April 25, 2012

DOUBLE CLICK: Princeton High boys’ tennis first doubles players Kevin Qiu, left, and Adib Zaidi chat between points last week at the Mercer County Tournament. The duo of Qiu and Zaidi took third place in their flight, helping PHS tie Peddie for fifth in the team standings of the 18-school event which took place at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Qiu knew he had to assume the role of mentor in his partnership with freshman Adib Zaidi at first doubles for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team.

Having played two years at doubles for the Little Tigers, Qiu has helped neophyte Zaidi learn the ropes on working in tandem.

“It is tougher because Adib is a singles player so he always feels like he needs to cover everything,” said Qiu.

“When you play doubles, you have got to remember it is not about believing in yourself but believing in each other. You have to trust each other to carry the work and to just play to the best of your abilities.”

Last week at the Mercer County Tournament, the duo showed a lot of ability in the opening rounds, posting two straight-set wins on the way to the semifinals.

Qiu and Zaidi thought they had a good chance to top John Hu and Peter Ku of WW/P-S in the semis.

“Coming in, we really expected to win,” said Qiu. “We practiced new things to try to counter how they play. I had played them last year so we knew to really work on our poaches and volleys. We kept on telling ourselves point by point.”

Unfortunately for Qiu and Zaidi, they didn’t get enough points as they fell 6-3, 6-3 to the WW/P-S pair, who went on to win the title.

Showing their growing trust, Qiu and Zaidi overcame the disappointment from the semis loss to beat Brandon Kumar and Rohan Gupta of Peddie 6-1, 6-4 to take third place.

“We were pretty sad from our South match so we just went in there and told each other to work hard,” recalled Qiu.

“We can get a medal and get points for our team; that was pretty much the mindset going in.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was happy to see her first doubles tandem fight for that third place medal.

“They have the potential to be a great team; they both have really strong shots and good doubles knowledge,” said Hibbert, whose team ended up in tie for fifth with Peddie in the team standings of the 18-school competition that was won by WW/P-S.

“The key for them is just playing well at the same time; I think these last couple of matches have really helped. They were right there in the semis; it was a real close match. They had some chances that they were unfortunately unable to capitalize on. I was proud of the way they were able to turn it around and still come back and get third today.”

The PHS second doubles pair of freshmen Tyler Hack and Rishab Tanga battled valiantly for third place but came up short as they fell 6-3, 6-2 to Dan Wang and Sanandh Ravu of WW/P-N.

“They fought hard; there were some really long points and some exceptionally long games and they were right there,” said Hibbert.

“They are both freshmen and this is a first experience for them. I am really proud of the way they got through their first round against Peddie; it was a real tough team. They were playing more experienced teams. I think another few matches here the rest of the season and next year they have the potential of doing great things.”

The PHS singles players experienced some frustration as they were knocked out on the first day. Eddie Percarpio fell in the opening round at first singles while Robert Zhao and Julian Edgren were eliminated in the second round at second and third singles, respectively.

“We had some tough matches; we had some tough draws, “ added Hibbert, reflecting on the performance of her singles players.

“The guys all lost to either a No. 1 or 2 seed so there is no shame in that. They put up good fights; sometimes that is all you can ask for.”

In Hibbert’s view, the experience gained at the MCT should toughen PHS for the fights ahead.

“I hope these matches will help us moving forward,” said Hibbert, whose team has a match at Allentown on April 26, hosts Steinert on April 27, and then plays at Ewing on April 30.

“Our doubles will be a little more experienced and our singles will have good competition as well. We start the meat of the season next now; four matches a week and states. It all happens quick.”

Qiu, for his part, believes that he and Zaidi will be even more competitive going forward.

“I think after this tournament, we improved dramatically,” said Qiu. “All that stuff is going to translate well.”

BLACK MAGIC: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Louie Blackburn heads up the field in recent action. Last week, sophomore midfielder Blackburn scored two fourth quarter goals as PDS edged Hun 9-8. The Panthers, now 4-3, are next in action when they host the Ranney School on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team falling behind Hun 8-7 early in the fourth quarter last week, Louie Blackburn decided to take matters into his hands.

Even though the sophomore midfielder had been held scoreless for the first three quarters, Blackburn thought he could make a difference.

“I just told myself that someone had to step up,” recalled Blackburn. “We needed to put a few in the back of the net; we hadn’t been shooting a lot earlier in the game. Our coach [Rob Tuckman] said just ‘get it on net boys and it will go in.’”

Blackburn took those words to heart, scoring with 6:47 left in regulation and then finding the back of the net nearly ninety seconds later in what turned out to be the game winner as PDS pulled out a 9-8 nailbiter.

In reflecting on the rally, Blackburn acknowledged that the Panthers needed to wake up down the stretch.

“I was laying back a little bit; I wasn’t happy with how non-aggressive we were playing as a whole team,” said Blackburn.

“I thought we were letting up a little bit but our coach always tells us to never stop, never let off the gas pedal. We just kept going there and finished strong in the fourth quarter.”

With a season of high school lacrosse under his belt, Blackburn feels he is a stronger player.

“I think I have grown a bit into my own body,” said Blackburn, who also stars for the PDS boys’ hockey team.

“I have been getting mentally stronger which is the most important thing on the field. I have gotten a lot of help from the older guys on the team in stepping up.”

Blackburn has gotten some help from his older brother, Peter, a 2011 PDS grad, who starred in lacrosse and hockey.

“My brother always says the confidence will come as you get older,” said Blackburn.

“Hopefully that is what I have been seeing here in the past couple of games and hopefully it will continue throughout.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman liked the confidence his players displayed as they staged their late rally.

“I thought possession was the difference,” said Tuckman. “When we had the ball on our stick and we were on the offensive end, we played well and we played confident. We put it in the back of the net.”

In Tuckman’s view, Blackburn will continue to put more in the net if he keeps getting mentally stronger.

“For Louie, it is all about confidence,” said Tuckman. “If we can get him feeling good, he plays well.”

Having junior star Cody Triolo patrolling the midfield gives Tuckman an additional dose of confidence.

“Cody is solid all the way around; even when they were sliding quick on him, he still managed to be a force on the field,” said Tuckman, whose team ran into a force last Friday as it fell 13-3 to undefeated Somerville to move to 4-3. “He is great to have.”

PDS freshman goalie Griffin Thompson is proving that he has the potential to become something special.

“Griffin had a good second half today; he is coming off injury and he has to get his sea legs,” said Tuckman, who credited senior captain Zac Higgins and junior Derek Bell with spearheading the Panther defense in front of Thompson.

“He is getting there; he is a freshman so the hooting and hollering can get to him at times.”

The Panthers have been getting better as they go through the season.

“I think as we are moving forward, we are playing well,” said Tuckman, whose team hosts Ranney School on April 27.

“We have some adjustments that we have to continue to make but I think, all in all, I feel pretty good about it.”

Blackburn, for his part, feels that PDS can do some good things if it makes those adjustments.

“I always think there is room for improvement; never stop and never accept a loss,” said Blackburn.

“I think if we continue to improve as much as we should, we’ll finish up with a really strong season and record.”

HARD LESSON: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse head coach Jill Thomas makes a point during her team’s 19-5 loss at Lawrenceville last Thursday. Learning some lessons from that defeat, PDS rebounded to beat George School (Pa.) 13-5 last Saturday and Stuart Country Day 14-5 on Monday. The Panthers, now 7-6, play at Princeton High on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After not making much of an impact last spring in her debut season on the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, Lucy Linville decided to do something about it.

“I didn’t play very much freshman year,” said Linville. “I worked really hard in the summer. I went to a lot of clinics and worked on it.”

She supplemented that work by training sessions with older sister and former PDS star, Cammie, now a junior standout for the Lafayette College women’s team.

“Over breaks and when she comes home, we go out and play lacrosse,” said Linville.

Last Saturday, Linville did a pretty good imitation of her older sister, tallying four goals and an assist to help PDS top George School (Pa.) 13-5.

The offensive outburst was critical for Linville and the Panthers as they were looking to bounce back from a deflating 19-5 loss at Lawrenceville two days earlier.

“We had a lot of confidence and the Lawrenceville game really shot us down,” said Linville.

“We have been working so hard in practice, especially yesterday after that loss. We needed to get back.”

In Linville’s view, the Panthers got back in the flow offensively in the win over George.

“It definitely gave me confidence,” said Linville. “I think it gave the whole team confidence because many of our goals did not come from our top scorers and there were a lot of assists.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas came into the game with a basic message. “I told them today that our goal was one word, ‘rebound,’ and they did,” said Thomas.

The Panthers didn’t waste any time bouncing back, jumping out to a 9-1 halftime lead.

“I  think we were good in transition,” said Thomas, whose team was good again last Monday as it topped Stuart Country Day 14-5 to improve to 7-6.

“There was a lot of communication; a lot of young kids stepped up today. We got out of the gate well. We didn’t even show up on Thursday but we got over it.”

Thomas likes the way Linville has been stepping up. “Lucy is figuring out how to not have those ups and downs and move forward,” added Thomas, who also  got a big day in the win over George from another sophomore as Emma Quigley contributed a goal and two assists.

“She has been more consistent day-to-day-to-day. She made some nice connections on the field today. That’s good because the more people who can put the ball in the net or pass the ball or catch it down low, it only adds to our play on offense.”

The PDS defense was spearhead by the combination of freshman Kirsten Kuzmicz and junior Louise Hutter.

“Kirsten just leads by example; we have her almost playing a center field position,” said Thomas.

“With her getting those interceptions and knocking those balls down, everyone gets a little more confidence watching her. Hutter just reads it; she sees it coming and is there when the ball gets there and is there when the ground ball gets there. We count on her to be the captain of the defense. She stepped up and got more people communicating.”

Thomas is counting on her team to get better and better as it heads down the homestretch.

“We still have a lot of people who are injured and a lot of people who aren’t in game shape yet from injuries,” said Thomas, whose team plays at Princeton High on April 27.

“They are getting the idea of what it means. So if they can keep doing all the little things, I think they’ll be alright.”

In Linville’s view, things will go well for PDS if it can maintain the scoring balance it displayed in the victory over George.

“I think building more confidence and getting everybody in the offense is key,” said Linville.

“I think definitely having people who don’t normally score get in there will help us, the defense doesn’t know who to cover.”

