July 3, 2012

SHORTER ROUTE: Eric Shorter, right, goes after the ball against D’Andre Davis of Florence last Thursday in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game at The College of New Jersey. The recently graduated Princeton High star made one catch for six yards for the West squad as it topped the East 16-6 to snap a four-game losing streak in the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eric Shorter only made one catch for six yards but he was all smiles after the 16th Annual Sunshine Football Classic all-star game last Thursday evening.

For recently graduated Princeton High star receiver Shorter, helping the West squad to 16-6 victory was his main focus.

“It was great; the West side hasn’t won in five years so I feel like it is a little start for them next year,” said Shorter, who celebrated the win afterward with family and friends on a corner of the field at The College of New Jersey.

“The quarterbacks wanted to spread the ball out as much as possible which is fine. As long as we got the win, that was good for me.”

As the team went through practice over the last week, Shorter could sense that the players were coming together.

“There was a lot of friendship going around,” said Shorter, who made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall for PHS and is headed to Monmouth University where he will be joining the football program.

“There was a lot of picking each other up. Even though we don’t know each other that much, it was kind of a bonding session.”

Shorter got to deepen his bonds with PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko, who also played on the West squad.

“That was special; we are going our separate ways after high school so it was good to play with each other,” said Shorter of the Penn-bound Barsamian and the Hamilton College-bound Mitko.

Barsamian. for his part, was glad to take the field one more time with Shorter and Mitko.

“That was a lot of fun; I didn’t expect to ever play with them again,” said Barsamian.

“It was a nice surprise when I found out I would be playing in this game and be able to play with them again,”

Barsamian liked playing with West quarterback Ray Mastroianni of Bridgewater-Raritan, who rushed for 70 yards and passed for 88 in getting named the game’s Most Valuable Player on an evening which saw the West build a 16-0 lead and outgain the East 383 yards to 162.

“He was a playmaker,” said Barsamian of Mastroianni. “I was trying to hold the blocks as long as I could and he was just zipping by all the way down the field.”

Like Shorter, Barsamian could sense that the West team was hungry coming into the contest, having not won since a 14-6 triumph in the 2007 game.

“The coaches were bringing up that the West hasn’t won in five years so I think that was on everyone’s mind,” said Barsamian.

“Everyone stepped it up, trying to get that ‘W.’ Coach Smith [WW/P-S head coach Todd Smith] is a funny guy. He really brought the team together. He had a lot of fun with us the past week.”

As Shorter heads to Monmouth in early August to start his college career, he is looking forward to a fun experience.

“The coaching staff was very nice; I met Miles Austin [former Monmouth standout and current Dallas Cowboys starting receiver] which was a big thing,” said Shorter. “I am going to be a wide receiver; they would like me to start freshman year.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite, right, heads up the court last Wednesday in Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League play at Community Park. Edwards scored a game-high 16 points to help Winberie’s top University Radiology 58-46. It was a sweet win for Winberie’s as the squad improved to 5-0 this season and got a measure of revenge against a University Radiology team that edged it in the league’s 2011 championship series.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

It looked like the Princeton Little League 10-year-old all stars may have been in over their heads last week when they started play in the District 12 tournament.

Princeton started the double-elimination tourney by losing 7-0 to Sunnybrae on June 23 and trailed West Windsor 3-0 midway through an elimination game a day later.

But the Princeton players kept their heads and rallied for a 5-4 victory to stay alive in the competition.

Building on that success, Princeton topped HTRBA 12-1 and Lawrence 14-12 to make it the final six of the competition. Princeton’s run ended on Saturday when it fell 10-2 to Robbinsville in a game that was scoreless through four innings.

In reflecting on his team’s superb District 12 performance, manager Jon Durbin saw the rally against West Windsor as pivotal.

“I think the big turning point and why this turned into a good run was last Sunday when we played West Windsor, which is one of the powerhouses in District 12  baseball,” said Durbin.

“We were down 3-0 going into the bottom of third and we came out and scored three runs in the  bottom of the third including this acrobatic steal of home and that kind of ignited our whole team and turned everything around. We got off to a slow start against Sunnybrae and then we had five runs against West Windsor. Then we came back with 12 against HTRBA on Monday and then 14 on Wednesday against Lawrence.”

In addition to batting prowess, Princeton showed some guts. “Last year when this team would get behind, their heads would go down and they didn’t show a lot of resiliency,” said Durbin.

“One of the things I liked in this tournament is that we were down 3-0 to West Windsor and came back to knock them out. We were up 5-0 against Lawrence and let them go up 8-5. In the very next inning, we came out and scored nine runs to go up 14-8. You have to have that kind of resiliency if you really want to be a championship team in the long haul.”

The team’s fighting spirit was the product, in part, of an increased commitment to the game.

“The other big thing that happened this past year is that a lot of the families put their kids into 1-on-1 pro coach training,” added Durbin. “To be honest, that just elevated our players dramatically.”

