May 1, 2013
IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Tyler Hack and Zack Kleiman to develop into a formidable doubles pair.

Thrown together just before last week’s Mercer County Tournament, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title.

The triumph helped PHS place fourth in the team standings as WW/P-S won the title for the third season in a row and the ninth time in the last 10 years.

Sophomore Hack had a feeling that he and junior Kleiman could do some special things together.

“We played one match together as a team before this tournament,” said Hack.

“We won that match and we have known each other for a few years. We have been good friends for a couple of years now and I thought we had good chemistry.”

The pair utilized that chemistry as they endured a tough three-set match in the final, topping Pratyush Trivedi and Felix Su of WW/P-N, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.

“It certainly had a lot of twists and turns,” said Hack, reflecting on the championship match.

“I was really worried in the second set. I knew that if we played the way we did during our first three matches here, I knew we could come out on top in the third.”

Kleiman, for his part, believed that the pair needed to bear down to prevail in the third.

“I think we lost focus in the second and we tried to have the mentality in the third that the first two sets never existed,” said Kleiman. “We tried to stay in each point and I think that showed in the last set.”

In assessing the third set, Hack attributed playing conservative tennis with making the difference.

“In the third, it was just stay consistent and play safe doubles, get our serves in and make our returns and not let them beat us down,” said Hack.

The PHS duo jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set and cruised from there.

“I think my hold in the third game was really crucial,” said Kleiman. “We just couldn’t let them back in. It was crucial to keep the consistency, the mentality, and focus.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believed that the pairing of Hack and Kleiman had a chance to be something special.

“I was really proud of the way second doubles played this whole tournament,” said Hibbert.

“They played their first match on the Friday before the tournament. I definitely knew they had potential. Tyler has the groundstrokes and he plays well at the net. Zach volleys well. I thought they could have a good shot. Obviously any time you win a flight, you are really pleased, especially when the team hasn’t played together.”

Noting that she has been forced to juggle her lineup all spring due to injury, Hibbert was pleased to see the Little Tigers take fourth at the highly competitive MCT. The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Eddy Zheng took fourth while Rishab Tanga placed third at third singles.

“To have three flights go into the second day was good,” said Hibbert. “The first doubles ended up getting fourth. There were a few things here or there we are still trying to settle. Rishab did a great job as well. He had a tough match this morning against Neeraj [Devulapalli of PDS]. Neeraj played first singles last year so that is definitely a tough match. I think Rishab did a great job of coming back in his third place match. He fought hard through that match.”

In Hibbert’s view, PHS can make things tough on its foes with its balance.

“Our strength is depth; we don’t necessarily have a nationally ranked player,” said Hibbert.

“We have seven solid guys that we rely on different days to come through for us and I think with our depth, we have to make sure that our doubles teams are solid.”

Hibbert believes her players will draw strength from their play at the MCT.

“Any time you get good competition, it can only help you for what we have coming up with North (WW/P-N), South (WW/P-S), and the states,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N on May 1 before playing at Hightstown on May 3 and Nottingham on May 6.

Kleiman, for his part, feels that his pairing with Hack can help the team be better.

“The lefty/righty combination is always helpful when you have the forehand on either wing,” said Kleiman, who is a righty while Hack plays lefthanded. “We want to stay together.”

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse players Adam Ainslie, left, and Matt Corrado celebrate after a goal in recent action. Last Friday, Ainslie and Corrado each scored two goals as PHS edged Christian Brothers Academy 10-9. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-2 with the victory, hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse players Adam Ainslie, left, and Matt Corrado celebrate after a goal in recent action. Last Friday, Ainslie and Corrado each scored two goals as PHS edged Christian Brothers Academy 10-9. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-2 with the victory, hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing back-up goalie for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team as a freshman in 2010, Adam Ainslie took a break from the sport.

The multi-talented Ainslie devoted his time to singing and performing in PHS musical productions.

This spring, Ainslie has returned to lacrosse and he is making some sweet music for the Little Tigers, emerging as a productive attackman.

Last Friday against visiting Christian Brothers Academy, Ainslie tallied two goals and two assists as PHS pulled out a thrilling 10-9 win over the Colts.

“We were really excited to have a challenge to play a good opponent,” said Ainslie, reflecting on the win which saw Patrick McCormick score the game-winning goal with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation. “I think our excitement showed. We stepped up and we were ready to play.”

While Ainslie is excited to be contributing for the Little Tigers, he acknowledges that his offensive production has been due, in large part, to the work of others.

“They make me look pretty; I give a lot of credit to the midfielders,” said Aislie.

“I kind of sit down on the right side there. I can catch and shoot and I can catch and pass so all of my points and goals this season are credited to the middies.”

After two years away from lacrosse, Ainslie decided he could couldn’t pass up his last chance to play for PHS.

“I missed the game; I have been playing since I was a little kid,” said Aislie. “I would be jealous watching the games and watching my friends play.”

Upon returning to the Little Tigers, Ainslie has quickly developed a comfort level at attack and with his teammates.

“I had actually only started playing goalie in seventh or eight grade; I had played all over the field since I was a little guy,” said Ainslie.

“The coaches and the whole team have been so great welcoming me back and being accommodating with me. They are the best group of guys. I have nothing but great words to say about this group of guys. I am so excited to be back and playing.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton is excited to have Ainslie back on the squad.

“We are so thrilled for him personally that he had a chance to finish up his high school career by playing a sport,” said Stanton.

“He has been really dedicated to the arts; it is such a huge commitment. The fact that he has been able to come back out and do this and have this to be part of his high school experience; I am happy for him individually and for our team.”

Stanton was thrilled to see his team pull out the win over CBA. “Our goal today was to experience winning a close game against a tough team,” said Stanton, whose team improved to 7-2 with the victory.

“Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. Our objective was met as far as we wanted to play in a close game against a tough team. It was a great opponent and a great result.”

In Stanton’s view, a balanced attack made the difference for PHS in the close contest.

“When our team is playing well offensively, all six guys are a threat,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece on Friday from Matt Purdy, Will Hare, and Matt Corrado in addition to Ainslie.

“It might just so happen that one or two of the guys get most of the goals and assists but they are doing the easy part. We got key goals from Matt Corrado. We got great plays from Will Hare and both Hallidays [Zach and Kevin] and then Pat McCormick scored the game winner.”

The Little Tigers were also sparked by some great work at the defensive end.

“We are improving; that was a big question mark coming into the season,” said Stanton, whose team hosts Notre Dame on May 2 and WW/P-N on May 3 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament.

“We are getting better each time out. I think Matt DiTosto did a fantastic job guarding really good players today. Jackson Andres was dominant, Jack Persico is improving a lot; he is improving at picking up ground balls and making great passes and clears. He had a couple today where I said I didn’t know he could make that pass. MacGregor [goalie Gabe MacGregor] gives us a great boost emotionally.”

Ainslie, for his part, believes the win over CBA is a big boost for the Little Tigers.

“This is absolutely a confidence builder; I think we are looking forward to the end of the season and playing more challenging teams like this,” said Ainslie, who is headed to Princeton University this fall.

“It is good to get this kind of experience where we score in the last few seconds to win. I think it is a great win for us. We had three games last week and three games this week. It is good to get something out of all that hard work. I think we are starting to play together. We have had a lot of parts come together this season. I think we are now just starting to mesh together and get it all clicking. It is exciting; this is fun lacrosse.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star ­Michael Zhao chases down a ball last Wednesday at the Mercer County Tournament. Eighth-grader Zhao placed second at first singles, helping PDS take second of 17 schools in the MCT team standings behind champion WW/P-S.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUTH IS SERVED: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis star ­Michael Zhao chases down a ball last Wednesday at the Mercer County Tournament. Eighth-grader Zhao placed second at first singles, helping PDS take second of 17 schools in the MCT team standings behind champion WW/P-S. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Michael Zhao’s play exemplified the highs and lows experienced by the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team last week at the Mercer County Tournament.

The precocious eighth grader turned heads as he advanced to the first singles final at the MCT, which was held at Mercer County Park.

With Neeraj Devulapalli also making the finals at third singles, the Panthers headed into the championship round tied with WW/P-S for first in the team standings.

But in the title match against senior star Kenny Zheng of Hopewell Valley, Zhao dropped the first set 6-1 and retired from the match due to cramps.

Devulapalli also lost, falling in two hard-fought sets to John Hu of WW/P-S, as the Panthers took second to the Pirates, the winner of three straight MCT titles and nine of the last 10.

In reflecting on his defeat, Zhao didn’t make any excuses. “It was a tough match,” said Zhao. “I cramped up a little bit but Kenny was playing really well. He deserves it.”

As Zhao took the court for the final match, he knew he couldn’t afford to fall behind.

“Towards the end of the second set of my first match, I felt it a little bit,” said Zhao, who defeated Michael Song of WW/P-S 6-4, 6-0 in the semis earlier on Wednesday. “It was my left quad. It wasn’t bad but I knew that it would cramp later on in the final.”

Zhao was proud to see the Panthers end up second in the team standings. “It was really great,” said Zhao.

“This year, our team is really strong and I really enjoy playing here and playing as a team. Last year, we got 11th. I think this year doing so well gives us confidence. We know that we can play with these top teams.”

For Zhao, playing with high school teammates as an eighth grader has turned out to be an enjoyable experience.

“It has been a little bit new but I have played with a lot of these kids in USTA tournaments outside of school so I am used to it,” said Zhao. “I see them all the time so we are good friends.”

Zhao recently earned a big tournament victory on the national scene when he won the doubles at the prestigious Easter Bowl competition in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

“That was really unexpected,” said Zhao, who teamed with Bryce Periera to win the title.

“I had never been past the quarterfinals at a super national. Actually my original doubles partner got injured and at the last minute we found a doubles player to play with. We started out a little bit slow but we clicked.”

In assessing his game, Zhao is focusing on being more powerful. “I would like to improve my serve and return a little bit; those are two really important shots,” said Zhao. “Also, I need to work on my overall fitness so I don’t cramp as often.”

PDS head coach Will Asch saw Zhao’s victory in the semis as an important step forward.

“I was really happy with Michel Zhao’s win over Michael Song,” said Asch.

“That was a great win against an older player. He is more experienced; Michael [Song] has been in three semis already here.”

Freshman David Zhang and junior Devulapalli gained some valuable experience at second and third singles, respectively.

“I think David Zhang lost because he doesn’t have the experience that the boy from South does,” said Asch of Zhang, who fell to Tom Weng of WW/P-S in the semis.

“I think that my player is going to be a much better player. He is not there yet. Neeraj had a tough battle. I was very impressed by the player from West-Windsor South. He is obviously a very good athlete, he moves very, very well.”

The PDS second doubles team of Josiah Meekins and Luka Graonic produced an impressive performance as they defeated the top-seeded WW/P-S pair of Pranay Nadella and Yuefang Zhu on the way to the semifinals.

