January 2, 2013

CAPTAIN JACK: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jack Andres, left, battles for the puck in recent action. On December 21, sophomore forward Andres, who was recently promoted to a team captain, scored two goals as PHS fell 5-2 to Ocean Township at Baker Rink. The Little Tigers, now 3-4-1, face Steinert on December 31 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jack Andres got a jolt recently at lunch and it had nothing to do with what he was eating.

“It was a big surprise when coach [Tim Campbell] came up to me at lunch one day at school to tell me that I was going to be a captain,” recalled sophomore forward Andres. “I was surprised but excited at the same time.”

Last week, as PHS hosted Ocean Township at Baker Rink, Andres exerted the leadership that prompted Campbell to make him captain. With PHS trailing 4-0 after two periods of the December 21 contest, Andres scored two goals over the last 15 minutes of the game as the Little Tigers fell 5-2.

“Coach was saying after the second period that we have to play with pride,” said Andres.

“He said that it is possible that we can come back and win the game. We have seen teams come back and get that many goals and we can do it too. I feel like everybody stepped up in the third and we came out and won that period.”

For Andres, coming through in the third period was a matter of him assuming leadership responsibility.

“I was trying to help the team out as much as I can,” said Andres. “I got the captain role a couple of games back and I was trying to fulfill that role and make coach proud and stick up for all my teammates and just play for the team.”

With one high school season under his belt, Andres feels he can do more for the team.

“This year, I have gotten more opportunities to be a better player and to go out and show what I can do,” said Andres.

“I feel like the team needs someone to step up and I went into that role quite nicely.”

PHS head coach Campbell likes the way that Andres has seized opportunity.

“I am very happy with Jack’s physical play,” said Campbell.

“He is a big, strong kid. It is not like he didn’t have physical ability last year but a lot of it this year is confidence. If you have the least bit of talent as a freshman, I am going to put pressure on you. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. He is definitely handling it as a sophomore and I am very pleased with how he is playing.”

Campbell was pleased with how his team didn’t fold against Ocean after digging a 4-0 hole.

“We finished strong, we won the third period,” asserted Campbell, whose team moved to 3-4-1 with the loss and wrapped up a tough 0-2-1 week in its final action before the holiday break.

“We had a lot of ground to make up but everybody in this room has been in games where five goals were scored in the third period. It happened to us against Robbinsville on Monday night and we have done it before. Maybe we weren’t going to be able to do it but at least play for pride and play the way we know we can regardless of the scoreboard, and we did. The goal was to win the third period, and we did. We just came up short on the scoreboard.”

While Campbell had no qualms with his team’s effort, he is looking for his players to produce some sharper hockey.

“All week it has been a mantra trying to play as much as we can all three periods with the short bench,” said Campbell, noting that his team has been without the services of senior star Matt DiTosto due to a hand injury and was also missing Spencer Reynolds for the Ocean game.

“I told them that I am not at all disappointed with the physical effort. They are doing the best they can with the situation we have in terms of personnel. We just need to play smarter hockey. We were out of position all night long in the first two periods.”

In Campbell’s view, his team is still in position to make a good run this season despite its rocky start.

“We are definitely a postseason team, a January/February team,” said Campbell, whose team faces Steinert on December 31 at Mercer County Park.

“Hopefully we will be back at full strength pretty quickly here and be back in the hunt.”

Andres, for his part, believes that PHS can make a strong showing this winter.

“I feel like we just need to work on being aggressive and just keep working and keep at it and never give up,” said Andres. “It is going to be a long season and we are ready for it.”

December 26, 2012

BANNER YEAR: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht prepares to hit the ball in action this fall. Senior midfielder Reinprecht helped Princeton win its first-ever NCAA title and was named the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Division I National Player of the Year after the season. This past summer, Reinprecht starred for the U.S. team at the London Olympics.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For local athletes, 2012 was a year that saw some breakthrough championships achieved by Princeton University programs while some traditional high school powers hit new heights.

In February, the Princeton men’s squash team drew national attention as it beat Trinity College 5-4 in the College Squash Association (CSA) team championship match to snap the Bantams’ 13-year national title streak.

Tiger senior distance star Donn Cabral made an impact on the national scene, winning the NCAA title in the steeplechase before going on to make the U.S. team for the Olympics and placing eighth in the event at the London Games.

Coming into the fall, the Princeton field hockey team welcomed back four stars who had taken a year away from school to train with the U.S. national program with two of them, the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, ending up playing for the U.S. squad in London. The presence of the Reinprechts together with Kat Sharkey and Michelle Cesan made the Tigers a surefire national title contender. Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s team lived up to those expectations, going 21-1 and edging North Carolina 3-2 in the NCAA championship game to win the program’s first-ever national crown.

Led by senior star Jen Hoy, the Tiger women’s soccer team went undefeated in Ivy League play and topped West Virginia 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to win their first game in the national tourney since their run to the 2004 Final Four.

On the high school scene, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team proved to be a powerhouse for the ages. Coach Greg Hand’s squad went 17-0 and routed Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the state Public B championship meet to earn the program’s first-ever state crown. The Little Tigers broke eight school records in that final meet.

Over at the Princeton Day School, star guard Davon Reed averaged 24.3 points a game to help the Panthers make their first state Prep B final since 2004. In the spring, the Panther boys’ lacrosse team made its first-ever appearance in the Mercer County Tournament title game.

Led by senior stars Bryell Wheeler and Elyssa Gensib, the PHS girls track team had a big spring. In early May, it won its first-ever outdoor Mercer County Championship. Weeks later, the Little Tigers prevailed at the Central Jersey Group III meet, earning their first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group II title in 1989.

In first week of the fall season, it didn’t look like  the PHS boys’ soccer team was heading to any title as it dropped two of its first three games. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team righted the ship and ended its season by tying Ramapo 1-1 in the state Group III title game to share the crown. It was the second title in four years for the program, which had taken the title in 2009. The Little Tigers girls’ soccer team nearly matched that feat, winning its first-ever sectional title before falling in the state semis.

History was made on the tennis court as PDS singles star Samantha Asch ended her brilliant career in style. The Wake-Forest bound Asch won the first singles title at the MCT, giving her four individual crowns at the competition. She wrapped up the fall by winning the first singles title at the state Prep B tournament, helping the Panthers to the team title.

The PHS girls’ tennis team produced a championship campaign as well. Led by freshman singles star Christina Rosca, the Little Tigers won the Central Jersey Group III sectional crown and topped Moorestown in the state semis to make the finals for the first time since 1999. PHS fell in the final to Mendham to suffer its only defeat of the fall.

Winter Wonders

Coming into the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s team championships this past February, Princeton head coach Bob Callahan thought that hosting the tournament gave his team a fighting chance of beating Trinity and making history as the Bantams brought a 13-year title streak into the weekend.

Although the Tigers had lost 7-2 to Trinity in the regular season, the matches were tight and Callahan believed that having a raucous crowd on hand at the Jadwin Squash Courts could make a difference.

After breezing past Dartmouth in the quarterfinals and Cornell in the semis, Princeton found Trinity waiting for it in the title match. The Bantams found themselves facing a Tiger team inspired by a standing-room only crowd packing the courts.

Hours later, the Princeton players and fans were enjoying a triumph for the ages, as the Tigers pulled off a 5-4 triumph with senior Kelly Shannon winning the match that clinched the title and ended Trinity’s amazing run.

The win gave Callahan’s squad a 15-1 record with a quintet of Tigers earning All-American honors- junior Todd Harrity, senior Chris Callis, freshman Tyler Osborne, freshman Samuel Kang, and Shannon.

Weeks after finally overcoming Trinity, head coach Callahan faced a new battle as he learned that he had a malignant brain tumor. He had surgery in March and was back on the courts in the fall although he took a day off in October to get inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame.

The women’s squash team made a good run of its own, advancing to the CSA Howe Cup national semifinals. Coach Gail Ramsay’s team ended up placing fourth, led by All Americans junior Julie Cerullo, sophomore Libby Eyre, and freshman Nicole Bunyan.

Upstairs in Jadwin Gym, the Princeton University women’s basketball team continued its domination of the Ivy League, going 24-5 overall and 14-0 in Ivy play on the way to its third straight league crown. The Tigers became the first Ivy women’s team to ever make the national Top 25, climbing to 24th in the final regular season poll.

Coach Courtney Banghart’s team came agonizingly close to posting the program’s first win in the NCAA tournament, falling 67-64 to Kansas State in the opening round of the tourney.

Princeton’s great season led to its players receiving many accolades. Junior star Niveen Rasheed bounced back from a season-ending ACL injury in her sophomore year to earn Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Classmate Lauren Polansky was named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Year for a second straight season. Senior stars Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood were All-Ivy picks in their final campaign and each ended their career with more than 1,000 points. Former Princeton men’s hoops star Mitch Henderson ’98 took over the men’s hoops program, replacing former teammate Sydney Johnson, who left his alma mater to take over the Fairfield University program. Henderson, who had previously served as an assistant coach at Northwestern for 10 years under former Tiger head coach Bill Carmody, made a smooth transition, guiding Princeton to a solid Ivy campaign and some postseason success.

After finishing third in the Ivy standings with a 10-4 league record, the Tigers were selected to play in the College Basketball Invitational and topped Evansville in the first round before falling to Pitt in the quarterfinals to end the season at 20-12. Senior star and former Hun School standout Douglas Davis ended his stellar career in style, finishing with 1,550 points, second in program history to the legendary Bill Bradley. Junior Ian Hummer was a first-team All-Ivy pick and passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.

A new coach took over at Baker Rink as longtime St. Lawrence assistant Bob Prier assumed the reins of the Princeton men’s hockey team as Guy Gadowsky left the Tigers to be the head coach at Penn State for its new D-I program. Princeton took some lumps as the players and Prier worked to get on the same page. The team posted some encouraging performances down the stretch, tying No. 9 Cornell 3-3 and topping No. 12 Colgate 6-2.

In the opening round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs Princeton pushed Yale to a decisive third game before falling 7-3 to end the winter at 9-16-7. Junior defenseman Michael Sdao was a first-team All Ivy and second-team All-ECACH pick while junior forward Andrew Calof was a second-team All-Ivy selection.

In the early going, the women’s hockey team looked like it might be headed to a long season as it started out 6-9-1.  But with senior goalie Rachel Weber leading the way, coach Jeff Kampersal’s squad got on the right track, going 6-4-1 in its last 11 games. In the ECACH quarters, the Tigers put up a valiant fight at nationally–ranked Harvard but dropped two tight games to end the season with a 12-15-4 record. Star goalie Weber earned second-team All-ECACH accolades as she posted a 2.13 goals against average with a .926 save percentage.

At DeNunzio Pool, coach Rob Orr’s men’s swimming team remained at the top of the Ivy heap, winning its fourth straight league championship. A trio of senior captains, Jon Christensen, Colin Cordes and Mike Monovoukas, each of whom were multiple-time first-team All-Ivy League honorees, led the way for the Tigers. Christensen went on to make All-American honors by placing seventh in the 200 breaststroke in the NCAA championship meet.

While coach Susan Teeter’s women’s swimming team fell just short of matching its male counterparts as they placed second to Harvard in the Ivy championship meet, sophomore Lisa Boyce solidified her status as a rising star. Boyce won three races at the Ivy championships and went on to finish in the top 40 in the NCAA meet in two events and compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the summer.

Showing its depth and talent, the men’s track team edged Cornell to win the Ivy League Indoor Track Heptagonal Championships for the third straight year. Coach Fred Samara’s team got individual wins from senior Donn Cabral in the 5,000, junior Peter Callahan in the 800, junior Russell Dinkins in the 500, sophomore Tom Hopkins in the 400, sophomore Conor McCullough in the weight throw, sophomore Damon McLean in the triple jump, and junior Trevor Van Ackeren in the 1,000.

The women’s track team finished sixth in the indoor Heps. The 4×800 relay team of Greta Feldman, Alexis Mikaelian, and Kacie O’Neil and Kristen Smoot placed first as did junior pole vaulter Tory Worthen to provide the highlights for coach Peter Farrell’s squad at the meet.

Senior Daniel Kolodzik had a big year for the wrestling team, making first-team All-Ivy at 157 pounds. Princeton hosted the 2012 EIWA Championships and head coach Chris Ayre’s team provided the home fans with some memorable moments. Junior Garret Frey took second at 125 while Kolodzik was fourth at 157.

Kolodzik, Frey, and sophomore Adam Krop went on to compete at the NCAA Championships.

Spring Shifts

Coming off a 2011 season that was derailed due to a rash of injuries, the men’s lacrosse team rebounded with a memorable campaign. Coach Chris Bates led his team a 6-0 Ivy League campaign and the league’s regular season title. Although the Tigers fell to Yale in the title game at the Ivy tournament, Princeton did make the NCAA tournament through an at-large bid.

Playing at defending national champion Virginia, the Tigers put up a valiant fight before losing 6-5 to end their season at 11-5 overall, a marked improvement on the 4-8 mark posted in the nightmare 2011 campaign. A trio of seniors, defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, goalie Tyler Fiorito, and longstick midfielder John Cunningham earned All-American recognition along with emerging sophomore star Tom Schreiber. After tallying 60 points on 32 goals and 28 assists, good for ninth-place on Princeton’s single-season list, Schreiber figures to be Princeton’s go-to player in the future.

The women’s lacrosse team posted a winning record but narrowly missed out on postseason play. Coach Chris Sailer’s squad went 8-7 with Jaci Gassaway, Cassie Pyle and Lindsey deButts earning first-team All-Ivy League recognition. Freshman Erin McMunn was an honorable mention choice and the Ivy Rookie of the Year.

Over at Clarke Field, the baseball team came agonizingly close to making the Ivy Championship Series, going 20-19 overall and 13-7 in league play, falling one win short of the Gehrig Division title. Coach Scott Bradley’s team got a superb season from junior pitcher Zak Hermans, who was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and led the Tigers in wins (6), ERA (3.00), strikeouts (60), opposing batting average (.241) and innings pitched (63.0). Senior Sam Mulroy and junior Alec Keller joined Hermans as first-team All Ivy picks.

It was a tough year for the softball team as it went 14-32 overall and 8-12 in Ivy play. After the season, Trina Salcido stepped down as the head coach, ending a five-year tenure that saw her guide the Tigers to the 2008 league crown. She was replaced in June by Lisa Sweeney, a former star pitcher at Lehigh and an assistant coach with Penn.

With the NCAA championship regatta being held at nearby Mercer Lake, the women’s open crew team gave the home fans something to cheer about. Coach Lori Dauphiny’s varsity eight took fourth in the grand final and the Tigers placed fourth overall in the team standings at the competition. Earlier, Princeton won the team points title at the inaugural Ivy League Sprints. Senior Kelly Pierce and junior Heidi Robbins earned first-team All-American recognition.

The women’s lightweight crew took fifth at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final. Coach Paul Rassam credited his two senior stars, Emily Clonts and Kathryn O’Connell, with providing the leadership that kept the top boat on course.

After taking fourth at the Eastern Sprints, the men’s heavyweight varsity eight placed seventh in the IRA regatta. The future looks bright for coach Greg Hughes program as the top boat included only one senior, Ian Silveira.

