May 20, 2015
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.”

April 29, 2015
NO PROBLEM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Noah Lilienthal displays his forehand form last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Freshman Lilienthal won the first singles title, helping PHS finish second to champion WW/P-S in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO PROBLEM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Noah Lilienthal displays his forehand form last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Freshman Lilienthal won the first singles title, helping PHS finish second to champion WW/P-S in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Noah Lilienthal looked like a freshman in over his head as he played in the first singles semifinal at the Mercer County Tournament last Thursday.

The Princeton High freshman dropped the first set 6-2 to defending champion Jerry Jiang of Pennington.

Coming into the match, the third-seeded Lilienthal knew that he faced a big challenge in top-seeded Jiang.

“I train with him at the Marc Hill Tennis Academy, I think of him as the big kid and I am the kid at a lower level,” said Lilienthal. “In the first set, he really blew me away the way I expected.”

But Lilienthal raised the level of his game after that, winning the next two sets 6-1, 6-3 to pull out the match and earn a spot in the finals.

“The second set, I hung in there,” said Lilienthal. “I knew I could win if I really kept the pressure on him. I was able to force him to make errors.”

Building his rally in the semifinals, third-seeded Lilienthal went on to beat second-seeded Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S 6-3, 6-4 in the finals to earn the first single crown.

His heroics helped PHS place a strong second in the team standings as it finished just 1.5 points behind champion WW/P-S, 21.5-20. The first doubles team of Andrew Lin and Andrew Wei won their flight while second doubles team of Eric Lin and Kevin Yang was second and Tyler Hack took second at third singles.

For Lilienthal, winning the final over Sarita came down to clutch play on the big points.

“Kabir is my best buddy, he is almost part of my family,” said Lilienthal. “We play matches almost every Sunday and some I win, some I lose. I come in with the same strategy every time, just to play my best and hope he won’t play as good as I can. When I play Kabir, it is just about a few points.”

With Sarita pushing hard in the second set to even the match, Lilienthal showed his maturity. “I have had a history of losing matches when I have been up,” said Lilienthal, who recently competed in the prestigious Easter Bowl tournament in California. “I have learned from those experiences and now I don’t do that.”

In reflecting on his triumph, Lilienthal said it was a product of a lot of hours on the court.

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

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was excited by Lilienthal’s championship performance in his first MCT.

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

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

In Hibbert’s view, Lilienthal’s comeback win over Jiang in the semis spoke volumes about his amazing composure.

“Jerry played lights out in the first set, he was just on fire,” said Hibbert. “I told Noah to just wait it out, don’t give up, stay tough, fight through everything and see what happens. He did a great job of coming back, playing a really strong second set and then the third set got really close but he was able to play the big points well. All those tournament matches really helped him.”

Juniors Andrew Wei and Andrew Lin did a great job at first doubles as they outlasted Chiru Kolloth and Kai Zheng of WW/P-S, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to earn the title.

“They worked really hard, they dropped a real close one in the first set,” recalled Hibbert.

“They were up in the second set and then it got really close … and then they closed out a tight one and it got close again. In the third set, it came down to that really long deuce game at 4-all, that was the difference there. I am really proud of them, the way they were able to come back and fight through that last game and close it out.”

The second doubles team of Kevin Yang and Eric Lin showed plenty of fight, advancing to the finals where they fell 7-5,6-2 to Martin Malik and Rahul Ramanathan of WW/P-S.

“Kevin is a freshman, Eric is a sophomore, it is their first time in the county tournament,” said Hibbert. “They had a good showing, hopefully they can improve their partnership.”

Senior Tyler Hack made a good showing in his final MCT as he placed second at third singles, losing 6-0, 6-1 to Scott Altmeyer of Princeton Day School in the championship match.

“Tyler had a great semifinal match, he played quite well,” said Hibbert, referring to Hack’s 6-0, 6-0 win over Dan Goldstein of Robbinsville.

“He ran into a very tough opponent in the finals. Scott played a really strong match.”

Hibbert believes that her team’s strong performance at the MCT will be a plus going forward with the state tournament on the horizon.

“I think it will definitely help us going into states, any time you have good competition, it helps,” said Hibbert.

“There are a lot of strong teams in the county. There are a lot of good players, a lot of strong, young players. It was a good competitive day.”

Lilienthal, for his part, won’t soon forget his big day last Thursday.

“I actually didn’t really know that much about the tournament, I just came in and played,” said Lilienthal. “Looking back at it now, it is a pretty good accomplishment. It is a big deal.”

ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team played at WW/P-S last Saturday, the PHS players periodically chanted “run, Rory, run” from the sidelines.

The squad’s junior star midfielder, Rory Helstrom, responded to his teammates’ pleas, tallying two goals and two assists to help the Little Tigers pull away to a 9-4 victory.

With PHS trailing 2-0 midway through the first quarter, Helstrom used his fast feet and stick skills to draw the Little Tigers level at 2-2, assisting on one goal and scoring another in a 24-second span.

“I think just getting us some motivation really helped get us back on track,” said Helstrom, reflecting on the two-goal spurt.

“We knew coming into this game that they were better than their scores. We knew we couldn’t play down to them.”