“They had a great tournament; they knew they had nothing to lose in the first round,” said Asch.

“While they were playing I was trying to keep them from thinking about winning and losing because they got in a zone and they were able to stay in it. I had never seen them play like that before. Josiah is a very good competitor. He is a very good athlete; he is a very good player. Luka just had an unbelievable day against West Windsor South.”

Asch believes that the lessons gained from the MCT will help PDS as it goes for a title in the state Prep B tourney later this month.

“We know what we have to do in practice,” said Asch, whose team has matches at Solebury School (Pa.) on May 1, at WW/P-S on May 2, and at Pennington on May 3 as it tunes up for the preps which are slated for May 19 and 21.

“We have to help David and Neeraj get ready and make sure Michael gets better with the cramps. I am confident that we have a very good team. I have to see what the other teams look like. I thought we had an excellent chance to win today but we needed that win at second singles; that was a very tough loss. We were still in it but the loss at third kind of ended the day for us.”

Zhao, for his part, thinks the Panthers can end the spring on a high note.

“Hopefully we come out of that with a win,” said Zhao, referring to the Prep B tournament. “We have had a good season. We are going to play some good teams coming up like South (WW/P-S), and I hope we do well.”

TRIGGERING EVENT: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior star Hannah Levy looks for an opening in recent action. Last Wednesday, MIT-bound Levy scored six goals as PDS edged the Blair Academy 14-12. The Panthers, now 5-5, host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIGGERING EVENT: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior star Hannah Levy looks for an opening in recent action. Last Wednesday, MIT-bound Levy scored six goals as PDS edged the Blair Academy 14-12. The Panthers, now 5-5, host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hannah Levy was the top scorer for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team in 2012 as a junior but she wasn’t about to rest on her laurels coming into her senior campaign.

“I have been working on my shooting a lot this season because that was lacking going into it,” said Levy.

“I am just really going for placement and the power shot and not thinking about it too much and just letting it fly.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Blair Academy, Levy let it fly all afternoon, scoring six goals as PDS posted a 14-12 win over the Buccaneers.

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like the Panthers could be headed to a rout as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead with Levy scoring three goals.

“I think we started off strong,” said Levy. “We were running our offense really well. We were getting the ground balls; we were making the passes.”

Hitting a lull, Levy and PDS headed into halftime clinging to a 7-6 advantage. In the second half, the Panthers settled down and found a nice rhythm.

“I think we were really just looking to play our game,” said Levy. “We needed to get the ball; we needed to get more ground balls. We needed to run through the offense. I think we played our own tempo; we played under control. The draw was a huge key and we started capitalizing on that.”

In Levy’s view, the victory over Blair was a confidence builder. “We need some more of these,” said Levy with a grin. “I think we are playing pretty well going into the tournaments. That’s what really matters and we have momentum.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas saw the win over Blair as a good step forward. “It was a quality win, a tough win against a tough team,” said Thomas, who got three goals from Corinne Urisko in the win with Sarah Brennan adding two and the trio of Morgan Foster, Zeeza Cole, and Lucy Linville chipping in one apiece.

“We were pretty comparable coming in; we knew that. We had like opponents, like wins, like losses and close scores. They have that Council Dawson kid, we knew that. She can play.”

While Thomas acknowledged that it was an uneven performance by the Panthers, she was happy with the end result.

“We didn’t ever lose the lead,” said Thomas. “We had it and we kept going so kudos to them for that. They got that. Being sharper and being tougher made the difference. We had somebody who could get to the ball before anybody else and that was No. 5. Tess Gecha. She’s fast and you can’t beat speed.”

PDS is hard to beat when Levy is finding the back of the net. “We said to her at half, just go north and south,” said Thomas.

“Don’t set anything up; you found it, you can score 10. If it takes you to score 10 for us to win, that’s OK. Good for her, she has that signature move and they can’t stop it. She finds it down the side of the net.”

The combination of sophomore Kirsten Kuzmicz and junior Sarah Brennan helped stop the Buccaneers.

“Kuzmicz was face-guarding Dawson; she is one of our best face guarders and she has got that,” said Thomas.

“Brennan is a workhorse, they are both workhorses that do whatever they can do.”

In Thomas’s view, her team has the ability to do a lot this spring if it plays with heart.

“I always tell them potential is a terrible thing to waste, that is the bottom line,” said Thomas, whose team fell 16-13 to Kent Place last Monday in the first round of the state Prep A tournament and will host Peddie on May 1 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament as the sixth-seeded Panthers host No. 11 Hightstown on May 3.

“We can do all the drills and all that stuff that we want to do. This is a good team; when they are on they can play with anyone. I just think it is believing; I do think they have the energy. The need to have that hunger to feel that you can play with these other girls.”

Levy, for her part, is hungry to get the most out her last season at PDS.

“It is crazy; this season is quicker than all of the other ones,” said Levy, who is heading to MIT where she plans to play both lacrosse and soccer.

“It is really only a month long when we get back from Florida. We really have to make it count now because there is not much time.”

HOUSTON ROCKET: Hun School baseball player Shane Adams takes a cut in recent action. Last Thursday, post-graduate second baseman Adams, a native of Houston, Texas, smacked a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville. Hun, now 11-3, is seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest. The Raiders will also be playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 1 and hosting Peddie on May 6 in regular season contests.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOUSTON ROCKET: Hun School baseball player Shane Adams takes a cut in recent action. Last Thursday, post-graduate second baseman Adams, a native of Houston, Texas, smacked a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville. Hun, now 11-3, is seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest. The Raiders will also be playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 1 and hosting Peddie on May 6 in regular season contests. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After dropping a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.), Shane Adams and his teammates on the Hun School baseball team weren’t about to let losing become a habit.

“We had a good winning streak before the weekend so we are just looking to get back on the train,” said post-graduate second baseman Adams, reflecting on the team’s mood in the wake of the double setback on April 20.

Adams helped get the Raiders on the right track, collecting three hits in a 4-2 win over WW/P-S on April 23 and then smacking a triple and a single with two runs and two RBIs in a 6-3 victory over Lawrenceville last Thursday.

“That was a good way to come back out and get another W,” said Adams. “It was a close game so it was nice to grind it out and start winning again and then beating a MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) team today.”

Against Lawrenceville, the Raiders battled back after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning.

“We knew they were going to come out tougher in this game,” said Adams of Lawrenceville which fell 8-0 to Hun in the season opener on March 28.

“We just wanted to jump on the board, two runs in the first is the best way to do it. Devo [Devan Birch] getting on is always good and hitting him in is great. He always scores because he is so fast. We have a great one-two combo right there.”

The Houston, Texas native and Columbia-bound Adams has made a fast transition to life in New Jersey.

“I got All-State my senior year, which was kind of out of the blue,” explained Adams.

“I got picked up at Columbia. I didn’t know a PG existed and they said here is a good school. I came up here, great ballclub. That is just how it wound up. It has been like a first year moving away; you are not quite in college but it is still like that. It has been a weird transition but it has been smooth.

Hun head coach Bill McQuade is happy that Adams made his way to Hun from Texas.

“We knew he was a ballplayer as soon as we saw him in Florida,” said McQuade.

“He may be the fastest guy from home to first right-handed that I have ever had here. When he gets moving, he is something else.”

McQuade credited Adams with helping to get things moving for Hun in the win over Lawrenceville.

“Shane handles the bat so well; he can bunt and get on base,” said McQuade.

“He is smart. Today, you saw he has that sneaky power. He smacks a triple and smokes another one later in the game. He really understands the game.”

In McQuade’s view, coming through in the WW/P-S game was critical for his team’s psyche.

“The South game was so crucial,” said McQuade. “After you lose two heartbreakers, it can either lead to a slide or the true character comes out. They battled back from some adversity and heartbreak.”

The Raiders had to battle to overcome rival Lawrenceville. “This was a gutty game, Lawrenceville came out and fought,” said McQuade, whose team posted another gutty win as it topped Blair 7-5 last Saturday to improve to 11-3.

“They scored a run and we came back; that was critical. They are young so you know they are going to get better and they have gotten better. They were one hit to the fence away from tying the game so I give them a ton of credit. In turn, I give our team credit for continuing to fight.”

McQuade knows that his team faces a tough fight in Mercer County Tournament and Prep A tourney.

“It is going to be a struggle because the teams we are playing are all good,” said McQuade, whose squad is seeded third in the MCT and is slated to host No. 14 Nottingham on May 4 in an opening round contest.

“There are some good teams that we are playing. You really don’t want to play a bad team because you don’t want to lose your edge. No matter whom you face, when you are in the first round you are facing the other guy’s ace. Everybody has somebody who can throw the ball hard. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody.”

Adams, for his part, feels that Hun will be hard to beat at tournament time.

“We have got a bunch of great guys,” said Adams. “Every loss is a killer and we don’t want to let that happen again. Now that we have some bats going it is going to look good the next few games.”

April 24, 2013

sports6In the early stages of its game at Steinert last Wednesday, the Princeton High baseball team had its chances to seize momentum.

PHS started the game with a single by Ellis Bloom but didn’t push him across. In the bottom of the first, PHS pitcher Andrew Frain retired the Spartans 1-2-3.

After Steinert scored three runs in the bottom of the second, the Little Tigers got two runners in the top of the third as Colin Frawley and Bloom delivered singles.

PHS didn’t convert and things went downhill from there as the Little Tigers lost 12-0.

Afterward PHS head coach Dave Roberts acknowledged that an ill-timed miscue helped turn the tide of the contest.

“We held our own,” said Roberts. “We started the second inning with an error. It kills you; you can’t do that against those guys. You can’t give them outs.”

While the Steinert game turned out to be one-sided, PHS has given most of its foes tight battles.

“They haven’t to be able to clear the hurdle,” said Roberts of his team who fell to 1-9 with a 9-0 loss to WW/P-S last Monday. 

“All I can do is put who I think the best nine to 10 guys out there and they have to be able to perform. I can call steals, hit-and-runs; they have to be able to execute.”

The Little Tigers have been getting some good execution from its mound corps.

“The pitching has been fantastic, I can’t say enough about the pitching,” said Roberts.

“From Rohit Chawla to Ben Gross to Ellis coming in every now and then, it has been fantastic.”

A lack of clutch hitting has been an ongoing issue for the Little Tigers. “Our weakest thing is hitting with runners in scoring position and leaving people on base,” said Roberts. “The hits are not getting strung together.”

Senior star third baseman Bloom has been a standout for the Little Tigers. “Ellis has been on a hot streak here the last couple of days,” said Roberts, noting that Ben Gross and Zach Tesone have also given PHS some hitting punch.

“We started 1-6 and he had seven stolen bases. He is on track to probably get to 20, which is a heck of a job. The problem is that he doesn’t have enough runs to back that up, which is the job of everybody else behind him.”

