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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton Day School senior softball player and team captain Katie Alden, right, guards the line at third base in recent action. The leadership provided by Alden, who also served as the captain of the PDS field hockey and girls’ hockey teams, helped the Panthers make progress this spring as it went 2-11 after a winless campaign in 2014.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton Day School senior softball player and team captain Katie Alden, right, guards the line at third base in recent action. The leadership provided by Alden, who also served as the captain of the PDS field hockey and girls’ hockey teams, helped the Panthers make progress this spring as it went 2-11 after a winless campaign in 2014. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Variety has been the spice of Katie Alden’s sporting life. She started playing softball in kindergarten, took up ice hockey in elementary school, and began competing in field hockey at middle school.

When Alden (this reporter’s daughter) came to the Princeton Day School as a freshman in 2011, she saw the opportunity to keep wearing three hats athletically and proceeded to make the varsity teams in each of her sports.

Over the last four years, Alden proved to be a player for all seasons. In field hockey, she ended up as a two-year starter at goalie, a team captain, a first-team All Prep B performer and a NFHCA National Academic All American. On the ice, she played goalie, served as a captain, and was a WIHLMA All-Academic first team honoree. She won the school’s Varsity Award for both programs. On the diamond, she is a starting infielder and the team captain.

Earlier this month, Alden reflected on her three-sport experience as she was the focus of the softball program’s annual Senior Day being the only member of the Class of 2015 on the squad.

“All senior days are bittersweet for an athlete and I think this was extremely bittersweet for me since it is my last season at PDS,” said Alden. “I have been playing on varsity teams since I was a freshman. It has really been a large portion of my experience at the Princeton Day School.”

With the PDS softball program struggling to stay alive in the wake of low numbers, Alden was touched to be the lone senior on the team.

“For softball especially, the struggle we have gone through to keep the program and to see it flourishing in my senior year is really heartwarming for me,” said Alden.

“I never expected to have 17 girls on the team in my senior year when we started my freshman year with a crew of nine or 10.”

Alden played a key role in keeping the program afloat, recruiting ice hockey players to take up the sport.

“There are five ice hockey girls and two girls from my advisory group on the team,” said Alden.

“I really emphasized to them that it is a fun game, there is not much pressure, it is not scary. It is something to be together and have fun. The hockey girls love playing with each other and being with each other. I emphasized to them that it would be another opportunity for them to play for their school. It is hard to turn down an offer to support your school in a positive way.”

Drawing on her experience in field hockey and ice hockey, Alden has gone out of her way to create a positive atmosphere around the team.

“In my third season as a captain, it almost comes naturally to me to be in that leadership role,” said Alden.

“There is a fine line between helping the coach lead and being too much of an influence on girls. You have to make sure that they know that you are one of them and are on their side no matter what. I try to make that clear to the coach and my team.”

Alden’s time in the game has helped her influence the newcomers to softball. “With softball especially, I have more experience,” said Alden, who utilized that knowledge by filling in a number of spots around the diamond this spring for the Panthers, playing at first base, second, shortstop, and third at various points this season and batting second in the order before moving to the leadoff spot.

“I have been playing softball since I was five so I have 13 years of experience in the game. It is engrained in my head what to do in every situation. I like to share that with them so they know and can teach others as well.”

Those efforts have borne fruit as the Panthers went 2-11 this spring after a winless campaign in 2014.

“I had hoped that I was a part of making this program what it is today,” said Alden.

“We didn’t play necessarily to win every game, we play to have our strongest game, be a team, and have fun. Winning comes second and third but it is always fun to win and it really shows that this program will continue to be a program. It is going to grow and it is going to improve. I hope one day it will be extremely competitive with the surrounding schools.”

PDS head coach Paul Lano, for his part, credits Alden with playing a major role in the program’s progress.

“We have got half a roster of hockey players who never played softball before which is directly due to Katie Alden,” said Lano.

“She was the first hockey player to come out here and do this and she inspired the rest. Now they all love it. I owe it to her, she is the one.”

Lano loved seeing Alden’s growth as a leader this spring. “She became this mother hen, she really took over back in January when we had our first team meetings,” said Lano.

“She helped me run the show, helped get everyone involved. Katie has really shined in a leadership role this year. I couldn’t be more proud of her because I would hate to say that I didn’t anticipate this but it is a pleasant surprise how well she has handled all of it. The team leans on her, they know she has all of the experience. She is always there to answer questions from all of the rookies we have in the game.”

The team’s improvement on the field this year has pleasantly surprised Lano as well.

“They are growing faster than I expected,” asserted Lano. “Their interest is overwhelming. I am here a half hour to an hour after practice because they don’t want to leave. They want to stay, they want to learn, they want to get better, they are all inspired. They have a good idea now of what is in front of them and what is expected of them as far as themselves, their teammates, and the coaching staff. I really think that they are much more on task.”

For Alden, handling the task of playing three sports has helped her grow in many ways.

“It is fun to have those friends and get those connections,” said Alden, who is headed to Bucknell University where she is looking to play club field hockey and ice hockey.

“You learn a lot in sports. You can see a lot of life lessons and how that translates into the classroom and everyday life skills. I also think it is great to be a role model in your school and really show PDS colors through athletics. I know the Princeton University motto is education through athletics and I really stand true to that. I think it is fun to support your school and really show them what PDS is made out of.”

GOING DEEP: Hun School softball player Alexis Goeke slugs a homer against Lawrenceville last week in the state Prep A semifinals. Junior Goeke’s heroics weren’t enough as Hun fell 5-3 to the Big Red in the May 12 contest. The defeat left the Raiders with a final record of 9-9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING DEEP: Hun School softball player Alexis Goeke slugs a homer against Lawrenceville last week in the state Prep A semifinals. Junior Goeke’s heroics weren’t enough as Hun fell 5-3 to the Big Red in the May 12 contest. The defeat left the Raiders with a final record of 9-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexis Goeke led off for the Hun School softball team in the top of the fifth inning at Lawrenceville in the state Prep A semis last week with the foes locked in a 2-2 tie.

After falling behind 1-2 in the count, junior star Goeke wasn’t trying to be a hero in the May 12 contest.

“I know with two strikes, I have to be more aggressive protecting the plate,” said Goeke. “I knew we needed to score runs; it was really important. I was just looking for contact and looking for a single.”

Uncoiling on the next delivery, Goeke made solid contact, lining the ball over the left field fence for a go-ahead homer.

“I saw my pitch, it was inside,” recalled Goeke. “I always bat better with two strikes. I had no clue it was a home run, I was just running hard, thinking it was a double and then I was like wow.”