The PHS coaches gave the players some extra motivation with their halftime message.

“At halftime, they talked to us and said you guys have to play to your ability and talked about this stuff that we weren’t doing,” recalled Helstrom. “We just sucked it up.”

The Little Tigers did a lot of good things at both ends of the field in the second half as they outscored WW/P-S 5-0.

“We started off slow but we picked it up towards the end,” said Helstrom, who had a goal and an assist in the second half.

With PHS losing some key offensive performers from last year’s squad to graduation, Helstrom knew that he had to pick it up this spring.

“I have got to make more plays myself,” said Helstrom, who is a star running back for the PHS football team. “I think this year it is more me controlling things than last year. I have got to start getting the offense going and making things happen for myself and the other players.”

With PHS having struggled through a five-game losing streak earlier this month as it lost to such powers as Lawrenceville, Summit, and North Hunterdon, Helstrom believes the team is on the right track.

“I think North Hunterdon was the lowest point of our season,” said Helstrom, who was slowed by a groin injury earlier this spring but is back at full speed. “We couldn’t go down since then, we could only go up.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way his players have picked things up as the win over WW/P-S came two days after the Little Tigers had beaten Robbinsville 7-3 to snap the losing streak.

“The thing about learning is that people don’t get it until they have figured it out themselves,” said Stanton.

“You can tell somebody something five times but when they finally get it and it clicks in, it is so satisfying and so rewarding.”

Things were clicking for PHS all over the field against WW/P-S as the team showed good offensive balance.

“I think the fact that we were deeper than them showed,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Nick Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in addition to Helstrom with Chris Diver, Eamonn McDonald, and Stephen Clark chipping in one apiece.

“We had some really key contributions from some guys who don’t necessarily show up in the box score. Justin Marciano made an incredible play at the end of the game. Oliver Hamit was scrapping it out at the face-off X. Nick Halliday has had two games in a row where he has been really good.”

Helstrom was really good as he triggered the PHS offense with his athleticism and determination.

“He is an X factor,” added Stanton. “He is such a good athlete, he can do things on just will.”

Reflecting on the team’s recent skid, Stanton believes that playing such high powered foes as Lawrenceville and Summit will help sharpen his players’ will to compete.

“What those games teach you is grit, they teach you that you can go out and battle your hardest even being overmatched but if you have given your all and you have learned, you can be proud of that,” said Stanton.

“We didn’t do that for four quarters in either of those games but in each of those games we had our moments where it is like here is what we are capable of if we can do these things against some of the best players in the state. Our schedule is a bit more difficult this year and we are younger than usual. It is easy when things aren’t going your way to give up and when things are going really well, everybody wants to work hard. So the fact that we can continue to work hard when things weren’t going well showed by getting these last two wins. It is something we can  be proud of.”

Stanton believes the Little Tigers can get some more big wins over the next few weeks.

“We are happy that we are improving, we never know what anyone’s limits or potential are,” said Stanton, whose team fell 6-5 to Rumson-Fair Haven last Monday to move to 4-7 and hosts WW/P-N on April 30.

“We always push our kids to go beyond what maybe they think they are capable of. So absolutely we are happy that we have a team that is willing to work hard, improve, and has a chance to win.”

Helstrom, for his part, is confident that PHS will keep pushing to improve.

“We started off the season really slow, losing to some in-conference teams,” said Helstrom. “I think in the second half of the season we can really turn it on.”

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

The wind was swirling around Mercer County Park last Thursday as the temperature hovered in the low 40s but the chill didn’t bother Scott Altmeyer.

Competing in the third singles final at the Mercer County Tournament, Princeton Day School boys’ tennis junior star Altmeyer was sizzling.

Playing in his shirtsleeves without any extra layers unlike many bundled up in winter clothes around the tennis complex, Altmeyer rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Tyler Hack of Princeton High for the title.

“I thought I played very well by my standards,” said Altmeyer. “I was hitting a lot of shots that I usually don’t hit and I was getting a lot of balls back that I usually don’t get back. I felt I was playing some of the best tennis I have played this season so far.”

Altmeyer’s big day helped PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings at the event. Freshman Lex Decker finished third in second singles to provide another big highlight for the Panthers.

For Altmeyer, winning the title was a confidence booster. “I am very happy about it,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had lost to Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S in the third singles final at the 2014 MCT.

“I hope I can use this to jumpstart the rest of the season. My game just feels all around better, I am playing a little more outside of school.

In Altmeyer’s view, playing at the MCT also benefits the team, bringing the players closer together.

“It is so much fun, it is the most camaraderie with your teammates, cheering everybody on,” said Altmeyer. “It is one of the tournaments I look forward to.”

After taking a hiatus from the game during middle school, Altmeyer is savoring being on the court with his teammates.

“I got burned out and just took some time off for myself,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had five stress fractures in his left foot.

“I didn’t feel like playing any more. The reason I am back is because I am loving to play the sport again and I am having a lot of fun with it.”

PDS head coach Will Asch loved watching Altmeyer roll to the third singles title.

“This is the best tennis that he has played all year, he was hitting the ball hard and mentally he was very tough,” asserted Asch. “It didn’t seem like anybody could beat him today, it was one of those days.”

