August 8, 2012

PAIN CONTROL: Carly O’Brien heads up the field this past spring in her freshman season with the Dickinson College women’s lacrosse team. O’Brien, a former three-sport standout at Princeton Day School, fought through nagging hamstring problems to tally 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists for the Red Devils in 2012 and rank third on the squad in scoring.
(Photo by James Rasp, Courtesy of Dickinson Sports Information)

As Carly O’Brien went through middle school, she was on track to be a softball star.

The athletic O’Brien starred in the District 12 softball all-star tournament and played travel ball.

But O’Brien’s sports destiny changed in the span of one afternoon. “A friend brought me to her lacrosse practice, “ said O’Brien.

“I really liked it and after the spring of eight grade, I stopped playing travel softball and got into lacrosse.”

It didn’t take long for O’Brien to establish herself as a star in her newfound passion. She made the girls’ varsity lax team at Princeton Day School in 2008 as a ninth grader and emerged as a go-to scoring threat by her sophomore season.

As a junior, she tallied 63 goals and 13 assists to help the Panthers go 14-4 and win the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title. O’Brien kept firing away as a senior, earning first-team All-Prep A honors and ending her PDS career with more than 150 goals.

Having progressed so rapidly in lacrosse, O’Brien was fired up to keep playing the game after high school.

“I realized that lacrosse was my favorite sport; I couldn’t see myself not playing sports in college,” said O’Brien, who also starred in soccer and ice hockey for the Panthers.

Initially, O’Brien saw herself playing at the highest level of the college game.

“At first, I wanted to go to a Division I program,” said O’Brien. “I went to camps, the intensity level was a lot higher. I was looking at Lafayette.”

But O’Brien ended up falling in love with Division III Dickinson College and didn’t need to look any further.

“It was not until the end of junior year that Dickinson got into the picture,” said O’Brien, whose older brothers, Dan and Clint, were star athletes at PDS and played college sports at the D-III level.

“The coach sent me a letter and I met her in the summer before my senior year. I loved her coaching style. I did an overnight visit. I loved the team; I felt really comfortable. I liked that it was a small school; it reminded me of PDS.”

Similar to her PDS career, O’Brien made an impact right away for the Red Devils this spring, tallying 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists to rank third on the squad in scoring.

O’Brien’s numbers are even more impressive considering that she was battling through injury throughout her freshman year.

“In my second-to-last game in high school, I hurt my hamstring,” said O’Brien, a 5’8 attacker.

“I couldn’t play all fall because I was rehabbing my hamstring. Sitting on the sidelines was frustrating but I got to know my teammates and see how things are done.”

Once the spring rolled around, O’Brien was able to get some things done on the field as she returned to action.

“After we came back from winter break, I was able to play again,” said O’Brien.

“The first game was quite nerve-wracking. It is a lot higher level than high school, the game is a lot faster in college.”

The injury bug, though, ended up slowing O’Brien throughout the spring.

“I originally hurt my right hamstring but then I irritated the left one through favoring the right,” said O’Brien.

“I did physical therapy before and after practice. I did exercises to build up my leg around the hamstring. It was very frustrating. I had to take a couple of games off. I played about half the time; I worked out an arrangement with the coach for when I would come out.”

All things considered, O’Brien feels she got off to a good start in her Dickinson career.

“I tried to contribute as much as I could,” said O’Brien, reflecting on a season which saw the Red Devils go 7-8 overall and 4-4 in Centennial Conference play. “We have a young team. The freshman class were the stars.”

Currently focusing on getting up to full speed, O’Brien is looking to assume a starring role in her sophomore year.

“I am doing physical therapy all summer,” said O’Brien. “I expect to be 100 percent by the fall. The future looks exciting. We didn’t make the playoffs this year and we want to make it next year.”

August 1, 2012

COURTING SUCCESS: Sean McCourt surveys the scene on the dock at the Caspersen Rowing Center on Mercer Lake. McCourt, who has been the head coach of the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) since its inception in 2002, is leaving the program to teach and coach crew at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn. During his decade at the helm of the MJRC, he built the program into a power as the club has earned a slew of medals, including four at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, and has grown from around 40 rowers to 150 strong. (Photo by Lauri Bookholdt)

As 2002 approached, Sean McCourt was ready to move on from rowing after starring at Boston University and then coaching high school crew for three years upon graduation.

McCourt was all set to start a job with a financial services company in the Philadelphia area but then he had a conversation that changed everything.

“Two or three day before I was going to start I got a call from a guy named Nick McQuaid,” recalled McCourt.

“Nick and I had rowed together for one summer at Penn AC and he was the director of operations for the Princeton International Regatta Association (PIRA) at the time. He said we really want you to come and start this rowing program. It is going to be a little token program and we have this event coming up and we want you to work more on this event.”

Intrigued, McCourt decided to put his financial career on hold and devote his energy to the fledging youth rowing program that became known as the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC).

“I thought I will try this out and see how it goes,” said McCourt, who came to Mercer Lake in 2002 as the head coach of the club, responsible for oversight and training of all crews as well as organizing and overseeing the Princeton National Rowing Association’s (PNRA) summer camps and regattas.

“The guys at the financial firm were super nice about it, they were like try it and if it doesn’t work out, you can come back here. I thought OK, I have a safety net so let me give it a try.”

Once he made his mind up to take on the challenge, McCourt was all in. “When Nick told me it was going to be a ‘token program,” I was like no way,” said McCourt, who had coached for a year at the McCallie School (Tenn.) and two years at his high school alma mater, St. Joseph’s Prep before making the move to MJRC.

“If we are going to do this, we are going to do it right. It is going to be competitive. We built it off the St. Joe’s model. They were a powerhouse team with a lot of success so we tried to incorporate some of the things they did in terms of practices, training plans, and structure.”

Achieving his vision, McCourt succeeded in building MJRC into a power as the club has earned a slew of medals, including four at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, and has grown from around 40 rowers to 150 strong.

After a decade leading the program, McCourt, 34, has decided to pursue a new challenge as he is heading back to McCallie in Chattanooga where he will guide the school’s rowing program and teach history.

In reflecting on his history with MJRC, McCourt chuckles when he recalls the program’s humble beginnings.

“We started in an office trailer in the back; that was our headquarters,” said a grinning McCourt, sitting in a conference room in the program’s headquarters at the Caspersen Rowing Center on Mercer Lake.

“Finn Casperson gave us a $10,000 gift to start the program. The only things we owned at the beginning were the launches, engines, and cox boxes. Basically I got on the phone and called everyone I knew and said can you loan us boats. It was really beg, borrow, and steal the first year. The first couple of years were crazy. There were days that if parts broke, I was making them because we didn’t have enough money to buy new ones.”

It didn’t take long for the new club to make a breakthrough as its girls’ novice 8 came through in that first spring.

“That year we had an international regatta where we had teams from New Zealand, Great Britain, and Croatia,” said McCourt.

“We had some high school races and our novice 8 girls won. That was the big run up the flagpole success moment for the year.”

The program experienced more and more success as its numbers increased and it gained a foothold in the youth rowing scene.

“In 2004, we had a boys’ boat get fourth at the nationals and that started a really good run for us in the mid-2000s between the boys and the girls,” said McCourt.

“We had a really fast girls boat in 2006 that won the regional and lost in the final of the Henley Women’s Regatta. All in all, Mercer has won four medals at the nationals. The girls have won three and the boys have won one.”

Rachel LaBella, a star on that 2006 girls’ 8 that took second at Henley, credits McCourt with having a knack for getting rowers up to speed.

“As a freshman, I thought Sean was tough but fair,” said LaBella, a WW/P-S grad who went on to row at UCLA where she was named the team’s Most Valuable Oarswoman and served as team captain.

“He is good at bringing the best out of his rowers. He always pushed us even when we didn’t think we could go that amount. He helped us push through barriers.”

LaBella noted that McCourt was a big help in her college recruitment process.

“I didn’t realize I could go to a big school like UCLA and row,” said LaBella. “Sean got me talking to coaches. He knows everyone and has a lot of connections.”

For McCourt, seeing novice rowers develop into college athletes has been one of the joys of his job.

“It is definitely a neat experience; I would say Mercer is a program built on spare parts,” said McCourt, noting that the MJRC has sent scores of rowers to college programs over the years.

“We don’t always  get the best athlete coming out of the chute but we get people who work really hard. There are kids who come in and you say I can’t believe that this kid can tie their shoes and the next thing you know they are leaving and they are getting a scholarship. It is really cool to see that transformation.”

While McCourt may have provided the framework for such transformations, he credits the rowers for making it happen.

“I don’t think I am proud of anything I did per se; I am proud of what the kids have done,” asserted McCourt.

“It is their program, whether or not I am here or not here. They are going to get out of it what they put into it so I don’t claim anything as my accomplishment. It’s something they actually did the work for.”

Now McCourt is looking forward to working at McCallie, noting that he will be able to spend more time with his wife, Megan, a former U.S. national team rower and Olympic silver medalist in 2004, and their twins, Caitlin and Connor, who are turning two at the end of August.

He acknowledges, however, that it is tough to be ending his MJRC tenure. “I am definitely sad to leave because you have blood in the program; it is something you kind of created from nothing,” said McCourt.

“It is kind of like your baby in a way and you got it and raised it up a little bit and now you got it to the next level. I always tell the kids at some point you would have left me anyway.”

LaBella, for her part, believes that the MJRC kids will sorely miss McCourt.

“He is leaving really big shoes to fill; he did so much for the program,” said LaBella, who coached with the MJRC and the Mercer Masters this year and credited McCourt with easing her transition to that side of the sport.

“He did administrative work. He was a handy guy fixing boats. He did all that coaching. He was always there for the kids, whatever the situation.”

In McCourt’s view, bringing in new blood isn’t the worst situation. “Change is good as long as they bring in the right person,” said McCourt.

“Someone who is not about themselves but who still wants to win. You have got to bring the competitiveness. At the same time, it really is not about you, it is about the kids having fun.”

And McCourt certainly helped a lot of kids have fun at MJRC over the last decade.

ESCAPE HATCH: Chris Hatchell of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, left, looks to elude Tommy Soulias of Ivy Inn last Monday in Game 1 of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League championship series. Hatchell scored 13 points to help spark Winberie’s to a 48-41 win over Ivy Inn. Winberie’s can wrap up the best-of-three title series on Wednesday night when the teams play Game 2 at the Community Park courts. If necessary, Game 3 will take place on Friday night. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Winberie’s/Miller Lite brought an undefeated record into last year’s championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, the team was not at 100 percent.

“I hurt my knee against Team TB in the semis before we even got to play [University] Radiology and then Kurt [Simmons] went out in the same game and broke his wrist,” said Chris Hatchell, a star guard for Winberie’s. “We were banged up last year.”

Winberie’s put up a valiant fight in the 2011 series but ended up falling 2-1 to University Radiology, dropping a 36-34 nailbiter in the finale.

When Hatchell and second-seeded Winberie’s hit the Community Park courts last Monday for the 2012 best-of-three championship series against No. 5 Ivy Inn, they believed that experience would hold them in good stead.

“Other than Ivy, we are the most veteran team,” said Hatchell. “We know that if we take care of the ball and don’t turn the ball over, we should be able to beat anybody.”

