July 16, 2014
CARDINAL RULE: Sophia Monaghan poses for a team photo this spring in her freshman season with the Stanford University women’s water polo program. Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville school star Monaghan enjoyed a memorable debut campaign, helping the Cardinals win the NCAA title. (Photo Courtesy of Stanford’s Office of Athletic Communications)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOGAN’S ALLEY: Princeton resident Bill Hogan displays his form on the driving range at the Bedens Brook Club in Skillman. Hogan, who turns 76 this week, averaged 200 rounds of golf a year from 2004-2013 and achieved the feat of a golfing lifetime last December when he shot a round lower than his age, carding a 73.(Photo Courtesy of Bedens Brook Country Club)

HOGAN’S ALLEY: Princeton resident Bill Hogan displays his form on the driving range at the Bedens Brook Club in Skillman. Hogan, who turns 76 this week, averaged 200 rounds of golf a year from 2004-2013 and achieved the feat of a golfing lifetime last December when he shot a round lower than his age, carding a 73. (Photo Courtesy of Bedens Brook Country Club)

The legendary golfer Ben Hogan was so devoted to the game that he sometimes practiced until his hands bled.

Overcoming a car accident in 1949 that nearly killed him mid-career, Hogan went on to win nine major titles and stands squarely in the pantheon of golf 17 years after his death in 1997.

Living up to that famous surname, Princeton resident Bill Hogan has displayed his love of golf in his own way over the last decade. A member of the Bedens Brook Club in Skillman, he has averaged 200 rounds of golf a year from 2004-2013.

Hogan, who turns 76 this week, achieved the feat of a golfing lifetime last December when he shot a round lower than his age, carding a 73.

Like the golf legend, the Princeton Hogan was introduced to the sport through a summer job.

I started playing golf when I started caddying at age 14,” said Hogan, a native of Hawthorne, N.J. who worked at the Ridgewood Country Club. “We were allowed to play on Mondays.”

As a teenager, Hogan actually crossed paths with his namesake.I did caddie for Ben Hogan at Ridgewood when I was 19,” recalled Hogan, noting that the main attraction that day was a trick shot artist named Paul Hahn.

I introduced myself to Hogan and told him that I was Bill Hogan and he said huh. He didn’t say much the whole time.On the practice range, he had me stand 140 yards away and he was hitting shots on one bounce to me one after the another. I knew every blade of grass on that course and he never once asked me for any help, he was doing it all on his own. It was a Monday exhibition and he was still so focused.”

After playing basketball and baseball in high school, Hogan’s last name led to him joining the golf team at Montclair State.

My phys. ed. teacher was also the golf coach,” said Hogan, whose career goal was to became a coach and a teacher.

“I was planning to play baseball and one day he saw me headed to practice with my spikes and he saw me and said you are named Hogan, you can’t play baseball. He convinced me to join the golf team.”

While Hogan wasn’t a star for Montclair State, he had his moments.

I was shooting in the mid-80s,” said Hogan. “We played in the collegiate open in Bethpage that had about 120 players. I shot an 83 and finished in the top 10 percent. I probably should have quit after that.”

After graduation in 1960, Hogan coached basketball and taught math at two Catholic high schools in Northern Jersey. He took a job with IBM in 1965 and moved to Princeton in 1968 when he became a sales manager at the company’s Trenton office. He coached the Notre Dame High boys’ hoops team from 1969-73 in his spare time. Raising a family and busy with his career, Hogan didn’t play a lot of golf from 1972-85.

Joining Bedens Brook in 1985, Hogan renewed his passion for the game and began playing on a 12-month basis, aided by the fact that he is working from home running his own management consulting business.

In 2001, he started keeping track of how many rounds he was playing on an annual basis, getting out 161 times that year. He played 2001 rounds from 2004-2013, with a high of 231 in 2012. Last year, he needed 225 rounds to hit the 200 average and he ended up playing 226 as he hit the course twice in the last week of December.

Noting with a chuckle that playing so often has not improved his game, Hogan does not take part in many tournaments.

“I don’t play much in competition, some Bedens Brook events like the member-member, and member-guest,” said Hogan, explaining that he sometimes plays alone and also has some regular playing partners.

“I have played some Trenton District stuff. I have played in the Bedens Brook seniors championship for players 70 and older and won it four straight times. I was second last year and third this year.”

Last December 3, though, he put in a championship effort as he carded a 73 to achieve the bucket list item of shooting his age.

It has been a goal but I thought that when I got near 80, I would have a good chance so I wasn’t thinking about it that day,” said Hogan

When I had 34 on front 9, I needed a 41 on the back and I have done that a lot of times. But then I had four bogies on the back 9 and I needed to par 17 and 18. No. 17 is a par 5 and my third shot was a 9-iron and I thought this was it. I took about 15 practice swings and hit a real good shot, about 6-7 feet from the hole. I sunk the birdie putt. I was so loose that I went and parred the 18th.”

Hogan’s current golfing goal is to keep out on the course as long as possible. “I want to stay healthy enough to keep playing,” said Hogan, who had played 76 rounds in 2014 headed into the last week of June. “I carry my bag most of the time. I have done that since I started caddying.”

For Hogan, the allure of the game comes from chasing perfection. It is a sport you can’t master but tomorrow you think you will be better,” said Hogan, who hasn’t achieve a hole-in-one but notes that he has five eagles, two hit with a 5-wood, one with a 3-iron, one with a 3-wood, and another with a 9-iron. “There are those shots that bring you back, like my 9-iron on 17 the day I shot my age.”

June 25, 2014
LAST CHANCE TO SHINE: Princeton High football star Liam Helstrom heads up the field in action last fall. Helstrom starred on both sides of the ball for PHS, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery from his linebacker spot. Helstrom’s heroics earned him a place on the West team for this year’s Sunshine Classic all-star football game, which is slated for July 1 at The College of New Jersey.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST CHANCE TO SHINE: Princeton High football star Liam Helstrom heads up the field in action last fall. Helstrom starred on both sides of the ball for PHS, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery from his linebacker spot. Helstrom’s heroics earned him a place on the West team for this year’s Sunshine Classic all-star football game, which is slated for July 1 at The College of New Jersey. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a wiry 130-pounder toiling for the Princeton High freshman football team in the fall of 2010, Liam Helstrom didn’t appear to be on the path to becoming one of the best players in the county.

But under the influence of then — PHS varsity coach Joe Gargione — Helstrom committed himself to becoming a physical force.

“Coach Gargione was religious with the weightlifting and the work,” said Helstrom, who moved up to the varsity as a sophomore, playing at tight end and defensive end.

“If you missed one workout he would get on you. As a freshman I went to every weightlifting session. I went from 130 to 160 pounds as a sophomore to 180-85 pounds. It was a lot of red meat and whole milk
and a lot of lifting.”

Last fall in his senior campaign, Helstrom, who grew to 6’2 and 190 pounds, lifted his game to lofty heights, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Helstrom’s heroics turned heads, earning him a spot on the West team for this year’s Sunshine Classic all-star football game, which is slated for July 1 at The College of New Jersey.

While PHS struggled to a 0-10 record last fall, Helstrom’s intensity never wavered.

“It was tough but since I knew I wasn’t going to be playing in college, I had the mindset to play every game like it was my last game,” said Helstrom, who is headed to Clemson University where he plans to study political science and attend a lot of big-time college football games.

“I knew we wouldn’t be a powerhouse. The year before, some of the seniors had quit. I was still going to have fun no matter what.”

Helstrom enjoyed moving to wide receiver last fall after playing tight end the previous two seasons.

“Offensively, it was back to backyard two-hand touch where everyone is a receiver,” said Helstrom, who enjoyed some big games at the end, making seven catches for 71 yards against WW/P-S, eight receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Trenton, six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns against Lawrence, and five catches for 149 yards and a touchdown in his finale against Marlboro. “I was stronger than the defensive backs.”

Helstrom’s strength came in handy at linebacker as well. “Defensively, I was the only guy that was going to make some of those tackles, especially after Sam (star linebacker Sam Smallzman) went out,” said Helstrom, who had 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in the WW/P-S game. “I was tackling guys 5-10 yards down the field.”

While Helstrom didn’t get to taste victory in his final campaign, he made fans out of his foes.

“I got a lot of respect from the other coaches, telling me that I was playing hard and that I was a leader,” said Helstrom.

Earning respect among his peers, Helstrom recently won the Bob James Award, which is given to the senior male or female athlete who best represents the highest aspirations of PHS athletics.

“There were a helluva lot of good senior athletes so that was the most important football award I won,” said Helstrom.

One of the highlights of Helstrom’s athletic career came in his junior season when his older bother, Carl, and younger brother, Rory, both played on the football team.

“It was a lot of fun, even the practices were a lot of fun, watching Rory go against Carl,” said Helstrom. “You talk about teammates being brothers but there is nothing like playing with your real brothers.”

Helstrom is excited to be getting the chance to go at it one more time on the football field.

“I thought it was awesome; I have been looking forward to it since I was a sophomore, seeing Alex Mitko and those guys play in the game,” said Helstrom, reflecting on getting chosen to play in the Sunshine game.