The Raiders, though, couldn’t hold the lead giving up a run in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the sixth on the way to a 5-3 defeat.

“We played hard as a team and we all stayed positive throughout the whole game, no matter who had the lead,” said Goeke, reflecting on the loss which left Hun with a final record of 9-9.

“I think it is important to play as a team and we just fell short at the end. It just didn’t turn out in our favor, they are a good team also.”

Noting that Hun had been drubbed 16-4 at Lawrenceville on April 23, Goeke  liked the way the Raiders tightened things up in the playoff rematch.

“We played much better than the last time and we were proud of that, even though we didn’t end up winning,” added Goeke.

Goeke is proud of how the Raiders bounced back from a 2-6 start, going 7-3 over its last 10 games.

“Throughout the whole season, I think we have grown as a team from when we went down to Florida during preseason,” said Goeke.

“We had a couple of rough games and a couple of rough spots but I think we learned from them, developed, and helped each other. I think that made us better throughout the season. We ended up even, which isn’t really that bad.”

In Goeke’s view, the turning point for Hun came after a 12-0 loss to Steinert in mid-April.

“After the Steinert game, we knew that we had to work really hard in practice,” said Goeke. “We had to make a change, we had to do something different in order to turn our season around.”

Doing good things in the field and at the bat, Goeke helped spark the team’s late surge.

“I love playing in the infield, I love playing at first,” said Goeke. “I have worked really hard on my hitting during the offseason. I think having my approach in mind when I go up to the plate every time — knowing what I am looking for — has helped me a lot.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk thought that Goeke’s big fifth inning hit was going to help turn the tide in favor of Hun in the game against Lawrenceville.

“Definitely you hope so,” said Quirk reflecting on Goeke’s homer. “We always know that they never give up until the end. I thought we were going to keep going too but we just fell short. The last time they beat us 16-4. It was a lot different today, they have nothing to be embarrassed about.”

In Quirk’s view, Goeke has made a difference for the Raiders this spring

“She is tough, no matter where I put her she gives me 100 percent,” said Quirk. “I tried leading her off to take some of the pressure off of her from being in the middle of the order. I think it has paid off. She has walked a lot and hit well. I am pleased with her defense also.”

Quirk was pleased with how her team came together down the homestretch.

“After the Lawrenceville game here, the kids themselves sat and talked,” said Quirk.

“I think they decided that they wanted to play ball. Kacey Abitz and Julia Revock both did a great job on the mound. The outfielders improved. Our infield was solid.

The Hun infield was anchored by the team’s lone seniors, Julia Blake and Vicki Leach.

“They are going to be missed, their leadership is unbelievable,” said Quirk, noting that they both got on base in the final inning against Lawrenceville before a Hun rally sputtered. “They are just good kids. They have been even more special because they both played field hockey for me.”

With the rest of her players returning, Quirk believes Hun can do some special things next spring.

“We are young, we have got a lot of potential,” asserted Quirk. “I am going to talk to each girl and tell them what they need to work on for next year. We are getting four players in so I think that is going help balance us out and help us move forward.”

Goeke, for her part, feels that Hun’s good work over the last month of the season bodes well for the future.

“We have a lot of players who developed this year and I think we have a really good core of girls returning,” said Goeke. “We just have to build on where we left off.”

FINAL CUT: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella makes contact in recent action. Last weekend, senior first baseman and Swarthmore College-bound Pontrella helped Hun make it to the final round of the state Prep A tournament where it fell to Blair to end the season at 14-8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CUT: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella makes contact in recent action. Last weekend, senior first baseman and Swarthmore College-bound Pontrella helped Hun make it to the final round of the state Prep A tournament where it fell to Blair to end the season at 14-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was Justin Pontrella’s last day as a Hun School baseball player and he couldn’t wait to hit the field.

With the Raiders hosting Blair Academy in the final round of the state Prep A tournament last Sunday, senior first baseman Pontrella was primed to go for a title.

“I woke up at 6,  we were all up early,” said Pontrella. “We couldn’t sleep we were so ready for this game. The MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) didn’t go our way, the MCTs (Mercer County Tournament) didn’t go our way so we had it all bottled up, especially me and the other seniors. We were finishing our Hun baseball career. We were really, really ready to do this.

Pontrella and his teammates faced an uphill battle in the double-elimination tourney as they had fallen to Blair on Saturday in the semifinal round and needed to beat the Buccaneers twice to earn the championship.

In game one, the Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the second inning and rode the pitching of senior star Jason Applegate to a win by that margin.

“We knew that as soon as Jason threw that first pitch stroke, we were going to win that game,” said Pontrella, referring to Applegate who gave up three hits in earning the shutout.

“When we came in and Evan (Barratt) led off in the bottom of the inning with a hit. Everyone was so fired up, there was not a doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game. It was just all energy.”

In the decisive game, though, Blair had the energy, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings on the way to a 12-0 win and the title.

“They scored first and that is huge,” said Pontrella, who pounded out two hits in the finale. “If you can get a run across in the first inning in high school, more often than not, you are going to win the game. They put two on in the first and two in the second. We couldn’t string together the hits.”

Pontrella loved playing out the string in the infield with classmates, second baseman Peter Schintzler and shortstop Nick Perez, along with the rest of the 2015 squad as it posted a 14-8 record.

“There are three out of four infielders that played with me on JV freshman and sophomore year so we have been together for four years,” said Pontrella.

“We had young guys who wanted to play, we had two sophomores in the lineup. Everyone just wants to play. There are no egos, there are no superstars, everyone is just solid. We all loved to play baseball. Everyone is smiling, we are louder on the bench than any other team. Everyone is smiling and joking and having a good time with each other. We just pull for each other, it is so great.”

In reflecting on his Hun career, Pontrella said he pulled things together for a big senior year.

“I have been through everything,” said Pontrella. “I played really, really well on JV for the first two years. I got up here junior year and didn’t do so well and this year, I had a great season to go away.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade gave his team credit for fighting through a tough weekend which saw it lose 4-0 to Blair in the winner’s bracket game in the semifinal round on Saturday and then come back later that afternoon to beat Peddie 5-3 to make it to the final round on Sunday.

“We had four games in two days in the heat and humidity,” said McQuade. “It is tough. The kids are young so it is more mental than anything else.”

Senior star and Villanova-bound Applegate showed his toughness in the first game on Sunday, mowing down Blair to get Hun to a winner-take-all title contest.

