January 22, 2014
TOUGH GOING: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Callahan O’Meara looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior co-captain O’Meara scored a team-high 12 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 62-47 at WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 2-7 with the defeat, play at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH GOING: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Callahan O’Meara looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior co-captain O’Meara scored a team-high 12 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 62-47 at WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 2-7 with the defeat, play at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked all too familiar for Princeton High boys’ basketball head coach Mark Shelley as the clock ticked toward zero last Friday night at WW/P-N.

Playing its sixth game in nine days, his squad kept it close for the first 20 minutes but wilted down the stretch in a 62-47 loss to the Knights.

Once again, it was the mental errors and lack of execution that kept the Little Tigers from earning a victory, according to Shelley.

“We didn’t follow our scouting report well enough,” said Shelley, now in his second year at the helm of the program.

“Their kid who scored 24 points (Juwan Harrison), we talked about how he always goes right and we weren’t funneling him to his left so you know those little things that we call mental errors, we’re not good enough to beat people if we make too many mistakes like that.”

Harrison penetrated into the teeth of the Little Tigers defense all evening, converting on nine field goals with every bucket coming in the paint.

“One person not being in the right defensive alignment breaks down everything and we’re not talented enough to do that so we must have a cohesive five player effort,” added Shelley, whose team dropped to 2-7 with the loss.

With starting point guard Paul Murray nursing a separated shoulder and backup Max Tarter still fighting sickness, junior point guard J.C. Silva was inserted into the starting lineup for a second straight game and continued to play well in an expanded role. Silva gave the Little Tigers an early boost, knocking down two three-pointers in the opening quarter and bringing defensive pressure as PHS battled to a two-point halftime deficit, trailing 25-23 at the break.

“He’s grown up a lot,” said Shelley of Silva who scored a season-high 11 points in a 69-55 win at Leap Academy last Wednesday. “He’s scoring better; we had not been getting many points from the point guard position so that was good, we need that.”

Harrison’s breakaway dunk midway through the third quarter had the WW/P-N student crowd in an uproar but the Little Tigers stayed under control and a Peter Mahotiere layup cut North’s lead to 33-31. But the Little Tigers seemed to run out of gas late in the period, particularly on the defensive end, as the Knights closed the quarter on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 43-33 heading into the final stanza.

WW-PN carried the momentum into the fourth quarter and pulled away for the victory.

“We cooled off (offensively). I don’t think we ball-faked real well,” Shelley said. “We were trying to go short corner, mid-post and overload a side but a lot of times we weren’t patient enough and rushed a shot before we let the cutters come through. When we did reverse the ball, we got good looks.”

Senior forward Callahan O’Meara led PHS in scoring for the second straight contest, notching 12 points and hitting the defensive glass for the Little Tigers. Two days earlier, he led five PHS players in double figures with 17 points in the victory at Leap Academy, which snapped a six-game losing skid for the Little Tigers.

“I feel like we get in certain funks and stretches during the game where we’re not playing well and the other team is taking advantage of it,” said co-captain O’Meara. “It’s a lot of little things we aren’t doing right which all adds up in the end.”

O’Meara can often be seen vigorously communicating with his teammates on the court and his intensity was on display in the loss to the Knights.

“I took it upon myself to be someone who’s not afraid to lay into other kids on the team,” said O’Meara, who scored five points as PHS opened the week with a hard fought 54-47 home loss to WW/P-S on January 14. “I’m just trying to get everyone to work their hardest and give 100 percent every second they’re on the floor.”

Despite the 2-7 record, O’Meara believes PHS can still turn it around if it comes together and plays as a team at all times.

“We need to work on chemistry as a team on offense,” asserted O’Meara. “Most of the games have turned into one-on-one stuff and there’s no moving off the ball and there’s no setting screens off the ball so I think that’s what we need to emphasize the most on. I think we can make a push and definitely make a run; hopefully we’ll be able to qualify for the state playoffs.”

The Little Tigers must turn it around quickly with seven more games on the horizon over the next two weeks.

“My biggest job as a coach right now is one, fundamentals, correcting what we can correct, improving both individually and collectively, and the second issue is the mental approach,” said Shelley, whose team plays at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28.

“After a while you lose a couple close games, games you feel like  you should have won and then their heads get down so our job is to work on the attitude and momentum, keeping their heads up.”

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sean Timmons is the top sniper for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team but he has been misfiring since the calendar turned to January.

“It has been a while since I have scored,” said senior forward and team captain Timmons.

“Bert [PDS head coach Scott Bertoli] puts a lot of pressure on our top six forwards to put the puck into the net.”

With PDS mired in a two-game losing streak and hosting Lawrenceville last Wednesday, the Panthers knew that they had to put a lot of pucks in the net if they were going to get their first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season.

Timmons helped PDS put the pressure on Lawrenceville as he assisted on a Gabe Castagna goal that gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead and got the packed house at McGraw Rink roaring.

Early in the second period, Timmons helped set up a Kyle Weller goal as PDS extended its lead to 3-1. Minutes later, Timmons took matters into his own hands, flying down the ice and blasting a one-timer into the top corner of the net.

“I couldn’t have asked for better timing and a better chance,” said Timmons reflecting on his tally.

“I had the whole top of the net. My teammates have been giving me grief the past three weeks, saying I can’t hit the net. If I had missed the net, I would have skated off the ice.”

Instead, Timmons skated over to the jammed PDS student section and pounded the glass in celebration.

“We don’t play for ourselves, we play for the crest on our jersey,” said Timmons.

“They are our biggest supporters so we have to make it fun for them because we are playing for our school.”

Timmons’ tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS pulled away to a sweet 6-3 triumph over the Big Red, improving to 7-3-1 on the season.

For Timmons and his teammates, it was critical to get that early lead over the Big Red.

“Before the game, Bert said that in the past two years, they had scored in the first five minutes of the game so we took that to heart and we knew that the first goal definitely had to be ours,” said Timmons, noting that PDS had tied Lawrenceville two seasons ago before losing by one goal last year on a tally in the waning seconds of the contest. “Once that first one went in for us, we weren’t letting up.”

Timmons acknowledged that last year’s loss to the Big Red provided further motivation for the Panthers.

“We are a totally different team from last year and we have got to play 100 percent different from what we did last year,” said Timmons.

“Everyone who was in the locker room that was on the team last year still had that in them. All the new guys were at the game or they saw it on YouTube. Everyone knew what had to be done and we had to play 100 percent to beat them.”

PDS helped ensure a different outcome as they blitzed Lawrenceville in the second period, outscoring the Big Red 4-1.

“We came out great but there was a little doubt, there were jitters going everywhere,” said Timmons.

“Going into the second period up 2-1, we said in the locker room that we know how to beat this team. We have to just keep going and everyone rallied for each other.”

For Timmons and his fellow veterans, there was the sense that PDS’s winless streak against Lawrenceville was finally going to end.

“We were talking yesterday and I said to Bert, the guys that have been here have played them twice already and we have tied them and lost to them so we better win this time,” said Timmons.

“It is destiny, you just knew it had to happen and Bert said ‘exactly right, it is your time.’ When the schedule comes out, everyone circles this game on the calendar. It is the biggest game of the year and it means so much to both schools. We are so honored to finally have the ‘W’ on our side.”

In the the view of PDS head coach Bertoli, the big win came down to his players staying in the moment.

“I think our approach was a little different this year,” said Bertoli. “We talked about not worrying about the result at the end of the game and not getting so caught up in the environment and the atmosphere. We are not supposed to win this game. The pressure isn’t on us, we are a small little day school that happens to have a pretty good hockey program. We were the better team last year and we didn’t win the game and I think it was because we got out of synch and we kept watching the scoreboard and we were down. I think it was huge for us to get the first goal and play in front.”

While the Panthers’ opportunistic finishing drew the applause on Wednesday, Bertoli credited some tough defensive work with paving the way to victory.

“Their top line is very, very good, the best line we are going to play against all year,” said Bertoli.

“I am proud of the way that Connor Fletcher, John Egner,  Lewie Blackburn, C.J. Young,  and Andrew Clayton played. Those five guys were given the tall order of shutting those guys down and they were great in the 5-on-5.”

Bertoli enjoyed his team’s great second period effort, which ended with the PDS students gleefully chanting “domination, domination.”

“I think part of that is having them getting frustrated,” said Bertoli, who got goals from Egner, Blackburn, and Fletcher in addition to the tallies by Timmons, Castagna and Weller with Clayton chipping in four assists.

“We made it hard on them and not everyone is willing to battle through and fight through adversity and we made it a point to make it hard on their top line. They unraveled a little bit and took penalties and our power play cashed in.”

Over the last 18 minutes of the contest, the Panthers weathered a storm in holding off a desperate Big Red squad.

“Third periods have kind of been our achilles heels of late,” said Bertoli, who got 30 saves from freshman goalie Logan Kramsky. “We knew they were going to come out and score a goal and make a push and we responded. I thought we did a good job of matching that.”

After surviving the third period, the Panthers players mobbed each other on the ice as the student fans roared their approval.

“You can tell how excited those guys are, it was fun,” said Bertoli. “For these guys, it was about enjoying the moment and playing the game the right way and being responsible defensively and we did that.”

In Bertoli’s view, the breakthrough against Lawrenceville should give the Panthers some extra momentum as they head down the home stretch of their schedule.

“We are a good hockey team when we have everyone in the lineup,” asserted Bertoli, whose team hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.

“We have been  missing some key pieces for a while now. It is the first time we have had everyone back for six weeks. If we play like this, we are going to have a successful year.”

Timmons, for his part, echoed Bertoli’s analysis. “Going forward, Bert said this is the best team we are going to play,” said Timmons. “If we play like that every game, the sky is the limit honestly.”

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshmen Jon Bendorf and Evan Barratt to feel at home as they joined the Hun School boys’ hockey team this winter.

“They welcomed us right away,” said Bendorf, referring to the squad’s veteran players.

“I knew a couple of kids before coming in and they introduced me and Evan to everyone else on the team and we just bonded right away.”

On the ice, Bendorf, Barratt, and fellow freshman Blake Brown have bonded as they were put together on the same line in the preseason.

“It has been a lot of fun going to the Hun School and playing with Jon and Blake,” said Barratt,

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

Last Friday, the trio of freshmen certainly brought the scoring as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.).

Brown scored Hun’s first goal as the Raiders tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period. In the waning moments of the period, Bendorf tallied two shorthanded goals, the second assisted by Barratt, as Hun took a 3-1 lead into the final period.

In the third, St. Joe’s rallied to knot the game at 3-3 but with less than a minute left in regulation, Bendorf found Brown in the crease and the latter banged home the feed with 50 seconds left to give the Raiders a dramatic victory.

In Barratt’s view, Brown’s second period tally changed the tone of the contest.

“That was a huge goal for us, we weren’t getting very much in the first period,” said Barratt. “He puts it in and all the momentum goes toward us.”

Bendorf helped Hun build on that momentum as he turned a late penalty kill into his personal showcase. He scored with 2:34 left in the period when he stole the puck from the St. Joe’s goalie and calmly maneuvered his way into the crease and dumped the puck into the empty net.

“I was trying to cut off the angle for the goalie to pass the puck and he ended up putting it right on my tape and I got it in the net,” recalled Bendorf.

On the second shorthanded goal 30 seconds later, Bendorf deftly buried a feed from Barratt.

“I just saw Jon going hard to the net and I was trying to make the d-men make a move first and just slide it over and he put it in,” said Barratt.

On the game-winning goal, Bendorf became the playmaker, setting up Brown in the crease.

“It was a great pass by Evan to find me over there and then I just saw Blake coming around the net,” said Bendorf.

“I tried to get it over there and I knew he was going to finish right when I got it over to him.”

In Bendorf’s view, the dramatic finish could be a turning point for the Raiders.

“We have had some tough times with the tougher opponents that we have played against so that was a big win,” said Bendorf. “Hopefully it sparks something and we can roll a couple of wins here.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally knew his team was in for a tough test against St. Joe’s as the squads had met over the holiday season in the semifinals of the Purple Puck tournament in Washington D.C. with the Raiders prevailing in a shootout.

“We are pretty evenly matched I think, both games were very physical and a little mean-spirited,” said McNally, whose team improved to 11-5 with the victory in the rematch.

“Both teams were referencing the last game throughout this game so there was a carryover. We expected that. We were missing a couple of kids at the Purple Puck and I think they were too so this was a better, faster hockey game.”

The Raiders produced one of their better stretches of the season when Bendorf scored the two shorthanded goals within a 30-second span.

“We were kind of frustrated because that was our third penalty in a row and just to have a momentum blitz like that was great,” said McNally. “That penalty kill obviously changed the whole game.”

Adding the trio of Bendorf, Barratt, and Brown has changed things for the Raiders.

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

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

While the freshmen may have been the offensive stars of the win, McNally tipped his hat to senior goalie Devin Cheifetz and senior defenseman Brad Stern.

“I think Devin played really well today; I think his best two games so far have been these guys in the tournament and then here today,” asserted McNally.

“It was good for him to show up in a big way. We have all of this dynamic offensive talent; it is going to come in spurts so what we need is for him to be able to hold the fort for 10 minutes. When he does that people feed off of it and we get going a little bit. I thought Brad Stern played really solid back there. He was a little more physical than he usually is. He helped save a couple of goals in the d-zone so that was good.”

In McNally’s view, the victory was a good preview for next month when the Raiders will be competing in three tournaments, the Independence Hockey League playoffs, the Mercer County Tournament, and the state Prep tourney.

“We talked about the difference today between learning how to lose and learning how to win,” said McNally, whose team plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.

“Any time we have been challenged, we have lost by a goal and that starts to become your mentality after a while so today was exactly what we were talking about. If we get in that situation and inevitably we did and we were able to actually learn how to win. Any time we are in a situation like this, we are practicing for February. We were in trouble and we were able to go through adversity.”

Bendorf, for his part, believes the Raiders could cause their foes a lot of trouble come tourney time.

“It is definitely going to be challenging,” said Bendorf. “I feel like we are getting better and by the time we get to the playoffs, we are going to be a really tough team to beat.”

