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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Francesca ­Bello tracks down the ball in action last season. Hun is looking for junior star Bello to be a key offensive weapon this spring. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Francesca ­Bello tracks down the ball in action last season. Hun is looking for junior star Bello to be a key offensive weapon this spring. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After serving as an assistant coach for the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team the last two years, Haley Sanborn is enjoying a smooth transition in taking the helm of the program this spring.

“I was really excited when they asked me to step up,” said Sanborn, who is replacing Beth Loffredo after she guided the Raiders to a 5-6 record in 2012. “It is a great opportunity; it is a great group of girls.”

Sanborn is looking to provide her players with a great experience on and off the field.

“Playing at the varsity level, winning is the priority but I also want the kids to come out of the season with life lessons,” said Sanborn, whose team opens the season by hosting the Blair Academy on April 3.

“Athletics provides a lot of lessons and they can learn a lot from the experience. We want them to become better players and better people. We want to win but how we handle adversity can teach a lot. Positive affirmation is important.”

Hun should have one of the better attacks in the area, led by Boston College-bound senior star Kate Weeks together with juniors Brianna Barratt and junior Francesca Bello.

“Weeks is a great player, she is incredible,” asserted Sanborn. “She is also a great leader, she is one of our captains and she makes sure the team feels like a team. Bello and Barratt are juniors and they are both very good. The three of them play very well together. It is not just a one-person team, they feed well off of each other. In the past three years, they have learned a lot from each other.”

The Raiders feature good offensive balance with senior Maddie Schade, sophomore Erica Dwyer, and freshman twins Emma and Katie Consoli.

“Maddie Schade is another scorer; she is going to Hobart/William Smith to play lacrosse,” added Sanborn.

“Erica Dwyer is a sophomore and is a very good athlete. She is a very good attack player. Emma and Katie Consoli are twins and they are incredible athletes, they are committed to the sport.”

In the midfield, Hun boasts several good options. “We have Maura Kelly, she is very quick and has skilled stickwork,” said Sanborn, noting that Weeks, Bello, and Dwyer will also see time in the midfield. “Amanda Barbour is a sophomore. She is great on transition; she is a great runner.”

Senior Lauren Apuzzi will be running the show for the Raider defense. “Apuzzi is great as a captain; she leads by example,” said Sanborn.

“She tells people where to go and what to do back there. She is essentially the captain of the defense. She is an all-around great kid, her character and sportsmanship speak volumes. Lucy Morgan is hard core, she is a raw athlete. She always gives 110 percent and whatever the team needs, she does. Shannon Graham had an injury in the fall, she is a soccer player and she is just coming back. She is very quick and very agile. I will be happy when she is back. Taylor Nehlig and Mariesa Cay are also in the mix.”

At goalie, Sanborn is looking for sophomore Reina Kern to step up as she plays her first season of high school lacrosse after starring the last two falls in the cage for the Raider field hockey team.

“Kern has played lacrosse before, back in middle school,” said Sanborn. “She has the goalie mentality; she is a phenomenal field hockey goalie. She has a few habits from that that she needs to break; that is our biggest challenge right now. She is a hard worker and is the epitome of the scholar-athlete. She is making good progress.”

In Sanborn’s view, Hun should make a lot of progress collectively this spring.

“It is a matter of experience and jelling as a team,” said Sanborn. “We have a lot of driven athletes. They want to be out there and they have a great time together. It is a pleasure to work with them.”

March 27, 2013

As Charlie Gallagher takes the helm of the Princeton High football program, he has some good coaching role models around him.

“We have a lot of great programs at high school, the swimming with Greg Hand and the soccer with Wayne Sutcliffe and Greg Hand, and the lacrosse with Peter Stanton,” said Gallagher, an assistant for PHS, who is taking over for Joe Gargione after he posted a 5-25 record guiding the Little Tigers over the last three seasons.

“Winning programs attract the kids. We need to create a culture of winning. We need to start winning games.”

Having spent five seasons as an assistant at PHS and a stint with the Princeton University sprint football team, Gallagher felt he was ready for the promotion to head coach.

“I have a really good rapport with the football players; I have a good foundation for football,” said Gallagher, who teaches television/filmmaking and multi-media at PHS.

“I have coached the freshman team the last three years. A lot of those kids didn’t have much or any experience. I have experience on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively. I have also coached all defensive backs and wide receivers for the varsity team.”

Gallagher is looking forward to the experience of leading the Little Tigers. “I told the players when I met with them that it is a dream come true,” said Gallagher.

“I am terribly excited. I am forever indebted to John Miranda [Athletics Director] and Gary Snyder [PHS Principal] to be given an opportunity like this. I want to take the bull by the horns.”

With PHS coming off a 2-8 season, Gallagher is hitting the ground running.

“We have 10-12 guys in the weight room this spring, which is good, but I would like to have more,” said Gallagher.

“I may institute some morning workouts. Some of the spring sports guys have come to me saying they would be excited to lift. We are getting the playbook together. It is pretty extensive. It is good to get it started in March, putting it on paper is good.”

Another item on Gallagher’s to-do list is putting his coaching staff together. “Scott Goldsmith will stay on the staff,” said Gallagher. “We are looking outside for some good football coaches with character.”

While the Little Tigers have displayed plenty of character over the years, Gallagher knows his players have to execute better on both sides of the ball to get back on the winning track.

“One of the things we need to do is to score more points; we need to get after the quarterback on defense,” said Gallagher.

“We scored about 100 points last season and gave up around 300. I am more of a triple option guy on offense, I think it is a big threat with three guys who could get the ball. We will still do power football with traps, dives and off tackle plays. I am not sure what our defense will look like. I have an idea; I like the 50-front. Most high school teams run first so we need to be able to stop the run.”

In order to bolster the PHS program, Gallagher knows he has to get out in the community to spark interest.

“I am focused on the high school but I need to be a liaison, an ambassador of football in Princeton,” said Gallagher.

“We need more kids on the middle school playing football. Even if they are not playing in Princeton, they can play in Montgomery, Millstone, or wherever. We need more kids playing in seventh and eight grades.”

Getting more kids playing on the varsity is a key priority for Gallagher.

“We had 41 kids at our preseason meeting,” said Gallagher.

“If we can keep those kids and get 10-15 freshmen in here that would be good. We need 22 to have a full offense and defense. We aren’t going to have that in the near future so the expectations are that a lot of kids are going to have to go both ways. We want to change that eventually.”

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High baseball team has struggled in recent years, its players are excited for the 2013 season.

“There is a lot of renewed enthusiasm,” said Princeton head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 4-18 record last year.

“A lot of the guys love baseball and really focus on it. They play a lot in the summer and in the fall.”

Roberts has a lot of arms at his disposal to handle the pitching duties this spring with senior Mike Dunlap, senior Rohit Chawla, junior Ben Gross, senior Andrew Frain, junior Jeff Gleason, and junior Austin Taylor.

“Mike Dunlap will return as a starter; Rohit pitched 35-40 innings last year,” said Roberts, whose team opens the season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2.

“Gross is a welcome addition. Frain will round out the rotation. We can use four different starters depending on the week. Gleason and Taylor will be first out of the gate in weeks where we need relievers. I think the staff is very good. It is one of our strengths. They have a lot of experience and lot of talent in the junior class.”

The Little Tigers will need to use experience and creativity to manufacture runs. PHS will feature seniors Ellis Bloom and Zach DiGregorio at the top of the order with juniors Zach Tesone, Gross, senior Frain, and junior Colin Frawley providing punch in the middle.

“We will rely on Bloom and DiGregorio to be the tablesetters,” said Roberts.

“Tesone and Gross will be in three or four, they can get the ball to the gaps. Frain or Frawley in the five spot. We are going to need singles, stolen bases and sacrifice bunts to get runs.”

Around the diamond, the PHS defensive alignment will include Frawley and John Reid at catcher, Tesone and Taylor at first base, senior Matt Farinick at second, Chawla and Gleason at shortstop, Bloom at third with Christian Giles, DiGregorio, Gross, and Frain in the outfield.

The PHS players are hoping that their love of the game will translate to more wins this spring.

“We talked about goals the other day,” said Roberts. “They think of themselves as a .500 team and I tend to agree. If we could get to 10 wins, that would be a great step forward. They have more lofty goals this year.”

In order to achieve those goals, the Little Tigers have to execute better than they have in recent years.

“We need to win the games we are supposed to win or think we should win,” said Roberts.

“We have to close out one-run games; we lost five one-run games last year. If we steal a couple of those, that would be a big help. We need to prevent the bad inning.”

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of a disappointing 2012 season, Bill McQuade senses a renewed hunger around his Hun School baseball team this spring.

“They think they could have done better,” said Hun head coach McQuade, whose squad went 9-14 last spring after surging to the state Prep A title in 2011.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t have enough pitching depth and that hurt us. This team has a different feel. We have five or six newcomers who can really play. This is shaking the cobwebs off because people know they could lose their position. We are going to be as good as we can be as a team, not individuals.”