The series opener against Ivy Inn predictably turned into a nip-and-tuck contest with Winberie’s up 20-19 at halftime and the teams knotted at 36-36 with seven minutes remaining in regulation.

Down the stretch, Winberie’s displayed its savvy and chemistry as it outscored Ivy Inn 12-5 to pull out a 48-41 win and put itself on the verge of a title.

In Hatchell’s view, Winberie’s triumph came down to taking care of basics. “I think rebounding and holding to one shot and not letting them get three-point shots off was key,” said Hatchell, reflecting on the win that improved Winberie’s to 10-2 this summer.

Another key to the triumph was Hatchell’s clutch free throw shooting as he drained four straight in the last minute of the game.

“Before this game, I was playing at Mercer County Park in the Trenton 6’2-and-under league and I actually missed four free throws out there tonight,” said Hatchell, who scored 13 points in the victory with Evan Johnson chipping in 14 and Cliff Pollard adding 11 while Ivy Inn’s Mark Aziz led all scorers with 17.

“I thought I have got to make these now; I hardly ever miss free throws. Instead of going to the line and thinking about it, I was just going up there and shooting. I was thinking too much.”

For Hatchell, the championship series matchup is a bit uncomfortable as he had started this summer with Ivy Inn and played a game with the team in June before returning to Winberie’s.

“We had a good team last year but I didn’t know if all of the guys were coming back,” explained Hatchell, noting that he played with such Ivy Inn denizens as Bobby Davison and Shahid Abdul-Karim during his college years.

“But when I found out that Evan Johnson and a couple of other guys were coming back, I felt bad about leaving that team and I talked to Mark [team manager Mark Rosenthal] and said ‘my fault.’ It makes more sense for me to come back with these guys.”

Hatchell is hoping that Winberie’s can come back on the court on Wednesday and close out the series with a win and avoid having to play a decisive Game 3 on Friday.

“They are a good team but we are a veteran team and we just need to control the ball,” asserted Hatchell.

“We are good inside and outside. I like this team. We play together; we are a good mesh. It is a good group of older guys. As long as we don’t turn the ball over, we should be alright.”

COMMUNITY ACTION: Community Park Bluefish swimmer Charles Elliott powers through the water in a recent meet. Last week at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championships, Elliott, 14, took fourth in the boys’ 14-and-under 50-meter butterfly and eighth in the 50 freestyle. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After months of construction, the new Community Park Pool opened over Memorial Day weekend to much acclaim.

The Myrtha stainless steel pool boasts new walls and a new floor for the lap pool, an upgraded diving pool with a water slide, a zero-depth entry pool, a wading pool, and a new filtration system.

While the complex made an immediate splash with residents, it has served as a special source of inspiration to a particular group of users — the CP Bluefish swim team.

“Myrtha Pools are designed for very high level swimming and it certainly did not fail to prove that,” said Bluefish head coach Andy Sichet.

“We have broken several old standing records in swim meets and kids just love training in it.”

The Bluefish produced a superb regular season, going 4-1 in dual-meet competition to place second in the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division I standings.

“With the brand new facility in place, I think we all had high expectations of this years’ swim and dive team,” said Sichet.

“Neither team has disappointed the Princeton community. I am very happy finishing the 2012 summer with a 4-1 record. We certainly made big progress in our speed. Just about every swimmer improved on their original start time by the end of our short season.”

That progress was reflected in how the Bluefish ended the summer as the squad performed well last week in the PASDA championship meet at the Flemington-Raritan Community pool.

“As a team we have improved in overall team scoring points as well as placed better then we have in the prior PASDA championships,” said Sichet, whose team placed fourth of six teams in the competition won by Flemington-Raritan. “I am happy to see any improvement in our swimmers.”

The team’s group of younger girls’ swimmers certainly made Sichet happy as they came up big at the PASDA meet.

Ella Jones, 6, won the girls’ 6-and-under 25-meter freestyle and was second in the 25 backstroke while Madison Csontos, 8, was third in both the 8-and-under 25 free and butterfly. Natalie Hansford, 9, placed first in the 10-and-under 25 backstroke and Grace Hoedemaker, 9, finished second in the 10-and-under 25 butterfly. Eva Petrone, 10, took third in the 10-and-under 25 breaststroke. The combination of Hansford, Petrone, Hoedemaker, and Ria Sharma, 9, won the 10-and-under medley relay.

“Madison Csontos gave us incredible work effort in the summer and Natalie Hansford was one of the best swimmers,” said Sichet.

“Eva Petrone was dedicated  and provided great team support. We can always count on Grace Hoedemaker for points in almost any event.”

The team’s corps of older girls swimmers piled up plenty of points in the PASDA meet.

Madeline Hoedemaker, 11, won the girls’ 12-and-under fly and placed second in both the 100 individual medley and 50 free while Kate McLaughlin, 12, placed third in the 100 IM, 50 fly, and 50 back. Nicole Kratzer, 17, finished fourth in both the 18-and-under 50 breast and 50 butterfly while Charlotte Singer, 14, took third in the 14-and-under breast.

“Kate McLaughlin improved dramatically over the summer and Charlotte Singer has been at every meet and we see improvement every day,” added Sichet. “Nicole Kratzer was a coach and swimmer this year.

Sichet saw some dramatic results from his younger boy swimmers. Jaxon Petrone, 8, won the boys’ 8-and-under 100 IM and the 25 free and placed second in the 25 back while Alosha Darenkov, 8, took second in both the 8-and-under 100 IM and 25 breast and fourth in the 25 free. Gefen Bar-Cohen, 9, won the boys’ 10-and-under 25 free and took second in the 25 breast while Daniel King, 5, took second in the 6-and-under 25 back.

Oliver Hunsbedt, 12, won both the boys’ 12-and-under 100 IM and 50 breast while Eric Li, 12, took second in the 12-and-under 25 back and Noah Chen, 14, took fourth in both the boys’ 14-and-under 100 IM and 50 free.

“Bar-Cohen came in late but you can depend on him to score points,” added Sichet. “Petrone had stepped up; he has become a key racer for us. Hunsbedt is one of our liveliest kids; he is a great character and he gets everyone excited about racing.”

Not to be outdone, CP’s older male swimmers made a major impact at the PASDA competition.

Princeton High boys’ swim star Will Stange, 15, won the boys’ 18-and-under back and took second in the 100 IM and 50 free. Matthew Shanahan, 15, placed fourth in the both 18-and-under 100 IM and 50 back while Jake Valente, 18, took second in the 18-and-under 50 breast, third in the 50 free, and fourth in the 50 back.

“Will is Will; he is an incredible year round swimmer,” said Sichet of rising junior Stange, who helped the PHS boys’ swimming team go undefeated last winter on the way to the program’s first state title.

“It is a privilege to have him on the team. He is one of our biggest assets. Jake Valente has been with us all the way through high school. We are very happy that he continued his tradition of success with the Bluefish.”

As Sichet reflects on the summer, he is as proud of the attitude displayed by his swimmers around the deck as their success in the pool.

“With the combination of a brand new top of the line facility, warm weather, wonderful age-group coaches, larger-than-ever team, the spirit on the Bluefish team was the best I have ever seen,” asserted Sichet.

BELL CURVE: Isabelle Monaghan displays her backstroke form in action for the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings. Last week at the PASDA championship meet, Monaghan, 10, placed second in both the 10-and-under 100-meter individual medley and the 25 butterfly. She also helped Nassau to wins in both the 100 medley relay and 100 freestyle relay. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings didn’t have as much depth as in past summers, the team lived up to the program’s winning tradition.

The Lemmings went 4-1 in Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division II dual meets, earning a first place tie in the regular season standings.

“We had a great summer; it was very successful considering the numbers,” said Lemmings coach Beth Nagle.

“We were low, particularly in the 12-and-under and the 10-and-under boys. In some meets, we had just three swimmers in those age groups. We ended up in a three-way tie for first. We beat Ben Franklin and then Ben Franklin beat Trenton and Trenton beat us so it was very competitive.”

Nagle saw individual improvement across the board. “Most of our swimmers dropped their times,” said Nagle. “We made a point of working on stroke technique and starts this summer.”

That work paid off last week in the PASDA championship meet at the Flemington Raritan club as the Lemmings produced a number of outstanding swims.

“Looking at the numbers, we had a successful meet,” said Nagle, whose team placed second of six teams at the meet, scoring 2,447 points to trail only Ben Franklin’s total of 3,006. “Every swimmer placed and we had a couple of great relay races.”

One of the club’s top relays came from the younger girls. “The 10-and-under medley relay is one of my all-time favorite relays,” said Nagle, referring to the quartet of Isabelle Monaghan, Serena Bolitho, Ella Caddeau, and Veronique Diblasio.

“They came within a second of the meet record; they are really good. You throw Samantha Campisi in there on the free relay and they don’t lose anything.”

The core of young swimmers has plenty of experience despite being tender in years.

“We have had them since they were young,” said Nagle. “Isabelle Monaghan has her sister Sophia to look up to. We got Ella Caddeau back this year, that was a good addition.”

Nagle got some good work this summer from her older girls as well. “We are so lucky to have the older girls, they are our faithfuls,” asserted Nagle.

“Brigid Diblasio (age 13) and Becca Adlai-Gail (13) are big point scorers for us. We have a really solid under-18 group with Carla Tuan, Sophia Monaghan, and Susanna Tuan.”

Diblasio won both the girls’ 14-and-under 50 backstroke and 50 freestyle at the PASDA meet while Adlai-Gail placed first in the 14-and-under 50 butterfly. Carla Tuan won the girls’ 18-and-under 10 individual medley while Monaghan won the 18-and-under 50 back and took second in the 18-and-under free.

The Lemmings have a big star in the making on the boys’ side in 6-year-old Daniel Baytin, the winner of the 25-meter freestyle and backstroke at the PASDA meet.

“Daniel Baytin set freestyle and backstroke records at the PASDA meet,” said Nagle.

“At the mini-meet, he won all of his 6-and-under events and then went up to the 8-and-under and took second in the medley. Ben has helped us a lot; he juggles baseball with swimming He is a good athlete. Simon Sheppard is another good younger swimmer.”

Nassau got a lot of help through welcoming Matt Kuhlik, a star for the undefeated state champion Princeton High boys’ team who will be swimming for Emory this fall.

“Matt Kuhlik was a wonderful addition,” said Nagle of Kuhlik, who placed first in the boys’ 18-and-under 50 free and second in the 50 back at the PASDA  meet.

“He was looking for a job this summer and applied to be a lifeguard. He is a fantastic kid. He coached the 12-and-under boys and they looked up to him. He enjoyed being a role model for them.”

Kuhlik’s PHS teammate, Harun Filipovic, has assumed a big role in the Nassau program for years.

“Harun has grown up around the team; he has been swimming with us since he was four,” said Nagle of the Bucknell-bound star who won both the boys’ 18-and-under 50 back and 50 fly at the PASDA championships. “He set a team record in the 50 butterfly for us.”

Nagle liked the attitude she has seen around the team this summer. “As usual, I think Nassau has the best spirit around,” maintained Nagle.

“The lifeguards grew up around the team and now they are coaches. I heard it a million times this summer, kids saying ‘I want to be a lifeguard and a coach.’ The younger swimmers look up to the coaches and the lifeguards.”