January 15, 2014
PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High girls’ basketball team suffered a lopsided defeat to Ewing last Saturday to remain winless on the season, Dan Van Hise believes his squad is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think the girls realize how far they have come in the last few weeks,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, whose team lost 41-35 to Hamilton on January 7 and fell 49-32 to Steinert on Thursday before its 58-23 defeat to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

“We haven’t taken the hardest step. The chemistry is great and the effort is great. They are really buying in but they have to do the little things.”

In Van Hise’s view, PHS has to step up things on the boards and on the defensive end.

“We need to rebound better; we could have beaten Hamilton but they killed us on the boards,” said Van Hise, whose team fell to 0-6 with its loss to Ewing.

“We can practice boxing out all the time but it is a want thing. We need to have better defensive communication. When we go back on defense we need to know who is guarding who. It is deflating when you get it down to six or eight and the other team comes down and scores because you didn’t know who you were guarding.”

A bright spot for the Little Tigers has been the play of the squad’s starting guards, sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.

“Julia was feeling a lot of pressure in the first few games; she knows she has to be one of two or three main players and that is hard as a sophomore,” said Van Hise.

“She had a good game against Robbinsville, scoring 12 points and that led into the Hamilton game where she had 16. She and Mary feel most comfortable staying outside on the perimeter. We are getting zones thrown at us so they have to start going to the basket. We are pushing them to do that. The guards are the strength of our team.”

Van Hise is looking for stronger play from his frontcourt, starting with senior Liz Jacobs and junior Bryanna Blue.

“Liz is coming on a little bit; she is starting to be calm in the post and is learning the game,” said Van Hise of Jacobs, who had a team-high seven points in the loss to Ewing.

“We need her to rebound better. She is aggressive on the offensive end when she has the ball but she doesn’t look to do that when she doesn’t have the ball or she is on the defensive end. Bryanna Blue is one of the other girls off the bench. We are going to start playing her and Liz more together. We are going to try some high post/low post stuff. Bryanna has a world of potential. She has a nice soft touch, she just needs to catch the ball better.”

In Van Hise’s view, getting a victory will help PHS get more out of its potential.

“They are starting to play good enough basketball to win against most of the teams that we play,” said Van Hise, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N
on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.

“They are holding their heads up. They don’t know how to win or how it feels. It will happen and I think it will make a big difference.”

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ford Schneider is looking to bring more to the table this winter in his senior season with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

“I worked a lot in the off season on just getting stronger and finishing at the rim,” said 6’3 senior forward Schneider.

“My shot has always been a strength of mine so I knew that was going to be there. It was just about rounding out my game as a whole. It is our last year and for some of us it is our last year playing ball so it seems like it is the time for me to step up and show what I can do.”

With PDS trailing Timothy Christian 45-36 early in the fourth quarter last Friday, Schneider stepped up, hitting a three-pointer to start a rally that saw the Panthers whittle the lead down to 46-45 with 37.5 seconds remaining in regulation. PDS, though, didn’t score again falling 49-45 as it dropped to 1-7.

Schneider acknowledged that it took awhile for the Panthers to find their rhythm in the contest.

“I think we came out almost a little too hyped,” said Schneider, reflecting on a night which saw PDS fall behind 20-14 by the end of the first quarter. “We were all excited to get out there and play and we were just out of sorts on both sides of the floor.”

In the second quarter, PDS got in a groove as it outscored Timothy Christian 15-7 to take a 29-27 lead into halftime. Schneider scored seven points in the quarter, including a three-pointer in the waning seconds which put the Panthers up going into intermission.

“That’s just about getting into the flow of the game and we just settled down a little bit,” said Schneider, who ended up with 12 points on the night.

“Our shots started to fall and we started to get some steals. I missed a few in the first quarter. My teammates and my coaches always tell me to keep shooting; it started to fall for me.”

In Schneider’s view, PDS lost the game on the offensive end. “We had one of the worst shooting nights,” said Schneider.

“Our defense really wasn’t that bad. Obviously we have to finish at the rim a lot better. If we hit our layups we win tonight by 15 or 20 points because we missed at least 10.”

Despite misfiring, the Panthers battled to the final whistle. “We are not a team that ever gives up, we have been in bigger holes than that and we keep battling,” said Schneider. “The one thing I know about our team is that we are always going to battle.”

The team will need to utilize that spirit as it looks to get on the winning track.

“Frustration always sets in if you are 1-7; I think that we are all fed up with losing,” said Schneider. “I think that is more motivation.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean was frustrated to see his team come up short as it looked to build on its 62-25 win over Moorestown Friends earlier in the week.

“It has got to come down to consistency and balance, we just talked about that,” said McLean.

They scored 20 points on us in the first and the next three quarters, it was 7,13,7. We played great defensively for three quarters. We didn’t shoot well tonight. We got to the basket a lot but just missed layups. We made some silly fouls down the stretch. We didn’t show composure under pressure.”

PDS, though, hasn’t shied away from the pressure despite having such key players as senior guards Langston Glaude and Deante Cole sidelined at various points of the season due to injury.

“This team has battled night in, night out, every single game,” asserted McLean.

“If you don’t think we are coming to play and coming to battle, you are wrong. We just keep fighting and scrapping. It is just tough to string together some victories right now.”

In McLean’s view, the team has what it takes to start coming up with some victories.

“We won the game Monday, there were a lot of bright spots today,” said McLean.

“Individual defense looked good, team defense looked good. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We had some individual highlights. I thought Chris [Okorodudu] played well tonight. Ford has consistently been playing well. There has been plenty of individual highlights.”

Despite the disappointing record, the Panthers haven’t been hanging their heads.

“Spirits are high, guys are working hard,” said McLean, whose team plays at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.

“Guys are showing up to practice and that’s what you get from having nine or 10 seniors. They have been around so there is that commitment from them and all the guys on the team.”

Schneider, for his part, believes the Panthers have shown a deeper commitment as the season has gone on.

“I think the biggest thing that I see is the energy,” said Schneider. “We are playing with a renewed sense of determination.”

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In mid-December, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team opened its season by losing 48-21 at Stuart Country Day School.

Last Friday, the local rivals met in a rematch and round two turned out to be much different as PDS showed how much it has improved in a matter of a few weeks.

Trailing by just 19-15 at halftime, the Panthers narrowed the margin to one point twice in the waning moments of the contest before succumbing 33-28.

Although his team remained winless with the setback, first-year PDS head coach Kamau Bailey grinned broadly as assessed his players’ performance.

“I am just really impressed and really proud of my girls today,” said Bailey. “Every game we are getting better. We have been playing a lot in practice and doing player development stuff. All the girls are getting better and I think today was a testament to the work they have been putting in.”

In narrowing the gap with the Tartans, Bailey had his players speed things up.

“I wanted to push the tempo,” said Bailey. “The last time we played, we let them control the tempo. This time out, I wanted to control the tempo and I think we did that. They weren’t allowed to set up and get into their stuff very well.”

PDS utilized pressure defense to disrupt Stuart. “I implemented this press that I used to run in high school and it caused them problems,” explained Bailey.

“In the first game that we played we tried to run the press but everyone was in the wrong place and everyone was trying to figure out where to be so it wasn’t effective. We did it everyday in practice and it’s starting to work now. We are going to continue to use that and get better at it.”

As a result, PDS nearly pulled out the game, drawing to within 27-26 and 29-28 in the last four minutes of regulation.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump, we missed some easy baskets that we probably should have made,” said Bailey, reflecting on his team’s play down the stretch.

“I think they were a little fatigued at the end and that is probably why we missed some of those buckets. They fight hard, we had a shot to win it.”

Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord fought hard in the paint for the Panthers.

“She is tall, she gets in everyone’s face and puts up her hands a lot,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord, who had seven points and was a disruptive force inside.

“She is really athletic and agile. She can get up and down the court pretty fast which is helpful to us and she causes a lot of problems for big girls.”

Meyercord’s classmate, guard/forward Hope Anhut caused problems for Stuart with her scrappy play, chipping in six points.

“Hope is someone who didn’t play a lot in the first game because she was just coming off an injury,” said Bailey, whose tam fell 56-18 to Pennington last Monday to drop to 0-5.

“She has stepped up a lot in the last week. She made some clutch plays, a lot of steals, she was aggressive on the ball.”

Freshman guard Shayla Stevenson has been stepping up for the Panthers.

“She is getting over some nerves,” said Bailey of Stevenson, who tallied seven points in the loss to the Tartans. “I had to tell her that the weight of the team was not on her shoulders. She is a freshman and I just want to bring her along the right way.”

In Bailey’s view, time is on the side of his youthful squad. “The thing is we are not as good as I want us to be but we are young,” said Bailey, whose team is at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.

“The girls are all freshmen and sophomores by next year and the next couple years coming, I like our chances. I am happy, this is good stuff that is happening here at this school.”

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Mimi Matthews made the best of the situation as she was moved to defense from her natural forward position in her junior season with the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“I think when I was on defense it was definitely a learning experience and it was really good for me,” said Matthews.

“I know how to skate backwards really well and I think that is one of my stronger suits because I used to figure skate and that is where that came from.”

This year, Matthews has come back to forward as a senior and is feeling at home.

“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing where I am and just in general playing the game,” said Matthews.

Last Wednesday against visiting Morristown-Beard, Matthews showed her comfort level at forward, tallying a third period goal on a top-shelf blast to bring PDS within 2-1.

“I have really been working hard in practice on just seeing the net and not so much shooting at the goalie because that is something that I have struggled with,” said Matthews.

“As a freshman and a sophomore, I would give the puck away and pass it to someone for a shot. Now I am learning that I can take the shot. I can probably score because I do have a pretty good shot.”

While PDS couldn’t close the deal against the Crimson as it fell 3-1, Matthews saw the game as a step in the right direction for the Panthers.

“Our team was really fired up; obviously we didn’t come out as strong as we could have in the first period,” said Matthews.

“I think by the middle of the second period, we definitely got something going. It’s always a hard game against Mo-Beard. This is the closest we have been so I am really proud of them.”

In Matthews’ view, the PDS players have developed a closeness that is a major asset for the team.

“Everybody at the beginning of the year was so fired up to work with each other,” said Matthews.

“Right after the first few practices, everyone was really psyched up to just be on the team and be with each other. I am really, really excited to be playing with every one of these girls.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook is excited by the effort she is getting from Matthews and linemates Abby Sharer and Emma Stillwaggon.

“Mimi’s whole line battles really hard,” said Cook. “I think it starts with the wingers, Emma and Abby, who are smaller players but are really aggressive. Mimi just feeds off of that and she is the one who is going to have more of a knack of taking it to the net and putting pucks in the net. It is funny, I talked to her at practice yesterday because she has been doing really well all week putting pucks in corners and I told her I am expecting one out of you tomorrow and there you go, she is one that scored.”

Freshman goalie Annika Asplundh did really well to keep PDS in the Mo-Beard game as the Panther were outshot 48-6 on the evening.

“She was always in position for their shots,” said Cook. “Some of their shots weren’t great but she was still right there and to control those rebounds was another huge thing. It is putting them in the corners and making sure that they don’t get extra chances. She certainly kept us in the game, no question. We knew going in that she would have to do that a little bit for us. I was hoping it was not going to be so much.”

In Cook’s view, the defeat to Mo-Beard showed that PDS has to generate more scoring chances.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t win but I think I am more disappointed that we only got six shots,” said Cook.

“It is one of those where we are still moving forward. It is a stepping stone for sure. We are going to look at it as a chance to get better.”

Over the weekend, PDS did play better, going 1-1-1 in three games at the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Panthers had a 3-3 tie and a 4-0 loss in games with the hosts on Saturday before winning 6-3 on Sunday against Holton Arms (Md.) to move to 7-3-1.

Matthews, for her part, is looking forward to the rest of the season. “I just want to enjoy it while I can; I am definitely going to be sad when I am not at PDS next year,” said Matthews, who is heading to Middlebury College in the fall.

“I am just trying to make the most out of this year and this season because we have a good chance at a lot of different big games. I think this team can go places. It has just really been fun, hockey practice is the highlight of my day, just being on the ice.”

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Erica Brown and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ basketball team, their lopsided loss to Lawrenceville last Wednesday prompted some soul-searching as they prepared to host Mastery Charter (Pa.) a day later.

“We had a tough loss last night,” said senior forward Brown reflecting on the 54-29 defeat to the Big Red.

“Even in school, off the court, we were in ourselves. We just wanted to go out there and play hard and play the best that we can. Our main goal was to go out there and play hard and be ourselves. We weren’t hitting many shots yesterday. We really wanted to put the ball in the basket today.”

With Brown setting the tone with her aggressive play, Hun put up a lot of baskets against Mastery, jumping out to a 31-17 halftime lead on the way to a 56-39 victory.

“We were moving the ball well today,” said Brown, who scored 12 points to lead Hun along with freshman center Clare Maloney.

“Yesterday we weren’t hitting shots so we couldn’t rely on one person. Today we all went out there and we all had to play hard and do it for the team. We couldn’t play for ourselves.”

Hun has been forced to come together even more as a team in the wake of a knee injury to star center Johnnah Johnson, who is sidelined indefinitely.

“Once Johnnah got hurt, we really had to buckle down and our inside game had to be strong,” said Brown.

“Clare really had to be strong and she is doing well, filling some big shoes. She has to play hard and be strong inside.”

Brown, for her part, is looking to buckle down at both ends of the floor. “I really have to help get the rebounds on defense and make sure that we can push the ball,” said Brown.

“We have to play hard on the defensive end. Offensively we have to see the court. I like pushing the ball; the fast break is one of my strong suits, I like getting the ball up the court but I can settle down and run a play if we need to. Usually I just tell the girls to run and I will get the ball out to you. I grab the rebound and I will push it; that is our transition game.”

In Brown’s view, closing the deal against Mastery bodes well for the Raiders.

“We had some really close losses and our main thing was we have been up a lot at halftime and we want to make sure that we didn’t lose that lead,” said Brown.

“Sometimes we get a little lackadaisical when we are up by a lot and today at halftime, it was we are up and we need to stay up. There is nothing guaranteeing our win.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup sees the win over Mastery as a step forward for his squad.

“It is definitely important and with Johnnah out we don’t have overall depth so the other girls have to step up,” said Holup.