McQuade believes that this year’s team boasts a powerful one-two pitching punch in Wagner College-bound senior star Austin Goeke and sophomore Jason Applegate.

“Goeke is terrific, he looked great in Florida,” said McQuade, who took his team on its annual spring training trip earlier this month in preparation for his 43rd season at the helm of the program.

“Jason Applegate is a kid who has made a big jump. He really opened some eyes in Florida. He is vastly improved, his control and curveball are much better.”

The Raiders have plenty of arms to back up Goeke and Applegate. “We are still figuring out the rest of the staff,” said McQuade, whose team opens the 2013 season by playing at the Lawrenceville School on March 27.

“Mike Manfredi is not a power pitcher but he throws strikes. The freshmen, George Revock and Rob Huselid, throw strikes. Andy Douglas has a funky motion but he is effective. Brett Ender had some shoulder problems and was rehabbing in the fall. He can get it over 90 m.p.h. so he could be another power pitcher for us. If I had to say what our strength is, I would say it is depth on the mound.”

The Raiders have some depth around the diamond to provide defensive support for its pitchers.

“We have multiple people who can play multiple positions,” said McQuade. “It is causing the coaches a dilemma. We have a couple of people for each position and we may need to make cuts. We have a lot of moving parts.”

McQuade should have the ability to make a lot of moves defensively. “We have Stevie Wells at first, Shane Adams at second, Devon Birch at shortstop, and Eddie Paparella at third when he is healthy; we will have Nick Perez and Douglas at third for now,” said McQuade.

“In the outfield, we have Applegate, Manfredi, Douglas, Zach Roberson, and Bailey Hammer. We have five or six guys who could play in the infield and four or five in the outfield.”

The Raiders also have depth at catcher as Mike Edenzon, Gideon Friedberg, and Ryan Hayes are vying for time behind the plate.

“All are better than the other in one area, hitting, throwing, or blocking pitches,” said McQuade in analyzing his catching situation. “We have to figure out who will be the catcher.”

Hun’s batting order boasts a good balance of speed and punch that figures to give its foes fits.

“Birch and Adams can both lead off, they are identical to each other, they are both special players with a lot of speed,” said McQuade.

“Wells gives us a lot of power. It is a mistake to pitch him inside so we have him working on going to the opposite field. We just need him to get singles or doubles to left to keep the line moving. Applegate is better and Manfredi has a good bat. Paparella at third is a special player, a lot of college scouts were looking at him last year. When he gets healthy, he will bat third. He is a switch hitter.”

In order to rebound this spring, the Hun players will have to come together as a unit.

“If we can get the right people in the right places and work together, we could be good,” said McQuade.

“The kids can’t worry about individual statistics. We have a lot of kids going on to play in college but it is about what are you going to do now. Some kids may have to play different positions if that is what is best for the team. These are the little things that we have to do well and we talk about them everyday.”

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk didn’t have to wait until this spring to see something special in her Hun School softball team.

“They did a weightlifting program over the winter with our new trainer,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk.

“The kids are pumped up. The three seniors [Carey Million, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal] are good leaders on and off the field. They were getting people to come in for the weightlifting.”

Quirk is confident she has two starting pitchers in freshman Alexis Goeke and Beal who will get a lot of people out this spring.

“Goeke is going to help us,” asserted Quirk, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.

“She is strong and young and can only get better. She wants to be out there, she is a competitor. Beal pitched well in Florida. We are going to use both of them. They complement each other and are supportive of each other.”

The Raiders should be able to provide good defensive support to the pitchers. Hun will feature Elon University-bound Million at catcher with sophomore Caitlin Hoagland at first base backed up by Goeke and junior Kameron McNair, Crivelli at second, sophomore star Julia Blake at shortstop, and Beal at third. Across the outfield, Quirk will use junior Alexa Fares in left, junior Kristen Manochio in center, and junior Lauren Moonan in right.

Over its recent preseason trip down south, Hun showed some hitting punch that impressed Quirk.

“In Florida we were hitting very well, we swung the bats as well as I have seen us do down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-7 in 2012 and advanced to the state Prep A semis. “We will lead off with Blake, followed by Beal, Goeke, Million, and Manochio.”

The Raiders will be relying on its trio of seniors to take the lead this spring. “They have the desire,” said Quirk.

“Our seniors have been in the semis or the finals the past few years and we have lost by a run or in extra innings. They have to believe in themselves and that they can do it.”

Quirk, for her part, believes the squad can do some special things this spring. “I have high hopes, I hope they meet my expectations of going for Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state championships,” said Quirk.

“We have to stay focused. We won all seven games in Florida. I know it wasn’t the greatest competition. We have to take that experience and build on it and get better.”

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling to a 0-5 start last spring, the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team caught fire and ended with a 9-9 record.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas believes her team can build on last season’s late surge.

“We want to start where we left off last year and work on getting better everyday,” said Thomas, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Stuart County Day School on April 2.

Thomas believes her corps of nine seniors will make sure that the team works hard on a daily basis.

“These seniors are bound and determined, “ asserted Thomas, whose Class of 2013 includes Ellen Bartolino, Zeeza Cole, Lizzie Frieder, Louise Hutter, Carolyn Kossow, Hannah Levy, Cami McNeely, Sarah Trigg, and Corinne Urisko.

“They have really brought the group together. The juniors have responded really well.”

Thomas likes the way her offense is coming together. “We have six guys who will be on attack or midfield,” said Thomas.

“Hannah Levy had almost 100 points last year and she is looking good. She is heading to MIT, I think she will be a star there. Corinne Urisko is building on last year; she has got a shot that just rips the net. Lucy Linville had a good offseason; she has worked really hard. Sarah Brennan is looking good in the midfield; she will score goals. Kirsten Kuzmicz will be key in the midfield. Morgan Foster is 100 percent and she is looking fine. We have a lot of balance.”

The Panthers feature some battle-tested veterans at the other end of the field.

“The low defense will be Louise Hutter, Cami McNeely, and Lizzie Frieder,” said Thomas. “Zeeza Cole will move between midfield and defense.”

Senior goalie Sarah Trigg is looking good as PDS’ last line of defense. “Sarah gets better everyday; she is committed to going out on top,” added Thomas.

The Panthers will look to start the season at top speed, having displayed their commitment to excellence by going to Florida earlier this month for a preseason trip.

“We have already had two weeks of preseason up here,” said Thomas. “The trip is a good opportunity to get things going. It is an exciting group; it is going to be a lot of fun.”

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Caitlin Grant, things are running like clockwork in her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team.

“I think last year was a lot of learning for me and the players,” said Grant, who guided Stuart to a 4-11 record last spring.

“This year there is no messing around. At 3:15, the kids are ready to go and run laps. The captains took it upon themselves to have captain’s practices before the season so that was a big help.”

In Grant’s view, her team should get some big help from its group of freshmen.

“Last year none of the freshmen had played lacrosse,” said Grant, whose squad hosts Princeton Day School on April 2 in its season opener.

“This year we have five freshmen who have played outside lacrosse before. We have two freshmen who are new to the game but are picking it up so quickly that I can’t believe it.”

Grant is confident the Tartans will pick it up offensively this spring. “Isabel Soto played well last year and is at attack again,” said Grant.

“Amy Hallowell is always going to be a good one for us. We have three freshmen, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser and Sam Servis, who are doing well and are going to be really good. Rose Tetnowski is also doing well.”

The Stuart defense will be spearheaded by two veterans. “Isabel Lapuerta and Meghan Shannon are the two starters coming back there,” said Grant.

Sophomore Harlyn Bell came on strong last year at goalie and Grant is expecting her to be even better in 2013.

“Harlyn just tried out for a travel team and made it; she played over the summer too,” said Grant. “She is really quick and is able to clear the ball a long way down the field.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans have the potential to come a long way this spring. “I think this group is going to do well,” asserted Grant.

“We are young but we are going to be tough to beat. They push each other hard in practice and hold each other accountable. I am really excited for the season.”

March 20, 2013
EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Davon Reed had to deal with a lot of hoopla as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star was the object of an intense recruiting battle among several top college programs.

A number of big-time college coaches made their way to the PDS gym and Reed ended up receiving around 20 offers from D-I teams.

This past September, Reed committed to the University of Miami, clearing his plate to focus solely on his senior season with the Panthers.

“The foot is still on the throttle; I still have personal goals I want to achieve at the high school level,” said the 6’6 Reed in December.

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

Reed kept his foot on the gas all winter, producing a senior campaign that solidified his status as one of the greatest players ever to play in Mercer County high school circles. He averaged 23.2 points this season and helped the Panthers take second at the Hill School tournament in December and win the PrimeTime Shootout’s Flight I title after Christmas.