“Applegate pitched an unbelievable game, he capped a great career,” said McQuade. “He went 9-0 this season, it is the second most wins in a season of any pitcher at Hun. One guy had 10 so what he did was absolutely spectacular to get us to this level.”

Hun, though, couldn’t maintain that level in the finale, digging an early hole that ultimately doomed their chances for a crown. “We play well when we get ahead, they got ahead of us 2-0 and we almost scored in the first inning, which would have been crucial,” said McQuade.

“Then they got two more runs and then I think the pressure started to mount a little bit at 4-0 down and then it got to six. That is where the mental part started kicking in and all of a sudden you see kids hanging their heads in the heat.”

Despite falling short of the Prep A title, the Hun players have no reason to hang their heads.

“From the time we started the season, the team had a personality, differing from recent years that way,” said McQuade.

“We got down to Florida for our spring trip and they bonded down there. They had fun. The season itself was terrific, to be co-champs in the MAPL is huge because Mercersburg, year in, year out, is good.”

McQuade had fun watching Pontrella develop into a star for the Raiders.

“He is so emotional about everything, he has got that presence,” said McQuade.

“The way he carries himself around the bag is great, he has some of the softest hands I have ever seen of any first baseman. He hits, he fields.”

The senior class which included Brayden Stasow, Matt Kooker, Kyle O’Sullivan, Dalton Bianco, and Gideon Friedberg in addition to Pontrella, Applegate, Perez, and Schintzler, had a great impact in their final campaign.

“They were in some tough games last year, we struggled with wins and losses,” said McQuade, whose team went 8-12 in 2014.

“A lot of our games were really close so you learned a lot from that. The challenge was — hey now you are seniors, and it is your turn, you own it or are you just going to coast through the season. They bought into that they owned it and they worked hard every day. They did everything I asked them. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard these kids worked. They come down to practice and they goof around, which is fun. The game is meant to be fun so we try to have as much fun as possible.”

The Hun players also learned from some alumni coaches, who helped carry on the winning tradition developed under McQuade’s 45 years at the helm of the  Raiders.

“We get the younger alums here with Chris Leach and Tommy Monfiletto just taking off work to be here,” said McQuade.

“We preach program and they are the heart of the program. When the kids see the alums that are here day in day out, week in, week out and the alums that come to our games, that is what we preach. We carry a ton of kids and I will always do that because I would rather have more kids that want to be a part of the program than turn them away.”

For Pontrella, being part of the Hun program has been an unforgettable experience.

“When I am having a bad day at school, at night I will just come and sit in the dugout and think about this and how awesome this was,” said Pontrella.

“Luckily I am going to be playing in college at Swarthmore. Even if I wasn’t, I would be happy to end my career on this field because this is so great, everything about it. When I look back at Hun, this is what I see, the coaches and the guys.”

May 13, 2015
LAST STOP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz guards the cage last Monday in PDS’s 18-11 victory over Pennington in the state Prep B championship game. Senior star Kuzmicz made 12 saves in the win as she earned her second state title of the year after helping the PDS girls’ soccer team to the Prep B title last fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST STOP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz guards the cage last Monday in PDS’s 18-11 victory over Pennington in the state Prep B championship game. Senior star Kuzmicz made 12 saves in the win as she earned her second state title of the year after helping the PDS girls’ soccer team to the Prep B title last fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After helping the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team win the state Prep B title last fall, Kirsten Kuzmicz was determined to add another state crown to her resume this spring.

Kuzmicz had last Monday circled on her calendar as that was the date slated for the Prep B title game in girls’ lacrosse.

In the wake of making 12 saves to help top-seeded PDS defeat second-seeded Pennington 18-11 in Monday’s title showdown, the star goalie savored ending her Panther career by achieving that second state championship.

“May 11, that was our ticket,” said a beaming Kuzmicz. “It is an awesome way to end it. It feels great after four years, finally getting a championship in lacrosse.”

Things didn’t start out great for the Panthers as they fell behind 2-0 in the first 2:30 of the contest.

“It was a little shaky in the beginning,” said Kuzmicz, who was converted to goalie from midfield last spring in her junior season. “There was a whole another 50 minutes left so we know we have to fight hard until the end.”

Kuzmicz fought hard in the cage, making some key saves as PDS started to roll, going on an 11-0 run that broke open the contest. “Our team clicked in. I was feeling good,” said Kuzmicz, recalling the first half run.

The Panthers never looked back, building their lead to 18-5 late in the second half to turn the game into a rout.

In the raucous post-game celebration, the Panthers repeatedly chanted May 11, May 11 while Kuzmicz and the team’s other senior, Morgan Foster, brandished the trophy and plaque the team earned with the victory.

In reflecting on the qualities that made PDS a championship team, Kuzmicz cited intensity of effort and feeling.

“We are a hard working and very passionate team,” said Kuzmicz. “We have bonded really well since the beginning of the season. As the season went on, we played a lot harder. We kept stepping up our game.”

Longtime PDS head coach Jill Thomas was thrilled to see Kuzmicz and Foster end their careers in style.

“A year in goal and she wins a state title so there you go, you can’t really beat that,” said Thomas. “It is terrific, what a feeling to go out with a championship, good for them.”

PDS played terrifically all over the field as it went on its 11-0 first half run that changed the tone of the contest.

“We played pretty darn well; we made the adjustment on the draw and took control of the center of the field,” said Thomas.

“They just got into what we have been working on in the past couple of weeks, playing our game and setting our tempo; doing what we do instead of worrying about what everybody else does. Once we could do that, it was great.”

The Panthers showed great balance on the offensive end as sophomore Morgan Mills and freshman Madison Mundenar each tallied five goals and an assist in the win over Pennington with sophomore Hannah Bunce chipping in three goals and an assist, freshman Kate Bennett contributing two goals and two assists, and senior standout Foster adding a goal and four assists.

“It is pretty hard to face guard one because we have a bunch of people we can go to, which is kind of nice,” said Thomas.

It has been nice for Thomas to see her young squad develop into such a force.

“They believe in their senior leadership,” said Thomas, whose team ended the season with an 11-6 record.

“They have grown so much. We got eight sophomores and freshmen on the field out of 12. We started to jell and understand in Florida and then we had bumps along the way. The Peddie game (a 13-11 win on April 29) is when we really said we can play this game. We really started to sense what we had to do and to not have the unforced turnovers. They realized what they were. They have really worked hard and gotten it done so that is good.”

Kuzmicz, for her part, is proud of how the team worked through the ups and down to finish with a title.