CONSOLATION PRIZE: Hun School boys’ tennis star Chris Seitz hits a forehand last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After absorbing a painful 7-6, 7-6 loss to eventual champion Robbinsville’s Ramy Bekhiet in the first singles semifinal, Seitz bounced back to take third place. The Villanova-bound senior star topped Pennington’s Jerry Jiang 6-2, 6-3 in the third place match held last Wednesday at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Seitz ended his final appearance at the Mercer County Tournament with a victory.

But for the Hun School boys’ tennis senior star, the triumph wasn’t the one he wanted as it came in the third-place match at first singles rather than in a championship showdown.

After taking second at first singles in his first three appearances at the MCT, Seitz was primed to end his county run in a blaze of glory with a crown.

Seeded No. 2, Seitz cruised through the opening rounds of the competition on April 16 with two straight-set victories.

In the semifinal last Wednesday, Seitz came up on the short end of a straight-set decision, falling 7-6, 7-6 to Robbinsville’s Ramy Bekhiet, who went on to win the title.

Seitz acknowledged that he had to overcome disappointment as he took the court for the subsequent third-place match against Pennington’s Jerry Jiang.

“It is definitely hard to go out an hour later after that match,” said Seitz. “It was really tough.”

Displaying his mental toughness, Seitz gutted out a 6-2, 6-3 win over Jiang.

“I definitely had to fight through things in the opening set but it was a good match,” said Seitz.

“I think the ball Jerry was giving me was just a lot more friendly than the semis match. I could take it higher and control the points more.”

While Seitz would have liked a higher finish in his county finale, he leaves with some indelible memories of the competition.

“It is still good to do so well at this tournament,” said Seitz, reflecting on his third-place finish.

“I will always remember freshman year, just coming in and taking second. It was so good; the four years were amazing.”

Seitz’s game has shown good improvement over the last four years. “I have definitely gotten a lot stronger,” said Seitz. “I am able to control the points and play defense if I have to.”

Next year, Seitz will test his strength at the college level as he heads to Villanova University where he will compete for the school’s men’s tennis program.

“I really like their business program and the fact that I could play Division I tennis too,” said Seitz, in reflecting on his college decision.

Hun head coach Todd Loffredo liked the way that his senior star took care of business in the third place match.

“I think he was upset because he thinks he let the team down,” said Loffredo, referring to Seitz’s semifinal loss.

“We were happy to see him come out here and play against Jerry, who had a really good match against Kenny Zheng [in the quarterfinals] and then played a really close first set against Michael Song. Chris was ready to play here; he wanted third place.”

Over his Hun career, Seitz showed he could play with the best in the county.

“I remember his first year when he almost beat out [Neil] Karandikar [of Princeton Day School],” said Loffredo.

“I am proud of him. We are both a little disappointed but he did his best and that’s all you can ask.”

In Loffredo’s view, he got all he could ask from his players collectively as the Raiders tied for seventh place in the team standings at the 18-school competition.

“I feel like at the MCT we always hit our stride,” said Loffredo. “The kids have played with each other enough where they are finally used to playing with each other. It is a lot of tennis and they come together as a team and I really like how they support each other. All of them played really well.”

With Hun having produced a 4-2 start in dual match play, Loffredo sees some good tennis ahead for the squad.

“We are going to do our best; we are just looking forward to finishing the season strong,” added Loffredo, whose team has home matches against Rutgers Prep on April 26 and Lawrenceville School on May 1. “Hopefully we can keep a winning record going and keep spirits high.”

Seitz, for his part, believes Hun can produce a spirited finish. “We are doing really well right now,” asserted Seitz.

“We have a lot of confidence going into dual matches and we just have to stay positive. The Prep A will be a good opportunity to finish the season strong.”

CELEBRATION TIME: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Kate Weeks, right, and Bri Barrett celebrate after a goal in a recent contest. Last Saturday, junior star Weeks scored seven goals to help Hun top Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 16-4. The Raiders, now 4-3, host the Hill School (Pa.) on April 25 before getting into postseason play. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Weeks is not one to rest on her laurels.

After scoring 61 goals last spring in her sophomore season with the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team and recently committing to Boston College and its women’s lacrosse team, Weeks hasn’t gone on cruise control.

“I just work on every aspect of my game,” said junior midfielder Weeks, who plays for the Ultimate Lacrosse club program and New Jersey’s U19 national tournament team. “I practice, practice, and practice.”

The fruits of Weeks’ labor were on display last Thursday even as Hun lost 21-12 to visiting Peddie. The junior standout scored eight goals, showing some elusive moves and powerful shots from a variety of angles as she tormented the Peddie defense.

Despite being the clear go-to player for the Raiders, Weeks isn’t dwelling on her stats.

“Whatever it takes to win, just do it,” said Weeks, who scored seven goals last Saturday as Hun topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 16-4 in improving to 4-3.

“Whoever gets the goal is whoever gets it. I just want to do what it takes to win the game.”

In the early going against Peddie, it looked like Hun was going to stay in the game against the powerful Falcons.

The Raiders trailed 7-6 with 5:45 left in the first half with Weeks having tallied five to that point.

“I think we started really strong,” said Weeks. “Peddie is a great team. I think we came out and did very well against a hard team.”

The Falcons, though, scored the final two goals of the half and then went on a 9-2 run after halftime. Hun didn’t stop fighting, outscoring Peddie 5-3 over the last eight minutes of the contest.

“I think we played really, really strong, especially over the last three minutes,” said Weeks.

“Our true athletic ability comes out with our double teams and everything. We fought until the end; there was no laziness.”

For Weeks, ending her college search with the decision to attend Boston College isn’t going to make her lazy.

“I just picked the school that I fell in love with but also had a top team,” said Weeks.

“I went with my gut. I got an athletic scholarship and that helped a lot. I basically got down to five from my top 10 and chose from there. Now I am working 10 times harder since I committed.”

Hun head coach Beth Loffredo admires Weeks’ commitment to the game.

“Kate is just so driven and focused,” said Loffredo. “She puts in the work that is required to be as good as she is and she makes people around her better. She makes coaches better.”

Loffredo was hoping that Hun would give Peddie a better game. “I thought we would come out a little bit stronger but I always set my expectations really high, especially for this group,” said Loffredo. “We didn’t adjust well enough or quickly enough. It really hurt us.”

While Hun may not have initially adjusted to the Peddie onslaught, Loffredo was proud of how her team kept battling.

“Even though we were still behind by nine goals, once we get our momentum and we know what works for us, we are hard to stop,” added Loffredo. “A couple more minutes and it could have been a different score.”

Loffredo credits senior defensive star Emily Decicco with making a big difference for the Raiders.

“Emily is one of those people where you get her going and she can can get everybody else going and get that momentum,” said Loffredo.

“It is not easy to be a 17 or an 18 year old kid and trying to be a captain and hold everyone accountable. She is doing a great job. She really makes it clear to them, ‘I am staying positive, we are still in this.’ She does a great job with transition. She is smart; she works hard.”

Hun has the chance to do some great things down the stretch if it can smarter all over the field.

“Going forward, we need to be playing solid through our lowest attacker to our goalie,” said Loffredo, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on April 25 before getting into postseason play.

“There are just little pieces where we are falling apart. I think when we do come together, we will be a force. I am just waiting for it all to click.”

In Weeks’ view, the Hun players are clicking on and off the field. “We are strongly bonded; we are like a family,” said Weeks.

“You win together, you lose together. We are 10 times better than last year. You have to work hard everyday and that’s what we are going to do.”

ON THE MARK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Mark Burke fires the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder and team captain Burke tallied three goals to help Hun top Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 12-3. The Raiders, now 5-4, play at Peddie on April 26, at South Brunswick on April 28, and at Somerville on May 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing some inexperience, the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team found itself trailing Princeton Day School 7-4 in the third quarter last week in the annual meeting between the local rivals.

But with the game seemingly slipping away, the Raiders summoned some youthful energy to make a spirited rally, scoring the last three goals of the period to even the game at 7-7.

Hun forged ahead 8-7 in the first minute of the fourth as Iain Alexandridis found the back of the net. The Raiders, though, never scored again as they dropped a 9-8 nailbiter to PDS.

In assessing the setback, first-year Hun head coach Don Green saw the game as a valuable learning experience.

“We showed tremendous composure; we haven’t been behind and able to come back yet,” said Green, who is using a number of freshmen and sophomores in key roles this spring.

“So the fact that we were able to do that and be competitive in a tight game was great to see. It is building and that is our goal for this year. We want to build for the future, having the seniors help the young guys and start a tradition.”

Green pointed to senior midfielder Mark Burke as a veteran who is really helping the Raiders.

“I have really been impressed with Mark Burke; he has really stepped up as a senior captain and a leader,” asserted Green of Burke, who tallied three goals last Saturday as Hun topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 12-3 to improve to 5-4.

“He is playing as hard as anyone I have ever seen and his leadership is showing through.”

Burly junior midfielder Zach Bicho has been giving Hun some hard work in the critical face-off area.

“Bicho has been dominating the face-offs and making very intelligent decisions with the ball after the face-off,” said Green of Bicho, who contributed four goals in the win over Mercersburg to go with his outstanding face-off work.

“That is keeping us in games and keeping us competitive so what he is doing is invaluable.”

Freshman attacker Brendan Black exemplifies the wave of young stars that are coming up through the ranks for Green’s squad. Black tallied a team-high four goals in the loss to PDS and added a goal and an assist in the victory over Mercersburg.

“Brendan Black is an extremely intelligent lacrosse player; he plays a lot and that is the thing,” added Green, who is getting major contributions from sophomores Matthew Bruno, Cameron Dudeck, and Devin Cheifetz together with freshmen Matteo Favalaro, Jameson DeMarco, and Tucker Stevenson.

“He looks like a freshman because he is tiny. If it weren’t for that, you would think that he is a senior from the way he plays. His field IQ and lacrosse IQ are tremendous. When he is a junior and senior, he is going to be a big-time impact player.”

In Green’s view, the Raiders have the potential to develop into a big-time team.

“We see tremendous progress, leaps and bounds,” said Green, whose team plays at Peddie on April 26, at South Brunswick on April 28, and at Somerville on May 1.