After passing the 2,000-point mark in his career, making him just the third player in county annals to achieve that milestone, Reed led PDS on a memorable postseason run.

In the county tournament, the Panthers topped Steinert and defending state champion Ewing before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame in the semis.

Reed helped the Panthers go one step further in the state Prep B tournament. After taking down Golda Och and defending champion Rutgers Prep, PDS earned its second straight title to the Prep B title game where it faced archrival Pennington in mid-February.

Giving his all in his final high school game, Reed scored a game-high 24 points. His heroics weren’t enough as PDS fell short 47-45 as a last-second layup rolled off the rim to clinch the win for the Red Raiders.

In the wake of the disappointing loss, Reed was able to put things in perspective.

“We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up,” said Reed, who ended his career with a program-record 2,102 points. “I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean credited Reed with putting the program back on the map.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 19-8.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

For making his senior season a shining final chapter in an epic career, Reed is the Town Topics’ choice as the top male performer of the winter high school season.

Top Female Performers

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio have been a lethal one-two punch since joining the program together as freshmen in the 2009-10 season.

In their debut campaign, the pair emerged as key contributors, piling up wins from the start for the Little Tigers.

With Deardorff focusing on the sprint events and Giglio concentrating on the breaststroke and individual medley, the pair complemented each other and gave coach Greg Hand balance in putting his lineup together.

In addition, they fed off of each other when they joined forces in relay events, often giving PHS an edge right from the start in the meet-opening 200 medley relay.

Over the years, their blend of talent, composure, and consistency made them akin to a swimming version of the former pair of aces for the Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavin.

In their sophomore year, the pair helped the Little Tigers go 12-2 and earn a sectional title. Last season, they starred as the Little Tigers went 13-2 and made it to the sectional finals.

This winter, Deardoff and Giglio saved their best for last, sparking the Little Tiger girls to one of the best seasons in program history.

In early January, they helped PHS beat powerful WW/P-S in a dual meet for the first time this century. In topping the Pirates 94-76, Deardorff took first in the 50 and 100 freestyle races and helped the 200 medley relay to victory. Giglio, meanwhile won the 100 breast, took second in the 200 free and helped the medley relay to victory.

“We have never beaten them but instead of coming into the meet planning on winning, I think the upperclassmen focused on just getting the underclassmen psyched to do their best,” said Deardorff, reflecting on the breakthrough win. “We wanted them to do their best times in the pool and just have fun with it.”

The triumph set a positive tone for the Little Tigers as they headed into postseason action.

“This definitely got the girls’ team psyched for what is to come,” added Deardorff.

“Now we know we can go really far and hopefully to states and just see how things go. We are not going to go into any meets focused on winning.”

The Little Tigers kept on winning, posting an undefeated regular season and entering the Mercer County Swimming Championships as a top contender.

After a few near misses in recent years at the county meet, PHS came through with the title, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

Afterward, the understated Giglio acknowledged that the Little Tigers weren’t sure if they could pull off the county victory.

“We knew we were strong this year but again, we have never done it before so we really wanted to just try our best and see if we could do it for the first time,” said Giglio, who placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke at the county meet while Deardorff took third in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 butterfly.

The Little Tigers showed their championship intent by opening the meet with a resounding victory on the 200 medley relay, setting a school record in the process.

“We really wanted to get another first in the relays,” said Giglio, reflecting on the quartet’s mindset as they approached the race.

“We weren’t completely confident that we had won. We wanted to break the record again. We were all filled with nervous excitement and energy. We were ready to go.”

PHS kept going in the state Public B Central Jersey sectional final where it fell to Chatham to suffer its only loss of the season in producing a 13-1 campaign

After that defeat, Hand acknowledged the key role played by his pair of senior standouts.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

For giving so much to PHS together and leading the Little Tigers to a breakthrough season, Deardorff and Giglio are the joint choice as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

As Mark Shelley took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ varsity basketball program this winter, he recognized that a major challenge would involve melding the team’s veterans with its new faces.

“The biggest thing is mixing the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley.

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

Having coached the JV team the previous season, Shelley knew he had something special in junior forward Peter Mahotiere.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley. “He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three.”

Mahotiere stepped up all winter long for the Little Tigers, developing into a solid performer who played a key role at both ends of the court.

The 6’1 Mahotiere ended up averaging 8.2 points a game and was among the team’s leaders in rebounds. His athleticism also helped make PHS zone defense stifle foes as the Little Tigers led the CVC in fewest points allowed per game during the regular season.

Playing in his first state tournament game, Mahotiere produced one of his best efforts of the season as PHS topped visiting Hopewell Valley 62-42 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Mahotiere scored 15 points to help the Little Tigers pull away to the win.

In assessing Mahotiere’s effort that night, Shelley summarized what the junior brought to the table this winter for the Little Tigers.

“He finishes well,” said Shelley. “He is the kind of player who once he scores a little bit, he gets some confidence and that elevates his game. I can’t tell you how many deflections he had tonight. Even when he didn’t get a rebound, his hands were on things.”

Mahotiere’s all-around contribution in his debut campaign for PHS makes him the pick as the top male newcomer this winter.

Madeleine Deardorff didn’t wait long to make an impact this winter in her freshman season on the PHS girls’ swim team.

The precocious Deardorff helped the 200 medley relay to victory in the first event of PHS’s season-opening win over Nottingham. In the Little Tigers’ next meet, Deardorff won the 100 butterfly in a 108-62 victory over Robbinsville.

Deardorff kept piling up wins all season as PHS went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

For Deardorff, learning how to keep calm in the blocks helped pave the way to her superb campaign.

“The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Deardorff played a key role in helping PHS win its first-ever county title, taking second in both the 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Even in PHS’s only defeat of the season, a loss to powerful Chatham in the state Public B sectional final, Deardorff was outstanding. She took first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 breast.

Getting the chance to swim with her older sister, senior star, Serena, helped inspire Deardorff.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

For providing excitement and wins in her first season with PHS, Deardorff gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the winter season.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli acknowledged that his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team faced a minefield of challenges this winter.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts and the Hill School (Pa.) tournament.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

The senior-laden Panthers proved that they were one of the best teams in the state. After winning their Henry Rulon-Miller Invitational in early December, PDS placed third in the Barber Invitational in Massachusetts over the holidays.

Over the course of the regular season, PDS posted a string of impressive victories, knocking off such high-powered foes as Kinnelon High, LaSalle Prep (Pa.), Notre Dame, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Don Bosco.

The Panthers tied for the state Prep title, skating to a thrilling 2-2 overtime draw against rival Morristown-Beard. The Panthers ended the season by taking second in the Hill tourney, topping Portledge and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on the way to the title game.

PDS ended its stellar season with a 21-3-1 record and the knowledge that it could compete against all comers.

Bertoli tipped his hat to his core of seniors. which included Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

“They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question about that,” said Bertoli.

“It is one of the top two or three programs in the state for the last two years. You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them. There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”

For being the architect of the program’s renaissance, Bertoli is the top coach of a male team this winter.

Last winter, Greg Hand guided the Princeton high boys’ swimming team to a breakthrough campaign as the Little Tigers went undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B state title.

While much of the attention this season centered on the boys’ team and its quest for a title repeat which fell short with a loss in the state semis, Hand performed a brilliant coaching job with his girls’ squad, which thrust its way into the limelight as the winter unfolded.

After cruising to some routs in December meets, the Little Tiger girls faced perennial nemesis WW/P-S in early January. Having not beaten the Pirates this century, PHS ended that jinx in style with a 94-76 triumph.

Hand was hoping the win would prove to be a harbinger of good things to come.

“The more you get into the season, the more you pay attention to who is slightly faster than somebody else,” said Hand.

“There was just a lot of learning going on today because the great thing about our rivalry is that we always come to swim fast on that day. We always know that the other team is going to be classy and they are going to come to race.”

PHS kept racing well, going undefeated in regular season dual meets. In the Mercer County Championships, PHS broke through again, winning its first county title and breaking WW/P-S’s 12-year stranglehold on the meet.

“To win a championship is always going to depend on who else was there that day,” said Hand, reflecting on the county crown. “To swim to win it is a very special thing.”

While PHS didn’t win a sectional title as it fell to Chatham in the Public B Central Jersey championship meet to suffer its only loss of the season, Hand liked what he saw from his girl swimmers to the end.

“We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand, whose team finished with a 13-1 record.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water.”

Hand’s role in helping PHS produce one of the most exciting seasons in its history makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team this winter.

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ hockey team went winless this winter, Christian Herzog saw a special toughness in his players.

“We were like the Joe Pesci character (Nicky Santoro) in Casino, if you beat us with fists, we come back with a bat,” said PHS head coach Herzog, noting that his team played some of its best hockey in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament where it fell 4-0 to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) in its final game of ‘B’ bracket play.

“If you beat us with a bat, we come back with a knife. If you beat us with a knife, we come back with a gun. We take a licking and keep on ticking.”