“It will be the last time I put on a helmet and shoulder pads and hit someone. It is humbling, it will be like sophomore year, I will have to prove something. I know a lot of those guys are really good.”

Having grown into a brilliant two-way performer, Helstrom has already proven he is a very good player.

WHITE WATER: Rena White, left, pulls hard in the stroke seat earlier this month for the Mercer Rowing Club women’s youth varsity 8 at the USRowing Youth Nationals with coxswain Noa Rothstein urging her on. The Mercer boat took fifth in the grand final at the competition on Lake Natoma near Sacramento, Calif., becoming the first women’s boat in club history to make the ‘A’ final in the open 8 category.

WHITE WATER: Rena White, left, pulls hard in the stroke seat earlier this month for the Mercer Rowing Club women’s youth varsity 8 at the USRowing Youth Nationals with coxswain Noa Rothstein urging her on. The Mercer boat took fifth in the grand final at the competition on Lake Natoma near Sacramento, Calif., becoming the first women’s boat in club history to make the ‘A’ final in the open 8 category.

Rena White was proud to see her hard work pay off last season as she competed for the Mercer Rowing Club.

“I was just more serious, focused, and fitter,” said White, who originally joined Mercer in the spring of 2011 as an eighth grader.

“I was doing extra conditioning. In the winter, I was doing 5-7k on the erg (ergometer) before practice and 12k on the erg on Wednesdays when we have half days. I also started rowing in pairs. I am not the biggest runner but I was doing more of that. I was on the lightweight 8 and we took 3rd at nationals.”

But as Princeton High junior White came into the 2013-14 season, she and her boatmates wanted to take things to a higher level.

“We decided to make the jump into the open weights,” said White. “We got a new girl from Hun, two of the novices stepped up and a girl came over from another club.”

Earlier this month, the boat stepped up big time, taking fifth at the USRowing Youth Nationals on Lake Natoma near Sacramento, Calif., becoming the first women’s boat in club history to make the ‘A’ final in the open 8 category.

For White, shifting
position in the boat helped the crew go into overdrive.

“I was 7th seat all spring and then was moved to stroke before the regionals,” said White, who was joined in the boat by Beatrice Sclapari, Caitlin Cleary, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Badia Shehab, Hayley Bork, Alex Natale, and coxswain Noa Rothstein.

“It was tough, it was a challenge. It was good to be able to set the rhythm for the boat but it is definitely a lot of pressure.”

The Mercer 8 proved it could handle the pressure collectively as it cruised to victory in mid-May in the Mid-Atlantic Junior Championships to qualify for the nationals.

“At regionals, we won by open water,” said White. “It was a really good piece, our best race of the year to that point.”

In the weeks leading up to nationals, White could feel the boat gaining even more speed.

“We were putting up really good splits,” said White. “Our coach (Ted Sobolewski) wasn’t sure if it was tailwind or our lake. Everything started coming together and we really started going for it.”

Starting the nationals in style, Mercer took second in its first heat, trailing only eventual champion Oakland Strokes.

“We were in a really good place, everyone was really focused,” said White, reflecting on the race in which the boat clocked a time of 6:48.596 over the 2,000-meter course with Oakland just ahead in 6:47.389. “We did well enough in that heat to go straight to the semis; that was really helpful.”

In the semis, the boat placed second to secure a spot in the grand final and a shot at a national title.

“Our coach said before the final that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and to leave it on the course,” recalled White.

While Mercer finished fifth in the final, White has no qualms with the result.

“We didn’t expect to medal,” said White in assessing the race which saw Mercer come in at 7:18.051, less than six seconds
away from a bronze medal.

“We surpassed expectations by making grand final. We have four lightweights and looking at the other boats, we saw how much smaller we were. It was not our best race but we were excited to be in grand final.”

In White’s view, the boat’s balance was a key factor exceeding expectations. “We are all pretty fit; we are all in the same place,” said White. “No one is really ahead or behind.”

In her senior season, White will be looking to lead the way as she was elected as a co-captain of the Mercer girls’ squad.

“That was really exciting,” said White, who also won the Mercer girls’ most valuable rower award.

“I want to lead by example and do the best I can everyday. I want kids to realize that whatever shape they are in, they can get good and have fun.”

After enjoying the ride to Lake Natoma this spring, White is looking to have even more fun next year.

“We have seven of nine people on the boat coming back; we are excited but it requires a lot of luck to make it to grand final,” said White, who is looking to row at the Division I level after high school.

“We know that because we made it this year, that doesn’t mean we will make it next year. We all want to be the best boat we can, everyone is focused.”

DEUTSCHLAND: Alex Deutsch takes a cut in recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Former Hun School standout, and Middlebury College-bound, Deutsch has given Post 218 a lift in his first season with the club. Last Monday, centerfielder Deutsch went 3-for-3 with a two-run triple to help Princeton beat Hopewell Post 339 8-4 in eight innings and improve to 2-5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DEUTSCHLAND: Alex Deutsch takes a cut in recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Former Hun School standout, and Middlebury College-bound, Deutsch has given Post 218 a lift in his first season with the club. Last Monday, centerfielder Deutsch went 3-for-3 with a two-run triple to help Princeton beat Hopewell Post 339 8-4 in eight innings and improve to 2-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With two men on base in the third inning last Saturday against Hamilton Post 31, Alex Deutsch came through for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team.

Centerfielder Deutsch stroked a liner to center to knock in a run, sparking a four-run rally.

“I had seen him in my first at-bat; I walked when he threw me 4 balls and I knew he was going to come with a fast ball,” said Deutsch, reflecting on his approach in that at-bat. “I was looking for the fast ball over the plate and I hit it over the middle.”

Unfortunately for Post 218, the four-run outburst came after the team had dug an early 12-0 hole on the way to a 16-4 loss.

With Princeton having dropped several nailbiters in the first two weeks of the season, the rally was an encouraging sign.

“It’s funny because that is what we needed the entire season,” said Deutsch, who graduated from The Hun School earlier this month and was a co-captain and starting centerfielder for the Raider baseball team this spring.

“We have gotten one or two runs here or there and then we had one big inning when we were down by 12 runs. I think it was more that we were just playing loose.”

After an uneven senior season for Hun, Deutsch has been coming up big this summer for Post 218.

“I have been hitting really well,” said Deutsch, who went 3-for-3 with a two-run triple last Monday to help Post 218 beat Hopewell Post 339 8-4 in eight innings and improve to 2-5.

“I wasn’t consistent over the course of the season for Hun. I have had a hit every game so far with this team. I had a big hit yesterday (an RBI double in a 3-1 win over North Hamilton).”

The Middlebury College-bound Deutsch is enjoying playing his first season with Post 218. “I did all the showcase and the travel stuff the last couple of years so I wanted to play for my town in the last year,” said Deutsch.

“It is fun; it doesn’t get better than playing with a bunch of guys from your town.”

As he heads to Middlebury this fall, Deutsch is looking forward to playing with a new bunch of guys.

“Definitely the playing in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) is a huge thing, it is so competitive,” said Deutsch.

“It is great athletics balanced with academics. When I visited and went up there, it just felt right, they always talk about the cliché moment when you walk on campus. I also love the guys on the team; they have had a rough last couple of years so I am hoping to go up there and help turn things around.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker loves having Deutsch on the squad. “Alex has been a great addition, he really has been a catalyst,” said Parker.

Parker is hoping that the four-run rally on Saturday could be a catalyst for his club going forward.

“That is something we can build on, these guys are capable of doing that,” said Parker. “There is no quit in them. You don’t lay down, you just keep pushing and things will happen.”

While the lopsided loss to Post 31 was disappointing, Parker doesn’t believe it is an accurate reflection of his team’s quality.

“We have been playing a lot of close games; we are a much better team than we showed here today,” maintained Parker.

“These guys are as talented as anyone in the league. We have had some really tough ones. The bats are beginning to come alive and that has really been the difference in the games that we haven’t won; we haven’t been able to get the offense. The pitching has been excellent. It will turn around; I can say that.”

In order to turn things around, Post 218 needs to display a mental toughness.

“What I think they need to do to get over the hump is to just have the old school mentality of putting them away when you get up,” said Parker, whose team plays Broad Street Park Post 313 on June 27 at Nottingham High, hosts Trenton Post 93/182 on June 28, Robbinsville Post 530 on June 29, and then plays Lawrence Post 414 at Eggerts Crossing Park on June 30 and faces Ewing Post 314 on July 1 at Moody Park.

“It is learning what true swagger is and having the confidence that when you are down, you are never out until the last strike or the last out. We have 21 more games to go and I have seen things turn around before. Last year, we made a push and this team is better than that.”

Deutsch, for his part, believes Post 218 can make a push. “We are a good hitting team, it is going to come along over the course of the season,” asserted Deutsch. “I honestly can tell you that I have not seen a team that we can’t beat.”

LYNCH-PIN: Atticus Lynch of the Princeton Little League Intermediate Division all-star team races to first base last weekend in the District 12 Intermediate (50/70) tournament. With shortstop Lynch providing plenty of offensive punch, Princeton rolled to the championship round of the double-elimination competition with three straight convincing wins, topping Cranbury 10-0 on Thursday, Millstone-Roosevelt 17-2 on Friday, and defending champion Bordentown 11-1 a day later.