Roberts believes that the Little Tigers have what it takes to get on a good run.

“I hope they are keeping their heads up,” said Roberts, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26 and at Nottingham on April 29. “There are still a million winnable games on the schedule.”  

 

#13 slides safely into 2ndHannah Gutierrez is willing to do whatever she can to help the Princeton High softball team succeed.

The senior star has moved up to the leadoff position in the batting order and has switched to shortstop from third base on defense.

For Gutierrez, assuming different roles has been challenging but rewarding. “It is tricky going up first and having to hit off the pitcher without seeing other players do it,” said Gutierrez.

“I like it. You get up more, which is really good. I have been playing third since my sophomore year and I just recently switched to short. It is a lot more thinking and having to know what to do on different plays. I definitely like it; it is more work. I like getting the ball more.”

Last Thursday against visiting Princeton Day School, Gutierrez got the ball rolling as she hit a leadoff double for the Little Tigers.

“It felt really good,” said Gutierrez. “I wasn’t sure about the pitching. I am glad I hit that.”

Gutierrez’s hit helped ignite an offensive outburst as the Little Tigers proceeded to beat PDS 16-1.

Having suffered defeats to Robbinsville and Steinert coming into the game, Gutierrez and her teammates enjoyed the lopsided win over the Panthers.

“We still came out playing our hardest,” said Gutierrez, who went 1-for-3 with two runs and a walk in the win. “We wanted to get them out early; I think we did a good job of that. This game was definitely needed.”

Gutierrez believes PHS has a good shot at winning 10 games in a season for the first time in program history.

“We have had a good start; we still have a lot more games to play in the season,” said Gutierrez.

“I definitely think we have a lot of time to win more games and just get better as a team. We have played some of the best teams in the CVC so far.”

PHS head coach Dave Boehm likes the way Gutierrez has played as she has taken on new responsibilities for the Little Tigers.

“Hannah has better range than anyone we have and she has a stronger arm,” said Boehm.

“Putting her at leadoff was one of those things, she has good speed, she is probably one of our best bunters so when she lays one down early she gets on and we have Marisa [Gonzalez] and Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], who has been hitting the ball pretty solid too, to bring her in.” 

Senior star and Wisconsin-bound Gonzalez, the program’s all-time hit leader, has been a constant for the team.

“It is one of those things where you sit there and say that is my dependable one,” said Boehm who got two RBIs from Gonzalez in the win over PDS with Helen Eisenach and Stephanie Wu chipping in four RBIs apiece.

Sophomore Sarah Eisenach is emerging as a dependable pitcher for the Little Tigers.

“Sarah has been consistent, she is not walking as many batters,” said Boehm of Eisenach, who struck out eight and gave up four hits in the victory over the Panthers.

“She is around the plate. She changes speeds pretty well; she has improved this year.”

The addition of freshmen Wu and Kelli Swedish has helped improve the Little Tigers.

“We gave the freshman kid Stephanie Wu a chance at third base,” said Boehm.

“She had a nice hit today; she played a great defensive game against Steinert. Kelli Swedish plays a steady left field. She is not going to give you anything flashy. She looks awkward but she catches everything out there. You don’t want to change anything with the kid because it is working. I am pretty happy with her and she is a freshman.”

With PHS moving to 4-6 with a 3-2 loss WW/P-S last Monday, Boehm believes the team has a good shot at breaking into double digits in wins for the first time ever.

“We have been capable of jumping out to a lead,” said Boehm, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26, taking part in a one-day tournament in Teaneck on April 27, and then playing at Nottingham on April 29.

“In Florida, we would score a run or two in the first inning and we would get a lead. We have to hold leads now. We have been playing better defense now. I think we can we do it. We have five games next week.”

Gutierrez, for her part, is looking to end her PHS career with a bang. “This is my last year and I want to win as many games as possible,” she said.

“I think it will be good. It is a big goal (winning 10 games), we have never done that before. I would love to help to make that happen.”

sports7It didn’t seem like much but a bad-hop single by Morrisville High (Pa.) in the first inning turned out to be the only thing that kept Princeton Day School pitcher Cole McManimon from making some history last Monday.

The sophomore hurler didn’t allow another runner to reach base the rest of the day, striking out nine, as PDS rolled to a 15-0 win in five innings.

Afterward, McManimon acknowledged that he was disappointed to just miss a no-hitter.

“In the first inning I wasn’t really thinking about that but as the game went on it was pretty upsetting,” said McManimon.

There was nothing else for the hard-throwing right-hander to be upset about as he assessed his mound gem.

“I felt sharp, a couple of my pitches were up but I had pretty good location on the ball,” said McManimon, who also knocked in three runs at the plate to help his cause. “My fastball had some zip; I was throwing pretty hard. My curveball was pretty good.”

The victory improved McManimon to 4-0 on the season and gave further evidence that he is a rising star.

In McManimon’s view, his progress has come down to being more of a power pitcher. 

“I think striking out kids has been my biggest improvement this season,” said McManimon, who has grown three inches and gained 25 pounds since last season and is now 6’5, 190 pounds.

“Last year, I didn’t really have as high a strikeout total. I was only a freshman and I wasn’t throwing that hard. My walk total is down.”

McManimon is relishing his new role as the ace of the Panther staff. “I like the feeling a lot,” said McManimon, who has already posted wins over Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) powers Hill and Peddie this spring. “It is nice knowing that your team has a lot of faith in you.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien has plenty of faith in the precocious McManimon.

“Cole has been great all year; he is really coming around,” said O’Brien.

“That kid is really going to be special. He is still so young. He is bigger and stronger, he is a little more mature. He really has an idea out there. He has always had a presence. He has that mentality where nothing bothers him. He is quiet on the outside but he is a competitor. That kid has got unlimited potential, the sky is the limit.”

O’Brien liked the way the Panthers competed against Morrisville as they improved to 6-3.

“When we had the opportunities to make plays we did,” said O’Brien. “It was all in all a good team effort, we played pretty well.”

Pitching is a group effort for PDS when McManimon isn’t on the mound. “The pitching has been coming around,” said O’Brien. 

“After Cole, pretty much the rest of the guys are position players first, pitchers second. Everyone is getting in some bullpen work and we are breaking guys in. We are going to have to space it out and get our way through the season. Hopefully when the tournaments come, our arms will be ready to pitch our way through two tournaments but it is coming around.  J.P. Radvany has been throwing the ball pretty well. We also have Ford Schneider and Ben Weiner. Jake Alu is basically our No. 2 pitcher. He can close games for us if we need him to, I just hate to take him away from shortstop.”

The Panther hitting attack has the punch to close out foes. “Offensively from top to bottom, they have all hit in spurts,” said O’Brien, who got two doubles from senior star B.J. Dudeck in the win over Morrisville with sophomore standout J.P. Radvany contributing four RBIs. 

“Most of the guys have been consistent. Jake Alu, B.J. Dudeck, and J.P. Radvany, the Coltons, Ross and Rob, have been hitting. We put Dom Gasparro in the nine hole and we have just left him alone. He is having a great year; he has been playing really well for a freshman.”

While O’Brien acknowledges his team doesn’t have a lot of depth, he is confident that it beat anyone on its schedule.  

“We know the way that we are set up for pitching it is tough for us to go out there and play four or five games in a week” said O’Brien, whose team plays at Pennington on April 24, at Delran High on April 25, at the George School (Pa.) on April 27, hosts Hopewell Valley on April 29, and then plays at Hamilton on April 30. 

“But when we are settled and we have the right lineup and everybody is fresh, we feel we are as good as anybody. We have quality and the kids are into it. It is a good group of guys. I like the way we are progressing. We are using the season to hopefully be ready for tournament time.”

McManimon, for his part, believes PDS can be dangerous come tournament time.

“We have a good hitting group and our pitching is there,” he said. “If we keep those two things together, we should be OK.”

sports8The Panthers fought back from a 3-1 halftime deficit to make it 3-3 with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

In the waning moments of regulation, PDS found itself trailing 6-4 but didn’t fold. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo scored with 23.9 seconds left and then the Panthers achieved one last possession. They were unable to find the back of the net as they lost 6-5 in the April 16 contest.

While PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was disappointed to see his team fall just short against Hun, he saw no reason for his players to hang their heads.

“I think we take a couple of things from this,” said Tuckman. “Number one, we were two goals down and we came back. Our kids can play with any team on any level. I think they saw that today and we will go with that and move forward.”

Tuckman sensed that his team was in for a nailbiter when it played at its crosstown rival Hun.

“I knew this was going to be a tough one for us,” said Tuckman. “They have an outstanding program; they have some real good lacrosse players and real good athletes. They have got MV (new head coach MV Whitlow) and MV does a nice job.”

Although the Panthers only scored five goals against the Raiders, Tuckman thought his team did a good job offensively considering that it had trouble getting possession with Hun’s Zach Bicho dominating in the face-off circle.

“I would argue that our percentage in the offensive end was very, very good,” said Tuckman, who got three goals from Triolo with Taran Auslander and Jacob Shavel adding one apiece.

“We scored five goals and I would argue that we weren’t on the offensive end that much today.”

Tuckman was also pleased with his team’s work at the other end of the field. “I think they played great; we went at them with a game plan,” said Tuckman.

“Our guys held to the game plan. Our kids played some sound D. They have some real threatening kids; the Reynolds kid [Corey Reynolds], the Blacks [Brendan and Owen] and [Zach] Bicho can score. I thought our kids did really well with that.”

Junior goalie Nelson Garrymore helped snuff out some Hun scoring threats.

“Nelson has been solid,” added Tuckman. “He is getting strong as a distributor. I thought we did really well on our clears. When we stopped them, we were able to transition into the offensive end. We rushed the ball a couple of times but otherwise I thought we did a great job.”

In Tuckman’s view, going against tough competition will help PDS be strong when it matters most.

“For me, it is all about postseason play,” said Tuckman, whose team moved to 4-3 with a 16-8 loss to Somerville last Friday and plays at Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25 before starting play in the state Prep B tournament.

“I think this is all in preparation for that. We have got a really tough schedule, by design, to get these kids ready. I think if you look at the county and the state Prep B tournaments, we have a good shot. I think by the time we get there, we will have plenty of reps.”

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Zach Bicho and his teammates on the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team had plenty of motivation as they hosted Princeton Day School last week.

“We lost to them last year in overtime and we have been looking forward to this game since the beginning of the season,” said Hun senior midfielder Bicho. “We knew it was a big one, we knew they were a good opponent.”

The annual meeting between the cross-town rivals turned into a very good game, as the teams were never separated by more than two goals throughout the April 16 contest.

With the game knotted at 4-4 late in the fourth quarter, Bicho fired in the go-ahead goal for the Raiders who held on for a 6-5 victory.