Sophomore star Lucy Herring proved to be PHS’s top gun this winter. “The MVP was Lucy Herring; she took the brunt of everything,” said Herzog.

“I felt bad because she had a lot on her shoulders. I told her that she had that role because I know she is an athlete and can handle it. She thrives under pressure. She had around 15 points, she was our leading scorer.”

Senior defenseman Hanna Kostenbader emerged as a key leader for the Little Tigers this winter.

“Hanna Kostenbader won our Abby Hunter head, heart, hustle award,” said Herzog.

“She texted me before the playoffs saying she slammed her hand into a door and she didn’t know how much she could help but that she would be there. She is a righty and she played with her left hand. I don’t think many other players would have tried that. She came out and fought through it. She was a good leader. She was willing to work hard and throw her body around.”

The team also got an emotional lift from seniors KC Read-Fisher and Brooke Solomon.

“KC and Brooke really helped off the ice as well,” added Herzog. “They were spirit motivators for the team.”

PHS features some spirited returning players in sophomore Brittney Coniglione, freshman Isabel Sohn, junior Molly O’Brien, junior Merritt Peck, and junior Kate Sohn.

“Coniglione was angrier than I was when someone scored; she takes it seriously,” said Herzog.

“She would say to me that one is on me and it is not going to happen again. Izzy Sohn came out strong, I like her style, she really goes after the puck. Molly O’Brien was our second leading scorer, she came on. Merritt Peck was becoming a menace in the corners at the end of the season. Kate Sohn put forth a good effort. She was the epitome of good sportsmanship and won our sportsmanship award.”

The team’s tandem of goaltenders, junior Breanna Hegerty-Thorne and freshman Callie Urisko, also made good improvement.

“Both goaltenders played well and made progress; I think they had 500 saves between them over the season,” said Herzog.

“Breanna is good at coming out on breakaways, Callie is good on the angles. They really jelled with the team.”

In Herzog’s view, the squad has the potential to really jell into something special going forward.

“The girls are gung ho and ready for next year,” said Herzog. “We have some good girls coming back and I am looking for a stronger year.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA).(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team won 10 games for the second straight season, Lorna Gifis Cook believes her squad made progress this winter.

“Overall, I was happy,” said second-year head coach Cook, whose team posted a final record of 10-8.

“I thought we played well. I thought we were competitive in just about every game. We stayed competitive against the better teams, we only lost 3-0 to Rye Country Day and 6-3 to Morristown-Beard.”

The Panthers proved to be more competitive in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA), finishing in the top four to move up to the league’s “A’ bracket after winning the ‘B’ bracket the year before.

While PDS fell 6-1 to Portledge School (N.Y.) in the ‘A’ semis, Cook thought the score was deceiving.

“I was very happy with the effort, we played them three times and we made improvement each time,” said Cook.

A key factor in PDS’s consistently good effort this winter was the contribution of the team’s trio of senior captains, forward Zeeza Cole (12 goals and 8 assists this season), defenseman Louise Hutter (1 goal, 3 assists), and goalie Daisy Mase (480 saves, .897 save percentage).

“They made the contribution that I expected,” said Cook. “Having a senior at each position, every one of the younger players had a captain they were comfortable talking to. They showed a strong work ethic on the ice. The program is moving forward and a lot of that is due to them.”

In Cook’s view, her team’s come-from-behind victory over Pingry in early January exemplified the progress PDS displayed this winter.

“I look at our home game against Pingry where we went down 3-0 and then came back to win 4-3 as an example of our attitude all season,” said Cook.

“We never gave up, we were always working hard, and we concentrated on scoring one goal at a time. In that game, we moved Colby [Triolo] to forward and moved Mimi [Matthews] back to defense. Mimi reinforced our defense and Colby had a lot of big plays on offense, she made her teammates better. Seeing her score her first high school goal on her first shift at forward was cool. Mary [Travers] getting a hat trick showed what kind of player she was. She got big goals for us, she had two against Shady Side and the game winner against Summit.”

With a group of juniors that features Lexie Fairman (1 goal, 5 assists), Abby Sharer (3 assists), and leading scorer Robin Linzmayer (19 goals, 7 assists) in addition to Triolo (4 goals, 7 assists), Matthews (2 goals, 9 assists), and Travers (10 goals, 5 assists), Cook sees better things ahead for the program.

“I am excited about having a big senior class next year,” said Cook. “They are important to us and we have players on the way to help them and give them as good a senior year as possible.”

In Cook’s view, PDS is on track to be a major player in the WIHLMA.

“I want us to consistently finish in the top four in WIHLMA and to be able to compete for the title,” said Cook. “It is within reach if we add more depth.”

March 13, 2013
LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ben Samara had an eye on the spring as he coached the Princeton High boys’ winter track team, his athletes made the most of the indoor season.

“I think it was really good,” said PHS head coach Samara. “The main goal is to develop a good base for the spring and we did that. We also accomplished a lot of good things along the way.

Senior standout Tim Brennan solidified his status as one of the more accomplished throwers in the area, winning the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and then going on to place second at the state sectional and third at the state Group III championships.

“He went back and forth with the guy from North all season and he really got jacked up for the county meet,” said Samara of Brennan, who posted a personal best of 53‘11.75 in winning the county title.

“He is a gamer. He was training and lifting weights all through the winter so for him to throw like that was really impressive.”

Another impressive performer for the Little Tigers was senior runner Ian McIsaac, who finished second at the county meet in the 800 before taking third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet and then placing third in the 1,600 at the state Group III championships.

“It started at the Lavino Relays when he anchored our sprint relay and splitted a 1:58; I knew Ian was going to do some big things this season,” said Samara.

“He broke the school record in the 1,600 at successive meets. He has 4:25 at the sectional and 4:23 at the group meet. He trained through the season and has been doing his base training, he is gunning for PRs in both the 800 and 1,600 this spring. He is training hard.”

PHS also got some good contributions from junior Conor Donahue, sophomore Jacob Rist, and sophomore Joe Gray.

“For Conor Donahue to get sixth at the county meet in the 1,600, he came up with one of the best kicks I have ever seen,” asserted Samara.

“He showed so much heart; I am hoping he builds off of that this spring. Rist is really training hard; he is getting to where he wants to be. Another guy who had a great season was Joe Gray, who is a sophomore. His indoor best last year was 54 and his outdoor best was around 51. To run 52 on 200-meter tracks shows a lot of progress. He should get close to 50 seconds outdoors.”

Samara saw progress across the board from his athletes. “We have a lot of good young guys,” added Samara.

“Jeremy Cohen is a freshman and he was keeping up with all of the upperclassmen in their workouts. He has the kind of work ethic you like to see. We have two other guys, Alex Henry, a sophomore, and Noah Chen, a freshman, who came in on the distance side. They were
running 5:10 in the 1,600 at the beginning of the season and they were down to 5:00 by the end. It shows what hard work can do.”

In the final analysis, Samara is more focused on developing work ethic than winning medals.

“It’s not about blowing people away at the county meet; it is about developing guys and their character and hoping that they will get something out of the experience besides wins and losses,” said Samara.

“If you are doing winter track, it is because you want to be there. It isn’t easy training outside in the cold like we do.”

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, the Peddie School gym became its home away from home this winter.

Between three tournaments and a regular season appearance, Hun ended up playing eight contests this season at Peddie, more games than it played in its own gym.

The Raiders prospered in Hightstown, winning seven of those eight games, including an inspiring run to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

In its final game at the gym, Hun topped Peddie 65-53 in the state Prep A semis, producing a performance that exemplified the Raiders’ outstanding campaign.

“I think we came out and we struggled a little bit early; I think we were lethargic after the MAPL,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone reflecting on the February 13 contest.

“It is hard to play a team a few days after you have already beaten them. We battled through it. We took a two-point lead at halftime, which was big since we didn’t play too well. We had a good stretch in the third quarter; we got it going. We were balanced on offense and got contributions from everyone who came in; that was the story of our season.”

The Hun season ended three days later when it fell to eventual champion St. Benedict’s 65-37 in the Prep A semis. “We were down 6-0 and battled back; we were ahead 16-15 after one,” recalled Stone.

“We really struggled in the second and third quarter. We had trouble defensively with their fast break. They were getting easy shots. It was unfortunate; we didn’t play as well as we have been. I think we were a little bit tired and they are a very good team.”

Notwithstanding that setback it was a very good season for Hun, which posted a final record of 20-6.

“Those two things, a 20-win season and a MAPL title stand out,” said Stone.

“We showed resolve and mental toughness; we showed the ability to win a lot of close games. We were down 11 points in the 4th quarter against Hill in the MAPL opener and won. We were down 13 points at halftime to Notre Dame, came back, and won. Those two games stick out.”

Another thing that will stick out for Stone when looking back at this season was the team’s upbeat mentality.