LYNCH-PIN: Atticus Lynch of the Princeton Little League Intermediate Division all-star team races to first base last weekend in the District 12 Intermediate (50/70) tournament. With shortstop Lynch providing plenty of offensive punch, Princeton rolled to the championship round of the double-elimination competition with three straight convincing wins, topping Cranbury 10-0 on Thursday, Millstone-Roosevelt 17-2 on Friday, and defending champion Bordentown 11-1 a day later.

Coming into the District 12 Little League Intermediate (50/70) tournament last week at Farmview Fields, the Princeton squad had to scramble.

“The team was put together 10 days ago,” said manager Jon Durbin. “We started practicing the day after the team was announced so we had six practices as a team.”

While the squad didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, it was able to apply the perspective it gained last year from its first appearance in the Intermediate tourney which utilizes a modified baseball field using a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths and is open to players ages 11-13.

“With a year of experience we learned a lot strategically in putting together the team and handling the pitching,” said Durbin.

“Last year we were young, we had only one 13-year-old. This year, we have five 13-year-olds, six 12-year-olds and two 11-year-olds. We are an older, more mature team.”

Showing its maturity and skill, Princeton rolled to the championship round of the double-elimination competition with three straight convincing wins, topping Cranbury 10-0 on Thursday, Millstone-Roosevelt 17-2 on Friday, and defending champion Bordentown 11-1 a day later.

Princeton is slated to host Bordentown on June 24 in the finals and would earn the title with a victory. A loss by Princeton would set up a winner-take-all finale on June 25.

In Durbin’s view, the team’s hot play is due, in part, to a selfless mentality and a heightened emphasis on defense.

“There are two things we have been really focusing on in practice,” said Durbin.

“One is getting all the guys to buy into the team and doing whatever the team needs. It doesn’t matter where you bat or what position you play. They are all in. We are doing extended fielding in practice. We have them doing the same amount of time in the infield as in the outfield so if they are called on to play a position that they are not familiar with, they will be more comfortable.”

Princeton developed a comfort level in the opener as pitchers Akira Nishiu, Jackson Rho, and Atticus Lynch combined for a no-hitter with Lynch and Eli Okoye each getting two hits to spark the offense. Lynch supplied the power in the win over Millstone-Roosevelt, going 4-for-5 with two homers, four runs, and two RBIs.

The combination of timely hitting and superb pitching has made Princeton a force to be reckoned with.

“Atticus has been on fire at the plate and has been playing a terrific shortstop,” said Durbin. “Okoye has been hitting well as has Tommy Reid. Nishiu and Rho have been pitching really strongly.”

Princeton’s strong start along with some sparkling glove work made the difference in the win over powerful Bordentown.

“When we saw Bordentown last year, the guys were thinking they are so big, how can we be on the same field with them,” said Durbin.

“Our confidence was higher this year after the two wins and we were able to push back after they took the lead in the first inning. We had some good defensive plays that put a lid on a couple of potentially big innings. We are not afraid of Bordentown and that is 75 percent of the battle.”

Durbin expects his players to keep battling with the title on the line. “If the boys are still fired up, still focused, and not getting overconfident, we should keep playing well,” said Durbin.

WARMING TO THE TASK: Adam Oresky warms up before a game this past winter in his senior season with the University of Hartford men’s basketball team. Oresky, who played for the Princeton Day School varsity boys’ hoops team from 2008-10, is currently making an impact for King’s Pizzarama in its debut campaign in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, the 6’8, 200-pound Oresky scored a team-high nine points to help King’s defeat Tortuga’s Mexican Village 49-40. On Monday, he chipped in six points as King’s topped Northeast Realty 41-34 to improve to 3-1.(Photo Courtesy of University of Hartford Athletic Communications)

WARMING TO THE TASK: Adam Oresky warms up before a game this past winter in his senior season with the University of Hartford men’s basketball team. Oresky, who played for the Princeton Day School varsity boys’ hoops team from 2008-10, is currently making an impact for King’s Pizzarama in its debut campaign in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, the 6’8, 200-pound Oresky scored a team-high nine points to help King’s defeat Tortuga’s Mexican Village 49-40. On Monday, he chipped in six points as King’s topped Northeast Realty 41-34 to improve to 3-1. (Photo Courtesy of University of Hartford Athletic Communications)

During his career with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team, Adam Oresky was a member of the supporting cast.

Although Oresky, a 2010 PDS grad, didn’t crack the starting lineup in his two years on the Panther varsity squad, he was determined to play basketball in college.

Heading to the University of Hartford, Oresky sought to walk on to the school’s Division I hoops program.

“I tried out my freshman year but I didn’t make it,” said Oresky. “I had to get better; I had to keep working.”

Oresky put in the work and his dream eventually came true as he made the squad as a senior, getting into seven games last winter for the Hawks.

“I always loved playing basketball and just playing in the gym everyday and getting workouts,” said the 6’8, 200-pound Oresky, who noted that he was a rail-thin 165 pounds during his PDS days. “I just stuck with it and I was able to get a spot on the team.”

Last Wednesday, Oresky showed how much his game has progressed as he helped King’s Pizzarama top Tortuga’s Mexican Village 49-40 in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Scoring a team-high 9 points, Oresky helped King’s overcome a 28-27 halftime deficit as they pulled away to the victory.

“We just want to go out and have a good time and see what happens,” said Oresky, who helped King’s start the second half with a 14-0 run that changed the tone of the contest. “Playing defense made the difference, getting stops on defense and turning that into offense.”

Oresky is looking to make a difference for King’s with his inside/out play.

“I shoot if I am open,” said Oresky, who scored six points on Monday as King’s topped Northeast Realty 41-34 to improve to 3-1 in its debut campaign in the summer league.

“I also go and crash the boards and get some rebounds inside. I do a little bit of both so I don’t get locked into one role.”

With King’s showing balance as nine players scored in the victory over Tortuga’s, Oresky believes the team can do some damage this summer.

“We have got a full bench, it is nice having subs when you get tired and everybody gets to play,” said Oresky, noting that former PDS teammate Kenny Holzhammer invited him to join the King’s squad. “I think our chemistry is getting better and we can make a run at it later.”

June 18, 2014
LATE SHOW: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday heads upfield in action this spring. Senior midfielder Halliday’s late-game heroics helped PHS edge Allentown 11-10 in overtime to win its second straight Mercer County Tournament championship. Halliday scored the tying goal in the waning seconds of regulation and then tallied the game-winner in overtime. The Tufts-bound Halliday had 54 goals and 19 assists in his final campaign as PHS posted a record of 16-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LATE SHOW: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday heads upfield in action this spring. Senior midfielder Halliday’s late-game heroics helped PHS edge Allentown 11-10 in overtime to win its second straight Mercer County Tournament championship. Halliday scored the tying goal in the waning seconds of regulation and then tallied the game-winner in overtime. The Tufts-bound Halliday had 54 goals and 19 assists in his final campaign as PHS posted a record of 16-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday isn’t one to give up easily.

With the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team trailing Allentown 10-9 with seconds remaining in the second half of the Mercer County Tournament championship game, PHS senior midfielder Halliday visualized a happy ending.

“When I came over to the wing, I was like oh god if I could get a goal right here, it would be a highlight play,” said Halliday.

The ball came to Halliday’s side and he scooped it up and sprinted to the goal and made the highlight play he envisioned, burying the ball in the back of the net with 4.1 seconds left to knot the game at 10-10 and force overtime.

“I wasn’t expecting it to happen; it bounced out and I got the ball,” said a smiling Halliday.

“There was one guy, I saw the time and I thought it is now or never. I went to the goal and luckily I was able to get by the other guy and get it in the net.”

Moments later, Halliday got another good bounce as he gathered in the ball on the overtime face-off and fired in the game-winning tally 10 seconds into the extra session.

Having committed to attend Tufts University and play for its men’s soccer team, Halliday brought a special sense of urgency this spring to the lacrosse field.

“This is it for me in lacrosse,” said Halliday. “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.”

Halliday had a lot of fun this spring, tallying 54 goals and 19 assists as PHS advanced to the Group III sectional semis and posted a final record of 16-4.

PHS head coach Peter Stanton credited Halliday with making a major contribution to the team’s success.

“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.”

For Halliday, the special camaraderie the Little Tigers developed this spring may have been the most memorable thing about his final lax campaign.

“Our coach (PHS head coach Peter Stanton) has been saying all year that this is one of the best teams he has coached,” said Halliday.

“We are so close; in every practice, everyone is working together. It is competitive; defense versus offense but it’s all good.”

For being one of the best players in the area and competing to the end, Halliday is the choice as the Town Topics top male performer of the spring season.

Top Female Performer

When Emilia Lopez-Ona started her career with the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team in the spring of 2011, she didn’t have records on her mind.

Instead, she was simply looking to get the most out of her ability. “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.”

Lopez-Ona, though, took her game to an incredibly high level, hitting the 300-goal mark in her career with a 6-goal performance in a 14-10 win over Allentown on April 24.