The men’s lightweight top boat made the top six at both the eastern Sprints and the IRAs, taking third in the former and sixth in the latter. Coach Marty Crotty and the program said goodbye to a decorated group of seniors that included Steven Cutler, Gianthomas Volpe, Alex Rubert, Derek Porter and Connor Edel.

Over at DeNunzio Pool, the women’s water polo team produced a breakthrough season, winning the Eastern title on the way to making its first-ever trip to the NCAA championships. Coach Luis Nicolao’s team went 29-6 and placed sixth in the NCAA tourney.

Sophomore Katie Rigler was named the CWPA Southern Division Player of the Year and earned first-team All-Southern honors along with classmate Molly McBee. Senior goalie Kristen Ward and senior center defender Audrey Zak earned second-team All-Southern recognition.

The men’s volleyball team made progress, going 13-10 and making the EIVA semifinals. Coach Sam Schweisky’s team got superb play from Cody Kessel, who  was named both the 2012 EIVA Newcomer of the Year and a member of the All-EIVA First Team. Junior middle Michael Dye also earned first team honors while senior captain and three-year setter Scott Liljestrom was named to the second team.

Men’s golf placed fifth in the Ivy Championship with senior Evan Hermeling and sophomore Greg Jarmas earning All-Ivy honors for coach Will Green’s squad.

Sophomore Kelly Shon added to her already impressive resume for the women’s golf team. She placed seventh in the Ivy Championship as coach Nicki Cutler’s team placed seventh in the team standings. Shon went on to compete in the NCAA East Regional, the U.S. Women’s Open, and the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

Senior distance star Donn Cabral produced a milestone outdoor season for the men’s track team. The Glastonbury, Conn. native won the NCAA championship in the steeplechase, becoming the first Princeton track athlete to win an NCAA title since Tora Harris won the high jump in 2002.

Earlier in the season, Cabral helped coach Fred Samara’s team win the Ivy League Heptagonal outdoor championship, marking the program’s second straight triple crown emblematic of sweeping the Heps cross country, indoor, and outdoor titles. Cabral placed first in the steeplechase and the 10,000. Other individual victors for Princeton included Tom Hopkins in the 400, Conor McCullough in the hammer throw, Damon McLean in the triple jump, and Joe Stilin in the 5,000.

Junior Greta Feldman had a breakout year for the women’s track team, taking fifth in the 1,500 at the NCAA championships. Coach Peter Farrell’s women’s squad took second at the Outdoor Hep behind Cornell. Feldman won the 800 at the meet and helped the 4×800 relay to victory while senior Eileen Moran placed first in the 100 and 200 and helped 4×100 relay to victory. Junior Tory Worthen won the pole vault.

Junior Matija Pecotic solidified his status as one of the top players ever for the men’s tennis program, getting named the Ivy League Player of the Year for a second straight year. The Tigers went 12-12 overall and 3-4 in Ivy play and longtime head coach Glenn Michibata resigned after the season. He was replaced in late May by Billy Pate, the head coach at the University of Alabama for the previous 10 years.

The doubles pair of freshman Lindsay Graff and senior Hilary Bartlett  earned first-team All-Ivy honors as the women’s tennis team went 12-10 overall and 5-2 in Ivy play. After the season, head coach Megan Bradley-Rose left the program to pursue opportunities in her home state of Florida. She was replaced in June by former women’s pro tennis star Laura Granville.

Olympian Efforts

A number of current and former Princeton athletes competed at the London Summer Olympics in August, producing some memorable performances.

Tiger athletes ended the London Olympics with seven medals, piling up a gold (Caroline Lind ’06- U.S. women’s 8), two silvers (Adreanne Morin ’06 and Lauren Wilkinson ’11 – Canada women’s 8), and a bronze (Glenn Ochal ’08- men’s four) in rowing, a bronze in women’s soccer (Diana Matheson ’05- Canada), and two bronzes in fencing (Maya Lawrence ’02 and Susie Scanlan ’14 – U.S. team epee).

In rowing, other Tigers performed well as Sarah Hendershot ’10 and partner Sarah Zalenka took fourth in  the women’s pairs while Sam Loch ‘06 helped the Australian men’s 8 take sixth, Gevvie Stone placed seventh in the women’s single sculls, and Robin Prendes ’11 helped the U.S. men’s lightweight finish eighth in their competition.

Fencing star Soren Thompson ’05 made his return to the Olympic epee competition after taking seventh at the 2004 Olympics. In London, Thompson was eliminated in the round of 32.

Recently graduated Donn Cabral ’12 became the first Princeton track and field athlete since high jumper Tora Harris to earn a spot in the Olympics as he made the U.S. team in the steeplechase. Cabral finished a solid eighth as he clocked a time of 8:25.91 for the 3,000-meter race, less than eight seconds behind the winner, Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya.

The Reinprecht sisters, Katie ’13 and Julia ’14, were key performers for the U.S. field hockey team that took 12th place, highlighted by a win over eventual silver medalist Argentina.

Another Princeton alum, David Blatt ’81, earned a medal in a coaching capacity as he guided Russia to an 81-77 victory over Argentina in the bronze medal game. It was the highest Olympic finish in men’s basketball for Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union prior to the 1992 Games.

Fall Focus

With four players, Kat Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, Katie Reinprecht, and Julia Reinprecht, returning to the field hockey team after taking a year off to train with the national team, the Tigers were seen as a surefire contender for the program’s first NCAA title.

Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s squad proved to be a powerhouse, losing just once in the regular season and dominating Ivy League play by outscoring foes 45-1 in going 7-0 in league play.

Taking a No. 2 seed into the NCAA tournament, the Tigers cruised past Lafayette, Drexel, and Virginia to advance to the Final Four. In the semis, the Tigers survived a nailbiter, edging defending national champion Maryland 3-2 in overtime. In the title game, Princeton fought back from two deficits to nip North Carolina 3-2 to fulfill its destiny.

The Tigers finished the season with a 21-1 record and the honors rolled in. Holmes-Winn was named as the national coach of the year while senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht was selected as the national player of the year. Sharkey ended her career as the all-time leading scorer in program history and earned All-American honors along with the Reinprecht sisters, Cesan and junior goalie Christina Maida.

Led by a group of eight seniors, the women’s soccer team produced a memorable campaign. Coach Julie Shackford’s squad went undefeated in Ivy League play, a marked improvement from a frustrating 6-10-1 season in 2011.

The Tigers went on to top West Virginia 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, posting the program’s first win in the national tournament since its 2004 run to the Final Four. Princeton fell 3-1 to Marquette in the second round of the NCAAs to finish with a 14-4-1 record. Senior star Jen Hoy was named the Ivy Player of the Year after scoring 18 goals, the second best single season total in program history. Hoy was joined on the All-Ivy first-team by classmates Allison Nabatoff and Rachel Sheehy together with junior Gabriella Guzman and sophomore Lauren Lazo.

The men’s soccer team fell just short of an Ivy crown, going 4-1-2 in league play. Coach Jim Barlow’s squad was led by senior co-captains Mark Linnville and Matt Sanner, who both earned first-team All-Ivy recognition. Sanner’s younger brother, freshman forward Thomas, was an honorable mention All-Ivy pick and the league’s Rookie of the Year.

Coming off back-to-back 1-9 campaigns, the football team chose the word “believe” as its mantra as it looked to produce a turnaround season. After dropping its first two games, Princeton looked to be heading down the same path. But coach Bob Surace’s team caught fire, winning four straight games to put itself atop the Ivy race. Included among those wins was an amazing comeback victory over defending champion Harvard that saw the Tigers rally from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 win.

While Princeton lost three of its last four games, the team still ended up at 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy, the program’s best one-season turnaround in more than two decades. A special highlight came after the Dartmouth game when the campus held the traditional bonfire celebration, emblematic of beating Harvard and Yale in the same season.

Senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy Defensive Player of the Year. Catapano was joined on the All-Ivy first team by classmate and fellow defensive lineman Caraun Reid and freshman Anthony Gaffney, who was honored as both a defensive back and a return specialist.

Juniors Chris Bendtsen and Alejandro Arroyo Yamin placed first and second for  the men’s cross country team as the Tigers won the Heps. It was sixth Heps crown in the last seven years for the program and first for new head coach Jason Vigilante.

The women’s cross country team fell just short of matching their male counterparts, taking second at the Heps. Junior Greta Feldman finished eighth to lead the way for coach Peter Farrell’s squad.

The men’s water polo team was ranked in the top 20 all season long but ended up short of making a return trip to the NCAAs as it took third at the Eastern Championships. Coach Luis Nicolao’s team was led by sophomore Drew Hoffenberg and senior Tim Wenzlau, who were both named to the CWPA All-Southern Team.

Senior Lydia Rudnick ended her career on the women’s volleyball in style, leading the Ivy League in both kills (370) and points (415) on the way to a being a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League honoree. She was joined on the All-Ivy first team by freshman Kendall Peterkin as the Tigers went 12-12 overall and 9-5 in league play for coach Sabrina King to tie Columbia for second in the Ivies.


Under new head coach Ian McNally, the Hun School boys’ hockey team showed progress. Led by the trio of goalie Devin Cheifetz, forward Alex Vukasin, and defenseman Brad Stern, the Raiders advanced to the championship game of the Independence Hockey League (IHL) and finished with a 10-9-1 record.

The Hun girls’ basketball team also made it to a championship game as it played in the state Prep A title contest where the Raiders fell to Blair. Coach Bill Holup’s squad went 15-12 as it was paced by seniors guards Ashley Ravelli and Jackie Mullen. Holup notched the 250th win of his coaching career with a 50-48 victory over Lawrenceville in the Prep A semis.

Hosting the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, the boys’ hoops team pulled some upsets on the way to the title game. Coach Jon Stone’s team fell to Blair in the championship contest and then lost to the Buccaneers days later in the Prep A semis to end the winter at 14-12.

Junior Kate Weeks provided the offensive punch for the Hun girls’ lacrosse team. The Boston College-bound Weeks had a number of multiple-goal games as coach Beth Loffredo’s team went 5-6.

Welcoming new head coach Don Green, the Hun boys’ lax team experienced some ups and downs as it went 7-11. Senior Iain Alexandridis provided scoring and leadership as the Raiders worked a number of young players into their lineup.

Senior star David Dudeck provided plenty of offense for the Hun baseball team, hitting .418 with three homers and 20 RBIs. But hurt by some injuries and inconsistent pitching, head coach Bill McQuade’s team finished at 9-14.

The battery of pitcher Danielle Beal and power-hitting catcher Carey Million starred for the Hun softball team. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team overcame a slow start to go 9-7 and reach the state Prep A semifinals.

Senior first singles star Chris Seitz placed third at the Mercer County Tournament as coach Todd Loffredo’s squad tied for seventh in the team standing. Seitz, who had played in the previous three MCT first singles title matches, is continuing his tennis career at Villanova.

Francesca Bello triggered the offense and Alex Kane spearheaded the defense as the Hun field hockey team showed flashes of brilliance. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 6-8, producing one of its best performances of the season in a 2-1 loss in the Prep A semis to eventual champion Lawrenceville.

Quarterback Blake Searfoss provided some aerial heroics while Hunter Knighton anchored things in the trenches as the Hun football team went 3-3. Coach Dave Dudeck’s team enjoyed it’s shining moment against Lawrenceville in late October when it overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit to post a 35-21 victory over the Big Red.

Sparked by dazzling midfielder Angelica Tabares, the Hun girls’ soccer team produced some high-quality performances. Coach Ken Stevenson’s team finished the fall at 4-5-4.

Goalie Chris Meinert and midfielder Nick Revano were bright spots for the Hun boys’ soccer team. Coach Pat Quirk’s squad went 4-13.

Longtime coach Joan Nuse welcomed a number of new faces to her program and guided the Raiders to a 12th place finish at the Mercer County Tournament.


Led by junior star Davon Reed, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team made a memorable run to the state Prep B championship game. Coach Paris McLean’s team fell to a battle-tested Rutgers Prep squad in the title contest to end the winter at 16-11. The 6’6 Reed averaged 24.3 points a game as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.

Dealing with a series of injuries, the PDS girls’ hoops team went with just six players for most of the winter. Utilizing her basketball savvy, coach Mika Ryan guided the team to a 9-13 record, including an uplifting run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals which saw the Panthers upset WW/P-S and Ewing along the way. Senior star Molly Rubin and junior Lauren Johnson helped to hold PDS together.

The addition of the Colton brothers, freshman Ross and junior Rob, helped the PDS boys’ hockey team enjoy a superb season. Coach Scott Bertoli’s team went 18-5-1, winning its invitational tournament and posting wins over such teams as Moses Brown (R.I.), Notre Dame, Hill School (Pa.), and the Portledge School (N.Y.)

Senior star Megan Ofner ended her PDS girls’ hockey career in style, scoring 32 points to end up with a final total of 124. Ofner’s heroics helped coach Lorna Cook’s team go 10-7 and win the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) ‘B’ title.

Senior Garret Jensen and junior Cody Triolo provided production and leadership as the PDS boys’ lacrosse team solidified its status as one of the top programs in the area. Coach Rob Tuckman’s team advanced to the Mercer County Tournament championship game and ended the spring with a 10-7 record.

The girls’ lax team was hampered early by injury but came on strong, overcoming a 0-5 start to end at 9-9. Coach Jill Thomas’ squad was led by junior Hannah Levy, who tallied 94 points on 69 goals and 25 assists.

James Sanderson and Josiah Meekins provided a major highlight as boys’ tennis took second of eight teams in the state Prep B tournament. Sanderson and Meekins won the title at second doubles for head coach Will Asch while the pair of Jason Hirsch and Moose Kilbourne took second at first doubles.

Freshman first baseman James “J.P.” Radvany established himself as one of the top power hitters in the area, leading the baseball team in batting average (,484), hits (30), RBIs (32), and slugging percentage (.806). Radvany’s production helped Ray O’Brien’s squad post a 12-9 record.

With a roster containing only nine players, the softball team became known as the ‘Iron 9.” Coach Paul Lano’s team managed to win two games, paced by the battery of pitcher Dina Alter and catcher Jess Toltzis.

Senior girls’ tennis star Samantha Asch punctuated her brilliant career with  championship performances. The Wake Forest-bound Asch won the first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament, giving her four individual crowns at the competition. She ended the fall by winning the first singles crown in the state Prep B tournament, leading coach Ed Tseng’s squad to the team title.

Former national team player Tracey Arndt took the helm of the field hockey program and guided the Panthers to a memorable fall. Led by a quintet of senior stars in Sarah Trigg, Zeeza Cole, Cami McNeely, Corinne Urisko, and Andrea Jenkins, the Panthers advanced to the state Prep B title game and ended the fall at 11-4-3.

The combination of Britt Murray and Steph Soltesz spearheaded the defense for the PDS girls’ soccer team and kept the squad competitive. Coach Pat Trombetta’s team went 4-9-4, losing a number of nailbiters.

Welcoming a number of young players into the lineup, the boys’ soccer team underwent a rebuilding campaign. Coach Malcolm Murphy’s side posted a 3-11-2 record with sophomore midfielder Marco Pinheiro emerging as a key performer.