Noting that Altmeyer was hampered by illness earlier this spring, Asch believes that his junior star is peaking.

“He was playing great last year,” said Asch. “He came back from India after spring break and he wasn’t feeling well. I feel now that he is not only playing as well as last year but probably even a little bit better. In four weeks, his tennis has come a long way.”

Freshman Lex Decker came a long way at the MCT, rallying to pull out a three-set win over Rohan Yadav of Hightstown in the third-place match at second singles.

“I think it was a character win for Lex, it is tough for a freshman to beat an older kid at the Mercer County,” said Asch of Decker, who prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

“You know it is going to be hard when a freshman has adversity and he has to learn how to overcome it. I think what made the difference is that he won the last three games of the second set. He had a battle with himself in the first set and a half. He had some bad luck in the beginning and he got a little down. Then … he persevered … and started to outplay him in the second set. In the third set, he just believed; he just knew that he could do it. There wasn’t any doubt and he just went out and took care of business.”

Asch is confident that his team can take care of business as it goes for a third straight state Prep B title in mid-May.

“I like our team; I like our chances,” said Asch. “We have won it the last two years. I think our team is probably a little bit stronger this year than last year. We lost Neeraj (Devulapalli) but now we have Lex. Scott is playing a lot better. I think we are incredibly strong in that second and third singles. Anupreeth (Coramutla) is a very good player at first singles; he won last year.”

Altmeyer, for his part, believes that PDS can produce a strong finish. “We have a good group; I have a lot of good friends in there,” said Altmeyer. “I am very confident in what we can do.”

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Morgan Foster fired in a shot off a free position play for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team to give it a 6-6 tie against Hopewell Valley last Saturday, it looked like the contest was destined to be a nailbiter.

But HoVal responded with a 5-1 run to take an 11-7 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 19-9 win.

While senior star attacker Foster was disappointed with the result, she was proud of how the Panthers fought to the end.

“We were in it; I think that sometimes we need to realize that a full lacrosse game is 50 minutes,” said Foster, who tallied two goals in the defeat.

“We want to be a two-half team. I think everyone was working their hardest. The chips didn’t fall our way today. We have some things that we need to clean up.”

On Monday, things did go PDS’s way as the first-seeded Panthers topped No. 8 Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals with Foster chipping in four goals.

“I think our goal right now is to make sure that we extend our season as long as possible,” said Foster, who is heading to Hamilton College where she will be playing for its women’s lacrosse program. “We definitely have May 11 (the Prep B final) circled on the calendar.”

Foster and classmate, star goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz, the only seniors on the squad, are looking to set a positive tone for their younger teammates.

“At this point, I am playing for Kirsten and I hope that Kirsten is playing for me,” asserted Foster.

“I think that part of getting everybody excited for the game is to make sure that everyone knows that they are playing for each other and that there is somebody out there working harder than you are. You want to work hard for the person next to you. That is a big thing that we try to implement so that everybody is working for somebody else.”

Foster enjoyed a big moment when she scored her 100th career goal in a 14-11 loss to Blair on April 22.

“That was so exciting, that was something I didn’t know was coming up,” said Foster.

“I knew that the game beforehand that I was close but I wasn’t counting on it. It was really nice but unfortunately we lost that game to Blair. There was a bit of a silver lining.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas saw a silver lining in the way the Panthers battled in the loss to HoVal.

“We played some very good lacrosse at times today from the start,” said Thomas.

“We limited the number of unforced turnovers, I still think that we had too many. We didn’t get the ground balls on dropped balls, we made bad decisions with the ball, things like that. It is little stuff, fixable stuff and that is a good team that we played.”

Thomas likes the way that Foster has developed into a very good leader for PDS.

“Morgan has really taken her leadership skills and put them into offensive sets and plays,” said Thomas. “She settles them and makes the extra pass. She has had some really good assists, she is a much more complete player.

Heading into the final weeks of the season, Thomas is looking for the Panthers to play a more complete game collectively.

“We just need to clean up those little things and bring our best to the field every day and take them one at a time,” said Thomas, whose team will host a Prep B semifinal game on May 4 and is also competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.

Foster, for her part, is determined to bring her best as she wraps up her PDS career.

“I am getting more sad that this year is coming to a close,” said Foster. “I have never won a tournament here at Princeton Day School. I really have my sights set on the Prep Bs right now, that is something I am really looking forward to.”

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a lopsided loss at Lawrenceville last Thursday, the Hun School softball team found itself at a crossroad.

The 16-4 defeat to the Big Red was the fifth straight loss for Hun since it had topped Lawrenceville 7-2 on April 11 in the rivals’ first meeting of the season.

“We had a talk after the Lawrenceville game and did a lot of soul searching,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “We talked about looking yourself in the mirror and do you want to be here.”

While the Raiders hadn’t been looking all that bad in the losing streak, Quirk acknowledged that her players weren’t closing the deal.

“It is not that we haven’t been hitting but we were leaving people on base,” said Quirk. “We were not supporting our pitchers.”