The game was stopped and the PHS players mobbed Lopez-Ona, waving posters and posing for photos.

“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 is heading to Penn where she will play for its women’s lacrosse program.

“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.”

While Lopez-Ona possesses true athletic gifts in terms of speed and coordination, PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman points to diligence as the key ingredient in the midfielder’s success.

“It didn’t come easy; she works really hard,” said 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.”

Lopez-Ona ended up producing a phenomenal spring, scoring 89 goals and getting 31 assists as the Little Tigers went 17-4 on the way to advancing to the MCT championship game and the finals of the state Group III South sectional.

Noting that the Little Tigers started the season with two losses in their first three games, Lopez-Ona liked the way PHS improved collectively as the spring went on.

“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. “That shows a lot of maturity.”

O’Gorman, for her part, credited Lopez-Ona with being the catalyst that drove the PHS team.

“Emilia fought with all of her heart and soul,” said O’Gorman. “She lives and breathes lacrosse. She has enhanced her game over time.”

Lopez-Ona’s blend of competitive fire and skill earns her the nod as the top female performer this spring.

Top Newcomers

After pitching ace Ben Gross was sidelined this spring by arm problems, things looked bleak for the PHS baseball team.

Little Tiger head coach Dave Roberts, though, had a feeling that sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt could help fill the void in his debut season at the varsity level. “He is a sophomore but he is big and he has some velocity,” said Roberts when assessing Hernandez-Burt in March.

The precocious sophomore turned out to be a big plus for the Little Tigers, emerging not only as the team’s ace but one of the top pitchers in the area. Hernandez-Burt posted a 5-4 record for a 9-14 PHS squad. He posted a sparkling 2.25 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings pitched.

By the end of the spring, Roberts credited Hernandez-Burt with playing a pivotal role as the Little Tigers made their first appearance in the state tournament since 2001.

“Joaquin has been tremendous all year, he has been dominant on the mound,” said Roberts.

“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.”

Hernandez-Burt’s stellar mound work makes him the pick as the top male newcomer of the spring.

Kathy Quirk wasn’t sure if Julie Fassl would be around the Hun School this spring for her freshman season on the softball team.

“I will tell you that the first couple of weeks in field hockey with her were brutal,” said Quirk of Fassl, who was transferring into Hun. “She said ‘I can’t stay here, this isn’t for me, I miss my high school friends.’ I really thought we were going to lose her.”

Fassl stayed at Hun and emerged as a valuable contributor for the field hockey team.

In the spring, she was a star for the softball team from day one, starting at catcher and hitting third in the Hun batting order. She provided superb defense behind the plate all spring long and was a reliable producer offensively.

“Fassl really stepped up, she was the only player in our lineup who didn’t have a strikeout this year,” said Quirk.

“She ended up making All-MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and All-Prep as a freshman catcher. I had coaches saying to me after games that she is the real deal.”

For stepping up in such impressive fashion, Fassl is the selection for top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

Before the spring even started, Rob Tuckman knew he would be savoring this season with the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team.

Last fall, PDS head coach Tuckman announced that he would be retiring from coaching after the 2014 campaign.

Coming into the season, Tuckman had the sense that the Panthers were poised for big things as he looked ahead to his eighth season at the helm of the program.

“If we stay healthy, we can make runs,” asserted Tuckman. “We want to hang banners. We are going for the state Prep B title and the county championship.”

Featuring a potent offense and a stingy defense, PDS started the season with a 9-1 run, including wins over such formidable foes as Voorhees, Rutgers Prep, Peddie, and Somerville.

The Panthers started the postseason by overcoming an 8-2 halftime deficit to edge Montclair Kimberly 11-10 in the Prep B semis and then rolled to a 15-2 win over New Egypt in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

After stubbing its toe with a 5-4 loss to Notre Dame in the MCT quarters, PDS finished the season by hosting defending champion Rutgers Prep two days later in the Prep B title game.

The Panthers were primed to prevail in Tuckman’s finale. “They were hyped up for it, especially coming off of Saturday,” said Tuckman. “It made it all about just this game and they were able to really focus on it.”

Showing that focus, PDS jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the title game. After Rutgers Prep knotted the contest at 5-5 early in the second half, the Panthers produced a decisive 5-1 run on the way to a 10-8 win and the program’s first Prep crown since 1996.

To make things sweeter for Tuckman, his son, sophomore midfielder, Jonah, contributed three goals and two assists to help trigger the triumph which left the Panthers with a final record of 13-3.

As Tuckman reflected on the afternoon with his players hugging each other and posing for photos nearby, he couldn’t think of a happier ending.

“It is wonderful,” said Tuckman, with his voice cracking and his clothes soaked after having the water bucket dumped on him by his players in the raucous postgame celebration. “It is a great way to end my career as a head coach.”

For ending things with a bang, Tuckman gets the nod as the top coach of a male program.

After falling to WW/P-N and Notre Dame in the first week of the season, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team could have suffered a crisis of confidence.

“We didn’t let the early losses to North (WW/P-N) and Notre Dame set the tone,” said PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman. “We knew we had a lot to offer.”

Indeed, the Little Tigers reeled off a 13-game winning streak, avenging the defeat to Notre Dame by beating the Irish 19-9 in the Mercer County Tournament semis.

After dropping a 13-11 nailbiter to WW/P-N in the MCT championship game, PHS won three straight games in the state tournament, outscoring its foes 48-24, in advancing to the Group III South sectional title game.

While the Little Tigers fell 17-5 to the powerful Quakers, O’Gorman was proud of how her players acquitted themselves.

“We were excited to show our talent and I think we did,” said O’Gorman, whose team posted a final record of 17-4. “We didn’t slow down and we played to the end. We brought it up to a new level for Princeton lacrosse.”

O’Gorman’s role in getting PHS to a higher level earned her the nod as the top coach of a female team this spring.

STRAIGHT SHOOTER: Princeton High golfer Laura Burke displays her swing form. Senior Burke, who has been the team’s top player the last two seasons, enjoyed a superb final campaign, taking third in the Mercer County girls’ golf tournament and 21st in the girls’ NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

STRAIGHT SHOOTER: Princeton High golfer Laura Burke displays her swing form. Senior Burke, who has been the team’s top player the last two seasons, enjoyed a superb final campaign, taking third in the Mercer County girls’ golf tournament and 21st in the girls’ NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

Having divided her athletic efforts between golf and soccer, Laura Burke faced a crossroads in 2011 during her freshman year at Princeton High.

“I was playing golf pretty well my freshman year and then I broke my foot playing soccer so I didn’t play in any matches,” recalled Burke.

“I had been playing soccer since third grade. After I broke my foot, my parents said I had to pick one sport so I chose golf.”

Burke made the right choice, emerging as the No. 2 player on the PHS golf team in her sophomore season and then holding down the top spot that last two years.

While being the leading player can be a burden, Burke has enjoyed that role.

“I don’t look at it like that,” said Burke. “I am very competitive; the high school matches didn’t have as much pressure as the tournaments I play in the summer.”

After taking up golf as a grade-schooler, Burke became more competitive by middle school.

“My dad is a golf fanatic so I started when I was young,” said Burke. “I started getting serious in 8th grade. I was taking lessons at Bedens Brook and my coach said I was pretty talented.”

Fitting in with the PHS squad proved to be a serious challenge at first. “It was kind of tough; there is no girls’ team so I had to play with the boys,” said Burke.

“The top boys’ player in the state (Fraser Graham) was on the team at the time so that was pretty intimidating.”

Longtime PHS head coach Sheryl Severance played a key role in helping Burke feel welcome.

“I have gotten so close to Sheryl, she is like my mother at school,” said Burke.

Getting more intense about her game after her junior year prompted Burke to take a brief hiatus from golf before her final PHS campaign.

“Last summer, I tried to play everything,” said Burke. “I was in a different tournament every week, I was all over the country. I had some trouble with my swing; I wasn’t playing my best. I took a break this fall and then worked with a different coach. I felt I was really playing well coming into the spring.”

Burke has enjoyed some highlights this spring, carding a memorable 38 in a win over Lawrence, taking third in the county girls’ tourney, and ending her season by placing 21st in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

“In the 38 against Lawrence; I had three birdies and a double, it was a weird round,” said Burke.

“I got third in the counties,” said Burke. “I double-bogeyed the last 2 holes so I was pretty disappointed. The Tournament of Champions was nice, playing at Cherry Valley. I shot a 79.”

In assessing her strengths as a player, Burke points to consistency off the tee and on the green.

“It is definitely my driving; I like my RocketBallz (TaylorMade driver),” said Burke, who will be taking a gap year before matriculating to Lehigh where she is hoping to play for the women’s golf team.

“I can put it right in the fairway. I had some trouble in the past with pulling it. When I am practicing my putting, I can do really well with that.”

As Burke reflects on her high school career, she believes that taking on the boys has made her a tougher player.

“I think the experience of playing with the boys has really helped me,” said Burke.

“They put a lot of pressure on me in practice and it was a good feeling to beat them. It helped me gain confidence and has made me more competitive in the girls events.”