Having advanced to the 2011 Public B championship meet and returning a special group of seniors, the PHS boys’ swimming team figured to be a powerhouse. Coach Greg Hand’s team lived up to expectations and more. The Little Tigers dominated their foes, going undefeated and winning the county crown and culminating their season by routing Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the Public B championship meet to win the program’s first stat title.

The team’s senior stars, Victor Honore, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, and Harun Filipovic, together with a trio of sophomore standouts in Will Stange, Colburn Yu, and Peter Kalibat led the way as the Little Tigers went 17-0. In the state championship meet, PHS swimmers won nine of 11 events and set eight school records.

Juniors Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio starred as the girls’ swimming team enjoyed a superb campaign. Coach Greg Hand’s squad went 13-2 and advanced to the Public B Central Jersey sectional championship meet.

With Mike Wasson, Will Greenberg, Matt DiTosto and Kirby Peck triggering the offense and goalie Josh Berger anchoring the defense, the boys’ hockey team advanced to its third straight Mercer County Tournament title game. Coach Tim Campbell’s team fell to Notre Dame in the championship contest but went on to advance to the second round of the state tournament and finish with a 15-7- 2 record.

Seniors Keely Herring and Abby Hunter provided offense and intensity for the girls’ hockey team. Coach Christina Herzog’s team broke a long losing streak with a win over Summit and ended the winter at 1-11.

Senior guards Davon Black and Matt Hoffman led the way as the boys basketball team made it to the second round of the state tournament. Coach Jason Carter’s team went 12-13, losing a 50-47 nailbiter to a powerful Ocean team in the state tourney to end the season.

Going with a youth movement, the girls’ hoops team experienced some growing pains. Coach Stef Shoop’s squad went 1-18 but the future looks bright as such young players as Mary Sutton, Mira Shane, and Catherine Curran-Groome got plenty of experience in their freshman season.

Seniors Tim Miranda, Nick Gillette, and Jeff Barsamian were standouts for the PHS wrestling team. The trio all did well in the Region V tournament for coach Rashone Johnson.

Led by the high-scoring trio of Mia Haughton, Emilia Lopez-Ona, and Liz Jacobs, the girls’ lacrosse team enjoyed a superb season. Coach Christie Cooper’s team  went 14-4 and made it to the sectional semis.

Seniors Kirby Peck and Alex Rifkin led the way as the PHS boys’ lacrosse team produced another winning campaign. Coach Peter Stanton’s team posted a 10-9 final record.

The PHS baseball team struggled again, posting a 4-19 record. Senior stars Will Greenberg and Matt Hoffman played hard to the end for coach Dave Roberts’ squad.

Sparked by the heroics of junior star Marisa Gonzalez who batted over .500 with 38 hits and 42 RBIs, the softball team made strides. Coach Dave Boehm’s squad went 9-14 and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, its first triumph in county play in recent memory, if ever.

Led by some gutsy play from senior singles star Eddie Percarpio, the boys’ tennis team advanced to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s team finished the spring with a 14-4 record.

Brilliant performances by senior sprinter/jumper Bryell Wheeler and senior distance star Elyssa Gensib helped the girls’ track team enjoy a breakthrough campaign. Coach Jim Smirk’s squad won its first-ever outdoor Mercer County Championship. Weeks later, the Little Tigers prevailed at the Central Jersey Group III meet, earning their first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group II title in 1989.

Junior throwing star Tim Brennan had a big spring for the boys’ track team. He won both the shot put and the javelin to help coach John Woodside’s team take fourth at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet.

After not losing a regular season game from 2009-11, the PHS boys’ soccer team dropped two of its first three games this fall. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team. though, righted the ship and produced a memorable campaign. With junior Kevin Halliday emerging as one of the top scorers in the area and senior Pablo Arroyo anchoring the defense, the Little Tigers caught fire. PHS won a series of one-goal games on the way to its second straight Central Jersey Group III title. PHS then topped Moorestown 2-0 in the state semis and tied powerhouse Ramapo 1-1 in the group final to share the state crown and end the fall at 18-3-1.

Welcoming 11 new faces to its roster, it looked like it might be a rebuilding season for the PHS girls’ soccer team. But with a determined senior group of Kate Kerr, Meghan Brennan, Vanessa Guzman, Madison Luther, and star goalie Lauren Ullmann leading the way, the Little Tigers exceeded expectations.

Coach Greg Hand’s side advanced to the semis of the Mercer County Tournament and then won the Central Jersey Group III title, the first sectional crown in program history. While PHS’ stunning run ended with a 2-0 loss to Moorestown in the state semis, nobody was hanging their heads in the wake of the memorable 16-3-1 campaign.

Led by freshman singles star Christina Rosca, the girls’ tennis team went one step further than their girls’ soccer counterparts. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad won the Central Jersey Group III sectional crown and then topped Moorestown in the state semis to make the finals for the first time since 1999. PHS fell in the final to Mendham to suffer its only defeat of the fall.

With senior star Luke Bozich setting the pace, the PHS boys’ cross country team had a big fall. Coach John Woodside’s squad took second in the county meet and then won the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet for a second straight year. PHS ended the season with  a fifth place finish in the Group III state meet as Kevin Vahdat Sage Healy, Jacob Rist, and Conor Donahue all ran well behind Bozich.

The one-two punch of sophomore Julie Bond and senior Amelia Whaley helped the girls’ cross country team produce another solid campaign. Coach Jim Smirk’s team finished third at both the county and sectional meets.

With senior Sydney Watts spearheading the defense and junior Emilia Lopez-Ona triggering the offense, the field hockey team continued to make progress. Coach Heather Serverson’s squad went 14-5-1, advancing to the MCT quarterfinals and winning their first state tournament game in years.

The PHS football team started and ended the season in style, topping Northern Burlington in the opener and beating New Brunswick in the finale. In between, the Little Tigers lost eight games as they posted a 2-8 record. Quarterback Zack DiGregorio, running back Javon Pannell and tight end Liam Helstrom provided some highlights even as the losses piled up for coach Joe Gargione’s squad. After the season, Gargione stepped down, ending his three-year-tenure with a 5-25 record.


A trio of seniors, Parris Branker, Angela Gallagher, and Jen Dias, provided leadership as the Stuart Country Day School basketball team suffered through a tough winter. Coach Tony Bowman’s team went 0-15 and he resigned after the season. Former Caldwell College star Dana Leary replaced Bowman and ushered in a youth movement as the program looks to revive its fortunes.

Senior standout Ani Hallowell triggered the offense and freshman goalie Harlyn Bell developed into a star as the Stuart lacrosse team showed growth. First-year head coach Caitlin Grant guided the Tartans to a 4-11 record, highlighted by a 16-5 win over Nottingham in its finale.

The return of legendary coach Missy Bruvik sparked excitement around the field hockey program. Bruvik led Stuart to several county and prep titles in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season before stepping down to follow daughter Kelly’s Bucknell field hockey career. Employing a number of promising freshmen, Bruvik led the Tartans to a 3-14-1 record and was encouraged as the team improved by leaps and bounds over the season.

The tennis program also saw a coaching change as former Montgomery High star Katherine Stoltenberg took the helm. With senior first singles player Katherine Hagestad providing leadership and some high-quality tennis, the Tartans tied for 12th in the Mercer County Tournament team standings.

IN BLOOM: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Ellis Bloom dribbles the ball in action last season. On December 18, senior guard Bloom scored a game-high 15 points as PHS topped Allentown 64-46 to earn its first win of the the season. Two nights later, Bloom chipped in nine as the Little Tigers routed Hightstown 69-26 to improve to 2-1. PHS is next in action when it plays at Trenton Central on January 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ellis Bloom and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ basketball team were disappointed when they squandered a late lead in falling to Hopewell Valley in overtime in their season opener.

“We played a tough game on Friday, we were definitely in the game,” said senior guard Bloom. “I think we let some things slip that we hadn’t really worked on.”

PHS went to work after the loss and showed the fruits of that labor in their home opener against Allentown on December 18. The Little Tigers jumped out to a 34-20 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 64-46 win.

Bloom was proud of the progress shown by PHS in the victory. “Our coaching staff did a good job of really stressing the things that we needed to work on and I think we executed well today,” said Bloom.

“We definitely stressed to keep it up and keep the intensity up because when we play well is when everyone is focused and everyone is intense and we are really playing as a team.”

That intensity and teamwork certainly showed on the defensive end. “We worked on some different defenses in practice and we were really focused just doing everything that we needed to do,” said Bloom.

“Another big thing about that was defensive rebounding, which we did better today than we did on Friday. It was definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Little Tigers did better offensively as they spread the wealth. “Coach [Mark] Shelley has been stressing balance,” said Bloom.

“We always want to get an even margin for everyone. It is great if someone goes a little bit higher. If everyone is in the 7-to-14 point range, we are bound for a good night.”

While the 6’0 Bloom had a good night as he scored a game-high 15 points, he said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

“I just have to give credit to my teammates because they were the ones finding me,” said Bloom.

“Especially in the first half, Lior Levy gave me at least two backdoor cuts. Yes I made the layup but I give credit to Lior for the pass. Also on some of the in-bounds passes I was able to get open; it was a good job by my teammates finding me.”

As a battle-tested veteran, Bloom is looking to set a positive tone this winter for the Little Tigers.

“I am trying to be a leader and help the younger guys when they get a chance,” said Bloom.

“Obviously I have been through some of the ups and downs of Princeton basketball so I am able to relay the message of my experience to the others and just lead by example. If people see that I am hustling and playing good defense, it is contagious and everyone will do the same thing.”

It was a good experience for PHS to give coach Shelley his first win at the helm of the program.

“It is definitely different, it is a different style but coach Shelley has had success and he was in the program last year,” said Bloom.

“We know each other so it is not like we are starting from ground zero. We have some experience with him. He has experience and he knows what he is talking about so we are able to trust him. If it is different than last year, it is OK because that’s normal because not every coach is the same.”

Coach Shelley liked the way his players grew from the opening night loss. “I felt like it was a real big step forward,” asserted Shelley, whose team took another positive step on Thursday when it beat Hightstown 69-26 to improve to 2-1.

“I felt like our offense was pretty crisp. We got the lead tonight and held it. I wasn’t pleased that they cut it to 10 but that’s going to happen in basketball, it is a game of runs. I was pleased with how we responded to that.”

Shelley was happy with his team’s defensive effort. “I am real pleased with the zone,” said Shelley.

“It is not slowdown but we really try to make them take a shot with a hand in their face. That’s what we want. When we rotated well in the zone tonight, they didn’t get a whole lot of clean looks.”

In Shelley’s view, Bloom gave the team a lot in the win. “Ellis was disappointed the other night about not being as aggressive as he should be,” said Shelley.

“I felt like he was a real leader out there tonight vocally. He is the kind of player where he might score 3 or he might score 15 but he doesn’t make mistakes. He is an outlet ball handler. He is not the main ballhandler but he settles us down. I was real pleased with his game. He is a good complement.”

PHS has complementary parts which should help it maintain a balanced approach.

“I have had some teams where you have too many guards or too many posts,” said Shelley.

“We have a nice blend of them and I really like that. The starting five fits into a 1-2-3-4-5 pattern.

While Shelley enjoyed getting his first PHS triumph under his belt, he was happier for his players. “It felt good but I am such a non-ego person, it is about the kids,” said Shelley, whose team is next in action when it plays at Trenton Central on January 3.

“The seniors talked about how it has been a while since they won a game that convincingly. They had a lot of close ones last year. It was good to come out and lay the hammer down. We got down 5-2 and then we just took over the game.”

Bloom, for his part, believes PHS can do some good things this winter.

“Hopefully we can build on this win and play even better and it can be a continuous process,” said Bloom.

“If we continue to get better every single game and every single practice and everybody does what they need to do, hopefully we should have success later down the road.”

ON TRACK: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads upcourt last Wednesday in PDS’ 57-10 win over the Solebury School. A night later, senior guard and Miami-bound Reed poured in 30 points as PDS topped Conwell-Egan (Pa.) 70-53 to improve to 5-2. In upcoming action, the Panthers play Robert Faux (Pa.) on December 27 in the opening round of the PrimeTime Shootout at Trenton Catholic Academy and will then play in either a consolation or championship game in the event on December 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While recently committing to join the University of Miami men’s basketball program took a load off of his mind, Davon Reed is not about to relax as he plays his senior year for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

“The foot is still on the throttle; I still have personal goals I want to achieve at the high school level,” said the 6’6 Reed, who announced his college decision in late September.

“I am not looking to college, that is there and we know where that is. I am just here to encourage my team and look for us to get better and finish this season out on top. The goal is to win a state championship and to win a Mercer County Tournament so we are looking to do that.”

Last Wednesday, PDS certainly looked like a title contender as it raced out to a 27-1 lead over visiting Solebury School (Pa.) on the way to a 57-10 rout.

“We came out and just tried to play our game, regardless of any situation,” said Reed, reflecting on the team’s sizzling start.

“We wanted to execute and get ready for the rest of the games on our schedule. We try to take every game one game at a time and just come out and play in the moment.”

Reed helped set the tone as he scored 15 points in the first quarter. “I just wanted to come out and play as great a game as possible,” said Reed, who ended the game with 18 points.

“I try to execute on all cylinders. That’s what I try to do in my performance and see what happens.”

Coming off a 2011-12 season in which he averaged 24.3 points a game, Reed still saw plenty of room for improvement in his game.

“I worked on my shot consistency, trying to make better all-around decisions as a player,” said Reed, who poured in 30 points a day later as PDS topped Conwell Egan (Pa.) 70-53 to improve to 5-2.

“I am still working on that. I just want to be a leader, an all-around complete player. At the next level, you have to be an elite defender so that is something I have been working on as well.”

In Reed’s view, PDS is raising the level of its play collectively. “Last year, we started out undefeated at this time of the season,” said Reed.

“We have got two losses already but I like where we’re at versus last year. Last year we played a couple of cupcake teams at the start of the year but this year we are growing slowly so we are going to be fine.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean, for his part, liked the way his team started in the victory over the Solebury School.

“We said we needed to come out and we needed to set the tempo; I thought we did at both ends of the floor,” said McLean.

“We had high pressure defense and execution on offense. I would have liked to see us work the ball there a little more. When we had open shots we took them and we made them. We are coming off a high competition weekend at the Hill Tournament so it fed us well into this game.”

In McLean’s view, Reed has been able to open things up in the wake of making his college decision.

“He is able to play carefree and he is able to focus,” said McLean. “There are not eight coaches here observing him and critiquing him. He is able to just play ball and you can see that. He is smooth and carefree. He is tough defensively.”

The Panthers have been playing some good ball, benefitting from facing some tough competition in the early going.

“We are very pleased with where we are,” said McLean. “There was a lot of talent, a lot of high-powered prep school teams at that Hill Tournament. So to be sitting at 4-2 right now in December is great. There is always room for improvement though.”

PDS will be working hard over the holidays to hone things. “We have to go back to what we call “the lab;” the lab is the practice room and that’s where you experiment and that’s where you try things,” said McLean, whose team plays Robert Faux (Pa.) on December 27 in the opening round of the PrimeTime Shootout at Trenton Catholic Academy and will then play in either a consolation or championship game in the event on December 29.