“That was our man-up play and I wanted the ball and defense was slow to ride and I got my hands free and, as coach [MV Whitlow] would say, I stuck to the fundamentals and just stuck it,” said Bicho, reflecting on his clutch tally. “That was the important one, the important one went in.”

Bicho played a vitally important role for Hun throughout the game as he dominated in the face-off circle, winning virtually every draw on the afternoon.

For Bicho, who started facing-off in middle school, becoming so accomplished in that aspect of the game has come down to hard work and savvy.

“It is just a lot of repetition, knowing the different guys that go out there, quick hands, just getting that ground ball,” said Bicho, who is headed to McDaniel College where he will continue his lacrosse career.

In Bicho’s view, Hun’s defensive effort made the difference in the win over PDS.

“Our offense was a little slow today; we weren’t getting what we really wanted,” said Bicho, who also picked up an assist in the contest.

“But they won us that game. Our captain Greg Flood got the game ball today because of his leadership.”

The Raiders have also benefited from the leadership of new head coach Whitlow.

“Coach Whitlow has changed the team around tremendously,” said Bicho. “He wants things perfect, he sticks to the fundamentals and he knows how to win.”

Whitlow, for his part, credited Bicho with playing a major role in the victory over the Panthers.

“What Zach gives us is consistency on the face-off; it is about strength and desire,” said Whitlow. “When the game was on the line, he wanted the shot and he made it.”

In Whitlow’s view, a strong defensive effort proved critical for the Raiders.

“No. 29 [PDS senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo] is a really good player and we tried some different things on him to try to slow him down,” said Whitlow. “We performed well on defense; this was a defensive win.”

Hun got some good offensive performances as well with Corey Reynolds and Brendan Black each scoring two goals and Zach Winterstein adding a goal and an assist.

“Brendan Black had a big game, he may only be a sophomore but he is a leader out there for us,” added Whitlow. “Zach Winterstein is playing well; he has been working very hard on his offense.”

Winning six straight games after an opening day loss, the Raiders have shown the benefit of hard work.

“We have been executing well,” said Whitlow, whose team lost 10-4 to Rutgers Prep on Monday to drop to 6-2 and will look to get back on the winning track as it hosts Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.

“We were already confident but this was a very good win. We are very excited to come away with this game.”

Bicho, for his part, is excited about Hun’s prospects this spring. “This is the best team I have been on in my four years here,” asserted Bicho. “We have great guys; we have really been coming together and executing.”

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team started the season with four losses in its first five games, Haley Sanborn wasn’t discouraged.

“You can always tell a team’s character when they are losing,” said Hun head coach Sanborn.

“We were in a losing streak and the girls were having team meetings, talking about what they needed to do to come out of it.”

Last Thursday, Hun came out of its early slump in a big way, cruising to a 21-7 win at Peddie.

“I think it was a great win; the girls were pumped up coming into the game,” said Sanborn.

“Everyone played their best game of the year. Every single player got in and they all played well. I am hoping it will propel us into the rest of the season.”

Senior star and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks helped propel the Raiders in their win over the Falcons, tallying 12 goals and two assists.

“It is the type of player she is; she wants it and she goes for it,” said Sanborn of Weeks, who recently scored the 200th goal of her career. “She has such a drive for the game.”

Last Saturday, Weeks produced another 12-goal effort to give her 58 for the season as Hun edged Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20.

“It takes four hours to get there and we have a one and half hour wait; it took us a little while to get going,” said Sanborn, who got three goals and five assists from Maddie Schade with Brianna Barratt adding two goals and four assists and Erica Dwyer tallying two goals and an assist as the Raiders improved to 3-4.

“It was a back-and-forth game. It was not one of our best games in terms of passing, shooting, and getting ground balls. To compensate, they worked twice as hard. We got up three, they were up three, and no team had a bigger lead than that. It came down to possession. We had to stop with sloppy play; we were smart with the passing and the draw controls at the end.”

The Raiders have been showing some smart play on the defensive end. “Our defense has been jelling well; Lauren Apuzzi is controlling things there for us,” said Sanborn.

“We dropped Francesca Bello to defensive wing and she has been fantastic. Taylor Nehlig and Lucy Morgan are starting to step up; they are starting to understand the pace of the game. Emma Consoli has also been playing well there. They are coming together well, they are playing as a unit.”

Sanborn is confident her team can keep coming together as it heads into the homestretch.

“It was a good sign, we are on a good streak but we have a tough week ahead with Hill and PHS,” said Sanborn, whose team plays at Hill (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.

“Winning two in a row shows them that even when they are playing sloppy, hustle and heart can help you win. I am proud of them; every single player has stepped up, especially the younger players. It is about discipline, being clean on passing and shooting. The season is so short; I hope we hit our stride at the end. I have a lot of faith in them.”

April 17, 2013
SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona was huffing and puffing a bit as she caught her breath after helping the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team edge WW/P-S last Thursday.

The junior star had reason to be winded as she was all over the field, tallying eight goals and two assists to help PHS prevail 16-12.

The Penn-bound Lopez-Ona started the game on fire, scoring six of PHS’s first seven goals.

“With my shot, I feel it is a lot about composure and staying with the fundamentals,” said Lopez-Ona.

“I feel I started out the game pretty focused and I didn’t get frazzled. I was pretty happy I came out strong because they were marking me pretty tight. I have been watching a lot of film when girls are getting marked out and doing stuff like using the crease, popping out, and being physical. They had great defenders on me and I was happy with the way I was rubbing them off.”

Lopez-Ona was happy to see the Little Tigers rally from a 9-7 deficit early in the second half as they improved to 4-1.

“I think it was just about communication of offense and defense because we were lacking the unity on the field,” said Lopez-Ona, reflecting on the PHS rally during which the Little Tigers went on a 9-2 run to seize control of the contest.

“I feel like it really pieced together when some of the low attackers started popping out and yelling for the ball. Everyone got a lot more involved in the offense.”

In Lopez-Ona’s view, junior midfielder Dana Smith helped trigger the PHS offense with her hustle on draw controls.

“Dana Smith on the draw was just insane; her possessions kept us in the game when they started to pull ahead a little bit,” said Lopez-Ona of the Lafayette-bound Smith who scooped up five ground balls in the contest.

“As we started to run a couple more of our plays on offense, we worked the ball around better than before and attacked the goal. It gave us more confidence on offense.”

Coming off a tough 11-10 loss to WW/P-N, the victory over the Pirates was a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.

“The difference between the North game and this game was at the end of the North (WW/P-N) game we were still having trouble controlling the ball,” said Lopez-Ona.

“Today we were working for good shots and we were working for good possessions. I feel like after this game we will be pretty confident with how we can play the end of the game on offense with our stall with the whole team getting involved there.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way her team grew from the defeat to WW/P-N.

“In the end, we are really taking away North as a learning experience,” said O’Gorman.

“We left saying, that was a great lacrosse game. I think both teams came out full force. The girls know that was one of our hardest games. It really prepared us, it was a preparation game. I am really proud of the way of the girls played today.”

O’Gorman was proud of the way Lopez-Ona played against WW/P-S. “We actually had her more on attack today so when she puts her full energy and focus on attack, that is the type of result you are going to get from that type of player,” said O’Gorman.

“She is just a great leader, on and off the field. You know she is always going to be pumping everyone up in the huddle; she is always psyched up for her team.”

Sophomore Gabrielle Gibbons helped pump up PHS in its second half run as she tallied a hat trick.

“She really knows when to show herself and makes consistent cuts to the center,” said O’Gorman of Gibbons.

“You know when her target is up, she wants the ball and she is going to have a nice finish for you at the end. She is learning from these upperclassmen to have a lot of information and a lot of experience.”

The Little Tigers utilized their experience and savvy in pulling away from the Pirates.

“We came back at halftime and said let’s go back to the basics,” said O’Gorman, whose team plays at Hopewell Valley on April 18, hosts Notre Dame on April 20, and then plays at Robbinsville on April 23.

“Let’s play our defense. Let’s be steady and composed. Let’s do what we know how to do on attack; pull it out and start driving hard.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that the composure that PHS displayed down the stretch against WW/P-S will help the team in its drive for titles.

“It is a huge confidence boost because of the fact that we were able to hold on to the lead in the end,” said Lopez-Ona. “It was really telling for us that we have the stick skills all around.”

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Peter Stanton was disappointed to see his Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team lose to Allentown last week, he liked how his players responded to the setback.

“We certainly had some good moments and we had a couple of bad stretches,” said PHS head coach Stanton, reflecting on the 13-8 defeat which saw junior star Matt Purdy tally three goals and an assist with Kevin Halliday adding two goals and Matt Corrado chipping in a goal and two assists.

“The encouraging thing is that everybody felt they had something to do with it. As a team, everyone shouldered the blame.”

The Little Tigers, who moved to 2-1 with the loss, have had a lot of good moments on offense so far this spring.

“We feel like when we put six guys on the field on offense, all of them can score,” said Stanton, whose squad started the season by beating Nottingham 14-7 and then edged WW/P-S 13-12. “Everyone is a threat and it is tough to defend.”

Junior Purdy has emerged as PHS’s most lethal offensive threat. “Matt set a goal to be a more complete player and the early evidence is that he has done that,” said Stanton of Purdy, who has 18 points this season on 11 goals and seven assists.

“He has had games with multiple assists, he gets ground balls, he is riding, he is controlling the offense at times.”

Juniors Halliday and Corrado have also been riding high for the Little Tigers.

“Kevin Halliday is real dynamic and creative,” said Stanton. “Matt Corrado is another example of somebody who has worked really hard. He spent a lot of time in the offseason training. He comes to practice every day ready to work hard. His habits and dedication are really something to admire.”

Stanton acknowledges that the PHS defense needs to tighten up. “It is interesting with people playing more lacrosse, the stick skills are better and the offensive skills have improved,” said Stanton.

“People used to say that the defense was ahead of the offense at this stage but I think now the offense is ahead of the defense. Team defense takes seven guys to coordinate with each other and be on the same page. We have capable athletes back there; we have to do a good job of coaching them.”

In Stanton’s view, he has a group that is highly receptive to coaching.

“We have some potential but we are a work in progress, they are showing a willingness to improve,” said Stanton, whose team hosts Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.

“I like their attitude. After the loss last Tuesday, they were ready to learn about what they need to do better.”

TALKING POINT: Michael Zhao gets interviewed after he won the 2011 Longines Future Aces Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. This spring, Zhao, an eighth grader, is starring at first singles for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad, helping the Panthers to a 4-0 start. PDS has a match at the Pingry School on April 18 before taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.(Photo by David Martin, Courtesy of Longines)

TALKING POINT: Michael Zhao gets interviewed after he won the 2011 Longines Future Aces Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. This spring, Zhao, an eighth grader, is starring at first singles for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad, helping the Panthers to a 4-0 start. PDS has a match at the Pingry School on April 18 before taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. (Photo by David Martin, Courtesy of Longines)

While the addition of a talented crop of freshmen to a tennis team would normally be a harbinger of good things to come down the road, the arrival of three young stars this spring has immediately changed the fortunes for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad.

