March 26, 2014
Coach talks w #3

SAGE ADVICE: Hun School baseball head coach Bill McQuade, right, advises a player in a game last year. McQuade is entering his 44th season at the helm of the Hun program and will be working in a number of new faces into his lineup as the Raiders lost 11 players to graduation from a 2013 squad that went 16-7. Hun opens its 2014 season by hosting Lawrenceville on March 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill McQuade brings a wealth of experience to the Hun School baseball team as he enters his 44th season at the helm of the program and that wisdom will come in handy this spring.

Hun has said goodbye to 11 players from a 2013 squad that went 16-7 and McQuade will be working in a bevy of new faces into his lineup.

“We lost so much individual talent from last year, we lost speed and power,” said McQuade, whose team spent a week in Florida earlier this month and is slated to open regular season play by hosting Lawrenceville on March 28.

“We are a completely younger team and a much different team. We brought up so many kids up from JV and they are going to learn under fire.”

The Raiders do return a fireballer on the mound in junior star pitcher Jason Applegate.

“Applegate is a workaholic, sometimes he is too hard on himself,” said McQuade.

“He has to step up and be a leader of the staff. He has talent. He knows this year he has to be a star. He is going to be our ace, for sure.”

McQuade believes that two sophomore hurlers, George Revock and Rob Huselid, could emerge as stars this spring.

“Revock did a really good job last year as a freshman,” said McQuade.

“He is a big, strong lefthander. He will also play first base and DH; he has some pop on his bat. Huselid also did a wonderful job last year. He is a submarine, sidearm style and he likes coming out of the bullpen. He should be our main reliever. He loves it and he has a rubber arm. We can pitch him almost every game.”

The Raiders have some other good arms in junior Justin Pontrella, junior Mike Andreas, junior Matt Kooker, and sophomore James Werosta.

“We got good innings in Florida from Justin Pontrella, Mike Andreas, Matt Kooker and James Werosta,” said McQuade.

“They may have been our most effective pitchers down there. They were pounding the strike zone, they were getting ahead of batters and changing speeds.”

The catching pair of senior Ryan Hayes and junior Gideon Friedberg should help the rotation.

“We have Ryan Hayes at catcher, he is looking good; he improved a lot from last year,” added McQuade.

“Gideon played catcher in Florida; he did a nice job behind the plate.

We could give Ryan some innings at pitcher, he has a good arm.”

Losing such hitting stars as Devan Birch, Shane Adams, Steve Wells, and Eddie Paparella to graduation, the Raiders are going to have to scratch out runs this spring.

“We are going to have to play small ball and have a good on-base percentage,” said McQuade.

At the top of the order, Hun will be looking at junior Nick Perez, senior Andy Douglas, and junior Donavon Harris to be tablesetters.

“Nicky Perez has to have a good year; he knows the game,” said McQuade.

“Andy Douglas is a scrappy player, he loves the game. Harris has potential, he is a such a good all around athlete. He is our one real speed guy.”

Senior co-captains Bailey Hammer and Alex Deutsch should provide punch to the lineup along with Pontrella.

“We are going to move Bailey back to infield; he was an all star outfielder,” said McQuade.

“He is a solid second baseman and he gives us some nice power. Alex Deutsch has some pop in his bat. Pontrella is like the old Yankee Steve Balboni; he has a lot of pop, always has a smile on his face.”

The defensive alignment will feature Hayes at catcher with Pontrella at first base, Hammer at second, Perez at shortstop, junior Peter Schintzler at third, Deutsch in center field, Douglas in right field, and Applegate in left when he isn’t pitching.

In McQuade’s view, pitching and defense hold the key to Hun having a big spring.

“We have to get the pitchers to throw strikes, it sounds easy but it isn’t,” said McQuade. “We have to pitch and play defense, it will be old school baseball.”

McQuade has found it easy to work with this year’s squad. “This is a fun team to coach,” said McQuade.

“This year coming out of the gate, we could struggle but I think we will get better as the year goes on. This team will work, they showed in Florida that they aren’t afraid to work.”

—Bill Alden

 
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FULL SPEED AHEAD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona races up the field in action last year. The Penn-bound senior Lopez-Ona will be a key weapon for PHS this spring as it looks to improve on last season’s 18-4 record. The Little Tigers get their 2014 campaign underway by hosting Lawrence on March 26 and then playing at Hun on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a superb 18-4 campaign that culminated with a run to the Central Jersey Group III sectional final, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team has hit the ground running this spring.

“We are getting off to a great start, almost the whole team is returning from last year,” said second-year head coach Kelsey O’Gorman.

“The seniors have stepped up. This team has so many great athletes that play multiple sports. We didn’t have to start over, we didn’t have to go over the basics. We are ready to go.”

PHS is ready to put up some big numbers at the offensive end, led by the one-two punch of senior stars, Dartmouth-bound Liz Jacobs and Penn-bound Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“Liz and Emilia are looking strong,” said O’Gorman. “They are going to get double-teamed, they have both been starters since freshmen year so they are used to the pressure.”

The Little Tigers boast some other players who can put pressure on the opposition in seniors Krysta Holman and Taylor Chiang along with junior Gabby Gibbons and sophomore Allie Callaway.

“We have a solid unit, they have worked with each other for a long time,” said O’Gorman.

“There is a lot of energy. Krysta Holman and Taylor Chiang will also be on low attack. Gabby Gibbons is awesome for us. She is an all-around player. She is a mature player and is committed to the game. Allie Callaway has come and worked hard in offseason, I am proud of the progress she has made.”

In the midfield, senior standout and Lafayette-bound Dana Smith provides a lot of energy for PHS.

“The word ‘feisty’ describes Dana, she is a ground ball machine,” said O’Gorman.

“I am excited to see how she is going to do on the draw. She has so much fight. She has such an eye for the ball and reading the opponent. She is so aggressive. She is a team captain along with Emilia.”

There are some other exciting options for PHS in the midfield with a pair of sophomores, Julia Ryan and Taylor Lis, showing marked improvement.

“Julia Ryan is really strong; Taylor Lis started as freshmen,” said O’Gorman.

“It is great to see their progress, they learned a lot of lessons last year. Julia is a really good basketball player and Taylor plays soccer. They are two-sport athletes but they are becoming solid lax players. Taylor Chiang will also see time in the midfield. She is versatile, she can go anywhere on the field and do well.”

The Tiger defense will be spearheaded by seniors Kristi DeMilt and Stephanie Hauer along with junior Oona Ryle.

“Kristi DeMilt is our tall defender; you have to watch out for her stick,” said O’Gorman.

“She has long arms and gathers in anything she gets to. Steph Hauer has worked on her agility. She is a big communicator on defense and that is so key. Oona Ryle should also help us there.”

Junior goalie Mira Shane handles just about anything she gets to as well. “Mira is one of the top goalies in the area,” said O’Gorman.

“She is so serious about her lacrosse. She is a lax girl through and through. She is in lax mode and is ready to go. She has the drive and will to get better. She corrects any errors she makes. She coaches herself and is coachable.”

O’Gorman is looking forward to coaching the Little Tigers this spring. “I have really high expectations for this group; we learned a lot from last year,” said O’Gorman, whose team is slated to open the 2014 campaign by hosting Lawrence on March 26 and then playing at Hun on March 29.

“We proved that we are tough competitors; we were put in tough situations and fought through them. I was so proud of them last year and think I am going to be even more proud of them this year.”

In order to have another big year, the Little Tigers need to get on the same page.

“Everyone has to find their role,” said O’Gorman. “We have to put the puzzle pieces together and see who is our best feeder, who is best on the drive, who is best on the draw. This season holds so much potential.”

—Bill Alden

 
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BUCKING THE TREND: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Colin Buckley stymies a foe in action last spring. Junior Buckley brings strength and skill to the PHS defensive unit. The Little Tigers are slated to start the 2014 season by playing at Hights-town on March 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Catching fire at the right time, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team enjoyed an inspiring run last spring, winning the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title and advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.

As longtime PHS head coach Peter Stanton looks ahead to the 2014 season, he believes the team’s veterans learned some valuable lessons from last year’s run.

“Our older players, particularly our captains (Matt Purdy, Matt Corrado, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick), know what it takes to be a champion,” said Stanton. “You need to be unselfish, sacrifice and buy into the team concept.”

The Little Tigers strengthened their team chemistry earlier this month when they went on a preseason trip to Florida.

“The trip was good fun,” said Stanton, who led PHS to a 16-4 record last spring as he passed the 200-win milestone in his tenure.

“We spent a lot of time together off the field and that is as valuable as the time on the field. We experimented a lot; we tried different lineups. We learned a lot of things very quickly. They are bright kids, they are willing to learn and work together.”

PHS should get good work from two of those senior captains, Purdy and Corrado, on attack.

“Matt was our leading goal scorer last year; he is definitely someone we will look to be an outstanding finisher,” said Stanton, whose squad opens the 2014 season by playing at Hightstown on March 27.

“We want him to be more of a creator this year; last year he was finishing up the work of his teammates. We also expect a lot from Matt Corrado. They are our two senior captains on attack and we know they are solid.”

Stanton has some other solid performers on attack in senior Adam Durner, freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona, and junior Connor McCormick.

“We will mix and match with Durner and Lopez Ona,” added Stanton. “We are also looking at Connor McCormick at attack. He played midfielder last year and he showed in Florida that he has a capable stick.”

The pair of Kevin Halliday and Patrick McCormick give the Little Tigers a very capable one-two punch in the midfield.

“We have Kevin and Pat there, they are great kids,” said Stanton. “Of all of our players, Kevin can run by a defender the best. He is so fast and he has great vision and awareness. Pat is outstanding at both ends of the field. He is a tough defender and he is very capable offensively. He is good in transition.”

Filling out the midfield will be senior Dalton Sekelsky, sophomore Rory Helstrom, sophomore Nick Halliday, and sophomore Luis Lazo.

“Sekelsky is a guy who has learned the game in a hurry, he first started playing last year and he looks like a veteran out there this year,” said Stanton.

“Rory Helstrom is also very athletic. He brings the unsung hero mentality. He plays good defense, picks up ground balls, starts transition. He is thrilled to be on the field. Luis Lazo and Nick Halliday are two sophomores who are looking to get on the field.”

On defense, the pair of junior stars Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres, are looking good along with senior Spencer Reynolds, junior Joe Hawes, and sophomore Harry Dyevich.

“Those two guys are very skilled and alert players; they are very big and very strong,” asserted Stanton, referring to Buckley and Andres.

“Spencer Reynolds has worked really hard for the four years he has been in the program. Last year he was a role player, a back up longstick midfielder and on the man-down. He has earned a spot on the defense. Joe Hawes was a middie last year. Out of need and interest, he started playing with the longstick, he is a big, strong kid. Harry Dyevich will get some playing time, he is a physical player but he doesn’t have the experience.”

While the Little Tigers don’t boast experience at goalie with junior Kenan Glasgold and freshman Sawyer Peck, Stanton has confidence in both performers.

“Kenan Glasgold started playing goalie last year; he has worked hard in the offseason to play the position and he has really improved,” said Stanton.

“Sawyer has learned a lot from his brothers (former PHS stars Kirby Peck and Griffin Peck) and ice hockey. He has been playing goalie for a while. It is great when you see somebody making strides and both of these guys are making strides. It is too early to say who will be the starter. I am not fond of a rotation. We will go with the guy who is playing the best at the time.”

Stanton is confident that PHS can progress into something special this spring. “This is a good team that has the potential to be a very good team,” said Stanton.

“It is a nice mixture of older kids and young talent. I am most interested in how we finish the season. I think we could do well in the playoffs. I think the offensive key is making defenses guard all six of our offensive players. All six need to be involved in creating defense; we can’t rely on one guy. On defense, we need to work really hard at playing as a team.”

