tying goal early in the third period, igniting a Williams’ rally which saw the Ephs pull out a 3-2 win. Williams went on to beat Connecticut College 2-0 in the semis and then top Bowdoin 4-1 in the championship game.

After the title game, Vukasin savored the moment as her career was extended into the NCAA Division III tourney by virtue of the win.

“We didn’t leave the ice for 45 minutes; we were taking pictures,” recalled Vukasin.

“We were more focused on being champions, because we had never done that before, than going to the NCAAs. Random people were coming up to me and saying great game.”

Days later, Vukasin did play her final college game as Williams fell 4-1 to Plattsburgh State in the opening round of the NCAAs. Vukasin scored a goal in the first minute of the contest but the Ephs couldn’t build on that.

“To be honest, I don’t remember that goal,” said Vukasin. “There was so much going on, it was a scramble in the crease and I don’t even remember hitting the puck.”

The finality of the loss left Vukasin with a sad memory. “That was pretty horrible,” said Vukasin. “I felt like we had such a great season and the chemistry was so great and I was never going to have that chance again.”

Earning a spot on the Ephs as a walk-on as a freshman, Vukasin made the most out of her chance to play college hockey. After getting four points in her debut campaign, the 5’6 Vukasin tallied 57 points on 32 goals and 25 assists over her last three years.

She rose through the ranks as a leader, being named one of the team’s co-captains this winter along with classmate Cristina Bravi.

“I wasn’t sure if I would be named captain; it felt good knowing that my teammates had confidence in my leadership abilities,” said Vukasin.

“I had a leadership role on the team as a junior being one of the older players. I had to learn to be a bad guy, holding them accountable.”

Coming off a disappointing 9-15-1 season in 2012-13, the Ephs were confident that they could be a force this winter.

“We definitely wanted to do much better than we had in the past,” said Vukasin. “We were definitely a little closer as a team than we had been in the past years, everyone was willing to work hard.”

Bringing a pedestrian 3-5 record into January, Williams got rolling with a sweep of Trinity to begin the 2014 portion of their schedule.

“We knew they were going to come out hard because they thought they were going to beat us,” said Vukasin.

“We knew we had the skills to beat them. I think some of the freshmen and sophomores really came into their own; having one year really helped them. Overall we had a lot of skill, we had three really strong lines and a lot of depth.”

Vukasin, for her part, showed her skill set, tallying 9 goals and 9 assists this winter and starring on the power play.

“I guess it was a function of my line; I was going in the corners more rather than playing in front of the net,” said Vukasin.

“I have been in the same power play position for three years and I was just using that experience.”

Playing the NESCAC final four at home and getting the title was an experience that Vukasin won’t soon forget.

“It was a lot of fun with friends and family there over the weekend,” said Vukasin.

“We had a rivalry with Bowdoin. In the past few years we had lost two or three close games to them that we thought we should have won. This year we swept them and some thought we were going to be a little cocky. It was pretty emotional for me; it was pretty awesome.”

With Williams having gone from 4-17 in 2010-11 to 15-10-3 this winter, Vukasin gives a lot of credit to head coach Megan Gillis, who took the helm three years ago.

“With Gillis, each year she is getting better and adding to her coaching repertoire,” added Vukasin. “The coaches are there all the time for us, players would go in for extra training.”

Gillis, for her part, appreciated Vukasin’s improvement over her career.

“We are updating school records this summer and I would be shocked if she is not in the top five in power play goals,” said Gillis.

“She was very good on special teams. She worked very hard on that. She was so tough in front of the net, she set a standard.”

In Gillis’ view, Vukasin also set a standard off the ice. “She is an extremely bright person, so intellectual,” said Gillis of Vukasin, an astrophysics and math major who has been accepted to graduate engineering programs.

“To excel in the classroom at a place like Williams speaks volumes and it gained the respect of her teammates.”

Having earned that respect gave Vukasin the latitude to call out her teammates when necessary.

“She showed up every day and worked hard,” said Gillis. “When you have a captain who leads by her actions like that, she can also hold others accountable by saying I am working this hard and you should too.”

Gillis believes that Vukasin is leaving a special legacy. “I am definitely going to miss Gabby and her leadership,” added Gillis.

“She and her co-captain showed up every day and worked and helped change the culture of the program. As a coach, you need players like that, they were the heart and soul of the team. To go from walk-on to a captain on a championship team, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

In the final analysis, Vukasin came to believe that she was competing for something bigger than herself as her college career unfolded.

“I played with more heart,” said Vukasin, who was named to the 2014 NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship team, which recognizes student-athletes from each varsity sport who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to sportsmanship.

“I was not playing for myself, I was playing for my teammates. I feel this season showed how much hard work and heart could make a difference.”