“It was a great group of kids, they listened, learned, and were accountable,” said Stone. “Some of our most fun practices were our hardest. Our chemistry was excellent on and off the court. You see that with good teams.”

The Raiders boasted some good chemistry in the backcourt with its pair of seniors, Fergus Duke (11.8 points and 2.6 assists a game) and Princeton-bound Hashim Moore (8.7 points, 2.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds).

“We had six games in a row where we had a lead and lost it and Fergus had a flurry and we were back up,” said Stone, noting that both Duke and Moore were first-team All-MAPL picks.

“He hit big shot after big shot. He made a lot of big plays on the defensive end as well. He blossomed into a great leader. Hashim had the ability to control a game even when he wasn’t scoring. His big hands got many a loose ball or steal. He is an exceptional passer; he has the ability to see the floor. I think half of Fergus’s baskets came on assists by Hashim; they were a great combination.”

The combination of 6’7 senior Grant MacKay (7.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2-0 assists) and 6’6 classmate Jake Newman (7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds) gave Hun an inside-out punch.

“Down the stretch, Grant played as well as anybody,” asserted Stone. “He made honorable mention All-MAPL. He worked hard; he shot 45 percent from 3-point range. He has the ability to stuff the stat sheet, getting rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. Newman didn’t shoot the ball as well down the stretch as he did earlier but he really handled the ball well. He was defending guards, his length and quickness made it tough on them. He is a smart player.”

With the quartet of Josh McGilvray (7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds), Michael Bourke (5.8 points), Jason Geter (2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds), and David Li (2.7 points, 1.2 rebounds) slated to return, Hun should be plenty tough next season as well.

“We are excited to have four of our top eight back; McGilvray really developed into a good big man,” said Stone.

“We played better when he was in the starting lineup. He is very unselfish, and has the ability to change shots. Bourke was playing his best ball at the end of the season; he developed nicely. Geter is our glue guy. He make plays at both ends of the floor; he is the kind of guy that every team needs. Li gives us energy. When he makes a play, everyone is happy, the crowd, the guys on the bench and the coaching staff. He is a real presence for us. We lose a lot of scoring but if the younger guys develop and we get a couple of new players we should be right up there again.”

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team, its late-season victory at Hamilton provided a glimpse of the squad’s potential.

“To beat a very athletic team like that in their own gym was a good win, especially late in the season,” said PDS head coach Mika Ryan, reflecting on the 34-25 triumph over the Hornets. “The underclassmen had a good game, that was very encouraging.”

Unfortunately, the Panthers didn’t produce enough performances like that this winter as they posted a final record of 8-14.

“It was a difficult season,” acknowledged Ryan, whose team was knocked out in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and fell in the state Prep B quarterfinals.

“One reason we struggled is that we didn’t compete in practice like we needed to. That is where you get better, competing against each other everyday.”

Ryan is hoping that an emphasis on competitive fire will pay dividends down the road.

“My approach is that you compete as hard as you can, no matter who you are playing,” said Ryan.

“We don’t talk about wins and losses, we talk about competing. The underclassmen think like I do, they get it, they understand my approach. I am looking forward to next season.”

The graduation of the team’s trio of seniors, Hannah Levy, Daniela Levitan, and Lauren Johnson, will leave a void next season.

“Hannah was a jack of all trades, she willingly played any position we asked,” said Ryan.

“She always gave her best. Daniela was in the program for four years and she contributed to PDS athletics and the team. LJ was on the varsity for three years, she was a really tough on-ball defender. She was scrappy, she was a hustler. She has an energy we will miss.”

Going forward, the Panthers should draw plenty of energy from sophomore Erin Murray, freshmen Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu, together with juniors Emily Goldman and Tess Zahn.

“I am excited about the returning players,” said Ryan. “It is hard to ask inexperienced players to be responsible for intangibles. They learned a lot and improved a lot. We have Erin Murray at point guard, Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu inside, and Emily Goldman is a good swing player. Emily comes late from field hockey and it takes her a while to get her legs under her. She is a versatile player. I want to see her spend more time on basketball this summer.”

Ryan is looking to make sure her players spend a lot of time honing their competitiveness on and the court over the offseason.

“I strongly encourage all my players to play a spring sport; it is good for their cross training and it is good for them to be around other coaches,” said Ryan.

“In the summer, we are going to be doing conditioning and agility drills. We will be playing in the summer league in Moody Park, which is two nights a week. We are also going to the Princeton University team camp in the first week of August. You are guaranteed five games, they offer clinics. It is a real good experience. It is a chance to play and work on team building skills. We didn’t go last year, I am so excited that we are going back.”

March 6, 2013
LAST SHOT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler dribbles the ball last week against Hopewell Valley in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Senior guard Bechler scored 15 points to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 13 HoVal 62-42 in the February 26 contest. Two days later, Bechler scored a team-high 16 points but it wasn’t enough as the Little Tigers fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence High in the second round of the tourney. PHS finished the season with a 12-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST SHOT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler dribbles the ball last week against Hopewell Valley in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Senior guard Bechler scored 15 points to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 13 HoVal 62-42 in the February 26 contest. Two days later, Bechler scored a team-high 16 points but it wasn’t enough as the Little Tigers fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence High in the second round of the tourney. PHS finished the season with a 12-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It is an image that is burned into Scott Bechler’s mind when he looks back at his time with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

“I remember freshman year when we had a home game in the states and we lost and seeing Skye Ettin in the locker room afterwards,” said senior guard Bechler. “It was motivation to never let that happen again.”

As fourth-seeded PHS hosted 13th-seeded Hopewell Valley last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional, the memory of Ettin’s sadness wasn’t the only motivation as the Little Tigers had fallen in overtime to the Bulldogs in the regular season opener in December.

“We said before the first game of the season that it was a must win and we lost,” said Bechler.

“All season long, we have been looking back on that game, saying we should have won. We get another chance in the playoffs and we couldn’t be more excited to get revenge.”

In the early going of the February 26 contest, it looked like PHS may be squandering its chance at payback as it trailed 10-6 after the first quarter. The battle-tested Bechler, who helped the PHS boys’ soccer team tie for the Group III state title this fall, wasn’t concerned.

“A lot of times this year we have come out a little slow,” said Bechler. “It is the first round of the states and we have a couple of juniors who have never been here before. They only scored 10 points in the quarter; everyone was just getting ready and getting into the swing of things.”

In the second quarter, Bechler and PHS got into the swing of things as they outscored HoVal 19-11 to take a 25-21 lead at halftime.

“We settled in a little bit and everyone came out hard,” said Bechler. “We got the jitters out and that is when you can come really hard.”

The Little Tigers kept coming on in the second half, rolling to a 62-42 win, triggering a raucous on-court celebration as the student fans mobbed the players.

Bechler scored 15 points in the victory, hitting three 3-pointers in the second half, continuing a late surge that started when he poured in a career-high 31 points against Hamilton on February 7.

“After a game like Hamilton West where everything went your way, you have a responsibility to keep shooting because people are depending on you,” said Bechler, who hit nine three-pointers in his outburst against the Hornets.

“It is my last few games; any game could be my last. It is a lot of pressure but it is a lot of motivation.”

In topping HoVal, the Little Tigers focused on applying defensive pressure.

“The number one thing was to stop Austin Hill, we know he can shoot lights out and that he was scoring 15 points a game,” said Bechler.

“We knew if we could shut him down, it would be tough for them to score a lot of points.”

Two days later, however, PHS found it tough to score points as it fell 56-43 to fifth-seeded Lawrence in the second round of the state tourney to end its season.

While PHS head coach Mark Shelley was disappointed that PHS didn’t advance beyond the second round, he and his players enjoyed the ride.

“One of the great things in the locker room is that every senior said how much fun they had playing this year,” said Shelley, whose team finished the winter at 12-11.

“That’s what you ultimately want as a coach. Obviously you want the win. We had some special moments this season. We talked about Scotty’s nine 3s, we won a game by 40 which they said they have never done. We beat Trenton at Trenton. We got two home playoff games and we won one. There are so many positives. I told them I can tell you now that when you get to college and beyond, you will look back on this fondly. As long as you came out of here saying that you had fun and played as hard as you could, that is all we ask.”

Shelley acknowledged that the Little Tigers faced a hard task in subduing Lawrence.

“The whole game was stopping penetration,” said Shelley, whose team led 27-23 at halftime.

“When we got down five in the fourth quarter, we knew we would have to go man and we can’t guard them that way. All year we have had trouble guarding quick teams off the dribble. They are a really good shooting team so you have to extend on them in the zone. So if we back off on them, we let them have some open looks so we are kind of taking chances. We weren’t real fundamental with our defensive rotation at times. But give them credit; if a team can shoot and penetrate like that, they are tough to defend.”

Bechler’s shooting helped make PHS tough to beat down the stretch. “In practice, we do a three-point drill at the end of practice everyday; it is almost like I have to overload the other team because he is just lights out,” said Shelley of Bechler, who scored a team-high 16 points in the defeat to Lawrence.