—Bill Alden

 
PHS lane 5 swimmer in the 100 back stroke

WILL TO SUCCEED: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange heads to victory in a backstroke race this fall. The Cornell-bound Stange produced a brilliant senior campaign for PHS, helping the Little Tigers win a fourth straight county crown and advance to the state Public B state championship meet. Stange was the boys’ Most Valuable Swimmer at the county meet, setting both meet and school records in winning the 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke races at the competition. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The past fall, Will Stange earned Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts, an honor which signifies diligence, spirit, and leadership.

Over the winter, Stange exhibited the same characteristics in his senior season for the Princeton High boys’ swim team.

Stange helped PHS roll to an undefeated regular season and then played a key role as the Little Tigers won their fourth straight Mercer County Champions team title.

Showing his versatility and talent, Stange set both meet and school records in the winning the 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke races, getting named as the boys’ Most Valuable Swimmer at the counties.

For Stange, earning the individual accolade was important in the context of the impact it could have on the team.

“It was great; it sets me up personally and gets me excited for the rest of the season,” said Stange. “Hopefully it psyches everybody else up coming out of this meet.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand, for one, was psyched by Stange’s performance in the county meet.

“This was a brilliant meet for Will; since freshman year, we have asked for perhaps more versatility from him than anybody,” said Hand.

“In this meet, it seemed to be the time to allow him to swim the IM and show the kind of mastery he has of all the strokes and also to go 200 yards for us instead of the constant 100s. He showed the depth of his training, his endurance, and his will to compete with everything he has got.”

PHS went on to produce a brilliant run in the Public B state tournament, winning its sixth straight sectional crown and making it to the championship meet where they dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Moorestown to end the winter at 13-1.

The meet came down to the final event, the 400 free relay, with PHS needing to place first to win the title. Stange was on the anchor leg and entered the water trailing. While he couldn’t make up the difference as PHS took second, he was proud to give his all.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Stange, who will heading to Cornell this fall and competing for the Big Red swimming program.

“All of us went in and talked behind the block. We knew we had to win it in order to win the meet. We went all out but couldn’t get it, that’s alright.”

For Stange, swimming with his classmates was better than alright. “We have been good friends through thick and thin and it is great to go out here rather than anywhere else,” said Stange, whose classmates include Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Matt Tam, Avery Soong, and Colburn Yu.

“We had an incredible run. I love this team as much as any other, probably more than any other. It is just such a close-knit group that we have. It is going to be hard next year not to be with them.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand is going to miss Stange and his classmates. “They went out just the way they came in with a full effort,” said Hand.

“That’s not just in the pool in a tough meet but it really applies to the way they have trained throughout their swimming career and the kind of passion they bring to high school swimming. I admire it so much. They are role models for everybody younger. They keep things in perspective. Today when we needed to swim fast and not back down, that was a piece of keeping things in perspective. It is not a perspective that says things like this doesn’t matter. It says that things like this do matter, so do everything that you can about it and live with what you get.”

For his spirit and coming through when it mattered, Stange is the choice as the Town Topics top male performer of the winter high school sports season.

Top Female Performer

Brianna Romaine gave a lift to the PHS girls’ swim team in her freshman season in 2012-13, establishing herself as a dependable sprinter.

Romaine thrived in the team’s supporting cast, complementing senior stars Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio as the Little Tigers won their first-ever team title at the Mercer County Swimming championships.

This winter, Romaine was ready to take a leading role with one season under her.

“I feel like I know the drill better,” said Romaine. “I know how I need to prepare myself before my races. Before I would warm up randomly but now I know that I need to get in at the break and I need to swim before. I know that I always need to drink water. I am more aware of things.”

Romaine had the sense that the squad was primed to do some big things this winter. “I could not be more proud of the girls’ team,” asserted Romaine.

“We are a young team. We have some very strong freshmen. Our captains are really organized and they are great leaders. The counties are definitely something to look forward to.”

With Romaine dominating in the sprints, PHS went undefeated in regular season action and then started the postseason by winning its second straight county title. Romaine came up big at the county meet, setting a meet record of 1:04.85 in winning the 100 backstroke and also placing third in the 100 freestyle.

PHS head coach Greg Hand was impressed by Romaine’s spirit and ability.

“Brianna is a real fighter,” said Hand. “She is a role model for kids both older and younger than her because she is utterly unabashed about trying to get the result that she wants as far as her own swim is concerned.”

Romaine and the Little Tigers ended up going far in the state Public B meet, winning the program’s first Central Jersey sectional title since 2011 before falling 96-74 to Ocean City in the state semis.

A week later, at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, Romaine placed eighth in the 100 freestyle and helped the 400 free relay take sixth.

For Romaine, going fast comes naturally. “I have always done sprint training,” said Romaine. “I just love the rush, going up and getting after it right away.”

Romaine’s ability to get it done time after time makes her the pick as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

Soon after Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown hit the ice for the Hun School boys’ hockey team, the program was looking to them to make an immediate impact.

“A third of the team is freshmen,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally. “They are not going to be on the fourth line so it will make a big difference if they can step in right away and produce.”

Bowing to the inevitable, McNally put the trio of forwards together on the same line.

“In week two we put those three together and we have tinkered here or there with other ones but those three are here for good,” said McNally.

“They just move the puck very well and they knew each other and have played together before. They all just went to an all-star game together for their bantam league.”

It didn’t take long for the combination to become the Killer Bees for Hun’s foes as the Raiders established themselves as one of the top teams in the area.

Hun ended up winning two titles, topping Notre Dame 4-2 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game and then defeating Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game.

The trio of Barratt (23 goals, 38 assists) Bendorf (36 goals, 30 assists), and Brown (28 goals, 32 assists) were the team’s top three scorers as it ended the winter with a 20-7 record.

The three stars quickly developed a chemistry once they were put together. “It has been a lot of fun going to the Hun School and playing with Jon and Blake,” said Barratt.

“We were clicking right away; it was awesome. We have definitely brought the scoring.”

McNally, for his part, is looking forward to a lot of fun times over the next few seasons.

“With this group of freshmen, the hopes are high for the future,” said McNally.

“The freshmen forwards were 1-2-3 in scoring. We said last week that we had no more practices left, only a playoff game. We said that big players show up in big games and they did that. We had 10 goals in two title games and Barratt had 10 points.”

For providing the scoring punch that helped Hun win two titles, the trio of freshmen share the nod as the top male newcomers.

It didn’t take long for Kristin Serafin to turn heads this winter as she joined the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“The girls are definitely impressed with Kristi, they think she is going to be a star in the league,” said PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook in December as she looked ahead to the season.

“She has so much potential. There are things we can work on with her but her instincts are so good.”

Serafin didn’t waste any time showing that she was going to be a star, tallying two goals and an assist as PDS topped Hill 6-2 in its season opener.

Showing offensive skills and providing tenacious defense, Serafin helped PDS go 11-8-1 and advance to the semis in the WIHLMA ‘A’ bracket. She finished the season with 19 points on seven goals and a team-high 12 assists.

“Everyone has a really high opinion of Kristi, she’ll be really fun to watch over the next three years” asserted Cook in reflecting on the season. “She is a true defenseman and we haven’t had that in a while.

For being a true standout in her debut season, Serafin is the choice for top female newcomer.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli and Ian McNally have a lot in common.

They are both natives of Canada who came to Princeton University and played for the Tiger men’s hockey team.

They both ended up in the Princeton area and they each coach local high school boys’ hockey teams with Bertoli guiding PDS and McNally at the helm of the Hun program.

Coming into this winter, the two Princeton alums faced similar coaching challenges.

For Bertoli, it was keeping the Panthers at a high level after losing nine seniors to graduation from a 2012-13 squad that went 21-3-1 and shared the state Prep championship.

“We need to establish who this team is and what our identity is going to be,” said Bertoli.

“Last year, we had 17 returning players and we knew who we were. We have guys taking bigger roles and more responsibility. It will take time to evolve and find out who we are and what allows us to be the most effective.”

McNally, for his part, was welcoming a bevy of new faces to a program that went 16-5-4  and won the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title.

“We lost seven seniors, two post-graduates, and three or four other kids,” said McNally.

“We have a lot of kids who never played but we should be even stronger. There is a positive hunger, we have an influx of new kids who don’t know any better.”

PDS and Hun proved to be up to the challenges, solidifying their status as two of the better programs around.

The Panthers took two out of three games at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts in December and posted a milestone 6-3 win over Lawrenceville in mid-January, its first triumph over the BigRed since the 2000-01 season.

PDS topped a powerful Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) team 6-4 in mid-February and then edged Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the state Prep title game to earn the program’s first outright state crown since 2011.

The squad ended the season at 14-7-2 and earned the admiration of Bertoli. “It is a completely different group from last year,” said Bertoli.

“Last year, we were offensively dynamic and this group just grinds it out, they are willing to be patient and they do a lot of the little things. As a coach, it is so much more gratifying to watch this team compete.”

Hun proved to be a dynamic team as its trio of freshman forwards, Evan Barratt, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown, sparked it to a pair of titles. Entering the Mercer County Tournament for the first time since 2009, the Raiders topped defending champion Notre Dame 4-2 in the championship game on February 21. Four days later, Hun defeated Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the IHL championship game.

“Last year, we won one title and this year we won two; the program is getting better every year,” said McNally, whose team posted a final record of 20-7.

“The expectations were higher coming into the year. Last year, we hoped to win our league, this year we expected to win our league. The biggest difference was in how we viewed ourselves.”

For getting their programs to overcome challenges and meet high expectations, Bertoli and McNally are the joint choice for top coaches of a male team.

Last winter the Princeton High girls’ swim team came out of nowhere to win its first-ever title at the Mercer County Championships.

Coming into 2013-14, PHS had a bull’s eye on its back and the task of making up for the loss of graduated stars Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio.

Early in the season, PHS head coach Greg hand got the sense that his squad was coming together quickly.

“Regardless of the opponent, I will always be looking for a certain few qualities in the team,” said Hand.

“I think we have made a lot of progress since training began, pulling ourselves together and understanding how we do things. We competed; we were really there for each other.”

The Little Tigers didn’t lose a regular season meet and defended their county title in style, rolling to a second straight crown, piling up 222 points with Steinert second at 169, and WW/P-S taking third with 156.

PHS didn’t stop there, putting together an inspiring run in the state Public B tournament. Getting seeded No. 1 in the Central Jersey sectional, PHS lived up to its rank, rolling into the final and topping second-seeded Lawrence 110-60 to win the program’s first sectional crown since 2011.

“I don’t think anybody is backing down from the idea that we have a shot at a  sectional title and maybe a great opportunity therefore to swim in a state semifinal and really push ourselves,” said Hand.

While PHS fell 94-76 to Ocean City in the state semifinal, Hand liked the spirit he saw from his team throughout the winter.

“The girls do everything they can to control the won-loss record but I think they are pretty realistic,” said Hand, whose squad finished the winter with a 12-1 record.

“We just come out and swim our best every time and if we are good enough to get a result, that is great. I like their spirit and camaraderie, it continues to grow.”

Hand’s role in getting the best out of his team as it won two titles makes him the pick as the top coach of a female team.

—Bill Alden

 
March 19, 2014
FAST STARTER: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring races up the ice in action this winter. Freshman forward Herring led PHS in scoring this season with 18 points on 8 goals and 10 assists and was named team MVP. Herring’s older sister, junior Lucy, was next in scoring with 17 points on 11 goals and six assists. The Herring sisters helped the Little Tigers post a 2-11 season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FAST STARTER: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Maggie Herring races up the ice in action this winter. Freshman forward Herring led PHS in scoring this season with 18 points on 8 goals and 10 assists and was named team MVP. Herring’s older sister, junior Lucy, was next in scoring with 17 points on 11 goals and six assists. The Herring sisters helped the Little Tigers post a 2-11 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been understandable if the Princeton High girls’ hockey team had thrown in the towel after starting the season with seven straight losses.

Coming off a winless campaign in 2012-13, the PHS players could have figured same old, same old.