The Nassau swimmers develop some deep bonds through spending a lot of time with each other.

“It is our own world,” said Nagle. “Practice ends at 10 in the morning and a lot of kids stay here until 3. It is like a camp.”

In order to keep that spirit going and increase numbers, Nassau is welcoming non-members to join the Lemmings as they will continue working through the summer in a new program called ‘Swimming Spree in August.’

“We are the only PASDA team that practices through August,” said Nagle.

“This year, it is open to anyone who is interested. We have one-hour practices in the morning and evening. We will have the coaching staff on hand and we will participate in the Bruce Nystrom intrasquad meet at the end.”

July 25, 2012

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Post 218 shortstop Beau Horan picks up a grounder in recent action. Horan’s production and leadership helped Post 218 go on a late surge that saw the club win three of its last five games to end the summer with a 7-15 record. The seven wins represented marked progress for a program that went a combined 5-43 over the previous two summers.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the summer of 2009, Beau Horan was a wet-behind-the-ears shortstop, trying to hold his own in his rookie season with the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team.

Since that debut campaign, Horan has matured into one of the top shortstops in the Mercer County American Legion League (MCALL). Coming off an outstanding senior season for the Princeton Day School baseball team this past spring, Horan is headed to Williams College as a top recruit for the baseball program at the highly regarded Division III school.

This summer, Horan has assumed the role of veteran leader for Post 218, taking the players on the youthful squad under his wing and giving them the benefit of the experience he has gained over the years.

“These guys are getting a lot better,” said Horan, noting that he has been with the Post 218 for six years, counting his play with the program’s Junior Legion squad.

“It is nice to see them grow and get used to winning and playing some close games.”

Post 218 displayed its growth last week as it rallied from a 4-1 deficit to edge North Hamilton 6-5 at Smoyer Park.

“It has been the character of this team all year; we have had a lot of adversity,” said Horan reflecting on the win which saw Post 218 take a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning on a grand slam by Jon Hayden and then tally the winning run on a bases-loaded walk by Jacob Eisenberg in the bottom of the seventh.

“Most of the time we have had around nine guys and we forfeited a game the other day. But when we show up and we have Jacob on the mound we always have a chance to win.”

Leadoff hitter Horan knows that he has to get on base to give Post 218 a better chance to win. Horan had a total of seven hits in two wins over Ewing Post 314 and Trenton Posts 93/182 last week and reached base two times and scored twice in the victory over North Hamilton.

“I made a small adjustment; I am keeping my hands higher and seeing more pitches so I can time it a little better,” said Horan.

“I am feeling a little bit better and getting on base in the leadoff spot and letting the big boys bring me in.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker likes the way his players have come up big over the last few weeks of the season.

“I call them the notorious nine; they have really hung in there,” said a grinning Parker, whose club won three of four games before falling 6-4 to Ewing Post 314 last Thursday to end the summer at 7-15.

“They have really hung in there tough all season, but it has really culminated itself in the last few games. I am really proud of them.”

Parker was proud of the contributions he got throughout the lineup in the win over North Hamilton.

“This was a total team effort; we got a big hit by Jon Hayden; that was beautiful,” said Parker.

“Jacob Eisenberg threw a nice game. Beau did a good job at shortstop and got two runs. Zach Tesone made some nice picks at first and had a great double. It was a great effort.”

In Parker’s view, Horan has provided Post 218 with some great leadership.

“Beau has definitely helped keep us focused, especially with the young guys,” said Parker.

“They can be in the ball game and then for a split second be distracted by something else. Baseball guys like Beau keep them focused and keep their energy up. He always has some kind of positive reinforcement if a kid comes in and is hanging his head.”

With Post 218 having picked up seven wins this summer after going a total of 5-43 the last seasons, the team is headed in a positive direction.

“It is absolutely making progress,” asserted Parker. “We have had a couple of injuries where we lost guys for the season. If we could ever get everybody here at the same time, we could be better than seven wins. I am certain of that.”

In Parker’s view, there should be a lot more wins in this group’s future. “They are all young guys, the whole team with the exception of Marcus [Henderson] is going to be back,” said Parker.

“Finishing strong can pick the momentum up. We might do a fall ball program so that the young guys who are still around can play. They asked me the other day what is the most wins I remember and I told them that we had a team that won 14 games and was just one game off the playoffs. I think this team could be as good as that team.”

Horan, for his part, is ready to get going with his new team at Williams. “I received the summer conditioning program about a week or two ago; I am itching to get that started,” said Horan.

“I start there on August 28. I really want to get started with that team and get another four years going.”

And if Horan can make as much progress over the next four years as he has with Post 218, he should have quite a career at Williams.

IN THE GROOVE: Skye Ettin, left, makes a move for University Radiology earlier this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s League. Last Monday, Ettin hit 15-of-18 free throws on his way to a 24-point effort to help third-seeded University Radiology edge No. 6 Clinton Kings 46-43 in the quarterfinals of the summer hoops playoffs. University Radiology, the 2011 league champions, will face the victor of the Winberie’s/Team TB quarterfinal matchup in the semis on Friday at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A lot of basketball players, even superstars like LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, have struggled when sent to the foul line at crunch time.

But former Princeton High and current College of New Jersey standout Skye Ettin relishes taking free throws when a game is on the line.

“I am just focused on the rim, just trying to stay confident,” said Ettin. “I don’t want to think too many plays ahead; I always have the mindset that I am going to make it.”

For Ettin, that attitude was developed during his stellar PHS career which saw him score 915 points and help the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior.

“I remember we were in a high school game and I had two foul shots and coach [Jason] Carter said ‘after he makes both those fouls shots, then we’ll get into this,’” recalled the 6’3, 170-pound Ettin, a rising junior forward for TCNJ who averaged 6.4 points a game for the Lions last winter.

“He would instill confidence in you and you would instill it in yourself. I go up to the line knowing I am going to make it and from there, I have to adjust if I do miss one.”

Last Monday, Ettin’s prowess at the line made the difference as third-seeded University Radiology edged No. 6 Clinton 46-43 in the quarterfinals of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s League playoffs.

Ettin hit 15-of-18 free throws on the evening, including eight in the last three minutes, ending up with a game-high 24 points as University Radiology started the defense of its 2011 summer league title.

In other opening night playoff action Monday night, seventh-seeded Team TB defeated No. 10 Ballstars 52-29 while eighth-seeded SMB topped No. 9 Princeton Youth Sports 66-49.

A trio of quarterfinal matchups is slated for Wednesday evening at the Community Park courts with top-seeded Dr. Palmer facing SMB, No. 4 PA Blue Devils taking on fifth-seeded Ivy Inn, and No. 2 Winberie’s/Miller Lite going against Team TB. The semifinals are scheduled for Friday with Game One of the best-of-three championship series taking place on July 30 at 8 p.m.

For much of Monday evening, it looked like University Radiology wasn’t going to be advancing as it trailed 22-18 at halftime and 37-35 with less than three minutes to go in the contest.

“We got off to a slow start; it is hard when you have only five or six players,” said Ettin, noting that the team was missing such key players as Brian Dunlap, DeQuon Basnight, and Ike Robinson on Monday due to injury or other commitments.

Coming into the second half, Ettin and his teammates weren’t looking to do anything fancy.

“We just needed to play more aggressively; they were scoring a lot of garbage points because they were beating us to every loose ball and they got every offensive rebound,” said Ettin.

“When a team kills you on offensive rebounding, you give them three or four chances to score. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the team is, they are going to score.”

A turning point in the game came with seven minutes remaining in the second half when a Clinton Kings player got called for a flagrant foul and University Radiology cashed in with two free throws from Eamon Cuddy and a three-pointer from Devon Holman to pull into a 34-34 tie.

“That was definitely a huge momentum boost,” recalled Ettin. “It was a hard game going back and forth; both teams were giving it their all. It is hard to keep your composure the whole time in a hotly contested game where everyone wants to win. He lost his temper a little bit and we benefitted.”

Down the stretch of the game, University Radiology benefitted from the fact the core of its team has been together since their PHS days.

“I think our overall experience helped; we have been playing with each other for so long,” asserted Ettin, who is one of a group of former Little Tigers on the squad together with Dunlap, Cuddy, Matt Young, and the Holman brothers, Devon and DeQuan.

“I think that we learned to pull some games out in high school and then last year we pulled some games out in this league. We won the first game in the championship series and then we lost the second and then we had to pull out the third at the end. I don’t know if we would have got this one two years ago.”

In Ettin’s view, the narrow escape on Monday could give University Radiology the momentum to make another title run.

“Coming from behind the whole game and finally pulling it out, we know if we stay levelheaded and keep our composure we can pull them out in the end,” said Ettin, whose club will face the victor of the Winberie’s/Team TB matchup in the semis. “It is definitely going to help us going forward, no matter who we play.”

July 18, 2012

CATCHING ON: Jon Scott handles catching duties this spring for the Bryant University baseball team. Former Princeton Day School standout Scott made big progress this spring in his sophomore campaign, hitting .255 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games after appearing in just three games as a freshman. Scott’s solid play helped the Bulldogs win the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season title as the team went 33-21 overall and 24-8 in league play.
(Photo Courtesy of Bryant’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Jon Scott will long remember getting the initial hit of his Bryant University baseball career.

Scott, a former Princeton Day School standout catcher, pounded out an RBI single in a 12-1 win over Harvard on April 7, 2011.

“That was real exciting; getting that first hit was a good feeling,” said Scott. “My teammates were all cheering for me.”

But there weren’t many other cheers for Scott that spring as the single marked the only hit of a tough freshman campaign.

“I really wasn’t ready to play at that level,” said Scott. “I was not in the best shape. It was really frustrating because I knew I could do it.”

Scott used that frustration to fuel an arduous training regimen last summer.

“I knew what I had to do to get better,” said Scott, who played in only three games and had one other at-bat besides his appearance in Harvard game.

“Ike Ballard is my trainer and Mike Halpern also helped. They helped get me in the best playing shape. I did weightlifting, cardio and stretching. They helped me with everything, including nutrition.”

That work paid dividends as Scott hit .255 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 29 games this spring, helping Bryant win the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season title.

Upon arriving on campus for his sophomore year, Scott could feel the difference.

“I was in much better shape; I knew I could end up starting some games if I played well,” said Scott. “I played well in the fall, the coaching staff helped me.”

Scott got the first start of his career against Liberty on in mid-March and made the most of it as he helped the Bulldogs to a 6-2 win.

“The start against Liberty was a good moment,” recalled Scott. “I had a lot of adrenaline; they are a top team. I hit a homer against them.”

Another big moment for Scott came in a 4-3 loss to Monmouth in early May.

“I also had a homer against Monmouth,” recalled Scott. “They didn’t recruit me and I was a New Jersey player so that meant a lot.”

Playing behind senior star Mike Delponte helped Scott learn the ropes of catching at the college level.

“That helped me a lot; it really made me want to play,” added Scott. “I learned a lot watching how he handled things.”

Scott handled his position well, ending up with a fielding percentage of 1.000, making no errors in 110 chances and throwing out six-of-14 runners attempting to steal.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” said Scott. “I like being a good defensive catcher and helping the pitchers.”