“They [Bechler’s shots] don’t even hit the net when he gets in a zone like that. He has a quick release, he catches and gets set. There are a lot of fundamentals besides just the actual shot.”

In Shelley’s view, Bechler and his classmates gave a lot to the team this winter.

“They have been tremendous, just providing leadership both in word and deed,” said Shelley, referring to the team’s Class of 2013 which includes Elliott Golden, Ellis Bloom, Lior Levy, and Christian Giles in addition to Bechler.

“We were talking about some of them as freshmen, they were just so quiet and now to see them vocal and setting the tone in practice, it is great. We used that to challenge some of our juniors, Peter [Mahotiere] and Cal [O’Meara], who have been more role players this year, they are going to have to be vocal leaders next year.”

Shelley is looking forward to his second year at the helm of the PHS program.

“We have a real good group, we won’t have the dominant players like we do this year but we will have a real balanced group of 12 or 13 players,” said Shelley. “It will be a different team, we are going to be short.”

Bechler, for his part, was fired up to get two state tournament games with his group of classmates.

“We have been playing together for so long,” said Bechler. “We have been playing travel, we have been playing Dillon. We have been playing together for years so we realize that this could be our last week of organized basketball together so you don’t have to say anything else to get us going.”

STICKING POINT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick controls the puck in recent action despite a foe’s outstretched stick. Junior defenseman McCormick picked up an assist in a losing cause as 18th-seeded PHS fell 6-4 at No. 15 Sparta last week in the opening round of the Public B state tournament. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 11-9-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING POINT: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Patrick McCormick controls the puck in recent action despite a foe’s outstretched stick. Junior defenseman McCormick picked up an assist in a losing cause as 18th-seeded PHS fell 6-4 at No. 15 Sparta last week in the opening round of the Public B state tournament. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 11-9-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, its Public B state tournament opening round contest at Sparta last week proved to be a microcosm of the season.

Midway through the second period of the February 26 contest, 18th seeded PHS trailed No. 15 Sparta 4-1 and appeared to be headed to a one-sided loss.

The Little Tigers, though, fought back and drew to within 5-4 late in the third period. Sparta responded with an empty net goal to hand PHS a season-ending 6-4 defeat.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell was proud of the way his team battled to the final whistle.

“We really did make a comeback,” said Campbell, who got two goals and an assist from Jackson Andres together with a goal and two assists from Connor McCormick, a goal from John Reid, and an assist from Patrick McCormick in the defeat which left PHS with a final record of 11-9-1.

“We came into the third period down by two and I told them in the intermission that we had a lot to play for and not a lot to lose. We were a little shorthanded; we had guys dealing with injuries and Harrison Naylor was out. The game was emblematic of the season.”

Over the course of the winter, the Little Tigers showed resolve as they encountered a series of hurdles.

“We never fully got up and running,” said Campbell, whose team started 3-4-1 before surging in January.

“We started with some injuries. We had some tough losses. I feel good about the season; we dealt with adversity. We won some close one-goal games. We started the calendar year really well. Some of those wins could have been losses.”

Campbell had a feeling that his team would be facing an uphill battle this year.

“It is what I expected with our graduation losses,” said Campbell. “I knew it was going to be a battle for us every night and we were going to have a lot of one-goal games. We can take a lot of positives. Coming into the year, our two biggest goals were to do well in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) and to make states. We got a fourth seed in the MCT but we didn’t go as far as we wanted. The next thing was the states. The kids knew the math and we were over .500 at the cut off.”

PHS certainly got some good work from its senior kids. “It is a good senior class,” said Campbell of the team’s Class of 2013, which included Matt DiTosto, Danny Kingsley, Mike Dunlap, and Gabe MacGregor.

“They made it to the MCT finals in their first three years and won it as sophomores. Matt was a good leader. He is a very skilled player and a hard worker. He plays three times his size. Mike stepped in the first part of the season when we didn’t have our starting goalie. Danny was an emotional leader; the kids loved him.”

The Little Tigers have some skilled players coming back in juniors Patrick McCormick, Harrison Naylor, Spencer Reynolds, and Robert Quinn together with sophomores Andres, Reid, and Connor McCormick.

“The sophomore and junior classes are loaded with talent,” said Campbell. “They have a lot of experience and they are producers. Robert Quinn has come a long way at goalie.”

As his players head into the offseason, Campbell is confident they will keep productive.

“I just want them to stay competitive; any coach will tell you that it is good for them to play other sports,” said Campbell.

“I enjoy seeing them make the transition to lacrosse and baseball. Over the summer, they will do clinics and camps. A lot of them play travel and are in early fall leagues. I know they will be ready and in shape when we start again on November 15.”

February 27, 2013
NEAR THE SUMMIT: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Peter Kalibat powers to a victory in the 500 freestyle in a meet earlier this season. Last week, junior star Kalibat won the 200 and 500 free races as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Summit in the state Public B semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEAR THE SUMMIT: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Peter Kalibat powers to a victory in the 500 freestyle in a meet earlier this season. Last week, junior star Kalibat won the 200 and 500 free races as PHS dropped an 87-83 nailbiter to Summit in the state Public B semifinals.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High boys’ swimming team was rarely tested as it cruised to the state Public B semifinals, Greg Hand made sure that his swimmers kept focused.

“The challenge was to establish habits of how we are going to conduct ourselves when we know we have a succession of meets that don’t require your best,” said PHS head coach Hand, whose team bought a 15-0 record into its clash last week against Summit in the state semis at the WW/P-S pool.

“You don’t want to be lackadaisical and not pay attention to the details like how are we going to relate to each other on the deck and when our teammates are in the water. We had to value starts, turns, and finishes and the last 10 yards of the race and establish a culture of taking themselves seriously no matter what the score is.”

As his swimmers battled Summit in a rematch of last year’s state semis, which saw the Little Tigers prevail on the way to a state title, Hand liked their serious mindset.

“The focus you could see before boarding the bus all the way to the end of the meet was excellent,” said Hand.

“In the face of a different kind of challenge they did everything they could to beat Summit, that alone said something about them.”

While PHS ended up falling to Summit by 87-83, the pluck displayed by the Little Tigers said a lot about their competitive fire.

“We really swam aggressively; there was very little discussion about the score on the deck,” said Hand.

“There were external indicators of the internal. Entering the states we had 4,036 power points and we scored 4402 against Summit so that was an increase of around 360 in two meets. That is the best increase we have ever had in that time frame.”

The Little Tigers produced 1-2-3 sweeps in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races to keep the pressure on Summit as junior Peter Kalibat placed first in both events followed by senior John Bond and junior Scott MacKenzie.

“They fit together; I think they thought their best swimmer would take second to Peter,” said Hand.

“After we went so fast in the 200, I think they got nervous. John and Scott were swimming so well. John had a PR in 200 and in 500, where he broke his record by five seconds. The 500 kept us in there, it was big to get the 13-3. We knew that they had a fast 200 free relay and that left us in a significant hole.”

The Little Tigers nearly climbed out of that hole as junior star Will Stange won the 100 back and senior Daniel Andronov and junior Colburn Yu went 2-3 in the 100 breast to help PHS draw within 81-75 heading into the 400 free relay, the last event of the meet.

Trailing 81-75 heading into the meet-ending 400 free relay, PHS had a chance to pull out a victory. The Little Tigers needed to finish first and second in the relay to win the meet or a first and third to earn a tie and have the meet decided by power points, which ended up being in PHS’s favor.

With the din reverberating in the WW/P-S bubble, Summit took a lead in the relay only to see Stange produce an amazing anchor leg that led to the top relay quartets ending in a dead heat. As a result, Summit was able to pull out the 87-83 win and PHS’s hopes for a title were dashed.

“I would put his swim in the context of the whole team going in lane four,” said Hand, reflecting on Stange’s heroics.

“Matt Purdy did a nice job in the 100 and then he came back and swam a second faster than that race. He set a tone. Kalibat swam a 47.62, which is an extremely fast split particularly considering he already had two fast swims. Yu came in and did a season PR and that split still left us 10 or 12 yards behind when their fastest swimmer (Will Benn) started off. I have seen some great comebacks, Nina Rossi had several. Will’s swim was something of the same quality; to close a big lead like that is exceptional.”

Hand was not surprised that Stange stepped up when the chips were down.

“Will was a real leader on the deck, not just in the sense of encouraging the others but setting a model in the sense that he was really going to do something big,” said Hand.

“He is not an introvert, he is gregarious and friendly. He has a strong sense of himself in a positive sense, not in a vain or egotistical sense. When he says he is going to go in and go after that guy, the other guys are inspired.”

In reflecting on the season, Hand said the team’s corp of seniors provided inspiration.