Instead, the Little Tigers held their heads high and didn’t let the steady diet of losing get to them.

“I think the girls work hard and stay on board with the program,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog.

“The glass is half full for them; they can be down by seven goals and they are still trying hard. They really have a good attitude; they always have fun.

That upbeat approach yielded dividends as PHS broke through with two wins over the Academy of New Church in mid-January.

“It was a step up getting two wins,” said Herzog, whose team topped ANC 4-1 on January 15 and then defeated the Lions 3-1 nine days later at Baker Rink on PHS Senior Night. “We were looking to get those two wins, that was a goal.”

Herzog credited his group of seniors with keeping the team on task. “It’s a good group, from the fun bunch, to being easy going and working hard,” said Herzog of the team’s Class of 2014 which included captain Kate Sohn, assistant captain Erin Forden, Bea Greenberg, Breanna Hegarty-Thorne, Molly O’Brien, Merritt Peck, and Oraya Zinder.

“Kate Sohn, without a doubt, is the most responsible captain I have had. I think of her as a mini coach. Peck came a long way, she really made some headway. She got the coaches award. I said at our banquet that she is like the daughter I have never had, her sense of humor keeps things light. Forden is more of a physical player, she gave us a physical presence.”

The Herring sisters, freshman Maggie and junior Lucy, gave the Little Tigers  a scoring presence in the crease.

“Maggie was the MVP, she had 18 points to lead the team, Lucy was next with 17,” said Herzog.

“Lucy won the head, heart, hustle award, recognizing her hard work. Without Lucy working hard to get the puck out of the corner, Maggie would not have had so many points.

Looking ahead, PHS had some hard workers returning along the blue line. “We have four defensemen coming back in Brittney Coniglione, Anne Daly, Julia DiTosto, and Marian Hancock-Cerrutti,” said Herzog.

“Marian got our most improved award. We had her at forward and then moved her to defense. She was the sixth defensemen at first but moved up. She made tons of improvement and has really become tough out there.”

Sophomore goalie Callie Urisko also improved a lot this winter. “Callie has gotten so much stronger than when she first came on the ice, her butterfly is much better,” said Herzog, who also got some good play this season from senior Hergarty-Thorne at goalie.

“I am going to be working with her to come out more and be more confident with the puck.”

While the bad weather this winter may have stunted PHS’s progress a little bit, Herzog believes his players gained confidence over the course of the season.

“We had two practices in the last month with all the cancellations” said Herzog.  “We could only make so much progress, the snow killed us. It was a positive experience overall for the girls.”

GOOD BIT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Bitterman skates up the ice in action this winter. Senior forward Bitterman contributed 8 goals and 11 assists this winter as PDS went 14-7-2 and won the state Prep title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD BIT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Bitterman skates up the ice in action this winter. Senior forward Bitterman contributed 8 goals and 11 assists this winter as PDS went 14-7-2 and won the state Prep title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team came up empty in its final weekend of the season as it dropped all three games at the Hill School (Pa.) Tournament, Scott Bertoli had nothing but praise for his players’ effort in the competition.

“That was probably as proud as I have been of any of my teams,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, whose squad ended the season with a 14-7-2 record.

“We were playing without [Andrew] Clayton and [Kyle] Weller. We lost [Connor] Fletcher on Saturday to a shoulder injury and we lost [Sean] Timmons to a shoulder injury early on Sunday. We were playing without three or four of our best players and we were playing against some of the the top competition in the area.”

Despite being shorthanded, the Panthers never stopped battling over the weekend, falling 2-1 to Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and then losing 2-0 and 4-2 to Hill.

“We could have won against Wyoming, it was 1-0 and they got an empty net goal in the last minute to make it 2-0,” recalled Bertoli.

“We were outplayed and tired against Hill, they outshot us something like 50-20. If not for Logan [freshman goalie Logan Kramsky] we could have been down by 6 or 7 goals. It was a 1-goal game with 30 seconds left before they scored an empty net. We were still in the game even though we were significantly outplayed. In the last game we were down 3-2 with 3 minutes left; we ended up with the goalie pulled and they scored.”

Reflecting on a campaign which saw PDS win the state Prep title, Bertoli believes his team overachieved.

“They outperformed and exceeded any reasonable expectations we had at the beginning of the season,” said Bertoli.

“We were not that flashy or explosive. We were committed to working hard and doing the little things and making things tough on other teams.”

There were some big highlights along the way as the Panthers saw their hard work pay dividends.

“First the way we competed in the Barber Tournament; we were missing some key guys and we still won two of three games against tough New England competition,” recalled Bertoli, reflecting on the December tournament.

“We played a very good Lawrenceville team and and played such a sound game and beat them at our rink (6-3 on January 15), that was a milestone game. The win over Wyoming Seminary (6-4 on February 12) was as big of a win I have had since I have been here. They had one loss coming into the game and they play a lot of New England schools. We were playing without Clayton and Young. It was exciting to watch our kids compete and execute and buy into the game plan. That was a huge win for our kids and gave us an opportunity to play for the MAHL (Mid-Atlantic Hockey League) title.”

Seizing the opportunity to win the Prep title outright with a 4-3 victory over Morristown-Beard on February 18 was a big feather in the cap for PDS.

“This program is measured by some in terms of prep championships and we have won three of last four,” said Bertoli. “Mo-Beard was a very good, highly skilled, and well-coached hockey team.”

Bertoli credited the team’s senior group of  Nelson Garrymore, Andrew Clayton, John Egner, Lewie Blackburn, Sean Timmons, C.J. Young, Connor Bitterman, Gabe Castagna, and Hap Ammidon with setting the tone this winter.

“They were awesome, for two or three years, other than Timmons (16 goals and 25 assists in 2013-14), they were role players,” said Bertoli.

“They were kids that contributed but didn’t fill the score sheet or play on the power play. They took ownership of the team and created a new identity. Last year, most games were decided before they started or early when we went 21-3-1. This year there were a lot of 1-goal margins and tight games.”

In Bertoli’s view, the development of Blackburn, Egner, Clayton, and Young symbolized how the program’s Class of 2014 stepped up.

“Lewie Blackburn (9 goals and 12 assists) was a third line player and he became one of our better players, the same thing with John Egner (6 goals and 12 assists),” added Bertoli.

“Clayton (4 goals and 10 assists) went from the fifth or sixth defenseman to top one or two. C.J. Young (6 assists) went from fifth defenseman to top one or two and played a ton of minutes after Andrew got hurt. He played two-thirds of the game. Gabe only made the team as a junior and played a small amount. He played on top line at times this year. It was rewarding to see so many kids go from lesser roles to being prominent fixtures.”

With PDS falling just short of the MAHL crown by virtue of a 4-1 loss to LaSalle College High (Pa.) on February 19, Bertoli knows the program faces a challenge in keeping pace with the powers in the newly-formed league.

“It is good that it is in place and I am glad we are part of it,” said Bertoli of the MAHL, which also includes Lawrenceville, Hill, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Wyoming.

“We need to maintain our level and continue to improve to compete. We have lost 17 kids to graduation and Ross Colton (who transferred to Taft) over the last two years. We will be looking to fill that void; our success has allowed us to attract quality applicants.”

FIRING AWAY: Princeton Day School girls hockey star Robin Linzmayer fires a shot in action this season. Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer was a force at both ends of the ice in her final campaign, helping PDS go 11-8-1 this winter.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRING AWAY: Princeton Day School girls hockey star Robin Linzmayer fires a shot in action this season. Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer was a force at both ends of the ice in her final campaign, helping PDS go 11-8-1 this winter. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last year, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team absorbed a lopsided defeat to the Portledge School (N.Y.) in the WIHLMA semifinals.

This season, the squads met again in the league semis but the game took on an entirely different tone as PDS battled hard before succumbing 1-0.

In the view of Panther head coach Lorna Gifis Cook, the loss was emblematic of the progress the program made this year.

“I think on the way there, we could tell that everyone was confident about our chances, the girls were relaxed and focused,” said Cook.

“We gave up a goal in the first period with a few seconds left on a power play; it was pretty deflating at the time but the girls bounced back and kept going,” said Cook.

“We showed a lot of improvement. Last year we lost 6-1 to them in the semis.”

While Cook was proud of PDS’s final record of 11-8-1, she believes it is not an accurate barometer of the quality hockey displayed by the Panthers this winter.

“It is not representative of how much we improved,” said Cook. “We did have one more win than we had in the last two years. We had some games cancelled that we might have won.”

Cook points to a 3-3 tie at Shady Side Academy which came after a 4-1 loss in a two-game set between the teams on January 11 as a turning point for the
Panthers.

“In the second game we were down 3-1 late and Robin [Linzmayer] takes a  questionable penalty with two minutes left and we get two goals to tie it,” recalled Cook.

“It felt like a win. We got momentum from that game and applied it to the rest of the season.”

The team’s senior group of Linzmayer, Abby Sharer, Mary Travers, Mimi Matthews, and Colby Triolo helped PDS finish strong.

“It has been fun coaching all of them; they have each contributed in unique ways,” asserted Cook.

“We had 72 goals and 81 assists as a team this season and the seniors accounted for 46 goals and 46 assists.”

Senior defenseman and team captain Linzmayer accounted for a lot of team’s success this season.

“Robin has been the best player on the team for the last three years,” said Cook of Linzmayer, who scored 22 points this winter on 13 goals and nine assists.

“She shoots the puck as hard as anyone, the last two years she brought it lower. She passes hard and skates hard. She finds ways to get into the offense. She is a presence, she is intimidating.”

The quartet of Sharer (1 goal, 9 assists), Travers (13 goals, 9 assists), Matthews (13 goals, 10 assists), and Triolo  (6 goals, 9 assists) also played hard throughout the season.

“I have been coaching hockey for 10 years and I have never seen a player improve as much as Abby, to go from hardly playing to getting a lot of shifts and being in the penalty kill,” said Cook.

“It was so fun to see her improvement. Mary is a gifted athlete with a knack for finishing. Mimi has a good shot, is fast, and she really cares. Colby is as passionate about hockey as anyone I have seen.”

Cook believes the Panthers should have a lot of fun next season with a group of returnees that includes freshman Annika Asplundh, junior Katie Alden, freshman Daphne Stanton, sophomore Emma Stillwaggon,  freshman Kristi Serafin, freshman Ashley Cavuto, and junior Carly King.

“The goalie situation is going to be the same and that is good, they both should come back that much better,” said Cook, who used Asplundh and Alden between the pipes.

“Daphne is positionally sound; we need to work on her confidence in finishing. Emma is scrappy. She had some of our bigger goals, including the tying goal against Shady Side. Everyone has a really high opinion of Kristi, she’ll be really fun to watch over the next three years. She is a true defenseman and we haven’t had that in a while. Ashley has so many tools that people haven’t seen, we need her to step it up. For Carly, it is finding the spots and making sure she is in control. Every team needs players like her, she finds a way to get it done even if it is not pretty at times.”

ANSWERING THE BELL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell prepares to put up a shot in action this winter. Junior guard Bell averaged 7 points and 8 rebounds a game this winter for the Tartans. She helped Stuart post an 8-8 record this season as the Tartans quadrupled their win total from 2012-13 when they went 2-13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ANSWERING THE BELL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harlyn Bell prepares to put up a shot in action this winter. Junior guard Bell averaged 7 points and 8 rebounds a game this winter for the Tartans. She helped Stuart post an 8-8 record this season as the Tartans quadrupled their win total from 2012-13 when they went 2-13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Stuart Country Day School basketball team fell 41-26 to Pennington in the state Prep B quarterfinals, Dana Leary saw her squad’s effort as emblematic of its progress this winter.

“I think one game that really stood out was the Pennington game in the Prep B playoffs,” said second-year Stuart head coach Leary.

“In the first game we played them in the regular season, we were down 22-2 in the first quarter. In the playoffs, we were down by one point in the third quarter and the girls were really fired up. They were intense. Even though we lost, it felt like a win. They left it all on the court and that’s all you can ask.”