For Scott, being behind the plate when the Bulldogs clinched the NEC title with a sweep of Wagner in mid-May was the major highlight of his sophomore campaign.

“I think catching the final game when we won the conference title was a great memory,” said Scott, reflecting on a spring that saw Bryant go 33-21 overall and 24-8 in league play.

“Our team worked hard; we knew we could do it. There were a ton of fans there. It was great seeing that last groundout and being in the dog pile when we won.”

In Scott’s view, Bryant could be seeing some more celebrations in the near future.

“We have won the conference two of the last three years and hopefully we can win it again,” said Scott, noting that the program will be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament next year as it completes a transition to Division I from Division II.

“We have a ton of young talent and the head coach [Steve Owens] knows how to win. We are excited to keep working hard.”

It was exciting for Scott to see his hard work pay off this spring. “I always knew I could play,” said Scott. “It just came down to proving that and I did.”

As he looks ahead to the final two years of his college carer, Scott knows he can do even better.

“I want to focus on just having fun and enjoying my teammates and the games,” said Scott, who is honing his skills this summer by playing for the Mohawk DiamondDawgs in the Perfect Game Collegiate League in upstate New York.

“I want to be the best catcher in the conference which is something I can do. I want to help the team win as many games as possible and be up there with the top teams in New England. We can definitely compete with those teams.”

And after the progress he made as a sophomore, there is no question that Scott can compete at the D-I level.

INSIDE STUFF: Ivy Inn’s Mark Aziz goes up for a lay-up earlier this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Aziz scored a game-high 17 points to help Ivy Inn top SMB 49-37. In other games on Monday, the Clinton Kings edged Team TB 48-46 while University Radiology defeated Princeton Youth Sports 54-46 and the PA Blue Devils beat the Ballstars 64-42. Regular season play wraps up on July 18 with the playoffs beginning on July 23 at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although Jesse Krasna is playing in just his second season with the PA Blue Devils in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, he has some deep bonds with his teammates.

“We have all been playing with each other since basically in the fourth grade,” said Krasna, a former Pennsbury High standout who is a rising junior guard for the Ursinus College (Pa.) men’s hoops team.

“John Ryan Wolff, Mike Fee, the Sibol boys [Zach and John] and me have all been playing together for a long time.”

The team’s chemistry was on display last Monday night as the Blue Devils overcame a shaky start against the Ballstars to pull away for a 68-42 win.

“We came out a little sloppy but the Ballstars really shot the ball well and moved the ball and played together so you have to give credit to them,” said Krasna, who had a team-high 17 points as the Blue Devils improved to 6-3 while former Princeton High star Matt Hoffman tallied 22 points for the Ballstars to lead all scorers.

“We got things going. I think we are at our best when we are running because we have a bunch of ballhandlers and everyone is really unselfish. It is the most fun when you can get out and run and play together.”

Krasna has a lot of fun sparking the team’s running game from the backcourt.

“John Ryan and I are both point guards,” said Krasna. “Sometimes he brings it up and runs the offense or I will bring the ball up and trigger it. It is really nice having both of us being able to do that because we are interchangeable.”

After producing a superb debut season last summer for the Blue Devils that saw him get named as league Newcomer of the Year, Krasna is thrilled to be competing again on the Community Park courts this summer.

“I love it; there is nothing like it,” asserted a smiling Krasna. “I can definitely see all of us sticking around and playing. Some of these guys are in their 40s or even in their 50s.”

Playing in the summer league also helps Krasna sharpen up for the college season.

“It gets us in great shape,” added the 6’0, 164-pound Krasna, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a game as in his sophomore campaign and is joined by Ursinus teammate Kevin Janowski on the Blue Devils. “There are a ton of great teams in this league and it is right in our backyard.”

In Krasna’s view, the Blue Devils have what it takes to be in the mix for a championship in the league’s upcoming playoffs.

“If we come to play every night and play defense and our shots are falling we could make a run at it,” said Krasna.

“We got to the semis last year and we want to build on that. The top five teams are all very, very solid and anyone can beat anyone on a given night so that is why it is really important that you don’t take anyone lightly. It is good not going into the playoffs undefeated because you go in levelheaded and you know you have to bring it every night.”

July 12, 2012

YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE: Scott Bechler bounces up the court in a game this past winter for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, rising senior guard Bechler scored a team-high 14 points for Princeton Youth Sports but it wasn’t enough as the squad fell 53-45 to Team TB in Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League action.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Anthony Brown enjoyed a fine career with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

But when Brown took the court for Team TB last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League against Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS hoops entry in the league, he wasn’t feeling any love for his alma mater.

“We knew they were no pushover,” said Brown a 2006 PHS alum. “I was not going to let these little guys steal one from us; I would never hear the end of it.”

For a while, it looked like PYS would steal one as it trailed only 24-23 at halftime and forged ahead 36-35 seven minutes into the second half.

But utilizing its savvy and maturity, Team TB outscored PYS 18-9 over the rest of the contest to pull away to a 53-45 victory.

In other action Monday night at the Community Park courts, Ivy Inn topped the Clinton Kings 40-33 while Dr. Palmer upset previously undefeated Winberie’s/Miller Lite 57-55.

In reflecting on Team TB’s win, which lifted it to 3-4, Brown asserted that a show of character made the difference.

“We stepped it up on the defensive end,” said Brown. “I know our guys were tired but we stuck it out and dug deep.”

Brown helped Team TB on the offensive end, scoring 11 points with Daniel Waynic tallying a game-high 17.

“They know I am a shooter,” said Brown. “I tried to give them a pump fake and got to the basket.”

Team TB was pumped up to get back into the win column after a tough 50-43 loss to league frontrunner Winberie’s/Miller Lite last Friday.

“We had a tough loss against the No. 1 seed,” said Brown. “This is a win we definitely needed so we took advantage of it.”

In Brown’s view, Team TB has what it takes to come up with some more wins.

“We know we can compete with the best of them; we just have to get over the hump and beat some of the top teams,” asserted Brown.

Utilizing its talent and some key intangibles, Team TB figures to be a tough out in the playoffs.

“I think we will be very dangerous come playoff time; I don’t think anyone wants to see us,” said Brown, noting that the team draws additional strength from being named after Tim Best, a popular local figure who passed away in 2010. “We have the crowd behind us; this is the neighborhood team.”

July 3, 2012

GREEN WAVE: Mike Olentine heads upfield during his stellar career with the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team. Olentine just completed his sophomore season with the Dartmouth College men’s lax team and is emerging as a key player for the Big Green. This spring, he tallied 16 points on 10 goals and six assists, helping Dartmouth produce a late surge that saw it win three of its last four games. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

During his record-setting career with the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team, Mike Olentine was a crowd pleaser.

The elusive, skilled attacker Olentine scored a program-record 140 points in his senior season at PHS in 2010 on the way to joining the Dartmouth College men’s lax program.

Coming home this April as Dartmouth played Princeton at Class of 1952 Stadium, Olentine put on a show for the fans, tallying two goals including the first score of the contest.

“I was fired up; growing up I had watched Princeton a lot in that stadium,” said Olentine, reflecting on his homecoming.

“There was a huge crowd there to support me; I was really surprised. Scoring that first goal was great.”

While things didn’t go great for Dartmouth as it fell 21-6 to the Tigers, the Big Green did enjoy a late surge, winning three of their last four games.

“I think that is something we can build on,” said the 5’11, 160-pound Olentine, who tallied 16 points this spring on 10 goals and six assists as the Big Green finished at 5-9 overall and 1-5 in Ivy League play.

“We got eliminated from the Ivy League tournament and we weren’t going to get an at-large bid. We looked at the last four games as the first four games of the next season. We wanted to win all four and we won three. It was a good way to end the season.”

Upon arriving at Dartmouth in 2010, Olentine saw that he had a ways to go to be a contributor.

“When I got there in the fall, one thing that was clear is how good everyone was,” said Olentine.

“There were no weak links. Every drill was at 100 percent speed like a game. All three coaches are high energy guys, I really liked that.”

Thriving in that environment, Olentine made the traveling squad that spring and didn’t waste any time making an impact.

“My first goal was against Mercer in the third game,” recalled Olentine. “I had taken a lot of shots but nothing had fallen. That was great.”

Olentine, though, did have to change his game a bit as he was shifted to a new position.

“They moved me to offensive midfield; I hadn’t played there since middle school but I was only going to play on offense,” said Olentine, who ended up with four goals and an assist in his freshman season.

“I played middle for a while and then in the second-to-last game, I got in against Penn on attack and scored two goals.”

Over the summer and fall, Olentine worked hard to hone his scoring skills.

“I tried to play as much as I could; I played in tournaments in Vail and at the shore,” added Olentine.

“I worked on conditioning, running as much as I could, and lifting weights. The fall is a good time to work on your game; the juniors are usually on semester abroad and there is more individual coaching. We have practices by positions.”

When this spring rolled around, Olentine was ready to solidify his position on the team.

“I had a really good opportunity; Kip Dooley went down eight minutes into first game and I got in and scored two goals in a blizzard against Colgate,” said Olentine.

“We won the game; that was a great day. After Kip came back, I was getting into the rotation late in games. I came in against Yale and Cornell to give a spark.”

Currently, Olentine is in Hanover, looking to take advantage of academic and athletic opportunities.

“I will be spending sophomore summer at Dartmouth,” said Olentine, referring to the school’s mandatory program which will see him taking two courses in the term.

“I will be doing conditioning workouts with the team and we will be doing lacrosse stuff on our own.”

For Olentine, going to summer school is no problem as he has relished his Dartmouth experience.

“I really have enjoyed every minute of it and getting really close to my teammates,” said Olentine.

“The academics are challenging but older teammates can help you work through that.”

As Olentine looks ahead to his junior season, he is determined to be there when it counts for his teammates.

“I want to be a more complete player and become a go-to player for our offense,” said Olentine.

“I am working on accuracy and having shots on the cage and shooting well with both hands.”

CLUB LEADER: Haley Carstensen fires the ball in action this spring in her senior season for the Dartmouth College women’s water polo club team. Carstensen, a Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville School standout, ended her career on a high note. Serving as the team captain, Carstensen scored 56 goals in helping Dartmouth take seventh at the National Collegiate Club Championships. She was named as the 2012 New England Division MVP, a second-team All-American, and a second-team All-National Collegiate Club Championship performer. (Photo Courtesy of Collegiate Water Polo Association)

Coming out of the Lawrenceville School in 2008, Princeton resident Haley Carstensen had the chance to play water polo for some college varsity programs.

But when Carstensen got accepted to Dartmouth College, it was a no-brainer for her to head there even though the school only had a women’s club program in water polo.

After arriving in Hanover, Carstensen joined that club and quickly realized that her passion for water polo would be more than satisfied.

“We had two practices a week before the season started,” said Carstensen.

“In season, we practice five nights a week with two or three morning workouts. A 100 percent attendance rate is expected. You are a student first but you can’t skip practice to study for an exam.”

Having starred for the Big Red in high school and also having played in the Junior Olympics, Carstensen fit right in with the Dartmouth squad.

“I felt I was able to make more of a contribution than I would have if I had been on a varsity team at another school,” said Carstensen, who earned All-New England Division second team honors as a freshman.

“There were a lot of talented girls. I learned a lot from them, especially in terms of conditioning.”