“I think we need to get better at team rebounding. I think we can communicate better. It gets quiet out there, sometimes you only hear a couple of guys calling out defensive signals but we need five men calling out defensive signals. I think that our new guys are feeling more comfortable with the team.”

Reed, for his part, is comfortable with PDS’s prospects. “We have got the pieces now,” said Reed.

“We have a couple of new faces and a new coaching staff so hopefully all of these things will help us come together and evolve into a better team.”

December 19, 2012

STRONG WILL: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange flies through the water last year as he helped PHS to an undefeated season and the program’s first state Public B title. Junior Stange has helped PHS get off to a 4-0 start this season. The Little Tigers swim at Trenton Central on December 20 before going on holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High boys’ swimming team produced a season for the ages last winter, going undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B title, the squad doesn’t feel like it has a bull’s eye on its back as it gets the 2012-13 campaign underway.

“I don’t think there is any pressure from what we did last year,” said longtime PHS head coach Greg Hand.

“What we did last year has no bearing on this year other than the kids who are back were excited to have been part of something like that. As far as any expectations about what we can or ought to win, they are not there at all. It will be real exciting to see if we can bring home a trophy at counties.”

Hand was excited about the effort his team put in last week as it topped Lawrence 115-55 in an early test. PHS showed its talent and depth in the meet. The team’s trio of junior stars, Will Stange, Colburn Yu, and Peter Kalibat, looked formidable. Stange placed first in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke while Yu won the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and Kalibat was victorious in the 500 freestyle. Senior John Bond added a win in the 200 free.

“In our Lawrence meet last Tuesday we got to swim a strong lineup,” said Hand.

“I am interested to see where we are swimming and how balanced we are. We are well below the power points that we had at the same meet last year.

With the program losing such stars as Victor Honore, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, and Harun Filipovic to graduation, seniors John Bond and Daniel Andronov have taken on bigger roles this winter.

“I have known John for four years; he is such a great person and a dedicated athlete,” said Hand, whose team topped Ewing 125-41 last Thursday to improve to 4-0.

“He always gives a great effort but there is no fanfare. He is so unselfish.

I got to know Dan last year; he has really come along. He has gotten comfortable at PHS and is really enjoying his swimming. He is excited about applying to some challenging colleges.”

Hand is excited about having two of his other seniors, Steven and Patrick Schultz, training with the team on a daily basis.

“The Schultz brothers have been swimming throughout high school and before,” said Hand.

“They decided because of the demands of high school academics the best situation for them was to do all their swimming with the school team. They have been adding great value to our workouts. They push themselves and set the tone on the deck.”

PHS’s chances of having another great postseason run will come down to how far junior stars Stange, Yu, and Kalibat can carry the squad. “They are the real center of gravity for us,” asserted Hand.

“Each of them is really committed to swimming and is in the middle of at least five more years of competing in the sport. I wouldn’t put any limits on them. These guys are improving in the sport and they each have an incredible work ethic They love the sport, who knows what they can achieve.”

Hand certainly loves having the chance to deploy the terrific trio. “They are very versatile but each brings special talents,” said Hand.

“We could put them anywhere but when the chips are down we know where to put them and they always come through.”

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, posting a solid win over Lawrence last week could portend some big things to come.

“I think we did well; we got a better sense of who are,” said PHS head coach Greg Hand, reflecting on his team’s 108-62 victory over the Cardinals. “They love to race; they are very excited about competing.”

Hand is excited to have a pair of senior stars, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio, leading the way for his team. In the victory over Lawrence, Deardorff posted wins in both the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle races while Giglio was victorious in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

“They are just terrific kids; they take a lot of pride in swimming relays for us,” said Hand, referring to Deardorff and Giglio.

“They know who is out there in the CVC and they are very involved in helping to craft the lineup. Each of them could swim absolutely everything in a typical meet. Marisa has changed her specialty; she has gone from a breaststroker to a very good backstroker. Serena is a technically sound butterfly swimmer who is also good at the backstroke and the freestyle.”

PHS has some other terrific senior leaders in Victoria Carroll, Nicole Kratzer, Felicia He, and Cory Allikas.

“Victoria Carroll has been with us for four years and is the fourth from a great family to swim with us; she has a good backstroke and is a good relay swimmer,” said Hand, whose team topped Ewing 130-34 last Thursday to improve to 4-0.

“She is a terrific leader. Nicole Kratzer hurt her shoulder and is our manager this year. She provides a terrific presence on the deck. Felicia He had been with us for four years, she is a great trainer and a positive presence on the team. Cory Allikas is another contributor.”

The team’s Class of 2013 sets a positive tone for the squad. “The senior crew just creates a terrific climate for the team,” asserted Hand. “It is a situation where the kids like to work with each other. It is low pressure, high effort.”

Hand is looking for some good work from such younger veterans as Taylor Chiang, Hannah Ash, and Stephanie Tam.

“They scored significant points for us last year and we need them to be scoring points for us this year if we are to have a chance in some of the big meets
coming up,” said Hand, whose team faces a gauntlet of WW/P-S, Steinert, WW/P-N, and Notre Dame early in 2013.

With PHS already getting significant contributions from precocious freshmen, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, the Little Tigers should be right there in the big meets to come.

“Madeleine is a terrific swimmer with extraordinary energy and great power in her swimming,” said Hand, whose team swims at Trenton Central on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break.

“She is very fast in the fly and is solid in the free. Brianna is lights out fast. We will be using her a lot in the 50 and 100 free and the backstroke. Both of them have a terrific attitude. They are able to race hard and then have a great capacity to move on to the next thing regardless of how they did.”

NO ORDINARY JO: Princeton High girls’ basketball player ­Jocabed Muflam surveys the situation in 2011-12 action. Last Friday, Muflam scored a team-high 13 points as PHS fell 63-37 to Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers are next in action when they play at Hightstown on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jocabed Muflam was not about to give up even though the Princeton High girls’ basketball team trailed Hopewell Valley by more than 20 points in the waning moments of last Friday’s season opener.

The senior forward made a steal with 1:05 left in the game and raced as hard as she could up the floor. Moments later, Muflam wrestled for a rebound on the way to scoring the last basket in PHS’s 63-37 loss to the Bulldogs.

For Muflam, showing effort to the final whistle was a matter of applying lessons she has learned over her PHS career.

“Over the years, I have learned a lot from my freshman year to my sophomore year to my junior year,” said Muflam.

“A lot of what I have learned has been from on the court but also from the older people I have played with, girls like Molly Barber, Julia Maltby, and Tara Thomas. I want to be that influence on my team and have the underclassmen look to me and take a lot from me as I took a lot from my upperclassmen. Like Talya Nakash, every game she had a whole lot of heart and I thought that was really inspirational and I definitely took from that.”

The Little Tigers showed heart collectively last Friday as they fought hard against powerful HoVal, a finalist in the Mercer County Tournament last year.

“Hopewell is always a definitely a really good team,” said Muflam, who scored a team-high 13 points in the contest.

“We knew that they were a quick team, an athletic team and a team with a lot of shooters. It was definitely challenging like it always is. It is really motivating to play a team this good because it shakes you and gets you ready for the rest of the season.”

PHS showed improvement within the game, culminating with a superb fourth quarter, which saw the Little Tigers outscore HoVal 16-15.

“We just want to come out stronger; we were just talking about it in the locker room,” said Muflam.

“The way that we got intense in the fourth quarter is how we need to start the games. So we are going to change our warm-ups to get us an intense start right away.”

Coming off a season that saw PHS post just one victory as the team broke in some new faces, Muflam believes the Little Tigers can win more games this winter.

“Last year was new for us because we lost so many players, it was a transition year for us,” said Muflam.

“Having the opportunity to play with the new girls, I think we were definitely learning a lot from each other. We are still learning. We have got two new players on varsity and they look pretty solid.”

PHS head coach Steffanie Shoop saw some solid work from her team in the opener.

“Throughout the game, they consistently got better,” asserted Shoop, whose team plays at Hightstown on December 21.

“I think every quarter my girls improved. Obviously you can see that they don’t have quit in them. They don’t stop, they could have rolled over and played possum. They didn’t stop. They worked hard. I am proud of their work ethic, I am proud of their hustle. I am proud their no-quit attitude. All of my girls contributed in one way, shape, or form.”

Shoop liked the contribution she got from junior forward Liz Jacobs, who chipped in 10 points.

“Liz is strong, she is capable, she is an athlete,” said Shoop. “You could see that she really gained confidence in that game. Hopefully she maintains that.”

PHS draws confidence from Muflam’s intensity. “Jocabed is an incredible kid,” said Shoop.

“She is not only an amazing student, she is an incredible athlete. I think one of the girls in the locker room, Catherine Groome-Curran, said ‘come on guys, it’s not fair that Jocabed is always the one on the box.’ We need to step up our game and that’s something a player like Jocabed does, she inspires the other kids to do better.”

Muflam, for her part, is determined to leave everything she has on the court for the Little Tigers.

“I definitely try to do what I can; I try to give my team as much of me as possible,” said Muflam.

“I know that sometimes my shot is off and rather than getting down on myself for missing a layup, I try to hustle because that is something I always have control over. That is something I can always give to my team so I really try to focus on that every single game.”

FIRST TAKE: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler heads up court in action last season. Last Friday, senior guard Bechler contributed 14 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 67-62 at Hopewell Valley in overtime in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers host Hightstown on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High boys’ basketball team didn’t deliver a win to new head coach Mark Shelley in his debut at the helm of the program last Friday at Hopewell Valley, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Little Tigers led 27-25 at halftime and 46-43 after three quarters and held a five-point advantage with less than three minutes to go in regulation. The Bulldogs, though, forced overtime and went on to a 67-62 win.

“I liked our energy; I thought we had good chemistry,” said Shelley.

“I thought we played well offensively to be in the 60s against a team that plays good defense like that. It was a really close game. You start with a road game and they had a huge crowd but our guys were not rattled. They showed resilience.”

Shelley saw that resilience right from the start of the contest. “There were three or four times in the first half where they went up by three or four and we came down on next possession and scored,” said Shelley.

“We hit a 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first to cut it from four to one. I think that says a lot about the team.”

Senior star Lior Levy showed a lot in the opener, pouring in a game-high 25 points.

“He played fantastic; it was not a selfish 25,” said Shelley. “It was a recognition from him that he is skilled and a recognition from the other players that he does have a special skill set. We are much better when we are touching the ball in the post. He made some beautiful moves in the post and he popped some 3’s trailing on the fast break. It was a senior being a leader.”

The Little Tigers got some good play from two other key veterans as junior forward Peter Mahotiere chipped in 11 points with senior point guard Scott Bechler scoring 14 and triggering the PHS offense.

“Peter does so many good things for us,” said Shelley. “He is a tough rebounder and goes a really good job playing in the middle of our zone. Scott played the entire game. He handled the pressure well and they were checking him good all night long. We talked at halftime about getting to the line more and Scott did a good job of that in the second half. He was a warrior out there.”

In reflecting on the loss, Shelley believes his team has to do a better job at the defensive end of the court.

“We gave up too many points; we worked on backside rotations and our zone in our weekend practice,” said Shelley, whose team hosts Hightstown on December 21. “We made some bad decisions and mental errors that led them to get some easier shots than I would have liked. That is coachable.”

Shelley is confident that both he and his players gained some important lessons from the HoVal game.

“Everyone can improve,” said Shelley. “I probably should have subbed more in the first half. We all learned.”

LOOKING GOOD: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alec Karanikolas looks for the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward Karanikolas has been a key contributor this season as the Raiders have produced a 4-1-1 start. In upcoming action, Hun plays at St. John’s Vianney on December 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter ended in disappointing fashion for the Hun School boys’ hockey team as it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game.

Getting off to a 0-1-1 start this winter, the Raiders were looking to their December 5 meeting with Pennington as a way to get things going in the right direction.

Showing a balanced attack, Hun achieved that goal posting an 8-2 win over its local rival.

Hun head coach Ian McNally saw the victory as a big step forward.

“It was a nice win, a lot of people got involved on the offensive side and it kick-started our confidence,” said McNally, who got two goals apiece from Alex Vukasin and Alex Bidwell in the victory with Brad Stern, Jordan Wang, Justin Grossman, and Chris Rossi chipping in one apiece.

Two days later, the Raiders achieved another confidence-builder as they topped defending state Prep champion Pingry 4-1.

“I told the boys before the season that I was looking at games against Pingry, St Joe’s Metuchen, and Princeton Day School as good marking sticks for us,” said McNally.

“They beat us pretty handily in the Prep tournament last year before beating PDS so it was a nice surprise to beat them by a few goals.

In McNally’s view, having more talent at his disposal made a big difference in the matchup against Pingry.

“We just have more depth than last year,” said McNally. “Most of the team came back and we added players in the middle. We are rolling three or four lines and three or four sets of defensemen.”

Two young players, sophomore forward Chris Rossi and freshman forward Jon Pensler, have helped get the Raiders rolling.

“Rossi played a strong role for us last year as a freshman but he is putting up more points this year,” said McNally.

“Pensler has been a great addition for us. He plays defense for his club team and we had him at defense in the first few games. We felt we needed some offensive punch so we moved him to forward and he has been scoring in every game.”

The Raiders have been getting increased punch from some of their more experienced players.

“We have two other veterans, Alec Karanikolas and Jordan Wang, who are not going to be our leading scorers but they have been very reliable,” said McNally.

“They have stepped up a lot. We knew what we were going to get from guys like Alex Vukasin and Brad Stern so it is nice to see other guys in the mix.”

Another nice development for Hun has been the leadership it is getting from senior defenseman Eric Szeker.

“We named Eric Szeker captain this year and he has really stepped up both in terms of his play on the ice and showing a good demeanor off the ice,” added McNally.

Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has stepped up in recent action. “Cheifetz wasn’t himself in the first few games but he was really good in the Pingry game and that was a big sigh of relief,” said McNally, who got 26 saves from his star netminder in the win.

“The offense won the Pennington game but the Pingry game was really his. Since then we have had a number of goals but we have also given up some 2-on-1s and breakaways and he has been right there for us.

With Hun having topped Chestnut Hill (Pa.) 8-2 on December 11 and then posting an 11-0 win over Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Wednesday to improve to 4-1-1, McNally is hoping his team can keep on a roll.

“I am looking for more of the same,” said McNally. “We have four road wins in a row and if we can win at St. John’s Vianney [on December 20] that would be five. I told the boys that is good in any league.

The Raiders will close out the 2012 portion of their schedule by competing in the Pa. Hockey Scholastic Showcase from December 28-31 in Pittsburgh Pa.

“I heard about this, I liked the number of teams and the format,” said McNally.

“I am looking at it as a fun break and hopefully we will do well. The main purpose for us is to get away for a few days. The idea is to have some fun and play some hockey over the break.”

So far this season, the Raiders have been having a lot of fun on and off the ice.

“There is a different feel around the team; there is a buzz at the rink, on the bus, and in the dressing room,” said McNally.

“It is a much better feeling. Everybody is getting on board and playing for each other. It is really nice. We had a secret Santa after practice the other day with gag gifts and it was a blast with a lot of laughs.”