That training paid dividends this summer. “I think the top part of our lineup, Nick Trenholm, Jackson Rho, Nick Mindish, my son Teddy, and Ben Kioko, all stepped up,” said Durbin.

“If you look at those stats, I think those five guys had 80 percent of our hits through last night’s game. Last year, even those guys were really struggling against good pitching like this. They are bigger and stronger one year later but it is the individual pro coach training that they all did in the past 12 months that just made a huge difference.”

In his post-game address to the players last Saturday as they sat in left field, Durbin emphasized their strong play.

“I think the big message was that this was a huge run for us,” said Durbin, noting that his squad battled Robbinsville to a 0-0 standstill through four innings and that a couple of bad breaks changed the tone of the contest.

“Until about three years ago, Princeton Little League was a doormat. We made it to the Final 6 so this is a great run. You can’t focus on the fact that we lost the last game. You’ve got to think about how well we did in the whole tournament. We can’t sit here and hold our heads down again; I think that is part of the resiliency message.”

The players are not going to sit pat when it comes to sharpening their game.

“We are going to keep working hard at it,” said Durbin. “Now we are enjoying some success. Whereas last year was rough, we have made that jump.”

—Bill Alden

Chris Edwards and the Winberie’s/Miller Lite team ended their 2011 campaign in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League on a sour note.

After going undefeated in the regular season and two rounds of the playoffs to make it 11 straight wins, Winberie’s reached the best-of-three championship series where the club fell 2-1 to upstart University Radiology.

Edwards and his teammates had the 36-34 loss in the series finale on their minds when the teams met last Wednesday on the Community Park courts in a regular season rematch.

“It was a big game tonight; we were trying to get some revenge,” said Edwards, reflecting on the matchup which saw Winberie’s come into the evening at 4-0, the only undefeated team and in the league, with University Radiology at 3-1.

“But it is only a regular season game so we are trying to get the kinks worked out. We want to get ready for the final run of the regular season and get hot going into the playoffs.”

Edwards helped Winberie’s get off to a hot start Wednesday night, scoring 10 points in the first half as the team built a 29-22 lead at intermission.

“We knew they didn’t have an inside threat,” said Edwards, a power forward who dominated things around the basket. “Plus we have a lot of big bodies so we have got to start using that to our advantage and try to get the chemistry right now.”

In the second half, Winberie’s showed its chemistry and toughness as it dealt with a University Radiology rally which saw the lead get cut to 46-41 with just under five minutes remaining in the second half. Winberie’s outscored its foes 12-5 down the stretch to pull away to a sweet 58-46 win.

In Edwards’ view, the victory and the team’s undefeated record so far this summer is the product of some hard-earned savvy.

“I would say that we are one of the older teams now,” said Edwards, who ended the evening with a game-high 16 points with fellow Winberie’s inside threat Evan Johnson chipping in 15.

“We have been around a while. We have the same core pieces; we are just trying to add those extra little pieces to get over the hump.”

A key piece for Winberie’s is sharpshooting guard Chris Hatchell, who rejoined the team last summer and then started the 2012 season with Ivy Inn before coming back to the fold.

“That was huge,” said Edwards, referring to Hatchell’s in-season return to the squad.

“That was a missing piece for us last year so we had to have him this season.”

Winberie’s is confident that it can end this season on a high note. “Moving the ball and sharing the ball is key; I would say this is the first time where we moved the ball like we were doing last year,” asserted Edwards.

“We know that we have a lot of threats; we need to be taking it inside and outside. No team in the league has enough guys to guard all the offensive threats we have. It is just getting into that flow.”

June 27, 2012

MIDDLE OF THE ACTION: Hannah Epstein, left, eludes two foes in action this spring in her senior season on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team. Epstein, a former basketball and lacrosse standout for the Princeton Day School, ended her Middlebury career with a bang as she helped the Panthers advance to the NCAA Division III Final 4.
(Photo Courtesy of Middlebury College Athletic Communications)

It was a message that Hannah Epstein and her teammates on the Middlebury College women’s lacrosse team saw everyday this spring.

“We sat at the captains’ house before the season and we all wrote down individual and team goals,” recalled Epstein, a former Princeton Day School basketball and lacrosse standout.

“We all had NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) and NCAA champions on our lists. We all really wanted that. We had a piece of paper up in our locker room with the goals.”

While Middlebury just missed achieving those goals, taking second in the NESCAC tourney and falling in the NCAA Division III semis, Epstein won’t soon forget her senior campaign.

“It was heartbreaking to lose in the Final 4,” said Epstein. “But our coach said it is not so sad that we didn’t win a national championship, it is sad that it was over and we wouldn’t have another day together. It was such an incredible group. The chemistry this year was unbelievable; we were truly best friends on and off the field. I really enjoyed going to practice. We were all on the same page, there were no cliques whatsoever.”

For Epstein, her experience this spring culminated a lacrosse journey that would have seemed unlikely when she entered PDS seeing basketball as her main sport. The sharpshooting Epstein was a four-year starter at guard for the Panther girls’ hoops program but eventually got the message that her sporting future lay in lacrosse.