Applying those lessons, Carstensen emerged as a mainstay for the Big Green over her career, getting named as an All-New England performer all four years and serving as team captain this past spring in her senior season.

Carstensen saved her best for last, scoring 56 goals this season, getting named as the 2012 New England Division MVP, a second-team All-American, and a second-team All-National Collegiate Club Championship performer as she helped Dartmouth finish seventh in the national club tournament.

For Carstensen, serving as captain may have been the most meaningful accolade of her Dartmouth water polo experience.

“It was such an honor; I loved every single girl on the team,” said Carstensen. “Nobody was difficult; no team-building was necessary.”

The position brought plenty of responsibility in the student-led organization.

“You handle budget, finances, and making travel arrangements,” said Carstensen, who also displayed her leadership skills at Dartmouth by serving as a student director of the Upper Valley Special Olympics.

“We didn’t have a coach until after the first tournament so I had to run captain’s practices.”

The Big Green culminated their season by coming up big in its final tournament of the year, the National Collegiate Club Championships.

Eleventh-seeded Dartmouth upset sixth-seeded Notre Dame 11-8 in the first round to get off to a good start in the competition. In the quarterfinals, the Big Green fell 7-4 to No. 2 Michigan. Dartmouth ended the tourney by topping Lindenwood University (Mo.) 5-4 to take seventh place in the event.

For Carstensen, the win over Notre Dame ranks as one of the sweetest triumphs in her college career.

“We had played Notre Dame at Foothill College in California and they had beaten us 14-2,” said Carstensen, who scored four goals in the upset victory.

“We had some girls just coming back from junior semester. We thought the  best thing we had going for us was that they thought we were going to crush us. We thought if we could get the lead and then shoot, we had a chance and that’s what we did.”

Against Michigan, Dartmouth had its chances to pull off another upset. “In the Michigan game, we were ahead 3-2 at half but then we lost our utility player who got kicked out,” said Carstensen. “She is one of our best players; she never makes a mistake. It was tough; it was still a really good game.”

Carstensen and her teammates had to tough it out to edge Lindenwood for seventh.

“It was one of the most physical games; they were doing a lot of dirty stuff,” said Carstensen, who tallied two goals in the finale. “Our coach said we aren’t going to do that, we are going to win our own way.”

In reflecting on her water polo experience, Carstensen believes she learned some important stuff that will serve her well after college.

“Playing sports, no matter whether you are a pro or playing soccer at Community Park on Saturdays, is about being able to work with people whose personality isn’t like yours,” said Carstensen, who recently started working as an analyst for Barclays Capital in New York City.

“You come together as a group. You have to think on your feet because don’t know what the other team is going to do.”

SHORTER ROUTE: Eric Shorter, right, goes after the ball against D’Andre Davis of Florence last Thursday in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game at The College of New Jersey. The recently graduated Princeton High star made one catch for six yards for the West squad as it topped the East 16-6 to snap a four-game losing streak in the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eric Shorter only made one catch for six yards but he was all smiles after the 16th Annual Sunshine Football Classic all-star game last Thursday evening.

For recently graduated Princeton High star receiver Shorter, helping the West squad to 16-6 victory was his main focus.

“It was great; the West side hasn’t won in five years so I feel like it is a little start for them next year,” said Shorter, who celebrated the win afterward with family and friends on a corner of the field at The College of New Jersey.

“The quarterbacks wanted to spread the ball out as much as possible which is fine. As long as we got the win, that was good for me.”

As the team went through practice over the last week, Shorter could sense that the players were coming together.

“There was a lot of friendship going around,” said Shorter, who made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall for PHS and is headed to Monmouth University where he will be joining the football program.

“There was a lot of picking each other up. Even though we don’t know each other that much, it was kind of a bonding session.”

Shorter got to deepen his bonds with PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko, who also played on the West squad.

“That was special; we are going our separate ways after high school so it was good to play with each other,” said Shorter of the Penn-bound Barsamian and the Hamilton College-bound Mitko.

Barsamian. for his part, was glad to take the field one more time with Shorter and Mitko.

“That was a lot of fun; I didn’t expect to ever play with them again,” said Barsamian.

“It was a nice surprise when I found out I would be playing in this game and be able to play with them again,”

Barsamian liked playing with West quarterback Ray Mastroianni of Bridgewater-Raritan, who rushed for 70 yards and passed for 88 in getting named the game’s Most Valuable Player on an evening which saw the West build a 16-0 lead and outgain the East 383 yards to 162.

“He was a playmaker,” said Barsamian of Mastroianni. “I was trying to hold the blocks as long as I could and he was just zipping by all the way down the field.”

Like Shorter, Barsamian could sense that the West team was hungry coming into the contest, having not won since a 14-6 triumph in the 2007 game.

“The coaches were bringing up that the West hasn’t won in five years so I think that was on everyone’s mind,” said Barsamian.

“Everyone stepped it up, trying to get that ‘W.’ Coach Smith [WW/P-S head coach Todd Smith] is a funny guy. He really brought the team together. He had a lot of fun with us the past week.”

As Shorter heads to Monmouth in early August to start his college career, he is looking forward to a fun experience.

“The coaching staff was very nice; I met Miles Austin [former Monmouth standout and current Dallas Cowboys starting receiver] which was a big thing,” said Shorter. “I am going to be a wide receiver; they would like me to start freshman year.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, right, heads up the court last Wednesday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League play at Community Park. Edwards scored a game-high 16 points to help Winberie’s top University Radiology 58-46. It was a sweet win for Winberie’s as the squad improved to 5-0 this season and got a measure of revenge against a University Radiology team that edged it in the league’s 2011 championship series.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

It looked like the Princeton Little League 10-year-old all stars may have been in over their heads last week when they started play in the District 12 tournament.

Princeton started the double-elimination tourney by losing 7-0 to Sunnybrae on June 23 and trailed West Windsor 3-0 midway through an elimination game a day later.

But the Princeton players kept their heads and rallied for a 5-4 victory to stay alive in the competition.

Building on that success, Princeton topped HTRBA 12-1 and Lawrence 14-12 to make it the final six of the competition. Princeton’s run ended on Saturday when it fell 10-2 to Robbinsville in a game that was scoreless through four innings.

In reflecting on his team’s superb District 12 performance, manager Jon Durbin saw the rally against West Windsor as pivotal.

“I think the big turning point and why this turned into a good run was last Sunday when we played West Windsor, which is one of the powerhouses in District 12  baseball,” said Durbin.

“We were down 3-0 going into the bottom of third and we came out and scored three runs in the  bottom of the third including this acrobatic steal of home and that kind of ignited our whole team and turned everything around. We got off to a slow start against Sunnybrae and then we had five runs against West Windsor. Then we came back with 12 against HTRBA on Monday and then 14 on Wednesday against Lawrence.”

In addition to batting prowess, Princeton showed some guts. “Last year when this team would get behind, their heads would go down and they didn’t show a lot of resiliency,” said Durbin.

“One of the things I liked in this tournament is that we were down 3-0 to West Windsor and came back to knock them out. We were up 5-0 against Lawrence and let them go up 8-5. In the very next inning, we came out and scored nine runs to go up 14-8. You have to have that kind of resiliency if you really want to be a championship team in the long haul.”

The team’s fighting spirit was the product, in part, of an increased commitment to the game.

“The other big thing that happened this past year is that a lot of the families put their kids into 1-on-1 pro coach training,” added Durbin. “To be honest, that just elevated our players dramatically.”

That training paid dividends this summer. “I think the top part of our lineup, Nick Trenholm, Jackson Rho, Nick Mindish, my son Teddy, and Ben Kioko, all stepped up,” said Durbin.

“If you look at those stats, I think those five guys had 80 percent of our hits through last night’s game. Last year, even those guys were really struggling against good pitching like this. They are bigger and stronger one year later but it is the individual pro coach training that they all did in the past 12 months that just made a huge difference.”

In his post-game address to the players last Saturday as they sat in left field, Durbin emphasized their strong play.

“I think the big message was that this was a huge run for us,” said Durbin, noting that his squad battled Robbinsville to a 0-0 standstill through four innings and that a couple of bad breaks changed the tone of the contest.

“Until about three years ago, Princeton Little League was a doormat. We made it to the Final 6 so this is a great run. You can’t focus on the fact that we lost the last game. You’ve got to think about how well we did in the whole tournament. We can’t sit here and hold our heads down again; I think that is part of the resiliency message.”

The players are not going to sit pat when it comes to sharpening their game.

“We are going to keep working hard at it,” said Durbin. “Now we are enjoying some success. Whereas last year was rough, we have made that jump.”

—Bill Alden


Chris Edwards and the Winberie’s/Miller Lite team ended their 2011 campaign in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League on a sour note.

After going undefeated in the regular season and two rounds of the playoffs to make it 11 straight wins, Winberie’s reached the best-of-three championship series where the club fell 2-1 to upstart University Radiology.

Edwards and his teammates had the 36-34 loss in the series finale on their minds when the teams met last Wednesday on the Community Park courts in a regular season rematch.

“It was a big game tonight; we were trying to get some revenge,” said Edwards, reflecting on the matchup which saw Winberie’s come into the evening at 4-0, the only undefeated team and in the league, with University Radiology at 3-1.

“But it is only a regular season game so we are trying to get the kinks worked out. We want to get ready for the final run of the regular season and get hot going into the playoffs.”

Edwards helped Winberie’s get off to a hot start Wednesday night, scoring 10 points in the first half as the team built a 29-22 lead at intermission.

“We knew they didn’t have an inside threat,” said Edwards, a power forward who dominated things around the basket. “Plus we have a lot of big bodies so we have got to start using that to our advantage and try to get the chemistry right now.”

In the second half, Winberie’s showed its chemistry and toughness as it dealt with a University Radiology rally which saw the lead get cut to 46-41 with just under five minutes remaining in the second half. Winberie’s outscored its foes 12-5 down the stretch to pull away to a sweet 58-46 win.

In Edwards’ view, the victory and the team’s undefeated record so far this summer is the product of some hard-earned savvy.

“I would say that we are one of the older teams now,” said Edwards, who ended the evening with a game-high 16 points with fellow Winberie’s inside threat Evan Johnson chipping in 15.

“We have been around a while. We have the same core pieces; we are just trying to add those extra little pieces to get over the hump.”

A key piece for Winberie’s is sharpshooting guard Chris Hatchell, who rejoined the team last summer and then started the 2012 season with Ivy Inn before coming back to the fold.

“That was huge,” said Edwards, referring to Hatchell’s in-season return to the squad.

“That was a missing piece for us last year so we had to have him this season.”

Winberie’s is confident that it can end this season on a high note. “Moving the ball and sharing the ball is key; I would say this is the first time where we moved the ball like we were doing last year,” asserted Edwards.

“We know that we have a lot of threats; we need to be taking it inside and outside. No team in the league has enough guys to guard all the offensive threats we have. It is just getting into that flow.”

June 27, 2012

MIDDLE OF THE ACTION: Hannah Epstein, left, eludes two foes in action this spring in her senior season on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team. Epstein, a former basketball and lacrosse standout for the Princeton Day School, ended her Middlebury career with a bang as she helped the Panthers advance to the NCAA Division III Final 4.
(Photo Courtesy of Middlebury College Athletic Communications)

It was a message that Hannah Epstein and her teammates on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team saw everyday this spring.