“Like today, for example,  Maura Kelly did a terrific job, she grabbed some rebounds and was active defensively. Everybody is going to be called upon at some point and they have to always be ready and focused.”

Holup liked the focus that Brown displayed in the win over Mastery Charter.

“Erica has ability,” said Holup. “She is a physical player, she can rebound, and she can also handle the ball. Yesterday, in our halftime talk she may have taken that to heart. She really stepped up her game from halftime yesterday throughout this entire game.”

Junior guard Erica Dwyer also stepped up, chipping in five points and calmly running the Hun offense.

“I think Erica Dwyer did the same thing; yesterday she didn’t play all that well and she knew it,” said Holup.

“Today she played much better and was more patient and let the game come to her instead of forcing it. Ultimately as a team, that was what we did today.”

The Raiders also got good games from junior Janelle Mullen and senior Anajha Burnett.

“Mullen has been a little bit off with her shot in the last couple of games,” said Holup, whose team topped Hill 57-30 on Saturday before falling 61-38 to Marianapolis Prep (Conn.) in the New Year’s Resolution Showcase at Peterson to move to 4-5.

“I think that has been bothering her a little bit, it can be psychological at times, you are thinking too much. She came alive today late in the game but we will need her right from the start. Anajha had a nice game, she asserted herself instead of just settling for outside shots.

Even without Johnson, Holup believes his club can produce a nice season.

“There is enough talent on this team that we should be able to compete with most of the teams on our schedule,” said Holup, whose team hosts Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. “We just have to be ready to play every time.”

Brown, for her part, is ready to go out with a bang. “We need to make sure that we are a family on and off the court so that is our main thing,” said Brown, who is planning to play at the college level.

“In senior year, you want to leave it on the court. I am trying to enjoy the rest of the season and see where it takes me.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In starting the season with a 4-2 record, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team cruised in each of its wins, posting an average margin of victory of 26.2 points in those four triumphs.

When Stuart played at Princeton Day School last Friday, the Tartans found themselves in a tight contest despite having beaten PDS 48-21 in December.

Stuart led 19-15 at halftime and took a 25-21 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Second-year Tartan head coach Dana Leary, for her part, wasn’t surprised that the rematch had a different feel than the initial meeting between the local foes.

“I expected a different game from the first time and the girls knew that as well,” said Leary.

“We were going to their place and they were going to be a much improved team.”

One factor that made the second encounter closer was Stuart’s failure to calmly handle PDS’s defensive pressure.

“We were panicking the entire game; the press was hurting us,” said Leary. “As much as we have been working on it, it was like they were seeing it for the first time. I kept stressing that you have to work hard defensively and on the offensive end you have to get it out. When you catch it, you have to be poised.”

The Tartans, though, showed poise down the stretch, outscoring the Panthers 4-0 in the last minute to pull out a 33-28 win.

“They pulled it together when it counted,” said Leary. “They calmed down by the end; it took the whole game. I am very proud of them for working hard and playing right to the end. That is all you can ask for.”

Some fine work inside by sophomore Kate Walsh and Nneka Onukwugha helped Stuart prevail as Walsh scored a game-high nine points while Onukwugha added eight.

“Kate has been having a great year so far; tonight she came through for us at the end with two big putbacks,” said Leary.

“Nneka has been showing up every single game, going and doing exactly what is expected of her. Tonight I saw she was hungry for it. She was going after the ball. She was out there to work; she didn’t want to get outworked tonight. You could definitely see that in her game.”

In Leary’s view, winning a game like last Friday’s contest should help the Tartans down the road.

“They haven’t been in a close one yet so now they have that experience and they can be confident in themselves at the end of the game,” said Leary, whose team hosts Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.

“They know they are capable of having the lead, holding onto it, and then coming out with the win.”

January 8, 2014
RECORD KEEPER: Lauren Ullmann takes a breather during her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team. This past fall, star goalkeeper Ullmann enjoyed a superb freshman season with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team. She allowed just six goals in 21 appearances, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD KEEPER: Lauren Ullmann takes a breather during her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team. This past fall, star goalkeeper Ullmann enjoyed a superb freshman season with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team. She allowed just six goals in 21 appearances, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Ullmann gave up a score in the first 21 minutes of her career with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team but the former Princeton High standout goalkeeper wasn’t fazed.

“We were playing Brandeis, they were ranked 8th in preseason,” said Ullmann.

“It was very exciting. That was a fantastic goal. I had made a couple of good saves right before and I made a couple right after so I didn’t have time to dwell on it. It was a very intense game, they put a lot of pressure on us.”

As MIT’s season unfolded, Ullmann thrived under the pressure that comes with starting as a freshman. She allowed just six goals in 21 starts, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against.

Upon arriving at MIT for preseason training last August, Ullmann had to battle to earn the starting job, a process that helped pave the way for her outstanding campaign.

“That definitely pushed me to be at my best; I would not have had the season I ended up having if I hadn’t been pushed like that,” said Ullmann.

“I felt like I was at the right level. One of the things that drew me to MIT was that I had a good chance to get playing time right away.”

In taking advantage of the chance to play, Ullmann faced challenges both internally and externally.

“The two captains were two of the four defenders,” said Ullmann.

“I am very vocal on the field. It was hard to be commanding with such experienced players and not being established but I realized it was part of playing the game. I was going against players who could all hit the ball very well and make some very tough shots.”

Ullmann displayed her toughness when she didn’t let an injury to her right wrist keep her from starring in postseason play. She hurt her wrist in the final regular season game and originally thought it was sprained only to have x-rays later reveal a fracture.

“We taped it up and I rested it early in the week,” said Ullmann, who helped the Engineers blank Babson and Springfield in 0-0 games decided on penalty kicks to win the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament.

“I wanted to be out there for the tournament games. Being in the games, the adrenaline took over. It is instinct on saves. I am going to react the same way. I wasn’t able to throw the ball and I wasn’t able to roll the ball. I had to kick it at times, it was a little unusual.”

While MIT’s season ended with a 0-0 loss on penalty kicks to the Rochester Institute of Technology in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, Ullmann is excited about what the squad achieved in its 13-2-6 campaign.

“We fought hard the whole way, I was proud of how we played good soccer, it speaks well for the future,” said Ullmann.

“I think we did better than expected because of the number  of seniors from 2013 that we lost. We made it back to the NCAA tournament for a third time and we hosted the conference tournament. We beat Tufts, it was the first win for an MIT women’s team against a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) team.”

Ullmann’s play exceeded her expectations. “Every step of the way helped me realize that I could accomplish the kind of things that I did in high school,” said Ullmann.

“I was very happy by how the season went. It was exciting to give up so few goals as a freshman. It makes me want to push myself to do even better over the next three years.”

Not resting on her laurels, Ullmann plans to keep showing the kind of work ethic that has helped her excel at every step of her career.

“I want to keep working hard; I want to keep putting in the effort to get better individually and to help the team go further and further,” said Ullmann.

“I am working on building my body strength. I want to have better decision-making and improve the way I read the game.”

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Andres picked up an assist on the game-tying goal as PHS rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie Wall High 5-5. The Little Tigers, now 6-1-2, play Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Andres picked up an assist on the game-tying goal as PHS rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie Wall High 5-5. The Little Tigers, now 6-1-2, play Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Terence Miller was disappointed on several levels when the Princeton High boys’ hockey team had to postpone its game against Steinert last Friday due to the snowstorm that hit the area.

First, the Little Tigers missed the chance to play at historic Baker Rink on the Princeton University campus, a treat for PHS and its guests alike.

More importantly, PHS head coach Miller wanted to see his team make a fresh start in the new year after ending the 2013 portion of its schedule with a lackluster 4-2 win over Pennington on December 19 and a 4-1 defeat to Cranford a day later.

“I am really eager to get going again,” said Miller, noting that his team had only two practices over the holiday break.

“We didn’t have our foot on the throttle against Pennington but we still managed to get the win. It was the same thing the next night and we laid an egg; it left a bad taste in our mouths before the holiday.

Miller tipped his hat to Cranford for taking advantage of its opportunities. “It was our first loss, we outshot them but they played a good road game,” said Miller.

“They scored on an early power play and then we had a bad turnover in the back and they scored again. We dug ourselves a hole and then we did get it back to to 2-1. Going into the third period, we were down 3-1. I feel that the guys were tired in the third; their goalie made some big saves.”

In reflecting on his squad’s overall play so far this season, Miller believes the pluses outweigh the minuses.

“I am happy with the effort,” said Miller, whose team put in quite an effort at Wall High last Sunday evening, rallying from a 5-1 third period deficit to pull out a 5-5 tie and move to 6-1-2.

“I like how our goalies are playing. We have a senior (Robert Quinn) and freshman (Sawyer Peck) and they are rotating well. We can’t dwell on ourselves and get ahead of ourselves. Things are going to get tougher in January.

Miller is looking for his team to be tougher mentally and physically as it gets into a more challenging part of its schedule.

“We need more consistency of effort from top to bottom,” said Miller, whose team plays Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park.

“The biggest thing is to stay consistent. They can’t take their foot off the throttle. So far, so good. I am happy but not satisfied.”

MARKING PERIOD: Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley makes a point in a game last season. Last Saturday, Shelley was frustrated as PHS fell 67-41 at Robbinsville to drop to 1-2. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they host Steinert on January 9, play at Ewing on January 11, and then host WW/P-S on January 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MARKING PERIOD: Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley makes a point in a game last season. Last Saturday, Shelley was frustrated as PHS fell 67-41 at Robbinsville to drop to 1-2. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they host Steinert on January 9, play at Ewing on January 11, and then host WW/P-S on January 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley experienced an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu as his Princeton High boys’ basketball team played at Robbinsville last Saturday.

After ending 2013 with a 65-41 defeat at Morristown, PHS started the New Year by losing 67-41 to the Ravens.

“I thought the Morristown game would be a wakeup call defensively,” said second-year PHS head coach Shelley.

“Every game we play is winnable but it is also losable. This is an example of not playing our best and another team plays well and we get it handed to us.”

The Little Tigers started slowly, trailing 18-8 after the first quarter and finding themselves down 37-21 at halftime.

“It was frustrating,” said Shelley. “I thought they executed well, they shot the ball extremely well. We had a lot of shots we normally make that didn’t go in. We were just sluggish, that is the word we talked about.”

At halftime, Shelley focused on getting his players to pick up intensity. “The message was that we were going to come out and try to pressure,” said Shelley.

“We talked about when you are down that much, all you can think about is winning the third quarter and that was the goal. We played a lot of people, trying to find a defensive spark.”

In the second half, PHS showed some spark as it outscored the Ravens 7-6 in one stretch.

“I thought we found a group late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter and we had a nice little run,” said Shelley, who got 13 points from junior guard Kevin Kane in the loss with senior forward Peter Mahiotiere chipping 12 points and nine rebounds. “We were trapping and rotating.”

Going forward, the Little Tigers are going to work on running a better defense.

“I think the biggest thing we talked a lot about at halftime and after the game was trusting your teammates,” said Shelley, whose team dropped to 1-2 with the setback.

“If I am not willing to go out and guard the ball with a lot of pressure that means I am not trusting that my teammates behind me are going to help. A lot of Monday’s focus is going to be on basic defensive principles, like ball pressure and helping. It was an execution and intensity thing on the defensive end today.”

With a busy stretch of the season coming up, Shelley believes his team will sharpen its execution.

“We have got four three-game weeks in a row so there are a lot of opportunities to put together some good performances but at the same time, our practice time is going to be limited,” said Shelley, whose team hosts Steinert on January 9, plays at Ewing on January 11, and then hosts WW/P-S on January 14. “We just couldn’t generate any energy today; we’ll tighten up some stuff.”

WINNING BID: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Bidwell, right, races up the ice in recent action. Last week, senior forward Bidwell starred as Hun took second at the Purple Puck Tournament in Washington, D.C. The Raiders, now 7-4, start the 2014 portion of their schedule by hosting Academy of New Church (Pa.) on January 8, Haverford School (Pa.) on January 10, and Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on January 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WINNING BID: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alex Bidwell, right, races up the ice in recent action. Last week, senior forward Bidwell starred as Hun took second at the Purple Puck Tournament in Washington, D.C. The Raiders, now 7-4, start the 2014 portion of their schedule by hosting Academy of New Church (Pa.) on January 8, Haverford School (Pa.) on January 10, and Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on January 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ hockey team, its trip last week to the Purple Puck Tournament in Washington, D.C. could put it on the road to big things later this winter.

Hun ended up taking second in the tourney that was hosted by Gonzaga College High (D.C) and included several skilled private school teams.

“It was a great event, they do it up,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally, reflecting on his team’s first visit to the event.

“You weren’t playing games between public skates like in other tournaments. This was done very well; they had a great announcer, music playing, and good crowds. Getting on the road together is great. We went to Pittsburgh last year and that was a notable bonding trip for the team.”

Coming into the Purple Puck tourney, McNally was apprehensive about his team’s prospects.

“Nobody knew what to expect,” said McNally. “We had a few players who couldn’t come because of their club tournaments so we were playing with two lines and some spare parts. We played really well, kids stepped up.”

Showing resilience, Hun exceeded expectations, topping Bullis (Md.) 10-2 and DeMatha (Md.) 4-1 while losing 5-3 to Gonzaga in round-robin play. The Raiders then edged St. Joseph’s (Pa.) 3-2 in the semifinal before falling to host Gonzaga 6-0 in the championship game.

In advancing to the finals, Hun was sparked by the one-two scoring punch of freshman Jon Bendorf and senior Alex Bidwell.

“It was Bendorf’s show all of a sudden,” said McNally, noting that freshman standout Evan Barratt and junior Bobby Wurster weren’t available to the team due to club team commitments.

“He scored nine goals in five games; he was very much the catalyst for us. He went to another level I hadn’t seen from him so that was great. Bidwell was on the all-tournament team last year even though we didn’t make it out of the round robin. He is a tournament player. He put up a ton of points. The power play was clicking very well.”

Senior goalie Devin Cheifetz made a ton of big stops for the Raiders, highlighted by a 44-save performance in the semifinal win that was decided by a shootout after the teams played to a 2-2 tie through regulation.