VISION OF SUCCESS: Hun School softball head coach Kathy Quirk views the action from the dugout. Quirk, who just completed her 39th season at the helm of the program, was recently inducted into the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame in the women’s coaching division.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

VISION OF SUCCESS: Hun School softball head coach Kathy Quirk views the action from the dugout. Quirk, who just completed her 39th season at the helm of the program, was recently inducted into the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame in the women’s coaching division. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For players on the Hun School softball team, earning the squad’s “Iron Woman” award is a coveted honor.

“It is for commitment; you get it if you don’t miss a practice and you are ready to play in every game,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, explaining the award.

“On this year’s team out of 12 girls, seven got it. I strive to make kids feel that softball is important to them.”

Quirk herself qualifies as an iron lady, having just finished her 39th spring guiding the Hun softball program. In recognition of her longevity and a run of success that has seen the Raiders win 10 state Prep titles in her tenure, Quirk was recently inducted into the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame in the women’s coaching division.

In reflecting on the honor, Quirk, 63, wasn’t expecting it to come her way.

“I was caught off guard, I said you have to be kidding me,” said Quirk. “There are so many qualified coaches in the area and they are just as deserving so it was kind of a shock. It is very well appreciated.”

It was a high school coach that put Quirk on the path to her Hall of Fame career.

“I was influenced to get into coaching by my field hockey coach, Mary Anne Morgan, she was this young, dynamic coach,” said Quirk, a native of Runnymede, N.J. who went to Sterling High.

“I remember we went to camp and she stood on the table and she was dancing to the Supremes. She had such a positive influence on me.”

Quirk starred in field hockey, softball and basketball at Sterling and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1997.

Applying to Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey) against her father’s wishes, who wanted her to stay home and go to Glassboro State (now Rowan University), Quirk was accepted and came to Mercer County to continue her athletics career and pursue her goal of teaching and coaching.

“When I went to Trenton State I played all three sports up until my senior year,” said Quirk, who was named the school’s top female athlete in her sophomore year.

“My junior year I went abroad and played field hockey over in England and then came back in January so I didn’t play basketball; I just played softball. In my senior year, I just played field hockey and softball.”

After graduating from Trenton State in 1973, Quirk stayed in the area as she found a home at the Hun School.

“I graduated from Trenton State and Hun was looking for a field hockey coach,” said Quirk.

“I remember taking the bus and walking up and coming down here. I can remember what I actually wore that day. It is crazy. By the time I left, they hired me as a health and Phys. Ed. teacher and I was going to coach field hockey, basketball, and softball for $5,500 a year.”

Just months out of college, Quirk had to be a quick study as she plunged into  coaching.

“It was tough because you are not much older than the kids you are coaching,” said Quirk

“I think I was 22 and the school had just taken girls the year before or two years before and some of them were 17, 18. It was a challenge.”

Quirk faced a challenge in making the fledging Hun softball program competitive.

“It was more of a rec type program, more of a JV program, they were still building,” said Quirk.

“We didn’t have the equipment and facilities. I think it was just a gradual thing. We were playing on a grass field and my parents one weekend helped us skin the infield down there. We took wheel barrows and brought it all out; we took the dirt in. At that time, you didn’t have a big budget.”

By the 1990s, Hun was a big-time power in New Jersey prep softball circles. “In 1997, 1998, 1999 we won three in a row, which was really great,” said Quirk, whose office in the school’s Athletic Center has framed photos of each of those teams on the wall with other championships squads. “They were a good bunch of kids, they worked hard.”

Hard work and tenacity are two of the main cornerstones of Quirk’s coaching approach.

“I am a believer in fundamentals and drills,” said Quirk, who was inducted into the Hun School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

“I tell them that it is not always the most talented people that win but it is those who have the desire to win. You get that from constant repetition and constant drilling. I am not a screamer and a yeller. I think I prepare them enough that when they step on the field, they are ready to play the game.”

Getting Hun ready to play has been a family affair as Quirk’s husband, Bill, is her longtime assistant, and youngest son, Patrick, has helped out as well.

“We all bring something different to the table,” said Quirk, who guided the raiders to a 9-8 record this spring and an appearance in the state Prep A semifinals. “Pat worked with the infield, I work with the outfielders, Bill works with the batters so we all have our own role. It has been a family type thing.”

Over the years, Quirk’s former players have started to feel like family. “We had an alumni weekend; it was a little crazy, I am trying to coach a game and they are walking on the field to say hello,” said Quirk.

“Some of them have told me I have gotten a little soft in my years. I still hear from players. Aly Klemmer ’10 is coming back today to have lunch with me. I am not their best friend but I think they respect me and know what is expected and I think they appreciate that when it’s all done and all over.”

Quirk has appreciated getting the opportunity to coach for so many years. “I just think that coaching is very special; you form a bond with these girls,” asserted Quirk.

“There are days when they are having a bad day and I have to look past that. I always tell them when you walk into that team room and you walk down to that field, I want two hours of your time and I think they have learned to do that. I think they have learned to grow. I just watch my players, like I watched Kristen Manochio this year who we brought out of center field and to third base and by the end of the season you saw something shine in her eyes when she made a good play. It was not easy for her but as we told her, we believe in you and if we believe in you, you have to believe in yourself. I try to instill that about believing in themselves.”

In the final analysis, Quirk tries to instill life lessons that resonate long after high school.

“I am very competitive but there is more to the game than winning,” said Quirk.

“It is about building character and learning how to work with each other and learning how to be a teammate. It is learning how the game goes and being able to take the losses with the wins.”

OPENING STATEMENT: Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn dribbles the ball upcourt last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Davison helped defending league champion Ivy Inn edge Northeast Realty 53-44 in the opening night of 2014 summer hoops action.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn dribbles the ball upcourt last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Davison helped defending league champion Ivy Inn edge Northeast Realty 53-44 in the opening night of 2014 summer hoops action. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bobby Davison acknowledged that Father Time is catching up with him as his Ivy Inn squad started its 2014 campaign last week in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

“Honestly, I never thought I would be one of the oldest guys in the league,” said Davison, a former hoops standout for Princeton High and The College of New Jersey.

“It was like yesterday that I was playing for SMB and now all of a sudden I am 30 and I have been in the league for 15 years.”

It took Ivy Inn a while to get its legs moving last Wednesday in the opener against Northeast Realty stocked with recent PHS alums. Knotted at 31-31 midway through the second half, Ivy pulled away to a 53-44 victory.

“It is never easy as the years go on,” said Davison. “We all have families now and we are not playing nearly as much as we used to. Playing a team like these guys is a very difficult first game for us coming right out of the gate.”

But with age comes savvy and defending league champion Ivy used that quality in overcoming Northeast.

“Arguably, we are the oldest, most experienced team in the league aside from Winberie’s probably,” said Davison, noting that Ivy Inn includes such stalwarts as Shahid Abdul-Karim, Mark Aziz, and Buddy Thomas.

“It is all veteran guys who have won championships, we have managed to keep the nucleus of the team together. Down the stretch you go to the foul line and we make foul shots and that’s what the experience and all that brings.”

Ivy Inn has supplemented that nucleus by adding Sherm Brittingham last year and picking up Greg Ford this summer.

“Last year having Sherm was a huge pickup and immediately we reached out to him again this year; he was excited and more than happy to be part of the team again,” added Davison.

“He just fits what we do, he is a great guy. He is a team player, he plays defense and he’s perfect for the Ivy Inn. I had the opportunity to play with Greg in the Hamilton league and I had so much fun playing with him. I figured this year I would rather play with him than against him. Every year we try to pick up one or two people, this year, it was Greg and I think he is going to be a huge addition to the team.”

In reflecting on his role, Davison is looking to provide some key intangibles for Ivy Inn, which fell 44-40 last Friday to Tortuga’s Mexican Village, the squad featuring the current TCNJ hoops players.

“I don’t get a chance to play as much but as the season progresses my role will increase,” said Davison, an officer with the East Windsor police department.

“I just try to be a leader and help us out on defense. I try to focus all of my attention on the defensive end and then on offense, create shots for the offensive players.”

Davison and his teammates are focused on getting another title this summer. “We have done it a couple of times,” said Davison of Ivy Inn, which has won four crowns in the last six summers.

“It is funny because even when we were running into guys here or there, they were saying we can’t wait to get back out and defend the title. I think it means a lot, guys are excited, they want to come out here and they take pride getting another title and repeating.”

June 11, 2014
WINNING SHOT: Princeton High senior Michelle Bazile goes low as she starts a shot put in action this spring. Last Wednesday, the Brown-bound Bazile won the shot put at the Meet of Champions at South Plainfield High. She produced a school-record heave of 43’6.25 in taking the title. This weekend, Bazile will be competing on the national stage as she takes part in the 2014 New Balance Nationals Outdoors Championships at Greensboro, N.C.

WINNING SHOT: Princeton High senior Michelle Bazile goes low as she starts a shot put in action this spring. Last Wednesday, the Brown-bound Bazile won the shot put at the Meet of Champions at South Plainfield High. She produced a school-record heave of 43’6.25 in taking the title. This weekend, Bazile will be competing on the national stage as she takes part in the 2014 New Balance Nationals Outdoors Championships at Greensboro, N.C.