“Right now we are talking about getting over the hump. Some of it is experience in a game like today; it was two teams that were going back and forth. The bottom line is that if we just get a little better in every aspect, we are going to jump over that hump.”

April 18, 2012

GOAL ORIENTED: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal last Friday in PHS’s 11-9 win over Allentown. Sophomore star Lopez-Ona scored eight goals in the contest which matched teams who came into the day undefeated. Last Monday, Lopez-Ona fired in 10 goals as PHS edged Hopewell Valley 18-16 in improving to 6-0. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on April 18, play at WW/P-N on April 21, and then have a rematch at ­Allentown on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman last spring on the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team, Emilia Lopez-Ona didn’t attract a lot of attention from opposing defenders.

“I was playing behind two upperclassmen attackers and they were both amazing scorers,” said Lopez-Ona.

“They got the top defenders on them and I was able to score that way with the weaker defenders.”

Coming into her sophomore season, the willowy Lopez-Ona knew she would have to carry more of the offensive load for the Little Tigers and she prepared accordingly.

“This year, I definitely have to step up on the offense and in the midfield; it is a bigger role,” added Lopez-Ona. “I worked a lot in the offseason. I play for Building Blocks lacrosse.”

Last Friday, Lopez-Ona’s work paid huge dividends for PHS as she scored eight goals to help the Little Tigers edge Allentown 11-9 in a battle of teams who came into the day undefeated.

When PHS fell behind 8-5 late in the first half, it looked like Allentown was on the verge of pulling away from the Little Tigers.

But Lopez-Ona took matters into her own hands, scoring three unanswered goals as PHS knotted the game at 8-8 heading into halftime.

“I think being down and being able to come back with another few goals and work on it as a team, chipping away at that, really psyched us up coming into the second half,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

In the second half, the Little Tigers showed patience, holding the ball for long stretches and picking their spots as they took a 10-8 lead and then held off the Redbirds down the stretch.

“We knew Allentown was going to be our toughest game,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied two of PHS’s second half goals and assisted on the other.

“It definitely gives a lot more confidence and our confidence builds through the season. We thrive off of that.”

Lopez-Ona’s on-field connection with senior star and Amherst College-bound Mia Haughton gives her additional confidence.

“I think a lot of it is that we have compatible skills,” explained Lopez-Ona, who scored 10 goals last Monday in an 18-16 win over Hopewell Valley as the Little Tigers improved to 6-0.

“She is an amazing feeder, she can feed from any release point. She knows where to put the ball. I am pretty good at getting open and finishing.”

PHS head coach Christie Cooper felt pretty good about her team’s chances even when it was on its heels in the first half.

“I wasn’t concerned; we might have gone up two and then they came back and I said to my assistant coach, this is going to be a game of ups and downs and that’s OK,” said Cooper.

“You have those in lacrosse and that’s good. It is what you can do when you are down that determines what the outcome is going to be.”

Having Lopez-Ona can certainly tilt the outcome in PHS’s favor. “Emilia is a smart player,” said Cooper, who got a goal and three assists from Haughton in the victory over Allentown with Elizabeth Jacobs and Chiara Favalaro chipping in the other goals.

“We can utilize all of our players on attack but it is always nice to know  that you have girls you can go to in a big game. It is not like I was telling her to do anything special. She finds that ball and gets it into the cage because she knows that is what we need at any given point.”

The performance of freshman goalie Mira Shane in the cage was another key factor in the Little Tigers’ win over Allentown.

“What makes her a good goalie is that she doesn’t follow steps, she just reacts to the ball,” said Cooper of Shane who had nine saves, including some point blank stops down the stretch.

“She isn’t trying to think I have to step here or I have to step there, she just reacts and that makes a great goalie. Every game she rises to the challenge; her age is not a factor at all. It is ‘OK who are we playing, who are their best players, where do they shoot, OK, ready.’ That is her mentality.”

While Cooper was excited by the way her team rose to the challenge collectively against Allentown, she knows there is a lot of lacrosse still to be played this spring.

“It is a great win but we play them again and there is a chance that we will see them in the Mercer County Tournament,” added Cooper.

“So it is great to win but it doesn’t mean much in the long run. It means a lot to them right now and it feels really good. It will help propel us into the next half of the season but it doesn’t make or break the rest of the season.”

In Cooper’s view, PHS has the ability to do some special things in the second half of the season.

“I think we have a lot of potential because we play like a team,” asserted Cooper, whose team hosts WW/P-S on April 18, plays at WW/P-N on April 21, and then has a rematch at Allentown on April 23.

“We work from our goalie down to our lowest attackers; that’s really important. It showed today with different players stepping up when other players were getting marked. You need to be able to do that in a tight game like that.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes the team’s special chemistry could make the difference in the tight games ahead.

“We have lost a lot of seniors; I think we knew this was going to be a whole new year with a mix of returning players and new players,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We all know how big of a role team chemistry off the field is. So I think that using that knowledge from last year, we are able to put it into place this year, and it is definitely helping. These are my best friends. I think we have got a team with a lot of young potential mixed in with some older leadership.”

WILL POWER: Princeton High baseball star Will Greenberg surveys the scene in action last spring. Senior catcher Greenberg has been swinging a hot bat for the Little Tigers, producing eight RBIs in four games last week as PHS went 2-2. The Little Tigers, now 2-6 on the season, are playing at Allentown on April 19, hosting Steinert on April 20, competing in the Papa Bear Invitational at Delran High on April 21, and then playing at Ewing on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After knocking in a total of four runs in two wins earlier last week, Will Greenberg kept up his hot hitting as the Princeton High baseball team hosted Trenton High last Wednesday.

The senior catcher smacked a two-run triple in the first inning to help PHS jump out to a 4-0 lead over the Tornadoes.

“It was an outside fastball and I just went the other way,” said Greenberg, reflecting on the triple.

“Luckily it went right down the line. It actually bounced on the line and bounced by the rightfielder. I was happy with it.”

By the end of the afternoon, though, Greenberg wasn’t too happy as the Little Tigers squandered their early lead and went down to a 6-5 defeat,

“We got a lot of runs in the first inning; we just weren’t able to keep going after that,” lamented Greenberg. “We thought it would hold up but it clearly wasn’t enough.”

After the Tornadoes tied the score at 4-4 in the top of the sixth, PHS got it going in the bottom of the frame as Matt Hoffman stroked an RBI single to put the Little Tigers back in front. But Trenton rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh to pull ahead.

Greenberg liked the way the Little Tigers battled after losing their lead. “We definitely didn’t want to lose this game,” said Greenberg. “We did show a little bit of fight to get that run in the sixth.”

In assessing the show he has been putting on offensively so far this season, Greenberg pointed to patience as a key factor.

“I think I am swinging at the right pitches and that is the difference right now,” said Greenberg. “Last year I might have swung at the 1-1 curveball and this year, I am taking it and hitting the next pitch.”

PHS’s large group of seniors has been making a difference in the early going as the Little Tigers topped Hightstown 3-1 on April 9 before routing crosstown rival Princeton Day School 13-3 a day later.

“We think with the group of seniors that we have this year, that we can win more games than we used to,” said Greenberg, whose classmates on the team include Hoffman, Nico Mercuro, Ben Harrison, Clay Alter, Alex Mitko, Mike Dunlap, and Nick Bowlin.

“We have been winning; the Hightstown and PDS games were pretty big for us. The win over PDS was amazing; it was the first time in a long time.”

PHS head coach Dave Roberts was concerned that his club could experience a letdown after the high of the victory over the Panthers.

“Yesterday was obviously a huge emotional game for us; now the one thing I made sure to remind them immediately after that game yesterday was that Trenton beat us last year,” said Roberts.

“We are not surprised at the fact that they are good and competitive. I was definitely concerned about this game.”

Those concerns proved valid as PHS appeared to lose intensity after grabbing the early lead against the Tornadoes, showing lapses in the field and on the basepaths.

“I thought we shut it down mentally after that and it really came back to haunt us,” said Roberts, whose team had another down day as it fell 6-2 to Hamilton last Monday in dropping to 2-6.

“We picked a bad time to play our worst defensive game. Our baserunning was pretty bad today. We got picked off at first; we got thrown out stealing. Things we hadn’t been doing this season.”

Roberts is depending on his crew of seniors to pick things up in the wake of the disappointing defeat.

“The seniors are carrying the load; they are doing a good job,” asserted Roberts, whose team is playing at Allentown on April 19, hosting Steinert on April 20, playing in the Papa Bear Invitational at Delran High on April 21, and then playing at Ewing on April 23.

“They are doing everything they are supposed to be doing, you can’t ask for much more. I just hope it continues going in the right direction and hopefully they guide these guys into realizing that today was just a bad day and that we can move forward.”

Greenberg, for his part, believes that PHS can use the lessons learned from the loss to keep going in the right direction.

“We had a lot of confidence going into this game,” said Greenberg, who knocked in two more runs in an 18-8 loss to Robbinsville last Friday.

“This game killed us and it can go either way after this. We can take it as something to make us play better or it can devastate us. Hopefully, it is not the second, You can’t stop playing; you can’t get four runs and think it is over and expect them to lay down.”

FREID UP: Princeton Day School baseball player Bradley Freid lays down a bunt in recent action. Junior Freid’s offensive production and play at catcher has helped PDS produce a 4-5 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Hun on April 18, play at Blair on April 20, play at Notre Dame on April 21, and then host Bound Brook on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been easy for the players on the Princeton Day School baseball team to hang their heads last Thursday as they fell behind visiting Pennington.

Coming off a disappointing 13-3 loss to Princeton High the day before, PDS found itself trailing Pennington 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning.

But the Panthers didn’t fold, breaking through with two runs in the fourth on a single by senior star Matt Cook. An inning later, PDS narrowed the gap to 5-4 on a two-run single by freshman JP Radvany.

In the sixth, the Panthers tied the contest as freshman Ross Colton served an RBI single into right field. An inning later, PDS kept threatening, getting a runner to second only to have him thrown out at the plate on a single by Sean McCoy.

The game went into extra innings and the Red Raiders tallied four runs in the top of the eight. Still, the Panthers didn’t give in, scoring on a single by senior Beau Horan who advanced to second but was stranded there as the Panthers went down to a 9-6 loss.

Afterward, PDS head coach Ray O’Brien was proud of the resolve shown by his club.