After guiding the team to a 5-9 record in 2012, PDS head coach Will Asch knew things would be radically different when highly-touted eighth-grader Michael Zhao and freshmen David Zhang and Scott Altmeyer stepped on the court this March.

“I knew we had a good team as soon as we saw players like Zhao, Zhang, and Altmeyer,” said Asch

Sure enough, the Panthers have produced a sizzling start, going 4-0 and winning each of their matches by 5-0 margins.

The team’s success starts at the top where the precocious Zhao is displaying brilliant talent and skill at first singles.

“I would say that there is no ball he can’t handle, he has great hands, and he is extremely consistent,” said Asch, reflecting on the strengths of Zhao’s game.

“He volleys very well. He has a very big forehand for an 8th grader. He does everything well on the court and he has a great mind for the game.”

Zhao also possesses a maturity beyond his years on the court. “He doesn’t worry about winning or losing,” said Asch, noting that Zhao is coached by Marc Hill and former Princeton University head coach Glenn Michibata.

“He has an idea of what he wants to do and he doesn’t worry about the score. He has a certain shot and sequence of play that he wants to develop and he will work on it even if he is in a national tournament.”

At second singles, Zhang figures to give PDS some very good work. “He is very good,” said Asch. “He is very aggressive on the forehand; he covers the court very well. He is very consistent. He hits hard from the baseline and he is very fast.”

Last season’s top singles player, junior Neeraj Devulapalli, has moved to the  No. 3 spot and should be dominant in that position. “Neeraj is playing well, his serve has really improved,” said Asch. “He is having a great season.”

Altmeyer has also bolstered the PDS lineup as he been paired with junior D.J. Modzelewski at first doubles.

“Scott Altmeyer and D. J. are our strongest team,” said Asch. “They are both very good singles players. Scott is a very strong player; he has a lot of tournament experience. D.J. is someone who we have brought along; he has learned a lot of his tennis from playing on the team.”

Talented sophomore Josiah Meekins will anchor the second doubles pair with Asch tinkering with things to find the best combination.

“Meekins is our next best player,” said Asch. “We have a bunch of guys who are playing at the same level. We are sill working on that.”

Asch is confident that his team can perform at a high level in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“The toughest thing is to win in the doubles at the MCT; we have four guys in the school who play in tournaments and some schools have 10 or 15,” noted Asch, whose team also has a match at the Pingry School on April 18.

“In singles, we should be the strongest team. Sometimes that is enough to win and sometimes it isn’t. We won all three singles a few years ago but South (WW/P-S) won the title. In the girls’ tournament two years ago, Sam [Asch’s daughter Samantha Asch] was our only flight winner but we won the team title.”

WELL STRUCK: Hun School baseball player Stevie Wells displays his powerful swing in Hun’s 6-3 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday. Senior first baseman Wells hit a go-ahead two-run single in the victory. Hun, now 6-1, will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WELL STRUCK: Hun School baseball player Stevie Wells displays his powerful swing in Hun’s 6-3 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday. Senior first baseman Wells hit a go-ahead two-run single in the victory. Hun, now 6-1, will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Stevie Wells is a power hitter but he wasn’t looking to crush the ball as he came up for the Hun School baseball team against Hill last Wednesday in the bottom of the third inning with two runners in scoring position.

“My mentality there is to do my job and move the runner,” said Hun senior first baseman Wells, referring to the situation which came with the Raiders trailing 2-1.

“There was second and third and I was thinking I have got to get the ball to the right side and make sure I get that ball through the infield.”

Wells did his job, muscling a flare into the outfield for a two-run single to put Hun ahead 3-2, a lead the Raiders didn’t relinquish as they went on to a 6-3 victory.

For Wells, his clutch hit was the product of an effort to hit to all fields. “The coaches have been trying to get me to hit the ball to center, left, and right and make sure that I am more versatile as a hitter so this way they can’t get me out,” said Wells.

Hun was certainly trying hard in its matchup with Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) rival Hill.

“They are a good team; unfortunately last year we didn’t do that well against them in the playoff game in our park,” said Wells.

“This year we came out with a lot more power and a lot more fire. I think we really put ourselves out there and did a good job today.”

With the Raiders off to a 6-1 start after beating Rutgers Prep 13-4 Monday, Wells senses a special spirit around this year’s team as it looks to rebound from a 9-14 season in 2012.

“We are more together as a family,” asserted Wells, who had two RBIs in the win over Rutgers Prep. “This year, I think we are really together. We work on and off the field to make sure that we are doing what we need to do.”

As a starter since his sophomore season, Wells knows that he has to take a major role in holding things together for the Raiders.

“It is my third year with program; I try to make sure that I am positive,” said Wells.

“At first base, I make sure that everyone knows the situations and I encourage people.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade wasn’t surprised that Wells came through in the pressure situation against Hill.

“Steve Wells got a huge hit because he battled,” said McQuade. “Everybody knows that Stevie has power, what they don’t realize is that he has a really good understanding of the strike zone. So therefore, he fights off the hard pitches and doesn’t try to overpower it. He took a high pitch, which is hard to get your bat on, and he had enough strength to get it over the infield.”

Wells’ strength of character also powers Hun. “He is the nicest man in the world,” asserted McQuade. “He is the captain of the team for a reason, everyone respects him.”

McQuade respected the way the Raiders overcame a 2-0 deficit in topping Hill.

“We showed some character,” said McQuade.  “We played a great game against Hunterdon Central the other day, they are an outstanding team. We started out a little lethargic today; they got two runs as a result of a couple of errors. We got some runs; some of our guys are scuffling a little bit at the plate and they battled.”

Hun ace Austin Goeke showed a battling spirit as he pitched in and out of jams in the win over Hill.

“He didn’t have his greatest stuff but when he had to make the big pitch, he did,” said McQuade of the Wagner College-bound Goeke who pitched a complete game in improving to 2-0 on the season.

“I think his command was good. As the weather warms up he is getting looser and throwing more breaking stuff.”

McQuade is hoping that the Hun bats warm up with the weather. “We are still trying to find the right lineup, the correct batting positions,” said McQuade.

“We are solid in the first six or seven and in a couple positions in the field. We are going to go as far as Goeke and [Jason] Applegate and a couple of others take us. Our hitting is coming around. Brett Ender had a good game the other day. Shane Adams is a player, he and Devo [senior star Devan Birch] are tablesetters. Bailey Hammer has gotten off to a terrific start. He has gotten bigger, he is lifting weights. He is a star.”

In McQuade’s view, his players have developed a terrific chemistry this spring.

“It is more a family feeling this year, without a doubt,” said McQuade, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20.

“Down in Florida, the key for us is that everyone gets to know each other because we have so many new faces. We have Mike Edenson, who is an outstanding catcher and hitter. He got a concussion yet he still comes to the games and supports the team. He is a class act. We are still carrying 22 people; we could have a bunch of kids ticked off because they are not playing but we haven’t seen that yet. That is a credit to this team.”

Wells, for his part, believes the Raiders are poised for an outstanding season.

“I think we let a lot of people know we are here to play and we are ready,” said Wells, who will be continuing his baseball career on the college level at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“We are ready to go. I hope that we win our league, I hope we make a good run in the states and also in the Mercer County Tournament.”

GO TIME: Hun School softball pitcher Alexis Goeke fires the ball in recent action. freshman Goeke has been dominant in the circle, helping Hun produce a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GO TIME: Hun School softball pitcher Alexis Goeke fires the ball in recent action. freshman Goeke has been dominant in the circle, helping Hun produce a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexis Goeke started her softball career as a catcher but eventually decided that she didn’t want her older brother to be the only star pitcher in the family.

“I started pitching three years ago, I used to be a catcher,” said Goeke. “With my brother, Austin, pitching all the time, I also wanted to be a pitcher. I like being in the head of the game and having the leadership position.”

Austin, for his part, has earned a position at the top of the rotation for the Hun School baseball team and the senior is starring this spring for the Raiders on his way to the Wagner College program.

The younger Goeke meanwhile joined the Hun softball team this season and immediately assumed the role of ace. She made her impact felt in her debut against the Hill School (Pa.) in late March, striking out 12 and giving up two hits in a 9-0 win.

For Goeke, having the responsibility of being the team’s top pitcher is something she relishes.

“It doesn’t feel like I have a lot of pressure on my hands but I have a lot to prove,” said Goeke.

“With the upperclassmen’s help, it makes it much easier on me. All I want is to be in the circle. As a freshman, it feels good to have that opportunity to be out there and pitching.”

Things came easily for Goeke last week as she pitched a three-inning no-hitter in a 17-0 win over Rutgers Prep, striking out eight of the nine batters she faced.

“My focus was to really buckle down and pitch strikes and pitch really well,” said Goeke.

“The team was good with the bats today. It helps support us when we are on defense when you have runs behind you. I worked really hard over the winter to get all six pitches working really well so I tried to move it around the strike zone as much as I could. It is great practice.”

Goeke helped herself with the bat in the win over Rutgers Prep, pounding out a double and getting five RBIs.

“I like both parts; a lot of people say pitchers can’t bat but I really think the opposite,” said Goeke. “It is a great break. You get off the field and you go hit.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk likes the way Goeke has started her career.

“I am very impressed with her,” said Quirk, whose team improved to 5-1 with a 15-4 win over Lawrenceville last Monday.

“I think she is a very composed freshman and she wants to be out there. She knows what her role is, she knows what her job is. She doesn’t say to herself I have to strike everyone out. She knows she has good fielders behind her and she depends on them and if she gets a strikeout, she gets it.”

Quirk is also impressed with Goeke’s good hitting. “Today, she had two really nice drives,” said Quirk.

“I haven’t been getting that power hit out of her, I have been getting hits but not the power she had today. I think it is a boost to her confidence.”

With Hun having produced a superb start, Quirk is gaining plenty of confidence in her club.

“I am happy with their attitude,” said Quirk. “I think they are a good bunch of girls who want to come out and play and have fun. Sometimes I worry that they are not focused but I know that they are focused.”

In Quirk’s view, her trio of seniors, Carey Million, Danielle Beal, and Joey Crivelli, has helped keep the team focused.

“The seniors are doing a nice job with the leadership,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23.

“Carey is doing a great job behind the plate. She is having fun with it. Dani Beal is the same way; she has been solid for us at third base. I took her out of No. 4 in the batting order and put her up to No. 1 because she gets on base and she is smart. Joey, who we didn’t know if she was going to play because of her knee injury, has just come in and stepped it up as a second baseman.”

Goeke, for her part, believes she and Hun will keep stepping up.