The Stuart players gave their all in the season finale as they beat King’s Christian 56-15.

“The girls came out and did a really good job,” said Leary, reflecting on the triumph which gave the Tartans a final record of 8-8.

“We had three girls in double figures, We played hard and executed very well on offense. It was a good performance.”

It was a fitting finish for senior Maggie Walsh. “Maggie Walsh was our one and only senior,” noted Leary.

“She was an important part of the team. She was a good leader and role model for the girls.”

Sophomore forward Kate Walsh, followed her older sister’s lead. “I think Kate really improved since last season,” said Leary of Walsh, who averaged 5.2 points and 10 rebounds a game.

“Towards the end of the season, she started working on a jump shot. She wants to improve and get better. I am excited to watch her develop and grow.”

Another player who grew a lot this winter was junior forward Nneka Onukwugha as she averaged 7 points and 11 rebounds a contest.

“Nneka did a great job rebounding,” said Leary. “She had a bunch of double-doubles for us. We have her coming off the bench, she really brings a spark when she comes in.”

The team’s backcourt pair of sophomore Harley Guzman and junior Harlyn Bell also gave Stuart a spark this winter with Guzman averaging 5.3 points a game and Bell contributing 7 points and 8 rebounds per contest.

“We got much better handling the ball,” asserted Leary. “Harley Guzman did a great job; she became confident with the ball. Harlyn Bell stepped up and handled pressure well. In the beginning of the season, we were looking to attack from the inside with Maggie, Kate, and Nneka. As the season went on, the guards started to look for their shots and attack the basket and that opened things up.”

In Leary’s view, things are looking up for the Tartans. “I am really excited with the direction in which the program is heading,” said Leary, whose team’s eight wins quadrupled its win total from 2012-13 when Stuart posted a 2-13 record.

“The girls really improved. They had a lot more confidence. I am looking forward to next year.”

In order to keep things going in the right direction, Leary has some ambitious offseason plans for her players.

“I had a meeting with the girls after the season,” added Leary. “I am going to encourage them to attend camps. We may compete in a summer league. I am also going to have an open gym once a week. I plan to have it open for two hours. We will work on individual skills and team drills. We will also work on strength and conditioning.”

If the Tartans put in the work, they should be even stronger next season. “I have emphasized the importance of the offseason,” said Leary.

“I told the girls this is where you start preparing for the season. They can’t come in November having not touched the ball and expect to get better. I told them to pick one area of their games and if they put in time, it will add up.”

March 12, 2014
SHOWING HART: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart drives to the hoop in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Hart enjoyed a big season, averaging a team-high 11.9 points a game as the Little Tigers posted a final record of 6-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHOWING HART: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Matt Hart drives to the hoop in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Hart enjoyed a big season, averaging a team-high 11.9 points a game as the Little Tigers posted a final record of 6-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley emphasizes sharing the ball, he acknowledged that his squad could have used a go-to scoring threat this winter.

In posting a final record 6-15 this season, PHS dropped several nailbiters where it didn’t generate the offensive firepower to get over the hump.

“I think we had some very solid role players but we didn’t have one guy who could just score one-on-one by himself,” said Shelley.

“Last year in big wins we would have three guys around 15 points, this year we only had two and that hurt us in those six or seven close losses.”

The Little Tigers ended the season with a tough loss as it fell 58-50 to crosstown rival Princeton Day School in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game.

In the wake of the defeat, Shelley wanted his players to focus on what they could learn from the frustrating campaign rather than what went wrong against PDS.

“I think my experience has been when the season is over is that you don’t dwell on the Xs and Os; we didn’t make enough shots or play well enough to win,” said Shelley.

“I think about the bigger message and the bigger picture. Some of the most defining moments of life start when we have disappointments.”

Shelley was disappointed to see his group of seniors move on. “It was special for me, when I took over the JV program they were my core players so I have been coaching them for three years,” said Shelley of the team’s Class of 2014 which included Matt Vasseur, Paul Murray, Andrew Braverman, Louis Capon, Callahan O’Meara, Matt Donahue, Robbie Von Der Schmidt, and Peter Mahotiere.

“They are hard-working kids. When I talk to other coaches they say we have so many interchangeable kids who play hard.”

O’Meara and Mahotiere stepped into leading roles in their final campaign, scoring 143 points and 218 points, respectively, this winter. “Cal and Peter were at the core of the team,” asserted Shelley.

“Peter made himself into a very good player, he was relentless in the weight room and he worked hard on his shot. Cal’s attitude has improved. He’s become a good leader in a positive way. It is great to see kids develop like that.”

Shelley is depending on junior Kevin Kane and sophomore Matt Hart to take leading roles next winter. Kane averaged 9.7 points a game this winter while Hart led the Little Tigers with 11.9 per game.

“Kevin and Matt are guys that have to score a good bit,” said Shelley. “Matt Hart will go a long way. His points per game was better in the second half of the season than it was in the first half. Going forward, he is going to be a tough player for us. He has a good outside shot and he is coachable. He is going to do stuff with us over the summer and he is also going to do stuff with some elite camps.”

PHS also has some young talent making its way through the ranks. “We have some JV players who can step in and fill in down low and help us with rebounding,” said Shelley.

“We have a strong freshman group, they went 15-2. They don’t have a superstar but they have five, six, or seven players who play so well together. We want to keep that chemistry.”

In order for PHS to play better next winter, Shelley is looking for his players to keep their noses to the grindstone over the offseason.

“We talk about the importance of weightlifting; Peter has volunteered to help us with that,” said Shelley.

“We have three different things planned. We are going to do the Princeton University team camp, that is good because you get a lot of games in that weekend and then we’ll play in the Princeton summer men’s hoops league and a JV league in Hillsborough where you play people you don’t see all the time like Piscataway, Hillsborough, Montgomery. We will have three open gyms a week, sometimes that involves scrimmages, other times we work on drills and run plays.”

COLE-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Deante Cole fired a pass in a game this season. Senior guard Cole scored 19 points in his final game for PDS as the Panthers topped Princeton High 58-50 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. Cole averaged 13.0 points a game this winter for the Panthers, who posted a final record of 8-14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COLE-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Deante Cole fired a pass in a game this season. Senior guard Cole scored 19 points in his final game for PDS as the Panthers topped Princeton High 58-50 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. Cole averaged 13.0 points a game this winter for the Panthers, who posted a final record of 8-14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having culminated the last two seasons by advancing to the state Prep B title game, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team wasn’t looking to end this winter by playing a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.

But topping crosstown rival Princeton High 58-50 in the MCT consolation game on February 17 left PDS head coach Paris McLean and his players with a warm memory to end a tough winter.

“It was an unbelievable way to go out; the past two years we lost in the Prep B state final and it was a locker room full of upset players and tears,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 8-14.

“This time there was joy and excitement in the locker room. The seniors passed the torch in a great way. It was special to end with a win.”

The PDS seniors went out with a bang in the victory over PHS as senior Deante Cole scored 19 points with classmates Langston Glaude and Chris Okorodudu each getting 11 and classmate Ford Schneider posting a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

“We had multiple contributors; we had four guys in double figures and that is what we did all year,” said McLean who got 13.0 points a game from Cole this winter with Glaude averaging 13.2 points, Okorodudu chipping in 10.5 points a contest, and Schneider averaging 11.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

“I think we were the only team in the county to have four guys average in double figures.”

Although PDS didn’t hit double figures in wins, the players never hung their heads.

“By some accounts, the season was a little disappointing,” said McLean. “The boys wanted more wins and so did the staff but the players really impressed me with the way they showed up and worked hard everyday. I didn’t know how the season was going to go and whether the boys would keep their morale. The motto was are we getting better everyday and I think we did that.”

McLean is impressed by what his group of seniors have contributed in their time with the program.

“On senior night, I said they need to look at their body of work,” said McLean, whose senior group included Zack Banks, Brandon Glover, Jake Hall, Dan Lee, and Ben Levine along with Cole, Glaude, Okorodudu, and Schneider.

“While some people would say it isn’t where you start it is where you finished. They need to look at what they accomplished over their four years. We had 15, 16, 19, and 8 wins; 58 wins in four seasons is a lot. They showed great leadership, they were role models on and off the court. We are losing nine seniors and that is a big hit in numbers and talent.”

The seniors have set a good example for the program’s returning players. “We have Chase Lewis, Josiah Meekins, and J.P. Radvany coming back, they are three capable players and they will need to step up,” said McLean.

“Chase has a bright future; he really stepped up this year. We have a strong JV and freshman program. It will be a transition for them; the game is faster at the varsity level but the players will be prepared. The opportunity will be there and I have learned that these kids are opportunistic.”

Even if that transition proves to be rocky at times, those kids will be getting an opportunity to be part of something special.

“We have had successful seasons most of the years I have been here in terms of wins and losses but this is about more than wins and losses and this season reaffirmed that for me,” said McLean, a former PDS basketball and football star.

“It is about playing for your school and giving your all. You get a special camaraderie from team sports and I feel good about this team and what we did. They have made lifelong friendships.”

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Anhut helped a youthful Panthers squad make progress under new head coach Kamau Bailey. After losing its first five games, PDS ended the season with a 3-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Anhut helped a youthful Panthers squad make progress under new head coach Kamau Bailey. After losing its first five games, PDS ended the season with a 3-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Kamau Bailey took the helm of the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team this winter, he faced a big challenge.

With a roster comprised entirely of freshmen and sophomores and no returning varsity players, PDS was undoubtedly going to experience some growing pains.

While the Panthers posted a 3-11 record, Bailey views the season as a success.

“I think even though the win-loss record doesn’t show it, we had a huge season,” asserted Bailey.

“We accomplished what we were looking to achieve at the beginning of the season. The team got better as the season went on and the girls individually got better.”

After starting the season with five straight losses, PDS won three of its last nine games, posting victories over Villa Victoria, King’s Christian, and Foundation Charter.

“They were huge confidence builders,” said Bailey, referring to the three triumphs. “A lot of people counted us out and thought we weren’t going to win any games.”

The team even gained confidence in some of its defeats. “We lost to Stuart by 27 (48-21) in the opener and then it was a four point game (33-29) the next time we played; that was a marker that the girls were starting to understand the game,” said Bailey.

“The teams we played twice, stomped us in the first game and then it was much closer in the second game. The Pennington coach took me aside after our second game and told me how much better the team had gotten. They battled some really good varsity teams.”

The progress made by freshman Morgan Mills exemplified the team’s collective improvement.

“Morgan had never played basketball, she came from England and had played net ball there,” said Bailey. “She ended up as a starter by the end of the season.”

Freshman point guard Shayla Stevenson ended up gaining some valuable lessons this winter.

“Shayla made a lot of progress; she had a tough role,” said Bailey. “She was our best ball-handler and our most talented player offensively. The other teams would see this and key on her. She would get trapped and pressed in the backcourt. She was using up her energy to get up the court and that affected her scoring. She had a couple of huge games, she had a 20-point, 11-assist game in one of our victories.”

Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord enjoyed some huge games, emerging as a force for the Panthers.

“Isabel didn’t start off the season with us because she had an an ankle injury,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord.

“She started playing two games into the season. She is very agile for her size and she can go up and down the court. Some coaches would put her in the post but I want her to bring the ball up the court and shoot from the outside. I want her to be our Kevin Durant. She had a 33-point game and a 20-point game.”

Bailey sees a big upside for gritty sophomore guard/forward Alexis Davis.

“Alexis is going to be one of our better players; she has a natural ability to track the ball,” said Bailey.

“Every night she came and rebounded. I would put her on other team’s best offensive player because she was scrappy and aggressive. She is a good soccer player and that helps her with basketball. She also has the ability to dribble the ball.”

For Bailey, stepping up to the varsity level turned out to be a very good
experience.