“We were in a lot of the games and even the games we didn’t do so well in, but we still worked hard,” said Kuzmicz, who is heading to Franklin and Marshall College where she plans to walk on to the school’s women’s lacrosse team. “We didn’t really stop, we have been going seven days week.”

MAN POWER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman fires the ball in third-seeded PDS’s 15-2 win over sixth-seeded and two-time defending champions Princeton High in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal last Saturday. Junior star Tuckman tallied three goals and an assist in the win. On Monday, PDS fell 11-10 to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals to drop to 10-6. PDS was slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAN POWER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman fires the ball in third-seeded PDS’s 15-2 win over sixth-seeded and two-time defending champions Princeton High in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal last Saturday. Junior star Tuckman tallied three goals and an assist in the win. On Monday, PDS fell 11-10 to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals to drop to 10-6. PDS was slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing through an intermittent drizzle, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team built a 3-1 first quarter lead against crosstown rival Princeton High in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal clash last Saturday.

But in the second quarter, Jonah Tuckman and his PDS teammates poured it on visiting PHS, as the third-seeded outscored the sixth-seeded and two-time defending county champion Little Tigers 7-0 to take a 10-1 halftime lead.

“I think we just started to click; I think everyone started to move the ball well,” said junior star Tuckman.

“Every one of our goals was just multi touch, everyone was helping each other. We didn’t really dodge through and shoot. We were all playing really  unselfishly and that is what we were looking for today.”

PDS never looked back, rolling to a 15-2 win over PHS. The Panthers are slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14.

Tuckman ended up with three goals and an assist in the win over PHS and formed a productive partnership with younger brother, freshman Elon, who chipped in two goals and three assists.

“It is fun, we just go back to playing in the backyard,” said a smiling Tuckman, reflecting on the connection he feels with his brother.

“We used to come out here on the turf over the summer and stand by the crease, pass it back and forth and just try and finish on an empty net. It is showing on the field; it is a really good time to have him out there.”

Tuckman’s bond with senior star Jacob Shavel, who added three goals and an assist in the win over PHS, exemplifies the team’s on-field chemistry.

“Jacob is one of my best friends and throughout the whole offseason we have been playing together and we have been working hard in the weight room,” said Tuckman.

“We have really built a lot of chemistry throughout the whole team. It is not just Jacob and I or Elon and I, the whole team has a lot of chemistry. It is really working well.”

The team came to the aid of the Tuckman brothers earlier this season after their mother passed away after a long battle with cancer.

“The day after it happened, I was downstairs in my basement and I looked up and seven or eight of the guys on the team were just standing there to hang out with me and my brother  the whole day and just be with us,” recalled Tuckman.

“The team has been doing that the whole time, we have really been there for each other, it has been great.”

Tuckman has worked hard to be there for for his teammates. “I put a lot of work in over the offseason; it was a lot  of growth both in the weight room and mentally so I have been playing well,” said Tuckman, who scored three goals and two assists in a losing cause as PDS fell 11-10 at Rutgers Prep last Monday in the state Prep B semifinals.

“Also, our whole team has been playing well together. That definitely has a lot to do with my numbers boosting.”

As PDS looks ahead to the MCT semis, Tuckman believes the Panthers are saving their best for last.

“We pumped up our schedule like no other this year,” said Tuckman. “Early in the year our record wasn’t showing what we were but we knew we were playing good lacrosse and then we ended up just turning around. We knew we were playing well and now we are just thriving, playing our best lacrosse when it matters.”

PDS head coach Rich D’Andrea was thrilled with the way his team played in its second quarter outburst against PHS.

“We have been trying to dictate the pace the entire year,” said D’Andrea. “That is one of the big things for us, having guys understand, based on the makeup of our team, that there is always a premium on possession. Guys have really worked on clearing the ball. If you clear the ball well, it gives way to more possession and luckily, we were able to capitalize on some of those today.”

The dominant play of sophomore Nick Day on face-offs helped PDS control possession against the Little Tigers.

“Nick was fantastic at the X, we are lucky to have Nick,” said D’Andrea of the WW/P-N transfer.

“He is a hardworking guy; he is a locker room guy. He has worked really, really hard. In the few last weeks, he has become really disciplined. He is doing all the right things now at the right time.”

Day’s good work has freed up the older Tuckman to focus on his offensive production. “Last year, Jonah was a guy we relied on for face-off, man-up, man-down, and defense,” said D’Andrea.

“It was rare that he left the field. Having Nick with us this year has taken a little pressure off of him. He has really worked hard to develop his shot. He is dodging hard, he is moving the ball well. Jonah is a special player; he is one of our spiritual lightning rods.”

Senior star Shavel is another spiritual leader for the Panthers. “Jacob has a nose for the ball, he does some great things for us,” said D’Andrea.

“He finishes the ball, he is one of our guys who handles and possesses well. Jacob has a way of finding ground balls in big spots; it has been fours years of that. He brings such good experience to the field, that is why he is one of our captains.”

The Panthers’ experienced defensive unit, spearheaded by seniors Christian Vik and Kevin Towle, juniors Amir Melvin and James Fragale, along with senior goalie Chris Markey, shut the door on PHS.

“They did a great job, they pressured hands the whole time,” said D’Andrea.

“They knew the assignments, right, left. Those guys have a way of backing each other up. Not only are they a talented group but knowing that you have Chris Markey in goal for you is a big help. He made some big ones when he needed to; he has done that for us all year.”

No matter how the year ends for PDS, D’Andrea likes the way his players have gone about their business.

“I think for us, it hasn’t been about one game the entire year, it is about showing steady progress,” said D’Andrea.

“There is an art to when teams peak; it is an inexact science. Most importantly, the guys are more focused than they have been, they are working hard, they are tweaking on a daily basis. That is all you can ask for, who knows what is going to happen.”

Tuckman, for his part, is confident that the Panthers will show their teamwork to the end.

“We just have to keep moving the ball and keep playing together,” said Tuckman. “The whole year we have been preaching family and togetherness; that is what we have to look for. We have to have each other’s back and play together.”

YOUNG GUN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Johnny ­Lopez-Ona races up the field in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, sophomore star Lopez-Ona tallied two goals and two assists as sixth-seeded PHS toped No. 11 Steinert 18-2 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. Two days later, Lopez-Ona and his teammates couldn’t get it going as they fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School on the MCT quarterfinals to move to 7-8. In upcoming action, PHS will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Johnny ­Lopez-Ona races up the field in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, sophomore star Lopez-Ona tallied two goals and two assists as sixth-seeded PHS toped No. 11 Steinert 18-2 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. Two days later, Lopez-Ona and his teammates couldn’t get it going as they fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School on the MCT quarterfinals to move to 7-8. In upcoming action, PHS will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into his sophomore season on the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team, Johnny Lopez-Ona knew that he had to make things happen on his own.