Playing a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) last Saturday, Hun cleared the bases repeatedly, prevailing 11-0 and 8-6.

“Julia Revock pitched a two-hitter in the opener, she did well,” said Quirk. “We had a great hitting performance by everybody. Vicki Leach was 2-for-2 and Alexis Goeke was 2-for-3. We got two runs in the first and five in the second. They had a slow pitcher and sometimes that throws us off.”

In the nightcap, it was the Kacey Abitz show as the junior starred at the plate and was the winning pitcher.

“They got three runs in the top of the first and then Abitz came in to pitch,” said Quirk, whose team improved to 4-6 with the sweep.

“Julia Blake hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the first to tie it up and we got three more and didn’t look back. We fell apart a little in the seventh but we were able to hold on. Abitz pitched well and went 4-for-4 with a double.”

Quirk is hoping that the big day at Mercersburg will get her team on the right track as it heads down the homestretch of the season.

“Our goal is to be at .500 after Wednesday then take it from there,” said Quirk, whose team was slated to play at Princeton Day School on April 28, host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29, and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.

“I want to see them play with confidence and believe in themselves. We need to do things in games that we do every day in practice. They need to communicate and talk to each other in the field. They have to know what they are going to do if the ball is hit to them.”

There were about 30 seconds left in the game and the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team was trailing Mount St. Mary Academy 18-9 last week.

Even though it was clear that the Tartans were going down to defeat, Stuart junior midfielder Julia Maser was still hustling, scooping up a ground ball, sprinting to the net and firing a shot.

While Maser’s shot missed the mark and the game ended with a final score of 18-9, her effort exemplified the team’s never-say-die mindset.

“It could be 20-1 and we would still be trying to get that last point in,” said Maser. “We always fight for the last goal, no matter how far we are down.”

In reflecting on the defeat which saw Stuart fall behind 12-4 at halftime before narrowing the gap to 14-8 with 7:53 remaining, Maser acknowledged that the team needs to get off to better starts.

“Starting the season we have kind of been a second-half team and I think we need to come out with equal intensity,” said Maser.

“Whenever we seem to get down by halftime, we always come out with fire in the second half. We need that to start the game.”

In Maser’s view, the team is starting to get on the same page as the season unfolds.

“The few of us juniors have grown up playing together so we are a pretty strong group, we try to bring that intensity to our entire team and lend that bond,” said Maser.

“We have grown and started to work together. I think it is just knowing that our teammates have our back.”

As one of the team’s more battle-tested players, Maser is speaking up more on the field this season.

“This year I would have to say I try to be more vocal and keep our team’s heads up,” said Maser.

“If we drop behind, it is not about us hanging our heads, it is about fighting back.”

The Tartans are fighting for a new leader this year as Kelsey O’Gorman has taken the helm of the program.

“That is an adjustment, it is definitely new,” added Maser, who had two goals as Stuart fell 17-7 to Princeton Day School last Thursday to move to 3-5 on the season.

“It is just like new plays, you have got to get used to our new coach’s style. She is all about us learning plays and working on consistency. We are definitely more in a routine and it is going to start looking up for us.”

With Stuart starting action in both the state Prep B tourney and Mercer County Tournament this week, Maser believes the Tartans are up for the challenge of postseason play. Stuart is seeded fourth in the Prep B competition and will host fifth-seeded Ranney School on April 29. In the MCT, the Tartans are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Princeton High in a first round contest.

“The focus going forward I would have to say is to have complete team unity from defense to offense,” said Maser.

“We need to work on our transition plays and once we get that down, we will be unstoppable.”

April 22, 2015
HANGING WITH HENDERSON: Princeton High baseball player Marcus Henderson chats with a teammate during a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior Henderson pitched superbly in a losing cause, giving up just six hits in a 1-0 loss to powerful Steinert. Building on its effort in that game, PHS went on to defeat WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later. PHS, now 2-4, is scheduled to play at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25 and at New Brunswick on April 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HANGING WITH HENDERSON: Princeton High baseball player Marcus Henderson chats with a teammate during a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior Henderson pitched superbly in a losing cause, giving up just six hits in a 1-0 loss to powerful Steinert. Building on its effort in that game, PHS went on to defeat WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later. PHS, now 2-4, is scheduled to play at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25 and at New Brunswick on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Marcus Henderson had some butterflies bouncing around his stomach as he took the mound for the Princeton High baseball team last Wednesday against perennial power Steinert.

“I am not going to lie, I was nervous to be pitching against Steinert, a very good offensive team,” said senior Henderson, who was a JV player until this spring.

Henderson believed that he could negate Steinert’s offensive prowess by keeping it off balance.

“I know I am not an overpowering pitcher,” said Henderson. “I heard that they aren’t great at hitting off-speed pitches so that was helpful to me. I just had to keep it down and away and throw strikes.”

Overcoming his nerves, Henderson calmly executed his game plan, holding the Spartans to six hits in a tough 1-0 loss. “I had to have my teammates come through, I needed some of the great plays to keep me in this game,” said Henderson.

“I made some mistakes throwing, the ball was up and they made some great plays backing me up out there.”

For Henderson, the mound effort against Steinert was a great confidence builder.