“I am looking to limit hits, do my best, and stay focused,” said Goeke “We need to make sure we just play as a team and it will lead to our success.”

April 10, 2013
READY POSITION: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack waits for the ball in a match last spring. Sophomore Hack has displayed his versatility, playing at singles this spring as PHS works through some early season injuries. The Little Tigers, who topped Trenton 5-0 last Monday to improve to 3-1, are slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

READY POSITION: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack waits for the ball in a match last spring. Sophomore Hack has displayed his versatility, playing at singles this spring as PHS works through some early season injuries. The Little Tigers, who topped Trenton 5-0 last Monday to improve to 3-1, are slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sarah Hibbert, the die is usually cast by the time the regular season rolls around for her Princeton High boys’ tennis team.

The preseason is devoted to challenge matches and figuring out who is going to play in the three singles spots and who will be combining to form the two doubles combinations.

But when the 2013 season started last week, PHS was in a state of flux with two of its top players, junior Brock DeHaven and sophomore Adib Zaidi, out with injuries.

“It has been quite difficult; usually I spend the preseason making sure I have things right with the lineup,” said PHS head coach Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 13-3 record last spring.

“I don’t like scrambling; it can make it tough for the seedings for the counties and the states. Brock fractured his ankle after a week of preseason. Adib is out with an elbow injury. We were not able to finish the challenge matches due to injuries. I hope they both come back at the same time  so we won’t have to change up doubles twice. We have a lot of transition this year, we graduated four and we got two new players that weren’t freshmen and we have some freshmen.”

Despite having players out of position, PHS has shown plenty of mental toughness this spring, getting off to a 3-1 start.

Hibbert pointed to the team’s 4-1 loss to defending Group III Central Jersey sectional champion Hopewell Valley on April 2 as a positive.

“We were pretty competitive considering that we were missing two of our top players,” said Hibbert, whose team’s lone victory in the HoVal match came from sophomore Tyler Hack at third singles. “Tyler had a great match. He didn’t let the cold or wind bother him.”

While the first doubles team of junior Zach Hojelbane and freshman Lucas Mitchell and the second doubles pair of junior Zack Kleiman and senior Eddy Zheng both lost to HoVal, Hibbert liked the competitive fire they displayed.

“They haven’t been together long; I was pleased with the way they hung in there against HoVal,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Allentown 5-0 last Friday and then defeated Trenton 5-0 last Monday and is slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12.

“They fought hard against guys with a lot more varsity experience. They had one match being paired together and they were thrown in against one of the toughest teams. The first doubles went to a tiebreaker and the second doubles lost 3 and 4, they were in the match the whole way.”

The addition of senior Feeney and DeHaven makes PHS a tougher team.

“Michael is a senior, he was previously devoted to soccer and he has played tennis outside of school,” said Hibbert.

“As a senior, he decided that he wanted to come out and be a part of the team. He is very quick, he runs everything down. He has good ground strokes and he is quick around the court. Brock is a junior. He was in Princeton through middle school and then his family moved out to Colorado. Now they have moved back. He hits the ball well, he is willing to mix up his style of play. He is consistent and steady.”

Once Hibbert gets her lineup set, she believes the Little Tigers will show the consistency that has made the program a traditional local power.

“I will be grateful for the guys who do come back,” said Hibbert, who is expecting to have DeHaven and Zaidi back in action this week.

“There is a lot of talent. The sophomores bring experience and depth. The new additions give us strength at the top of the lineup. I am looking forward to getting everything finalized so we can have clarity and put our attention on tennis.”

GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ray O’Brien is doing some juggling with his Princeton Day School baseball squad, he is confident things will fall in place as the spring unfolds.

“It is going to be a fun year; we have a bunch of people playing new positions,” said PDS head coach O’Brien who guided the Panthers to a 12-9 record in 2012. “We have a lot of talent but not a lot of depth.”

A lot of that talent is concentrated in the Panthers’ group of sophomores, which features J.P. Radvany, Jake Alu, Cole McManimon, and Ross Colton.

“We had that good freshman class that got a lot of experience last year, both as position players and pitchers,” said O’Brien. “We don’t have a lot of experienced upperclassmen.”

The squad did get a chance to pick up some valuable experience on its annual preseason trip.

“In Florida, we got to look at guys playing a lot of different positions, which was good,” said O’Brien, who is in his fifth year at the helm of the program. “We hit the ball well down there, that is a good sign.”

In the early going up north, there have been more good signs as the Panthers have produced a 3-1 start, edging
Hill 3-2 last Wednesday, falling 12-6 to St. Augustine on Friday, and then beating Gill St. Bernard’s 10-8 last Saturday and blanking Pennington 5-0 on Monday.

O’Brien believes he has some good arms on his pitching staff in senior Greg Auerbach, sophomores McManimon, Alu, and Radvany together with senior Ben Weiner and junior Ford Schneider.

“Greg is our most experienced pitcher; we expect him to be at the top of the rotation,” said O’Brien, who received a superb effort from McManimon in the victory over Pennington as he struck out 11 and gave up six hits.

“He is nursing a shoulder injury but should be back in early April. Cole threw the ball well in Florida, he got some innings last year. Alu and Radvany will also see some time on the mound. We also have Ben Weiner and Ford Schneider who can pitch. The pitchers are not overpowering so they will have to locate the ball well. We have to play good defense behind them.”

The team’s defensive alignment will feature senior Rob Colton at catcher, Radvany at first base, Ross Colton at second, Alu at shortstop, senior Alec Jones, Schneider or freshmen Dom Gasparro and Sam Guarino at third with senior Brad Freid in left field, senior B.J. Dudeck in center and either Jones or Gasparro in right.

PDS has the potential to win games through outslugging its foes. “B.J. has been improving; he has been a consistent hitter for us,” said O’Brien of the Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck.

“He and Radvany will be in the middle of the lineup. We have Ross Colton and Jake Alu at the top of the order. Rob Colton and Fried will be further down in the order. McManimon has been hitting well, he will be at DH and play some first base. We can put seven quality hitters up there; I think offense will be a strong point for us.”

In O’Brien’s view, the Panthers could produce a strong season with some patience and a little luck.

“We have so many kids in new positions that it is going to take a while for us to get settled,” said O’Brien, whose team hosts Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.

“As the season goes on, I think that we can be dangerous if we jell together. We have to stay healthy.”

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Morgan Foster was never able to get into a groove last spring in her freshman season with the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

Hobbled by a groin injury, Foster was sidelined for much of the campaign.

“I played the first few games and the last few games so I missed a majority of the season,” said Foster.

In the offseason, Foster worked hard to get up to speed. “I did a lot of training with Darius [PDS strength coach Darius Young] and a lot of work with Luke [former PDS trainer Luke Hensel],” said Foster.

“I was in the Philly showcase last winter where I was featured as a Fab 40 all star.”

As PDS opened its 2013 campaign last week at Stuart Country Day, it didn’t take long for Foster to emerge as a star.

The sophomore attacker scored the first goal of the game 1:35 into the contest and went on to tally four goals on the day as PDS pulled away to a 16-6 win in the April 2 contest.

Understandably, Foster was chomping at the bit to make an impact after last season’s frustrations.

“I was very excited to get back and get going and help the team,” said Foster.

In reflecting on her big game, Foster credited teamwork with paving the way to the scoring outburst.

“I just saw the ball coming down and my teammates were setting up great opportunities for me, letting me get open,” added Foster. “I was just happy I was able to finish.

After starting the 2012 season 0-5, the Panthers were thrilled to post an opening day victory this spring.

“It was a great way to start the season,” said Foster. “We were all really excited to get out there.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas is excited to have Foster back at full speed. “Morgan is just a great player with a great shot,” said Thomas. “She makes good decisions with the ball.”

The Panther offense made a lot of good decisions as junior Sarah Brennan had three goals and two assists with senior Zeeza Cole scoring three, Corinne Urisko tallying two, and senior Hannah Levy scoring a goal and chipping in three assists.

“I think everyone stepped up,” said Thomas. “You could see there were a lot of nerves in the first game but everybody seemed to step up. We got some good minutes from a lot of people.”

Thomas was also happy with the team’s defensive effort. “I think Trigg stepped up,” said Thomas, referring to senior goalie Sarah Trigg who made nine saves in the win.

“Louise [Hutter] was tough back there as was Cami [McNeely] and Lizzie [Frieder]. They are reading it well, they know when to double, they are making good slides.”

After last season’s tough start, Thomas liked the way her team got out of the gate against Stuart.

“It is a new year so it was a great way to start,” said Thomas, whose team did hit some bumps in the road after the Stuart game as it fell 13-12 to Hill School (Pa.) last Friday and then lost 13-10 to Hopewell Valley on Monday. “They did a great job today.”

Thomas believes the Panthers can make 2013 a special year. “It is a great group of girls to work with, they are a lot of fun,” said Thomas, whose team plays at Pennington on April 12 before hosting Hun on April 16.

“Liz [assistant coach Liz Cook] and I are really enjoying them and we have since the beginning.”

Foster, for her part, is enjoying being on the field with the group. “This team is great; I think we can go really far,” said Foster, who tallied four more goals in the defeat to HoVal.

“Everyone is working so hard. If people keep working hard, I think everyone’s opportunities will open up and everyone will shine.”

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conrad Denise has plenty of experience being around the USA Hockey National Championships.

“I have watched nationals four times when my older brothers played,” said Denise, whose older brothers, John Garret and Will, starred for local club teams and the Princeton Day School boys’ program. “I felt like I was part of their teams.”

Last week, the younger Denise hit the ice for the first time at the nationals as his Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team competed in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division in the Hartford, Conn. area.

“Just getting to the nationals is a huge success for any team,” said Denise, a PDS senior star forward and Princeton resident who helped PYHA sweep the Freeze in a best-of-three series to earn the organization’s first-ever berth in the nationals.

“Our goal was to go up there and enjoy ourselves and do the best we can. There are lot of variables, you have no idea about the teams you might play. We could control our effort. We focused on ourselves and representing the team, Princeton and the PYHA.”

Denise showed his focus right from the start of the tournament as the Tigers topped Weymouth (Mass.) Wildcats 6-2 in its first game of pool play.

“I scored on my first shot, that was a huge confidence builder,” recalled Denise. “I got loose on a breakaway, it was a great pass from Rob Colton. That set a tone.”

PYHA kept up its determined play, losing a 5-4 overtime thriller to Team Ohio and then blanking Milwaukee Phoenix 2-0 to qualify for the national quarterfinals.

While the Tigers ended up falling 9-5 to the Chicago Bruins in the quarterfinals, Denise believed the squad represented itself with aplomb to the end.

“We were sitting in the locker room after second period, down 6-2,” said Denise, who ended up with three goals and five assists in the tourney.