“It is a great group of girls; I am excited about the future,” asserted Bailey. “I was a little nervous at first, it is much different going from middle school to high school varsity. Once I had the girls in front of me, it was great. They took off and set a nice groundwork and foundation for the future.”

In addition, the players had a nice time in the process as Bailey strove to create a positive culture around the program.

“The other goal was for them to have fun,” said Bailey. “The parents were telling me that with a such a challenging season, the girls came home happy and excited every night. I think the confidence that I wanted to bring is taking hold.”

 

POINT OF EMPHASIS: Hun School boys’ basketball head coach Jon Stone makes a point during a timeout this season. Stone guided Hun to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis and an 8-13 record this winter.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POINT OF EMPHASIS: Hun School boys’ basketball head coach Jon Stone makes a point during a timeout this season. Stone guided Hun to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis and an 8-13 record this winter. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, its loss to the Hill School (Pa.) in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semis mirrored its up-and-down campaign.

“We had some good moments against Hill,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone whose team dropped the contest 49-31.

“We did get it to two points before half but we struggled to score in the second half and they played well.”

Hun struggled to find a rhythm this winter as it was one step forward, one step back in an 8-13 season.

“I think as a group we learned and the guys got better,” said Stone, reflecting on the campaign. “We would have loved to have some of those close games back.”

The Raiders did enjoy some memorable games in their learning process. “We beat Hill in the regular season and they ended up winning MAPL and their state championship,” said Stone “We beat Trenton Catholic (the eventual county champion) and they were a very good team.”

Hun was led by a good core of seniors which included Michael Bourke, Jason Geter, Daniel Osley, Taylor Heilman, Josh McGilvray, Xin Li, and Remi Janicot.

“It was a good group, the ones who have been with us for a long time really grew as players,” asserted Stone of the program’s Class of 2014.

Point guard Bourke starred as he grew into the team’s catalyst. “Bourke led us in scoring (13.4 points a game), assists (45), and steals (26); any time you lead a team in all three of those, you are doing well,” said Stone. “He led us in scoring more than 50 percent of the time.”

Along with Bourke, Hun got some good contributions from the two other senior guards, Geter (6.0 points a game) and Osley (3.2 points a game).

“Geter was at the school seven years and got better every season,” said Stone.

“He shot 53 percent from field and 47 percent from 3-point range which is ridiculous for a guard. Osley got better every day and played his best basketball at the end of the season.”

In the frontcourt, seniors Heilman (2.2 points a game), McGilvray (7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds), Li (3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds), and Janicot (5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds) played well.

“Taylor Heilman hadn’t played a lot before this season and gave us some valuable minutes,” said Stone.

“McGilvray did so much for us, particularly on defense. He played against some really good big men and held them to relatively low outputs; he played them hard. Li was a crowd favorite and had some great moments. He was another guy who got better and better. Remi dominated some games and when he did, we usually won.”

In Stone’s view, his trio of junior returners, Eric Williams (7.2 points), Kyle Borden (3.2 points), and Tucker Stevenson, have the potential to enjoy some great moments next winter.

“Williams had a good year, he was third leading scorer as a junior and made a lot of 3s,” said Stone.

“Borden gave us some really good minutes. He had been out for a year and a half so it was just good for him to be healthy and out there. Tucker is a great athlete; it helps a team to have a three-sport athlete. He got a lot better, he had the ability to compete and play hard.”

MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MISSING PIECE: Hun School girls’ basketball player Johnnah Johnson puts up a shot in action this season. Senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injured her knee early in winter and missed 12 games. She returned down the stretch to pass the 1,000-point mark in her career and help Hun reach the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) semifinals. The Raiders finished the winter with a 10-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup was brimming with optimism about his Hun School girls’ basketball team as he looked ahead to the winter.

“Going into the season I was expecting some big things,” said longtime Hun head coach Holup.  “I thought we would win 15 or 16 games.”

But with senior star center and Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson injuring her knee in December and missing 12 games, the Raiders had to battle to keep their heads above water, finishing the winter at 10-11.

“I am really not disappointed with 10-11,” said Holup. “The girls stuck together and we did as well as we could under the circumstances. I know that success is measured by the wins and losses but based on the effort and how they stuck together, I look at this season as a success.”

Hun ended the season battling hard in a 72-50 loss to Blair in the state Prep A semifinals.

“It was a one-point game with 1½ minutes left in the first half, our game plan was going well,” recalled Holup.

“Unfortunately a few things went Blair’s way, they hit a three and they were up six or seven points at the half. We knew we were going to get a punch from Blair in the second half, we talked about that at halftime. We did get a punch and we weren’t able to withstand it. We called a couple of timeouts but we couldn’t get back into it. We put up a fight. Blair had to play well to beat us. We made a terrific effort.”

Johnson ended up enjoying a terrific career, getting back on the court in the last week of the season to help the Raiders advance to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League semifinals.

“It was nice to see her come back and get 1,000 points,” said Holup. “It was a tough loss when she went out. She is a D-I basketball player. Offensively and defensively she was imposing in the post, starting with her freshman year.”

It will be tough for Hun to do without senior Erica Brown next winter. “Erica came in as a junior and she is going to be extremely difficult to replace; just her personality, she is always fun to be around,” said Holup.

“You could count on her to raise the girls’ confidence. On court, she could guard guards and guard forwards. She could rebound and take it up the court.”

Hun got a nice contribution in the backcourt from two four-year performers, Anajha Burnett and Bella Cura.

“Naj will be missed; she was someone who gave us time off the bench in her first three years and started when we needed,” said Holup.

“This year she was a starter and did any role we asked. Bella is a three-sport athlete. She didn’t get major minutes but she was a terrific player to have on the team with her athleticism, spirit, and positivity.”

Hun’s core of returning players, juniors Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen, sophomores Amber Bourke and Jess Johnson, and freshman Clare Moloney, have the potential to do a lot of positive things next winter.

“They are just hardworking individuals,” asserted Holup. “All of them improved and that is what you want. They love the sport and they love being on the court. I am looking forward to next year.”

March 5, 2014
CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick handles the puck in recent action. Last Friday, senior defenseman and team captain McCormick scored two goals as 21st seeded PHS fell 5-4 in overtime at No. 5 Summit 5-4 in the second round of the Public B state tournament. The Little Tigers finished the season with a 14-6-2 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the Public B state tournament, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team brought a chip on its shoulder.

“When the seedings came out and we were No. 21 we thought we might have been slighted,” said first-year PHS head coach Terence Miller.

“We told the boys that we had to go on the road and beat some good northern Jersey teams to show that.”

Earning respect, PHS topped 12th-seeded Nutley 3-0 last Wednesday in the first round and nearly toppled No. 5 Summit, losing 5-4 in overtime.

In the win over Nutley, the Little Tigers showed their growing maturity. “It was a one-goal battle until the last eight minutes of the game,” recalled Miller.

“We maintained our discipline when Nutley picked up the physical play. We were on the power play of the last half of the third period.”

Freshman goalie Sawyer Peck showed his discipline, making 28 saves in earning the shutout.

“It speaks volumes about Sawyer that he went up on the road in his first state game and got a shutout,” said Miller.

“He’s calm, he’s collected. He has a lot of good poise for a ninth grader. His progress this season speaks to his skill and attributes as a goalie. He rose to the occasion when more was asked of him.”

Two days later, PHS rose to the occasion, battling Summit tooth and nail, as the game was knotted at 1-1 after one period and saw the Little Tigers trailing 3-2 heading into the third. After falling behind 4-2 early in the third, PHS got goals from Patrick McCormick and Jackson Andres in a 12-second span late in regulation to send the game into overtime.

“It was up at Union Sports Arena; the place was filled to the rafters,

it was a great atmosphere for a tournament game,” said Miller, whose team finished the season with a 14-6-2 record.

“Summit is a perennial power, they won the state title in 2012. We outshot them and lost by one goal.”

Senior defenseman and team captain Patrick McCormick took the team on his broad shoulders in the state run.

“Patrick played 42 minutes of 45 against Nutley,” said Miller of McCormick, who had two assists in the win over Nutley and tallied two goals in the loss to Summit.

“He played 52 of 52 minutes in the Summit game, that pretty much says it all about what type of a player he is. He has energy, skill, and the highest work rate on the team that makes for the ideal captain.”

After PHS hit a rough patch in the middle of the season when it had three losses and a tie in the span of a few weeks, the team produced some of its best work of the season down the stretch.

“We found our stride in late January and had a strong push coming into the tournaments,” said Miller.

“We made it to the county semis where we ran into the No. 1 seed, Notre Dame. We were able to regroup in the states and go on the road and beat the No. 12 seed and come within a goal of beating the No. 5 seed. I wish we had won that game, it would have been really special to make it to the state quarters.”

Miller tipped his hat to his two senior stalwarts, Patrick McCormick and Spencer Reynolds.

“They came in the year we won MCT and had 18 wins,” said Miller, whose senior group also included Robert Quinn and Tim Podgalsky.

“They got a taste of what PHS and CVC hockey was about and they jumped right in it. To go out with the senior season like they did shows that they did a good job. The state run speaks to how they contributed.”

With such returning performers as John Reid, Chris Munoz, Nathan Drezner, Tooker Callaway, Eamonn McDonald, the two younger McCormick brothers, Connor and Brendon, together with Andres and Peck, the Little Tigers are well placed for some future playoff runs.

“We have loads of talent coming back and they played a lot of minutes,” said Miller. “They got loads of experience this season and I think that is really going to help us. We are in a good place.”

It was a good experience for Miller, a former PHS hockey standout himself, to take the helm at his alma mater.

“I could not have asked for a better first year; I was an assistant for five years but it is so different being the head coach, the buck stops with you,” said Miller.

“You are responsible for how the team performs. I learned a lot this year, I was lucky to have talented players and two good assistant coaches, my brother, Peter Miller, and Shane Leuck. They played at PHS and understand the program and local hockey. I could trust them, they know the game, and they communicated well with the players.”

Miller will bring a greater understanding to the table next winter. “We played hard and prepared well but sometimes you had to wipe the slate clean,” said Miller.

“We made a lot of adjustments; we switched up lines and did different forechecks and systems. You have to work on the Xs and Os and the organization and how to have the kids prepared mentally for the tough teams.”

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player  Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High girls’ basketball player
Julia Ryan dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore guard Ryan scored a game-high 16 points as PHS ended the season on a high note by topping Lawrence High 35-24 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest. The victory gave the Little Tigers a final record of 3-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Dan Van Hise, seeing his Princeton High girls’ basketball team defeat Lawrence High 35-24 in its season finale was a case of better late than never.

“They finally played the way I wanted them to,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, reflecting on the victory which came in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest.

“I told the girls this is going to be it, let’s go out and play basketball the right way, I want 100 percent effort. We blitzed them from the start, it was good to see. Julia Ryan played well, she got a lot of free throws at the end to get 16 points. Mira Shane and Haley Bodden did a great job defensively. We were very intense and very determined.”

With PHS ending the winter at 3-16, Van Hise rued what might have been. “I think, like any coach, I would say we left a few on the table,” said Van Hise. “We won that buzzer beater against Nottingham and we lost our way a little bit after that. There were a few games that we should have won that we didn’t. I was hoping for more progress in terms of wins and losses.”

In Van Hise’s view, the team made a lot of progress when it came to intangibles.

“In terms of our motto, establish the culture, I think we did that,” said Van Hise.

“Anyone who saw our Lawrence game would know that. We were all over the floor, we were diving for the ball, we were sharing the ball. We talked afterward and the girls thought we had done what we wanted to turn this into a positive thing. What we found is that Princeton girls can play tough, we don’t have to be anyone’s doormat.”

Van Hise credited seniors Liz Jacobs and Stephanie Hauer with impacting the culture.

“Liz was a presence inside, for a lacrosse player playing basketball, she did what she could do,” said Van Hise.

“Steph knew she wasn’t going to play much and she was a great team captain and team leader. She did hit two shots in our last game so that was nice to see.”