“The semis was the best Devin has played all year,” asserted McNally. “The game was two 25-minute halves. We were up 2-0; we were playing pretty strong. They were desperate and in the last 10 minutes tied it at 2-2. They were 0-for-4 in the shootout and we scored two with Bendorf and Blake Brown each getting one.”

Hun also got good play from freshman Tanner Preston and classmate Brown over the weekend.

“Preston jumped out, he hadn’t scored all year, he had some hard luck,” said McNally.

“He scored in back-to-back games. On the first one, he was pumped; he had that relieved feeling. In the next game, he scored on a power play. He was very strong. Blake was in on a lot of the Bendorf and Bidwell goals. We needed a spark in the first game. We got off the bus and we started slowly. He got the team started with his energy and everybody carried on from there.”

In the title game, the Raiders ran out of energy. “It was our fifth game and we were playing with a short bench,” noted McNally.

“It was 2-0 early and it was a pretty good game. When they scored to go ahead 3-0, that took the wind out of our sails. We ran out of gas at that point.”

In McNally’s view, the main point of the weekend, however, was to sharpen Hun for the challenges to come.

“We got what we came for, we had wins over DeMatha and St Joe’s; they are good teams, as good as we are,” said McNally, whose team is now 7-4 and hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on January 8, Haverford School (Pa.) on January 10, and Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on January 14.

“We were able to win regardless of who was playing. Even though we lost 6-0 in final, the guys were feeling pretty good about themselves. Getting on the road and doing that will carry us into February when we are in IHL (Independence Hockey League), prep, and county tournaments.”

January 2, 2014
CALL OF DUTY: Princeton High boys’ basketball player ­Callahan O’Meara dribbles around a foe in action last season. Senior forward O’Meara has helped PHS get off to a 1-1 start this winter. The Little Tigers return from the holiday break by hosting Trenton Central on January 2 and then playing at Robbinsville on January 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CALL OF DUTY: Princeton High boys’ basketball player ­Callahan O’Meara dribbles around a foe in action last season. Senior forward O’Meara has helped PHS get off to a 1-1 start this winter. The Little Tigers return from the holiday break by hosting Trenton Central on January 2 and then playing at Robbinsville on January 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team opened the season by dropping an overtime nailbiter at Hopewell Valley.

As PHS tipped off its 2013-14 campaign at Allentown, it found itself facing a similar scenario, trailing the Redbirds 21-16 at halftime.

“We weren’t playing with energy and confidence,” said second-year PHS head coach Mark Shelley, reflecting on his team’s first half performance in the opener on December 20.

“Their length was bothering us, they are very tall. We were standing around a little bit and not challenging them on defense at times.”

This year, the Little Tigers were up to the opening night challenge as they rallied for a 44-38 victory.

“We scored the first six or seven points of the second half to take the lead and then they came back to take the lead,” said Shelley, who got 20 points from junior guard Kevin Kane in the win with senior Peter Mahotiere adding nine points and senior Callahan O’Meara chipping in seven.

“We came right back and got six points in a row; I like how we responded. It was a good showing for us on the road in an opener. Last year, we opened at HoVal and we got a late lead but we missed our free throws and made some turnovers. This year we got a three-point lead and extended it.”

Unfortunately, PHS couldn’t build on that performance as they fell 65-41 at Morristown High three days later. The team dug a 48-16 hole at halftime, prompting the normally affable Shelley to read his players the riot act.

“That was about as frustrated as I have been in 10 years of coaching,” recalled Shelley.

“It is a total credit to Morristown, they are a very good basketball team. To score 16 points in a half is bad and to give up 48 points in a half is bad but to do both in the same half is really bad.” In the second half, the Little Tigers settled down as they outscored Morristown 25-17.

“We were just trying to win the third and fourth quarters, that is all you can do at that point,” said Shelley, who got 13 points from Kane in the defeat with Mahotiere adding 11.

“We played our zones and traps and did a better job. We drove to the basket instead of just settling for jumpers. We stopped them better in transition. We learned that we have to play all four quarters. We can compete with anyone but we are not good enough to just show up and win.”

Junior guard Kane has shown major improvement this winter. “We put Kevin on the varsity as a sophomore, knowing that he was not going to play very much; it is paying off now,” asserted Shelley.

“He got to practice against Ellis [Bloom] and Scotty [Bechler] all year and I think that is really helping him this year. He has always had the ability to shoot; he may be the purest shooter I have ever coached. He is playing defense much better; he knows what he is doing out there. He is also not forcing shots. He is putting the ball on the floor and he is going to the line and getting points that way. Teams will have to respect that.”

Shelley believes his front line players are going to be earning the respect of PHS’s foes this season.

“I am happy with our starting five, they are starting to separate themselves,” said Shelley, who has been going with Kane, Mahotiere, and O’Meara, along with sophomore Matt Hart and senior Paul Murray.

“Cal has shown that he is versatile. He hasn’t been scoring but he has played point guard and he can rebound. Matt does so many things that don’t show up in the box score. I have real confidence in the starting five.”

With PHS starting 2014 action by hosting Trenton Central on January 2 and then playing at Robbinsville on January 4, Shelley knows that his team needs to tighten things up to be successful.

“We need to work on improving collectively and individually,” said Shelley. “Most of our systems are in and we have to work on our fundamentals to get ready for Trenton and Robbinsville. We have plenty of room for improvement. It is a resilient group.”

SHARP LOOK: Princeton High wrestling head coach Rashone Johnson surveys the action in a match last season. Johnson has seen a good fighting spirit in his wrestlers as they took ninth in their season-opening Garden State Classic on December 21 and then placed fifth of ten teams in the Patriot Tournament at Secaucus High last Friday. PHS starts 2014 action on January 4 when it heads to Voorhees High to face Hopewell Valley,  Lawrence, and the host Vikings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARP LOOK: Princeton High wrestling head coach Rashone Johnson surveys the action in a match last season. Johnson has seen a good fighting spirit in his wrestlers as they took ninth in their season-opening Garden State Classic on December 21 and then placed fifth of ten teams in the Patriot Tournament at Secaucus High last Friday. PHS starts 2014 action on January 4 when it heads to Voorhees High to face Hopewell Valley, Lawrence, and the host Vikings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the sole captain of the Princeton High wrestling team, James Gates is looking to set a good example for his younger teammates.

“Wrestling is just all about putting in more work and being tougher than the other guys,” said senior star Gates. “I just have got to work hard and then hopefully they (his teammates) work hard.”

Gates displayed his toughness by taking third at 170 pounds as PHS started its season by hosting its annual Garden State Classic in late December.

“We had some good wrestling,” said Gates, reflecting on the 10-team tournament.

“Our varsity guys went and wrestled well. It was a really tough competition this year. There are a lot of good teams, all the teams here were pretty good. This is probably some of the hardest wrestling we’re going to see for a while.”

As he heads down the homestretch of his high school career, Gates is determined to produce a very big season.

“I want to win all my matches,” asserted Gates. “My big goal would be to place in districts, make it to regions, and hopefully make it to states. I want to just have a strong season and represent the school well.”

In representing PHS, Gates draws inspiration from Little Tiger head coach Rashone Johnson.

“Our coaching staff is great,” said Gates. “Coach Johnson is crazy. His pre-match speeches get you really pumped and ready to wrestle. You go out there like an animal after you hear Johnson.”

Johnson, for his part, is expecting Gates to provide stability this winter for the Little Tigers.

“I want him to just be consistent,” said Johnson, when asked about Gates. “He took third today so that’s definitely an improvement from last year.”

In addition to Gates taking third, Johnson got several other good efforts from his wrestlers at the Garden State Classic. Junior Patrick Sockler took third at 126, while classmate Tommy Miers garnered two wins at 132, helping the Little Tigers hold their own at the top of the lineup.

While Johnson had hoped to see his team do better overall at the season-opening event than the ninth place finish it earned, he saw some intangibles from his wrestlers that bode well for the rest of the season.

“One thing that you can’t coach is toughness and I saw all the guys fight today, which I thought was really good,” said Johnson, who is in his 14th season at the helm of the PHS program and has added former PHS wrestler Marc Santiago ’09 and John Darling, a former Division III All-American wrestler at The College of New Jersey, to his staff.

“If you don’t have fight, I can’t really give that to you, but if your technique is messed up I can fix that. I saw a lot of stuff that I can fix today.”

In fixing things, Johnson is focused on instilling confidence into his team and getting his wrestlers to take an aggressive approach during their bouts.

“Getting the guys more confidence during their matches and to score,” said Johnson, reflecting on his coaching goals this season.

“Be more sure of yourself when you go out there. Guys were doing that today but got some tough draws out there and we didn’t quite push through. The guys actually didn’t wrestle badly today, we just didn’t wrestle good enough to win in some of those matches.”

Looking forward, Johnson sees his team steadily improving with more match experience as the season unfolds.

“We still have young guys; we only had two seniors in that lineup today,” said Johnson. “The future is looking promising and these guys are going to get a lot better as the season goes on.”

Aside from Gates, Johnson is hoping for big things from a trio of juniors.

“You got Victor Bell in there, you got Thomas Miers, and Patrick Sockler,” noted Johnson, whose squad took fifth of 10 teams in the Patriot Tournament at Secaucus High last Friday with James Verbyst taking first at 113 pounds, Sockler at 126, and Miers at 132.

“Those guys all have experience from last year coming back on varsity and they did some work over the summer. I’m looking for those guys to show me something.”

Johnson is excited to see which of his younger wrestlers will seize the opportunity to make a name for themselves as the season progresses.

“I’m looking for everybody to step up, that’s the beauty about wrestling and a team sport that’s also an individual sport,” added Johnson, whose younger wrestlers include freshmen Verbyst and Dylan Demerest together with sophomores Alex Freda, Dave Beamer, and Noah Ziegler.

“Every time a senior graduates, it’s always fun to see the next year what opportunity is going to come through. Don’t look at it as an obstacle, look at it as an opportunity to wrestle varsity and get my name on the wall, put my team on the wall, and get on a banner. How are you going to be remembered?”

Gates, for his part, knows the team has to keep its nose to the grindstone to make some special memories.

“We got a lot to work on, a lot of running to do,” said Gates, who looks to get off to a good start in 2014 action on January 4 when PHS heads to Voorhees High to face Hopewell Valley, Lawrence, and the host Vikings. “It’s going to take a lot of work.”

IN CONTACT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Fletcher chases after a puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Fletcher helped PDS go 2-1 at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts in late December. The Panthers, now 6-1-1, return to action when they play Notre Dame on January 3 at Lawrenceville and then play at Don Bosco on January 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN CONTACT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Connor Fletcher chases after a puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Fletcher helped PDS go 2-1 at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts in late December. The Panthers, now 6-1-1, return to action when they play Notre Dame on January 3 at Lawrenceville and then play at Don Bosco on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Stepping up in class, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team got off to a rough start last month as it competed in the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, trailing Middlesex School (Mass.) 3-0 after two periods in an opening round contest.

“The biggest thing, like last year, is that they are physically bigger and stronger and older; it takes time for our kids to adjust to that,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, reflecting on his team’s return trip to the annual event.

“We challenged the kids after the second period. We told them they could roll over and get ready for Saturday or they could come out and put their best foot forward.”

Choosing the latter option, the Panthers battled Middlesex to the final whistle, narrowing the gap to 3-2 and 4-3 before surrendering an empty net goal in the waning seconds of the contest to lose 5-3. In action the next day, PDS defeated the Portledge School (N.Y.) 4-2 before topping the Worcester Academy (Mass.) 5-4 in overtime.

The Panthers showed resilience to go with their skill, overcoming deficits to earn those victories on the final day of the competition.

“We dominated the game against Portledge and we also played well against Worcester,” said Bertoli.

“We kept pressing and pressing. We trailed most of both games; they got goals on counters. Against Portledge, it was 2-2 going into the third period. We scored early in the period and then got one midway through the period. To me, the game was never in doubt; it was just a matter of time. We outshot Worcester 35-14. It was very one-sided but we were still down going into the third period.”

In coming through over the weekend and improving its overall record to 6-1-1, the team’s front line players led the way.

“The six top guys, Sean Timmons, Connor Fletcher, Lewie Blackburn, Connor Bitterman, Andrew Clayton, and Will Garrymore were all great,” asserted Bertoli. “They did 90 percent of our scoring and they played in all types of situations.”

But even more heartening, some of the squad’s supporting cast came through some critical situations.

“The role players also did well, guys like Hap Ammidon, Gabe Castagna, and Will Wright,” added Bertoli.

“Hap got the OT goal against Worcester and played well on defense. Gabe got a couple of goals. The weekend in Massachusetts gave us the chance to give other guys opportunities to play and produce. They built confidence in themselves and got a better understanding of what we want them to do. It gave the coaches confidence to see the kids play in lots of situations and perform well. They not only created some offense but they played good defense.”

The goalie trio of freshman Logan Kramsky, sophomore Mark Anarumo, and sophomore Colin Burgess, is giving PDS the chance to win in just about every game.

“Losing Connor [Walker] in net would concern any coach,” said Bertoli, referring to the graduated Walker, who was a three-year starter and one of the top players in the state at his position.

“Having gone through two weeks of tryouts and scrimmages it is good knowing that the kids are confident in any one of them. Logan has stood out, the group is most confident in him. He started the first two games over the weekend and the other two split the last game.”

With PDS starting the 2014 portion of its schedule by playing Notre Dame on January 3 at Lawrenceville and then playing at Don Bosco on January 6, Bertoli is hoping his team can build on the superb effort in New England.

“If we play near the level that we did last weekend with that urgency and competing hard for pucks, finishing every hit, and being ready to be hit on every play, we could do very well,” said Bertoli.

“The January schedule is brutal; we play four or five tough teams right in a row.”

STILL BATTLING: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Emma Stillwaggon controls the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Stillwaggon tallied two goals and an assist as PDS defeated Princeton High 8-0 on December 18 in its last game before the holiday break. The Panthers, now 6-1, return to action by hosting the Lady Patriots club team on January 6 in a scrimmage and then hosting Morristown-Beard on January 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STILL BATTLING: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Emma Stillwaggon controls the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Stillwaggon tallied two goals and an assist as PDS defeated Princeton High 8-0 on December 18 in its last game before the holiday break. The Panthers, now 6-1, return to action by hosting the Lady Patriots club team on January 6 in a scrimmage and then hosting Morristown-Beard on January 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lorna Gifis Cook was confident that her Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team would eventually develop a potent offensive attack this season.