After a promising freshman campaign in 2014 that saw him ride the coattails of such senior offensive stars as Kevin Halliday, Matt Purdy, and Matt Corrado, Lopez-Ona realized that graduation left a void on the PHS attack.

“I definitely think there were a couple of roles to fill with the four captains that graduated last year,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We have had some great kids that stepped up too, like Rory Helstrom and Chris Diver. I definitely have more goals this season where I have dodged and scored rather than some of the other times last year where I was fed by dodgers.”

Getting off to a hot start in May, the wiry, baby-faced Lopez-Ona has scored some big goals, tallying three goals with four assists in an 18-8 win over WW/P-N on May 1 before notching three goals and an assist in a 7-6 victory over Hopewell Valley on May 5.

In Lopez-Ona’s view, the performance against Hopewell Valley was a big step forward for the Little Tigers.

“It confirms the work we have been doing throughout the season to get better and to be able to play against opponents like that,” said Lopez-Ona.

Lopez-Ona and his teammates played well in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament as sixth-seeded PHS rolled to an 18-2 win over No. 11 Steinert.

“I think our coaches and captains have been instilling a precedent of focus,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied two goals and two assists in the win.

“I think it had rubbed off on me where everybody is getting ready for the postseason and trying to do the best they can and save the best for last.”

Following in the footsteps of older sister, Emilia, a former PHS field hockey and lacrosse star who is playing in her freshman season this spring with the Penn women’s lax team, has given Lopez-Ona extra inspiration to do his best.

“My younger sister, my older sister, my dad, and I would always play outside,” said Lopez-Ona. “I feel like having to live up to her has been pushing me to play better.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way Lopez-Ona is pushing himself to get better.

“The game that he played against Hopewell was amazing,” said Stanton.

“Last year, he had the benefit of playing with three really experienced seniors on the offensive end. Against Hopewell, the team that set the standard for the CVC this year, he had two fantastic individual goals where he took the ball strong to the front of the goal and threw it by a good keeper. To see him do that in a really meaningful game was a great sign for his development.”

While PHS fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School in the MCT quarterfinals last Saturday to end the country title defense for the two-time champions, Stanton believes his squad is headed in the right direction.

“We have finally learned our roles and a big part of that was coaches understanding what our players are capable of and putting them in the right places,” said Stanton, whose team will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest.

“Our guys know how we can win. We are going to have to win a little bit differently than we have in the past. We have figured something that can work for us.”

Lopez-Ona, for his part, believes that things are starting to work well for the Little Tigers.

“After a slow start, we have now had probably five games where we have really stepped it up,” said Lopez-Ona. “It definitely feels like we are peaking.”

FACE DOWN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane faces down a shooter in a game last season. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 16 saves in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS lost 5-4 to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. On Monday, Shane made 14 saves as PHS fell 10-8 to Hopewell Valley in a regular season contest to drop to 8-12.  The Little Tigers will be starting action in the state tournament this week where they are seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE DOWN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane faces down a shooter in a game last season. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 16 saves in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS lost 5-4 to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. On Monday, Shane made 14 saves as PHS fell 10-8 to Hopewell Valley in a regular season contest to drop to 8-12. The Little Tigers will be starting action in the state tournament this week where they are seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mira Shane didn’t waste any time showing that she meant business as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team played at Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday.

The PHS senior star goalie repelled three Notre Dame shots in the first two minutes of the contest.

That was just the beginning of a sensational performance by the Michigan-bound Shane, who went on to make 16 saves, including several point blank stops against the high-powered Irish attack.

Shane’s heroics, though weren’t enough as the fifth-seeded Little Tigers dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame.

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

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

In reflecting on the defeat, Schlesinger acknowledged that his team misfired as it dug a 3-1 hole at halftime.

“I thought we could do a little bit more offensively,” said Schlesinger. “We struggled a little bit in the first half moving the ball the way we wanted to. In the second half, it started to click. It was a great battle.”

PHS did get a great offensive effort from rising star Jordyn Cane, who scored three goals on the evening.

“Jordyn has stepped up and is playing the best lacrosse of her life,” asserted Schlesinger. “She is a marvelously talented player with great speed, great stick skills, and a great head for the game.”

While the PHS players were teary-eyed and glum after the setback, Schlesinger saw a major positive in the way they stepped up their intensity.

“I am just so proud of them,” said Schlesinger, whose squad lost 10-8 to fellow MCT semifinalist Hopewell Valley last Monday in a regular season meeting to drop to 8-12.

“This is why you coach, to help kids learn about themselves and give a level of effort they never thought was possible. I thought our effort was tremendous and I am really happy for them even though they are all disappointed right now.”

With the state tournament on the horizon, Schlesinger believes that the effort his team gave against Notre Dame bodes well.

“We are playing good lacrosse right now,” said Schlesinger, whose squad is seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest.

“We are all banged up; we have got two girls with concussions and another girl with a high ankle sprain so we are very short of players right now. For us to have to kind of effort, that kind of performance was great.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Nicole Apuzzi runs around a defender in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Apuzzi scored two goals to help Hun defeat Stuart Country Day 15-9 in its season finale. The victory gave the Raiders a final record of 7-8 this spring, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING THE CORNER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Nicole Apuzzi runs around a defender in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Apuzzi scored two goals to help Hun defeat Stuart Country Day 15-9 in its season finale. The victory gave the Raiders a final record of 7-8 this spring, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was some crying when the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team lost 12-7 to WW/P-N in the Mercer County Tournament earlier this month but Liz Cook was smiling inside.

“For some reason, the game against North was so awesome, something clicked on the way to the game, they said coach we have got this,” said Hun first-year head coach Liz Cook.

“They had tears at the end and that was nice to see, it showed how much they cared. They showed a real progress. All that work from October on really paid off. The transition game was beautiful. I think we played at a whole other level. They really believed in themselves. They played together and were connecting together.”

Hun gained some self belief in two other key games down the stretch, a 15-14 regular season win over Prep B finalist Pennington in overtime on April 29 and a 10-9 victory over Blair in the state Prep A quarterfinals two days earlier.

“Pennington has a really great team, they have a lot of speed,” said Cook. “The girls have worked hard before games, watching film. They have studied hard, they are like sponges. They have learned to adjust and play against each team; doing things to take away their strengths and play to our strengths. We did that against Pennington. We watched a lot of film on Blair before that game. We had a game plan and they carried it out. I really enjoyed watching that; it was a great bus ride back.”