“We have an understated but impressive group of young men who were real leaders, five of the seven were with us for four years and other two were with us for two years,” said Hand of his seniors, who include Peter Cohen, Alden Reyes, John Robles, Patrick Schultz, and Stephen Schultz, in addition to Andronov and Bond.

“There was so much character and so little fanfare. Each is a terrific guy. They were level headed guys and they kept us well-centered. In four years, they went to two state semis and two finals and went 67-4 in dual meets.”

With such stellar juniors returning in Kalibat, Stange, Yu, Purdy, and MacKenzie, PHS should continue its tradition of tournament success.

“We have some terrific guys who are coming back who we know are committed,” said Hand.

“We know how they train and how much they like the PHS team. All of them are going to get better, every team counts on that. Summit had all those guys come back for them and they were so much better this year.”

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Lior Levy drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior star Levy is enjoying a superb final season, averaging a team-high 14.0 points for the Little Tigers.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Lior Levy drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior star Levy is enjoying a superb final season, averaging a team-high 14.0 points for the Little Tigers. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Lior Levy, things have come together in his senior season with the Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

The 6’8 center is averaging a team-high 14.0 points a game for PHS and has contributed a slew of assists, rebounds, and blocked shots.

Having dealt with injury and illness over much of his high school career, Levy is savoring his success this winter.

“It has been fun,” said Levy, who had mono as a freshman and suffered an ACL injury the next season.

“I have been injured the past few seasons and even last year my knee was hurting me. I am healthy so I have been able to take advantage of that this season.”

Enjoying good health has positively impacted Levy’s mindset and training. “I think I am more confident; I have been in more of a leadership role this year,” said Levy.

“I worked hard over the summer. I went to a bunch of camps so that is where some of the confidence came from. I think just my skill is up from last year.”

Last week, Levy displayed his confidence as the Little Tigers battled state Prep B champions Pennington, scoring 13 points and making some key assists and blocked shots as PHS dropped a 59-57 nailbiter to the Red Raiders.

Even though the Little Tigers lost on a last-second layup to fall to 11-10, Levy was encouraged by the team’s performance.

“We executed great tonight, Ellis [Bloom] was hitting every shot,” said Levy, reflecting on a game which saw PHS heading 31-27 at halftime and 44-43 entering the fourth quarter. “We were moving the ball well, we just needed one more shot here or there.”

Triggering the offense from the high post, Levy helped keep the PHS offense on the move.

“I love it, around the free throw line, top of the key, that is where I am best,” said Levy.

“We were moving the ball well, cutting off of me. They were overplaying sometimes and we got some nice looks.”

With PHS starting play in the state tournament this week, Levy believes the game against Pennington will be good preparation for that competition. PHS is seeded fourth in the Central Jersey Group III sectional and was slated to host 13th-seeded Hopewell Valley on February 26 with the winner advancing to the sectional quarters on February 28.

“That is a really good team, they have had a great season and you have got to give them credit,” said Levy.

“Playing a good team like that is definitely going to help us for the state tournament. If we played the way we played today, it will be tough to beat us.

PHS head coach Mark Shelley feels his team’s performance against Pennington is a good sign going into state competition.

“We feel really good about the way we are playing,” said Shelley. “That was as well as we have played offensively since the Trenton game. Defensively we played well, they just hit some big shots with hands in their face.”

Shelley is heartened by Levy’s excellent play in his final campaign.

“I think Lior has done really well; he has really battled through some things,” said Shelley.

“He has really enjoyed playing this year. He is a leader; not just in scoring. He leads us in blocked shots and is among the leaders in assists. We run everything through him; if we are under pressure the ball goes to him. Lior has been shooting the ball well and he has been more assertive down low.”

The PHS seniors have become more assertive collectively as the season has headed into the homestretch.

“When the end is in sight for seniors, sometimes they give a better effort,” said Shelley, whose group of seniors includes Elliott Golden, Ellis Bloom, Christian Giles, and Scott Bechler in addition to Levy.

“It is nice; they have been leaders by example and in word. Today I was going to give them the day off but they got everyone to come down for a shootaround. They set a standard, they are always working.”

Shelley is hoping that work will pay off this week in the state tournament.

“We are excited about it,” said Shelley. “The pressure is there and we don’t have to talk about it. We just want to take it one game at a time and see how it goes. We are going to focus on the fundamentals in preparing.”

Levy, for his part, is focusing on enjoying a big finale with his classmates. “I have been playing with these guys my whole life so it will be good to go out like this,” said Levy, who is looking to continue his hoops career as a post-graduate with a prep program next year.

AGONY OF DEFEAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball players, Davon Reed, left, and Ford Schneider, show their disappointment after PDS lost 47-45 to Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game. The defeat left the Panthers with a final record of 19-8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AGONY OF DEFEAT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball players, Davon Reed, left, and Ford Schneider, show their disappointment after PDS lost 47-45 to Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game. The defeat left the Panthers with a final record of 19-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Davon Reed hit the floor soon after the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team fell 47-45 to host Pennington last Thursday in the state Prep B championship game.

The senior star lay prone on the court with his shirt pulled up over his head, absorbing the disappointment of the defeat as Pennington fans celebrated around him.

After PDS head coach Paris McLean pulled Reed away from the surging crowd, the record-setting guard was able to put things in perspective in the wake of the scintillating contest which saw neither team lead by more than five points.

“It was definitely a great game; we got our money’s worth,” said Reed, who scored a game-high 24 points in the setback. “Unfortunately, we didn’t walk away with the win.”

While Reed walks away from PDS with a program-record 2,102 points on his way to the University of Miami men’s hoops team, he desperately wanted a title to go with his individual feats.

“I am definitely grateful and proud of myself that I scored it but I would trade it in for both of these championships, the counties and the preps,” said Reed.

In a grueling stretch, which saw PDS play five tournament games over six days, the Panthers came agonizingly close to a title double. In the county tournament, the fifth-seeded Panthers topped No. 12 Steinert 59-56 in the first round on February 16, defeated fourth-seeded Ewing 74-56 on February 18 in the quarters, and then fell 65-56 to No. 1 and eventual champion Notre Dame last Wednesday in the semis.

Meanwhile on the Prep B front, No. 2 PDS topped third-seeded and defending champion Rutgers Prep 46-38 on February 17 in the semis before the heartbreaking loss to top-seeded Pennington last Thursday.

“We don’t like to make excuses, playing five games in six days is tough but you know what I am proud of my guys, we came out and battled every game,” said Reed. “We win three straight and the last two were against two really good teams and it was a little different, we weren’t able to pull it out.”

After splitting two regular season games with rival Pennington, PDS was determined to win the rubber match.

“This game we knew was for all the marbles; my boys were just ready to play,” said Reed, who averaged 23.2 points a game this season.

“We know that everybody else is starting to believe in us but we knew from the start so we got to know we can win this game.”

While PDS head coach McLean was proud of his team’s effort, the pain of the defeat stung.

“What a great game; it had everything you wanted, back and forth play, drama, big shots, big opportunities, just two great programs going at it,” said McLean, whose team ended the season with a 19-8 record.

“Each team has marquee players; both teams are doing extremely well and that’s a testament to the way our program has grown and the way that Pennington has grown. It is great for the county. It is a lot to take in but this one hurts, this one hurts.”

The Panthers had a chance to win the game or put it in overtime as they had a final possession with 5.4 seconds in regulation.

“They made the last foul shot and we get a timeout,” recalled Mclean.

“We run situation drills everyday in practice. We drew it up, we knew they would key on Davon. We got a good look to the basket, we just didn’t finish. We came up short; it was on the lip of the rim.”

The impact of Reed on the PDS program over the last four years has been nothing short of amazing.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

The team’s core of seniors led the way, helping PDS get stronger as the season unfolded.

“It has been a great senior class; I described them on Senior Day as a diverse group in terms of not just outward identity but in terms of their interests and their position play,” said McLean.

“Good teams need to have strong seniors and we had strong senior leadership this season. Every last one of them, Alec Jones, Tavante Brittingham, Tom Martino, Davon Reed, and B.J. Dudeck, right down the line in no particular order because any one of them could step up and they know our motto, you don’t have to be a captain to be a leader. Anybody can be a leader.”

Coming to the end of the line last Thursday made for an emotional scene in the Panther locker room.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room, coaching staff, players,” said McLean.

“When you put in that much time and effort to battle back and come here back-to-back years, that is tough. They fought through it, they willed it to the end. We didn’t even run out of gas, a couple of things just didn’t go our way. But there was no quit; what a special, magical run. If you look at our program, 11 wins, 15 wins, 16 wins, 19 wins, we keep getting better.”

Even with the graduation of Reed and his classmates, McLean is confident that PDS can keep getting better.

“We have great young kids,” said McLean, who will welcome back juniors Langston Glaude, Deante Cole, Chris Okorodudu, and Ford Schneider.