“It really makes me want to go out there and throw again, knowing that I have a solid defense behind me that can make plays when I need them to,” said Henderson.

Moving up to varsity as a senior has been a good way for Henderson to culminate his PHS career.

“It is a great feeling, the whole atmosphere is different, down to the basics and the way the defense plays,” said Henderson.

PHS head coach Dave Roberts lauded Henderson for stepping up against Steinert.

“We have been looking for the pitchers to come out and throw strikes and that is what Marcus did,” said Roberts.

“He kept them off balance. He had a good two-seam fastball today, mixing with a couple of breaking balls. Mostly it was two-seam fastballs and location, it was a great job against a fantastic baseball team. This was his second start, he went the distance and gave up one run against clearly one of the best teams in the county, who could be a state title contender.”

Another big positive for PHS in the defeat was the job it did on defense, playing error-free baseball and cutting down
several Steinert base runners.

“It was the best defensive effort we have put together all year,” asserted Roberts. “John Reid was throwing people out from the outfield and Tim Frawley was throwing out guys from behind the plate. The infield shored it up finally for us.”

While the PHS offense didn’t produce any runs on the day, it generated some rallies, including in the bottom of the seventh when junior star Joaquin Herndandez-Burt led off the frame by belting a long double.

“That was a huge hit by Joaquin, we battled,” said Roberts. “Look, the pitcher (Kyle Muller) we faced today is going to Rutgers. I told the guys he is going to throw strikes so come up looking fastball. Once you get behind, he has a good curve and a bust change, he throws them all. Hayden Reyes had tremendous approaches, he had two hits today.”

PHS’s overall approach against Steinert encouraged Roberts. “I just told them if they play that game today, they are going to walk away with their first win on Friday,” said Roberts. “If we go back to the games we were playing earlier in the season, it is not going to come together for us.”

Roberts proved prescient as PHS topped WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday behind a superb pitching effort for senior Ben Grass and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later as senior Ben Danis pitched five solid innings and contributed a hit and a run.

“I tell them if we make two or less errors and three or less walks in a game, we are going to be good,” said Roberts, whose team is now 2-4 and plays at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25, and at New Brunswick on April 27  “It proves true.”

Henderson, for his part, believes that PHS proved something to themselves with the loss to Steinert.

“A lot of guys on the team were nervous coming up against Steinert and then we just came to play today,” said Henderson.

“It is something that I think really helped the team, we will bring that into the next games.”

SWINGING AWAY: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu follows through on a swing. Senior star shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu has starred for the Panthers this spring, helping PDS produce a 5-4 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers are slated to host Lawerenceville on April 22, play at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, host Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, play at Peddie on April 27, and at Steinert on April 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SWINGING AWAY: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu follows through on a swing. Senior star shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu has starred for the Panthers this spring, helping PDS produce a 5-4 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers are slated to host Lawerenceville on April 22, play at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, host Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, play at Peddie on April 27, and at Steinert on April 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked like it was going to be one of the memorable comebacks of the season for the Princeton Day School baseball team.

Trailing Hamilton 4-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, Zach Dudeck and Jake Alu hit back-to-back singles to give PDS life. Dom Gasparro then hit a fly to center to score Dudeck. After a pop-out by JP Radvany, Cole McManimon lined the ball over the left field fence to apparently make it a 4-4 tie.

But the rally turned into one of the most bizarre endings seen in recent years as the umpire ruled that McManimon didn’t touch home plate and he was called out, giving Hamilton a 4-3 win, prompting howls of protest from the PDS players, coaches, and parents.

After expressing his disbelief over the call, senior shortstop Alu rued what might have been. “This game would be over by now, we had the momentum,” said Alu.

Taking a broader perspective, Alu focused on what the rally said about this year’s PDS squad.

“We keep fighting but we don’t give up, even if we are down 9-0,” said Alu.  “We were down against Pennington the other day and I still saw a little bit of fire in the last inning. I see that we battle every inning, not just the important ones. I think we are going to keep dragging that into it each game and when the playoffs come.”

Alu showed that battling spirit in his final at-bat against Hamilton, working the count before lining a single up the middle.

“I knew that I just needed to get on base,” recalled Alu. “Nothing special, just any way I could get on, walk, hit, hit by a pitch, anything you can do to get on base.”

With PDS off to a 5-4 start after having gone 4-12 in 2014, Alu believes that veteran play has made the difference.

“We only had one senior last year and this year we have six seniors,” said Alu, whose classmates on the team include Sean Flahive, Cody Meagher, Davin Bialow in addition to Radvany and McManimon. “I think that we have a lot of experience.”

The team’s so-called Big 3 of Alu, Lehigh-bound McManimon, and Villanova-bound Radvany have experienced a lot over the last four years, starting for PDS from day one and serving as team tri-captains for a second straight season.

“We are always hanging out in school, messing with each other,” said Alu. “It is a bond. We all have the same aspirations and I think that really helps us motivate each other to keep getting better each day.”

Alu is looking to motivate his teammates to get better.

“I want to be a leader out there, when someone makes a bad play, you don’t get on them,” said Alu. “You have got to motivate, step up and make a play the next inning.”