MULLING IT OVER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen heads to the basket last week in Hun’s 58-48 loss to visiting Lawrenceville. Sophomore guard Mullen scored nine points in the defeat. Hun, now 4-2, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After battling a formidable Lawrenceville squad to a 27-27 standstill at halftime last week, the Hun School girls’ basketball team ran into some adversity in the second half.

Having trouble dealing with the Lawrenceville press, the Raiders were outscored 16-8 in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. Then in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, junior star Erica Brown went down with a knee injury that sidelined her for the rest of the contest.

Still, the Raiders battled on, cutting the Big Red lead to 52-48 on a Carey Million jump shot with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Lawrenceville, though, hit its free throws down the stretch to pull away to a 58-48 victory as the Raiders dropped to 3-2.

While Hun head coach Bill Holup was disappointed to see his team fall to its rival, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“We were competitive with Shipley (a 67-44 loss on December 1) for three quarters and obviously competitive in this game,” said Holup, who got 15 points from junior center Johnnah Johnson in the loss with Brown chipping in 11 and sophomore guard Janelle Mullen adding nine.

“We just came up on the short end in this game but the effort was there. I can’t complain, we are still above .500.”

The loss of Brown certainly played a factor in Hun coming up short against the Big Red.

“Brown is great at getting the defensive rebound and starting the fast break,” asserted Holup.

“She is extremely quick and athletic. We weren’t quite as aggressive defensively or on the boards when Erica was out of the game.”

Holup acknowledged that his team had trouble slowing the Lawrenceville backcourt.

“They have two really good ballhandlers and it was really tough to defend against,” said Holup, whose team showed its toughness last Saturday as it topped Germantown Friends (Pa.) 41-26 last Saturday with Johnson scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

“In the past two games that we have played, the teams have had a very good point guard. When they have two people who can really handle the ball, it makes it really tough to defend against.”

The Raiders have played a tough schedule in the early going by design, as Holup believes that will strengthen his team in the long run. “This stretch that we have already played with these last four games, Friends Central, Penn Charter, Shipley, and Lawrenceville, those are very good teams,” said Holup.

“Each one of those teams has Division I caliber players so we have been thrown in the fire pretty quickly.”

Holup likes the way his players have met that early challenge. “Overall, the whole attitude of the team is really positive,” said Holup. “It has been a great overall effort through the first five games. I am completely happy with the attitude and the effort that the kids have right now.”

With Hun playing at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break, Holup is looking for his team to be sharper in its offensive decision-making.

“We just have to make sure that we recognize when to pull up in transition and settle things down and when to actually take it,” said Holup.

“That is correctible. They just need to learn when the opportunity is there and when it’s not.”

December 12, 2012

ABOVE THE REST: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Kevin Halliday, center, flies up for a header in action this fall. Junior forward Halliday scored 23 goals to help PHS earn a share of the state Group III title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday showed plenty of promise in his first two years with the Princeton High boys’ soccer team, providing solid play at forward.

But this fall, with PHS getting off to a rocky start as the team’s defense struggled to find its form, Halliday lifted his game to a higher level.

Utilizing his athleticism, competitiveness, and burgeoning finishing skill, Halliday became the go-to offensive star for PHS, emerging as one of the top scorers in the area in helping the Little Tigers catch fire.

Before the regular season was half over, Halliday hit the 10-goal mark, becoming the first PHS player in double figures since Andrei Spirin in the Little Tigers’ 2009 state title campaign. It was no coincidence that PHS reeled off 11 straight wins after losing two of its first three games.

Once PHS hit the state tournament, Halliday was even more deadly. He scored a goal in a 4-3 opening
round win over Jackson Liberty and then scored the game winner in a 2-1 overtime triumph over Middletown South in the sectional semis. In the sectional title game, Halliday had one of the best games of his career, notching two goals as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown 4-3.

In the Group III semis against Moorestown, Halliday found the back of the net three minutes into the contest, setting the tone as PHS went on to a 2-0 win. The Little Tigers ended up tying Ramapo 1-1 to share the state title, the program’s first Group III crown since 2009.

In reflecting on his scoring prowess which saw him end the season with 23 goals, Halliday pointed to his experience and work ethic as key factors. “I think just being in the right place at the right time,” said Halliday.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t say that any of my goals have been beating five guys and ripping it up. It is just knowing where the pass is going, knowing where the ball is going to end, and finishing it. I think it is matter of that little bit of luck and a little bit of experience and hard work.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe lauded Halliday’s combination of skill and desire.

“First of all, he has got great technique,” maintained Sutcliffe. “His tactical awareness complements that. He is a terrific athlete and he is a great competitor. He just gets in and combines with Zach [Halliday], Aidan [Passannante], Colin [Lamb] and Jeremy [Goldsmith]. He has this great ability to read the game. I think he separates himself a little bit because of his desire and his athleticism.”

For providing the offensive production that helped spark PHS to a state title, Halliday is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the fall high school season.

Top Female Performer


amantha Asch came into the fall with her sights set on two competitions as as she started the final campaign of her stellar career with the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team.

First, she wanted to win her fourth straight Mercer County Tournament singles title and help the Panthers repeat as team champions.

Then she wanted to end her PDS career with a bang by taking the Prep B title at first singles and leading the squad to the team title at the tourney.

Displaying her skill and focus, Asch did everything in her power to achieve those goals.

At the MCT in early October, she marched to the first singles title, not dropping a set on the way to the crown. In so doing, she put herself in elite company as one of the select few players to ever win four straight singles titles at the event. Asch won the second singles crown as a freshman and then took the first singles title the next three years.

“I think I have gotten a lot stronger since last year and I have more power,” said Asch, reflecting on the development of her game. “I have gotten bigger and my serve has gotten a lot better.”

While Asch was proud of her undefeated MCT record, she didn’t leave Mercer County Park totally happy about the competition as PDS fell short of the team title, finishing fifth in the team standings.

“I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the team title because I feel like our team was even better going into this year,” said Asch. “That is the way it goes but I am still really happy about it.”

Noting that the Panthers were hungry for the Prep B crown, Asch wrote a happy ending to her career in late October. Asch didn’t lose a set on the way to the title at first singles and PDS outdueled Morristown-Beard for the team title as freshman Renee Karchere-Sun won at second singles and the first doubles pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Mary Atkeson prevailed in their flight.

Asch ended the season undefeated and lost just two matches over her PDS career.

In the view of PDS head coach Ed Tseng, though, Asch brought a lot more than just wins to the Panther program.

“The thing I will remember is the leadership she brings to the younger players,” said Tseng of Asch, who will be continuing her tennis career at Wake Forest University.

“For her senior project, she organized a tennis charity event for Eden and raised more than $10,000. Helping the community like that is more important than all of her wins. She has a great work ethic. She doesn’t want to miss a day. She loves it and she is putting in the time; that is a pretty great combination.”

For culminating her brilliant PDS career with county and Prep titles, Asch gets the nod as the Town Topics’ top female performer this fall.

Top Newcomers


hen John Woodside gathered his Princeton high boys’ cross country runners together before the season, he emphasized that he was looking for a team effort and that different runners would step up at different times as needed.

Sophomore Jacob Rist took the coach’s message to heart as he made the move up to the PHS varsity squad.

Hitting his stride in postseason competition, Rist took 11th at the Mercer County Championships as PHS ended up second in the team standings. He followed that by taking 12th at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet, helping the Little Tigers to their second straight team crown at the meet.

Rist capped his breakout season with a 51st place finish at the state Group III meet as PHS placed fifth in the team standings.

In Woodside’s view, Rist’s performance in the Group meet at Holmdel Park exemplified how the sophomore standout grew as a runner this fall.

“He didn’t run on varsity as a freshman; he has improved dramatically in a year,” asserted Woodside.

“For a sophomore, he ran a savvy race. He started further back on purpose in the first mile. It is tough, you want to be competitive but the first mile can eat you up. It rises 130 feet. It doesn’t hurt that he has talent. He works hard and he is very consistent.”

Rist’s emergence as a key performer for a championship PHS team makes him the choice as the top male newcomer this fall.

As Sarah Hibbert assessed her 2012 team, she made it clear that freshman Christina Rosca was destined to make an immediate impact this fall at first singles.

“Christina has a lot of experience; she has a complete repertoire of skills,” asserted Hibbert.

“She is a solid baseliner who is not afraid to go to the net. She works with private coaches outside of the team; she is always looking to get better.”

Rosca got better and better as the season on. She helped PHS to an undefeated regular season and starred at the Mercer County Tournament, taking second at first singles.

With PHS losing second singles star, Chenchen Wang, to a season-ending knee injury right before the MCT, Rosca had to come up big if PHS was going to make a deep run in the state tournament.

Displaying an all-around game and a maturity beyond her years, Rosca picked up big wins as PHS won the Central Jersey Group III sectional and then topped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis. Rosca won her match against Mendham in the finals but that was PHS’s sole win as it fell 4-1.

In addition to helping the Little Tigers to a brink of a state team title, Rosca advanced to the semis in the state singles tourney.

All in all, it was a memorable fall for Rosca. “I especially like playing in the state tournament and the county tournament because I play very good people,
especially in the later rounds,” said Rosca. “It has been a good experience. It has definitely been fun to be on this team.”

It was certainly fun for Hibbert to see Rosca live up to expectations. “I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Hibbert.

“She plays a lot. She works really hard; you can always count on her to give 100 percent in her matches. She raises the level of play to whom she faces. She is very mature for a freshman and will be a great player for us in the future.”

For producing a great debut campaign and coming up big when it mattered most, Rosca is the top female newcomer of the fall season.

Top Coaches


fter having not lost a regular season game over the three campaigns from 2009-11, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team got off to a rough start this fall.

The proud PHS program dropped two of its first three games, falling 2-1 to Allentown in overtime on September 10 and then getting edged 2-1 by Hightstown two days later.

But longtime head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was not concerned. “I am not discouraged at all,” said Sutcliffe after the loss to Hightstown. “We don’t like dropping games but our best soccer, without a doubt, is in front of us.”

With junior striker Kevin Halliday emerging as one of the top scorers in the area and the PHS defense stiffening up, the Little Tigers started playing some very good soccer as it reeled off 10 straight wins heading into the Mercer County Tournament.

After topping Trenton in the opening round of the MCT, PHS suffered a lopsided 4-0 loss to eventual champion Pennington in the county quarters.

While Sutcliffe and his players were bitterly disappointed by the result, they used the loss as motivation, redoubling their training intensity in the hiatus that followed due to Hurricane Sandy.

“We had some key injuries to key players early on in the first half and then we found our form,” said Sutcliffe.

“But then we sort of lost it a little bit. The storm, for everyone, was a challenge. We were without a game for two weeks and I am proud of the team for having the maturity and the strength to get through that and get better in that two weeks because we got better even though we didn’t play a game. We were out here everyday training.”

The Little Tigers showed their maturity in clutch situations as they won four straight one-goal games in the Central Jersey Group III sectional tourney, culminating with a dramatic 4-3 win over top-seeded Allentown in the title game as PHS earned its second straight trip to the Group III semis.

Facing a battle-tested Moorestown team coached by Sutcliffe’s brother, Mike, in the semifinal at Toms River North, the Little Tigers scored two goals in the first four minutes to set the tone in a 2-0 win. The triumph was particularly sweet since PHS had lost 2-0 to Timber Creek on the same field in the 2011 Group III semis.

By virtue of that victory, PHS earned the unenviable task of battling undefeated and defending state champion Ramapo for the Group III title. The Little Tigers trailed 1-0 at halftime but they weren’t fazed.

PHS knotted the game at 1-1 midway through the half and then the game escalated into a pulsating hand-to-hand battle with the Raiders hanging on for dear life as the Little Tigers continually pressed forward.

“I just thought that our urgency and our experience and our quality just came through in the second half,” said Sutcliffe, reflecting on his team’s rally.

While PHS ended up outshooting the Raiders 17-4 on the day, the game ended up in a 1-1 draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime with the teams being declared as co-champions under NJSIAA rules.

Although Sutcliffe felt that his team had the better of the play and should have won the crown outright, he was able to appreciate the shared title.

“It is still a state championship and I am so proud of our guys,” said Sutcliffe, whose team ended the season with an 18-3-1 record giving him 253 victories in his 17 years guiding the program.

“It has been a really demanding season with the hurricane and the injuries and the postseason. The postseason tournament was very demanding on all of us. I am so proud of them. There are 12 seniors and they gave us everything we had.”

And for being the steady hand at the helm through the rocky ride that ended up with a state crown, Sutcliffe is the choice as the top coach of a male team.

The Princeton High girls’ soccer team underwent a major changing of the guard as it entered the fall.

The Little Tigers lost five key seniors from a 2011 squad that went 10-4-4 and added 11 new faces to its roster.

“The whole 11 looks different, said PHS head coach Greg Hand. “We are a substantially different team than we were. The challenge is to find the right players and the right mix.”

In the early going, PHS had trouble mixing in its new players, starting 2-2, losing to Hopewell Valley and Robbinsville. But then the Little Tigers started to click, featuring athleticism all over the field and anchored by senior goalie Lauren Ullmann.

PHS ended the regular season at 10-2 and advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals where it battled eventual champion Pennington to a scoreless draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. While the Little Tigers ended up getting
eliminated on penalty kicks, the performance gave the team confidence going in the state tourney.

Looking sharper and sharper as the season went on, PHS outscored its foes 10-1 in the first three rounds of the Central Jersey Group III sectional on the way to the title game against Colts Neck. Locked in a scoreless stalemate at halftime, the Little Tigers went on to a 1-0 win and the program’s first sectional title.

Going against a speedy and tough Moorestown side in the Group III semis, PHS saw its run end with a 2-0 loss.

Proud of how his team battled to the end, Hand marveled at how far PHS came this fall.

“Our second half tonight was the best soccer we have played,” said Hand, whose team posted a final record of 16-3-1.

“And the fact that this team was very new, essentially reconstituted from last year’s team, and could learn so much about how to play the game on all levels, from individual through the whole team is a real exciting thing and a great accomplishment.”

Hand’s role in crafting the mix that led to a breakthrough season makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team.

As Mark Shelley takes the helm of the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, he will be pulling in the reins a bit on the racehorse style that has characterized the program in recent years.

“We will run more of a precision offense,” said Shelley, who served as the PHS junior varsity coach last season and is taking over for Jason Carter, now an assistant with The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team.

“We want to have sound positioning on defense and do the little things right. I think we will be holding teams to fewer points than we did last year but the scores may not be as high. I believe strongly in a match-up zone. We will be running more half-court traps and less full-court pressing. On offense, we will run more sets.”

While the Little Tigers may not be as fast-paced as they have been in the last few seasons, Shelley believes his team can maintain the program’s recent success.

“The varsity lost a lot of close games last year, I think we can be as competitive as last year,” said Shelley, who is taking over a team coming off a 12-13 season.

“I don’t set long term goals; I want us to get better every day, individually and collectively. I am a process guy. If we do that, good things will happen.”

A key part of that process will center on getting everyone on the same page.

“The biggest thing is mixing
the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley, whose team tips off the 2012-13 campaign by playing at Hopewell Valley on December 14.

“There is chemistry within each group and now I need to develop chemistry between them.”