Michelle Bazile joined the track team at the John Witherspoon School in the spring of 2008 because she was looking to fit in.

“I was kind of anti-social at the beginning of sixth grade and my parents made me go out for a sport in the spring,” said Bazile.

“I disliked running and my dad was the throwing coach so I started throwing. I didn’t really like it but I stuck with it because I didn’t want to run.”

By the time Bazile entered Princeton High in 2010, she was committed to throwing.

“I started to enjoy it more; coming out of eighth grade, I thought it was a pretty good path to pursue,” said Bazile. “Number one, it was something I was enjoying and, number two, throwing can help get you recruited to college.”

Bazile’s path resulted in a state championship last Wednesday as the senior star won the shot put at the Meet of Champions at South Plainfield High.

As Bazile arrived at the meet last Wednesday to compete in the shot and the discus, she wasn’t focused on titles.

“I was just thinking about getting a personal record (PR),” said Bazile. “I didn’t care what I placed as long as I was happy with my distances.”

Early in the competition, Bazile achieved a new distance for her. “This girl named Cheyenne (Cheyenne Bellerand of Emerson High) popped a 43’3 on her first throw,” recalled Bazile. “I was seeded first so I threw last. My PR was 42’4 so I needed to beat my PR by a foot. I had 43’6.25 on my first throw.”

That throw, also a school record, held up and earned Bazile the title with Bellerand taking second.

“I wasn’t thinking about whether I was first,” said Bazile, who didn’t find out that she won until she was competing in the discus on her her way to a 14th place finish in that event. “I didn’t know where I was. I threw 45 on my last throw but my foot hit the board so it was a foul.”

Days after winning the championship, the achievement still hadn’t sunk in for Bazile.

“It’s kind of weird; I can’t believe it actually happened,” said Bazile. “The New Jersey girls at the national championships will be thinking of me as the girl who won. I will have a target on my back.”

In Bazile’s first two years at PHS, it didn’t look like a state title was going to happen for her. As a freshman, she was at 30 feet in the shot and threw 105’4 in the discus to make the sectionals. In her sophomore season, she got her shot in the 36 area and had a personal best of 127’3 in the discus.

“A lot of things started coming together in my junior year,” said Bazile. “For shot put, it helped that I did winter track instead of basketball so I was throwing constantly. At the Penn Relays that year I got my PR in the discus of 139’3 that is still my PR. It is a little frustrating. I was changing a lot of my technique and I got more into weightlifting.”

Entering her senior year, Bazile was confident that she could build on the progress she made as a junior.

“It was not so much about winning titles, it was more about getting personal bests,” said Bazile.

“In the winter, I was looking for 41-42 in the shot; I think I might have been at 41 in the postseason. In the discus, I was looking for 150-160, which is totally within my ability.”

As the season has unfolded, Bazile has been surprised by how well she has done in the shot.

“I had always felt that discus was my specialty until this year,” said Bazile. “I have been consistently throwing the shot put better and I am higher ranked in the shot put.”

Winning both the shot and the discus in the Mercer County Championships in May was a confidence builder for Bazile heading into state competition.

“At the counties, I had my best series in the shot put and the discus,” said Bazile, who had a throw of 41’2.5 to win the shot and a heave of 130’6 in winning the discus.

“I was in the high 120s and 130s in the discus. I had the shot consistently in the 40-41.”

This weekend, Bazile will be taking a shot at more glory as she competes in the 2014 New Balance Nationals Outdoors Championships at Greensboro, N.C.

“I have registered only for the shot in the championship division,” said Bazile, who is heading to Brown University where she will be throwing for its women’s track program.

“For the shot put I am looking to go 45 or better and stay in the circle. In the discus, I am entered in the emerging elite division. I have one more discus competition in my high school career. It would be great to PR but I just want to have fun.”

Bazile has certainly had a lot of fun since she grudgingly took up throwing six years ago.

GUIDING HAND: Greg Hand is enjoying the moment at a Princeton High swim meet this past winter. Hand, the longtime head coach of the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming teams and the girls’ soccer program, recently announced that he is retiring from teaching and coaching.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GUIDING HAND: Greg Hand is enjoying the moment at a Princeton High swim meet this past winter. Hand, the longtime head coach of the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming teams and the girls’ soccer program, recently announced that he is retiring from teaching and coaching. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Going by the numbers, it is clear that Greg Hand knows something about winning.

In 23 seasons as the head coach of the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, Hand has compiled a record of 223-152-20 with numerous appearances in the state tournament, a sectional title in 2012, and some stirring runs in the Mercer County Tournament.

Guiding the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming programs since 1996-97, Hand molded the Little Tigers into a powerhouse. In his tenure, the boys’ squad has gone 202-46-3 with seven county crowns, 12 sectional titles, five appearances in the state finals, and a New Jersey Public B championship in 2012. During that stretch, the Little Tiger girls’ team has posted a record of 152-63-2 with two county crowns, seven sectional titles, and four appearances in the Public B championship meet.

But for Hand, the subject of winning hasn’t been the daily focus as he has worked with the PHS athletes over the years.

“I have wanted to challenge the kids to find out what 100 percent felt like, what it looked like when a team was there so that — to me — is one of the great coaching challenges,” said Hand.

“So if you are functioning at 90 percent, you are not even close. We are talking about working hard every day but also understanding hard work better than you did before you came into the season or better than you did a few years ago and really getting to understand what your potential for work is. I don’t just mean physical exertion but for focus and recovering from mistakes and what that looks like when you are really doing it right.”

After doing things right at PHS since the 1980s on the field, in the pool, and in the classroom teaching AP U.S. history, Hand has decided to retire from teaching and coaching.

In reflecting on his decision, Hand concluded that it is time to take a break from his heavy work load.

“The normal demands were 80-100 hours a week for about 40 years,” said Hand, 63.

“My life has rotated around my professional work as a teacher and a coach on the one hand and my family on the other hand. I don’t have a sense beyond that, even including summers when I have always been looking to preparing for the next academic year and the next seasons that were coming up in the next year. I am interested in finding out what life will be like without that constancy of focus on my profession.”

Hand’s life turned in the direction of teaching after he matriculated to Princeton University.

“It was not something I thought a great deal about but during college, I decided to become certified to become a substitute teacher,” said Hand, a native of Pound Ridge, N.Y. who played basketball and competed in track for his high school.

“I spent many a day during those years substituting at Trenton Central, all five of the middle schools, and the occasional failed effort to be an elementary school teacher for a day. I really, really felt and saw something there. I learned a little about the teacher preparation program so decided to follow up and learn more about it and then enrolled at the program at Princeton. My certificate came through the teacher prep program with the student teaching and so on in my senior year.”

After a stint at the Newgrange School, Hand came to the Princeton school system in 1985 as a teacher at John Witherspoon. He coached the PHS JV boys’ soccer team and served as an assistant for the Little Tiger track program, concentrating on the throwers. He moved to PHS in 1988 and took a three-year hiatus from coaching soccer to get himself established in his new position.

Hand took the helm of the PHS girls’ soccer program in 1991 and threw himself into the job.

“The wonderful challenge of head coaching is to deal with every possible aspect of the sport and also the real time nature of it,” said Hand, who continued to serve as a track assistant coach through spring of 2010.

“As much as you can do on the outside to prepare, to study, and try to improve yourself and try to come up with ideas, a huge amount of the execution in coaching is generally a real time response to what the situation happens to be.”

For Hand, one of the best situations he encountered during his career was the chance to coach his children, Emily, Matt, and Pete, in swimming.

“It was one of the most special things in my life,” asserted Hand, grinning broadly.

“There was a period where I had Emily and Matt. Em had to stop her career early because she had shoulder problems throughout her teenage life. I started with Matt in his freshman year and then after Matt graduated, Pete came in the following year. They were five years apart. It was thrilling in so many ways. The obvious one in terms of a family connection is just getting to experience something with your kids unlike anything else you might be able to do.”

Seeing his boys’ swimming team roll past Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the 2012 state Public B championship meet provided Hand with a thrilling memory he won’t soon forget.

“I have never seen anything like it, the opposing coach said she had never seen anything like it,” said Hand.

“They had beaten us the year before, they were marginally the better team. We certainly lost more state championship meets than we won and what that does is to remind me that in sports, the contest is the thing. Winning is just extra special but it involves a whole different set of emotions, it seems to me, it is a combination of joy and in some ways, relief.”

In reflecting on his soccer tenure, Hand cited the impact that special players made on a year-to-year basis.

“One thing that runs through all of the sports but soccer in particular and certainly stands out there is the different character that each team had,” said Hand.

“We were, depending on the year, losing more than we were winning but there was a really good soccer culture and some terrific young ladies and really fine players. I think of teams that were shaped by the character of particular players, let’s say maybe we had a back four that was really solid and one year we had an incredible midfield and the next year we might have a real character forward.”

With that character came some outstanding play. “One of the great things about soccer to me was that regardless of what their particular abilities were, when the game is really flowing and it is not just attractive soccer, it is very effective, sometimes surprisingly effective,” added Hand.