“My mom was recording one of my basketball games to send to a coach and Jill Thomas (PDS lacrosse coach) said what are you doing,” recalled Epstein.

“My mom said she was making a tape for college coaches and Jill said she’s not playing basketball in college, she is playing lacrosse. That stuck with me.”

As a result, Epstein became more serious about her lacrosse. “I had been playing both basketball and lacrosse in the summer,” said Epstein. “In the summer after my junior year, I joined a club lacrosse team and played in summer tournaments.”

When it came to joining a college lax program, Epstein found a good fit in Middlebury.

“It was really a no-brainer,” said Epstein. “From the moment I drove on the campus at Middlebury, I found it aesthetically pleasing. I fell in love with the school. I met with the coach [Missy Foote] and she was fantastic. It is great academically and it is one of the top Division III programs.”

In reflecting on her freshman year, Epstein said she had to adjust to the Middlebury program’s rigorous fitness standards.

“It was the conditioning,” said Epstein. “We have a conditioning test in the fall. There is also one at the start of the spring season in February. We have other tests along the way. There is distance running. There is a timed two-mile run and a track component.”

After riding the bench as a back-up midfielder during her freshman campaign, Epstein’s college career got on track when she switched to defense the next spring.

“I was not playing a huge amount freshman year,” said Epstein. “I made a solid switch to defense in my sophomore year. It was a natural progression for me. I loved playing defense at this level. I could use my sprint speed and then take a break. I also could use the basketball footwork when you get low and slide. The big difference from high school is you have to make contact with the player and learn to do that effectively.”

In her junior season, Epstein and the Panthers started to develop the spirit that sparked their success this spring.

“We have outstanding players every year; we just became a more cohesive unit that year,” asserted Epstein reflecting on a 2011 campaign which saw Middlebury go 11-6 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Coming into this spring, there was a lot of optimism around the squad. “We had so much talent; we had big expectations coming into the season,” said Epstein.

“The two captains were also on the field hockey team and they went to the national championship game in the fall. They were saying we really could do it. It was very obvious from the first game that we had a special team.”

Epstein’s love of basketball, though, resulted in her missing some game action once the spring rolled around.

“I played intramural basketball all four years and I got a very bad high ankle sprain in the first week of January,” said Epstein.

“I was out for two months, I was doing rehab for the first half of the season. I stepped on the field for our second game of the season against Skidmore. I played 10 minutes to see how it felt but it wasn’t right. I didn’t come back until the Colby game.”

Epstein made up for lost time, starting nine games down the stretch and getting credit for 20 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. Her defensive work helped Middlebury defeat Tufts and Amherst in the NESCAC tournament before falling 11-10 to eventual national champion Trinity in the conference title game.

Rebounding from that loss, the Panthers went on a superb NCAA run which saw them top Norwich, Montclair State, and 2011 national champion Gettysburg on the way to the national semis.

For Epstein, the 15-9 triumph against Gettysburg in the regional final left an indelible memory.

“The win over Gettysburg was one of the greatest games,” said Epstein. “We were excited to play Gettysburg and it was a really good game. It was closer than the score indicated; they pulled their goalie near the end and we got some possessions and empty net goals.”

Earning the Final 4 spot marked the culmination of a long process for Epstein.

“It was so special,” said Epstein. “It sounds cheesy but it was a dream come true. This is what you have been working for since fourth grade when you watch the NCAAs and see teams win.”

Although the Panthers fell 15-7 to Salisbury University in the national semis, the sting of the defeat pales in comparison to the bonds shared by Epstein and her teammates this spring.

“There are some teams where the mindset is more aligned than others,” said Epstein. “It means that much more to have it happen as a senior.”

Being part of such a group effort left Epstein with lessons that she will carry into life after college.

“Sports teaches you to work for a goal greater than your own interest,” added Epstein, a film major who aspires to someday be a cinematographer.

“The coach worked us as hard as possible. I did workouts I never thought I could handle. It helps you in other areas of life like being able to stay up late and work on a paper.”

GOOD RUN: Alex Mitko takes off on a quarterback scramble in action for the Princeton High football team. On Thursday, the recently graduated Mitko will be playing for the West team for the Sunshine Classic All-Star football game at The College of New Jersey. This fall, Mitko will be heading to Hamilton College where he will be joining the school’s football program.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After enduring a 0-10 season in his junior year on the Princeton High football team in 2010, Alex Mitko was looking forward to the season opener at Northern Burlington last fall.

“We had a lot of players working in the offseason,” said quarterback/defensive back Mitko. “We wanted to get back on the field and try again.”

The Little Tigers came through with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington to snap an 11-game losing streak but Mitko’s joy over the win was tempered when x-rays showed that he had broken his thumb in the contest.

While it looked like Mitko might not see the field much in his senior season, he was fitted with a cast and was ready for action by game three.