Shelley is depending on skilled senior center Lior Levy to play a big part in helping with PHS’s on-court chemistry.

“I don’t think we will be at our best if Lior is doing most of the scoring, we need to share the ball,” said Shelley.

“He is such a good passer. We will be setting him up in both the high and low post. He is key player but he won’t be our leading scorer every night. We had a scrimmage the other day and we had four guys between 9 and 11 points, that is how we want to be.”

PHS has some other good guys in the post with junior Peter Mahotiere, senior Christian Giles, junior Andrew Braverman, and junior Robbie von der Schmidt.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley.

“He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three. Giles does a real good job; he is a real athlete. Bravermen is just getting back from soccer so he is a little rusty right now but he will help us. Von der Schmidt was on the JV last year and was injured for most of the year with a concussion. He is raw but is getting a lot better.”

The Little Tigers are a lot better when senior guard Scott Bechler is triggering the offense.

“Bechler is so coachable; he is by far our best ball handler,” asserted Shelley.

“We are so much more settled offensively when the ball is in his hands. He is a leader. All the seniors are good leaders, they are self-motivated.”

A lot of players should be seeing the ball in the backcourt as PHS boasts good depth at guard with senior Ellis Bloom, junior Cal O’Meara, senior Elliott Golden, junior Paul Murray, and junior Matt Vasseur.

“Bloom is real solid, he hit some big 3s for us in our last scrimmage,” said Shelley.

“Cal is a good athlete. He can play inside and then he can step out and hit the 3. I like his chemistry with the other guys; he plays different positions. We may have him at the 4 sometimes. Golden, Murray, and Vasseur are interchangeable parts, they each have their own strengths that can help us.”

Noting that he has a deep rotation, Shelley is looking to deploy that depth through spreading the wealth on offense and hustling on defense.

“We have to share the basketball, both in terms of assists and scoring,” said Shelley.

“We have to take care of the basketball. We are not a team that make three or four turnovers and have an 8-0 run against us and then come back quickly. We have got to play solid defense. We want to force off-balance outside jumpers with a hand in the shooter’s face. I like our odds in that situation. We need to stop perimeter drives and force outside shots.”

JACKHAMMER: Princeton High boys’ hockey sophomore forward Jack Andres heads up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, Andres scored three goals as PHS toped Hamilton 7-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-1, play Robbinsville on December 13 at Mercer County Park, host Scotch Plains on December 14 at Baker Rink, and then face WW/P-N on December 17 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tim Campbell certainly liked seeing his Princeton High boys’ hockey team open the 2012-13 season with victories over Hightstown and Hamilton.

“Starting with two wins is always key,” said PHS head coach Campbell, whose team topped the Rams 9-5 on November 30 before beating the Hornets 7-1 last Wednesday.

“Everyone is apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect. We all have scrimmages but when it counts, you can get the butterflies out.”

But it was PHS’s resolve in a 6-0 loss to Notre Dame last Thursday that really impressed Campbell.

With the Little Tigers missing senior Matt DiTosto, who is sidelined and likely out for 5-6 weeks with a hand injury, PHS was undermanned in the battle between rivals who met last winter in the Mercer County Tournament title game.

“We talked in the locker room before the game about facing adversity and that when you have gaps in your lineup, you have to make that up with discipline and smart hockey,” said Campbell.

“I thought pound for pound, we skated with them. We peppered their goalie in the first period and he came up huge. We skated seven guys for 45 minutes; there is no way to expect them to keep up the whole way with a team like Notre Dame that is using 20 guys. I was happier with the way we played in the loss than I was in the win over Hamilton. We played hard and showed tenacity.”

Campbell is looking to see his team continue that tenacious play as it wraps up the 2012 portion of its schedule.

“We have a few big games before the break, our mindset is to be as successful as we can,” said Campbell, whose team plays Robbinsville on December 13 at Mercer County Park, hosts Scotch Plains on December 14 at Baker Rink, and then faces WW/P-N on December 17 at Mercer County Park. “The things we set as goals have little to do with wins or losses.”

Junior goalie Robert Quinn has shown the right mindset as he follows four-year starter Josh Berger.

“Robert is playing well; he is a second-year hockey player between the pipes going against some good varsity players,” said Campbell. “He has played well; he has kept us in games.”

The trio of sophomore Jack Andres, junior Pat McCormick, and junior Harrison Naylor have also been playing well for PHS.

“Jack Andres has come up big; you look at him and you forget that he is a sophomore,” said Campbell of Andres, who had a hat trick in the win over Hamilton.

“He is 6’3, and 200-pounds. He is smart and he loves the game. He will do anything I tell him; he is coachable. Pat McCormick is playing 42-45 minutes a game. He is so good and so smart with the puck. Harrison Naylor has also been very good.”

Campbell sees some good things on the horizon for the Little Tigers. “We have had a number of players step into high pressure situations,” said Campbell.

“The guys know what it’s like to go deep into the playoffs and they want to be part of that. We are getting good junior leadership. They won the MCT as freshmen and they think that is what high school hockey is about.”

GETTING HER SHOT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring fires a shot in action last season. The Little Tigers are depending on sophomore forward Herring to be a key offensive weapon this winter. The Little Tigers were slated to open the 2012-13 season by playing at Pingry on December 11 before hitting the road to play Holton Arms (Md.) on December 15 and Shady Side Academy (Pa.) on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the loss of stars Keely Herring and Abby Hunter to graduation will leave a void for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team, the squad has some young players ready for their turn to shine.

“We have a younger, focused team,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog, whose team went 1-11 in 2011-12.

“I want each player to think how she can contribute individually to the group.”

Herzog is confident that Herring’s younger sister, sophomore forward Lucy Herring, can make a big contribution this winter for the Little Tigers.

“Lucy knows who our opponents are and what we need to do,” said Herzog of Herring, who scored 13 points last winter in her freshman campaign.

“She is going to be leaned on. I am looking for her to step up and do some big things.”

PHS is also looking for sophomore forward Merritt Peck to step up this winter.

“Merritt Peck understands what I expect,” said Herzog, whose team was slated to open the 2012-13 season by playing at Pingry on December 11 before hitting the road to play Holton Arms (Md.) on December 15 and Shady Side Academy (Pa.) on December 16. “I am happy with her progress, she looks improved and more confident.”

The pair of Herring and Peck together with junior Molly O’Brien will be expected to trigger the PHS offense.

“I think Lucy, Merritt, and Molly O’Brien are going to be our first line,” said Herzog. “I have been clear with my expectations for them.

Freshman defenseman Allie Callaway has already emerged as a clear standout for PHS.

“Allie Callaway will be like Keely, she’ll be on defense but will have the green light to shoot,” asserted Herzog.

“She is a finisher. She takes direction and is a hard worker. She will do the extra work outside of practice.”

The rest of the Little Tiger defense should include junior Kate Sohn, sophomore Julie Bond, sophomore Brittney Coniglione, and sophomore Julia DiTosto, who is currently sidelined with a leg injury.

With the graduation of  three-year starting goalie Tobi Afran, there are two neophytes vying for time between the pipes in freshman Callie Urisko and junior Breanna Hegarty.

“We have Callie Urisko and Breanna Hegarty, both are really new to the sport,” said Herzog.

“Urisko is picking it up quickly, she is already learning the angles. Breanna is making a lot of good stops.”

Herzog is looking for some good things from his squad this winter, “I am excited for the season; I am looking for us to win more games,” said Herzog.

“The positioning will be important, we were out of position at times last year. I am looking for us to play a full 45-minute game. We need to play all the way. Traditionally, our weakest period is the second. We have a tendency to give up a silly goal and then the floodgates open and then we come back and play a strong third period.”

JOHNNY BE GOOD: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner skates up the ice last Friday at the Harry Rulon-Mller ’51 Invitational at PDS. Egner scored a goal to help the Panthers top Rye Country Day (N.Y.) 3-1 in the opening round of the tournament. A day later, junior forward Egner added another tally as PDS topped Shady Side Academy (Pa.) 6-2 to win the tourney. The Panthers, now 5-0, host Bishop Eustace on December 13 before heading to Massachusetts this weekend for the Barber Tournament at the Middlesex School.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

John Egner understands that he is not one of the headliners on a talented Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.

“I am not the biggest guy out there so my role is to use my speed to my advantage and really work the corners with tight turns and really be quick,” said junior forward Egner. “That is something I try to work on; I just try to play my game.”

Last Friday as the Panthers found themselves locked in a 1-1 tie with Rye Country Day (N.Y.)  in the opening round of the Harry Rulon-Mller ’51 Invitational at PDS, Egner’s hustle paid dividends as he notched the tie-breaking goal early in the second period.

“Cody [Triolo] made a great play in the neutral zone; he made a nice move on the defender which caused a 4-on 1 with team trailing in,” said Egner, recalling his goal which helped spark PDS to a 3-1 victory

“Cody crashed the net and took out the defender. Lewie [Blackburn] came in and crashed the net and the puck popped right out to me. It was an easy one. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the rest of the line out there with me.”

A day later, Egner found the back of the net again as PDS topped Shady Side Academy (Pa.) 6-2 to win its 12th title at the invitational which was renamed this year in honor of Rulon-Miller, the tournament director and a former player and coach at the school and its longtime Ice Hockey Coordinator.

“It is really important,” asserted Egner, reflecting on the meaning of the tournament to the PDS players. “It is at our home rink and we want to win this one for Harry; he has been here through the years.”

Egner likes the way linemates Triolo and Blackburn have been there for him this season as the Panthers have gotten off to a 5-0 start.

“We have definitely been coming together in practices and the games we have had so far,” said Egner.

“We are working well in the corners and cycling well, which is good. We aren’t the big goal scorers on the team but we definitely work in the corners and when you do that you make chances. It is nice when that happens.”

For PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, it was nice to see the trio of Egner, Triolo, and Blackburn generate the key goal.

“That line has been our best line to date for what I am asking them to do; they go out and cycle and they create offense,” said Bertoli.

“Those guys aren’t goal scorers. Blackburn can find the back of the net if he finds opportunities. Cody and Johnny are relentless on the puck. They are fast, they protect the puck. They are very effective. They go out on a power play, they control, they create offense. So to see that line get rewarded it is very fitting.”

Bertoli was happy to see Conrad Denise get rewarded with two goals in the win over Rye.

“Conrad played a good game; I would argue that he is another kid who is not a natural goal scorer,” said Bertoli.

“He is not like the Coltons [Ross and Rob]; he is not like [Sean] Timmons. He doesn’t get pucks on his stick and find the back of the net. There is definitely some indecision going on when he shoots pucks. He doesn’t have the confidence that those guys do. So for him to get two goals tonight is great.”

The Panthers kept up their great play in the championship game against Shady Side as they jumped out to a 5-1 lead and cruised to victory.

“When our team is skating and competing, we just sustain so much pressure in the offensive zone that we really give them no time to breathe and decompress,” said Bertoli, who got two goals from Ross Colton in that win with Rob Colton, Kyle Weller, and Connor Bitterman also finding the back of the net in addition to Egner. “We just kept coming and coming.”

PDS came into the weekend with some extra motivation, looking to come through for Rulon-Miller as it sought to win its second straight title at the annual invitational which is in its 43rd year.

“It is a proud program; we have done well the last few years,” said Bertoli, whose team will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Bishop Eustace on December 13 before heading to Massachusetts this weekend for the Barber Tournament at the Middlesex School.

“I think it is important to the guys in this locker room. It is important to me and my coaching staff that we represent the school and represent Harry now that the tournament is named after him the right way. I never saw Harry play but I know the type of gentleman he is and I know what PDS hockey means to him. It is important to me that these kids come out and played and battled, not only for themselves but for their teammates and for the coaching staff, the school, and Harry. That means a lot to us, it means a lot to Harry.”

In Egner’s view, PDS has what it takes to win some more crowns this winter. “I definitely think this team can do special things,” said Egner.

“We have got a great group of guys; we are all best friends. Everyone  works hard together at practices. We stay focused. We always have a good time. I think if we continue to do what coach is telling us to do and we continue to work hard every game, we can really go places with this team.”

COLE FIRED: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole heads up the ice last Saturday as PDS faced Summit in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational. Senior forward Cole scored two goals as PDS topped Summit 4-0. A day later, the Panthers couldn’t get their offense going as they fell 5-1 to Rye Country Day School (N.Y.) in the tournament’s championship game. PDS, now 2-1, heads to Maryland this weekend for two games against Holton Arms (Md.) and one against Shady Side Academy (Pa.) (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After a season-opening win over Pingry earlier in the week and then blanking Summit 4-0 on Saturday in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team was primed for its clash against Rye Country Day in the tourney’s title game.

The Panthers jumped off to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by junior star defenseman Robin Linzmayer on Sunday morning at McGraw Rink.

But then the Panthers suffered their first lapse of the season, yielding two straight goals over the rest of the first period and three more unanswered tallies in the second to fall behind 5-1.

While PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook was happy to see her team get on the board first, she acknowledged that the Panthers didn’t build on the early salvo.

“That was definitely a positive, jumping out and getting the early lead,” said Cook.

“It is just we ended up giving up a goal very soon after that and that is deflating. That is why you always tell them, try not to ride your emotions too much. You want to stay pretty even keeled. I think Rye just did a better job of moving the puck around and cycling it in the corners and getting people in front. We just weren’t picking up.

Although PDS ended up losing by that 5-1 margin, Cook saw some positives in the third period.

“I was definitely happy with the third; we just talked to them about being more responsible defensively and making sure that we are picking up in front of the net,” said Cook.

“We had more shots in the third, we pretty much doubled our shot total for the game in the third period.”

Cook likes the way senior tri-captain and star forward Zeeza Cole has been shooting in the early going.

“Zeeza is stepping up; she is shooting to score a lot,” said Cook of Cole, who scored two goals in each of PDS’s first two games.

“She is sparking the offense. She is doing a really good job playing with Emma Stillwaggon and getting her involved. You are going to see continued improvement from that line with Lexie [Fairman] as Zeeza gets them more involved in the production too.”

PDS needs defenseman Linzmayer to keep up her production at both ends of the ice. “Robin has been solid for us on defense,” said Cook.

“The biggest thing is going to keep her producing for us because we need her offense as well. We have forwards who know how she is and are ready to stay back when they need to and cover for her. They need to be able to recognize when is a good time to go and be more of a threat.”

In Cook’s view, the team needs to improve on recognizing key situations as they develop.

“I think they work hard but they just need to have more confidence in where they need to be and be able to make plays,” asserted Cook.

“Everybody on the team has to be able to step up and win battles, be aggressive, pass with purpose, all these little things. They just need to be smarter.  We have a lot of work to do as far as teaching more responsibility when they are out there.”

With PDS heading to Maryland this weekend for two games against Holton Arms (Md.) and one against Shady Side Academy (Pa.), Cook believes the Panthers will have ample opportunity to sharpen up.

“We are getting there and I am looking forward to this week,” said Cook. “I am very happy to have that trip in the beginning of the season this year, especially with a lot of new players getting them more comfortable with each other on and off the ice.  It will be good.”