“I am happy with the way the kids hung in and the way they battled back,” said O’Brien.

“We are a work in progress; we have a lot of young guys. The guys battle; we were down 5-0 to a good team and we put the winning run on a couple of times. I am happy with their effort.”

O’Brien acknowledged that his team needs to pay more attention to detail.

“We are making too many little mistakes that are costing us those close games,” said O’Brien. “There is some stuff that we just have to tighten up.”

Last Friday, PDS tightened things up considerably, rolling to a 10-0 win over Lawrenceville as senior pitcher Jacob Eisenberg got the win and Horan chipped in three extra-base hits.

In O’Brien’s view, his group of seniors have the winning background to help get the Panthers on the right track.

“These guys played on a championship team so they know what needs to be done,” said O’Brien, who guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title in 2010.

“They know that we need a little tweaking here or there. They need to get some guys on board and we’ll be OK.”

The Panthers have some good young guys in the freshman quartet of Ross Colton, Jake Alu, JP Radvany, and Cole McManimon.

“They are playing and they are helping,” said O’Brien, whose team went on to lose 13-3 to Gill St. Bernard’s last Saturday to move to 4-5.

“Ross Colton had a big hit today. Jake [Alu] finished the game today on the mound. He did a great job; he battled the whole time. JP Radvany is our starting first baseman and Cole is one of our main pitchers.

With PDS having already matched last year’s win total when it went 4-14, O’Brien is confident the team can produce a good finish.

“It is definitely a different situation than last year,” said O’Brien, whose team hosts Hun on April 18, plays at Blair on April 20, plays at Notre Dame on April 21, and then hosts Bound Brook on April 23.

“We just need everybody pulling the rope in the same direction. We are getting there.”

RUNNING INTO TROUBLE: Hun School baseball star Devan Birch shows his speed on the basepath in recent action. Hurt by some key injuries, Hun has gotten off to a slow start this spring, falling to 1-6 in the wake of a 10-4 loss to Rutgers Prep last Monday. The Raiders will look to get on the winning track when they play at Princeton Day School on April 18 and at Pennington on April 19 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) for a doubleheader on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School baseball team, a couple of injuries have put a cloud over a promising spring.

The Raiders lost senior star catcher and key hitter Gavin Stupienski to a shoulder injury in the second game of the season while junior pitching ace Austin Goeke has been working through some arm problems.

As a result, Hun head coach Bill McQuade has been forced to juggle his batting order and his pitching rotation.

“When we lost Stupienski, it takes our No. 2 or 3 hitter out of the lineup and it takes a very good catcher out,” said McQuade.

“Goeke has had some arm struggles and he hasn’t pitched much for us this year so that backs everyone else up. It leaves Alex Fabian and Mike Manfredi for league games. Some kids that haven’t pitched much get other games and if they throw strikes and we catch the ball, we are fine. Sometimes we don’t throw strikes very well or catch it very well so it puts pressure on the whole team in different ways.”

Hosting powerful Germantown Academy (Pa.) last week, things didn’t go well for Hun right from the start. The Raiders fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning and never got closer than that on the way to suffering a 14-3 loss. “I told the guys we had to play a perfect game to beat them,” said McQuade.

“They are better than us in a few of the positions and that is OK. I just wanted to see us compete, that’s all.”

The Hun players did keep chattering in the dugout as the game went on and senior star Dave Dudeck gave his teammates something to cheer about with an RBI single in the third and a titanic homer over the left field fence in the sixth.

“Dudeck just crushes it and he has matured as a hitter,” said McQuade. “He is waiting more on the pitch so he can hit the off speed as well as the fastball.”

The Raiders will need to mature quickly if they are to get on the right track. “It is a tough start and our schedule is hard,” said McQuade, whose team lost 10-4 to Rutgers Prep last Monday in dropping to 1-6.

“We have seven games in the next week and a half and the teams we are playing are good. Our schedule is far tougher than in recent years but it doesn’t matter. I would rather play good teams and I think the kids would rather play tough teams. It starts to test them to see how much they actually love the game and how good they are compared to other teams.”

In McQuade’s view, the focus going forward is basic. “Our goal is just to get better by the end of the year, similar to last year,” said McQuade, referring to 2011 when Hun rode a late surge to state Prep A championship.

“Our pitching staff is fairly inexperienced; they have to grow so we can compete when tournament time comes around in May.”

Hun has the right mentality to keep competing hard. “I think this is a good group of kids; they play the game to win,” said McQuade, whose team plays at Princeton Day School on April 18 and at Pennington on April 19 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) for a doubleheader on April 21.

“If the other team is better than us, so be it. We just need to have fun and compete.”

April 11, 2012

HIT PARADE: Princeton High softball star Marisa Gonzalez makes contact last Wednesday in PHS’s 13-7 loss to Hopewell Valley. Junior outfielder and tri-captain Gonzalez had a big day in a losing cause, pounding out three hits with a homer and three RBIs. Last Monday, Gonzalez kept up her hot hitting with a double and a single as PHS topped Hightstown 7-2 to improve to 2-2. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host Trenton High on April 11, play at Robbinsville on April 13 and at Allentown on April 14, and then host Hamilton on April 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two seasons, Marisa Gonzalez has been an offensive catalyst for the Princeton High softball team from the leadoff spot in the batting order.

But this spring, Gonzalez has been moved to the third spot to take advantage of a hitting prowess that saw the outfielder hit an eye-popping .592 last spring.

Last Wednesday against visiting Hopewell Valley, the junior star paid dividends in her new role, pounding out three hits with a homer and three RBIs. Gonzalez’s heroics weren’t enough, though, as the Little Tigers fell 13-7 to the Bulldogs.

While disappointed by the loss, Gonzalez believes she can do damage from the middle of the order.

“I think it is good for the team,” said Gonzalez. “We know that Louise [Eisenach] and Hannah [Gutierrez] can get on base ahead of me. I can drive them in and that can put us up in the beginning of the game.”

In the loss to HoVal, PHS played well in the beginning as the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through four innings. The Bulldogs broke the game open with three runs in the top of the fifth and seven more in the sixth.

Trailing 11-2 in the seventh, the Little Tigers showed some fight with a five-run uprising which saw Gonzalez contribute a 2-run single.

“I think it was good that our energy was up,” said Gonzalez, reflecting on the rally. “We have to come out like that in the beginning instead of when we get behind and try to chase back.”

In Gonzalez’s view, PHS has the ability to come out with a better result against a team like HoVal

“I think we should have won this game; I know we are a good team,” said Gonzalez. “Once a few errors start being made, it just has this snowball effect. If we make the plays and pick each other up, we’ll be fine.”

Growing into a team leader, Gonzalez is taking more responsibility this spring for picking up her teammates.

“I am a captain this year so I am taking more of a leadership role,” said Gonzalez, who showed leadership last Monday, getting two hits as PHS topped Hightstown 7-2 to improve to 2-2. “At practice, I have been helping out girls with stuff. The focus is not on me, it is more a focus on the team. “

PHS head coach Dave Boehm likes the way Gonzalez is helping the Little Tigers from the middle of the order.

“Marisa is our sparkplug,” said Boehm. “We have to bat her third so she can drive in runs. We have put some people in front of her who can get on base.”

Boehm was frustrated that PHS didn’t do a better job of getting people on base against HoVal.

“We have faced better pitchers and have hit better,” said Boehm. “I thought we just didn’t do it today. We just have to hit.”

In Boehm’s view, better days are ahead for the Little Tigers. “We have that one bad inning and unfortunately it plays on you,” said Boehm, whose club hosts Trenton High on April 11, plays at Robbinsville on April 13 and at Allentown on April 14, and then hosts Hamilton on April 16.

“I think they realize that they are a better team than they played today. We haven’t come around yet; hopefully it will happen soon.”

Gonzalez, for her part, is confident that PHS will come around as the spring unfolds.

“We all know we can do it,” asserted Gonzalez. “It is just the focus that really should improve. We need to tighten up our defense a little more and we have to get our bats going. I think we’ll be fine.”

FAST EDDIE: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Eddie Percarpio chases down a ball in action last season. Senior Percarpio is moving up to first singles this season after playing at No. 2 last year. PHS starts its 2012 campaign by hosting Trenton on April 11 and Hopewell Valley on April 12 before playing at Robbinsville on April 13. The Little Tigers will then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 16 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Hibbert has put together an intriguing combination in crafting her lineup this spring for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team.

“It is a mixed bag,” said PHS head coach Hibbert. “We have three seniors at singles but also three freshmen in doubles.”

In Hibbert’s view, that mix could yield something special. “We have the potential to do good things; it is a matter of getting people settled in their positions,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 15-3 season in 2011 and a spot in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional semifinals. “We looked very competitive in scrimmages against Lawrenceville and Princeton Day School.”

Hibbert is confident that senior Eddie Percarpio will be competitive at first singles, as he moves up from No. 2 and switches positions with classmate Robert Zhao.

“Eddie relaxed a little more this year; he is ready to accept the position of being No 1,” said Hibbert, whose team starts its 2012 campaign by hosting Trenton on April 11 and Hopewell Valley on April 12 before playing at Robbinsville on April 13.

“He is definitely a fighter. He works hard for every point; he never gives up. He has moved up every year; it good to have him leading the charge.”

It should be good for PHS to have Zhao at No. 2 after his time at first singles.

“The experience he got at first singles should help him have a successful season at No. 2,” said Hibbert.

“He is really solid on his ground strokes. While he seems relaxed on the court, he can fight when it matters most. He won a 16-14 tiebreaker that clinched the Lawrenceville scrimmage.”

The third senior at singles is Julian Edgren, who will hold down the No. 3 spot.

“Julian has worked really hard on his game,” said Hibbert. “He had a close challenge match with Rob. He will rise to the level of his opponent.”

The first doubles pair of senior Kevin Qiu and freshman Adib Zaidi should give PHS some high-level play.

“Qiu and Zaidi are friendly with each other,” said Hibbert. “Adib has a strong serve and good ground strokes. Kevin has been on doubles the past two years and has experience. The two of them play well together.”

At second doubles, Hibbert has matched up freshmen Tyler Hack and Rishab Tanga, due in part to the chemistry they have already developed.

“Hack and Tanga played a lot together in the preseason and they complement each other,” added Hibbert.