But with the Panthers having produced a 6-1 start heading into the holiday break, outscoring foes 35-8, Cook is pleasantly surprised by her team’s output.

“I thought we had the potential to score goals but I didn’t think we would be scoring like this so early in the season,” said Cook.

“Just the fact that we have been scoring so many goals is giving us confidence. There was a question of who was going to score but a lot of girls have been getting involved.”

While senior stars Robin Linzmayer and Mary Travers have expectedly shouldered much of the scoring load, the Panthers have been getting valuable contributions from senior Mimi Matthews, sophomore Emma Stillwaggon, and a trio of freshmen, Kristi Serafin, Ashley Cavuto, and Daphne Stanton.

“Moving Mimi up to forward has helped,” said Cook. “Emma has been really good, she was more of a grinder last year but she is showing a better drive to score. Kristi has made a difference. Ashley is going to surprise you and is very consistent. Daphne has great positional instincts; that really helps her as a center.”

In PDS’s 8-0 win over Princeton High on December 18 in its last action before the holiday break, the Panthers displayed their offensive balance as Stillwaggon and Travers each tallied two goals and an assist with Matthews, Linzmayer, Sophie Ward, and Abby Sharer chipping in a goal apiece.

“We tried to get everybody involved so that was good and that gave us momentum,” said Cook, reflecting on the win over PHS.

Even in the team’s sole loss, a 2-0 defeat at the Portledge School (N.Y.), the Panthers gave a good effort.

“I was as happy with that game as I could be with a loss,” maintained Cook.

“We played hard all game, there were just a couple of defensive lapses. We had our chances, we just didn’t capitalize. If we had scored on one of those early, it might have been a different game. We had eight power plays.”

PDS has been playing solid play fundamentally at both ends of the ice. “Our puck protection has been good,” said Cook, who has been getting good work from her goalie tandem of junior Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] and freshman Annika Asplundh.

“We have been working on being more responsible and having fewer turnovers. The key in the Portledge game was getting pucks deep.”

Looking ahead to 2014, Cook wants her team to fine-tune things. “The battling has been really good,” said Cook, whose team returns to action by hosting the Lady Patriots club team on January 6 in a scrimmage and then hosting Morristown-Beard on January 8.

“I would say everyone has been playing up to their potential. We need to work on our breakouts. Our power play needs work; we need to get everybody on the ice at the same time to work on that.”

STANDING TALL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Kate Walsh heads to the basket in action last season. Sophomore forward Walsh’s inside play has helped the Tartans get off to a 3-2 start in 2013-14, already exceeding last year’s win total when the Tartans went 2-13. Walsh scored 12 points as Stuart closed out the 2013 portion of its schedule with a 62-19 win over Noor-ul-Iman School on December 19. Stuart is next in action when it plays at the King’s Christian School on January 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STANDING TALL: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Kate Walsh heads to the basket in action last season. Sophomore forward Walsh’s inside play has helped the Tartans get off to a 3-2 start in 2013-14, already exceeding last year’s win total when the Tartans went 2-13. Walsh scored 12 points as Stuart closed out the 2013 portion of its schedule with a 62-19 win over Noor-ul-Iman School on December 19. Stuart is next in action when it plays at the King’s Christian School on January 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team won two games the whole season.

By this Christmas, Stuart had already exceeded that win total, taking a 3-2 record into the holiday break.

The Tartans didn’t waste any time showing that things were going to be different in 2013-14, opening the season with a 27-17 win over Villa Victoria on December 11.

“The girls came out and played a great first half,” said second-year Stuart head coach Dana Leary.

“We did a great job of rebounding the ball at both the offensive and defensive end.”

After losing 40-30 in its second game to Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Stuart came back with a great performance in a 48-21 victory over Princeton Day School.

“We played good defense,” said Leary, reflecting on the PDS win.

“We have been trying to play a couple of different defenses and we matched up well with them. We did a good job in the man-to-man.”

Junior forward Nneka Onukwugha did a great job for Stuart in the win over the Panthers, producing a career game with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

“It was Nneka’s first double-double of the season,” said Leary. “She stepped up really big for us. She just comes to play. She is very calm, she just goes out and does her job and takes care of business.”

In their last outing before the break, the Tartans took care of business as they routed Noor-ul-Iman School 62-19 on December 19, rebounding from a 48-14 defeat to Pennington a day earlier.

“We had a tough loss to Pennington and I told the girls we have to learn from that,” said Leary who got 15 points from Onukwugha in the win with sophomore Kate Walsh chipping in 12.

“You are going to lose games and there are going to be bumps in the road, you have to take each game and learn from it and move on. The girls came out and just bounced back. We played well offensively. It was a nice win, all the girls played and everyone scored.”

Stuart’s nice start has the players feeling good about themselves heading into 2014.

“I think the girls are just more confident; they are starting to believe in themselves,” said Leary, whose team returns from the holiday break by playing at the King’s Christian School on January 8.

“We are communicating well on the court, I think they have better court sense. They are crashing the boards and securing the rebounds. They were talking that they were already past last year’s record.”

In order to add more wins to that record when it resumes play in the new year, Stuart will focus on being a little sharper at both ends of the court.

“We will be working on taking better care of the ball,” said Leary. “Defense-wise, we need to work more on on man-to-man and talking through screens.”

December 27, 2013
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Princeton University athletics, the beat went on in 2013 as the Tigers won a slew of Ivy League championships and added to their impressive haul of NCAA titles. On the local high school scene, the year saw a number of championship firsts.

As for Princeton, the winter brought two NCAA titles as the fencing team won the joint men’s/women’s national crown while the men’s distance medley relay placed first in the indoor national meet. Women’s basketball won its fourth straight Ivy championship while men’s and women’s swimming along with men’s and women’s squash earned league crowns.

In the spring, Princeton excelled on the track as the men’s team won the Ivy Heptagonal Outdoor Championships. On the water, the women’s open crew took its second straight Ivy title at the league regatta and the varsity 8 ended up placing second in the NCAA grand final. Junior Greg Jarmas won his first Ivy men’s golf individual title and helped Princeton earn its first team crown since 2006. Junior star Kelly Shon won the Ivy women’s golf crown and advanced to the NCAA championships. The women’s water polo team won the Eastern Championships and placed fifth at the NCAAs.

The Princeton football team turned heads in the fall, going 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, to tie with Harvard for the title and give the Tigers their first championship since 2006. Defending its 2012 NCAA title in style, the Tiger field hockey team won its ninth straight Ivy title on the way to the national quarterfinals.

As for local high schoolers, the Princeton High swimming program enjoyed an historic season as the girls’ team won its first ever Mercer County Championship meet while the boys’ squad took its third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey sectional title. Hun School teams produced a championship winter as the boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship and the boys’ basketball team won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team shared the state Prep title on the way to a 21-3-1 campaign.

In the spring, longtime head coach Peter Stanton guided the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team to a pair of milestones as he won his 200th game at the helm of the program and the Little Tigers earned the first Mercer County Tournament crown in program history. The PDS boys’ tennis team also had a championship season as it shared the state Prep B title with two other schools.

History was made on the tennis court in the fall as PHS sophomore Christina Rosca won the program’s first NJSIAA state singles title. Rosca also helped the Little Tigers make their second straight trip to the state Group III team finals. The PDS girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B title while the Panther girls’ soccer team produced one of the more heartening reversals of fortune as they went from 4-9-4 in 2012 to 17-2-1 this fall on the way to winning the program’s first MCT title.

Winter Wins

Led by a quartet of stellar seniors, Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen, the Princeton University women’s basketball team won its fourth straight Ivy League title. Head coach Courtney Banghart’s Tigers went 22-7 overall and 13-1 Ivy. During the regular season, Princeton established an Ivy record as it extended its league winning streak to 33 before falling to Harvard in March. The Tigers were seeded ninth in the Oklahoma City regional at the NCAA tournament where they fell 60-44 to eighth-seeded Florida State.

While the season ended on a down note, that was a mere blip in one of the greatest four-year runs in league annals as the seniors went 54-2 in Ivy play, tying them as winningest class in Ivy men’s or women’s history with Penn’s men’s basketball Class of 1996 (1992-93 to 1995-96).

Rasheed was named Ivy Player of the Year for a second time and earned AP All-America Honorable Mention, the first player to do so in program history. The league’s scoring leader at 16.9 points a game, Rasheed was also named a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection, her third first-team honor. She finished with 1,617 career points for fourth-best in program history. She also is all-time No. 5 in scoring average (16.7), No. 5 in field goals made (604), No. 3 in rebounds (860) and No. 6 in rebounds average (8.7). Polansky was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Year for a third time while Miller and Bowen were key starters in their final campaign. The latter was a second-team All-Ivy pick along with junior teammate Kristen Helmstetter.

The men’s hoops team nearly matched their female counterparts as they stood first in the Ivy standings heading into the final weekend of the season. Coach Mitch Henderson’s club, though, stumbled on the road, losing at Yale and Brown as Harvard passed the Tigers to win the title.

Senior star Ian Hummer put together one of the greatest seasons in program history for Princeton, which went 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy. The 6’6 forward Hummer was named Ivy Player of the Year and led Princeton in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists, the first Tiger since Kit Mueller ’91 in 1990-91 to top the team in all of those categories. Hummer made first-team All-Ivy with junior guard T.J Bray getting second-team honors and sophomore Denton Koon being named as an honorable mention selection.

The Princeton fencing program made history as the Tigers won their first-ever joint men’s/women’s NCAA fencing championship under the format that began in 1990.

Coach Zoltan Dudas’ team edged Notre Dame by seven bout victories, 182-175, for the team title.

Four of the six Tiger men earned All-America honors, and senior epeeists Jonathan Yergler and Edward Kelley made it to the medal round and faced each other in the semifinals. Yergler won, coming in second in the nation.

All six Tiger women earned All-America honors and three qualified for the medal round, including the Stone sisters and saberists Gracie, a freshman, and Eliza, a senior, and junior epeeist Susannah Scanlan.

Junior forward Andrew Calof lit up Baker Rink and picked up a slew of honors for the men’s hockey team. Calof finished third in the ECAC Hockey in scoring with 13 goals and 23 assists for 26 points and earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy honors. Despite Calof’s heroics, coach Bob Prier’s team went 10-16-5 overall and was swept by Cornell in a best-of-three ECACH opening round playoff series.

Struggling down the stretch, the women’s hockey team failed to make the ECACH tournament, ending an 11-year streak of having qualified for postseason play. Coach Jeff Kampersal’s club posted an overall record of 11-16-2. Seniors Corey Stearns and Kelly Cooke ended their careers on a high note as Stearns led the team in scoring with 31 points on 5 goals and 26 assists while Cooke tallied 27 points on a team-high 15 goals and 12 assists.

Over at DeNunzio Pool, the men’s swimming and diving team continued its domination of the Ivy League, winning its fifth straight league title. Coach Rob Orr’s squad was led by senior diver Stevie Vines along with such star swimmers as junior Daniel Hasler, junior Michael Strand, sophomore Harrison Wagner, freshman Byron Sanborn, and freshman Teo D’Allessandro.

Junior star Lisa Boyce produced a dominant performance to help the women’s swimming and diving team win the Ivy championship meet. It was the 11th title in the last 14 seasons for the Tigers and the 16th overall for coach Susan Teeter.

Boyce won three individual Ivy titles and was part of one relay winner along with two relay runners-up. She went on to earn All-America honorable mention in the 100 free at the NCAA Championships as she placed 15th.

It was the end of an era for the men’s squash team as legendary Hall of Fame coach Bob Callahan stepped down after 32 years at the helm. Callahan guided the Tigers to a tie for the Ivy title with Harvard and third in the College Squash Association (CSA) national team championships. Senior Todd Harrity finished second in the CSA individual championship.

Callahan, a 1977 Princeton alum and former Tiger squash star, led the program to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012) in his 32-year tenure. Sean Wilkinson, a former Bates College squash star and assistant coach at Drexel, was named to succeed Callahan.

Under its legendary coach, Gail Ramsay, the women’s squash team won the Ivy title and placed fourth in the Howe Cup team championships. Senior Julie Cerullo and junior Libby Eyre earned All-Ivy honors for Ramsay’s squad.

The men’s track and field team came within a whisker of winning the Ivy Heptagonal indoor title, finishing second to Cornell by a single point. The runner-up finish ended a streak of three straight indoor titles for coach Fred Samara’s squad. Senior Peter Callahan was named co-Most Outstanding Track Performer and junior Damon McLean was named co-Most Outstanding Field Performer at the 2013 Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships.

A few weeks later, Callahan ended the indoor season in a blaze of glory as he ran the anchor leg for the men’s distance medley relay team that won the NCAA title. He was joined in the victorious quartet by Michael Williams, Austin Hollimon, and Russell Dinkins.

Senior Tory Worthen won her seventh consecutive Ivy League Heptagonal pole vault title to provide a highlight for women’s track. Coach Peter Farrell’s team took fourth in the Indoor Heps meet with its other victory being produced by the 4×800 relay team of senior Greta Feldman, senior Alexis Mikaelian, junior Molly Higgins, and junior Kristin Smoot.

The wrestling team made progress under coach Chris Ayres. Princeton placed three wrestlers in the top 8 at the EIWA Championships with junior Ryan Callahan taking sixth at 174 pounds, freshman Scott Gibbons taking seventh at 184 and senior Zach Bintliff placing eight at 149.

Spring Steps

Fueled by the combination of freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson and junior star Katie Rigler, the Princeton women’s water polo team won the Eastern title.

Coach Luis Nicole’s squad ended up taking fifth at the NCAA tournament, the highest finish program. Johnson and Rigler were both named All-Americans to climax a season that saw Princeton finish with a final record of 28-6.

Over at Weaver Stadium, the men’s track team enjoyed a championship season of their own. Coach Fred Samara’s team won the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championship. It marked the third consecutive Outdoor Heps title for the Tigers and 15th overall.