“When I found out I could play with the cast, I went to the coach [Joe Gargione] and said play me wherever you want, I will play my heart out,” recalled Mitko. “He asked if I could hold the ball in my left hand. I tried it out and I could.”

Gargione inserted the 5’11, 165-pound Mitko at running back and he starred, grinding out yardage, highlighted by rushing for more than 90 yards in a 26-7 win over WW/P-N. “I went full speed,” said Mitko. “I didn’t have any jukes; it was fun.”

Mitko returned to quarterback in late October and helped engineer a 26-0 win over Ewing.

“We were looking at film and coach said that when you are scrambling out of the pocket, you are a running back and when you are passing, you are a quarterback, “ said Mitko.

The Little Tigers ended the fall at 3-7 and, in the process, left a positive legacy going forward.

“The football team really came back; there are more people coming out,” said Mitko.

“The players coming back know what they can do. The effort that people made paid off. We didn’t have any huge superstars. The guys saw that if we played hard on every play, we could be successful.”

Mitko’s role in that success helped him get selected to the West team for the 16th annual Sunshine Classic All-Star football game which will take place on June 28 at The College of New Jersey.

For the recently graduated Mitko, soaking up knowledge during his first two seasons with PHS helped put him on the path to the Sunshine game.

“Looking back, when I was freshman and a sophomore, I looked up to the older guys,” said Mitko, noting that he learned a lot from star quarterback Mike Olentine while serving as his backup in the fall of 2009.

“They taught me a lot of things. When I was a junior and a senior, I tried to resemble them, knowing that freshmen and sophomores were looking up to me.”

During PHS’s tough 2010 campaign, Mitko got to apply some important leadership lessons.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle after Tom Borchert got hurt and some other guys went down,” said Mitko, who also played on the PHS baseball team.

“Obstacles came our way; I tried to rally the kids. When the team is down in the third quarter you can’t give up. The team is looking to you to provide energy and spirit. It taught me a lesson about looking forward and not dwelling on the past.”

Mitko believes that his Sunshine Classic appearance will be a good learning experience as he prepares to start his college football career at Hamilton College this fall.

“I am really excited to be playing in it,” said Mitko, who will be joined on the West squad by PHS teammates Jeff Barsamian and Alex Mitko along with Princeton resident Phil Pecora, a star for the Pennington School.

“It means more to me than getting a trophy, being in a game against the best guys in the area. I have talked to kids who have played in it and they said it is the best competition you will have gone against. It is the closest thing to college, everyone is faster and quicker.”

In Mitko’s view, going through the ups and downs of the PHS program has helped prepare him well for college.

“I realize how much the program has given me and how it impacted what kind of person I have become,” said Mitko, noting that he will be playing defensive back in the game and for Hamilton. “I miss the atmosphere of going to practice everyday and working together.”

PHS is certainly going to miss Mitko’s leadership and playmaking ability.

FAMILY TRADITION: Lineman Jeff Barsamian, left, and older brother, Steve, an assistant coach, are all smiles after the Princeton High football team beat WW/P-N 26-7 last fall. The younger Barsamian will be playing in the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game on Thursday at The College of New Jersey. In so doing, he is following in the footsteps of another older brother, Trevor, who played in the 2010 Sunshine game.

Two summers ago, Jeff Barsamian enjoyed the action at the Sunshine Football Classic all-star game, sitting in the stands at The College of New Jersey as his older brother, Trevor, starred on the field.

This Thursday evening, Barsamian will get the chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother as the recently graduated Princeton High standout plays for the West team in the 16th annual Sunshine game.

For Barsamian, being the second member of his family to play in the all-star contest means a lot.

“I am super excited; I remember when Trevor played in it two years ago,” said Barsamian, a center/defensive end.

“I was looking at the program and all the awesome players who have been in the game. It is an honor.”

Barsamian has taken a circuitous route to earn the all-star honor, having played two years at Lawrenceville before transferring to PHS in time for the 2010 season.

The transition went smoothly for Barsamian. “I felt like part of the team right away, the guys were welcoming,” said Barsamian, who had played mainly JV ball at Lawrenceville. “I only played two years at PHS but it felt like I was there all four.”

While Barsamian emerged as a valuable two-way performer on the line right away for the Little Tigers, he acknowledged that the 2010 season turned into a long year for the program with PHS struggling to a 0-10 record.

“The team was devastated at end of the year that we didn’t win a game,” said Barsamian.

“The junior class got together. We decided right there and then that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen again.”

Barsamian and the Little Tigers wasted little time getting back in the win column, starting the 2011 season with a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington.

“That was an emotional game; everyone was ecstatic,” recalled Barsamian.

“All of us had been working ridiculously hard. The seniors were having meetings and discussing what we needed to do. We said let’s get that first win right now. We remembered what it was like to win and we wanted to win more.”

While PHS showed lots of progress last fall as it ended the season at 3-7, Barsamian thought the team could have won even more.

“We lost some tight games; we lost to Lawrence by an extra point and to Allentown by a field goal,” said Barsamian.