On defense, Alu is making the plays at shortstop, teaming with junior second baseman Sam Guarino to give the Panthers strength up the middle in the infield.

“I think our defense is better than ever, Sam and I have been playing there for three years,” said Alu. “We have a good bond together; we know what each other is going to do.”

Looking ahead to college, Alu is confident he will develop bonds with his future Boston College teammates.

“It was between Maryland, Boston College, and Pitt; I was looking at their schools,” said Alu.

“I really liked BC. I feel like I fit in with the players. I feel like I could go right in there and act like I knew the guys for years.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien hated to see his guys get denied the chance to beat Hamilton.

“We just got to say something on the kids’ behalf,” said O’Brien with his voice rising in anger.

“An umpire that hears something, not from the other side but the crowd; somebody said something. There is a mountain of kids that are twice his size standing in front of him, letting our kid touch home plate. He’s telling us that he saw all through those bodies that our kid didn’t touch home plate. He is looking for something that just wasn’t there. To have an umpire make that call is beyond comprehension to me.”

O’Brien likes the spirit he is seeing from his players. “I love these guys, they battle back,” said O’Brien.

“We hung in this game. Ryan Sparks pitched a great game. The pitching is coming around. I can’t say enough about Sparks, he pitched in the strike zone, he threw a complete game, he kept his pitch count down. We made the plays behind him.”

In O’Brien’s view, the team’s Big 3 have been setting the tone with their playmaking.

“I can’t say enough about how the Big 3 has been playing great,” asserted O’Brien, whose team moved to 5-4 with a 7-2 loss to Blair last Friday and faces a busy week ahead, hosting Lawerenceville on April 22, playing at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, playing at Peddie on April 27 and at Steinert on April 28.

“The other guys are coming along, just how we hoped. We have a lot of kids doing a lot of good things.”

There could be good things on the horizon for the Panthers if they build on their strong start.

“If everything stays in place, if we keep healthy, keep progressing, and we keep working hard, I think by the end of the season we are going to be a tough out,” said O’Brien.

Alu, for his part, is looking forward to the stretch drive. “I think we can compete with any team,” said Alu.

“Cole has been throwing great, I think whenever he is on the mound, we can beat anybody. James (Radvany), Chase (Fleming) and Ryan (Sparks) have been stepping up each game. I think we are going to have a really good year.”

ATTACKING MENTALITY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Joey Levine heads to goal in a game this spring. Last Thursday, junior attacker Levine tallied three goals and an assist to help PDS defeat Pennington 15-2. The Panthers, now 3-4, play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACKING MENTALITY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Joey Levine heads to goal in a game this spring. Last Thursday, junior attacker Levine tallied three goals and an assist to help PDS defeat Pennington 15-2. The Panthers, now 3-4, play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into his junior season with the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team, Joey Levine was looking to be more of a playmaker.

“I worked pretty hard this summer to get my spot behind the net and start dodging so I definitely think that is something that has changed up,” said star attacker Levine.

“Last year I was pretty much inside, we had Chris Azzarello and Jacob Shavel behind so this year I am trying to work with Chris behind and trying to create as much as I am being created for.”

Last Thursday, Levine created a lot of offense for PDS as it cruised to a 15-2 win over Pennington, tallying three goals and an assist.

Coming off a disappointing 11-10 loss at Hopewell Valley two days earlier, Levine and his teammates were primed to get back on the winning track.

“That was a tough one against Hopewell, they are always a very good program,” said Levine.

“We were happy to get back at it with a pretty nice win against Pennington. We got some guys in who usually aren’t in there so getting them the chance to play was good.

In Levine’s view, offensive balance has made PDS tougher to defend this spring.

“This year we have got six or seven guys that are able to create on offense and move the ball,” said Levine “We are always doing things together offensively. One thing we definitely try to work on is to keep the ball moving.”

In reflecting on his four-point outburst against Pennington, Levine maintained that the team’s ball movement made that possible.

“I definitely credit that all to my teammates, they made it happen for me,” said Levine.

“I was able to be at the goal at the right time and have space and put a couple in the back of the net.”

PDS head coach Rich D’Andrea wasn’t surprised to see Levine find the back of the net.

“He is rounding into form, Joey has worked really hard on his feet in the offseason, he has worked to develop his stick,” said D’Andrea. “He is a great low finisher for us. He brings a dynamic dodging game.”

Sophomore midfielder Will Brossman is emerging as a dynamic performer, chipping in three goals and two assists in the win over Pennington.

“Last year he scored three goals in that Rutgers Prep championship game and I think he had ten on the year,” said D’Andrea, referring to PDS’s 10-8 win over Rutgers Prep in the 2014 state Prep B title game.

“He has worked really, really hard and his confidence has grown and grown. The kid can dodge, he can shoot, he finishes inside, he plays defense, and he is great on ground balls.”

D’Andrea has a lot of confidence in the PDS defensive unit. “They have gotten stronger and stronger, we had some injuries at the beginning of the year,” said D’Andrea.

“Christian Vik had a torn labrum, a partial tear, and he is back up to speed now. Amir Melvin has been a total beast. Kevin Towles is running the hole right now and Chris Markey is between the pipes. The defense is looking really, really strong.”