“One guy can tell what they other guy is going to do before he does it; they communicate well. They may not be battle-tested but it is important to be confident in your partner. They seem to work well together; they bring out the best in each other.”

If the PHS players can bring out their best on a consistent basis, the Little Tigers could be championship contenders.

“I would like to see us challenge for county and sectional titles,” said Hibbert, whose team will start play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 16.

“We’ll see how it goes when we get into matches; we have to see what the other teams have. I definitely think the doubles playing well is a key and having everyone contribute. We need three people to step up to every match and it could be different people in different matches.”

After presiding over a rebuilding season last spring in his first year at the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team, Will Asch liked the way the Panthers started the 2012 season.

Facing Notre Dame in its season opener on April 3, the Panthers breezed to a 5-0 win over the Fighting Irish.

Asch is hoping the win will be a harbinger of good things to come as the program looks to bounce back from a 3-6 campaign.

“Everybody played well, everybody was happy,” said Asch. “We have some seniors and quite a few good young players. We don’t have any superstars but we have a very solid team.”

In Asch’s view, sophomore first singles player Neeraj Devulapalli has the potential to develop into a star.

“Neeraj is a very good striker of the ball,” said Asch. “He hits the ball hard and has a good serve. He has played a lot of tennis; has done a lot of USTA Middle States tournaments. He may not be able to beat the best players in the area right now but he can compete with them.”

The Panthers have some good competitors vying for its two other singles spots. “Our No.1 is clearly No. 1 but the three next guys have all beaten each other,” noted Asch, whose team got beaten in its second match, falling 3-2 to Pennington last Thursday.

In the first two matches, Asch used sophomore D.J. Modzelewski at second singles and senior James Sanderson in the third spot.

“D.J. is a very tough competitor; he has worked hard on his game,” said Asch.

“He played No. 3 for us last year so he has experience. He is a very good listener and learner; he is a good student of the game. Sanderson played JV as a freshman and sophomore; he wasn’t on the team last year. He is a very good athlete. He has physical maturity as a senior; he is fast and strong. He doesn’t have the most beautiful strokes but they are effective.”

Battle-tested senior Matt Kilgore figures to see action at singles as well. “Matt is hurt right now; rolled his ankle on a tennis ball,” said Asch.

“He played a lot of tennis when he was younger. He is a very good player who hits the ball hard; he is a really nice player.”

The Panthers boast a nice pair at first doubles in junior Peter Kilbourne and senior Jason Hirsch.

“Peter is our best net player; he has a very good overhead and he is good at volleying,” asserted Asch.

“Jason is a very strong baseliner; he is a lefty and that gives people trouble. They have played together for a year so that is a big help. They understand each other on the court.”

Against Notre Dame and Pennington, PDS had the pair of Kunaal Patade and Adam Straus-Goldfarb at second doubles although Asch said others may get a chance at that slot. “There are a lot of kids close to each other; we’ll see how that plays out,” said Asch.

The Panthers have the right mentality to play some very good tennis this spring, according to Asch.

“I have some kids who really want to work hard,” said Asch, whose team has matches at Hun on April 11 and at Rutgers Prep on April 13 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 16 at Mercer County Park.

“The chemistry of the team is very good; that is the most important factor. The kids are working hard on conditioning.”

BIG BEN: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Ben Schenkman looks to clear the ball in recent action. Senior defenseman and tri-captain Schenkman’s fine play on the back line has helped Hun produce a 2-1 start. In upcoming action, Hun hosts Pennington on April 12 and Voorhees on April 14 before playing at Princeton Day School on April 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Change has been the theme this spring for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team.

Don Green has taken the helm of the program as its new head coach and is guiding a squad that is working in a number of new faces.

“We are young experience-wise and age-wise and there might be bumps along the way,” said Green, the replacement for Tom Kelso, who led the Raiders to a 9-8 record last spring “There is a lot of room for growth; they have a real willingness to learn.”

The Raiders have already shown growth this spring, bouncing back from an opening day 14-2 loss to Chestnut Hill (Pa.) to beat Blair 14-7 on March 31 and then top Academy of New Church (ANC) (Pa.) 12-3 last Thursday.

“We had a good effort at both ends of the field against ANC; the guys are learning how to put together a complete game,” said Green, who was the head coach of the Montgomery High boys’ lax team the last two years.

“The win over Blair gave us confidence that we can win. The guys are starting to play together.”

The team’s senior captains, Mark Burke, Iain Alexandridis and Ben Schenkman, have played a key role in holding the team together.

“They are providing good leadership; they are really supportive of the young guys,” said Green, referring to his trio of senior captains. “You know that the young guys are going to make mistakes and they are there for them.”

Attackman Alexandridis and midfielder Burke have been sharing the playmaker role for the Raiders.

“Iain and Mark handle the ball; they run the offense,” said Green, who got four goals from Burke in the victory over ANC with Alexandridis chipping in four assists. “The younger guys are in catch and shoot mode.”

One of the team’s top young guns is freshman attacker Brendan Black, who had five goals in the win over Blair and then added one in the win over ANC.

“Black is a smaller guy,” said Green. “He’s good off the ball; he knows when to cut and when to go to the net.”

Junior Zach Bicho has been helped to control the ball in the midfield. “Bicho has been really good the last two games,” said Green, noting that freshman Jameson Demarco has also been producing in the midfield.

“He has been dominating face-offs and getting us possession. He has been putting up some points as well.”

On defense, senior star Schenkman is emerging as a dominant force. “Ben just plays hard all the time; he has a great motor,” asserted Green. “He gives us leadership by example; he motivates the other kids to play hard.”

Green points to Cameron Dudeck and Greg Flood as other defensemen who have been influenced by Schenkman.

“Cam Dudeck is a sophomore; he is a future star,” added Green. “Greg Flood, a junior defender, is also very good.”

At goalie, sophomore Matthew Bruno has the potential to be another future star. “Bruno has great promise as a sophomore,” said Green, who is using senior Alex Gunstensen as backup goalie. “His quickness is the main thing; he really gets to the ball.”

Green believes that his players have quickly adapted to his approach. “It has worked out really well; the guys are very optimistic,” said Green, who started the spring as the assistant coach to Steve Bristol before the two swapped positions.

“It is a great group of people; there is a great chemistry. The older guys have gone far beyond what I have seen before in terms of helping the younger guys.”

If the team continues its sharp learning curve, Hun could do some great things this spring.

“By the end of the year, I want to have everybody thinking for themselves and making their own decisions out there,” said Green, whose team hosts Pennington on April 12 and Voorhees on April 14 before playing at Princeton Day School on April 17.

“We have to learn to be more hard-nosed and continue with the good chemistry. I would like to be silent on the sideline because they know exactly what they need to do.”

SHORT STORY: Hun School softball player Julia Blake makes a play last Wednesday in Hun’s 7-3 loss to visiting Blair Academy. Freshman shortstop Blake contributed an RBI single in the loss, which left Hun at 1-2. The Raiders will look to get on the winning track when they host Princeton Day School on April 11 and then play at Lawrenceville on April 13 and Episcopal on April 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The pitchers dominated in the early stages last Thursday as the Hun School softball team hosted Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) rival Blair Academy.

The squads were locked in a scoreless duel through two innings with Hun’s Kristen Manochio producing the only hit in the contest.

In the top of the third, however, the tone of the game changed as Blair broke the ice by scoring three runs. The Raiders answered back with two runs in the bottom of the frame as Joey Crivelli and Julia Blake stroked RBI singles.

The Buccaneers, though, regained the momentum, scoring four runs in the top of the fourth. Hun added a run in the bottom of the fifth but neither team scored after that as Blair hung on for a 7-3 victory.

As Hun head coach Kathy Quirk reflected on the loss, she said the game turned on Blair’s aggressiveness at the plate.

“They did one thing that we didn’t — they hit the ball,” lamented Quirk, whose team dropped to 1-2 with the loss.

“We just didn’t hit the ball. We practice everyday, saying do this and do that. If you can’t transfer it into a game, you are not going to win games.”

Quirk was heartened by how her team battled back with its rally in the bottom of the third.

“I thought we ran well; we capitalized on their errors,” said Quirk. “We played the small game and then we got too far behind to play the small game. It is one step forward and one step back.”

The trio of junior star catcher Carey Million, junior third baseman Crivelli, and freshman shortstop Blake played well in the loss to Blair.

“It is good to have Million back behind the plate,” said Quirk, noting that her talented catcher has been dealing with a hand injury.

“Crivelli gave us a little spark. She bunted the ball and got on base; that is what she does. I was very pleased with Julia Blake defensively. I am expecting more from her offensively; she has been hitting the ball.”

While Hun is likely to hit some bumps in the road this spring, Quirk is expecting the Raiders to develop into a formidable club.

“We will keep working on the offense and hitting and finding the right combination,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on April 11 before playing at Lawrenceville on April 13 and Episcopal on April 16.

“We’ll get better each game. We have only one senior and the rest are young. We are going to take lumps.”

April 4, 2012

CATCHING ON: Princeton High catcher Will Greenberg returns the ball to the pitcher in a game last year. Greenberg is a leader of a large group of battle-tested seniors who are looking to improve on the 5-19 record PHS posted in 2011. The Little Tigers, who started their 2012 campaign by losing 10-0 to Notre Dame last Monday, host Hopewell Valley on April 4 before playing at Hightstown on April 9 and at Princeton Day School on April 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dave Roberts is confident that he is on the same page with his players on the Princeton High baseball team as the squad heads into the 2012 season.

“This is a group that has only known me as the head coach,” said Roberts who is entering his fourth year at the helm of the PHS program.

“They know what I want and what I expect. They are focused. We have time to work on the fine points; we don’t have to worry about basics.”

PHS boasts a large group of battle-tested seniors as it looks to improve on the 5-19 record it posted in 2011.

“It is now or never for the seniors, they have been through it,” said Roberts, whose senior group includes Will Greenberg, Matt Hoffman, Ben Harrison, Nico Mercuro, Alex Mitko, Mike Dunlap, and Mike Manley.

“Four of them, Greenberg, Mercuro, Harrison, Hoffman, have been starters since they were sophomores.”

The PHS mound corps has been through a lot. “We have tons of experience; every single guy has varsity experience,” asserted Roberts, whose team started the season by losing 10-0 to Notre Dame last Monday.