“We sat at the captains’ house before the season and we all wrote down individual and team goals,” recalled Epstein, a former Princeton Day School basketball and lacrosse standout.

“We all had NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) and NCAA champions on our lists. We all really wanted that. We had a piece of paper up in our locker room with the goals.”

While Middlebury just missed achieving those goals, taking second in the NESCAC tourney and falling in the NCAA Division III semis, Epstein won’t soon forget her senior campaign.

“It was heartbreaking to lose in the Final 4,” said Epstein. “But our coach said it is not so sad that we didn’t win a national championship, it is sad that it was over and we wouldn’t have another day together. It was such an incredible group. The chemistry this year was unbelievable; we were truly best friends on and off the field. I really enjoyed going to practice. We were all on the same page, there were no cliques whatsoever.”

For Epstein, her experience this spring culminated a lacrosse journey that would have seemed unlikely when she entered PDS seeing basketball as her main sport. The sharpshooting Epstein was a four-year starter at guard for the Panther girls’ hoops program but eventually got the message that her sporting future lay in lacrosse.

“My mom was recording one of my basketball games to send to a coach and Jill Thomas (PDS lacrosse coach) said what are you doing,” recalled Epstein.

“My mom said she was making a tape for college coaches and Jill said she’s not playing basketball in college, she is playing lacrosse. That stuck with me.”

As a result, Epstein became more serious about her lacrosse. “I had been playing both basketball and lacrosse in the summer,” said Epstein. “In the summer after my junior year, I joined a club lacrosse team and played in summer tournaments.”

When it came to joining a college lax program, Epstein found a good fit in Middlebury.

“It was really a no-brainer,” said Epstein. “From the moment I drove on the campus at Middlebury, I found it aesthetically pleasing. I fell in love with the school. I met with the coach [Missy Foote] and she was fantastic. It is great academically and it is one of the top Division III programs.”

In reflecting on her freshman year, Epstein said she had to adjust to the Middlebury program’s rigorous fitness standards.

“It was the conditioning,” said Epstein. “We have a conditioning test in the fall. There is also one at the start of the spring season in February. We have other tests along the way. There is distance running. There is a timed two-mile run and a track component.”

After riding the bench as a back-up midfielder during her freshman campaign, Epstein’s college career got on track when she switched to defense the next spring.

“I was not playing a huge amount freshman year,” said Epstein. “I made a solid switch to defense in my sophomore year. It was a natural progression for me. I loved playing defense at this level. I could use my sprint speed and then take a break. I also could use the basketball footwork when you get low and slide. The big difference from high school is you have to make contact with the player and learn to do that effectively.”

In her junior season, Epstein and the Panthers started to develop the spirit that sparked their success this spring.

“We have outstanding players every year; we just became a more cohesive unit that year,” asserted Epstein reflecting on a 2011 campaign which saw Middlebury go 11-6 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Coming into this spring, there was a lot of optimism around the squad. “We had so much talent; we had big expectations coming into the season,” said Epstein.

“The two captains were also on the field hockey team and they went to the national championship game in the fall. They were saying we really could do it. It was very obvious from the first game that we had a special team.”

Epstein’s love of basketball, though, resulted in her missing some game action once the spring rolled around.

“I played intramural basketball all four years and I got a very bad high ankle sprain in the first week of January,” said Epstein.

“I was out for two months, I was doing rehab for the first half of the season. I stepped on the field for our second game of the season against Skidmore. I played 10 minutes to see how it felt but it wasn’t right. I didn’t come back until the Colby game.”

Epstein made up for lost time, starting nine games down the stretch and getting credit for 20 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. Her defensive work helped Middlebury defeat Tufts and Amherst in the NESCAC tournament before falling 11-10 to eventual national champion Trinity in the conference title game.

Rebounding from that loss, the Panthers went on a superb NCAA run which saw them top Norwich, Montclair State, and 2011 national champion Gettysburg on the way to the national semis.

For Epstein, the 15-9 triumph against Gettysburg in the regional final left an indelible memory.

“The win over Gettysburg was one of the greatest games,” said Epstein. “We were excited to play Gettysburg and it was a really good game. It was closer than the score indicated; they pulled their goalie near the end and we got some possessions and empty net goals.”

Earning the Final 4 spot marked the culmination of a long process for Epstein.

“It was so special,” said Epstein. “It sounds cheesy but it was a dream come true. This is what you have been working for since fourth grade when you watch the NCAAs and see teams win.”

Although the Panthers fell 15-7 to Salisbury University in the national semis, the sting of the defeat pales in comparison to the bonds shared by Epstein and her teammates this spring.

“There are some teams where the mindset is more aligned than others,” said Epstein. “It means that much more to have it happen as a senior.”

Being part of such a group effort left Epstein with lessons that she will carry into life after college.

“Sports teaches you to work for a goal greater than your own interest,” added Epstein, a film major who aspires to someday be a cinematographer.

“The coach worked us as hard as possible. I did workouts I never thought I could handle. It helps you in other areas of life like being able to stay up late and work on a paper.”

GOOD RUN: Alex Mitko takes off on a quarterback scramble in action for the Princeton High football team. On Thursday, the recently graduated Mitko will be playing for the West team for the Sunshine Classic All-Star football game at The College of New Jersey. This fall, Mitko will be heading to Hamilton College where he will be joining the school’s football program.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After enduring a 0-10 season in his junior year on the Princeton High football team in 2010, Alex Mitko was looking forward to the season opener at Northern Burlington last fall.

“We had a lot of players working in the offseason,” said quarterback/defensive back Mitko. “We wanted to get back on the field and try again.”

The Little Tigers came through with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington to snap an 11-game losing streak but Mitko’s joy over the win was tempered when x-rays showed that he had broken his thumb in the contest.

While it looked like Mitko might not see the field much in his senior season, he was fitted with a cast and was ready for action by game three.

“When I found out I could play with the cast, I went to the coach [Joe Gargione] and said play me wherever you want, I will play my heart out,” recalled Mitko. “He asked if I could hold the ball in my left hand. I tried it out and I could.”

Gargione inserted the 5’11, 165-pound Mitko at running back and he starred, grinding out yardage, highlighted by rushing for more than 90 yards in a 26-7 win over WW/P-N. “I went full speed,” said Mitko. “I didn’t have any jukes; it was fun.”

Mitko returned to quarterback in late October and helped engineer a 26-0 win over Ewing.

“We were looking at film and coach said that when you are scrambling out of the pocket, you are a running back and when you are passing, you are a quarterback, “ said Mitko.

The Little Tigers ended the fall at 3-7 and, in the process, left a positive legacy going forward.

“The football team really came back; there are more people coming out,” said Mitko.

“The players coming back know what they can do. The effort that people made paid off. We didn’t have any huge superstars. The guys saw that if we played hard on every play, we could be successful.”

Mitko’s role in that success helped him get selected to the West team for the 16th annual Sunshine Classic All-Star football game which will take place on June 28 at The College of New Jersey.

For the recently graduated Mitko, soaking up knowledge during his first two seasons with PHS helped put him on the path to the Sunshine game.

“Looking back, when I was freshman and a sophomore, I looked up to the older guys,” said Mitko, noting that he learned a lot from star quarterback Mike Olentine while serving as his backup in the fall of 2009.

“They taught me a lot of things. When I was a junior and a senior, I tried to resemble them, knowing that freshmen and sophomores were looking up to me.”

During PHS’s tough 2010 campaign, Mitko got to apply some important leadership lessons.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle after Tom Borchert got hurt and some other guys went down,” said Mitko, who also played on the PHS baseball team.

“Obstacles came our way; I tried to rally the kids. When the team is down in the third quarter you can’t give up. The team is looking to you to provide energy and spirit. It taught me a lesson about looking forward and not dwelling on the past.”

Mitko believes that his Sunshine Classic appearance will be a good learning experience as he prepares to start his college football career at Hamilton College this fall.

“I am really excited to be playing in it,” said Mitko, who will be joined on the West squad by PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko along with Princeton resident Phil Pecora, a star for the Pennington School.

“It means more to me than getting a trophy, being in a game against the best guys in the area. I have talked to kids who have played in it and they said it is the best competition you will have gone against. It is the closest thing to college, everyone is faster and quicker.”

In Mitko’s view, going through the ups and downs of the PHS program has helped prepare him well for college.

“I realize how much the program has given me and how it impacted what kind of person I have become,” said Mitko, noting that he will be playing defensive back in the game and for Hamilton. “I miss the atmosphere of going to practice everyday and working together.”

PHS is certainly going to miss Mitko’s leadership and playmaking ability.

FAMILY TRADITION: Lineman Jeff Barsamian, left, and older brother, Steve, an assistant coach, are all smiles after the Princeton High football team beat WW/P-N 26-7 last fall. The younger Barsamian will be playing in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game on Thursday at The College of New Jersey. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of another older brother, Trevor, who played in the 2010 Sunshine game.

Two summers ago, Jeff Barsamian enjoyed the action at the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game, sitting in the stands at The College of New Jersey as his older brother, Trevor, starred on the field.

This Thursday evening, Barsamian will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother as the recently graduated Princeton High standout plays for the West team in the 16th annual Sunshine game.

For Barsamian, being the second member of his family to play in the all-star contest means a lot.

“I am super excited; I remember when Trevor played in it two years ago,” said Barsamian, a center/defensive end.

“I was looking at the program and all the awesome players who have been in the game. It is an honor.”

Barsamian has taken a circuitous route to earn the all-star honor, having played two years at Lawrenceville before transferring to PHS in time for the 2010 season.

The transition went smoothly for Barsamian. “I felt like part of the team right away, the guys were welcoming,” said Barsamian, who had played mainly JV ball at Lawrenceville. “I only played two years at PHS but it felt like I was there all four.”

While Barsamian emerged as a valuable two-way performer on the line right away for the Little Tigers, he acknowledged that the 2010 season turned into a long year for the program with PHS struggling to a 0-10 record.

“The team was devastated at end of the year that we didn’t win a game,” said Barsamian.

“The junior class got together. We decided right there and then that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen again.”

Barsamian and the Little Tigers wasted little time getting back in the win column, starting the 2011 season with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington.

“That was an emotional game; everyone was ecstatic,” recalled Barsamian.

“All of us had been working ridiculously hard. The seniors were having meetings and discussing what we needed to do. We said let’s get that first win right now. We remembered what it was like to win and we wanted to win more.”

While PHS showed lots of progress last fall as it ended the season at 3-7, Barsamian thought the team could have won even more.

“We lost some tight games; we lost to Lawrence by an extra point and to Allentown by a field goal,” said Barsamian.

“I feel the season was a success but the 3-7 record didn’t represent how well we played.”

This fall, Barsamian will be looking to play well at the college level as he heads to the University of Pennsylvania where he will be competing for the school’s sprint football team.

Although there is a weight limit of 172 pounds in the sprint football league, Barsamian doesn’t think that should be a problem, especially since he has been used to dropping weight as a wrestling star for PHS.

“Right now, I am weighing about 183,” said Barsamian. “I am not really worried. I have been able to drop 10 pounds in a hurry for wrestling. I have to lift lighter weights. I can’t do the heavy lifting; that will put too much weight on.”