“I feel the season was a success but the 3-7 record didn’t represent how well we played.”

This fall, Barsamian will be looking to play well at the college level as he heads to the University of Pennsylvania where he will be competing for the school’s sprint football team.

Although there is a weight limit of 172 pounds in the sprint football league, Barsamian doesn’t think that should be a problem, especially since he has been used to dropping weight as a wrestling star for PHS.

“Right now, I am weighing about 183,” said Barsamian. “I am not really worried. I have been able to drop 10 pounds in a hurry for wrestling. I have to lift lighter weights. I can’t do the heavy lifting; that will put too much weight on.”

Playing in the Sunshine Game should give Barsamian a lift as he girds for college football.

“I am going to go after it and see how I match up against some of the better players in the area,” said Barsamian.

“It will be intense. I have  been playing against those guys for last two years and now they are on the same team.”

Barsamian is looking forward to playing with fellow PHS stars Alex Mitko and Eric Shorter in the game.

“That is awesome; they are both huge playmakers,” said Barsamian. “It is sad that I won’t get to play with the other guys again.”

But Barsamian is certainly not sad that he made the move to PHS. “I think it was the best decision I ever made,” asserted Barsamian.

“The PHS football team had a really great group of guys. We were like brothers; we had a lot of fun.”

And Barsamian should have plenty of fun Thursday as he follows in his brother’s footsteps.

It may have been early evening but the temperature was hovering in the 90s last Thursday as pitcher Jacob Eisenberg toed the rubber for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Hightstown Post 148.

The gritty lefthander, however, was undeterred by the oven-like feeling at Smoyer Park.

“It is pretty hot but you have to pitch to the conditions and both teams have to play in it,” said Eisenberg.

Although Eisenberg wasn’t at his sharpest, he didn’t wilt in the heat. “I had trouble finding the zone at the beginning,” said Eisenberg, who starred on the mound this spring in his senior season at Princeton Day School, earning All-Prep B honorable mention.

“I didn’t have my best stuff; sometimes you just have to battle through it. The defense played real well behind me.”

Working in and out of trouble, Eisenberg gave up four runs in four innings and left with an 8-4 lead. He also added a two-run single to help the cause.

“I didn’t get to hit this year at school; I have never hit in my life before,” said Eisenberg, who has been playing first base for Post 218 when he isn’t pitching.

“That was nice. I am just trying to help the team win. If they want me to go out and pitch, I go out and pitch. I love to play, whatever they need me to do.”

Things didn’t go so nicely for Post 218 in the top of the fifth as Hightstown rallied for four runs to knot the game at 8-8.

Showing character, Princeton rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by a triple from Marcus Henderson and an RBI single by Josh Harris. Post 218 gave up a run in the top of the sixth but hung in for a 10-9 win.

Eisenberg saw the win as a step forward for a Post 218 team that started the summer going 0-6.

“We have a lot of young guys; we have a lot of versatility,” said Eisenberg, who picked up the win on the mound last Monday as Princeton edged Broad Street Post 313 5-4 to earn its fourth victory in its last five games.

“We have to play smart baseball if we want to win. We are not going to hit three home runs a game. If we do everything right, we have a good team.”

Post 218 manager Tommy Parker liked the way his players righted themselves against Hightstown.

“They have learned to come back under adversity,” asserted Parker. “They didn’t get their heads down; they played solid. They came up in the bottom of the fifth and turned it around.”

Princeton is learning that it can depend on Eisenberg to carry the load on the mound.

“He is giving us real solid innings and the defense is coming together and playing well behind him,” said Parker. “He has been a bit of a workhorse.”

The squad has been getting some good work from such young players as Zach Tesone and Jon Hayden.

“Tesone has actually been one of our better hitters and stellar pitchers,” said Parker, noting that Matt Pilkewicz and Jay Barry did yeomen’s work at catcher against Hightstown filling in for Jess Russo and Colin Frawley.

“The other night he got a save that was a well pitched inning. He stayed focused; he stayed tight. Jon Hayden is a ballplayer; he also has real potential.”

Parker is relying on veterans Henderson and shortstop Beau Horan to help the younger guys reach their potential.

“I told Marcus and Beau at the beginning of the season that you guys have to lead by example, you have the most experience,” said Parker.

“Beau has done a stellar job for us at shortstop and Marcus is playing well in centerfield so we are strong up the middle. If they kick one, they don’t get down or hold on to it; where to the young guys, it is the end of the world. These guys pick them up so it has been a good thing.”

With Post 218 having picked up some wins over the last week, Parker is hoping the team can do some damage in July.

“If you get everybody here at the same time, these guys can do a tremendous job,” said Parker, whose team is slated to host West Windsor-Plainsboro on June 28, Hopewell Post 339 on June 29, and Allentown on July 1.

“That is what I told these guys; everybody is going to get an opportunity to play. These guys are doing a great job. They work very well together; they have a very good chemistry.”

Eisenberg, for his part, believes that Post 218 could do some very good things over the rest of the season.