ATTACK FORCE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Matt Corrado heads upfield in recent action. Senior star Corrado moved to attack from midfield this year and has caught fire recently with three goals and an assist in a 9-6 win over Allentown last week and three assists in a 10-6 victory over Rancocas Valley last Monday. PHS, now 5-0, plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACK FORCE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Matt Corrado heads upfield in recent action. Senior star Corrado moved to attack from midfield this year and has caught fire recently with three goals and an assist in a 9-6 win over Allentown last week and three assists in a 10-6 victory over Rancocas Valley last Monday. PHS, now 5-0, plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After emerging as a star midfielder for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team over the last three years, Matt Corrado has moved up to attack for his senior campaign.

Despite his on-field experience and offensive skills, Corrado initially struggled to find a comfort level in his new spot.

“So far it has been a little difficult but I think I have my head on my shoulders now,” said Corrado.

“I am used to dodging against guys with shortsticks so the long poles kind of scare me.”

Last week, Corrado showed that he will be someone to fear on attack, tallying three goals and an assist as PHS topped Allentown 9-6.

In reflecting on his performance, Corrado said it was a product of the team’s offensive balance.

“We have been playing together for a long time and we haven been working on the offense against some really good teams in spring break,” said Corrado.

“I think we are really prepared for this season. We have guys that can go either way, left or right and just the chemistry that has been there for the past couple of years has kept growing.”

Having topped Allentown last May in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, the Little Tigers knew they were in for a battle last week.

“We were a little nervous coming into this game since beating them in the county title game last year,” said Corrado.

“I think the nerves were there and we knew they were gunning for us. We worked a lot in practice trying to make sure that we got all those jitters out and just played our game.”

PHS has also benefited from working on team unity this spring. “Going to Florida this year was definitely beneficial; it is clearly seen on the field,” asserted Corrado.

“Honestly everyone has just been very supportive of each other so far. We had a lot of team bonding with going to and from Florida and hanging out in the airport with each other can build a lot.”

As one of the team’s four captains, along with classmates Matt Purdy, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick, Corrado has assumed more responsibility on the field.

“I think just vocal communication,” said Corrado. “The four of us have been on the field a long time so we know each other. Everybody knows how to play off of us. It has definitely been difficult how to learn how to be vocal, these first games have been very telling for me just in how difficult it can be.”

Little Tiger head coach Peter Stanton thought Corrado’s performance in the win over Allentown was telling. “We are so thrilled for Matt today,” asserted Stanton.

“Matt is a guy who is extremely dedicated in the offseason. He attended so many workouts; he worked so hard to get his stick skills. He hasn’t played as well as he is capable of playing. Today when we were struggling and we had some good opportunities, he was the guy that stepped up and buried them. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Stanton was happy with the way his team controlled the tempo offensively.

“We know that they are a team that is very good in transition and we wanted to shorten the game a little bit,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Kevin Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in the win over Allentown with Matt Purdy and Chris Diver chipping in one each.

“If we could hold the ball and attack the goal wisely that gives them less opportunities to get running. We got a lot of guys involved. Guys being involved isn’t necessarily guys scoring goals or getting assists but having all six guys active and part of the offense and spreading the field.”

Freshman Lopez-Ona hasn’t wasted any time getting involved in the PHS attack.

“He is a crafty little guy,” said Stanton of the wiry Lopez-Ona. “We put him in situations where we are not going to ask him to do too much. We keep it simple and basic with him and he is effective. Physically he is playing above his pay grade right now because he is playing against bigger, stronger, faster kids. His experience and skill make him effective for us and we are patching him around guys that can play.”

Stanton saw the contest with Allentown as a big early test for his guys. “We had two battles with this squad last year and we felt like we won the more important one,” said Stanton.

“We know that they are a program that has championship aspirations and expectations and we know they are going to try to play at that level so we were excited for the challenge.”

With the Little Tigers having produced a hot start, Stanton is excited about his team’s ability to be in the mix for championships.

“We feel like we have got a lot left in the tank and that is early and there is room for growth,” said Stanton, whose team topped Rancocas Valley 10-6 on Monday to improve to 5-0 and will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14.

“Our boys want to work hard; they are not settling for the easy accomplishment.”

Corrado, for his part, believes the Little Tigers can accomplish a lot this spring.

“We have a couple of tough games coming up; we are really looking forward to Lawrenceville and this year we have the pleasure of playing Summit so that is a big one,” said Corrado.

“That will definitely prepare us for the county championship but a lot of these guys have been there before. I think it is just working out the jitters and trying to find the guys who didn’t get as much playing time last year and getting them acclimated to our system and then just hammering it home when the county tournament comes.”