As he looks ahead to the offseason, Van Hise wants his girls to play a lot more basketball.

“We are saying that we established a culture but we won’t really know until we show up next December,” said Van Hise.

“If we are the same players, then nothing will have really changed. We are going to have open gyms and we are hoping to go to Princeton’s team camp.

I know a lot of the girls play other sports but they need to stay connected to basketball. We want to hit the ground running next December.”

With six seniors returning, Van Hise believes his players will have a good connection with each other.

“I couldn’t be more excited for next year,” asserted Van Hise, whose group of rising seniors includes Mary Sutton, Mira Shane, Catherine Curran-Groome, Bryanna Blue, Mia Levy, and Ellie Maltby.

“I think the chemistry is going to be off the charts with girls like Mary, Mira, and Catherine. I am expecting them to show a lot of leadership. Julia [Ryan] will be a junior and a three-year starter. I really think that we can improve.”

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt controls the puck in recent action. Freshman forward Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun top Academy of New Church (Pa.) 6-4 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game on February 25. The triumph gave the Raiders a championship double as they had won the Mercer County Tournament five days earlier. Hun ended the winter with a 20-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School boys’ hockey team found itself tied 3-3 with Academy of New Church (Pa.) after two periods in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game last week, it experienced a sense of déjà vu.

Just five days earlier, Hun had entered the third period of the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game tied 2-2 with Notre Dame. On that evening, Hun responded by dominating the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory and the MCT crown.

The Raiders followed a similar script against ANC in the February 25 contest at the Ice Land Skating Center, outscoring the Lions 3-1 in the third period to earn a 6-4 win and the program’s second straight IHL title.

“It was kind of the same thing as the Notre Dame game; we got a goal right away in the third period,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on the win over ANC.

“They got another goal but then we got a two-goal lead; we were never comfortable before that.”

The Raiders were feeling more than comfortable as they celebrated the crown on their home ice.

“The emotions were very high and positive,” said McNally, a former Princeton University hockey player who is in his third year guiding the Hun program.

“To be a senior in your last game and win a title, not everybody gets to do that. They were up for it. There were a lot of thank you’s and goodbyes.”

Over the last few seasons, the Hun program has certainly been moving up in local hockey circles.

“Last year, we won one title and this year we won two; the program is getting better every year,” said McNally, whose team posted a final record of 20-7.

“The expectations were higher coming into the year. Last year, we hoped to win our league, this year we expected to win our league. The biggest difference was in how we viewed ourselves.”

In the view of McNally, his senior group of Spy Avgoustiniatos, Alec Karanikolas, Alex Bidwell, Devin Cheifetz, Brad Stern, and Natty Bayona, has played a major role in the Raiders’ progress.

“They were pretty instrumental in our progress; a lot of it was due to their dedication and abilities,” said McNally.

“Spy had a good offensive year; he came a long way as a player. Each of the senior forwards [Avgoustiniatos -10 goals, 10 assists; Bidwell -16 goals, 22 assists; Karanikolas -10 goals, 10 assists] reached double figures in goals. Devin was a starter in goal all four years. You knew what you were going to get from him; he had another steady year. He has been there so long you almost take him for granted. Brad doubled his points [3 goals, 21 assists] from last year and made all-league; he was a top defenseman.”

The trio of freshman forwards, Jon Bendorf [36 goals, 30 assists], Blake Brown [28 goals, 32 assists], Evan Barratt [23 goals, 38 assists], along with freshman defenseman Tanner Preston [3 goals, 28 assists], gives Hun the foundation to remain one of the top teams in the area.

“With this group of freshmen, the hopes are high for the future,” said McNally.

“The freshmen forwards were 1-2-3 in scoring. We said last week that we had no more practices left, only playoff games. We said that big players show up in big games and they did that. We had 10 goals in two title games and Barratt had 10 points.”

The team’s big season has turned heads on the Hun campus “Success breeds success,” said McNally.

“Around school, there is a good energy. Against Notre Dame in the county final, we had the biggest crowd of Hun students and staff I have seen at one of our games since I have been here. The buzz is definitely there.”

February 26, 2014
FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL FLIGHT: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange competes in the 100 butterfly last Sunday in the Public B state championship meet at The College of New Jersey pool. Senior star and Cornell-bound Stange took second in the 100 fly and won the 100 backstroke as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Mooorestown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Stange opened the Public B state championship meet for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team by doing the backstroke leg in the 200 medley relay.

Stange’s swim proved to be the first salvo as PHS and Moorestown engaged in a furious battle at The College of New Jersey pool over the next hour that saw the Little Tigers trailing 79-77 when senior star Stange got ready for the final swim of his high school career and the meet, the anchor leg in the 400 freestyle relay.

“We knew what we had to do” said Stange. “All of us went in and talked behind the block. We knew we had to win it in order to win the meet.”

PHS led through the first half but by the time Stange dove into the water  with the fans packing the pool in an uproar, the Little Tigers trailed the Quakers. Giving his all, Stange gained on the Moorestown foe in the next lane but could not catch him as the Little Tigers lost 87-83.

“We went all out but couldn’t get it, that’s alright,” said Stange, who placed first in the 100 backstroke and took second in the 100 butterfly to help PHS be in position for victory.

While Stange was disappointed to see PHS fall 2.38 seconds short in the relay, he was proud of how the squad competed from beginning to end. “We swam as best a meet as we could here but unfortunately they just got us,” said Stange.

Despite the loss, Stange feels fortunate to have developed a deep bond with his classmates as they have won a state title, four sectional crowns, and four county championships over the last four years.

“We have been good friends through thick and thin and it is great to go out here rather than anywhere else,” said Stange, whose classmates include Peter Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Matt Tam, Avery Soong, and Colburn Yu. “We had an incredible run.”

Afterward, PHS head coach Greg Hand lauded his great senior group. “They went out just the way they came in with a full effort,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 13-1 record.

“That’s not just in the pool in a tough meet but it really applies to the way they have trained throughout their swimming career and the kind of passion they  bring to high school swimming. I admire it so much. They are role models for everybody younger. They keep things in perspective. Today when we needed to swim fast and not back down, that was a piece of keeping things in perspective. It is not a perspective that says things like this don’t matter. It says that things like this do matter so do everything that you can about it and live with what you get.”

Hand singled out Stange and Kalibat as doing everything they could to make PHS a championship team.

“They are two guys who have great character, they are impressive young men,” asserted Hand.

“They are kind and yet they demand a lot of themselves and the kids that they work with. It is always positive to create an environment in which people want to try harder and are willing to press themselves to see what they are capable of. I don’t think you could ask for two better kids in a high school environment than they have been.”

In Hand’s view, his swimmers tried as hard as they could in the battle with Moorestown. “We were very together as a team today,” asserted Hand, who saw Purdy win the 50 freestyle and take third place in the 100 free with Kalibat finishing second in both the 200 and 500 free, Yu placing second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley, and Soong taking second in the 200 IM and third in the 500 free.

“One guy after another stepped up and gave us a great effort. We did a lot of fast swimming today. Moorestown was, when it is all said and done, just slightly faster through 11 events. It was as tight as you can get, everybody worked for every place that we got today. We didn’t give them anything. The swims that we did to get places below first were quality swims. We had personal bests all over the place today, really impressive personal bests.”

Even when PHS fell behind early in the meet, the Little Tigers didn’t give in. “We had a sense of where we would be picking up points and where they would be getting quite a few so the whole thing was to keep fighting and race every lane,” said Hand.

“I thought we had that from the very beginning to the very end. You could see the excitement on the bulk deck from the guys that were about to swim and the side of the pool from the guys who were pulling for them.”

In the wake of the tough loss, Hand let his guys know how much he appreciated them.

“I just told them how proud I was of today’s effort and of all the effort they make in their training, and how much they care for each other,” said Hand.

The Cornell-bound Stange, for his part, cared deeply for this PHS squad. “I love this team as much as any other, probably more than any other,” said Stange.

“It is just such a close-knit group that we have. It is going to be hard next year not to be with them.”

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form. Last Wednesday, sophomore Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 back but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 96-74 to Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals at the Neptune Aquatics Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand knew that his Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced a big challenge as it took on Ocean City last Wednesday in the program’s first appearance in the Public B state semifinals since 2011.

While PHS produced its usual highly spirited effort, the Little Tigers suffered their first and only loss of the season as they fell 96-74 at the Neptune Aquatics Center.

“They swam about as fast as we anticipated,” said Hand of Ocean City. “I thought we had a real fine team this year and I thought we gave them a great meet. I felt we earned this spot. Ocean City is just a terrific team and they have quality depth throughout the lineup. We were just beaten by a very strong opponent.”

PHS’s sophomore standouts, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, showed their quality as Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly while Romaine won the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

“Our girls were great,” said Hand, whose team also won the 400 free relay with the quartet of Deardorff, Romaine and a pair of freshmen, Jamie Liu and Melinda Tang.

“As far as center lane swimming, Brianna had some real challenging matchups there and did an incredible job. She got her personal best in the freestyle again, having come off a great county meet. She had a lights-out kind of day. Likewise, Maddie Deardorff had a terrific day competitively.”

The PHS swimmers in the outside lanes also stepped up. “Across the board it went that way,” said Hand, whose team ended the season with a 12-1 record.

“Taylor Chiang, a senior, had a wonderful day with a personal record. But it’s not just about the PRs but the nature of the competitiveness and grit the kids showed. That indicated to me that we were going out the right way, win or lose.”

While the loss and its finality stung, the Little Tigers are clearly heading in the right direction.

“We are graduating a wonderful senior class,” said Hand. “But we know there are some kids coming up from the eighth grade from Cranbury and Princeton. And the kids who are here do have this experience and will have the background that other kids will feed off of.”

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK OF HEART: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres heads up the ice last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior forward Andres had two assists in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 7-2 to top-seeded Notre Dame at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 13-5-2, will be competing in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 21st and will play at No. 12 Nutley on February 26 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing top-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday, the fifth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team dug itself an early 2-0 hole.

While underdog PHS could have folded, the Little Tigers replied with a goal by Connor McCormick to make it a 2-1 game after one period.

Notre Dame then scored the first two goals of the second period and PHS once again fought back as Spencer Reynolds found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 4-2. But PHS ran out of gas at that point as the Irish pulled away to 7-2 victory.

While Little Tiger head coach Terence Miller was frustrated by the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“I told my guys you came up against a good team, they have had a good season, they were the No. 1 seed in the tournament and I can’t be upset with the effort,” said Miller, whose team dropped to 13-5-2 with the setback.

“I thought we played to the end and we showed some pride. Obviously, it is a disappointing result but at the end of the day, all I can do is congratulate the other team; they deserved it tonight. As a group, I like the way we fought. We battled to the end and that is really the most important thing.”

In Miller’s view the gap is narrowing between his club and perennial power Notre Dame, who beat PHS 8-2 in the teams’ regular season meeting.

“It is a bounce here or a bounce there and it is a different game if we pull it back to 5-3,” said Miller.

“We had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers in our own zone that landed in the back of our net. That is completely demoralizing and deflates the whole team. We have got some young guys that are out there in big spots. They will learn; they will get better from this.”

Junior forward Jackson Andres gave PHS a big effort against Notre Dame, assisting on both Little Tiger goals and throwing his body all over the ice.

“When he stays within himself, he is an effective player,” said Miller of Andres. “He is a big strong kid. When he is churning and doing things the right way, he can really help carry us. He was a big factor for us tonight. He brings a lot of energy with some physical play.”

With PHS playing at Nutley in the opening round of the state tournament on February 26, the Little Tigers will be hitting the ice with plenty of energy as they look to build on their good showing in the MCT.

“We have been playing well, we are looking forward to the state tournament and doing some damage there,” said Miller.

“We are the 21st seed and they are the 12th but I think it is a winnable game for us. It is new life, a new tournament here so we are excited about that.”