“That is so rewarding when you see it. Sometimes you see it in spurts but other times you would see if for an entire half or a large majority of a game. There were such players and teams throughout the 23 years and some of them made the game look the way it should.”

One of Hand’s chief aims was to get his athletes to raise the level of their game.

“I tried to help kids understand that they have another gear,” said Hand. “That is rooted in my own experience in trying to be a good athlete and seeing it in the world of sports throughout my entire life when people do the things that literally make me catch my breath and almost cry. Student-athletes do have another gear and if they haven’t found it, it doesn’t mean that they won’t find it and if they have found it at some time, it is worth remembering what that was like and trying to connect with that more often.”

In Hand’s view, the pursuit of that extra gear helps a team come together collectively.

“The final thing I can think of in my sense of how athletes and teams get good is trying to help them to see some sort of cyclical relationship between hard work and team spirit,” said Hand.

“When you start working hard and challenging them to be enthusiastic as they are working and they complete some piece of work, whether it is a swimming workout or a real challenging exercise that we are doing in soccer or a certain number of reps of a certain type in track, that hard work generates a certain kind of spirit. The discussion there is to get the team to want to do more because they feel great about what doing more feels like.”

PHS athletic director John Miranda lauds Hand’s quality of work on many levels.

“He was an old school coach, wearing a shirt and a tie to the swimming meets,” said Miranda.

“He was incredibly well organized and incredibly thorough. He was always respected for his sportsmanship and his teams always showed good sportsmanship. He was a great teacher of the different sports but what he taught off the field was more important. He coached thousands of kids over the years, with 100 in swimming every year, 50 girls in soccer program, and 25 throwers.”

While Miranda is happy to see Hand step aside on his own terms, he rues the void being left in his wake.

“He is going to be really missed,” said Miranda. “He is the best combination of athletics, academics, and sportsmanship, a shining example to aspire to.”

Hand, for his part, will miss the daily interaction with his colleagues and students.

“It has been a thrill to be in the company of coaches who are so good at what they do,” said Hand, who plans to remain in Princeton and is looking into doing some track and swimming officiating and volunteer coaching.

“I feel very lucky to have worked with them and learned from them. The second thing, for sure, is the thrill day in, day out of working with student athletes, to try to help them actualize their potential. Even if I am tired, you get to the coaching venue and that is gone for what generally amounts to two or three hours and it is just completely focused and positive. There is always this effort to find a way to be constructive; wasted time is never in the agenda for coaching or teaching and I loved that.”

And Hand has undoubtedly made the most of his time at PHS in setting an example of class and success over the decades.

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High softball player Stephanie Wu races around the bases in recent action. Sophomore third baseman Wu emerged as a star for PHS this spring, hitting a team-high .364. The Little Tigers went 4-4 in their last eight games to end up with a 7-16 final record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High softball player Stephanie Wu races around the bases in recent action. Sophomore third baseman Wu emerged as a star for PHS this spring, hitting a team-high .364. The Little Tigers went 4-4 in their last eight games to end up with a 7-16 final record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing 12 of its first 15 games this season, the Princeton High softball team could have thrown in the towel.

Instead, the Little Tigers came alive down the stretch, playing their best ball of the year.

“In the last 8 games we were 4-4,” said PHS head coach Dave Boehm, whose team ended the season by beating WW/P-N 14-9 on May 14 and topping Trenton 12-4 on May 19 to post a final record of 7-16.

“Of those losses, one was to Notre Dame, who had one defeat at that point, it was 4-0 in a game that was 0-0 in the fifth inning; there was a 5-4 loss to Nottingham in the bottom of the seventh and 6-4 to WW/P-S in the Mercer County Tournament. WW/P-S and Nottingham had 10-runned us earlier in the season.”

Going with the tandem of freshman Kayla Volante and junior tri-captain Sarah Eisenach to share the pitching duties within games helped the Little Tigers get more competitive.

“We called it our two-headed monster,” said Boehm of the rotation that saw Volante compile a 3.10 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched and Eisenach post an ERA of 6.24 with 67 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings.

“I think it threw other teams off. Kayla has a little better movement and Sarah is faster and not afraid to go inside on batters. I would have them go two or three innings at a time.”

The trio of seniors Liana Bloom, Katie Kanter, and tri-captain Jessica Campisi helped the team stay on track.

“Liana filled in for Emily DiLella at first base and she did a good job; she played the last 8-9 games and did very well defensively,” said Boehm.

“She struggled at the plate a little bit but she didn’t take that out to the field; she was able to separate that. Katie Kanter is a total team player, even though she is not catching any more, she would put equipment on and warm up pitchers. Jess stepped in at shortstop and did a really good job. She had a number of key hits for us. She works a count; she led us in walks.”

Sophomores Stephanie Wu and tri-captain Kelli Swedish led the way for PHS offensively.

“Wu hit .364, that is very good for a kid who hit about .190 last year,” said Boehm.

“She had big hits and she hit for power. Her homer against Ewing was not wind-aided. Swedish being injured for a while hurt us. We can count on her in left field. She hit .357 and she has some pop. She is our best baserunner, she doesn’t
make a lot of mistakes.”

Volante and classmate Nancy Gray emerged as players who could be counted on.

“Kayla didn’t pitch a lot in the beginning; when we went to the two-inning thing, she got more confident,” said Boehm.

“She knew she didn’t have to pitch the whole game and would be going back to the outfield. She hit .288, which is good for a freshman who has never played at this level before. For a kid who hadn’t caught in a while, Nancy did really well. She shut down the other teams’ running game with her throwing. She would throw a runner out or make it a close play and they wouldn’t run again. She’ll learn to drop down and get even better.”

Boehm expects the team to keep getting better collectively. “We won 11 games last year with six seniors; this year we won seven with a bunch of a new players,” said Boehm.

“I am excited looking at next year. They have to put in work over the offseason; they can’t just come out in March and start playing. They need to work on bunting, hitting, and the fundamentals. I told them they can have the key to the shed and use the equipment.”

THROWING GAS: Princeton Day School baseball player Dom ­Gasparro throws the ball in a game this spring. Sophomore third baseman Gasparro was a bright spot this spring for the Panthers as they posted a 4-12 final record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THROWING GAS: Princeton Day School baseball player Dom ­Gasparro throws the ball in a game this spring. Sophomore third baseman Gasparro was a bright spot this spring for the Panthers as they posted a 4-12 final record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Murphy’s Law certainly applied to the Princeton Day School baseball team this spring.

Things started going wrong in the first inning of the season opener as PDS pitching ace and junior quad-captain Cole McManimon was hit by a line drive that broke his hand, knocking him out of action for more than a month.

Playing shorthanded, the Panthers struggled, going 4-12 and getting eliminated in the first round of both the Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep B tourney.

It was all hands on deck for PDS this spring as the shortage of manpower required versatility.

“Some days we dressed 11 and all of the kids had two or three gloves in their bags,” said Panther head coach Ray O’Brien. “Instead of getting down, the kids embraced it. Everyone got to pitch in.”

O’Brien credited his players with maintaining an upbeat attitude as they dealt with the ups and downs.

“When you are going through a difficult season, it can become unpleasant for the players and the coaches but that never happened this spring,” asserted O’Brien. “The guys stuck together and played hard, it was a good group of guys.”

Senior quad-captain Ford Schneider played a key role in holding things together.

“Ford was a great leader, he showed the younger guys how to play,” said O’Brien of the Emory-bound Schneider, who hit .356 on the season.

“He was the epitome of a captain, he set a good example. He is what we want in a PDS player. He hit the ball well and played a good center field. He did whatever we needed.”

Junior shortstop and quad-captain Jake Alu did very well this spring, leading the Panthers in hitting (.419), runs (15) and hits (26) and posting a 2.06 ERA in 20 1/3 innings of work on the mound.

“Jake was our most consistent player; he led the team in most offensive categories,” said O’Brien of the Boston College-bound Alu.

“He was terrific at shortstop. When we needed him to pitch, he did well. We wanted him to be our closer but we didn’t have many opportunities for that.”

Another junior quad-captain, Villanova recruit and first baseman James Radvany closed with a rush, posting a .364 batting average.

“JP ended up with some pretty decent numbers, he started to come on at the end,” added O’Brien. “He got a lot of walks, people pitched around him.”

The team’s quartet of freshmen, Paul Franzoni (.341 batting average), Ryan Sparks (.383 batting average), Zach Dudeck (.453 on-base percentage), and Chase Fleming (23 2/3 innings and 3.25 ERA) came on strong.

“I don’t know what we would have done without Paul Franzoni at catcher; he caught every inning and was really good defensively,” said O’Brien.

“I was surprised at how well he represented himself at the plate, he hit above .300. He will come back bigger and stronger, I am excited to have him for the next three years. Ryan Sparks played first, outfield, and was a left-handed pitcher for us. He did all of that well and he hit well. I think he was our second or third top hitter. Dudeck played really well in the outfield; he ended up with a pretty good on-base percentage. Chase Fleming led us in innings pitched and appearances. He can find the strike zone; he is your typical crafty lefty.”