“We have been hitting the ball a lot better in the last three games consistently up and down the order,” said Eisenberg.

“We don’t have a sure out in the order. We are definitely starting to roll; hopefully we can continue going forward.”

YOUTH IS SERVED: Lior Levy looks for an opening this past winter in action for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team. Last Monday, Levy scored a game-high 19 points to help previously winless Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) edge the PA Blue Devils 45-40 in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. PYS, which improved to 1-2 with the victory, got 13 points from Elliot Golden with Scott Bechler chipping in 9 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lior Levy and the Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team knew they faced a stern challenge when they took on the PA Blue Devils last Monday in the Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

PYS, the Princeton High boys’ hoops team entry in the league, has not done well historically against the Blue Devils, a team stocked with Division III college players.

“The past few years I have been in the league, this team has killed us,” said Levy, a rising PHS senior.

But PYS, who entered the night at 0-2, did bring some extra confidence into the seeming mismatch with the 3-1 Blue Devils.

“We just went to a team camp last week at DeSales University (Pa.) and we were able to play together a little bit more,” said Levy. “I think the chemistry was just there tonight.”

The weekend work paid dividends in the early going as PYS rebounded from an early 10-2 deficit to take a 22-21 lead at halftime.

The 6’7 Levy played a critical role in the rally, pouring in 12 points, hitting from the outside and using his size in the paint.

“I have been playing a lot of basketball the last few weeks at different camps and the summer league and stuff,” said Levy.

“I think I am finally getting the hang of it and making a few more shots here and there.”

Levy dazzled the crowd on hand at the Community Park courts as he drained two sweet hook shots in his first-half barrage.

“I have been working on that,” said Levy, referring to the shot which he has honed with the help of his dad, Howard Levy, a former Princeton University hoops standout and assistant coach and the current head coach of the Mercer County Community College men’s team.

“It is a shot I always look for. It is one of my best shots I think. Tonight it was on I guess.”

In the second half, PYS withstood several runs from the Blue Devils to pull off the 45-40 stunner.

“I thought that was the best part of the game,” said Levy, who got plenty of help in the win as Elliot Golden scored 13 points and Scott Bechler added 9.

“The fact that we were able to take some of their pressure and keep moving forward even though we were knocked down a few times. It was a very good win.”

Levy knocked down two key free throws in the last minute to help clinch the victory.

“I have missed a few of those in the past so it was nice to just conquer the pressure,:” asserted a grinning Levy.

Other teams who came through under pressure last Monday included Team TB, a 52-25 winner over the Ballstars, and Winberie’s, a 43-35 victor over Ivy Inn as it remained undefeated on the summer.

In Levy’s view, playing against the seasoned players in the men’s league can only help the PHS squad when the winter rolls around.

“A lot of these players are playing college basketball or have played college basketball so it is good to get the competition,” said Levy. “The competition here is a lot better than some of the teams we’ll see later.”

Levy knows that he has to muscle up if he is going to excel against better competition.

“I am going to try to get stronger,” said Levy. “I am a little weak right now so I am going to get in the weight room.”

On Monday, however, Levy showed that his game has plenty of strengths.

June 20, 2012

HIGH FIVE: Kelly Curtis shows off the plaque she earned for taking fifth place in the heptathlon last month at the NCAA Division III championships in wrapping up her track career for Springfield College (Massachusetts). Curtis, a former Princeton High track and hoops standout, earned All-American status as a result of her fifth place finish. Earlier this year, she placed seventh in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III indoor meet to make All-American in that event. (Photo Courtesy of Springfield College)

Kelly Curtis is well aware of her family’s special athletic legacy at Springfield College.

Her father, John was an All-American split end for the Massachusetts school in 1970 while her older brother, Jay, went on to be a Freedom Football Conference all-star for the Pride in 2002.

When the youngest Curtis decided to transfer to Springfield from Tulane in 2010 and join the school’s track program, she felt some pressure.

“It was tough,” said Curtis, a former Princeton High basketball and track standout who did a post-grad year at Lawrenceville and won prep titles and athletic awards for the Big Red.

“I always thought of it as my dad’s school and my brother’s school. My dad is in the Hall of Fame there and I have been to a lot of reunions.”

It didn’t take long for Curtis to add a special chapter to the family’s history at Springfield as she won the heptathlon at the storied Penn Relays last spring.

This year, Curtis made her case for a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame, earning All-American status in the pentathlon indoors and the heptathlon outdoors and defending her Penn Relays title with a second place finish.

While it would appear that Curtis had a smooth ride to success as a senior, there were some bumps along the way.

“My indoor season was a little rough; I had a shaky start,” said Curtis. “I didn’t get to train much over the summer. I had an internship in D.C. and went to Gallaudet two days a week for some strength and conditioning. I didn’t run cross country as a senior; I was not at the same conditioning level.”

But at the NCAA Division III indoor meet at Grinnell College in March, Curtis proved she could compete at the highest level, placing seventh in the pentathlon to earn All-American status.