The Tigers were paced at the Heps by Peter Callahan, the winner of the 1,500, and Michael Franklin, who won the 5,000 and the 10,000. Austin Hollimon won the 400 and helped the 4×400 relay to victory while Tom Hopkins joined him in the relay and also win the long jump. Russell Dinkins won the 800 and also competed on the 4×400 relay. Franklin went on to take fifth in the 10,000 at the NCAA championship meet.

Senior standout Feldman starred as the women’s track team took fourth in the Outdoor Heps. Feldman won the 800, placed second in the 1,500 and was part of the winning 4×800 relay for Peter Farrell’s team.

Other winners at the Heps meet included Imani Oliver in the triple jump, Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer throw, and Tory Worthen in the pole vault. Worthen made Ivy League history as the victory marked her eighth career Heps pole vault title.

Led by sophomore Erin McMunn and senior Caroline Rehfuss, the women’s lacrosse team returned to the NCAA tournament for the 21st time in program history. Coach Chris Sailer’s team fell to Duke 10-9 in double overtime in the NCAA opener to finish the spring at 10-7.

Junior midfielder Tom Schreiber added another chapter to his storied career for the men’s lax team, posting his second straight 60-point season and making first-team All-America for a second time. Despite Schreiber’s heroics, the Tigers fell just short of making the NCAA tournament as coach Chris Bates’ team fell 12-8 to Yale in the Ivy title game and finished the spring at 9-6.

Coach Lori Dauphiny guided her women’s open crew program to another successful season. The Tigers won their second straight Ivy team title and then took third at the NCAA regatta as the first varsity eight placed second in the grand final. The top boat was led by a quartet of seniors, Gabby Cole, Molly Hamrick, Liz Hartwig, and Heidi Robbins.

Sparked by senior star Alex Morss, the Tiger women’s lightweight crew enjoyed a solid campaign. Coach Paul Rassam’s top eight took second at the Eastern Sprints and fifth at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship grand final.

Seniors Michael Evans, Brian Wettach, and coxswain Keanan Clark helped the Princeton men’s heavyweight crew finish on an encouraging note. The trio helped the varsity eight take fourth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA national championships. With a number of solid rowers returning, coach Greg Hughes is optimistic that the program can build on that performance in 2014.

Led by a group of freshmen and sophomores, the men’s lightweight crew gained some valuable experience. Coach Marty Crotty’s top eight placed fifth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth at the IRA national championship regatta.

Mike Ford produced a season to remember for the Princeton baseball team as he became the first player in Ivy history to be named both the league’s Player of the Year and its Pitcher of the Year. The Belle Mead, N.J. native and former Hun School standout hit .320 for second-best on the team. He ranked in the top-10 in the Ivy League in 10 categories, including No. 1 in walks (31), No. 2 in home runs (6), No. 3 in RBIs (38) and No. 4 in on-base percentage (.443). On the mound, he went 6-0 with a league-leading 0.98 ERA, third-best in a season in program history. In nine starts, he tallied five complete games, all in Ivy play, and a shutout victory. Ford ranked first in earned runs allowed (7), opposing batting average (.191) and home runs allowed (0) to place in the top-10 in 10 statistical categories in the league. He signed with the New York Yankees over the summer and player for their Staten Island Single A affiliate.

Despite Ford’s heroics, it was a disappointing year for coach Scott Bradley’s team as the Tigers went 14-28 overall and 11-9 Ivy as they tied for second in the Gehrig Division. Junior Alec Keller joined Ford as a first-team All-Ivy selection.

New head coach Lisa Sweeney injected a burst of energy into the softball program, guiding the Tigers to a 27-19 record, its most wins since 2006. Princeton finished second in the Ivy South division with a 12-8 league mark. Alex Peyton, Maddie Cousens, Alyssa Schmidt, and Nikki Chu were second-team All Ivy picks.

Led by junior Greg Jarmas, the men’s golf team won its first Ivy league title since 2006. Jarmas fired a 3-under 216 to win the individual title and help coach Will Green’s squad win the team title by five shots over Yale.

Kelly Shon matched Jarmas’ feat by winning her first Ivy women’s golf crown. Shon edged Christine Lin of Harvard in a playoff to take the title. Shon’s performance wasn’t enough for coach Nicki Cutler’s squad to win the team title as Harvard edged the Tigers by one stroke. Shon went on to place second at the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA championships, where she finished tied for 37th.

Senior Matija Pecotic made an impact on the national scene for the men’s tennis team. The three-time Ivy Player of the Year advanced to the Round of 32 at the NCAA singles championship. He helped first-year head coach Billy Pate’s tie Columbia for second in the Ivy standings.

Former pro star Laura Granville took the helm of the women’s tennis program and led the Tigers to a fourth place finish in the Ivy league race. Sophomore Lindsay Graff earned first-team All-Ivy honors in singles, while junior Katherine Flanigan was a second-team All-Ivy honoree in singles.

Sparked by first-team Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) performers, sophomore Cody Kessel and junior Pat Schwagler, the men’s volleyball team made the EIVA semis. Coach Sam Shweisky’s team went 13-10 as they ended the year by falling to perennial power Penn State in the EIVA tourney

Fall Feats:

Coming off an encouraging 2012 season that saw it win five games after going 1-9 in the previous two seasons, the Princeton football team was still seen as being a year away from contending for an Ivy title. But with junior quarterback Quinn Epperly putting together a season for the ages, the Tigers moved up the timetable.

Coach Bob Surace’s squad went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in league play, tying Harvard for the Ivy crown, giving Princeton its first title since 2006.

Epperly, for his part, rewrote portions of the Princeton record book en route to one of the greatest seasons in program history. He matched the single-season passing touchdown record of Doug Butler ’86 (25, 1983), and he came within one of matching the single-season rushing touchdown record of Keith Elias ’94 (19, 1994). He missed the single-season completion percentage record by the slimmest of margins; his 68.0 percent finished second to Jason Garrett ’89 (68.2 percent, 1988).

He set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s 53-20 victory over Cornell; that followed Princeton’s 51-48 triple-overtime win at Harvard, when Epperly set Princeton single-game records for both completions (37) and passing touchdowns (six). He set an Ivy League record by earning the Offensive Player of the Week honor six times, including five in a row; all six of his honors followed Princeton’s six Ivy League victories.

He made first-team Ivy League along with receiver Roman Wilson, defensive back Anthony Gaffney, center Joe Goss, offensive tackle Spenser Huston, and defensive lineman Caraun Reid.

To add icing to the cake, Princeton got to celebrate a second straight bonfire, emblematic of beating Harvard and Yale in the same season.

Despite dealing with some heavy graduation losses and a rash of injuries, the Tiger field hockey team made a spirited defense of its 2012 NCAA title. Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s squad won its ninth straight Ivy title and advanced to the NCAA quarters where it dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Maryland.

Princeton ended the fall at 14-5 and senior Michelle Cesan was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year while classmate Julia Reinprecht was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year. Freshman Annabeth Donovan was picked as the co-Rookie of the Year. The Tiger trio earned first-team All-Ivy honors along with sophomore Teresa Benvenuti.

The men’s soccer team fell just short of an Ivy crown, finishing third with a 4-2-1 league mark, one win behind champion Penn, which posted a 5-1-1 record. Coach Jim Barlow’s squad went 7-9-1 overall and had four players, junior forward Cameron Porter, sophomore forward Thomas Sanner, junior midfielder Myles McGinley, and sophomore defender Josh Miller, earn first-team All-Ivy honors.

Unable to recapture the magic of a 2012 campaign that saw it go undefeated in Ivy play and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament, the women’s soccer team had a down year. Coach Julie Shackford’s squad went 7-6-4 overall and 1-5-1 Ivy.

Senior midfielder Gabriella Guzman made first-team All Ivy while Tyler Lussi, an honorable mention All Ivy performer, became the first Tiger freshman to reach 10 goals since Linda DeBoer ‘86 in 1982.

Spending most of the season in the top 20, the men’s water polo team narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament as it lost 11-9 to St. Francis in the CWPA Championship finals. Coach Luis Nicolao’s squad went 22-6 overall with junior Drew Hoffenberg getting named as a first-team All-CWPA Southern Division performer and freshman Jovan Jeremic being picked as the Southern Rookie of the Year.

A one-two punch of senior stars Tyler Udland and Chris Bendtsen helped the men’s cross country team take second at the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships. Udland and Bendtsen finished sixth and seventh, respectively in the race as coach Jason Vigilante’s squad was edged by Columbia. Princeton went on to finish 22nd in the NCAA championship meet.

Freshman Megan Curham enjoyed an impressive debut season for the women’s cross country team, emerging as a frontrunner for the Tigers. She placed fourth at the Ivy League Heps to help Peter Farrell’s squad take fourth in the team standings. The Tigers ended the season by coming in 30th at the NCAA championship meet with Curham earning All-American honors with her 34th place finish.

Rebounding from some early season struggles, the women’s volleyball team played well down the stretch as it won four of its last six matches to finish the season at 10-14 overall and 6-8 Ivy. Freshman Cara Mattaliano, who led the league in both kills and points in league matches, earned first-team All-Ivy League honors for coach Sabrina King’s squad.

Hun

It was a winter of championship breakthroughs at the Hun School. Sparked by senior star defenseman Eric Szeker and rock-solid junior goalie Devin Cheifetz, the Hun boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship. Coach Ian McNally’s squad topped Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the IHL championship game and ended the winter with final record of 16-5-4. Stellar seniors Fergus Duke, Hashim Moore, Jake Newman, and Grant Mackay helped the Hun boys’ hoops team followed suit as it won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Coach Jon Stone’s team had to rally from a late deficit of 10 points in the MAPL opener to top Hill (Pa.)and then gathered steam, rolling past Lawrenceville 46-31 in the title game. The Raiders later advanced to the state prep A title game and ended the winter with a gaudy 20-6 record.

Coach Bill Holup guided the girls’ team to another solid campaign as the Raiders went 14-11, advancing to both the MAPL and Prep A semis. Hun was sparked by the play of junior center Johnnah Johnson who provided a dominating inside presence.

In the spring, the Hun boys’ lax team caught fire under new coach M.V. Whitlow and advanced to the state Prep A title game where it fell to perennial champion Lawrenceville. The Raiders were led by seniors Zach Bicho,  Greg Flood and Zach Winterstein as they posted an 11-6 record.

Prolific senior standout and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks passed the 300-goal mark in her career with Hun girls’ lax team, helping the Raiders go 6-9 under new head coach Haley Sanborn.

Senior star catcher Carey Million saved her best for last, hitting over .500 as she helped Hun softball advance to the Prep A title game where it fell 5-3 to archrival Peddie. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 11-7 and has plenty of hope for the future as freshman ace Alexis Goeke established herself as one of the top pitchers in the area.

Guided by legendary head coach Bill McQuade, the Hun baseball team fell short of a Prep A title by an eyelash, falling 2-1 to Blair in the championship series. The Raiders were led by seniors Stevie Wells, Shane Adams, Devan Birch, and Austin Goeke as they posted a record of 16-7 in McQuade’s 43rd spring guiding the program.

Under coach Todd Loffredo, the boy’s tennis team went through a rebuilding season as several young players gained valuable experience in a 3-12 campaign.

It looked like it was going to be a long season when the Hun girls’ soccer team got off to a 0-7 start under new head coach Joanna Hallac. But with a corps of freshmen coming of age and some key veterans returning from injury, the Raiders got on a roll down the stretch.

Led by senior Olivia Braender-Carr, junior Ashley Maziarz, and sophomore Jess Johnson, Hun pulled two upsets on the way to the state Prep A championship game against perennial power Pennington. Hun fell 2-0 to the Pennington and ended the season at 7-12-1. While the title game defeat stung, the future looks bright as most of the squad will be back in 2014.

The boys’ soccer team also stumbled out of the gate as it started 1-4. But under the steady hand of coach Pat Quirk, the Raiders righted the ship and made a stirring run in the Mercer County Tournament. Hun was seeded 11th in the MCT and topped No. 6 Princeton High, last year’s state Group III co-champion and third-seeded Allentown, the eventual 2013 Group III co-champion on the way to the semis. Battling valiantly, the Raiders fell 2-0 to second-seeded Hightstown. The run, which helped Hun finish with a record of 7-12, was triggered by a core of senior stars, Felix Dalstein, Bailey Hammer, Chris Meinert, and Andres Gonzalez.

With John Law taking the helm of the football program just weeks before the season started, Hun took a while to get in synch. Bouncing back from a 0-4 start, Hun won two of its last four games and has plenty of hope for the future with the return of quarterback Donavon Harris and running back Chris Sharp.

Led by a pair of seniors, Francesca Bello and Alex Kane, the field hockey team had a competitive fall. Under coach Kathy Quirk, the Raiders posted a 6-14 mark.

Featuring a young squad without one senior on the roster, the girls’ tennis team made good progress. Under longtime coach Joan Nuse, the Raiders went 6-7 and placed fourth in the MAPL tournament.

PDS

Davon Reed capped his brilliant career with the Princeton Day School boys’ hoops team by eclipsing the 2,000-point mark, ending up with a program record total of 2,102. The senior guard led the way as coach Paris McLean’s team went 19-8 and reached the Mercer County Tournament semis and the state Prep B title game where they lost a 47-45 heartbreaker to Pennington. Reed went on to University of Miami where he averaged 9.0 points a game through the first 10 games of his college career.

Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team produced one of the best seasons in program history. Coach Scott Bertoli’s team went 21-3-1 and tied Morristown-Beard 2-2 in the state Prep championship game to share the title.

The team’s Class of 2013 included Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Eddie Meyercord, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

Sparked by senior goalie Daisy Maze and junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer, the girls’ hockey team continued to make progress. Coach Lorna Gifis Cook led her squad to a 10-8 mark.

Hurt by a thin roster, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. Coach Mika Ryan led her squad to an 8-14 season. After the season, Ryan headed to WW/P-S to guide its girls’ program and was replaced by Kamau Bailey.

It was another big spring for the PDS boy’s lacrosse team as it advanced to the Prep B title game and the MCT semis. Coach Rob Tuckman’s team posted a final record of 11-6 and was paced by Lehigh-bound senior standout Cody Triolo with classmates Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brendan Shannon, Andrew Phipps, Bump Lisk, and Tucker Triolo also making valuable contributions.