“We had so much support, for the time our parents put in to text messages and e-mails, we said we had to give everything for those people. We scored three goals in the third period; we made it exciting. We had to pull our goalie so they scored two late goals. It was closer than the score indicated. I was proud of everyone.”

The squad developed a closeness over the winter as it made its run to the nationals.

“There was certainly a bond, we had 10 guys from PDS, that helps,” said Denise. “All the guys connected and pulled together. It was one of the closest knit teams I have ever been on.”

For Denise, pulling his weight as a leader became a major focus. “I am not a huge goal scorer; I am lucky to be on a line with [Sean] Timmons and Colton, I know if I grind I will get points,” said Denise, who has previously played for the Mercer Chiefs and Team Comcast club programs.

“I thought I could contribute something else with all of the different experiences I have had with PDS and other club teams. I have had difficult losses.  I understand the different emotions you feel. Losing is the worst feeling but you have to lose to win.”

PYHA head coach Ian McNally credited Denise with helping to spark the team’s run to the national quarters.

“In the Freeze series and the nationals, he was the catalyst on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room,” asserted McNally, a former player at Princeton University who is also the coach of the Hun School boys’ hockey team. “He took it upon himself to put the team on his shoulders.”

McNally realized last summer that he had a special team on his hands. “It was the very first practice in August, I blew the whistle to end the practice and guys went down to one end of the rink to pick up pucks and I saw them in a mass huddle, telling jokes and laughing,” said McNally.

“It was indicative of how the year would go. It was a special group of kids. They noticed it and their parents did too. They felt like they did this together. I have never been a part of a group that was together like that, most teams have some small factions.”

The Tigers were also fueled last week by the support they received from friends and family.

“There was a buzz; people were really taking interest in how we were doing,” said McNally.

“People were coming into town and people were watching on line. I told the players everyday that this was bigger than us. I had them share the texts of support they were getting.”

While PYHA didn’t get the big prize of a national title, it gained special satisfaction from its run.

“It was a great experience,” said McNally. “We lost that last game and there were some long faces in the dressing room. It was tough to take the jersey off for the last time. But afterward, it was all smiles. They realized that we made it past the first round and that was a great place to be. There was red carpet treatment afterward, 40 parents, grandparents, friends taking pictures.”

In McNally’s view, the 18AA team has made an impact that will be felt at the PYHA long past this winter.

“When I started with this group four or five years ago, the goal was to get into the state playoffs and be in the top 4 in the state,” said McNally. “We opened the doors to something bigger. Now the kids are saying let’s go to the nationals.”

Denise, for his part, leaves PYHA with indelible memories of his big week at nationals.

“Coach said to us afterward you will always remember this experience,” said Denise, who is headed to Babson College where he will be playing for the men’s hockey team.

“The nationals patch is sewn on your jersey. You will never forget each other, all the kids’ jersey numbers and who scored the goals. Our motto became champions walk together and we are still state champions. It was great to accomplish so much for the team and PYHA.”

Meanwhile across the country, another local hockey club team, the Princeton Tiger Lilies (PTL) 16U team, was creating some unforgettable moments of its own as the squad competed in the girls’ Tier II 16-and-Under nationals in San Jose, Calf.

For PTL, which finished third in the regular season standings before winning the Atlantic District tournament, getting the chance to head west was special.

“It was a complete shock that we won at the districts,” said Katie Alden, a goalie for the Tiger Lilies (and this reporter’s daughter.)

“That was always the goal but we couldn’t believe that it actually happened. We went from having four girls at tryouts to making the nationals.”

While the Tiger Lilies didn’t make it out of pool play, losing to the San Jose Junior Sharks, the Potsdam (N.Y.) Icestorm, and the Chicago Bruins, teams that all advanced to the quarters with Potsdam making the national title game and San Jose going to the semis, being on the ice with such competition was meaningful.

“At nationals, it was surreal how many good teams there are in the country,” said Alden, a PDS sophomore who also plays for the Panther girls’ hockey program.

“It was uplifting to see how the sport is expanding. Although we might not have done as well as we wanted, it was great to compete against those girls.”

Like the PYHA team, the Tiger Lilies were carried to the nationals by a special team chemistry. “There are often divides among teams, but we didn’t have that,” asserted Alden.

“We all respect each other and play for the person sitting next to us in the locker room as much as we play for ourselves.”

April 3, 2013
PURDY GOOD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Matt Purdy heads to goal last season. Junior attacker Purdy figures to be a key weapon for PHS this spring. The Little Tigers were slated to start their 2013 campaign with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PURDY GOOD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Matt Purdy heads to goal last season. Junior attacker Purdy figures to be a key weapon for PHS this spring. The Little Tigers were slated to start their 2013 campaign with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While things have been unsettled for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team in the preseason, Peter Stanton is confident things will come together for the squad as the weather warms up.

“We have a number of injuries and the kids are involved in a number of activities that overlap, like hockey and soccer tournaments, the lead in the musical, EMT certification, all admirable things,” said PHS head coach Stanton, who is entering his 18th season at the helm of the program and guided the team to a 10-9 record in 2012.

“We don’t always have the same group on the field. Once we get the pieces in line, we really hope that when we come to the month of May, we can contend for a county title and win some games in states.”

The Little Tigers boasts two good pieces at attack in senior Matt Purdy and junior Will Hare.

“Matt Purdy is exceptionally dedicated, he worked extremely hard in the fall,” said Stanton, whose team was slated to get regular season play underway with a home game against Hightstown on April 2 before playing at WW/P-N on April 4 and at Allentown on April 9.

“He was in as often as he could in the winter with his swimming. He stays after practice, working on his shooting. Will Hare was with us as a freshman and he was in California last year. He is back with us. He is extremely crafty and a player with a really good knowledge of the game.”

Stanton has some others with offensive game in senior Adam Ainslie, junior Matt Corrado, and sophomore Stephen Clark.

“Adam Ainslie is an interesting story, he was a goalie as a freshman and he stopped playing,” said Stanton.

“He came back and is trying attack. He is the lead in the school play so we won’t have him full-time. Matt Corrado can play attack and midfield; Clark can also play both attack and midfield.”

The PHS midfield will be spearheaded by senior star Zach Halliday. “Zach is everything you would expect and more; we marvel at how one can get so much out of oneself and never hit the ceiling,” said Stanton of Halliday, who also stars for the PHS boys’ soccer team and helped the Little Tigers to a share of the Group III state title last fall.

Halliday’s younger brother, junior star Kevin, will also help in the midfield along with juniors Pat McCormick and Dalton Sekelsky and a trio of sophomores Chase Ealy, Joseph Hawes, and Chris Diver.

“Zach and Kevin will be leading the way; Kevin is resting an ankle right now,” said Stanton. “Pat McCormick works really well with Zach and Kevin. Chase Ealy is also in the mix. Sekelsky will also get a good look. Hawes is developing nicely as is Diver. Corrado and Clark can go back and forth from attack to midfield.”

The PHS defense features a nice mix of talent and experience with sophomore Jackson Andres, senior Matt DiTosto, senior Jack Persico, sophomore Colin Buckley, and junior Spencer Reynolds.

“Jackson is the guy who gets your attention, he can impact a game by disrupting the other team,” said Stanton.

“Matt is a senior and has good skills, he is good with hits and clearing. Persico is big and strong and was dedicated in the offseason. Buckley is a transfer from Cranbury, he is going to be good. Spencer Reynolds is somebody else who has improved a lot.”

In order to be a title contender, the Little Tigers will need sophomore neophyte Kenan Glasgold to improve rapidly in goal.

“Kenan Glasgold has never played goalie before, he is new to the position,” said Stanton.

“He has gone out of his way to learn about the position. He has learned as much as he can in a short period. He is physically courageous. You would expect somebody in his position to be extremely nervous but he shows a certain level of poise.”

Stanton is confident his squad will display poise collectively as it looks to live up to expectations.

“It is a mixture of leadership and youth,” said Stanton “Some of it is going to depend on how the young players develop. We are balanced on both sides of the field; we need to get the younger kids up to speed, especially in the midfield. We have some good leaders.”

FAST MOVER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder Smith figures to be a catalyst this spring for PHS. The  Little Tigers get their 2013 season underway this week as they play at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3, and at WW/P-N on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FAST MOVER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder Smith figures to be a catalyst this spring for PHS. The Little Tigers get their 2013 season underway this week as they play at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3, and at WW/P-N on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Kelsey O’Gorman to feel comfortable in her role as the new head coach of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team.

“I was an assistant coach last year so I already had a relationship with them; I didn’t have to learn who they are,” said O’Gorman, the replacement for Christie Cooper who led PHS to a 14-4 mark last spring.

“I teach here. The school is my home. I have done the paperwork and the other things to get ready for the season and now it’s time for lacrosse. This is the first time I have been a head coach and I like how it feels. I like the competitive aspect and the girls are highly coachable.”

The team’s core of veterans has aided O’Gorman in the transition. “They have stepped up, they are taking the underclassmen under their wing and instilling the traditions of the program” said O’Gorman, citing the efforts of her trio of senior team co-captains, Ciara Celestin, Olivia Kelly, and Madison Luther. “They are responding, I am running the program more strictly.”

In order to maintain the program’s winning tradition, O’Gorman is emphasizing versatility.

“I am trying to make it a strong unit, where each player has an important role,” said O’Gorman, whose team is on the road in the first week of the season as it plays at Lawrence High on April 2, at Hillsborough on April 3 and at WW/P-N on April 8.

“It is not just strong offense or strong defense; I want them working all over the field. I want the girls to learn to be versatile. I want the low defenders to be able to attack and the attackers to defend. I want to improve their lax IQ.”

PHS features a smart one-two offensive punch in juniors Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs, who have already committed to play their college lax at Penn and Dartmouth, respectively.

“They are looking strong; they are known for their offense and have won a lot of awards and honors for that,” said O’Gorman, who also sees sophomore Gabbie Gibbons, junior Dana Smith, junior Krysta Holman, and freshman Allie Callaway as offensive threats. “We have them working on their defense and improving their feeding.”

In O’Gorman’s view, Smith should fuel the Little Tiger midfield. “Dana Smith can do it all and never gets in the limelight,” said O’Gorman, noting that Smith has committed to Lafayette. “She sees off-ball movement like a college player; she is a natural athlete.”

That unit should keep things moving in the right direction. “Liz Jacobs is on the draw, Lopez-Ona and Smith are there, they go for everything around the circle,” said O’Gorman.

“Taylor Lis is really strong, the girls really like having her on the circle. Taylor Chiang can also help us there.”

The pair of Luther and junior Krisit DeMilt will help lead the PHS defense. “Luther is a big key and DeMilt is a strong player,” said O’Gorman.

The Little Tigers are expecting big things from sophomore goalie Mira Shane, who starred last spring as a freshman.

“Shane in goal is a strong player,” asserted O’Gorman. “She is a well-rounded person but playing lacrosse and being a goalie is a big priority for her.”