PDS also got good play from sophomores Dom Gasparro (.300 batting average) and Sam Guarino (.275 batting average). “Dom had a pretty good season, he really came on at the end of the year,” said O’Brien. “Sam really looked good at times, we just need him to be more consistent.”

In O’Brien’s view, enduring this spring’s rocky ride should help the Panthers be more consistent in the future.

“We lost a lot of close games, I think we had four one-run games; we were competitive the whole year and I think that is a good sign,” said O’Brien.

“We were playing so many young guys, to be in those games and be close will help us. We need to learn how to win those games. Having Cole back next year will make a big difference. All three of the big juniors will be captains and I think they will pick up where Ford left off.”

STANDING TALL: Mark Aziz of Ivy Inn, right, establishes inside position against Bobby Brackett of Sneakers Plus in last year’s championship series in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Ivy Inn swept the series 2-0 and Aziz was named as Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP. The league tips off its 26th season on June 11 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STANDING TALL: Mark Aziz of Ivy Inn, right, establishes inside position against Bobby Brackett of Sneakers Plus in last year’s championship series in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Ivy Inn swept the series 2-0 and Aziz was named as Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP. The league tips off its 26th season on June 11 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deck has been reshuffled a bit as the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League tips off its 26th season this week.

“We definitely lost some of the old standbys in Dr. Palmer, PA Blue Devils, and Clear View,” said league commissioner and Rec Department Assistant Director Evan Moorhead.

“They couldn’t get enough players to commit. Some years we lose one or two teams but that is three pretty strong teams to lose.”

The league does boast the return of a pair of kings in defending champ Ivy Inn and Winberie’s, the 2012 titleists.

“Ivy Inn has the same group and I anticipate they will be in the mix for a championship,” said Moorhead.

“They have Bobby Davison, Mark Aziz, and Shahid Abdul-Karim. Shem Brittingham is back. They also have Lior Levy, Davon Holman, Kevin Tarca, and they have picked up Greg Ford. They should be a really strong team.”

Winberie’s has fortified itself for a title run. “Kurt Simmons has taken the reins from Mark Rosenthal; he knows the league and he knows the guys,” said Moorhead.

“They have picked up Jesse Krasna from the Blue Devils and Paul Johnson who played at Rider. They also got Terrance Bailey from Dr. Palmer. They have Chris Hatchell back along with Chris Edwards and Cliff Pollard. They may be the strongest challenger to dethrone the champions.”

Last summer’s wildcard, the entry comprised of current players from The College of New Jersey squad, which made it to the 2013 championship series, figures to again be a contender.

“The TCNJ team had a great run; it is not often that a team comes into the league and makes a championship run in its first year,” said Moorhead of the squad which is known as Tortuga’s Mexican Village this season after being sponsored by Sneakers Plus last summer.

“With Skye Ettin and Bobby Brackett, they will be tough. I think they have a lot of their guards coming back.”

There will be a strong Princeton High presence with the Princeton Youth Sports entry that contains current PHS players and the Northeast Realty squad, which includes a number of former Little Tiger standouts.

“PYS is back, they take their lumps but they are not in it for the wins and losses, they are looking to get the experience,” said Moorhead.

“Northeast is mostly PHS alums with guys like Ben Harrison, Ian Finnen, Fernando Silva, Davon Black, and Javon Pannell. They should be good and have a nice local following.”

The league’s new entries, which include Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt, Princeton Interventional Cardiology, King’s Pizzarama, and Belle Mead Physical Therapy, feature an intriguing mix of performers.

“The Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt team has some recognizable guys in graduating PHS players Cal O’Meara, Peter Mahotiere, Matt Donahue, and Paul Murray,” added Moorhead.

“They also have four Hightstown kids and some West Windsor and Ewing kids. They are going to be young but they should be an interesting team. Princeton Intervention has some guys from Raritan Valley Community College, I expect them to be competitive. King’s has Ryan Johnson, a Ewing kid, and Kenny Holzhammer, a former Princeton Day School player. Belle Meade is led by Matt Johnston, who is a Hillsborough guy. Most of the players are from that area.”

With the league opening action with a triple-header at the Community Park courts on June 11, starting at 7:15 p.m., the anticipation is building.

“We have been trying to generate some buzz on Twitter because the season sneaks up on a lot of people,” said Moorhead.

“I think when we get some more consistent warm weather, a bunch of days in the 80s, people will get in summer hoops mode.”

Moorhead is confident things will heat up at Community Park as the summer  unfolds.

“The first 25 years of the league have been great, I am excited to see what the 26th year brings,” said Moorhead.

“There were years when we had NCAA certification and there were a lot of D-I players. There was more talent but I think the league should be as competitive as ever.”

June 4, 2014
CLOSING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in action this spring. Senior and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona ended her career with a goal and an assist as PHS fell 17-5 to Moorestown last Thursday in the state Group III South sectional final. Lopez-Ona closed out her career with more than 300 goals and tallied 120 points this season on 89 goals and 31 assists.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in action this spring. Senior and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona ended her career with a goal and an assist as PHS fell 17-5 to Moorestown last Thursday in the state Group III South sectional final. Lopez-Ona closed out her career with more than 300 goals and tallied 120 points this season on 89 goals and 31 assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been understandable if the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team brought a sense of dread into its state Group III South sectional final matchup at perennial power Moorestown High last Thursday.

After all, Moorestown entered the game with a 22-0 record, riding a 73-game winning streak, ranked No. 1 in New Jersey and in the top 5 nationally.

But PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman saw the clash with the high-powered Quakers as a reward.

“It was a great opportunity for us,” said O’Gorman. “You know that if you are going up against Moorestown in the states that you are having a great season. We wanted to at least reach the same game that we reached last year and we made it to the sectional final again. We were excited to take them on and see that level of lacrosse.”

While Moorestown showed that it was at a higher level than PHS as it posted a 17-5 win, O’Gorman had no qualms with her team’s performance.

“We were excited to show our talent and I think we did,” said O’Gorman, who got three goals from Gabby Gibbon in the defeat with Emilia Lopez-Ona adding a goal and an assist with Allie Callaway chipping in a goal. “We didn’t slow down and we played to the end.”

With a final record of 17-4, the Little Tigers showed a lot this spring. “I couldn’t be happier with the way the girls played and conducted themselves,” said O’Gorman.

“They were a well rounded team and a class act. They followed the lessons I tried to instill and they gave 100 percent all of the time and you can’t ask for more than that. We finished strong, we were a force to be reckoned with.”

One of PHS’s strongest efforts this spring came against Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals as the Little Tigers avenged a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish.

“The win over Notre Dame in the county semis was a highlight,” recalled O’Gorman of the 19-9 triumph over the Irish.

“The girls played some great lacrosse, there were very few errors. To take such a lead on a team that had beaten us early in the season and then to hold them off when they made a run was great.”

O’Gorman credited the team’s seniors with sparking its run to the MCT and sectional title games.

“The seniors were awesome, all eight of them,” asserted O’Gorman of the program’s Class of 2014 which included Emilia Lopez-Ona, Dana Smith, Liz Jacobs, Emily Young, Krysta Holman, Stephanie Hauer, Kristi DeMilt, and Taylor Chiang.

“They were very mature. They took the underclassmen under their wings. The reason we went so far this year was due to their maturity. It is going to be hard to replace these seniors. They have made an impact on the program and the coaches.”

Penn-bound Lopez-Ona made an indelible impact on the program. “Emilia fought with all of her heart and soul,” said O’Gorman of Lopez-Ona who passed the 300-goal mark in her career in May and totaled 120 points this season on 89 goals and 31 assists.

“She lives and breathes lacrosse. She has enhanced her game over time; she has the determination to go out and practice hour after hour.”

The Little Tigers got determined play across the board from its senior group.

“Dana Smith (15 goals, 20 assists, and 81 ground balls inn 2014) had such fight, showed great fight on the ground balls,” said O’Gorman.

“Liz Jacobs (53 goals, 9 assists) has more power than any high school player I have ever seen. Taylor was such a versatile player. Steph Hauer (1 goal, 21 ground balls) and Kristi DeMilt (2 goals, 16 ground balls) knew how to keep the defense tight. This was one of the best defensive teams we have had. There were a lot of games where the defense was the MVP.”

With a solid core of returners, including juniors Gabby Gibbons (64 goals, 25 assists, 24 ground balls), Oona Ryle (8 goals, 1 assist, 37 ground balls), and Mira Shane (160 saves at goalie) along with sophomores Allie Callaway (23 goals, 1 assist) and Julia Ryan (13 goals, 8 assists, 28 ground balls), the Little Tigers figure to keep piling up the wins.

“We have a lot of great players coming back,” said O’Gorman. “Gabby and Allie work well together, they have big shoes to fill on offense. Ryle and Lis will go on our face-off unit. Mira is our backbone, she is great at communicating and directing our defense.”

PHS will need to keep showing backbone in the future to build on the success it experienced this spring.

“I think that they know that there are going to be challenges along the way and with hard work they can be really successful,” said O’Gorman, referring to her returning players.

“We didn’t let the early losses to North (WW/P-N) and Notre Dame set the tone. We knew we had a lot to offer. We brought it up to a new level for Princeton lacrosse.”