Senior star and MIT-bound Hannah Levy triggered the offense for the girls’ lacrosse team as she passed the 150-goal mark in her career. Levy’s prowess helped coach Jill Thomas’ squad go 6-7.

A core of talented young players helped the baseball team produce a promising spring. Sophomores Cole McManimon, Jake Alu, and J.P. Radvany starred as coach Ray O’Brien’s team went 9-12. Senior star and VMI-bound B.J Dudeck ended his career on a high note, hitting a team-high .406 with 18 RBIs.

Junior Neeraj Devulapalli and a pair of freshmen, David Zhang and Scott Altmeyer, came up big at singles as the boys’ tennis team shared the state Prep B team title along with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley. Coach Will Asch’s team went 10-3 on the season and placed second in the Mercer County Tournament.

The softball team hung together despite a lack of depth, going 0-6 under coach Paul Lano.

Coming off a disappointing 4-9-4 season in 2012, the PDS girls’ soccer team was hungry to regain its winning ways this fall. Cultivating a positive team chemistry to get the best out of its talent, the Panthers enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, Coach Pat Trombetta’s squad lost just once in regular season play and then topped Hamilton, Robbinsville, Princeton High on the way to the MCT title game against Hopewell Valley. With the teams knotted in a scoreless tie late in the second half of the championship contest, PDS broke through with goals by Eloise Stanton and Kirsten Kuzmicz to earn a 2-0 victory and the team’s first-ever MCT title. The Panthers also advanced to the state Prep B title game where they fell to Morristown-Beard 2-0.

PDS posted a final record of 17-2-1 and Trombetta credited senior co-captains Brit Murray and Lily Razzaghi with providing positive leadership that got the team on the same page. With such returning stalwarts as Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, and the Soltesz twins, Stef and Alexa, the Panthers seemed poised to be title contenders again in 2014.

Sparked by singles stars Renee Karchere-Sun, Maria Martinovic, and Emily Dyckman, the girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B team title. Junior Martinovic won the Prep B second singles crown with classmate Dyckman following suit at third singles. Sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles. Coach Ed Tseng’s squad also took third in the team standings at the MCT.

A quartet of senior stars, Mary Travers, Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, and Emily Goldman, helped the field hockey team stay on track as it went through some ups and downs. Playing its best hockey in the final weeks of the campaign, coach Tracey Arndt’s squad went 9-10 and advanced to the state Prep B semifinals.

Skilled junior Marco Pinheiro stood out at midfield as the boys’ soccer team struggled through a rough fall, Coach Malcolm Murphy’s team posted a final record of 3-11-3.

Led by a pair of talented freshmen, Ian Moini and Sam Noden, the boys’ cross country team made strides. Coach Merrill Noden’s team finished fourth in the Prep B championship meet with Moini placing sixth individually and Noden taking 11th.

Another freshman standout, Morgan Mills, made an immediate impact for girls’ cross country. Mills was the team’s top runner from day one and set the pace as coach Noden’s Panthers took ninth in the team standings at the county meet and ended the season by placing third in the Prep B championship meet.

PHS

It was another big winter in the pool for the Princeton High swimming program. The PHS boys’ team won its third straight county crown and fifth straight Public B Central Jersey sectional championship. Coach Greg Hand’s team was led by a stellar group of juniors, Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Matt Purdy, and Scott MacKenzie, as it went 15-1.

Coach Hand guided his girls’ squad to a breakthrough season as the Little Tigers won their first-ever county title. Led by the senior duo of Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio along with a pair of precocious freshmen in Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, PHS advanced to the sectional final and posted a final record of 13-1.

Under new head coach Mark Shelley, the boys’ basketball team enjoyed a promising campaign. Sparked by seniors Lior Levy and Scott Bechler, the Little Tigers went 12-11 and advanced to the second round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Led by the trio of junior Liz Jacobs, sophomore Mary Sutton, and freshman Julia Ryan, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. The Little Tigers posted a 4-14 record and coach Steffanie Shoop stepped down after the season. Dan Van Hise, the PHS JV boys’ hoops coach, was named to replace Shoop.

Sparked by senior Matt DiTosto along with juniors Patrick McCormick, Spencer Reynolds, with sophomores Jackson Andres, John Reid and Connor McCormick, the boys’ hockey team maintained its winning tradition. The Little Tigers posted a 10-9-1 record under coach Tim Campbell. After the season, Campbell stepped down and was replaced by longtime assistant and former PHS standout, Terence Miller.

Sophomore Lucy Herring was a standout for the girls’ hockey team, providing the main highlights as the team went winless under coach Christian Herzog.

The winter track team produced some fine individual efforts for coach Ben Samara. Senior Tim Brennan took third in the shot put at the state Group III meet while classmate Ian McIsaac placed third in the 1,600. On the girls’ side, junior Michelle Bazile finished third in the shot put at the state Group III meet at Toms River.

Senior star David Klinges proved to be a standout for the PHS wrestling team. Klinges took third at 160 pounds District 17 tournament to lead the way as coach Rashone Johnson’s squad placed eighth of nine schools in the team standings.

It was a breakthrough spring for the PHS lacrosse programs. Coach Peter Stanton passed the 200-win mark at the helm of the boys’ program and led the Little Tigers to their first-ever county crown. Led by such veteran stars as Adam Ainslie, Matt Corrado, Matt Purdy, Matt DiTosto, Jack Persico and the Halliday brothers, Zach and Kevin, the Little Tigers routed Allentown 10-4 in the MCT championship game. PHS also produced a good run in the state tournament, advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals where it fell to powerful Shawnee 5-4. The Little Tigers ended the spring with a final record of 16-4.

With the one-two punch of juniors Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs triggering the offense, the girls’ lax team made some history of its own. Coach Kelsey O’Gorman’s squad went 18-4 and made it to the sectional final for the first time this century.

Riding the pitching of sophomore ace Sara Eisenach and the hitting production of senior star and Wisconsin-bound Marisa Gonzalez, the PHS softball team reached new heights. Coach Dave Boehm’s club hit double figures in wins for the first time in program history, going 11-12 on the spring.

Senior infielder Ellis Bloom and senior pitcher Rohit Chawla had big years as the baseball team rebounded from a tough start to finish in a high note. After losing 10 of their first 11 games, the Little Tigers ended the season at 9-15 for head coach Dave Roberts.

The boys’ tennis team enjoyed another superb spring, finishing fourth in the MCT and advancing to the Central Jersey Group III finals. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad posted a final record of 16-2 and was sparked by the doubles duo of Tyler Hack and Zach Kleiman together with singles stars Rishab Tanga and Brock DeHaven.

Senior star thrower and Dartmouth-bound Tim Brennan starred for boys’ track, winning the discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet. Brennan, along with running standouts Anders Berg, Matt Wong, Conor Donahue, and Jacob Rist, helped coach Rashone Johnson’s team place fifth at the sectional meet.

Another throwing star, junior Michelle Bazile, stood out for the girls’ track team. Bazile won both the shot put and discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet to help coach Jim Smirk’s squad place ninth at the meet. The quartet of Paige Metzheiser, Lou Mialhe, Julie Bond, and Amelia Whaley also performed well at the sectional, placing fifth in the 4×800 relay.

Girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca produced one of the highlights of the fall season as she rallied to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final. It was the first-ever state singles crown for a PHS player. Rosca helped the Little Tigers reach the Group III team championship match where they fell 4-1 to Montville. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s club, which placed second in the MCT with Rosca winning the first singles crown, posted a final record of 16-1.

Led by senior Emilia Lopez Ona and a pair of juniors, Julia DiTosto and Lucy Herring, the field hockey team continued it recent run of success. Coach Heather Serverson’s squad went 13-4-2, reaching the county semis and advancing to the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals.

Junior striker Shannon Pawlak provided the offense while Dana Smith and Haley Bodden controlled the midfield as girls’ soccer produced another outstanding campaign. Coach Greg Hand’s squad advanced to the county semis and the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals and finished the fall at 14-4.

Seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair along with junior Chase Ealy stood out as the boys’ soccer team experienced a bumpy ride this fall. After starting 7-1-1, the Little Tigers slumped over the last few weeks of the regular season and lost to Hun in the opening round of the MCT. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team showed its quality in the state tourney as it advanced to the Group III Central Jersey sectional semis where it fell 1-0 to eventual state Group III co-champion Allentown. PHS ended the fall with a 10-6-3 record.

Paced by Jacob Rist and Conor Donahue, the boys’ cross country team continued to make strides. Under new coach Mark Shelley, PHS placed fourth in the county meet and second in the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Sophomore Lou Mialhe raced to the head of the pack for girls’ cross country and helped the Little Tigers enjoy another superb campaign. Coach Jim Smirk’s took second at the county meet and third at the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Senior Liam Helstrom did it all for the PHS football team, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery at linebacker. Despite Helstrom’s heroics, it was a long year for the Little Tigers as they went 0-10 under new coach Charlie Gallagher.

Stuart

The arrival of new head coach Dana Leary gave the Stuart Country Day School basketball team a fresh start. Although the Tartans went 2-13, such young players as freshman Harley Guzman, freshman Kate Walsh, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and sophomore Harlyn Bell showed progress.

Lacey-Ann Wisdom led the way as Stuart track finished third of eight teams at the state Prep B championship meet at Gill St. Bernard. Wisdom won the long jump and the triple jump for coach Len Klepack’s squad. Olivia Vande Woude placed fourth in the 400-meter hurdles while Paul-Anne Robb was fifth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the triple jump. Queen Johnson took sixth in both the 100 hurdles and the 100 dash. Kate Walsh took fourth in the discus and fifth in the high jump. The quartet of Annaliza Carey, Robb, Vande Woude and Wisdom placed second in the 4×100 relay.

A trio of freshmen, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, and Tori Hannah, provided a slew of highlights in the spring for the Stuart lacrosse team. Maser had a team-high 45 points on 36 goals and 9 assists with Hannah chipping in 20 goals and 14 assists, and Servis tallying 24 goals and 7 assists as coach Caitlin Grant’s squad went 4-10.

Julia Rourke starred at second singles as the tennis team went 3-6 in dual match play. Coach Katherine Stoltenberg’s squad placed 12th in the MCT.

The trio of Maser, Servis, and Hannah along with seniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret LaNasa starred as field hockey was much improved. Coach Missy Bruvik guided the Tartans to the state Prep B semis and a 7-14 record, more than doubling the program’s win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1.

Brianna Romaine is an adrenaline junkie when it comes to her swimming.

“I have always done sprint training,” said Romaine, a sophomore standout for the Princeton High girls’ swimming team. “I just love the rush, going up and getting after it right away.”

Last Thursday, Romaine certainly got after it as PHS competed at WW/PS. The sprint specialist won both the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke races as the Little Tigers cruised to a 100-70 win over the Pirates.

Romaine loved seeing PHS post a second straight win over WW/P-S as the Little Tigers had not beaten the Pirates this century until topping them 94-76 last year.

“It is such a big step for us,” said Romaine, reflecting on the victory which improved the Little Tigers to 5-0.

“South is always such a big meet and it’s a big focus meet and we were power pointing. It is a great start for the early season. It feels good to get a leg up and just race.”

Showing her focus, Romaine posted a time of 55:06 in winning the 100 free, more than two seconds better than runner-up Annie Menninger from WW/P-S. Romaine won the 100 back race by an even greater margin as she posted a time of 1:03.51 with Sarah Lattime of WW/P-S finishing second in 1:08.82.

“I was very happy with my times, they were close to my top meet times,” said Romaine, who also competes on the club level for Peddie Aquatics.

“I couldn’t ask for much else, my teammates are so supportive. My 100 back was good. There is still so much more room for improvement like my turns and my underwater kicks. Getting these races in now and having the opportunity to race so many times in the high school season definitely helps me work on the things I need to. It helps my swimming overall.”

Having a full season of high school swimming under her belt has also helped Romaine.

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

With the Little Tigers off to such a good start, the team appears well-prepared to make a spirited run at defending its title at the Mercer County Championships in a few weeks time.

“I could not be more proud of the girls team,” asserted Romaine, who will look to help PHS stay on the winning track when it returns from the holiday break to host Steinert on January 2.

“We are a young team. We have some very strong freshmen. We all swam great today. Our captains are really organized and they are great leaders. The counties are definitely something to look forward to. The team has talked about it and beating South is the perfect way to look forward to the future.”

YU KNOW IT:  Princeton High boys’ swim star Colburn Yu heads to a win last year in the breaststroke. Senior Yu and his classmates have sparked PHS to a hot start this winter. The Little Tigers topped WW/P-S 110-60 last Thursday to improve to 5-0. PHS returns from the holiday break to host Steinert on January 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YU KNOW IT: Princeton High boys’ swim star Colburn Yu heads to a win last year in the breaststroke. Senior Yu and his classmates have sparked PHS to a hot start this winter. The Little Tigers topped WW/P-S 110-60 last Thursday to improve to 5-0. PHS returns from the holiday break to host Steinert on January 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During his sophomore season with the Princeton High boys’ swimming team two years ago, Peter Kalibat followed the lead of the squad’s seniors as PHS went undefeated on the way to the program’s first state title.

Now as a senior co-captain, Kalibat is trying to emulate the example set by the team’s Class of 2012.

“We can take some guidance from the seniors that we had then and take on that role for our younger underclassmen now,” said Kalibat.

“We had some great leaders in that class and we are trying to be the same thing to our younger guys.”

Last Thursday, Kalibat assumed a lead role as PHS posted a 110-60 win over WW/P-S with the senior distance specialist winning both the 200 and 500 freestyle races.

“This is definitely one of our main focus meets,” said Kalibat, who also helped the 200 free and 400 free relay teams to victory against WW/P-S.

“We were power pointing so it was very important. We had some great energy going into the meet. We were trying to go very fast and swim as hard as we could and get an early season fast meet, which we did. I am very proud of our team and our performances.”

Kalibat was pleased with how he performed in his individual races against the Pirates.

“I was very happy with my time; 1:47 is a very good time for this early in the season,” said Kalibat, reflecting on his win in the 200 free.

“It gives me a nice idea of where I am right now and what I need to work on — some turns, coming off my walls for some good breakouts. I was very happy with the time in the 500. I definitely still had to go because we were power pointing so I tried nice and hard to help the team out.”