The Raiders ended their good ride this spring with a 15-9 win over Stuart Country Day last Wednesday, giving the squad a final record of 7-8, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014.

“We really needed that, it was great to come out with a win,” said Cook, who got four goals and four assists from senior star and Bryn Mawr-bound Erica Dwyer in the win over Stuart. “It was funny, after the Stuart game, the kids all wanted to have practice the next day.”

Cook knows she was lucky to have a group of seniors that included defenders Shannon Graham, Amanda Barbour, and Taylor Nehlig along with midfielder/attacker Dwyer.

“I will miss every single one of them; it was my first year here and they were my leaders,” said Cook, referring to her quartet of seniors.

“I could really count on them. The three defenders helped hold our defense together and Erica settled our attack and calmed things down when we had the ball.”

Cook, for her part, enjoyed making an impact in her first year at the helm of  the Hun program.

“I wanted them to believe in themselves and to have a female mentor to help them athletically and academically,” said Cook.

“I told them the culture of losing is over; they see that they are able to attain anything they go after. I told them they needed to improve every day in practice and in every game and they did that. They always had the talent, they just needed some guidance.”

With a core of talented players coming back, Cook believes that Hun will keep improving.

“I am really excited about the future,” asserted Cook. “We have such a young team, they are so hungry for it. A lot of them play lacrosse outside of school. Over the next two or three years, they could be something really special. They are really together.”

May 6, 2015
FINDING HER WAY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Allie Callaway heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star and George Mason-bound Callaway scored two goals to help fifth-seeded PHS top No. 12 Stuart 20-4 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-10 with the win, were slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINDING HER WAY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Allie Callaway heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star and George Mason-bound Callaway scored two goals to help fifth-seeded PHS top No. 12 Stuart 20-4 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-10 with the win, were slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team lost to Lawrenceville last week to suffer its sixth straight defeat, it would have been easy to write off the squad’s chances to do anything in the postseason.

But PHS junior star Allie Callaway sensed that the Little Tigers would benefit from those tough losses down the road.

“Coach said that we are the best 5-10 team he has ever seen and everyone chuckled,” said Callaway.

“But honestly I think it is true. The games that we have played against tougher teams undoubtedly helped us get prepared for the postseason and our goals for the year which include Mercer County Tournament and the states.”

After rolling to a 19-1 win over Hamilton on April 28 with Callaway scoring four goals, PHS came roaring out of the game in the MCT as the fifth-seeded Little Tigers defeated 12th-seeded Stuart 20-4 last Saturday in a first round contest.

Callaway tallied two first-half goals as PHS built an 11-1 lead over the Tartans and never looked back.

“I think the offense is making some great plays; we have really constructed some attacking methods that work for the skills of some of the older girls and that has definitely helped us out,” said Callaway.

“We have some different plays, different angles that we can attack from and different people that can cut through and create space and distract the other teams.”

With two seasons of high school lax under her belt, Callaway is looking to be a bigger playmaker for the Little Tigers.

“I see myself as more of a leader now,” said Callaway. “I am able to get girls going into plays so they can capitalize on our opportunities. I have been working on my cuts up top which has really been helping me to improve.”

PHS head coach David Schlesinger liked the way his players capitalized on their opportunities in the win over Stuart.

“We were to able to dominate draw control and ground balls so we kept possession,” said Schlesinger.

“The first couple of shots, we shot right at the goalie and then we started finding our range. I thought they played great. I thought we moved the ball well, I think we had a lot of assisted goals. The whole game really revolves around draw control and maintaining possession and we did a great job of that.”

In Schlesinger’s view, the Little Tigers are on the right track after their mid-season skid.

“We lost six games in a row so it’s important for us to get our confidence back and dominating possession is the way to do that,” said Schlesinger, whose team fell to Princeton Day School, Rumson-Fair Haven, Hunterdon Central,  Allentown, and Notre Dame in addition to Lawrenceville in that losing streak.

“We are getting much smarter, we are making smarter passes. We are making good decisions with the ball; we are not taking bad shots any more. We are really improving.”

Callaway’s improvement has been a big plus for PHS. “Allie’s shot has been phenomenal; we are trying to find her more and free her up,” added Schlesinger.

“She has such a hard, accurate shot. She had struggles midway through the season with a little bit of a leg injury and I think she is feeling a lot better. She is getting her speed back, she played really well today. We have been able to count on her for some really great early goals.”

Junior star Taylor Lis has emerged as a great offensive weapon for the Little Tigers.

“Taylor dominated the draw, that is to start,” said Schlesinger of Lis, who tallied seven goals and an assist against Stuart. “She has just become a remarkable finisher. She knows when to shoot, when to fake. She gets lots of opportunities because she is such a talented player. She is fast, she has great endurance. She is becoming a really smart lacrosse player.”

Schlesinger pointed to sophomore Jordyn Cane as another player generating opportunities for his squad. After missing a few games due to illness, Cane showed she is at full strength in the win over Stuart, chipping in seven points on four goals and three assists.

“I told Jordyn in the beginning of the season that she is as talented a player as we have on the team,”  said Schlesinger.

“She has remarkable quickness, a great first step and dodge. She has really learned how to shoot this year. She is really putting it together, you can just see how natural the game comes to her, she makes it look effortless almost.”

Based on PHS’s effort against Stuart, it looks like the team could enjoy a fine stretch run.

“We are just trying to improve every day,” said Schlesinger, whose team is slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the MCT quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7.

“So if we play as well as we just did and get better from there, which is what we coach every day, then we’ll give any team tough competition. If we are in the game, we have really good talent and we’ll see what happens.”

Callaway, for her part, is confident that the Little Tigers can make some good things happen over the next few weeks.

“I think we are on the right track, we are getting there as a team,” said Callaway.

“Everyone is starting to play up to their abilities as a team and individually as well.”

Moving up to the Princeton High varsity baseball team this spring as a senior, Steve Majeski got off to a slow start.

But as the weather has warmed up, so has Majeski’s bat. He went 4-for-4 in a 15-6 win over Lakewood on April 25 and followed that up with two straight 2-for-4 games. Last Thursday, he blasted two triples to help PHS defeat Princeton Day School 11-6.

“I had a rough season starting but I have definitely picked it up right now,” said Majeski, who went 2-for-4 with a run and four RBIs in the win over PDS.

“I feel more involved and very connected. I feel like I am in the groove right now. It is about getting more practice time and getting more hits.”