“Alter had two wins and a save last year while Dunlap pitched 30 innings. Harrison had a rough year last year. As a sophomore he won two games; we are expecting a bounce back year from him. Rohit Chawla is outstanding; we could use him as a spot starter or in relief. Ellis Bloom pitched 10-12 innings last year; he comes right in from third base and warms up quickly. He pitches out of the stretch all the time; we like to use him in relief.”

Roberts likes his infield, which features Mercuro at shortstop, junior Matt Farinick at second base, and Harrison at first, in addition to junior Bloom at third.

“They are tight and sharp; they have had a very nice spring,” said Roberts, who also gets sharp play at catcher from Greenberg. “They are a good unit; I think they will be really good.”

The Little Tiger outfield is shaping into a good unit with Mitko on center field flanked by Hoffman in right and Manley in left.

“We have the same guys in center field and right field,” added Roberts. “Manley has stepped up as a senior; he was injured a lot as a junior.”

With run production figuring to be down across the board due to the less-lively BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats now being standard, PHS is looking to take advantage of its speed.

The top of the Little Tiger order is athletic with Bloom at leadoff, Mitko at No. 2, Hoffman in the three hole, Mercuro at cleanup, and Greenberg batting fifth.

“We have the same top five in the batting order as last year; the best thing is that they are our fastest guys and they can all steal bases,” said Roberts.

“We have really been working on our baserunning this spring. We have been working on hit and run, bunting, stealing bases. We are going to have to manufacture runs.”

In Roberts’ view, PHS could manufacture a lot of wins this spring. “I think we have real good potential,” asserted Roberts, whose team hosts Hopewell Valley on April 4 before playing at Hightstown on April 9 and at Princeton Day School on April 10.

“The focus is there; the guys have worked hard. Our success boils down to two things — can we be smart on the bases and can we produce enough runs. We don’t have strikeout pitchers but they throw strikes and I am confident we will play good defense. We have to do the little things on offense.”

Having so many veterans in his lineup gives Roberts the confidence that his team will take care of those little things.

“I think the experience factor will help us,” said Roberts, noting that the Little Tigers fell just short in a number of close games last spring.

“We have been there before in close games and I don’t think we should be tight in those situations this year.”

BEAU KNOWS: Princeton Day School baseball player Beau Horan is serious about having a big senior season. The star shortstop and team tri-captain, a top recruit for the highly-regarded Division III school Williams College (Mass.) and its baseball program, figures to be a key player for PDS as it looks to rebound from a 4-14 season in 2011. The Panthers, now 1-1 this spring after an 11-1 loss to St. Augustine last Saturday, will be hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4, the George School on April 5, South Hunterdon on April 9, and Princeton High on April 10.

Working a bunch of new players into its lineup last spring, the Princeton Day School baseball team went through a transition phase.

After struggling to a 4-14 mark in 2011, the PDS players are primed to show what they learned from the tough spring.

“I think the mood is upbeat and the guys are excited about the season,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien.

The Panthers showed progress on their annual preseason trip to Florida in late March.

“We only had gym time and parking lot time before we went down to Florida because our field here wasn’t ready,” said O’Brien.

“We went 3-3 down there. The last game was official and we won 11-6 over Apollo Ridge High from Spring Church, Pa. I was pleased with the effort and attitude on the trip.”

In O’Brien’s view, the 2012 squad boasts good experience with an infusion of young talent.

“It is a good group of seniors,” said O’Brien, noting that three members of the Class of 2012, Jacob Eisenberg, Beau Horan, and Sean McCoy, are serving as team captains.

“We have four freshmen (Jake Alu, Ross Colton, JP Radvany, and Cole McManimon) who have come in and they are all going to make a contribution.”

PDS has several pitchers who should be able to make valuable contributions this spring as seniors Matt Cook, Tom Keegan, and Jacob Eisenberg together with junior Greg Auerbach and freshmen McManimon and Alu figure to get innings.

“Cook and Eisenberg were steady and gave us a lot of innings last year,” said O’Brien, whose club moved to 1-1 with an 11-1 loss to St. Augustine last Saturday and will be hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4, the George School on April 5, South Hunterdon on April 9, and Princeton High on April 10.

“Greg Auerbach threw the ball well in Florida. I think we have three good arms at the top end of the rotation. Tom Keegan had an injury bug and we are hoping he can come around. We have some freshmen who can eat up some innings for us. Cole McManimon is a tall kid who is throwing well. Alu should also pitch.”

The pitchers will benefit from a strong infield which has been coming together nicely.

“We have Sean McCoy at third base; he is one of the senior captains and he is playing well,” said O’Brien.

“Beau Horan is another senior captain and he is looking very good; he should be one of the best shortstops in the area. He has played pretty much since his freshman year. He has committed to Williams College so it is good that he is settled. Ross Colton is doing a real nice job. He is fielding well and I think he will be able to hit some. We have another freshman, J.P. Radvany, at first base; he was probably our best hitter in Florida. Bradley Freid has one year of catcher under his belt,  we are looking for him to be better.”

PDS hopes to be better across the outfield as well. “We have B.J. Dudeck in center field again, he is playing well,” said O’Brien.

“We are looking at Cook in left field when he is not pitching. Rob Colton surprised us down in Florida; he did a good job. We will also use Alu out there.”

With the implementation of BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats this spring, which have a smaller “sweet spot” with balls coming off them more like wood, the PDS offense will look to manufacture runs.

“We have five proven hitters in Dudeck, McCoy, Horan, Cook, and Freid; we had good offensive numbers last year,” said O’Brien.

“I think the freshmen will make a contribution. We will have to go back to some small ball and scratch some runs across. We don’t have mashers so I think it works well for us.”

O’Brien is confident that things will go well this spring. “I think we have the potential to do well, if the pieces fall into place,” said O’Brien. “We will go as far as our pitching takes us. We are optimistic.”

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton Day School softball pitcher Dina Alter delivers the ball in a game last spring. Sophomore hurler Alter is showing maturity as PDS fights an uphill battle this spring with only nine players on the roster. The Panthers, now 0-2, are next in action when they host South Hunterdon on April 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was the top of the fifth inning last Thursday and the Princeton Day School softball team trailed 13-1 as it hosted Morrisville High (Pa.) in its season opener.

But PDS sophomore pitcher Dina Alter was still firing away, challenging the opposing batters as though she were locked in a nailbiter.

She retired two hitters on groundout and the Panthers got the third out in a rundown to post a shutout frame.

While the Panthers failed to score in the bottom of the inning to end up losing 13-1 under the 10-run mercy rule, first-year had coach Paul Lano came away from the game admiring the pluck of his young hurler.

“I think Dina stood up to the challenge of a good hitting team,” said Lano.

“She showed maturity and she is a 15-year old sophomore. It is nice to have a pitcher that hangs in there like that. I kept checking with her and she said she was fine. When we don’t make plays, the innings last longer than they should have. That can be frustrating for a pitcher but it didn’t faze her.”

The Panthers have hung in there collectively as the team only has nine players on its roster.

“They are happy to have a team,” said Lano. “I told them before the game, this is your team, this is it. We are nine strong and they won’t take no for an answer. We are going to go out and play and take on all comers.”

The Panthers got some good play from sophomore co-captains Jess Toltzis and Tess Zahn in the opening day setback. Catcher Toltzis was a rock behind the plate, throwing out several runners while shortstop Zahn made some sharp plays in the field and contributed a single and the team’s lone run offensively.

“Jessica proved today that she is a great defensive team leader and Zahn gives us a spark,” asserted Lano.

“The team’s leadership is in good hands. Both captains are very vocal and encouraging which is nice.”

The play of sophomore third baseman Mary Kate Flemming was also encouraging; she looked good with the glove and pounded out a double.

“She made a change with her hands at the plate and she belts one deep to centerfield,” said Lano. “The left side of our infield is very strong.”

Lano acknowledges that the Panthers have a strong challenge ahead of them this spring.

“We have a lot of work to do; we need to work on the fundamentals,” said Lano, whose infield also includes senior Lily Halpern at first and freshman Katie Alden at second with the outfield featuring junior Netesa Bland, senior Gabi Phillips, and freshman Sabrina Matlock.

“We have a defensive system and they have an understanding of it. It is different from what they are used to but as they get better at it they will execute better.”

With the pitching battery of Alter and Toltzis, the Panthers have the core in place to get better.

“We have the centerpieces to build the program around, that is the hard part,” said Lano, whose club dropped to 0-2 with a 16-4 loss at Pennington last Monday and is next in action when it hosts South Hunterdon on April 9. “We can add pieces around them.”

STEVIE WONDER: Hun School baseball star Stevie Wells takes a big cut in a game last spring. The powerful junior first baseman should provide plenty of punch in the middle of the batting order for the Raiders as they go for a second straight state Prep A title. Hun, now 0-1 this spring, hosts Blair on April 4, plays at Hopewell Valley on April 5, and then hosts Germantown Academy (Pa.) on April 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Hun School baseball team saved its best for last.

Going through a 2-3 stretch in the middle of the season, the Raiders caught fire and rode that late surge to a state Prep A title.

“Last year we came out of nowhere; the kids played extremely well at the end,” said longtime Hun head coach Bill McQuade, whose team ended the spring with a 12-7 record.

“We did everything we needed to do. We caught the ball; we got good pitching and timely hitting.”

McQuade is confident that his squad can pick up where it left off last year. “Overall, I think we are a little better than we were at this point last year,” said McQuade, who is entering his 42nd year at the helm of the program. “Most kids are back and they are older and stronger.”

The Raiders certainly have some good kids at key defensive positions. “You always want to be strong up the middle,” said McQuade, whose team started its 2012 season with a 9-7 loss to Lawrenceville last Wednesday.

“We have Gavin Stupienski at catcher. We needed to replace Chris Leach and he has turned out to be very good there. We have Eddie Paparealla at shortstop. He played third base a little bit last year. He had a great summer and he has to come through. He has spectacular plays some games and then makes errors in others. He works his tail off. In center field, we have David Dudeck; he is such a competitor. He is fast and he has a good arm.”

In McQuade’s view, Dudeck’s work ethic sets a tone for the team. “Dave is workout-aholic; he is in here at 6 in the morning lifting weights,” said McQuade of Dudeck who is heading to Boston College this fall where he will be playing for the Eagles’ football program.