“It is a great learning experience. I am tired of learning experiences, though. We need to take the next step. We have some great young men coming back and we have some great JV players. I just hope that people don’t think that because Davon Reed leaves, the PDS program is going to roll over and die. No, it is going to continue to build and be stronger.”

Reed, for his part, is proud to have helped the Panthers build something special.

“It wasn’t always pretty,” said Reed, reflecting on his career. “We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up. I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

GAINING INDEPENDENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Vukasin waits for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Vukasin scored a goal to help Hun defeat the Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game. The win gave the Raiders a final record of 16-5-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GAINING INDEPENDENCE: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Vukasin waits for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Vukasin scored a goal to help Hun defeat the Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game. The win gave the Raiders a final record of 16-5-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After having lost in double overtime to Pennington in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship game last winter, the Hun School boys’ hockey team was on a mission this season to capture the elusive title.

But as Hun hosted the Haverford School (Pa.) last Friday in the IHL championship game, it looked like history might be repeating itself when the Raiders fell behind 1-0.

Hun head coach Ian McNally acknowledged that his players were a bit frazzled in the early going.

“It is the third time we have played them and that is the best they have come out so you know what, they definitely outplayed us at the start, they came out flying,” said McNally.

“In our league we didn’t lose a game, I think we had 10 wins and two ties so we didn’t have a ton of adversity. The result of that was that our guys started panicking on the bench and panicking on the ice, just getting a little frenzied.”

Senior star Eric Szeker concurred, attributing the slow start to some nerves.

“I think the jitters got to us in the first couple of shifts there,” said Szeker. “They scored a quick one on us and that kind of woke us up and we got our feet moving again.”

The Raiders got moving in the right direction as Nick Guns scored a goal to make it 1-1 and then in between periods the Raiders were reassured by a calming message from McNally.

“He said to stick with it,” recalled Szeker. “We knew we were going to get our goals. We know that we have a good offense. We can put pucks home and he told us to just to stay with it. The defensive zone was our main focus in this game.”

The Raiders seized control of the game in the second period, outscoring Haverford 3-0 in that 15-minute stretch.

“It is the last game of the season and we have to leave it all on the line and it was one of our better periods of the year,” said Szeker, who scored early in the second period to put Hun ahead 2-1. “We got a lot of goals and it helped set us up for the third period.”

Szeker’s classmate, star forward Alex Vukasin, scored the fourth goal in the last minute of the period to give the Raiders some extra momentum heading into the last 15 minutes of regulation.

“That definitely wasn’t a pretty one but it was sure satisfying,” said Vukasin.

“Basically we know that we are not a team with super-skilled players on this team, we have good players on this team. We know that our goals come from fighting in the crease, we have a lot of rebound goals. My goal was a rebound. We have been making sure that we win puck battles, that is pretty much our team motto this year.

Those goals plus a power play tally by Szeker in the third period proved to be enough as Hun held off a late Haverford rally to win 5-3 and earn the title.

The Raiders did have to battle to earn the title as they were playing shorthanded down the stretch, at one point having to kill off a 5-on-3 situation.

“We were on our heels, they definitely made a final push,” said Szeker, reflecting on the waning moments of the win which left Hun with a final record of 16-5-4.

“It is the end of their season too and they don’t want to lose either; they came out hard but as a team we stuck together and we got the job done at the end.”

In Vukasin’s view, the determination of the Hun seniors helped pave the way to the title.

“This shows the tenacity our seniors have had in the four years, we have had tough times,” said Vukasin, who also had an assist on Szeker’s third period goal.

“Last year we just missed it so we were pushing and pushing this year and we finally came through. The seniors on our team wanted it and the young guys followed our example, maintaining the same work ethic as we have been doing and putting in 100 percent every practice.”

McNally was not surprised that Szeker and Vukasin came through in the finale.

“I told Eric before the game, just be the guy,” said McNally, who also got a goal in the victory from senior Jordan Wang.

“He is the best player in the league, I said go ahead and show that and he did. He was very vocal, he scored two goals. He was our captain and he led us. Alex is so consistent, you know exactly what you are going to get out of him every game. He did it again. He can beat people to these pucks and outmuscle them and score goals. He helped us gain momentum.”

The Raiders gained momentum from the leadership of its senior class. “The seniors were great, especially down the stretch when we played the second half of the league and went 6-0 after we tied a couple in the first half,” said McNally, whose group of seniors included Andrew Zhou, Peter Nawn, Matt Waxman, and Anton Salienko in addition to Szeker, Vukasin, and Wang.

“That was on them. We had a meeting about that, we have seven of them and they led the way. It was good, even the younger guys were talking let’s do it for the seniors. The right message has been sent where I don’t have to be the one pushing all the time. They are doing it themselves.”

In McNally’s view, the program sent a major message by winning the IHL crown.

“I think it is big,” said McNally, who cited the effort of junior goalie Devin Cheifetz in the title game as he made 39 saves and fought through a second period neck injury.

“Throughout the day at school, people were coming up to me saying good luck in the game and that didn’t really happen last year because we just generated a little buzz for Hun hockey. I just told the players afterward congratulations you guys just started this program, doing this. It means a lot, it justified our team and it put us on the map. We played strong all year, we did it when it mattered, we won the league and we only plan to get better from here.”

Szeker, for his part, will remember the strong bonds the team formed this winter in its championship campaign.

“We were family on and off the ice,” said Szeker. “At school in the lunch time, everyone sits together. Everyone hangs out on free periods that we have; everyone is with each other. It is hockey 24/7 with us and to bring something home is really special for all of us.”

February 20, 2013

Madeleine Deardorff and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ swimming team looked forward to the challenge posed by Chatham last Thursday in the Public B Central Jersey sectional finals.

“We knew they were amazing coming in,” said freshman star Deardorff. “I think we all came in really psyched up and we all wanted to swim our best. I think we were all really motivated.”

As Deardorff toed the starting blocks for the 100 butterfly and the fifth event of the meet at the Neptune Aquatic Center, second-seeded PHS already trailed No. 1 Chatham 39-23.

The precocious freshman, though, was undaunted, outdueling Kara Miller-Radest to win the race by 2.08 seconds.

“At each turn, I would see that she was coming,” said Deardorff, recalling the thrilling race which saw her clock a winning time of 58.41. “I just gave it my all and I saw what came out of it. I was happy.”

Even though PHS ended up losing the meet 112-58 to suffer its only defeat of the season, Deardorff was happy with the team’s performance. “I think this was one of our best meets and people swam best times,” said Deardorff.

“We were all really excited with our swims; I think this was a great way to top off the season.”

Fellow freshman Briana Romaine earned PHS’s other individual victory in the meet as she placed first in the 100 freestyle. The Little Tigers also prevailed in the 200 medley relay.

Deardorff produced another superb swim herself later in the meet when she took second in the 100 breaststroke by a mere .04 to Anna Dexheimer. “I was really exhausted but she was too,” said Deardorff.

“I think I just tried my best. I knew they were fast. I was just sprinting and giving it my all. I did not hold back at all.”

In producing a superb freshman campaign, Deardorff hasn’t held back. “The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Having her older sister, senior star Serena, on the team helped Deardorff thrive this winter.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

The seniors kept up the excitement to the end on Thursday. “The seniors are great leaders this year,” said Deardorff.

“They motivated us. They were really helpful with this loss, making sure that we didn’t get down on ourselves.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand tipped his hat to the contributions made by the seniors this winter in a season that saw PHS go 13-1 and win its first-ever county title.

“It is always wonderful to have kids who get it and the group that we are graduating has been such a great group because they all got it from the start,” said Hand, whose senior group included Marisa Giglio, Victoria Carroll, Felicia He, and Corey Allikas, in addition to Serena Deardorff.

“They have grown up as people. They came in understanding it is about team and about hard work and that fun follows from that. They didn’t come in demanding to have fun; they came in asking the right things of themselves.”

Serena Deardorff and Giglio showed the right stuff as they piled up a slew of points for PHS over their careers. In the loss to Chatham, Deardorff took second in the 50 free and third in the 500 free while Giglio placed second in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

Even in defeat, PHS put a lot into their effort last Thursday. “We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water. I felt that a few days ago, that this would be an exciting dual meet even if the score wasn’t very close and I think they created that by the way they swam. You can tell when somebody is going all out and they were.”

Hand is excited about the program’s outlook going forward. “I feel great about the future as far as the kids we have got and who they are and what they try to do everyday,” said Hand.

“You can see with a team like Chatham to win at this level, you need three great entries in each event and it is rare to be able to put that together. If you have kids who do what you want kids to do on a high school team, then you know that this side of education is working and sports really matters.”

Deardorff, for her part, believes that PHS can reach an even higher level of success in the future.

“I know a few girls who swim that are in eighth and seventh grade so we do have some people coming up and I think that is really encouraging for us,” said Deardorff.

“We definitely are really losing some really fast swimmers but I think we will be able to handle that. Winning our first counties really helped to get our spirits up; it really motivated us for next year.”