PHS got into a good hitting groove last week, topping WW/P-S 10-8 a day before the outburst against PDS.

“We can string some pretty nice hits together and we need to get into that mentality because sometimes we can get quiet,” said Majeski.

“When we really start to make good contact and we get chatter up on the bench, we can get some runs. The good thing in the last two games is that we have been able to keep it up. PDS and South are two definite rivals, we play them all the time, they are very close. It was a really good feeling to start getting some hits and keep it up.”

Majeski helped start the PHS onslaught against PDS, slamming a run-scoring triple in a 5-run third inning as the Little Tigers jumped out to a 6-3 lead on the way to the victory.

“It felt really good, I have been working on my batting average,” said Majeski.

“I am hanging on to .500, going 2-for-4 in the last two games. I really want to keep it up.”

Moving to catcher from outfield has helped keep Majeski in the game. “It is tough to practice the entire offseason with the coaches saying, we are going to have you in the outfield and then all of a sudden, I am dropping you in the infield,” said Majeski.

“Getting behind the plate can be tough at first but if anything it would help out because I am getting a lot more action to build up my strength.”

PHS head coach Dave Roberts was pleased about his team’s strong batting efforts in the wins over WW/P-S and PDS.

“Almost 30 hits in two games, that is more than hitting it,” said a smiling Roberts. “They have been stroking it. Yesterday was more doing some hitting and running to get it going against South. Today we took advantage, we stole seven or eight bases as well today. We really got that running game going, that was important.”

Majeski’s hitting surge has been an important factor for the Little Tigers. “He is just crushing the ball,” asserted Roberts. “He is in a routine, he is seeing it. The ball must look like a grapefruit to him. I swear to god, nothing can get by him, it is crazy.”

Junior second baseman Matt Lambert crushed the ball against PDS, going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer.

“Matt is a good hitter, he is down in that nine spot because he is so fast and it is that double leadoff theory,” said Roberts.

“He is down there because he is fast and when he gets on there at the nine spot, he can steal bases, which he did today, and a home run is just a blessing.”

The Little Tigers were blessed with contributions up and down the order as junior Colin Taylor and Hayden Reyes also sparked the attack.

“Colin broke out of it yesterday and continued it today,” added Roberts. “Hayden had a couple of nice hits today. He is doing a good job in the leadoff spot, he stole some bases for us today. It was all good things from everybody.”

After PHS gave a very good effort in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament as the 15th-seeded Little Tigers fell 3-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame last Monday, Roberts is looking for his players to take care of business down the stretch.

“Now we are just closing out games, the Pennington game (a 4-3 defeat on April 21) and the WW/P-N game (a 7-6 defeat on April 24) were tough losses, both one run,” said Roberts, whose team hosts South River on May 7 and Allentown on May 8 before playing at Lawrence on May 9 and at Hightstown on May 11.

“We lost the North game, giving up four in the bottom of the seventh. It is just shutting the door and we are doing that. That is what we need to do.”

Majeski, for his part, believes that the way that PHS won the games over WW/P-S and PDS is a harbinger of good things to come.

“If we get a team that strikes a chord with us, we can easily get a win,” said Majeski.

“We just need to have the desire we have had for the past two days to beat PDS and South. It is good to know that we could put two wins together and the same sort of wins with big hitting.”

CUTTING LOOSE: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante takes a big cut in  a recent game. Last Friday, sophomore Volante hit a two-run homer in a losing cause as PHS fell 7-6 to Trenton. The Little Tigers, now 4-11, host Allentown on May 6 before playing at Trenton on May 11. In addition, PHS will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CUTTING LOOSE: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante takes a big cut in a recent game. Last Friday, sophomore Volante hit a two-run homer in a losing cause as PHS fell 7-6 to Trenton. The Little Tigers, now 4-11, host Allentown on May 6 before playing at Trenton on May 11. In addition, PHS will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There is no question that the Princeton High softball team will battle to the final out.

Last Thursday against WW/P-S, PHS fell behind 3-1 and 9-6 to tie it 9-9 before losing 10-9.

A day later, the Little Tigers trailed Trenton 7-2 before getting two-run homers from Nancy Gray and Kayla Volante in the fifth inning to narrow the gap to 7-6. The Little Tigers got runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t push across another run in falling by that 7-6 margin.

On Saturday, PHS started the day by falling behind Hightstown 8-0 before narrowing the gap to 9-5 in the bottom of the fifth. In the final inning, the Little Tigers added another run but the rally fell short in a 10-6 loss.

“We keep coming back,” said PHS head coach Dave Boehm, whose team played a second game on Saturday, falling 7-0 to Hopewell Valley in dropping to 4-11.

“We get behind and we chip away, we chip away but we are not that good a hitting team to overcome our mistakes.”

While PHS hasn’t scored enough runs to negate its lapses, the team is showing some good punch.

“Nancy Gray has been hitting the ball well, I am happy with her,” added Boehm.

“Sarah Eisenach is ripping the ball, she had two triples this week. Both Genna Garlock and Kayla Volante have come through with big hits.”

In order to come through with some more wins, PHS needs to play sharper all around.

“It is tough, there is no consistency and that goes for the fielding and the hitting,” said Boehm, noting that his team committed nine errors in the loss to Trenton.

“We are not getting the two-out hits. It is mental and physical. We get down and the mistakes multiply; we are not making our own breaks.”

Despite the recent string of tough losses, the PHS players are not getting down on themselves.

“I want them to just try to get some confidence,” said Boehm, whose team hosts Allentown on May 6 and plays at Trenton on May 11 and will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9.

“We can’t go into a game just thinking we are going to win, we have to perform. This is a 4-11 team but they have a good attitude. They want to play hard, they want to win.”

BLACK MAGIC: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black, left, celebrates with older brother Brendan, after scoring a fourth quarter goal in Hun’s 12-10 win over Montgomery last Wednesday. Junior Black’s tally was set up by a pass from his senior star brother. Last Monday, the younger Black added two goals as top-seeded Hun defeated fourth-seeded Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals to improve to 14-0. The Raiders will host second-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game on May 19. In addition, the Raiders will play at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 6 and at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on May 9 before starting action in the Inter-AC Invitational on May 11.(Photo by John Dowers)

BLACK MAGIC: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black, left, celebrates with older brother Brendan, after scoring a fourth quarter goal in Hun’s 12-10 win over Montgomery last Wednesday. Junior Black’s tally was set up by a pass from his senior star brother. Last Monday, the younger Black added two goals as top-seeded Hun defeated fourth-seeded Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals to improve to 14-0. The Raiders will host second-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game on May 19. In addition, the Raiders will play at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 6 and at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on May 9 before starting action in the Inter-Ac Challenge on May 11. (Photo by John Dowers)

When Owen Black scored a dazzling over-the-shoulder goal early in the fourth quarter to help the Hun School boys’ lacrosse pull out a 12-10 win over Montgomery last Thursday, it appeared to be a superior individual effort.