“We were leaving for our Florida trip on March 12 and I told the guys to report at 6 a.m. I get there at 5:30 and I see a bucket holding open the gym door. I go in there and he is hitting with his dad in the batting cage.”

McQuade is expecting some good work on the mound from star pitchers, junior Austin Goeke and senior Alex Fabian.

“Goeke has to be the ace; he is throwing harder than last year and has a better curve ball and is working on a change-up,” said McQuade.

“He really wants to be a pitcher. Fabian has come on too; he is still working on his control. He has been working out and his fastball is much stronger; his curveball is better. I love his attitude.”

Hun should have better depth at pitching this year with junior Mike Manfredi, freshman Jason Applegate, junior Christian Galkowski, senior Thom Browne, senior John Campbell, and junior Stevie Wells all having the chance to see action on the mound

“Mike Manfredi is going to get some innings; he pitched for us last year and helped at designated hitter and third base,” added McQuade.

“Jason Applegate is a freshman and he is going to be a player. He can pitch and will be competing for right field job. Christian Galkowski is a lefty junior transfer from Notre Dame; he wears big glasses and looks like the “Wild Thing” character from the Major League movie. He is an easygoing kid who gets people out. We have other kids who can throw strikes, Thomas Browne, John Campbell, and Stevie Wells can give us an inning here or there. We have six kids we can rely on.”

The Raiders have a solid infield upon which it can rely. “I have Stevie at first base; he can crush the ball and he is much better defensively,” said McQuade.

“He is a great kid; I can’t say enough about what kind of a person he is. I have Bailey Hammer at second. I told him to follow Dave Dudeck around. He starts going to the gym at 6 to lift weights and I see a difference in him in one week and how he is carrying himself. Brandon Smith is at third and has looked unbelievable in preseason. He has done everything we have asked of him. He is looking really good in the field and at the plate.”

In the outfield, Hun has some good players flanking centerfielder Dudeck, “Devan Birch in left field has tremendous speed,” said McQuade.

“He may even get a better jump on the ball than Dave. The two of them could cover the outfield on their own. Brett Forman and Campbell are also in the mix in right field.”

On offense, that team speed will come in handy as the Raiders figure to be playing more small ball this spring.

“With the BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats, the ball doesn’t jump off the bats,” noted McQuade. “It is going to be like playing with wood bats, you can hear the difference. We will need to manufacture runs. We are focusing on baserunning and bunting runners along.”

While McQuade knows it will be tough to repeat as Prep A champions, he believes his squad has the pieces in place to produce another big spring.

“If it all comes together defensively, we could be very good,” said McQuade, whose club hosts Blair on April 4, plays at Hopewell Valley on April 5, and then hosts Germantown Academy (Pa.) on April 10.

“The pitching has to hold up; we need to be strong up the middle.  At the plate, we have to hit line drives and find gaps.”

WELL PLAYED: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse star ­­Ani ­Hallowell heads up the field in action last season. Senior attacker Hallowell figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart team opens its 2012 campaign by playing at Rutgers Prep on April 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman at Notre Dame High in 2002, Caitlin Grant decided to give lacrosse a try.

Grant took to the game and went on to have a fine career for the Fighting Irish. She then played two years at The College of New Jersey.

After injuries ended her college playing career, Grant got involved in another phase of the game, becoming an assistant coach for the Notre Dame girls’ program while she was still a student at TCNJ.

“My freshman year at Notre Dame was the first year I touched the stick,” said Grant.

“I was lucky to have great coaches along the way, I have been taking in everything I have been taught.”

Now, Grant is applying those lessons as she takes the helm of the Stuart Country Day lacrosse program, ushering in a youth movement for a program in transition.

“We are a very young team,” said Grant, a 2010 TCNJ alum who is replacing Sara Wagner.

“We had our first scrimmage last week and we only had 12 girls. We were starting a lot of freshmen who have never played before.”

With so many lax neophytes, Grant is focusing on the basics. “It goes back to the basics, throwing and catching the ball,” said Grant, whose team opens its 2012 campaign by playing at Rutgers Prep on April 4.

“You don’t need fancy plays. You can have a simple offense, you need to do the core things right.”

The Tartans do have a core of veterans in the Hallowell sisters, senior Ani and sophomore Amy, together with senior Cat Reilly and junior Isabel Soto who have been stepping up.

“The few upperclassmen that we have are very good leaders, they keep the intensity up,” said Grant. “The kids are so coachable; they are sponges. We are learning from each other.”

Grant will be looking for the Hallowell sisters to trigger the offense with juniors Alaina Ungarini and Nicole Andrzejcyk helping out on attack.

The defensive wings will be Reilly and Soto with sophomore Meghan Shannon and a pair of freshmen, Isabel Lapuerta and Vidhi Raturi, playing low defense. Freshman Harlyn Bell is the starting goalie.

Even though Stuart is coming off a 2-10 season, Grant believes the Tartans can be competitive this spring.

“These girls have so much potential, they are picking things up fast,” asserted Grant.

“I am proud of their progress so far. There are a lot of good teams in the areas; everyone is so competitive. I think we can hang with those teams as long as we believe in ourselves.”

Grant believes the team’s success will come down to intensity and execution.

“The keys will be never giving up and being comfortable with ball on the stick,” said Grant.

“Communication on defense is huge. Talking really makes a difference, it keeps you on your toes and it disrupts the offense.

As Grant steps into the head coaching role, she is hoping to make a difference.

“I feel so lucky to have this position, I want us to come out with a bang,” said Grant.

“I want to build a strong program; I want us to be good so people will want to come and play here.”

March 28, 2012

DAY BREAK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Zach Halliday breaks into the open last week in a preseason scrimmage. Junior midfielder Halliday figures to be a key offensive force for the Little Tigers this spring. PHS opens the 2012 season by playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Peter Stanton, coaching the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team this spring is giving him plenty of teaching moments.

Losing a core of 10 players to graduation who led PHS to a 15-5-1 record in 2011 and an appearance in the Group III state quarterfinals, the Little Tigers are going with a bevy of untested performers.

“There is a genuine humility with this group of boys,” said Stanton, who is entering his 17th season at the helm of the PHS program.

“They know that they don’t know everything; they know they have a lot to learn.”

PHS will be expecting a lot from senior attackman Coleman Preziosi, who has learned to diversify his game.

“Coleman was a player for us last year who could shoot lefthanded,” said Stanton, whose team opens the 2012 season by playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31.

“He was the recipient of some great passes and he was a reliable finisher. This year, he can create a lot more. He has improved his dodging; he is a more complete player.”

Stanton believes he will see improved play from the rest of his attack unit which will include senior Nick Sandford, sophomore Matt Purdy, and junior Matt Olentine.

“Nick [Sandford] and Matt [Purdy] are doing a pretty nice job; they are sound players,” said Stanton. “Matt Olentine will get opportunities. We will mix and match.”

In the midfield, few can match the all-around contribution of senior star Kirby Peck.

“Kirby does a pretty good job on face-offs and he can defend,” said Stanton.

“He can create opportunities in transition and he is a good shooter. He is also giving us more leadership.”

The Little Tigers are also depending on senior Alex Rifkin and junior Zach Halliday to lead the way in the midfield.

“Alex Rifkin scored some crucial goals for us last year; he is a very good dodger,” said Stanton, who will also be using Pat McCormick, Matt Corrado, and Tyler Nkati in the midfield.

“He has improved his defending; he is better at riding and clearing. He is a more complete player. Zach has been the dirty work player for us in the past; he will be contributing more on offense this year.”

The PHS defense is a work in progress with the graduation of such stars as Dean DiTosto, Robby Dowers, Jack Miller, and Michael Irving.

“Jack Persico is doing a good job,” added Stanton. “Jackson Andres will also be involved. We have Jonah Glasgold, Anthony Tang, and Matt DiTosto back there.”

Stanton likes what he is seeing from senior goalie Elliot Wilson as he takes over for Griffin Peck.

“Elliot was really good in our scrimmage against Bergen Catholic,” said Stanton. “He has really good hand speed. He is also very fast, he can come out and get loose balls.”

If PHS is to maintain its winning ways, its young players will have to be fast learners.

“We have been pretty pleased with how we have done in scrimmages; we have competed favorably against some pretty good teams,” said Stanton.

“We don’t really know what this team’s potential is; it is a wait-and-see approach. The work rate is good; there is a steep learning curve. The boys are excited to learn the game together. We have to overcome experience; you do that with effort.”

MID-RANGE GAME: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Mia Haughton heads up the field last season. The Amherst College-bound senior midfielder figures to be an offensive catalyst for PHS this spring as it looks to build on a stirring 2011 season that saw the Little Tigers win the Mercer County Tournament on the way to an 11-5 final record. PHS is slated to start the 2012 season by hosting Montgomery High on March 27 and then playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last year, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team authored a profile in courage.

In late April, the PHS players were devastated when senior midfielder Emma Brunskill passed away.

Playing through their grief and forging a deep bond in the process, the Little Tigers produced a stirring run, winning the Mercer County Tournament for the first time and advancing to the second round of the state tournament.

Last year’s tragedy and triumph has influenced the squad as it gets ready to start the 2012 campaign.

“I think the girls realize how important it is to bond on and off the field,” said PHS head coach Christie Cooper, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the program and guided the Little Tigers to an 11-5 record last spring.

“They realize that off-the-field relationships can impact their play on the field. After last year, they realize that there are a lot more important things than lacrosse and that the sport is a fun thing to do so they should just enjoy it.”

Cooper believes that the PHS midfield trio of Amherst College-bound senior Mia Haughton, together with sophomore standouts Emilia Lopez-Ona and Elizabeth Jacobs will be fun to watch this spring.

“Haughton and Lopez-Ona; they have the ability to pass to each other,” said Cooper, whose team was slated to start the season by hosting Montgomery High on March 27 and then playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31.

“They read each other without a sound; they can just look at each other. Lopez-Ona can catch anything and Haughton makes great feeds. Jacobs is stepping up; she plays without thinking. She just plays the game and uses her brute force.”

Another senior, William Smith-bound Chiara Favalaro, will be the driving force of the attack unit that will also feature junior Vivien Bazarko and sophomore Olivia Kelley.

“Kelley and Bazarko are new so Favalaro will be the leader; she is helping them make the transition,” said Cooper.