ON POINT: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball star ­Lauren Johnson heads to the hoop in a game last season. Last Wednesday, senior point guard Johnson displayed her versatility, scoring 11 points with five assists and eight steals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day School 40-12 in its season opener. Two days later, Johnson scored 15 points to help the Panthers top the George School (Pa.) 36-25. In upcoming action, PDS hosts the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, plays at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then hosts Rutgers Prep on December 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Lauren Johnson is looking to show her versatility as she takes over as the point guard for the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.

“I don’t want to be that point guard who just scores; I want to be able to do a little bit of everything,” said senior guard Johnson, who has been mainly a shooting guard for PDS over the last three seasons.

“Last year, I had one or two games that were good games like that. This season I want to have a good game every night so I am really going to try to work on my weaknesses.”

Last Wednesday as PDS hosted Stuart Country Day in its season opener, Johnson displayed her all-around game, scoring 11 points and chipping in five assists and eight steals as the Panthers rolled to a 40-12 victory.

In reflecting on the win, Johnson liked the way the Panthers got into an offensive rhythm.

“I was happy with the way we played,” said Johnson. “At times, we let an opponent dictate how fast we go and I think we were able to figure out our own pace and what worked for us.”

PDS showed some good inside-out work as Johnson got freshman forwards Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew involved in the offense.

“It is great knowing that I have more than one person who is 5’10,” said Johnson. “It is reassuring that we don’t have to rely on the outside shot as much.”

The team’s height also helped defensively. “I was very impressed with the way we played defense,” said Johnson.

“The post players knew where to go. In practice, we try to make sure that everyone knows how to play certain positions and I think this game showed that all the new players and the returning players are really good at picking up new things.”

PDS head coach Mika Ryan liked the way her team defended in the opener.

“What I was really happy about is that you saw the fruits of our preseason labor because we were resolute in not glossing over defensive fundamentals,” said Ryan.

“We messed up a few times but for the most part I thought we were really solid. The best part is that we stayed out of foul trouble. I thought our positioning was good. I thought we could have fouled at times but we took that extra half step.”

Ryan liked the extra effort she got from Johnson. “Defensively and rebounding, she is tops,” asserted Ryan. “I would not play against her, she is just really a bother.”

Senior guard Levy also showed some top form. “Hannah had a very nice game; we are trying to get her to become more of an offensive threat,” added Ryan of Levy, who chipped in eight points in the victory over Stuart.

“I was happy to see her step up and shoot a little more. She has never been asked to do that much scoring for us but she needs to this year. She is just such a great kid to coach; she will do anything. I had her play in the post for a little bit in the second half, I said can you do that, I want to look at something and she said of course.”

Ryan got some good work in the post from the freshmen tandem of Van Liew and Okorodudu.

“We do have some size this year and our two freshmen, Van Liew and Okorodudu played well,” said Ryan.

“It is just nice to be able to go back to an inside-out kind of game. Last year, we were an outside all the time kind of team. We basically just had guards. I have always believed that the game is won in the post and the play in the pivot and we have players now who can help us inside.”

For Ryan, the performance against Stuart was encouraging on several levels.

“It was a good start; I am pleasantly pleased,” said Ryan, whose team built on its good opener by beating the George School (Pa.) 36-25 on Friday with Johnson scoring a game-high 15 points.

“I had no idea what to expect, they competed, they played hard. We didn’t stop playing hard, I told them not to look at the scoreboard. I don’t care what the score is, win or lose, we are trying to get better and I thought they competed the whole four quarters.”

Johnson, for her part, knows that the Panthers can play much better. “I think it was a good first game, we can definitely improve,” said Johnson, who will look to keep the Panthers on the winning track as they host the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, play at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then host Rutgers Prep on December 17.

“I’d say rebounding and boxing out is our big thing. As a team, we have to work on our pace. We do get worked up. We play the boys and we are getting better at calming ourselves down but we still get worked up at times.”

December 5, 2012

PASSING THIS WAY AGAIN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Aidan Passannante greets student fans last Saturday after PHS tied Ramapo 1-1 in the Group III state championship game at The College of New Jersey to earn a share of the title. Senior midfielder Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience as they bookended their careers with state titles, having been part of the Little Tigers’ 2009 championship team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Aidan Passannante and his teammates were crushed when they walked off the field at Toms River North High last fall after losing to Timber Creek in the state Group III semifinals.

When PHS returned to the same pitch last Wednesday night to face Moorestown in this year’s Group III semis, the Little Tigers were determined to leave Toms River with a win.

PHS didn’t waste any time showing their intentions as Kevin Halliday scored 3:27 into the contest and senior midfielder Passannante followed suit 21 seconds later with a goal of his own.

“It was huge; we started off that way in the Allentown game and it helped us get the result in that game,” said Passannante.

“I think we got the goals early and we were keeping possession really well, moving off the ball.”

Passannante acknowledged that classmate Colin Lamb played a huge role in his goal.

“It was a great play by Colin, a great find by him,” recalled Passannante. “I was inside the six so I just poked it in.”

PHS ended up topping Moorestown by that 2-0 margin, warming up the chilly night as they enjoyed a raucous post-game celebration.

Passannante acknowledged that PHS’s quick start made the difference. “It was back and forth after we got the two quick goals,” said Passannante. “They had their fair share of possession throughout the game so I think it was huge.”

The stingy Little Tiger defense, which kept its shape as Moorestown desperately tried to get on the board, was also a huge factor in the win.

“The organization in the back was great,” asserted Passannante. “Pablo [Arroyo] was doing a great job of organizing back there.”

As a result, the PHS had a great feeling as they left Toms River and headed to the state final, the second trip to the final for Passannante, who helped PHS win the 2009 state title as a freshman.

“It feels really good because it was pretty disappointing last year walking off this field,” said Passannante. “I know how they feel so it feels great to be back.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe credited Passannante with producing a great effort.

“I thought Aidan had one of his best games ever tonight,” said Sutcliffe. “Aidan had a great game and if we are going to be successful in these games at this level, he has to have a game like he had tonight.”

On Saturday, Passannante played well as PHS tied defending champion Ramapo 1-1 to end the season as Group III co-champions.

For Passannante, applying what he learned from his first title run helped PHS coming into last Saturday

“We are doing it the same way we prepared in 2009,” said Passannante. “We are just bringing experience, knowing what it is like, warming up each time before a game, being in the locker room before the game, walking out onto the field, being in a pretty big crowd situation so I think that is what we bring.”

Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience on Saturday as they bookended their careers with state titles.

“We have been playing together probably since third of fourth grade,” said Passannante.

“We have been playing together for a long time, great friends on and off the field. It is great that we are doing this together.”

STATE OF GRACE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Kate Kerr goes after the ball in state tournament action. Senior midfielder Kerr helped PHS advance to the state Group III semifinals last Wednesday where the Little Tigers fell 2-0 to Moorestown. The defeat left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1 as it earned the first sectional title in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr acknowledged that the Princeton High girls’ soccer team may have experienced a little stage fright last Wednesday as it faced Moorestown in the state Group III semis.

“I think we were all just a bit nervous, never having been here before” said PHS senior midfielder Kerr.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We never played or heard about Moorestown. I guess we were kind of on our heels in the first half but we did everything we could.”

With Moorestown coming  out of the gate at full speed, PHS found itself trailing 2-0 heading into halftime.

The Little Tigers used the break for some soul-searching. “We just knew that we had to pick it up in the second half because we weren’t playing our game in the first half,” said Kerr.

PHS did pick up the tempo in the second half, producing some spirited play at its offensive end of the field. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, Kerr, Ally Rogers, and Shannon Pawlak each generated scoring chances. But the Little Tigers were unable to find the back of the net and ended up losing by the 2-0 margin.

In reflecting on the loss which left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1, Kerr felt that the Little Tigers just ran out of time. “If we had 10 more minutes, maybe we could have been able to finish because we were making some really great runs,” said Kerr.

Still, it was a great run for Kerr and her classmates, Meghan Brennan, Vanessa Guzman, Madison Luther, and Lauren Ullmann.

“I think the seniors on the team took it all very seriously and we all took it to heart,” asserted Kerr.

“We all realized how important and how much it affected us and we were all in this together. We were all supporting each other because we knew that we are all on the same page on this.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was on the same page as Kerr in assessing his team’s valiant effort in defeat.

“We played an excellent team tonight; I think we had to work our way into that game and it took us at least 40 minutes to get there,” lamented Hand.

“By the time we came out in the second half and having agreed pretty much that the ingredient that was missing is exactly that ingredient we brought in the second half which is a commitment to win the play. We played them even, we had as good as they did throughout the second half.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s progress throughout the contest served as a microcosm of a season that saw PHS get off to a pedestrian 2-2 start before gathering steam and winning the first sectional title in program history.

“There has been an enormous learning curve, we have gotten better and better” said Hand, who is in his 22nd season at the helm of the program.

“Tonight’s second half is the best we have played all year, no doubt. The Notre Dame game [a 5-1 win on October 16] was perhaps our best one in the regular season. The Pennington game [0-0 stalemate in the Mercer County Tournament semis won by the Red Raiders on penalty kicks] was terrific. To get here, we had to get through a challenging tournament schedule. Our second half tonight was the best soccer we have played. And the fact that this team was very new, essentially reconstituted from last year’s team, and could learn so much about how to play the game on all levels, from individual through the whole team is a real exciting thing and a great accomplishment.”

The team’s corps of seniors played a major role in that process. “It is just a terrific group,” asserted Hand.

“Count everybody from the two seniors who stuck with us after being sidelined by ACLs [Ciara Celestin and Ellee de Baun] all the way through the kids like Madison Luther in the back who played 80 minutes in virtually all of our tournament games this year who last year was hardly getting any minutes at all and to those real money players who had terrific senior seasons, Kate, Meghan, and Lauren. It is just terrific leadership and real inspiration from them in terms of their passion for the game and their caring about the team.”

With such younger players as Haley Bodden, Kaitlyn Carduner, Gabby Deitch, Taylor Lis, Emily Pawlak, Shannon Pawlak, Jordan Provorny, Eva Reyes, and Ally Rogers slated to return, the future looks bright for the Little Tigers.

“One of the messages tonight was you can’t talk about how we are going to be next year unless you earn the right to talk about it,” said Hand.

“If you look at tonight’s game as a whole with two halves, one where we had problems that we weren’t solving really well to the second half where we came out and really did something significant, they earned the right to talk about what they might be able to do next year.”

Kerr, for her part, enjoyed being the talk of the school over the last few weeks.

“We are very proud of ourselves; everyone has been so supportive at school,” said Kerr, who plans to continue her soccer career at Franklin and Marshall.

“Everyone in the hallways is telling us congratulations. We are all proud of ourselves, no one expected us to get this far.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed races up the court in action last winter. The star senior guard, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career, is primed for a big final campaign. The Panthers were slated to start their season at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team was disappointed when it fell to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B title game this past February, that defeat could be a blessing in disguise as the squad heads into this winter.

“The Prep B is wide open and we are better from having been to the final last year,” said PDS co-head coach Paris McLean, who is in his sixth year guiding the program. “We learned a lot from that.”

As PDS started its season with a game at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11, the postseason is not on the team’s radar.

“I think it is going to be business as usual,” said McLean, who coached the Panthers to a 16-11 record in 2011-12.

“We are going to focus on one practice at a time and one game at a time. We can’t be looking at the big picture. If we do the right things and take it step by step, we could make it back to the Prep B title game.”

Senior guard Davon Reed has been doing the right things over his four-year career, gaining national attention on the way to committing to the University of Miami men’s hoops program.

“Every year has been a breakout year for him; he has improved from year to year and I expect no different this year,” said McLean of Reed, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.

“He has some milestones on the horizon but he is still the same team player. He is much heavier, he is 6’6, 205. His defense is absolutely fantastic now, he has become a lock-down defender. He will be required to play in the post some of the time and he is finishing closer to the basket.”

Reed’s increased inside presence exemplifies the metamorphosis of his game.

“You have seen him go from skinny slasher as a freshman to shooter to scorer and now he is the complete package,” said McLean.

“He can play all five positions. He is a guard. The way basketball is now so up and down, you can have 6’10 guys on the wing.”

The Panthers feature two other top guards in juniors Deante Cole and Langston Glaude.

“Deante and Langston complement each other; they are familiar with each other and they are older, more seasoned players now,” said McLean, noting that 6’5 junior newcomer Chris Okorodudu should add perimeter scoring and that Tom Martino, Dan Jugo, Zack Banks and Josiah Meekins will provide further backcourt depth. “They were young pups before. They are taking leadership roles on the court and with the program.”

PDS will be depending on seniors B.J. Dudeck and Tavante Brittingham to take a lead role in the post.

“I am leaning on B.J. and Tavante to hold down the fort inside, they are both selfless players which is great,” said McLean, who should also get some good work in the paint from junior transfer Dan Lee.

McLean is not hesitating to lean on his coaching staff which includes longtime assistant and former Princeton High standout Darius Young and PDS Director of Athletics Tim Williams, who has taken on a role as the co-head coach.

“Darius did a fantastic job working with the boys on their conditioning in the summer and the fall, physically this team looks different,” said McLean.

“We look the part and we play the part. Coach Williams knows the game and it is good to have another coach on the bench to bounce things off. We run a similar offense and have similar defensive principles. We have wedded ideas, we get along well, and the kids see that.”

PDS will need to execute those principles and ideas as it faces a gauntlet this winter with games against such formidable foes as Hun, Life Center, Robert Faux (Pa.), and Rutgers Prep, in addition to competing in the Hill School Tournament and the Big Apple Classic.

“I think this team can be as good as it wants to be,” maintained McLean. “If they are willing to put in the time and effort and focus on detail, the sky is the limit. We play 26 games. It is a challenging schedule but the boys are up for it.”

In McLean’s view, his boys possess a special chemistry that will help them deal with the challenges ahead.

“The kids really enjoy being with each other,” added McLean. “It is a nice culture. We like to say that PDS basketball is a lifestyle. It is about being good people on and off the court and having some fun. If some wins come along the way, that is great.”

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton Day School star goalie Daisy Mase guards the crease in action last winter. PDS is looking for senior star and three-year starter Mase to build on her excellent season last winter which saw her record a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916. The Panthers were slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting their annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational ’51 at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last four seasons, Megan Ofner served as the go-to player for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

The skilled forward scored 124 points over her stellar career, including 32 points last season on 19 goals and 13 assists as she helped PDS go 10-7 and win the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) ‘B’ title.

With Ofner now at Sacred Heart and playing for its Division I women’s hockey program, the Panthers are left figuring out how to pick up the slack offensively without their star.

In the view of second-year PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook, it will take more than one player to replace Ofner’s output and she is relying on production from senior tri-captain Zeeza Cole (17 points on 11 goals and six assists last season) and juniors Mimi Matthews (13 points on five goals and eight assists) and Mary Travers, who was sidelined due to injury last year.

“I am looking for a collective effort,” said Cook, whose team was slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting its annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.

“I have been happy with Zeeza, Mary, and Mimi. They are picking up where they left off last year. They are getting shots on the net with intention and they are hitting corners in practice. They just need to work on delivering in games.”

The Panthers boast some depth at forward with junior Lexie Fairman, sophomores Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen, and freshman Emma  Stillwaggon.

“Lexie improved a lot last year; she seems comfortable and excited about this year,” said Cook.