Playing in the Sunshine Game should give Barsamian a lift as he girds for college football.

“I am going to go after it and see how I match up against some of the better players in the area,” said Barsamian.

“It will be intense. I have  been playing against those guys for last two years and now they are on the same team.”

Barsamian is looking forward to playing with fellow PHS stars Alex Mitko and Eric Shorter in the game.

“That is awesome; they are both huge playmakers,” said Barsamian. “It is sad that I won’t get to play with the other guys again.”

But Barsamian is certainly not sad that he made the move to PHS. “I think it was the best decision I ever made,” asserted Barsamian.

“The PHS football team had a really great group of guys. We were like brothers; we had a lot of fun.”

And Barsamian should have plenty of fun Thursday as he follows in his brother’s footsteps.

It may have been early evening but the temperature was hovering in the 90s last Thursday as pitcher Jacob Eisenberg toed the rubber for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Hightstown Post 148.

The gritty lefthander, however, was undeterred by the oven-like feeling at Smoyer Park.

“It is pretty hot but you have to pitch to the conditions and both teams have to play in it,” said Eisenberg.

Although Eisenberg wasn’t at his sharpest, he didn’t wilt in the heat. “I had trouble finding the zone at the beginning,” said Eisenberg, who starred on the mound this spring in his senior season at Princeton Day School, earning All-Prep B honorable mention.

“I didn’t have my best stuff; sometimes you just have to battle through it. The defense played real well behind me.”

Working in and out of trouble, Eisenberg gave up four runs in four innings and left with an 8-4 lead. He also added a two-run single to help the cause.

“I didn’t get to hit this year at school; I have never hit in my life before,” said Eisenberg, who has been playing first base for Post 218 when he isn’t pitching.

“That was nice. I am just trying to help the team win. If they want me to go out and pitch, I go out and pitch. I love to play, whatever they need me to do.”

Things didn’t go so nicely for Post 218 in the top of the fifth as Hightstown rallied for four runs to knot the game at 8-8.

Showing character, Princeton rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by a triple from Marcus Henderson and an RBI single by Josh Harris. Post 218 gave up a run in the top of the sixth but hung in for a 10-9 win.

Eisenberg saw the win as a step forward for a Post 218 team that started the summer going 0-6.

“We have a lot of young guys; we have a lot of versatility,” said Eisenberg, who picked up the win on the mound last Monday as Princeton edged Broad Street Post 313 5-4 to earn its fourth victory in its last five games.

“We have to play smart baseball if we want to win. We are not going to hit three home runs a game. If we do everything right, we have a good team.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker liked the way his players righted themselves against Hightstown.

“They have learned to come back under adversity,” asserted Parker. “They didn’t get their heads down; they played solid. They came up in the bottom of the fifth and turned it around.”

Princeton is learning that it can depend on Eisenberg to carry the load on the mound.

“He is giving us real solid innings and the defense is coming together and playing well behind him,” said Parker. “He has been a bit of a workhorse.”

The squad has been getting some good work from such young players as Zach Tesone and Jon Hayden.

“Tesone has actually been one of our better hitters and stellar pitchers,” said Parker, noting that Matt Pilkewicz and Jay Barry did yeomen’s work at catcher against Hightstown filling in for Jess Russo and Colin Frawley.

“The other night he got a save that was a well pitched inning. He stayed focused; he stayed tight. Jon Hayden is a ballplayer; he also has real potential.”

Parker is relying on veterans Henderson and shortstop Beau Horan to help the younger guys reach their potential.

“I told Marcus and Beau at the beginning of the season that you guys have to lead by example, you have the most experience,” said Parker.

“Beau has done a stellar job for us at shortstop and Marcus is playing well in centerfield so we are strong up the middle. If they kick one, they don’t get down or hold on to it; where to the young guys, it is the end of the world. These guys pick them up so it has been a good thing.”

With Post 218 having picked up some wins over the last week, Parker is hoping the team can do some damage in July.

“If you get everybody here at the same time, these guys can do a tremendous job,” said Parker, whose team is slated to host West Windsor-Plainsboro on June 28, Hopewell Post 339 on June 29, and Allentown on July 1.

“That is what I told these guys; everybody is going to get an opportunity to play. These guys are doing a great job. They work very well together; they have a very good chemistry.”

Eisenberg, for his part, believes that Post 218 could do some very good things over the rest of the season.

“We have been hitting the ball a lot better in the last three games consistently up and down the order,” said Eisenberg.

“We don’t have a sure out in the order. We are definitely starting to roll; hopefully we can continue going forward.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Lior Levy looks for an opening this past winter in action for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, Levy scored a game-high 19 points to help previously winless Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) edge the PA Blue Devils 45-40 in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. PYS, which improved to 1-2 with the victory, got 13 points from Elliot Golden with Scott Bechler chipping in 9 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lior Levy and the Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team knew they faced a stern challenge when they took on the PA Blue Devils last Monday in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the league, has not done well historically against the Blue Devils, a team stocked with Division III college players.

“The past few years I have been in the league, this team has killed us,” said Levy, a rising PHS senior.

But PYS, who entered the night at 0-2, did bring some extra confidence into the seeming mismatch with the 3-1 Blue Devils.

“We just went to a team camp last week at DeSales University (Pa.) and we were able to play together a little bit more,” said Levy. “I think the chemistry was just there tonight.”

The weekend work paid dividends in the early going as PYS rebounded from an early 10-2 deficit to take a 22-21 lead at halftime.

The 6’7 Levy played a critical role in the rally, pouring in 12 points, hitting from the outside and using his size in the paint.

“I have been playing a lot of basketball the last few weeks at different camps and the summer league and stuff,” said Levy.

“I think I am finally getting the hang of it and making a few more shots here and there.”

Levy dazzled the crowd on hand at the Community Park courts as he drained two sweet hook shots in his first-half barrage.

“I have been working on that,” said Levy, referring to the shot which he has honed with the help of his dad, Howard Levy, a former Princeton University hoops standout and assistant coach and the current head coach of the Mercer County Community College men’s team.

“It is a shot I always look for. It is one of my best shots I think. Tonight it was on I guess.”

In the second half, PYS withstood several runs from the Blue Devils to pull off the 45-40 stunner.

“I thought that was the best part of the game,” said Levy, who got plenty of help in the win as Elliot Golden scored 13 points and Scott Bechler added 9.

“The fact that we were able to take some of their pressure and keep moving forward even though we were knocked down a few times. It was a very good win.”

Levy knocked down two key free throws in the last minute to help clinch the victory.

“I have missed a few of those in the past so it was nice to just conquer the pressure,:” asserted a grinning Levy.

Other teams who came through under pressure last Monday included Team TB, a 52-25 winner over the Ballstars, and Winberie’s, a 43-35 victor over Ivy Inn as it remained undefeated on the summer.

In Levy’s view, playing against the seasoned players in the men’s league can only help the PHS squad when the winter rolls around.

“A lot of these players are playing college basketball or have played college basketball so it is good to get the competition,” said Levy. “The competition here is a lot better than some of the teams we’ll see later.”

Levy knows that he has to muscle up if he is going to excel against better competition.

“I am going to try to get stronger,” said Levy. “I am a little weak right now so I am going to get in the weight room.”

On Monday, however, Levy showed that his game has plenty of strengths.

June 20, 2012

HIGH FIVE: Kelly Curtis shows off the plaque she earned for taking fifth place in the heptathlon last month at the NCAA Division III championships in wrapping up her track career for Springfield College (Massachusetts). Curtis, a former Princeton High track and hoops standout, earned All-American status as a result of her fifth place finish. Earlier this year, she placed seventh in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III indoor meet to make All-American in that event. (Photo Courtesy of Springfield College)

Kelly Curtis is well aware of her family’s special athletic legacy at Springfield College.

Her father, John was an All-American split end for the Massachusetts school in 1970 while her older brother, Jay, went on to be a Freedom Football Conference all-star for the Pride in 2002.

When the youngest Curtis decided to transfer to Springfield from Tulane in 2010 and join the school’s track program, she felt some pressure.

“It was tough,” said Curtis, a former Princeton High basketball and track standout who did a post-grad year at Lawrenceville and won prep titles and athletic awards for the Big Red.

“I always thought of it as my dad’s school and my brother’s school. My dad is in the Hall of Fame there and I have been to a lot of reunions.”

It didn’t take long for Curtis to add a special chapter to the family’s history at Springfield as she won the heptathlon at the storied Penn Relays last spring.

This year, Curtis made her case for a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame, earning All-American status in the pentathlon indoors and the heptathlon outdoors and defending her Penn Relays title with a second place finish.

While it would appear that Curtis had a smooth ride to success as a senior, there were some bumps along the way.

“My indoor season was a little rough; I had a shaky start,” said Curtis. “I didn’t get to train much over the summer. I had an internship in D.C. and went to Gallaudet two days a week for some strength and conditioning. I didn’t run cross country as a senior; I was not at the same conditioning level.”

But at the NCAA Division III indoor meet at Grinnell College in March, Curtis proved she could compete at the highest level, placing seventh in the pentathlon to earn All-American status.

“Once nationals came around, I did well,” said Curtis, who scored a season-high point total of 3,309 at the meet. “I was pleased to be seventh.”

About six weeks later, Curtis headed to Philadelphia to compete in the heptathlon at the Penn Relays to defend her title. While Curtis fell short of a repeat, she acquitted herself well, piling up 4,628 points to take second behind Ithaca’s Emma Dewart (5,006 points).

“I didn’t know who was going to be in the field until the night before,” said Curtis.

“Junior year, I was just thrilled to be there. Senior year was icing on the cake. It was being in such a big event as an athlete from a small school. It didn’t go as well as the year before. My focus was in the nationals so I was trying to peak for that.”

Upon arriving at Claremont College in California in late May for the NCAA Division III track and field championships, Curtis hit an unexpected hurdle.

“I was feeling good until the day of the competition; I woke up feeling sick as a dog,” recalled Curtis. “Instead of focusing on the competition, I was just fighting through each event.”

Curtis didn’t feel any better when she went to the track for the second day of the competition but soldiered on to take fifth place and earn All-American honors.

“It turned out that I had tonsillitis,” said Curtis. “My throat was very sore and it was hard to eat and refuel which is not too good when you are in an event that takes five hours. I didn’t have any energy. I have to be pleased with what I did under the circumstances.”

In reflecting on her transfer to Springfield, Curtis couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

“I loved the transition and how welcoming the school was,” said Curtis.

“It is more relaxed and more fun than being at a D-I school. The coaches really appreciate you. I hope I have made a little mark in track.”

The school made an indelible mark on Curtis. “They really emphasize the mind, body, and spirit,” said Curtis, an honors graduate who is starting a masters program in sports management at Georgetown this fall and aspires to someday become a college athletics director.

“Athletics is just one component of that. The track team won the Pride challenge which is more than athletics, it deals with community service and giving back.”

And like her father and brother before her, Curtis certainly gave a lot to Springfield.

WATER WORKS: Robin Linzmayer, second from left, pulls hard for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s lightweight 8 in action this spring. Earlier this month, Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School, helped the boat take eighth at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo Courtesy of MJRC)

Hockey has been Robin Linzmayer’s passion since grade school but getting hurt on the ice two winters ago helped her find another sporting love.