SOCKING IT TO THEM: Princeton High wrestler Patrick Sockler, right, grapples with a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, junior Sockler took third at 126 pounds at the District 17 tournament to advance to this week’s Region 5 competition. 	(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SOCKING IT TO THEM: Princeton High wrestler Patrick Sockler, right, grapples with a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, junior Sockler took third at 126 pounds at the District 17 tournament to advance to this week’s Region 5 competition.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Princeton High junior Patrick Sockler walked off the wrestling mat on Saturday with a grin on his face as he shook coach Rashone Johnson’s hand.

Sockler took third in the District 17 tournament held at Hunterdon Central High, defeating Connor Mills of Delaware Valley High 8-5 to capture third place at 126 pounds.

“I dominated the match all the way through but I think I could have done better,” said the energetic Sockler, who improved his overall record 28-6 and was the only PHS wrestler to advance to this week’s Region 5 tournament.

“He did feel a lot stronger than me, you could just look at our builds, he’s like a bull. My thing is quickness so my wrestling style worked really well against his.”

Sockler’s big effort helped the Little Tigers finish seventh in the team standings at the tournament won by host Hunterdon Central.

PHS had three other wrestlers make it through to the semifinals as junior Thomas Miers finished fourth at 132, capping a dominating 28-6 season. Junior Victor Bell took fourth at 195 to end the winter with a 20-13 mark while freshman star James Verbeyst placed fourth at 113 pounds, finishing 23-7 in his debut campaign.

Johnson was pleased with his team’s effort even though the Little Tigers fell short of their goals coming into the competition.

“The team’s performance wasn’t bad,” said Johnson. “The guys wrestled tough but we made a couple mistakes here and there and it cost us the hardware for the tournament.”

Verbeyst echoed his coach’s sentiments, maintaining that he wasn’t satisfied with his performance.

“I was expecting to at least get top three (at districts),”  said Verbeyst. “I was getting tired at the end of the match and wasn’t staying in good position.”

Sockler, for his part, worked hard to get himself in a good position at the district competition. After an inconsistent freshman campaign that saw him finish 11-7 followed by an injury-plagued sophomore season, Sockler made it his mission to bounce back with vengeance this year.

“I’m happy with third; I’ve been trying to place in districts for three years now,” noted Sockler, who placed fourth at the county tournament earlier this month.

“It’s a big improvement from my last two years. This is my first year wrestling the varsity season all the way through.”

For Sockler, staying healthy resulted in him exceeding his goals for the season.

“I think I’m happy with my season,” said Sockler, who battled a midseason shoulder injury last year on his way to a 12-7 record.

“I placed in the first two tournaments of the season, third and first, respectively, and then in the counties and districts. I met my expectations and probably went a little bit over them, but I may have set them low. I probably didn’t believe in myself as much as I should have.

Johnson believes good things are on the horizon for his wrestlers. “The last guys standing today, those are the guys that did the most work with me over the summer, those guys will be fine,” said Johnson.

“We have only two seniors in the lineup. All those guys are all coming back next year so there are positives in that those guys will have the experience of knowing the pressure in this round.”

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EGGED ON: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner takes the puck up the ice in the state Prep championship game last week at McGraw Rink. Senior forward Egner scored the winning goal as PDS edged visiting Morristown-Beard 4-3 in the February 18 contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team looking to add to a 3-1 lead over visiting Morristown-Beard in the second period of the state Prep championship game last week, John Egner was in the right place at the right time.

The puck caromed off the Mo-Beard goalie and PDS senior forward Egner banged it home to give the Panthers a 4-1 lead in the February 18 contest at McGraw Rink.

“That was a great play by Fletch [Connor Fletcher] in the corner, he walked out and took the shot,” said Egner.

“The puck just bounced up and I saw it going behind the goalie and I crashed the net and luckily I got to slam it in there. It was a pretty easy one because my linemates made the play happen.”

Egner’s tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS held off a Mo-Beard rally to earn a 4-3 win and the program’s first outright Prep crown since 2011.

For Egner, being the scorer of the deciding goal came as a bit of a surprise.  “I just try to use my speed to get the puck deep,” said Egner.

“Definitely our line, me, Fletcher, and [Lewie] Blackburn, has had to step up this year and play against some top lines. I know I am not going to score a lot of goals really but when I do, I take advantage of it. It is really to just play hard and that’s what I work on, being the hardest working one out there.”

PDS knew it faced a tough test in Mo-Beard, which had tied the Panthers 2-2 in the Prep title game last year and had posted a 3-0 win this January in the regular season clash between the rivals.

“In the past couple of years, we have started a little rivalry against them and it is definitely special to play them,” said Egner.

“Everybody remembered the game last year; we definitely didn’t like the way it ended and so this year was kind of a redemption year. We knew they had a really good team coming in; we played them a couple of times during the season and both were really good games.”

The Panthers came out firing, jumping out to a 3-1 first period advantage. “That was big; we knew we had to get a great start,” said Egner. “We knew that we couldn’t sit back and let them take control of the game. To get a 3-1 lead in the beginning was big.”

After Mo-Beard narrowed the gap to 4-3 heading into the third period, PDS had to regain control of the contest.

“Coach [Scott Bertoli] told us to play our game, we are in the right spot right now,” recalled Egner.

“We took it to them in those two periods and just had to go out in the third and keep it going and get on the board first and try to hold them back.”

While PDS didn’t get on the board in the third, it stifled the Crimson to earn the title.

“The third period was good, we played shutdown defense,” said Egner. “Logan [freshman goalie Logan Kramsky] played great, it was a whole team effort in the third. Everyone played great.”

Afterward, the Panthers had a great time, lingering on the ice to celebrate with the trophy and take pictures with friends and family.

“I just can’t believe, it went by so fast,” said Egner. “It is crazy. It means a lot, definitely to all the seniors and everyone in the locker room, the whole team really. We wanted to win for our coaches and go out with a bang here and luckily we got that done.”

PDS head coach Bertoli liked the way his gritty team has gotten things done this winter. “It is a completely different group from last year,” said Bertoli, who got two goals and two assists from senior star Sean Timmons in the win over Mo-beard with Connor Bitterman adding one goal.

“Last year, we were offensively dynamic and this group just grinds it out, they are willing to be patient and they do a lot of the little things. As a coach, it is so much more gratifying watching this team compete.”

Bertoli got the sense that this year’s group had a special competitive spirit in December when it fought hard in the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts.

“We played some good New England competition and we were up there without two or three of our top guys,” said Bertoli.

“We just saw some of the role players from last year’s group like the Blackburns, the Egners, the Bittermans, just elevate their game for no other reason or choice. If they weren’t willing to compete and take their game to another level then we weren’t going to be successful, not only up there but moving forward throughout this season. They are big time players and big time competitors, you saw it tonight, these guys score goals when we need to score goals.”

When PDS found itself locked in a tight battle with Mo-Beard, Bertoli was confident that his team would get it done.

“We have been in playoff-type games for the last month and a half and we find ways to win,” said Bertoli.

“It is not pretty at times but it is effective and that’s the composition of this group. We are not going to blow teams out, we understand that. They are going to battle through adversity. I don’t think last year’s group was trailed more than 30 minutes the entire season. We trailed in the Lawrenceville game back and forth and we trailed Mo-Beard until we turned it around in the regular season. This group has trailed in six or eight games and has come back and won. That is a sign of a really good team.”

In Bertoli’s view, another sign pointing to PDS’s success this winter was the work ethic displayed by the Panthers.

“To me personally, what is most rewarding and gratifying is knowing how hard this group had to work,” said Bertoli, whose team ended the season with a 15-7-2 record after dropping three tight games last weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Invitational at the Hill School (Pa.).

“As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that this group has exceeded expectations this year, not to take anything away from them at the start of the year and to downplay what our outlook was. It was just to improve on a daily basis and get better and not look at the big picture and take it day by day and it blows me away to think that this group would be as decorated as they are.”

Enjoying the big finale at McGraw Rink was certainly a rewarding experience for Egner.

“There are a lot of memories, this one is definitely up there now,” said Egner.

“I have had so many great times, I have met so many great people. My best friends in my whole life are in this rink and some of the greatest moments I have ever had have been here. I am going to cherish this game and remember it and just think back to all the great times that I have had here.”

With the Hun School boys’ hockey team making its first appearance in the Mercer County Tournament since 2009, Spy Avgoustiniatos and his teammates were determined to make their presence felt.

“We really want to get the Hun name out there and play hard and get the win,” said Hun senior forward Avgoustiniatos, noting that the Raiders have won the county crown three times. “Last year we won our league and we want to build on that.”

As the second-seeded Raiders faced No. 3 Robbinsville in the MCT semis last Thursday, things didn’t come easy at first as Hun found itself trailing 1-0 midway through the first period.

“Coach [Ian McNally] pulled us aside and said we didn’t get the start that we wanted but let’s get into it and beat this team,” recalled Avgoustiniatos.

The Raiders responded with three straight goals in a span of 2:37 and never looked back in a 7-2 rout of the Ravens.

“One goal came along, I put the second one in and we just kept on rolling and we knew we had them all the way,” said Avgoustiniatos.

On his tally, Avgoustiniatos banged in a feed from classmate Alec Karanikolas.

“It was all Alec, there was a scramble in front of the net and he got the puck,” said Avgoustiniatos. “I was saying ‘Alec backdoor’ and he passed it back.”

With 5:50 left in the third period, Avgoustiniatos added an insurance goal to make it a 6-2 game, diving to the ice and nudging the puck past the Robbinsville goalie as he flew past the net.

“I was 100 percent sure that didn’t go in; the puck was right there, I saw it and I took two whacks at it and I just really wanted to get it in there,” said  Avgoustiniatos.

“I thought I didn’t have it and then I saw the other teammates coming up to me. It was a great feeling, they told me you got that one. It was sweet.”

A night later, Avgoustiniatos and his teammates enjoyed a great feeling as they topped Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT title game. In his view, the combination of battle-tested upperclassman and the arrival of the precocious freshman trio of Evan Barrett, Jon Bendorf, and Blake Brown has made Hun a force to reckon with this winter.

“We were really excited for all the skilled freshmen that were coming in; it started from preseason going into the season, we really built that friendship,” said Avgoustiniatos.

“We are really getting along, there is not that huge gap between the older guys and younger guys. We really incorporated them and made them feel at home and come together as a hockey team and it is what gets a spark there.”

And helping to spark Hun on its MCT title run has left Avgoustiniatos with a lot of pride in what he has accomplished on the ice.

“It is an amazing experience,” asserted Avgoustiniatos. “I want to leave my legacy at Hun for the hockey team.”

BLAKE STREET: Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown heads up the ice last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Last Friday, freshman forward Brown scored a goal and had an assist to help second-seeded Hun top No. 1 Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLAKE STREET: Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown heads up the ice last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Last Friday, freshman forward Brown scored a goal and had an assist to help second-seeded Hun top No. 1 Notre Dame 4-2 in the MCT championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown didn’t waste any time making an impact in his first Mercer County Tournament championship game.

As second-seeded Hun faced off with top-seeded and defending champion Notre Dame last Friday evening at Mercer County Park, the puck squirted to freshman forward Brown and he banged it home eight seconds into the contest to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.

“I just got the puck and that was pretty much it, there was one guy behind and I just got it top shelf,” said Brown. “It was huge, the first goal is everything to the team; that’s what gets teams going, the first goal.”

The Raiders added another goal in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the second period but then Notre Dame got going as it scored two goals in a 29-second span in the second to knot the game at 2-2.

With the teams locked in the 2-2 stalemate heading into the third period, Hun was determined to regain the momentum.

“We couldn’t give up, we had to keep pounding them,” said Brown, recalling the team’s discussion at the intermission before the third period. “We just have to keep working hard and pushing it; we can’t let up.”

Seconds into the final frame, Brown struck again feeding classmate Jon Bendorf, who proceeded to find the back of the net.