Winning is a priority for the Little Tigers and O’Gorman believes the squad can have a big spring.

“I really think they have the potential to do well; I think we can have an even stronger record than last year,” asserted O’Gorman.

“We need to keep going hard in practice. We are putting in a variety of new plays and they need to build a high lacrosse IQ. We need to have a strong bench; we need to develop the other players. We need to have a strong second line. We need well-rounded players who can fill in where needed.”

RECORD PLAYER: Princeton High softball star Marisa ­Gonzalez strokes the ball in a game last spring. Senior outfielder ­Gonzalez comes into the season with a program-record 112 hits and figures to again be one of the top batters in the area. PHS gets its 2013 season going this week with a busy slate which will see the Little Tigers host Hopewell Valley on April 2, Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun School on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PLAYER: Princeton High softball star Marisa ­Gonzalez strokes the ball in a game last spring. Senior outfielder ­Gonzalez comes into the season with a program-record 112 hits and figures to again be one of the top batters in the area. PHS gets its 2013 season going this week with a busy slate which will see the Little Tigers host Hopewell Valley on April 2, Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun School on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last spring, the Princeton High softball team took some major steps in the right direction.

The Little Tigers matched the program record for single-season victories with nine and won a game in the Mercer County Tournament for the first time in recent memory, if ever.

As a result, PHS head coach Dave Boehm is looking forward to his second year at the helm.

“I have more confidence in this team, we have six seniors returning and all of them saw a lot of playing time last year,” said Boehm, who guided the Little Tigers to a 9-14 record in 2012.

“We have four freshmen who are going to make the team. We have a good mix of the old guard and newcomers; they seem to be getting along well.”

The PHS pitching staff will reflect that mix as sophomore Sarah Eisenach and freshman Julia Tarantino will be the top starters with senior Charlotte Gray and freshman Emily DiLella also seeing action in the circle.

“Sarah Eisenach is going to throw a lot of innings; she is going to be our No. 1 starter,” said Boehm, whose team will be busy in the first week of the 2013 campaign as it was slated to play at Hopewell Valley on April 2 and then host Allentown on April 3, Hightstown on April 5, and Hun on April 6 before playing at Trenton on April 8.

“Sarah is smarter on the mound; she worked on her stuff in Hamilton with some of the former Steinert pitchers. Julia is going to be the 1A starter. Charlotte Gray will get some innings. Emily is a lefty and she can be tricky.”

PHS will be depending on senior star Marisa Gonzalez to get things going offensively in the lead-off spot.

“Marisa already has the program hit record, she is coming into the season with 112 hits,” said Boehm.

“She is going for 150. She hit over .500 last year. I am going to start her at leadoff. We had her at third last year and teams would walk her. I want her up top where she can get on base and use her speed and be the player she is.”

The Little Tigers will need the rest of the order to step up if the team is going to make the best use of Gonzalez’s production.

“Hannah Gutierrez is going to bat No. 2 and I am going to use Kelli Swedish at the No. 3 spot,” said Boehm.

“I am looking for Maddie Cahill-Sanidas to have a big year. Charlotte Heller had a good year last season. We need Helen Eisenach to pick it up. Sarah Eisenach has a big swing and it goes far when she makes contact. Helen Eisenach is more of a line drive hitter.”

Boehm believes his defense has the ability to pick the ball. PHS will feature senior Cahill-Sanidas at catcher, senior Heller at first base, junior Jessica Campisi at second, senior Helen Eisenach and freshman Stephanie Wu at shortstop, and senior Gutierrez at third with freshman Swedish in left field, Gonzalez in center, and senior Gray in right.

In Boehm’s view, PHS could produce a breakthrough season if it sharpens things up a bit.

“I really believe we can get into double digits in wins,” said Boehm. “We have never had that; we need to get over the hump. We have to play more consistently. We need to cut down on walks. If we can get the other teams to hit it to our fielders and we play consistently defensively, we should do well.”

CO-PILOT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo, right, heads to goal in a 2-12 game. The Lehigh-bound senior midfielder Triolo will be setting the tone this season for the Panthers as they look to challenge for the state Prep B and county titles. PDS is slated to start its 2013 campaign by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CO-PILOT: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo, right, heads to goal in a 2-12 game. The Lehigh-bound senior midfielder Triolo will be setting the tone this season for the Panthers as they look to challenge for the state Prep B and county titles. PDS is slated to start its 2013 campaign by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Rob Tuckman didn’t want to leave anyone behind when he took his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team to Hilton Head, S.C. in mid-March for its annual preseason trip.

“I brought 41 kids, we have a range of talent from D-I in Cody Triolo to kids who are new to the game,” said PDS head coach Tuckman.

“We came down here and it is all lacrosse, all the time. We get a lot of field time and a lot of bonding. From Saturday when we arrive to the end, it is a complete and total transformation of the program and that’s why we come down here. I bring everyone who wants to come because it is eight hours a day on the field; improving skills and getting to know the guys.”

Last spring, the program continued its transformation into one of the elite programs in the area, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament title game.

While the Panthers were disappointed to lose to Hopewell Valley in the county final, the squad gained a lot from the experience.

“One of the things that defines a champion is a team that knows how to get there and knows how to finish,” said Tuckman, who guided the Panthers to a 10-7 record in 2012.

“We proved we can get there last year and we had a good shot of winning. We have an understanding of what it takes; we know we can’t peak at the end of April, we need to peak at the end of May.”

The presence of Lehigh-bound senior star Triolo in the midfield makes PDS a championship contender.

“Cody is an absolute star, off the field he is an incredible captain and leader,” asserted Tuckman, whose team was slated to start the season by hosting Rutgers Prep on April 2 and will then have home games against
Delaware Valley High on April 4 and Pennington School on April 8.

“We have 24 freshmen in the program and to have a guy like Cody setting the tone is great. He creates the rhythm for the rest of the program.”

The rest of the Panther midfield should be a strength as it features such battle-tested performers as seniors Taran Auslander and Ed Meyercord together with juniors Connor Bitterman and Lewis Blackburn and promising freshmen Connor Fletcher and Jonah Tuckman (the coach’s son).

“We have more depth in the midfield than any team I have had,” said Tuckman.

“We have a very strong midfield with Auslander, Meyercord, Bitterman, and Blackburn. Jonah Tuckman and Connor Fletcher should also see time.”

The PDS defense looks to be another strong point for the squad with a group that features senior Derek Bell, sophomore Christian Vik, sophomore Kevin Towle, and junior Ben Levine.

“Derek is a leader back there, he is going off to play at Colorado College,” said Tuckman.

“Christian Vik is one of our poles, he is an outstanding, smart and aggressive defender, showing leadership. Kevin Towle stepped up and worked hard in the offseason; he is making great strides. Levine is stepping in and has also looked good. I am really confident in our defense; we have speed and toughness back there.”

As the last line of defense, junior Nelson Garrymore will be the starting goalie with junior Culver Duquette serving as the back-up.

“Nelson ended up playing six or seven games last year and really controlled the net when he was in there,” said Tuckman.

“He came into the season honed in on his skills. He is an incredible ball stopper; I am excited about what we are seeing from him. Culver started as a midfielder on JV and the goalie broke his hand and he stepped in. He fell in love with the position in the off-season; he trained and trained. He has become a good ball stopper.”

Tuckman is expecting some exciting moments from his attack unit which will include sophomore Jacob Shavel, senior Bump Lisk, and sophomore Chris Azzerello together with freshmen Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine.

“I do think Jacob is going to do some good things,” said Tuckman. “Bump is back and he is a senior leader. Chris Azzerello brings that experience. Zach Lipkin and Joe Levine are freshman, they have some skill and they are going to see a considerable amount of time.”

The Panthers have the pieces in place to enjoy considerable success this spring.

“After going to the MCT final last year, no one is going to take us lightly and that is the way we want it,” said Tuckman.

“It is a very talented group. My expectations are pretty high. We have the potential for a good run in the states and a good run in the counties. As long as we stay healthy, we should be good. Our seniors have to do what they do best, which is to play the game and lead the team. The freshmen need to make plays, they don’t have to be stars. They need to find a role and fill it.”

ZACH ATTACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho heads up the field last Thursday in Hun’s season opener against visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.). Senior midfielder and co-captain Bicho won numerous face-offs for the Raiders in the contest but it wasn’t enough as they fell 11-3 to SCH. Hun will look to get on the winning track as it hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ZACH ATTACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho heads up the field last Thursday in Hun’s season opener against visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.). Senior midfielder and co-captain Bicho won numerous face-offs for the Raiders in the contest but it wasn’t enough as they fell 11-3 to SCH. Hun will look to get on the winning track as it hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Opening the season against Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.) and playing its first game under new head coach M.V. Whitlow, the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team showed a stingy defense at the outset.

Hun held the Blue Devils to three goals in the first half of the March 28 contest.

New coach Whitlow liked the intensity his team displayed from the opening whistle.

“I thought that we came out strong; we came out focused,” said Whitlow, a former assistant coach at Lawrenceville who is replacing Don Green at the helm of the program after he guided Hun to a 7-11 record in 2012. “We came out matching tempo.”

But Hun couldn’t develop a tempo at the offensive end of the field and found itself trailing 3-1 at halftime.

We hit a couple of pipes in the first quarter, which made a big difference in the game,” said Whitlow. “Shooting has been an emphasis for us; it is a good thing to know that we got the looks. We have just got to execute a little better.”

Things got away from the Raiders in the second half as the Blue devils started the half with a 4-0 run and never looked back from the on the way to an 11-3 win.

“The first five minutes of the third quarter made the difference, it was 3-1 at half and then it was 7-1,” said Whitlow. “That changes the complexion of the game, it flips the switch for us.”

While Whitlow was disappointed with the loss, he saw it as a valuable learning experience.

“I knew these guys were tough and they were going to come to play,” said Whitlow.

“I think with a young team, the challenge is always putting four quarters together. That’s my job as a coach to figure out how to get them to put four quarters together.”

Hun had some players who were up to the challenge in the opener. “I thought Owen Black played very well, it is his first game as a freshman, he had a strong game,” said Whitlow, who got goals from Phil Gursahaney, Owen Black, and Matteo Favalaro.

“I thought Greg Flood was clearly a presence on defense. I think Cam Dudeck played a good game against their top attacker. I think Zach Bicho did well, it is a different game if he doesn’t get as many face-offs as he did.”

Whitlow is confident his team will make its presence felt as the spring unfolds.

“They have worked real hard, I don’t think that score is indicative of the statistics of that game,” said Whitlow, whose team hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Blair Academy on April 6 and Delaware Valley High on April 9.

“I think if you look at the shots, they were pretty even. It came down to us hitting some posts in the first half and that stretch in the third quarter. These guys will stay focused; they are great kids. They will come out and practice hard on Monday.”