While many swimmers consider the distance races to be hard labor, Kalibat thrives when it comes to endurance.

“I took a turn when I was about 14, then I was more of a stroke guy; I would swim the 500 and down,” said Kalibat.

“Once I got to high school, I focused more on distance. I went to open water nationals in the spring. That’s a 10-kilometer race and it gets you working at threshold for hours at a time so it gets you pumping for a whole race. Once you get to a 500 in a pool it feels so much shorter.

Kalibat and his senior classmates, who include Will Stange, Matt Purdy, Colburn Yu, Scott MacKenzie, Matthew Tam, Eric Zhang, and Avery Soong, are pumped up for their stretch drive which starts with a home meet against Steinert on January 2.

“It is a great senior class, we support each other all the way through,” said Kalibat of the class which has helped PHS earn three straight county and sectional titles.

“They are great guys and great to have on a team because there is some great sportsmanship. We are always cheering each other on; always wishing everyone good luck and supporting everyone after their swims. We have some goals that we want to achieve.”

And based on how the seniors have started their final campaign, they could match the achievements of their 2012 role models.

CHASING SUCCESS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chase Lewis dribbles the ball in recent action. Freshman guard Lewis scored six points in a losing cause as PDS fell 58-52 to Conwell-Egan last Wednesday. The Panthers, now 0-4, are next in action when they compete in the Prime Time Shoot-Out on December 27 and 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHASING SUCCESS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Chase Lewis dribbles the ball in recent action. Freshman guard Lewis scored six points in a losing cause as PDS fell 58-52 to Conwell-Egan last Wednesday. The Panthers, now 0-4, are next in action when they compete in the Prime Time Shoot-Out on December 27 and 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dan Van Hise enjoyed the first quarter of his first game as the head coach of the Princeton High girls’ basketball team.

Showing spunk, PHS battled visiting Allentown tooth and nail in the early stages of last Friday’s contest, trailing 9-8.

“I loved the way things started,” said Van Hise. “The girls really seemed to be fired up for their first game. They mentioned in the locker room, it was great to feel the newness, the new regime. It was really nice to see it come out in the first quarter.”

The Little Tigers edged ahead 10-9 early in the second quarter but then the roof fell in, as the Redbirds got hot from the outside. Reeling off 27 unanswered points, Allentown rolled to a 36-10 lead by halftime.

While PHS scrapped in the second half, it couldn’t narrow the gap, losing 58-24.

Van Hise acknowledged that his team didn’t respond well to the Allentown run. “We have got to start to know how to bounce back off a run; even six or eight points is a run and they need to know that it doesn’t have to turn into 27,” said Van Hise.

“We just didn’t close out on their shooters in the first half. We talked about how somebody needs to make a play. It doesn’t have to be a basket. It can be taking a charge. It can be forcing yourself to get an offensive rebound and get fouled. Something needs to happen to stem the tide a little bit so that we can calm things down.”

The Little Tigers didn’t put their heads down as they kept fighting to the final whistle.

“I loved their attitude, the girls on the bench really tried to keep things positive, that was good to see,” said Van Hise. “That’s part of what we are trying to do here.”

PHS has to do better in terms of offensive execution. “I think they were still a little wishy-washy on the plays,” said Van Hise.

“It is game one and I don’t know that many of them have run plays in previous years. That is going to come with time. I would like to see that be a little crisper, even at this point.”

The combination of junior Mary Sutton and sophomore Julia Ryan made some nice plays in the opener.

“Mary had a nice game,” said Van Hise of Sutton, who scored a team-high nine points for the Little Tigers.

“She and Julia should be a nice backcourt all season. I think Mary’s strength is shooting but she needs to be more of a point guard first. She is going to have to score for us and she was aggressive.”

Sophomore Haley Bodden, a standout for the girls’ soccer team gave PHS some aggressiveness off the bench.

“Haley is aggressive, she is an athlete first and a basketball player second and that’s OK,” said Van Hise.

“She has a nice little first step but she kind of hesitates with the ball. She has to go right to the hoop but she should be a nice player off the bench.”

In Van Hise’s view, the team’s nice start Friday will pay dividends down the road.

“I knew that Allentown is a strong program; what the girls are thinking right now is that we know we can play a little bit,” said Van Hise, whose team was slated to play at Monroe on December 23 before starting 2014 action with a game at Trenton Central on January 2.

“I think that first quarter is going to go a long way at some point. There was good energy and that was great for me to see. There was a decent crowd and good energy coming off of it. Hopefully that will be the positive they will take from the game.”

OPENING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Liz Jacobs drives up the court during the the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, senior forward Jacobs scored three points as PHS lost 58-24 to Allentown in the season opener for both teams and the debut of new Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise. PHS was slated to play at Monroe on December 23 before starting 2014 action with a game at Trenton Central on January 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Liz Jacobs drives up the court during the the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, senior forward Jacobs scored three points as PHS lost 58-24 to Allentown in the season opener for both teams and the debut of new Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise. PHS was slated to play at Monroe on December 23 before starting 2014 action with a game at Trenton Central on January 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team has started the season by losing its first four games, Paris McLean is far from discouraged.

“We are playing well for most of the games but we are giving up one big quarter and that is hurting us,” said head coach McLean. “Teams are having 20-point quarters and we are digging ourselves a hole.”

At the Peddie School Invitational Tournament (PSIT), the Panthers showed character as they rebounded from a lopsided defeat to the Phelps School in the first round to battle cross-town rival Hun School in a consolation contest.

“The number one thing I have learned about this team is that we are resilient,” asserted McLean, whose team fell 65-46 to Hun.

“When you a lose a tough game like we did to Phelps, you don’t know what kind of team is going to come out the next day. We came out and played Hun tough. We were more disciplined on offense and we were steadier on defense. We played well.”

While the Panthers came up empty at the PSIT, McLean views the tourney as a key learning experience.

“It is fantastic competition, it is the best competition we are going to see all year,” said McLean.

“It is an honor to be invited. It is a good measuring stick of where we are and what we need to improve on.”

In its final action before Christmas, the Panthers showed more improvement as they dropped a 58-52 nailbiter at Conwell-Egan (Pa.) last Wednesday.

“We came out and built a six or seven point lead,” recalled McLean. “But then they went ahead by 15. We battled it back and cut it to five. When you fight back like that, you get spent and the kids run out of gas. Everyone played and some guys really stepped up.”

Senior guard Ford Schneider has been stepping up big time this winter for PDS.

“Ford was all-tournament at Peddie and that is a testament to the hard work he has put in,” said McLean.

“Ford has been fantastic for us. He is a do-it-all player; he goes to the basket. He gets rebounds, he is more confident offensively.”

The backcourt tandem of seniors Deante Cole and Zach Banks has earned McLean’s confidence.

“Deante has been great,” said McLean of Cole who had 17 points in the defeat to Conwell-Egan.

“He has been very aggressive, he has been going to the basket and facilitating things. Zach has been good in relief, doing some ballhandling so Deante can play off guard at times.”

In McLean’s view, the holiday break comes at a good time for PDS since such key players like Langston Glaude, J.P. Radvany, and Josiah Meekins have missed time due to injury.

“It will be good to rest guys and get some guys practice-ready,” said McLean. “It is a great time to rest mentally and physically and reflect on things.”

As PDS returns to action by competing in the Prime Time Shoot-Out on December 27 and 29, McLean wants the team to focus on a few key things.

“We need to get leads and keep them,” said McLean. “The defensive intensity has to step up; that starts in practice. We can’t let other teams have those big quarters; we need to stem that.”

McLean is hoping that his team can enjoy another big run at the Prime Time event.

“We are excited to go back to the Prime Time as defending champions,” said McLean. “We will play Rancocas Valley in the first round and we know they are a tough Group IV team.”

December 18, 2013
INSIDE JOB: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior forward Mahotiere will be counted on to provide PHS with an inside presence this winter as it looks to build on last winter’s 12-11 campaign. The Little Tigers tip off their 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE JOB: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Peter Mahotiere drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior forward Mahotiere will be counted on to provide PHS with an inside presence this winter as it looks to build on last winter’s 12-11 campaign. The Little Tigers tip off their 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley is preparing for a lot of nailbiters this winter with his Princeton High boys’ basketball team.

“I don’t think we are going to blow out a lot of teams but I don’t think many teams are going to blow us out,” said PHS head coach Shelley, who guided the Little Tigers to a 12-11 record last winter in his debut campaign at the helm of the program.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of seniors. We play a good zone defense which should keep the games close.”

The Little Tigers feature a lot of depth in the backcourt, with junior Kevin Kane and sophomore Matt Hart at shooting guard and the trio of senior Paul Murray, junior J.C. Silva, and junior Max Tarter handing the point guard duties.

“Kevin Kane and Matt Hart can really shoot the ball and they have separated themselves from the others because of that,” said Shelley, whose team tips off the 2013-14 season by playing at Allentown on December 20.

“Kane can score in bunches. He has gotten a lot better; he played all summer and fall. Matt played a lot too and he is playing so well right now. Paul Murray is not as quick as the other point guards but he is a really savvy player. He really understands the game. J.C. makes good decisions and can shoot from the outside. Max has the best ball skills and quickness.”

A pair of battle-tested seniors, Peter Mahotiere and Callahan O’Meara, should provide good production for PHS at forward.

“Peter and Cal will be down low for us,” said Shelley. “We like the fact that they can put the ball on the floor and shoot from the outside. We are tough to guard when we have five shooters on the floor, we are working on spreading the floor and generating good matchups. We will be running a lot of one post sets.”

In Shelley’s view, PHS can win the close games by being tough on the boards and properly executing its offense.

“The biggest keys are rebounding and taking care of the ball,” said Shelley.

“We are going to have a challenge with rebounding, we drill on it everyday. We send everybody to the glass on defense. On offense, we want three to go to the glass and two to stay back. We are not going to score a ton of points so we need our point guards to make good decisions. They need to know when to run our set offense and when to take a quick shot. The basic concept is that if the defense isn’t set, we want to push it.”

With the PHS players having pushed themselves hard over the offseason, Shelley believes they are ready for the challenges ahead.

“I feel like we could have a really good season,” said Shelley. “We had a good summer of work. We are competitive. We played in the Princeton men’s summer league, the Princeton University team camp, and the Hillsborough summer high school league. We also played in a fall league. A lot of them just play basketball and they have worked hard to get ready for the season.”

NEW LOOK: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Julia Ryan looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Sophomore guard Ryan figures to be a key performer as PHS aims to get on the winning track under new head coach Dan Van Hise. The Little Tigers open the 2013-14 season by hosting Allentown on December 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEW LOOK: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Julia Ryan looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Sophomore guard Ryan figures to be a key performer as PHS aims to get on the winning track under new head coach Dan Van Hise. The Little Tigers open the 2013-14 season by hosting Allentown on December 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dan Van Hise focused on soccer during his days at Hightstown High but he gained a passion for basketball at college.

“I went to Syracuse University and developed a strong love for the game,” said Van Hise, 32, a 2003 graduate of Syracuse.

“In my previous job, I got the chance to see some of Coach Boeheim’s [legendary Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim] practices. I knew that if I ended up teaching, I would want to coach.”

Van Hise ended up teaching in the Princeton school system and coached the John Witherspoon boys’ team two years ago and was the head coach of Princeton High boys’ JV squad last winter.

While Van Hise enjoyed coaching the boys, he will be now be looking to develop the PHS girls’ team into a winner as he has taken the helm of that program.

“I met with John Miranda; I was thinking to myself that I wanted to stick with the boys, I liked where I am and where the program was going,” said Van Hise.

“John said that if I love basketball the way I do, it doesn’t make any difference whether you are coaching boys or girls.”

With the girls’ squad having gone 4-14 last winter and endured a steady diet of losing seasons in recent years, Van Hise is looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding the program.

“It is nice to get experience as a varsity head coach and I like the idea of taking over a program that has been stuck in the mud and getting it competitive,” said Van Hise, who is replacing Steffanie Shoop. “It is exciting.”

In Van Hise’s view, job one for him is to change the mentality around the program.

“Our main thing is to establish a culture of commitment, sportsmanship, and team work,” said Van Hise, whose team opens regular season play by hosting Allentown on December 20.

“I want them committed to basketball from December to March. We want to get something in place this year that we can build on.”

The PHS offense will be built around senior star forward and co-captain Liz Jacobs.

“On offense, we are going to go through Liz and play motion around her,” said Van Hise of the talented Jacobs, who is heading to Dartmouth next year where she will be playing lacrosse.

“We are trying to get Liz to think a little more on the court. She is used to getting the ball and going to the hoop. We want her to realize that she has teammates who can shoot and she can kick it out to them. We are going to run sets for her.”

Other options for the Little Tigers at forward include junior Mira Shane, junior Catherine Curran-Groome, senior Bryanna Blue, and junior Mia Levy.

“Mira is a glue girl; she talks on defense and does the little things,” said Van Hise, who will also be using freshmen Zoe Tesone and junior Ellie Maltby inside.

“Catherine worked hard in the offseason; her jump shot has really improved. Bryanna Blue is also on the mix in the frontcourt. Mia has that Levy skill, she has good court sense, sometimes her brain is ahead of her feet. She could be a player that surprises.”

PHS features two skilled players starting at guard in sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.

“Julia Ryan will be the lead guard; she did a lot of work in the offseason and played AAU,” said Van Hise, who also has senior co-captain Stephanie Hauer and sophomore Crystal Wang at guard.

“She looks good and is confident on the court. She can spot up and hit her jumper or go to the basket. Mary is a good hard worker and a strong ballhandler. She can hit an open shot. We need her to be smarter with the ball, patience is a big thing for her.”

Sophomore Haley Bodden, a girls’ soccer star for PHS, will provide good depth at both guard and forward.

“Haley will be coming off the bench; she hustles and is aggressive,” said Van Hise. “She is an athlete. She can also play forward.”

Van Hise is looking for aggressiveness across the board this winter. “We won four games last season and I would like to double that,” said Van Hise.

“Defensively, they need to be willing to stop girls and not just hope that shots don’t go in. They need to be tough. On offense, we need  to be patient, we can’t get uncomfortable and just jack up a shot. We need to be more patient and work the ball from the inside out.”