“I saw Benny, there was a free lane open to him and I just passed it to him and he finished it,” said Brown.

Minutes later, Bobby Wurster scored on a one-timer from the point to put Hun up 4-2 and the Raiders finished off Notre Dame with some stifling defense as neither team scored again.

“Everyone was blocking shots and working hard,” said Brown, reflecting on Hun’s third period effort. “We were making sure that no one was left open in front of the net, everybody got the back door people.”

At the final whistle, everyone on the Hun squad joined in a raucous on-ice
celebration which saw gloves and sticks flying.

For Brown, winning the MCT crown marked the fruition of a childhood ambition.

“It is huge,” said Brown. “I used to go to the West Windsor schools and I always watched the county tournaments when I was younger.”

Hun’s young guns dominated the tournament as classmate Evan Barratt was named MVP and the trio combined for three goals and five assists in the title game.

“We have been playing for a while, Benny is on my club team for six years and we have always been together,” said Brown, who competes on the Mercer Chiefs with Bendorf.

“We worked over the summer. All of us were on the district all-star team. I dish them the puck and they finish it.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally was not surprised that Brown triggered things for the Raiders.

“The start of the first and then the start of the third was big, I think Blake Brown was a big catalyst in all of that,” said McNally.

“He is the guy that gets everyone fired up before they go on the ice. He’s the guy giving fist pumps and yelling so it was good for him to be the guy that goes out and says follow me. They were both awesome goals.”

With Notre Dame tying the game at 2-2 and seizing momentum in the second period, McNally looked to get his guys fired up for a big final period as he talked to them at intermission.

“The message was you don’t know if you are going to have another chance like this; you always assume that you are going to play in a bunch of big games and championship games but you never know if you are going to get back,” said McNally.

“You are here now, take advantage of it, you never know when you are going to get back again.”

The Raiders responded with aplomb, producing spirited hockey at both ends of the ice.

“They were behind and they had to get a little desperate and score and we just kept them in their zone for minutes at a time,” said McNally.

“That was by far the best period of hockey we have played and it was good to see because it was a big stage and we don’t get too many games like this with a lot of fans and something on the line. I think they got excited and everybody rose to the occasion.”

Winning the title, the fourth county crown in program history, was an exciting moment for the Hun players.

“It means a lot to these guys; these guys have always been asking to play in it and we haven’t been able to,” said McNally, whose team topped Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 10-5 on Monday in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) semis to improve to 18-7 and was slated to face Academy of New Church on February 25 in the title game.

“Their classmates at school can relate to what the MCT is, they can’t relate to the IHL. In this week leading up to it, there was a buzz at school. People knew about it and the boarding kids got bussed over for it. For these guys it means a lot, it is the one that they wanted to win this year.”

McNally acknowledged that his trio of freshmen played a key role in winning the title.

“They were unreal tonight, every time they were on the ice, it was a goal scoring opportunity,” said McNally, reflecting on the player of Brown, Barratt and Bendorf.

“It is funny, I was harping on them to get off the ice faster than they do … but sure enough in a one-and-a-half minute shift they turn around and score a goal so it is hard to get too mad at those guys.”

Senior goalie Devin Cheifetz made things hard on Notre Dame in crunch time, recording 28 saves on the evening.

“Devin was awesome today; I have been with Devin a long time in club and high school hockey and when it is really on the line, he shows up,” said McNally.

“He got better throughout the game. In the third period, he was so confident and poised. You are just assuming that he is going to save it. It was one of his better games of the year.”

It has been an awesome winter for Hun, even though the team’s immaturity has McNally pulling out his hair at times.

“It is youthful enthusiasm; the reason we get into shootout games is the energy level is up and down,” said McNally.

“You saw it again tonight. We scored in bunches and then the other team gets momentum for five or six minutes and we just hold on tight. That is how the team has been, we just thrive off a high energy shift by the younger guys.”

Brown, for his part, likes the way Hun brings the energy on a constant basis.

“Everybody works their butts off and everybody plays their hearts out every shift,” said Brown.

February 19, 2014
SPEED TO BURN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu speeds to victory in a 100 breaststroke race. Last Friday, senior Yu placed first in the breaststroke and took second in the 200 individual medley as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 115-55 to win its sixth straight Public B Central Jersey Sectional title. The Little Tigers will take on Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPEED TO BURN: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Colburn Yu speeds to victory in a 100 breaststroke race. Last Friday, senior Yu placed first in the breaststroke and took second in the 200 individual medley as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 115-55 to win its sixth straight Public B Central Jersey Sectional title. The Little Tigers will take on Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ swimming team whooped it up on the deck at the Neptune Aquatics Center last Friday after winning the Public B Central Jersey Sectional, Colburn Yu stood quietly by.

For senior star Yu, top-seeded PHS’s 115-55 triumph over No. 2 Lawrence High had a been there, done that feel.

“This is my fourth year at sectionals and each year the boys team has won so I know the gist of everything already,” said Yu, who was a key contributor when PHS won the Public B state title in 2012.

“Coach Hand told us not to assume things and just don’t think that you will win because you never know what to expect. I think we all swam pretty hard. We all made sure that we did what we needed to do in order to win this meet. Our score shows that.”

Yu did his part in the victory, taking second in the 200 individual medley and winning the 100 breaststroke, his specialty, as the Little Tigers improved to 12-0. For Yu, finishing behind classmate Avery Soong in the IM was a matter of taking care of business.

“The IM is not really my best event. I think the only reason I am good at it is because of my breaststroke,” said Yu.

“I was talking to Avery about this beforehand and we were just saying that if we go 1-2 in the IM we are going to be good and that’s basically what we did.”

Yu felt good about his win in the breaststroke, displaying the technique that helped him win the county title in the event.

“I have always noticed that breaststrokers tend to be smaller than the other strokes,” said the wiry Yu, who competes for the X-Cel club team and will be continuing his swimming career at Johns Hopkins.

“I feel like the breaststroke is more of a technique stroke than how big you are. I know that my technique is pretty good. I have gotten training specifically for breaststroke. When we go to the semifinals and hopefully we will make it to the finals, I will definitely bring it up a notch and go around my best time which should be a 57 or 58.”

It was not surprising to Yu that PHS took things up a notch in the sectional final.

“I think it is really special, not a whole lot of kids get to have four sectional titles,” said Yu.

“Our team has a lot of depth. I give credit to the seniors who were here two years ago. I learned a lot from them and hopefully what I have learned from them, I pass down to the kids who are underclassmen this year. Once we leave, they are going to need to work a lot harder to be able to win meets. Our senior class tends to score the most points at all of these meets.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thinks pretty highly of this year’s senior group.

“The titles speak to the talent but the way they have approached their membership on the Princeton High team is the real standout performance,” said Hand, who has now guided the PHS boys’ swimmers to six straight sectional titles.

“These guys have always been there for each other. They always get committed to a total effort when we get to the meets that are the toughest. These guys have been able to swim in a state final, which they lost, a state final, which they won, and a state semifinal, which was virtually a tie. It was very disappointing but they walked away satisfied with the effort, that was the deal. We couldn’t control the 100th of a second thing and then here they are going to a state semifinal.”

Hand sees Yu as being in control of his swimming. “I think Colburn has got some great perspective now on the sport and how to meet the demands of the sport, how to respond to the challenges and disappointments that the sport offers,” said Hand.

“He has the classiness of being pretty selfless about his achievements and giving it up for the team.”

Three of the team’s other senior stars also gave PHS some big performances in the sectional final as Peter Kalibat won both the 200 and 500 freestyle races while Will Stange was victorious in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and Matt Purdy took first in the 50 and 100 free races.

“I really admire Pete Kalibat for just knocking out consistently strong swims in the 200 and the 500, likewise, Will Stange, the same with his swims,” said Hand.

“Matt Purdy sprinted really well today. He did a great 100. He took it out slower and tried to build every 25 which is not a strategy he has used much before.”

PHS will have to compete really well as it now faces Summit in the Public B state semis on February 19 in a rematch of last year’s semis that saw the Little Tigers lose an 87-83 nailbiter.

“For sure, these guys don’t assume anything, getting to this level,” said Hand, whose team would advance to a third state final in the last four years on February 23 if they can overcome Summit.

“Summit’s power points are down but the last thing to do would be to misjudge that team, a defending state champion, the team that beat us last year. They graduated some but have some other kids on their roster.”

Yu, for his part, believes PHS’s older kids can lead the team to a second state title in the last three years.

“I know that the seniors and juniors both know what it feels like to go to the state finals and we can definitely step it up and tell the younger kids what it is to step it up,” said Yu. “As long as they see we are in the mood, they are going to follow.”

TANGY ADDITION: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Melinda Tang displays her freestyle form in recent action. Last Friday, freshman Tang won the 100 butterfly and took third in the 100 freestyle as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 12-0, will face Ocean City in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TANGY ADDITION: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Melinda Tang displays her freestyle form in recent action. Last Friday, freshman Tang won the 100 butterfly and took third in the 100 freestyle as top-seeded PHS defeated No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 12-0, will face Ocean City in the Public B state semis on February 19 with the winner advancing to the championship meet on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Melinda Tang is a freshman, she embraced the high stakes atmosphere as the Princeton High girls’ swimming team faced Lawrence last Friday in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals.

“I knew the competition would be hard and it was really exciting,” said Tang after top-seeded PHS topped No. 2 Lawrence 110-60 at the Neptune Aquatics Center. “It is the first of everything for me.”

Tang played a big role in the victory for the Little Tigers, winning the 100 butterfly and taking third in the 100 freestyle.

“It is sectional finals so you have to race a lot faster,” said Tang, reflecting on her individual swims.

In emerging as a star for PHS, Tang has learned some lessons in time management.

“I do club swimming [X-Cel] too so the biggest challenge is juggling everything,” said Tang. “I am juggling school, practice here and practice there, meets, and stuff.”

Tang has learned some lessons from the team’s veterans in taking care of her business.

“They have taught us a lot, they lead our team,” said Tang. “They build up a lot of moments with us so we bond together.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand likes the way his girls’ squad has come together.

“It is a really nice team,” said Hand, whose team improved to 12-0 with the win over Lawrence.

“The girls do everything they can to control the won-loss record but I think they are pretty realistic. We just come out and swim our best every time and if we are good enough to get a result, that is great. I like their spirit and camaraderie, it continues to grow.”

Hand credits Tang and her classmates with bringing a special competitive spirit.

“It is terrific when your freshmen are excited, nervous, but not worried,” said Hand, who has gotten good work from newcomers Jamie Liu, Jennifer Bond, and Maddie Whaley in addition to Tang.

“It shows that they are nice and grown up for their age in all the ways you would hope for. They swim because they love it; they love cheering for their team. At some level it is not about winning and losing but just about doing your best, that is a great foundation to build on.”

As usual, PHS got some great swims from its pair of sophomore stars, Brianna Romaine and Madeleine Deardorff. Romaine placed first in both the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke while Deardorff was victorious in the 200 individual medley and the 500 free.

“I thought Brianna had a really good meet today, two solid wins and a good relay swim,” said Hand.

“It was solid throughout the lineup. We asked Maddie Deardorff to go 500 again for a second time in a row; that is changing up the lineup to give some relief to some other kids. I am pretty happy with swims across the board.”

With PHS taking on Ocean City in the Public B state semifinals on February 19, Hand is looking for some more solid efforts.

“I think they are feeling pretty courageous about the next round,” said Hand, whose team would advance to the state championship meet on February 23 if they can top Ocean City.

“To go into a meet excited to swim fast on a day when the other team is going to be equally fast or faster, that is a great statement to make. No matter what, I am glad that the girls get to take this extra step and have that experience. Regardless of the outcome, it is going to be something that they remember.”

Tang, for her part, is looking to enjoy some more firsts in her debut season.

“Today was a step forward,” said Tang. “The focus going into next week is to do our best and hopefully make the state finals.”