Playing a stronger schedule, by design, is hardening the Panthers for the challenges to come in the postseason.

“We knew this was going to be a season of ups and downs,” said D’Andrea, whose team fell 14-8 to Chatham last Monday to drop to 3-4 and will play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25.

“Part of the challenge in beefing up the schedule like this is that you add another three, four hard games in the course of a season, not only does it spread you thin, more importantly, it just builds character.”

D’Andrea thinks that his players have built some tight bonds, dealing with the challenges they have faced this season.

“I think that lacrosse is not only a great outlet but a great focal point for these boys,” said D’Andrea.

“They have their eye on the end of the season right now and we are trying to build and prepare and get better for those events. We are trying to build character, see what we do well and we don’t do well.”

Levine, for his part, believes that the Panthers are prepared to do well come tournament time.

“These games are giving us a lot better competition; they are improving us and making us a much better team for the postseason,” said Levine.

“On offense we just have to keep moving as a unit. We need to keep doing that one more pass. Defensively, I think our slide packages are getting a lot better. We have James Fragale, Kevin Towle, Amir Melvin, and Christian Vik, who are four great defenders, and Cody Gibson is coming on.”

MASER VISION: Stuart Country Day School girls’ lacrosse player Julia Maser races past a foe in recent action. Last Monday, junior star Maser tallied four goals and an assist to help Stuart defeat Nottingham 22-1. The Tartans, who moved to 3-3 with the win, host Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASER VISION: Stuart Country Day School girls’ lacrosse player Julia Maser races past a foe in recent action. Last Monday, junior star Maser tallied four goals and an assist to help Stuart defeat Nottingham 22-1. The Tartans, who moved to 3-3 with the win, host Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team to develop a comfort level with new head coach Kelsey O’Gorman.

The Tartans opened the season by posting two double-digit victories, beating Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (Pa.) 17-6 and George School (Pa.) 16-6 and have gotten on the same page with their new leader.

“It really was a good confidence booster, it was  winning home and away,” said O’Gorman, reflecting the 2-0 start.

“We have been doing a lot of team bonding, it has been great building relationships and getting to know the team. It is a great group of girls, I have really been happy to work with them.”

While Stuart hit some bumps in the road, falling 12-11 to WW/P-S on April 9, 14-13 to Pennington on April 10 and 15-11 to Hun on April 13, O’Gorman believes those setbacks will help the squad in the long run.

“We lost two tight games, it was unfortunate,” said O’Gorman. “I think the team matured a lot from that. We know we need to work together and be a two-half team.”

O’Gorman likes the way her players are working together on the offensive end.

“I think the biggest positive is that we are starting to click, just getting to play with each other,” said O’Gorman, whose team rolled to a 22-1 win over Nottingham last Monday with junior Izzy Engel, junior Julia Maser, junior Tori Hannah, and her younger sister, freshman Ali Hannah, each scoring four goals.

“Julia Maser is just exceptional and Tori Hannah has really been stepping up. Izzy Engel and Nneka Onukwugha have been getting goals. Harley Guzman has been a good leader for us.”

Senior goalie Harlyn Bell has led the way on the defensive end. “Harlyn is outstanding in goal,” asserted O’Gorman. “She makes a ton of saves, she has composure, and is a great leader for us.”

In O’Gorman’s view, her team is primed to do some great things down the stretch.

“I think we are ready to bounce back from those losses and get the ball rolling here,” said O’Gorman, whose team improved to 3-3 with the win over Nottingham and hosts Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27.

“We need to step up our aggression and be more composed. I am excited for the rest of the season.”

“I am more confident than I have been in the past,” said midfielder Lis.

“I think last year I might have gone in to draw the defense and pulled and look for someone else to take the final shot. This year I feel like I can do that on my own and go the goal hard, which is something I have been working on throughout the summer and over the year. I think as an upperclassman and a leader on the team, I need to be the one to go in to take the shot.”

Lis has gained additional confidence from starring on the soccer field for PHS in the fall.

“Soccer keeps me in great shape up until lacrosse season,” said Lis. “In lacrosse, we work different kinds of muscles. But for overall body fitness, I love playing two sports. I love how they do totally different things. In lacrosse, you are all with your hands. In soccer, you are all with your feet.”

Last Saturday, Lis demonstrated her fitness early in the game, racing past the Clearview defense to score PHS’s first tally of the contest and knot the game at 1-1.

“I saw my opportunity and I thought I will test out this goalie early,” said Lis.

“I saw my lane and I took it. I wanted to test out how their defense was in terms of crashing and sliding. Whenever you have an opportunity like that, you have to go for it, especially in a tight game like this.”

The contest, a rematch of a 2014 sectional semifinal matchup won by PHS, remained tight throughout. The Little Tigers led 4-3 at halftime and the teams were tied at 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7 in the second half
before Clearview edged ahead 9-7. The Little Tigers got a goal with 1:12 remaining in regulation but neither team scored after that as the Pioneers hung on for a 9-8 win.