“Once nationals came around, I did well,” said Curtis, who scored a season-high point total of 3,309 at the meet. “I was pleased to be seventh.”

About six weeks later, Curtis headed to Philadelphia to compete in the heptathlon at the Penn Relays to defend her title. While Curtis fell short of a repeat, she acquitted herself well, piling up 4,628 points to take second behind Ithaca’s Emma Dewart (5,006 points).

“I didn’t know who was going to be in the field until the night before,” said Curtis.

“Junior year, I was just thrilled to be there. Senior year was icing on the cake. It was being in such a big event as an athlete from a small school. It didn’t go as well as the year before. My focus was in the nationals so I was trying to peak for that.”

Upon arriving at Claremont College in California in late May for the NCAA Division III track and field championships, Curtis hit an unexpected hurdle.

“I was feeling good until the day of the competition; I woke up feeling sick as a dog,” recalled Curtis. “Instead of focusing on the competition, I was just fighting through each event.”

Curtis didn’t feel any better when she went to the track for the second day of the competition but soldiered on to take fifth place and earn All-American honors.

“It turned out that I had tonsillitis,” said Curtis. “My throat was very sore and it was hard to eat and refuel which is not too good when you are in an event that takes five hours. I didn’t have any energy. I have to be pleased with what I did under the circumstances.”

In reflecting on her transfer to Springfield, Curtis couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

“I loved the transition and how welcoming the school was,” said Curtis.

“It is more relaxed and more fun than being at a D-I school. The coaches really appreciate you. I hope I have made a little mark in track.”

The school made an indelible mark on Curtis. “They really emphasize the mind, body, and spirit,” said Curtis, an honors graduate who is starting a masters program in sports management at Georgetown this fall and aspires to someday become a college athletics director.

“Athletics is just one component of that. The track team won the Pride challenge which is more than athletics, it deals with community service and giving back.”

And like her father and brother before her, Curtis certainly gave a lot to Springfield.

WATER WORKS: Robin Linzmayer, second from left, pulls hard for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s lightweight 8 in action this spring. Earlier this month, Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School, helped the boat take eighth at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo Courtesy of MJRC)

Hockey has been Robin Linzmayer’s passion since grade school but getting hurt on the ice two winters ago helped her find another sporting love.

“I injured the meniscus in my knee in December of my freshman year,” said Linzmayer, a rising junior at Princeton Day School who stars on the Panther girls’ ice hockey team and also plays for the Princeton Tiger Lilies travel hockey club.

“I played for six weeks and then got an MRI. I had to sit out and have surgery. The recovery time was three months. My dad rowed in college and he told me it would be good exercise. I talked to my doctor and since rowing was easier on the knee and low impact, he said I could try it.”

While Linzmayer is comfortable gliding up ice, she found hitting the water a bit unsettling as she took up rowing with the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) last spring.

“It was a little scary at first,” said Linzmayer. “Those boats rock more in the water than I thought.”

It wasn’t long before Linzmayer began rocking in her new sport. “The novice coach helped me out a lot,” said Linzmayer. “He put me in some boats with girls who had rowed before. It was really good.”

Earlier this month, Linzmayer showed how far she has come in her second sport, competing for the MJRC women’s lightweight 8 at the USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Linzmayer’s trip to Tennessee marked her second appearance in a national competition in three months as she had skated with the Tiger Lilies’ 19U team at the USA Hockey Tier II Nationals in Dallas this past March.

For Linzmayer, getting the opportunity to make the rowing nationals resulted from some eleventh-hour heroics from the lightweight 8.

“We were put together three or four days before the regionals,” said Linzmayer, who rowed from the boat’s five seat. “It worked immediately; we were second at the regionals.”

After earning its shot at the nationals, the boat worked hard to improve. “We rowed every morning from 5:30 to 6:45 and then came back to the boathouse after school for two hours,” said Linzmayer. “We were feeling light and fast.”

Coming into the national regatta, the boat was primed to go fast. “I think as a boat we wanted to see how we compared to some of the faster boats in the country,” said Linzmayer. “We wanted to pull as hard as we could; that is all you can do.”

While the boat fell just short of making ‘A’ final, it never stopped working hard, taking second in the ‘B’ final to place eight overall nationally.

“We pulled as hard as we could in the semis and ended fourth, five seconds behind,” said Linzmayer.

“In the final, we wanted to get off the line hard. We gave it our all. At the end, no one was disappointed. Our coach said how proud she was of us; I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates.”

Getting exposed to the high level of competition in Tennessee has given Linzmayer motivation to hone her rowing skills.

“I had such a great time rowing at the nationals,” said Linzmayer. “It was fun just watching some of the faster boats. It was so inspiring to row against those boats. You get to see how fast you are and what more you can do to be faster.”

Reflecting on her appearance at the hockey nationals, Linzmayer gained a similar inspiration.

“It is always fun to play against players from all over the country and see the different styles of hockey,” said Linzmayer, who helped the Tiger Lilies advance to the national quarterfinals. “You see room for improvement and what you need to do to get better.”