But in actuality, the eye-catching tally was a family affair, years in the making.

“It was just a great look from my brother,” said the junior midfielder, referring to older brother, senior Brendan Black.

“I know he is always looking for me out there, all I really had to do was throw it behind my back and it went in.”

The Blacks have been looking for each other on the field for nearly a decade and the family connection will continue beyond Hun as they have both committed to go to Villanova University and play for its men’s lacrosse team.

“We have been playing together since second grade; I was in second grade and he was in third,” said Black, noting that he and his brother committed to Villanova on the same day last year.

“I am pumped that we get to play together after high school and in college. I know he has always got my back out on the field, no matter what team we are on. We play together pretty well.”

In the victory over Montgomery, Hun played very well in jumping out to an 8-2 halftime lead over the Cougars.

“We had everyone crossing the finish line to start out the game; we really focused on coming out hot and we did,” said Black.

In the third quarter, though, Montgomery came out hot, outscoring Hun 6-2 in the period. Sparked by Black’s highlight reel goal, Hun was able to weather the storm and earn the 12-10 triumph.

“Montgomery is a great team, they are very well coached and have a couple of great players,” said Black, who tallied three goals and an assist in the victory.

“They just came out firing in the third quarter and we didn’t. But we stayed together and we came out with the win.”

Hun is establishing itself as a great team, improving to 14-0 this season by beating Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals last Monday. As a result of its gaudy record and wins over such powers as IMG Academy, St. Augustine Prep, Episcopal Academy (Pa.), Shawnee High, and Lawrenceville, Hun is nationally ranked, making huge strides in Black’s time with the program.

“It has definitely been a crazy ride, especially for the guys who have been here for a while,” said Black.

“Tucker Stevenson, my brother, and I have been here since middle school playing together. Watching this program grow and being part of the team has been something special to me.”

With the Inter-Ac Challenge and a Prep A title clash against Lawrenceville on the horizon in the next two weeks, Hun is looking to do some special things.

“We never look ahead, just take it one game at a time and stay smart,” said Black.

“I think if we all play together and just focus on the team aspect we can do anything we put our heads to.”

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School baseball player Pete Schintzler follows through on a swing earlier this spring. Last Wednesday, senior second baseman Schintzler drove in the winning run in a seventh-inning rally as Hun edged the Hill School (Pa.) 4-3. Last Monday, Schintzler went 2-for-4 with three runs to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Raiders, who improved to 10-5 with the victory, will face top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School baseball player Pete Schintzler follows through on a swing earlier this spring. Last Wednesday, senior second baseman Schintzler drove in the winning run in a seventh-inning rally as Hun edged the Hill School (Pa.) 4-3. Last Monday, Schintzler went 2-for-4 with three runs to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Raiders, who improved to 10-5 with the victory, will face top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Hun School baseball team locked in a 3-3 tie against the Hill School (Pa.) with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning last Wednesday, Pete Schintzler had the game in his hands as he came to the plate.

The Hun senior second baseman, though, felt right at home in the pressure situation.

“We have played close games all season, we really haven’t blown teams out,” said Schintzler. “Everything has been close, that is what we are used to. He had been throwing a fastball and then a curveball every at bat. I had a fastball and a curve ball so I just figured, especially with the sun being tough, I might as well put something out there and hope for the best and that is what ended up happening.”

Schintzler lofted a ball to left field which dropped in as the Hill outfielder struggled with the sun, knocking in Evan Barratt to give Hun a 4-3 win.

“The way he came off the ball and dropped to his knee, you could tell that either he was going to get lucky and catch it or I was going to get lucky and it was going to drop,” said Schintzler, recalling the game-winning hit. “That wasn’t my best swing.”

In Schintzler’s view, Hun’s resilience has shown through this spring as it has come back from some disappointing setbacks.

“Coming off the tough loss to Steinert (14-12 on April 11) and working through that was big,” said Schintzler.

“It showed that we could come back from a big loss and then coming off the Nottingham loss (7-4 on April 18), we have been playing well too. We are a good bounce-back team.”

The team’s good character has helped Hun battle through the ups and downs it has experienced.

“We are not the most talented team individually but we work and there is chemistry,” said Schintzler.

“Even the guys that aren’t getting in, they are working on the bench every day, every game. They are screaming their butts off, that gets everybody going.”

As a fixture on the top of the Hun batting order, Schintzler looks to get the Raiders going offensively.

“I have been in the two hole every game,” said Schintzler,  who went 2-for-4 with three runs last Monday to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“Most of my hits this season have been line drives to center or left. So if someone gets on, it is easy to move them over like that.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade likes the upbeat mentality he has been seeing from his players all season.

“We have had a couple of letdowns this year but normally they are enthusiastic,” said McQuade.

“They yell and scream, like a little league team. They have been doing that from day one on our Florida trip so that is the personality of the team.”

The Raiders’ seventh-inning rally against Hill had the players screaming for joy. Nick Perez led off the frame with a walk and later scored on a single by sophomore Barratt, who advanced to second on an error. That set the stage for Schintzler’s heroics.

“Schintz is having a great season so far; he is getting his bat on the ball,” said McQuade. “He battles that way. Barratt is just an athlete, he is a winner. You saw it in hockey, he brings that same mentality here.”

On the mound, senior and Villanova-bound Jason Applegate is bringing a battling spirit. He went the distance in the win over Hill, giving up four hits and striking out nine.

“Other than probably just three, four, or five sloppy pitches, it was his best game of the year in terms of location and mixing pitches,” said McQuade of Applegate, who starred with his bat in Hun’s win over WW/P-S in the MCT opener, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs  “He has really turned it on as a leader and he is the ace of the staff by far. That is probably his sixth win already.”

Hun’s win over Hill kept the Raiders alive in the race for the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) crown.

“We could actually win the title, which would be an unbelievable season,” said McQuade, whose team is now 10-5 and will continue its quest for another title as it faces top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6. “If we could play like we did in the last week then we are going to be OK. Some of the other guys have to go and step up for us.”

Schintzler, for his part, is primed to keep going as long as possible this spring.

“I am playing legion ball this summer; this is my last year with these guys and my last year playing competitive ball,” said Schintzler. “I want to get everything out of it that I can.”