“I injured the meniscus in my knee in December of my freshman year,” said Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School who stars on the Panther girls’ ice hockey team and also plays for the Princeton Tiger Lilies travel hockey club.

“I played for six weeks and then got an MRI. I had to sit out and have surgery. The recovery time was three months. My dad rowed in college and he told me it would be good exercise. I talked to my doctor and since rowing was easier on the knee and low impact, he said I could try it.”

While Linzmayer is comfortable gliding up ice, she found hitting the water a bit unsettling as she took up rowing with the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) last spring.

“It was a little scary at first,” said Linzmayer. “Those boats rock more in the water than I thought.”

It wasn’t long before Linzmayer began rocking in her new sport. “The novice coach helped me out a lot,” said Linzmayer. “He put me in some boats with girls who had rowed before. It was really good.”

Earlier this month, Linzmayer showed how far she has come in her second sport, competing for the MJRC women’s lightweight 8 at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Linzmayer’s trip to Tennessee marked her second appearance in a national competition in three months as she had skated with the Tiger Lilies’ 19U team at the USA Hockey Tier II Nationals in Dallas this past March.

For Linzmayer, getting the opportunity to make the rowing nationals resulted from some eleventh-hour heroics from the lightweight 8.

“We were put together three or four days before the regionals,” said Linzmayer, who rowed from the boat’s five seat. “It worked immediately; we were second at the regionals.”

After earning its shot at the nationals, the boat worked hard to improve. “We rowed every morning from 5:30 to 6:45 and then came back to the boathouse after school for two hours,” said Linzmayer. “We were feeling light and fast.”

Coming into the national regatta, the boat was primed to go fast. “I think as a boat we wanted to see how we compared to some of the faster boats in the country,” said Linzmayer. “We wanted to pull as hard as we could; that is all you can do.”

While the boat fell just short of making ‘A’ final, it never stopped working hard, taking second in the ‘B’ final to place eight overall nationally.

“We pulled as hard as we could in the semis and ended fourth, five seconds behind,” said Linzmayer.

“In the final, we wanted to get off the line hard. We gave it our all. At the end, no one was disappointed. Our coach said how proud she was of us; I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”

Getting exposed to the high level of competition in Tennessee has given Linzmayer motivation to hone her rowing skills.

“I had such a great time rowing at the nationals,” said Linzmayer. “It was fun just watching some of the faster boats. It was so inspiring to row against those boats. You get to see how fast you are and what more you can do to be faster.”

Reflecting on her appearance at the hockey nationals, Linzmayer gained a similar inspiration.

“It is always fun to play against players from all over the country and see the different styles of hockey,” said Linzmayer, who helped the Tiger Lilies advance to the national quarterfinals. “You see room for improvement and what you need to do to get better.”

In Linzmayer’s view, taking up crew has made her a better hockey player.

“It has helped me much more than I expected,” asserted Linzmayer, who will be taking part in several hockey camps this summer.

“I never realized how intense rowing is. From a physical standpoint, the lifting and cardio stuff helped. Mentally, it was great. You learn to push yourself as hard as you can over that seven minutes of the race. That carries over into hockey. You go out for a two-minute shift and play as hard as you can. You learn to push through limits.”

STEPPING AHEAD: University Radiology’s DeQuan Holman drives to the hoop against SMB in action last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Former Princeton High star Holman scored 19 points as defending league champion. University Radiology hung on for a 51-47 win over SMB and improved to 2-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the University Radiology team was seeded second entering the playoffs last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, many thought the team wasn’t ready for a title run.

With a lineup featuring recently graduated Princeton High hoops s tars Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, University Radiology didn’t have the experience and maturity that has characterized past champions.

But growing up in a hurry, the squad advanced to the best-of-three title series and took down Winberie’s 2-1 to earn the crown.

As University Radiology begins its title defense this summer, star guard Holman recognizes that some see last year’s championship as a fluke.

“We feel a little pressure because people don’t think we should have won it,” said Holman. “They think it was a down year last year and all that type of stuff. We weren’t expected to win.”

Holman knows that there is a bull’s eye on the backs of University Radiology.

“We are looked at as a good team now and teams are pretty much gunning for us,” said Holman.

“We have a tough Ivy Inn opponent; Winberie’s is still pretty strong. The league is pretty good this year, there are no slouches this year.”

Last Friday, University Radiology got shot down as they fell 60-58 to a hungry PA Blue Devils team.

“We kind of beat ourselves in that one,” said Holman, reflecting on the loss to a Blue Devils team that features some Division III performers.

“We have other people who are joining the team and we have to get our team chemistry together. We are just trying to get our flow together.”

On Monday, University Radiology rebounded from the setback, edging SMB 51-47 to improve to 2-1 on the summer.

“At first, Skye and I were penetrating and we were passing well,” said Holman, who scored a game-high 19 points on the evening with Ettin chipping in 17.

“We were moving the ball a little bit and then we got stagnant in the second half. We were going one-on-one too much and that got us in a little trouble. We were able to get through it. We won the game. At the end of the day, that is what we wanted to do.”

Other winners in Monday night action included Dr. Palmer, who got 18 points from Charles Cooke, as it posted a 55-38 victory over the Clinton Kings and Ivy Inn, who topped Team TB 37-23 as Mark Aziz led the way with 14 points.

In Holman’s view, University Radiology has the pieces in place to successfully defend its title.

“We think we have what it takes, especially once we get everybody and get our chemistry together,” asserted Holman, who is attending Florida Atlantic University and is planning to try out for the FAU men’s hoops team this fall.

“When we play enough together, we’ll be fine. We are confident every time we step out there. It is just competition; it is fun.”

FINISHING KICK: Acasio Pinheiro edges Jeremy Taylor last Wednesday in one of the five heats of the second annual Princeton Community Mile held at the Princeton High track. Pinheiro clocked a time of 5:59.7 to take sixth in the heat with Taylor coming in at 6:00.7 to place seventh. The event, which was sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew more than 60 runners. Princeton resident Michael Fonder set an event record with a time of 4:27.2 in winning his heat. (Photo by Andrew Servis, Courtesy of Princeton Athletic Club)

The mile run is an event that has captivated athletes since the 1700s when it came into vogue as a distance for wagered running contests in England.

Roger Bannister’s 1954 feat of running the first sub-four minute mile ranks as one of the great moments in track history.

Last Wednesday evening, the allure of the mile was evident as more than 60 local runners turned up at the Princeton High track to take part in the second annual Princeton Community Mile.

The event, sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew participants ranging in age from 8-to-65 with runners grouped into five heats so the the athletes were matched with those in a similar pace range.

“The weather was great, 75 degrees and sunny, and we had a great turnout,” said Princeton Community Mile event director David Kimmel.

“There were people who participated for the second year in a row and also a lot of new faces. It was also great to see families sign up and run.”

Princeton resident Michael Fonder set a new Princeton Community Mile record with a time of 4:27.2 as he competed in the fifth and final heat. Chris Sallade finished second in 4:45.3 and Steven Sipprelle third in 4:47.8.

The race of the night took place in the third heat where Princeton resident Antonio Pinheiro clocked a time 5:35.4, closely followed by Jeremy Cohen in 5:36.7 and Richard O’Brien in 5:43.7.

The top finisher in the first heat was 12-year-old Princeton resident Gus Binnie in a time of 7:21, followed by Ethan Jones in 7:28.6 and Luke Wingreen in 7:36.1.

In the second heat, Lawrenceville resident Tim Christian finished first in 6:35.7, followed by Armand Meyer in 6:45.3 and Angela Pinheiro in 6:49.

Skillman resident Fraser Marlow won the fourth heat with a time of 5:22.4, with Jeff Knoll next in 5:25.3 and Chuck Hetzler third in 5:26.9.

Jen Found of Hopewell recorded the fastest female time of the evening in 5:36.8.

The Princeton Community Mile is the first of three running events being sponsored by the PAC this June. The PAC is a nonprofit running club that organizes group runs and sponsors several running events for the community each year. It is a member club of the USA Track and Field New Jersey and Road Runners Club of America.

Next up in the Wednesday evening series is a June 20 Cross County 5k and youth mile at Rosedale Park in Pennington and a June 27 All-Comers Track Event (3000 meters, 100 meters, 800 meters, 4×400 relay) at the PHS track.

For more information and to sign up online, log onto www.princetonac.org.

June 13, 2012

INNKEEPER: Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn heads up the court against the Ballstars last Monday night in opening night action of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Davison and Ivy Inn cruised to a 64-30 win as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last decade, the Ivy Inn team has established itself as a consistent championship contender in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The squad, formerly known as George’s Roasters, won four of six league titles between 2005-2010.

But last summer, the proud unit fell on hard times, going 3-6 and getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Team manager and star forward Bobby Davison acknowledged that 2011 was a nightmare.

“Last year was an unbelievably disappointing year with Scott [Findlay] being hurt and Mark [Aziz] playing overseas,” said Davison, a former hoops standout for Princeton High and The College of New Jersey. “We were pretty much just playing six guys every game. It was tough.”

Coming into last Monday’s season opener against the Ballstars, Ivy Inn boasted plenty of manpower. In addition to Davison, Aziz and stalwarts Shahid Abdul-Karim, Kyle Burke and Buddy Thomas, the team added Davon Black, Tommy Soulias, A.J. Rubin and longtime Winberie’s star Chris Hatchell.

“We have got our nucleus; it is great having Mark back from Egypt and Scott is coaching,” said Davison, a former assistant coach for the PHS boys’ hoops team who is working as a patrol officer for the East Windsor Police.

“I think he is going to get the bug around week three; his knee is healthy. We picked up Davon; that is huge, I coached him a couple of years. I coached Tommy in AAU; he is from Spotswood. We picked up A.J. and a big pick-up was the addition of Hatchell. He wanted to play with another team. It is nice playing with him and not playing against him like I did for so many years.”

The team came together quickly in the game against Ballstars, jumping out to 34-5 halftime lead on the way to a 64-30 win.

“I think it adds a real nice dynamic with our wisdom of basketball and knowledge and their intensity and athleticism,” said Davison, reflecting on the teams blend of experience and young legs. “You know what, they are hungry; they want to prove something.”

In other action Monday, Winberie’s edged SMB 44-41 in overtime as Evan Johnson scored 18 points for the victors while the PA Blue Devils topped the Clinton Kings 52-29 behind 15 points from Kevin Janowski.

For Ivy Inn, stifling defense paved the way to its rout of new league entry Ballstars.

“We talked about it on our pregame; it was first things first, let’s take our time on offense but we have got to get stops on defense,” recalled Davison.

“I think that has been the key for so many years in this league, we have always been able to stop guys. So we talked about going man-to-man right from the gate and just stop them and when we get the ball, let’s be patient and run our offense through Mark. It is the first game and we have to get everyone acclimated with one another.”

Based on the opening night effort, it looks like Ivy Inn could be poised for another good run this summer.

“It was very good,” said Davison, reflecting on a night in which Ivy Inn was led by 16 points from Soulias with Aziz adding 12 and Hatchell chipping in nine.

“The first thing that has helped us for so many years is we are a really unselfish team. We try to add something to the puzzle every year. No matter who we add with these young guys, the older guys are going to welcome them with open arms and instill a little bit of their knowledge and put them right on the team.”