“She needs to build up her confidence early. Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen bring energy and enthusiasm. They enjoy being part of the team and work as hard as they can. We need to give them specific roles and have them deliver. Emma as a freshman goes as hard as she can, I am trying to work with her on conserving energy but I love the enthusiasm.”

Cook loves watching junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer (16 points in 2012-13) in action around the blue line.

“Robin stands out every time she is on the ice; she takes control of the game,” asserted Cook of Linzmayer, an All-WIHLMA honorable mention choice last winter.

“She needs to be confident in her decision-making and provide offense when it makes sense. She has to help us with our production.”

PDS will need production for its two other veteran defensemen, junior Colby Triolo and senior tri-captain Louise Hutter.

“Colby works harder than anybody, on and off the ice,” said Cook. “She is fun to coach and I was really happy with the way she improved last year. Louise is getting more confident with the puck. She will take her chances but she is smart. I have been really happy with her leadership. She is more vocal and has been eager to take charge.”

Senior star goalie and tri-captain Daisy Mase has taken charge since she arrived at PDS as a sophomore, starting from day one.

“Daisy gives us the confidence we need going into every game,” said Cook of the star netminder who had a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916 in earning All-WIHLMA second-team honors.

“She is going to steal some games for us and there will be other games hopefully that we won’t need to steal. There will be close games and she will keep us close. She is one of the top goalies in the state. She is really competitive which is a great quality for a goalie because it means she never gives up.”

Sophomore back-up goalie Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] is giving the team value.

“A lot of the girls have commented on how much better Katie has gotten since last year,” said Cook.

“She is very knowledgeable about what she has to do. She has grown three inches and being bigger and taller has helped her.”

Cook is confident that the Panthers can make big strides this winter. “I am really excited about how much they are going to improve,” said Cook.

“In terms of fundamentals, I have seen a big improvement already from where we were on the first day of practice. I think the fact that we have more skaters is good. We have more depth and the girls have to work hard to get playing time.

A major key to success for PDS this winter will center on generating offense.

“We need to be patient with the puck to see what is open on the ice and we need to work on getting the puck deep,” said Cook.

“We need to work away from the puck. It starts with effort and the right kind of effort.”

In Cook’s view, her players are ready to make that kind of effort. “The girls are smart and driven,” said Cook, noting that new assistant coach Brie Zdunkiewicz has added passion and defensive expertise to the program. “They are a very coachable group. It is a matter of building confidence.”

MOORE TO COME: Hun School boys’ basketball senior guard Hashim Moore drives up the court last Sunday in Hun’s 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.). The Princeton-bound Moore scored a team-high 13 points in the win which improved the Raiders to 2-0. Hun plays at Blair on December 5 before competing in the Peddie Tournament from December 7-9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jon Stone had a good feeling about his Hun School boys’ basketball team as it went through its preseason paces.

“I am excited about working with these guys, it’s a good group,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone. “I have felt that way all along.”

Stone’s feelings proved justified as the Raiders opened the season in style last weekend as they hosted the MAPL-Friends Challenge.

On Saturday, Hun topped the Shipley School (Pa.) 89-62 and then posted a 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.) on Sunday afternoon.

“I think I learned what I thought which was that our chemistry is good and we are willing to go out there and compete,” said Stone in assessing the two wins.

“I think their ability to work together on the court as well as off the court is what showed this weekend and that is always great.”

In the win over Friends Central, Hun produced a great start, leading 15-8 after the first quarter and 33-19 at halftime.

“I think we got some confidence last night; we are playing together well early on and sharing the ball.

“We have a variety of offensive weapons as well as defensive weapons. I think it helped us get off to a good start today.

The Raiders finished strong as well, holding off a late Friends Central run which saw the visitors narrow the gap to 47-37 entering the fourth period.

“It is always good to be in games like that,” said Stone, who got 13 points in the win from Hashim Moore with Grant MacKay scoring 12 and Fergus Duke chipping in 11.

“Friends Central is a very dangerous team, they can shoot the ball and any time you play a team like that, they are never out of it. They can always come back and get back into it. From that end I was proud. I thought some of our execution was very good in the fourth quarter and I thought some of us needed work. That is part of where we are in the season.”

Stone liked the work he got over the weekend from his star senior guards Duke and Princeton-bound Moore.

“They are both great players and give us so much in so many different ways,” said Stone.

Hun is blessed with depth in the backcourt as Jason Geter and Michael Bourke also played well in the team’s first two outings.

“We have so many other guys who can do different things,” said Stone.

“Geter is steady as they go. Bourke is only going to get a lot better.”

In Stone’s view, his frontcourt figures to get better and better as well. “You didn’t see Josh McGilvray’s best today; he is going to be pretty good,” said Stone.

“Jake Newman didn’t show all he can do today but he certainly did yesterday. Grant MacKay is very steady as well. David Li has been giving us that spark off the bench too. They just do a lot of good things.”

Hun has the ability to do a lot of different things on the court. “We can go big, we can go small,” asserted Stone.

“We can shoot, we have guys that can drive and we have guys that can post. We really have some nice pieces; I am excited about this team.”

Stone is excited about the challenges Hun will face over the next part of the season.

“We are going to have a really tough week; we have Blair at Blair (on December 5) and then we have three straight games in the Peddie event (from December 7-9),” said Stone.

“We are guaranteed to play St. Benedict’s, then Princeton Day Academy (Md.), and then Westtown (Pa.), which are all going to be tough games. We don’t have any breaks in our schedule. I think the key for us is being focused and continuing to get better. It is early so we have a lot of room for improvement.”

NEW LOOK: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nneka Onukwugha looks for a shot in action last winter. With new coach Dana Leary taking the helm, sophomore forward Onukwugha and the Tartans are excited for a fresh start after going 0-15 last winter. Stuart is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing her high school basketball for Immaculata in Somerville and then going on to a superb career at Caldwell College, Dana Leary wasn’t familiar with the Stuart Country Day School.

But it didn’t take long for Leary to feel comfortable with Stuart after interviewing last spring for its vacant head basketball coaching position.

“I had never heard of Stuart when I learned they were looking for a coach,” said Leary, who served as an assistant coach at her alma mater for three years and has been coaching AAU hoops for the last seven years.

“I went in and met with Kim [Stuart athletic director Kim Ciarrocca]. I felt a connection with her and I loved the school. She was very enthusiastic about turning the athletic program around and I felt she was someone I would like to work for as a coach.”

Getting the nod to replace Tony Bowman, Leary faces a turnaround project as she takes the helm of a program that suffered through a 0-15 campaign last winter.

Leary, a 2008 Caldwell grad who scored 1,049 points and was a three-time member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) All-Academic team during her college career, promises to be a breath of fresh air for the Tartans.

“I made it clear to the girls that this is a brand new year,” said Leary, whose team is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5.

“Last year is over, we have to rebuild and create a positive environment and experience for the girls.”

In creating that atmosphere, Leary is focusing on basics. “I want this to be a season of growth for the girls; I want them to really learn the game,” said Leary.

“Each day is a chance to get better and each day is an opportunity to grow as a team. I want them striving for their personal best and work to the best of their abilities because that will help the team.”

In Leary’s view, she has some players with ability in the frontcourt in senior Summer Ramsay-Burrough, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and the Walsh sisters, junior Maggie and freshman Kate.

“Summer has a good sense of the game that comes with playing experience,” said Leary.

“She understands the game. She is a leader and will be a captain. Nneka is only a sophomore and is doing a great job becoming stronger and being more aggressive around the basket. Maggie Walsh and Kate Walsh will also see time in the frontcourt. They are both big, strong post players. Maggie played well around the basket in our first scrimmage. Kate is only a freshman and we are working on her footwork. We want her to be more aggressive offensively.”

The Tartans have some offensive threats around the perimeter in freshman Pam McGowen, senior Simrit Gill, and sophomore Harlyn Bell.

“Right now, we have a freshman, Pam McGowen, running the point; she played in the middle school and is very eager to develop as a point guard,” said Leary.

“She has leadership skills and the confidence to handle the ball. She understands her role. Simrit Gill is looking good, she understands the game. She has a nice outside shot but she is not afraid to go to the basket. Harlyn Bell will be in the other guard position. She has a nice outside shot but will also look to go to the basket.”

As the Tartans gird for their first taste of regular season action, Leary isn’t worried about wins and losses.

“Our main goal right now is to get them to develop the fundamentals and understand the game of basketball,” said Leary, who is being assisted by Danielle Fraider.

“We are focusing on defense. Playing defense doesn’t require a lot of talent, just hard work and desire and that is what we are trying to get out of the girls.”

Leary likes the work ethic she has already seen from her team. “This group works so hard,” asserted Leary.

“They are so coachable and eager to learn. They ask the right questions. As a coach, it is so rewarding to see that.”

November 28, 2012

BY A NECK: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Madison Luther goes after the ball in recent action. Senior defender Luther’s play along the back line helped PHS hold the fort as it edged Colts Neck 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game last week. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ soccer team led Colts Neck 1-0 last week in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game, PHS certainly wasn’t in control of the contest.

Underdog Colts Neck, the eighth-seed in the sectional, put the No. 2 Little Tigers under fire through much of the second half, using its speed to generate a number of scoring opportunities.

PHS senior defender Madison Luther acknowledged that things got a little dicey along the Little Tiger back line.

“It was definitely a storm, that is the right word,” said Luther, reflecting on the second half of the game.

“They kept at it, they are very fast. We have to make sure that we position ourselves all the time to get ready for them. Katie Carduner is our quarterback and we have Dana Smith back there, sliding for us left and right. Sticking with them works, that’s what gets us there.”

The PHS defense held the fort, keeping Colts Neck from breaking through as it earned a 1-0 victory and the first sectional title in the 21-year tenure of head coach Greg Hand.

The win improved PHS to 16-2-1 and earned it a date with South Jersey champion Moorestown in the state Group III semis on November 28 at Toms River North with the winner advancing to the championship game on December 2 at The College of New Jersey.

For Luther and her teammates, surviving the roller-coaster ride to pull out the title left some special memories.

“It is the first time for all of us,” said Luther. “All game, it was back and forth, even with the goal it didn’t feel like we were up. You never know with the Shore Conference; they are unexpected. We were really excited; we were a good kind of nervous.”

Luther’s athletic versatility has helped her become a very good defender for the Little Tigers.

“I play basketball and lacrosse so I know defense well,” said Luther. “Since I am not the fastest, I can shadow and watch them. I am better at that.”

It certainly helps PHS to have star senior goalie Lauren Ullmann as its last line of defense.

“Lauren is a lifesaver,” asserted Luther of the netminder who made eight saves in the win over Colts Neck.

“She is always there, she is always talking, constantly directing everyone. It is very nice to have that. Having her back there is a very safe cushion, you have someone respectable and an extra barrier to protect.”

In Luther’s view, the Little Tigers gained extra motivation from two setbacks, an early season loss to Robbinville and getting eliminated in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament by Pennington on penalty kicks after playing the Red Raiders to a 0-0 draw through 100 minutes.

“After our second loss to Robbinsville, ‘we were like OK, this can’t happen,’” recalled Luther.

“The Pennington game didn’t even feel like losing, they are such a great team. We lost 4-0 to them last year. A lot of the new kids heard that and said let’s not lose. Keeping up with them made it so much better.”

PHS head coach Hand, for his part, is proud of the way his squad has taken care of business after its 2-2 start.

“It just seems that we managed to do enough of the things that we need to do throughout the 80-minutes to hold the opponents down a little and create opportunities,” said Hand.

“There is no magic to it, it is just the fact that we have a really hardworking group who take themselves pretty seriously when they have to and put their all into every single day.”

In the victory over Colts Neck, PHS followed that blueprint. “I thought we possessed really well in the first 20 minutes of the game, the second 20 after we scored, I think we actually came a little bit unglued, not taking care of the ball as well,” recalled Hand.

“We continued to work hard through the whole game and that carried into the second half. At the end, you could see the fight that was in us; we weren’t going to let anything get by.”

Hand acknowledges that he didn’t see such an ending for his team when it first convened for training this summer.

“If you asked me on August 16th, I wouldn’t have suggested that this was going to be where we were,” said Hand.

“But to take guidance from somebody like John Wooden — he says he never went into a game, even if he was a big underdog, thinking he was going to lose. But he never went in, thinking he was going to win.”

In Luther’s view, the team’s success is a product of making the most of everyday and not worrying about the big picture.

“We didn’t set any goals for ourselves,” said Luther. “At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a winning record at all, now we are 16-2-1. No one expected us to do things like this and get this far. I think the fact that we didn’t have these goals, we had nothing to lose and that just pushed us more.”

BIG MAC: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick goes after a puck in action last winter. PHS is counting on junior defenseman McCormick to shoulder much of the load along the blue line this winter. PHS, which went 15-7-2 last winter in advancing to its third straight Mercer County Tournament championship game, opens its 2012-13 campaign by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last three years, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team has become a fixture in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, winning the title in 2011 and coming in second in 2010 and last winter.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell is proud of his team’s consistent excellence in the MCT and what it says about the program.

“I think, without a doubt, we have been the best public high school program in the area over the last few years,” said Campbell, whose team fell to Notre Dame in last year’s county title game on the way to a 15-7-2 record.

“We are ready to do that again. By the time we get to the playoffs in February, I think we will be good again.”

As PHS works its way over the next few months to the postseason, it will need to answer some key question marks, starting at goalie where junior Robert Quinn is replacing four-year starter Josh Berger.

“Robert did camps over the summer and played in a summer league; he has been on the ice a lot,” said Campbell, noting that Joseph Dawes and Mike Dunlap will serve as back-ups.

“Robert is a good athlete; he is a soccer goalie and a baseball catcher so he is defensive-minded. We are lucky to have someone like him who we have confidence in to come in after Josh.”

Quinn will need to be good, as the PHS defense is not blessed with depth. “We are very thin on defense; we are going to have a short bench,” said Campbell.

The Little Tigers do have some good talent along the blue line in juniors Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor.

“Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor will anchor the blue line for us,” said Campbell, whose team starts the season by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.

“They’ll be on the ice most of the time. Patrick is a phenomenal skater. He is one of the most naturally gifted, fundamentally sound skaters that I have seen. He is a smart player and has a good shot. Harrison is one of the most improved players I have seen; he is a tough, smart player.”

At forward, PHS boasts enough depth to make things tough on its foes. “Matt DiTosto has had some key playing time for us since he has joined the team” said Campbell.

“He is definitely a go-to guy for us. Spencer Reynolds and Gabe MacGregor are in the mix. Jack Andres is really tough, Connor McCormick and John Reid are smart hockey players.”

While Campbell believes his offense can be productive, he knows that he needs to shore up the defense if PHS is going to be a title contender.

“We will focus on defense,” said Campbell, whose team also advanced to the second round of the state Public B tournament last winter.

“You build successful teams around defense and  we will do whatever we can to keep the puck out of the net. We will put whomever we need on defense to help us do that.”

The Little Tigers also have to focus on playing clean hockey to experience success this winter.

“We have to play smart hockey with as few penalties as possible,” asserted Campbell.

“We need to play smart, defense-minded hockey. We need to hold shot totals down and play good neutral zone defense.”