The Little Tiger defense is being led by a third battle-tested senior, Katie Reilly, who will be joining Haughton at Amherst.

“Reilly is a tremendous leader; she always gives constructive talk,” said Cooper. “She leads by example.”

Reilly has a good group to lead as the PHS backline will also include sophomore Dana Smith, junior Clara Celestin, sophomore Kristi Demilt, and junior Madison Luther.

“Dana is a wonderful athlete and we are happy to have Celestin back there,” said Cooper.

“Luther is in just her second year playing the game but has really picked things up.”

Freshman Mira Shane has been picking things up quickly at goalie as she takes over for graduated star Devin Chambers.

“Mira has been a great surprise,” asserted Cooper. “Goalie was a big question mark; it is one position where we really needed a replacement. She talks on the field and she gets along with everyone. She doesn’t act like a freshman. She’s getting outside training. I was nervous before but I am not now.”

As Cooper looks ahead to the season, she knows there are going to be some nerve-wracking moments.

“We have lots of potential but our side of the CVC is very strong,” said Cooper.

“The teams are evenly matched; there are no easy games. You have to play the best to get better. It could be tough for seeding in the tournaments but we are better for it and it will help in the postseason.”

But after last year, PHS has a better perspective on what it takes to get through tough times.

“It is a new season and a new team but the bond from the girls last year has carried on with this group,” said Cooper.

HANDS-ON TEACHING: Jason Barry, left, helps student Evan McGrain, a member of Rider University golf program, with his putting form. Barry, a 2006 Princeton High alum and former Little Tiger golf star, has made the sport his career. He works full-time for Mercer County Golf Academy where he is now the Director of Junior Golf. In addition, he has obtained Level 1 certification from the PGA teaching professional program and is working on getting Class A status.

During his days as a star player a few years back for the Princeton High boys’ golf team, Jason Barry realized that he had a knack for teaching the game.

“If one of my teammates was struggling with something, I could watch him and help him out,” said Barry, a 2006 PHS alum who helped the Little Tigers win two Mercer County Tournament team titles during his high school career.

Shortly after graduating from PHS, Barry decided to make teaching golf his career.

“I played for a season at Bucks County Community College and I realized I was starting to like teaching more than playing,” recalled Barry.

“I had started working at the Pennington Golf Center after high school, running junior camps. I really enjoyed teaching and watching kids get better.”

In 2008, Barry started working full-time at the Mercer County Golf Academy where he is now the Director of Junior Golf.

Now, he is immersed in running junior programs and camps as he passes on his love of the game and hones his skills as a teacher. The academy offers a Futurestars Golf for players ages 6-12 and Tournament Training for players 13 and older. In addition, there are week-long camps during from April 2-6 and April 9-13 and throughout the summer.

The academy staff also includes Director of Golf Bob Corbo, together with teaching professionals Pete Palmisano, Mike Michaelides, Chris Miyahara, and Shareen Lai.

“The pre-tournament program introduces the game to kids, stressing fundamentals like the grip and set-up,” explained Barry, noting the ongoing programs take place at the Princeton Country Club (PCC) on Wheeler Way, which includes a state-of the-art indoor facility.

“We teach the basics of the game. The tournament program is for kids who have been playing for a while and have played in tournaments or looking to start in tournaments. We cover situations they can encounter in competition. It is the road to the college game. We have Division I coaches on staff and we can get the kids in front of college coaches.”

The week-long camps provide more in-depth training and game analysis.

“We have them play 18 holes in the morning; we do critiques at lunch and then do drills in the afternoon,” added Barry, referring to the camps which take place at PCC, Mountain View, and the Mercer Oaks courses.

“The mental stuff is really huge, we teach them to commit to a target and stick to routine so you don’t talk yourself into a bad shot. I put them in the woods, I put them in a bunker so they won’t fall apart if they run into those things.”

Barry developed an early commitment to golf. “I started playing when I was 7; my uncle taught me the game,” recalled Barry, who took up the game in Northern California and came east when he was in fifth grade.

“When I was 8 years old, my mom would drop me off at the course in the summer and I would stay from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. It was hard to pull me away. I was absolutely addicted to the game; I was just fascinated with it.”

During his PHS career, Barry found a group of fellow golf addicts. “It was awesome; we had 10 or 11 guys who could break 40,” said Barry, whose Little Tiger teammates included Jordan Gibbs, Mike DiMeglio, Peter Teifer, Kyle Rasavage, and Greg Heisen, a group that helped PHS go 56-2 in dual match play over Barry’s final three seasons with the program.

“It was great to have that much talent at the same time. We had a lot of fun. We were good friends; we hung out on the weekends and competed against each other.”

Making golf a career has certainly been fun for Barry. “I want to do this the rest of my life; I want to go on the PGA tour and be one of the best teachers out there,” asserted Barry, who has obtained Level 1 certification from the PGA teaching professional program and is working on getting Class A status.

“I like teaching kids with a good work ethic and will to succeed and then seeing the results. Butch Harmon is my idol; he talks a lot about keeping it simple. I try to soak up things from the big names.”

FIRING RANGE: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse star Cody Triolo fires the ball in a game last spring. Junior midfielder Triolo, a second-team All Prep B performer in 2011, should be a key weapon for the Panthers this spring. PDS starts the 2012 season by hosting the Academy of New Church on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last spring, Rob Tuckman aimed to get his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team back on the map.

The Panthers achieved that goal, going 10-5 and advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and the state Prep B semis.

As the PDS head coach looks ahead to the 2012 campaign, he is looking for his squad to take another step up the ladder in local lax circles.

“We are setting our goals pretty high; there are a lot of solid programs in the area and I know they are doing the same thing,” said Tuckman, whose team opens the 2012 season by hosting the Academy of New Church on March 29.

“It just depends on who steps up on the day of important games. I think we can exceed our record last year, we are looking to make a mark.”

The Panthers have some marksmen at attack in seniors Garret Jensen and Tyler Olsson together with junior Bump Lisk and freshmen Jacob Shavel and Chris Azzarello.

“Garret is going to run the attack; Olsson is popping in and out,” said Tuckman.

“Bump just got out of hockey; I expect him to be a real factor by April. Jacob is the younger brother of Aaron Shavel (a senior star on the 2011 squad); he’s looking good. Like a lot of younger siblings of good players, he has taken some lumps but really knows the game. I think he could match or exceed what Aaron did for us. Chris is a great finisher. We are young on attack but we are playing at a high level.”

Junior star Cody Triolo provides PDS some high-level play in the midfield.

“Cody has all the shots; he is a game changer,” said Tuckman, noting that Triolo has recovered well from a collarbone injury he suffered while playing for the PDS hockey team this winter.

“He just signed with Lehigh so he is really excited about that. Having a player committed to a D-I program really ups the ante for everyone.”

Tuckman is excited about the rest of his midfield that includes junior Taran and a pair of sophomore standouts in Connor Bitterman and Lewis Blackburn.

“Taran Auslander is a real surprise; he has upped his game,” added Tuckman.

“He is one of our strongest players; he controls the pace for us in the midfield. Bitterman and Blackburn have a year under their belts; they are playing with more confidence and with more muscle on their bones.”

In Tuckman’s view, PDS’s defensive unit should provide some muscle this spring.

“I think defense is probably the strongest part of our team right now,” asserted Tuckman.

“Our senior captain Zack Higgins is a tenacious player for us back there. Derek Bell is a transfer from Hopewell Valley and he is very good. Walker Ward has really stepped up as a senior. He has great knowledge of the game and what we are trying to do.”

At goalie, the Panthers will be going with a tandem of freshman Griffin Thompson and sophomore Nelson Garrymore who have shown knowledge of the game beyond their years.

“Griffin is a really good shot blocker; he makes outstanding saves,” said Tuckman.

“He has been around the game a long time and he understands where players should be. He is a good distributor. He doesn’t act like a freshman, he is a good communicator and good leader on the field. Nelson is right there with him. He is a bigger kid and has a year under his belt. He is also a very good shot blocker.”

In Tuckman’s view, if the Panthers play smart, they could have a very good spring.

“We go at a fast pace; we have to make good decisions,” said Tuckman. “If we play with discipline and play hard, we should be successful.”

RUNNING START: Hun School softball star Joey Crivelli runs to first base in action last spring. Junior infielder Crivelli figures to be a key player for the Raiders this spring as they look to improve on the 10-6 record they posted last season. Hun opens its 2012 season by playing at rival Peddie on March 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, the Hun School softball team looks to be a battle-tested unit, losing only two seniors to graduation from a club that went 10-6 last spring.

But those two graduates left a huge void as one, Meghan Hayes, was the team’s workhorse ace pitcher and the other, first baseman MacKenzie Pyne, emerged as a clutch hitter and superb leader for the Raiders.

“We have a lot of returning players but we are still young,” said longtime head coach Kathy Quirk, who is in her 36th season at the helm of the program and guided the Raiders to the state Prep A semifinals last spring.

The team’s youth is most evident in its mound corps as junior Danielle Beal and freshman Caitlin Hoagland will be handling the pitching duties.

“It will be a rotation; it may even be an in-game rotation where one goes three innings and the other goes the last three or four,” said Quirk, whose team starts the 2012 season by playing at rival Peddie on March 28.

“Neither throws super-fast. They need to throw strikes and get the ball into play and let the defense do its work behind them.”

The Raiders boast a solid defense with junior Joey Crivelli at third base, freshman Julia Blake at shortstop, senior Stefanie Fox at second, and sophomore Cameron McNair at first along with Beal and Hoagland. Junior star Carey Million will be the starting catcher with freshman Vicky Leach backing her up.

The outfield will be the same as last year with sophomore Alexa Fares in left field, sophomore Kristen Manochio in center, and senior Emily Kuchar in right, with junior Christina Kilgariff as the top reserve.

Quirk believes her team can produce some offensive firepower. “I think we can score runs,” said Quirk.

“Beal is hitting the ball well; Blake is also hitting well. We will have Million in the middle of the lineup. Crivelli is quick on the bases. McNair has had some big hits in scrimmages.”

In Quirk’s view, her team could do some big things this spring if it grows up fast.

“We are young and lacking some varsity experience,” said Quirk. “I think we can hold our own. We need to be confident in ourselves. We need to throw strikes and play good defense.”