“I think we had periods where we were up and we were in control of the ball and then we had periods where they were in control and we were frantically going after it,” said Lis, who ended up with two goals and five ground balls on the afternoon.

“The ending play was so close, it was so disappointing that we came up with the loss there.”

While the setback was disappointing, Lis believes that PHS will be a better team for the experience.

“We were definitely happy with the effort, we identified things that we have to work on but overall a lot of people stepped up today that we don’t usually have,” said Lis.

“Two of our sophomores who are usually starters, Georgia McLean and Jordyn Cane were out, that was a tough adjustment with only realizing this morning that we wouldn’t have either of them. So the first half was a test for all of those new girls coming in, they definitely did well and lived up to our expectations for them today.”

PHS head coach David Schlesinger was happy with how his team battled to the final whistle.

“I thought we showed the most heart that we have shown all season,” asserted Schlesinger.

“I am very proud of my girls. We are missing three starters today so we had girls step up and play different positions as well. It was a disappointing result but a great effort.”

As usual, PHS got a great effort from Michigan-bound senior goalie Mira Shane, who made 12 saves on the day.

“Mira has been great all season, I thought our defense did a good job, they forced shots from the
outside and Mira is very, very strong on those shots,” said Schlesinger. “We only gave up nine goals to Clearview, which I think is pretty good.”

In Schlesinger’s view, Lis was very good for PHS. “Taylor has been playing great, she is doing more and more for us,” said  Schlesinger of Lis, who had three goals and three assists as PHS defeated Robbinsville 18-78 last Monday in improving to 5-4.

“She has always been great defensively, running the midfield but now she has become our top draw control specialist. She is becoming critical to our offense.”

“Playing teams like this and playing against Agnes Irwin, that defeat hurt (a 17-2 loss last Thursday), really makes us better,” added Schlesinger.

“It makes us realize how much further we have to go. I find when you schedule easy games, the girls start to rest on their laurels and that intensity in practice drops a little bit. We schedule these games intentionally, these are really good games and they are going to battle-test us for our league games and our county tournament.”

In assessing his team’s play, Schlesinger believes it has to battle more when it has the ball.

“The biggest thing we have to work on is how to deal with pressure and how to take advantage when the other team is pressuring us,” said Schlesinger, whose squad plays at Hunterdon Central on April 18 before hosting Notre Dame on April 20. “That is where we are falling short.”

Lis, for her part, is confident that the hard work the Little Tigers put in against Clearview will pay dividends.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming out, we came out strong and played 100 percent all the way through, which is definitely one of our goals,” said Lis.

“One of the biggest things we took away from that is that we have a unit of girls who can really step up when they need to.”

Nancy Gray is just a sophomore but she has already proven to be a jack of all trades for the Princeton High softball team.

After starting at catcher in her freshman season, she moved to third base this spring.

Last Thursday, Gray showed another facet of her game, handling the pitching duties against the Princeton Day School.

The righty looked like a veteran in the circle, striking out seven and giving up just one hit as PHS cruised to a 16-1 victory over the Panthers in three innings.

“I was excited to pitch, it is my first time pitching this season,” said Gray. “It was a good first trial at my pitching for my high school career. I would say my curve and fastball were working.”

Having been around the game since grade school, Gray is happy to work anywhere on the field.

“I played catcher last year; I was going to play shortstop but I like third,” said Gray.

“I have been playing softball my whole life, since I was 6. I am OK with any position, really.”

Gray is also contributing at the bat, hitting a homer and scoring two runs in the PDS game.

“Last year I wasn’t really making contact but this year over the winter, I did some training,” said Gray. “I think my bat has woken up and I have gotten better.”

In Gray’s view, the win over PDS should help the Little Tigers feel better about themselves.

“It is a morale booster, we can come off this with a little confidence,” said Gray.

PHS head coach Dave Boehm liked how Gray came through against the Panthers.

“She did well,” said Boehm. “She caught all the time for us last year so I didn’t see her pitch at all. She is 100 percent better at her hitting.”

Boehm is hoping that his team can find a rhythm after spending most of the preseason training indoors due to the wintry spring.

“We are playing better, not having any scrimmages really hurt us; the first two games were kind of like our first two scrimmages,” said Boehm, referring to his team’s 10-0 loss to Robbinsville on April 1 and 5-2 defeat to Hamilton on April 7.

“We have a catcher that is now a third baseman (Gray), the third baseman (junior Stephanie Wu) is playing shortstop, we have a new center fielder (freshman Bianca Guidi). It is four
different positions that kids have never played. They are getting it narrowed down, they are getting used to it. Once they get squared away, we’ll be OK.”

In Beohm’s view, PHS is headed in the right direction. “I am happy with all of them, even in the Hamilton West game, I was happy with the way we played,” said Boehm, whose team lost 12-0 to Notre Dame last Monday to move to 1-3 and is slated to host Steinert on April 15, WW/P-N on April 17, and Nottingham on April 20.

“We made a couple of errors but that is bound to happen when you are not going to be on a field. We are finally getting on the field and we are doing OK.”

Gray, for her part, is confident that that things will go OK this spring.

“We have to work on the small things,” said Gray. “We are just going game by game, looking at what we should do.”