In Linzmayer’s view, taking up crew has made her a better hockey player.

“It has helped me much more than I expected,” asserted Linzmayer, who will be taking part in several hockey camps this summer.

“I never realized how intense rowing is. From a physical standpoint, the lifting and cardio stuff helped. Mentally, it was great. You learn to push yourself as hard as you can over that seven minutes of the race. That carries over into hockey. You go out for a two-minute shift and play as hard as you can. You learn to push through limits.”

STEPPING AHEAD: University Radiology’s DeQuan Holman drives to the hoop against SMB in action last Monday in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Former Princeton High star Holman scored 19 points as defending league champion. University Radiology hung on for a 51-47 win over SMB and improved to 2-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the University Radiology team was seeded second entering the playoffs last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, many thought the team wasn’t ready for a title run.

With a lineup featuring recently graduated Princeton High hoops s tars Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, University Radiology didn’t have the experience and maturity that has characterized past champions.

But growing up in a hurry, the squad advanced to the best-of-three title series and took down Winberie’s 2-1 to earn the crown.

As University Radiology begins its title defense this summer, star guard Holman recognizes that some see last year’s championship as a fluke.

“We feel a little pressure because people don’t think we should have won it,” said Holman. “They think it was a down year last year and all that type of stuff. We weren’t expected to win.”

Holman knows that there is a bull’s eye on the backs of University Radiology.

“We are looked at as a good team now and teams are pretty much gunning for us,” said Holman.

“We have a tough Ivy Inn opponent; Winberie’s is still pretty strong. The league is pretty good this year, there are no slouches this year.”

Last Friday, University Radiology got shot down as they fell 60-58 to a hungry PA Blue Devils team.

“We kind of beat ourselves in that one,” said Holman, reflecting on the loss to a Blue Devils team that features some Division III performers.

“We have other people who are joining the team and we have to get our team chemistry together. We are just trying to get our flow together.”

On Monday, University Radiology rebounded from the setback, edging SMB 51-47 to improve to 2-1 on the summer.

“At first, Skye and I were penetrating and we were passing well,” said Holman, who scored a game-high 19 points on the evening with Ettin chipping in 17.

“We were moving the ball a little bit and then we got stagnant in the second half. We were going one-on-one too much and that got us in a little trouble. We were able to get through it. We won the game. At the end of the day, that is what we wanted to do.”

Other winners in Monday night action included Dr. Palmer, who got 18 points from Charles Cooke, as it posted a 55-38 victory over the Clinton Kings and Ivy Inn, who topped Team TB 37-23 as Mark Aziz led the way with 14 points.

In Holman’s view, University Radiology has the pieces in place to successfully defend its title.

“We think we have what it takes, especially once we get everybody and get our chemistry together,” asserted Holman, who is attending Florida Atlantic University and is planning to try out for the FAU men’s hoops team this fall.

“When we play enough together, we’ll be fine. We are confident every time we step out there. It is just competition; it is fun.”

FINISHING KICK: Acasio Pinheiro edges Jeremy Taylor last Wednesday in one of the five heats of the second annual Princeton Community Mile held at the Princeton High track. Pinheiro clocked a time of 5:59.7 to take sixth in the heat with Taylor coming in at 6:00.7 to place seventh. The event, which was sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew more than 60 runners. Princeton resident Michael Fonder set an event record with a time of 4:27.2 in winning his heat. (Photo by Andrew Servis, Courtesy of Princeton Athletic Club)

The mile run is an event that has captivated athletes since the 1700s when it came into vogue as a distance for wagered running contests in England.

Roger Bannister’s 1954 feat of running the first sub-four minute mile ranks as one of the great moments in track history.

Last Wednesday evening, the allure of the mile was evident as more than 60 local runners turned up at the Princeton High track to take part in the second annual Princeton Community Mile.

The event, sponsored by the Princeton Athletic Club (PAC), drew participants ranging in age from 8-to-65 with runners grouped into five heats so the the athletes were matched with those in a similar pace range.

“The weather was great, 75 degrees and sunny, and we had a great turnout,” said Princeton Community Mile event director David Kimmel.

“There were people who participated for the second year in a row and also a lot of new faces. It was also great to see families sign up and run.”

Princeton resident Michael Fonder set a new Princeton Community Mile record with a time of 4:27.2 as he competed in the fifth and final heat. Chris Sallade finished second in 4:45.3 and Steven Sipprelle third in 4:47.8.

The race of the night took place in the third heat where Princeton resident Antonio Pinheiro clocked a time 5:35.4, closely followed by Jeremy Cohen in 5:36.7 and Richard O’Brien in 5:43.7.

The top finisher in the first heat was 12-year-old Princeton resident Gus Binnie in a time of 7:21, followed by Ethan Jones in 7:28.6 and Luke Wingreen in 7:36.1.

In the second heat, Lawrenceville resident Tim Christian finished first in 6:35.7, followed by Armand Meyer in 6:45.3 and Angela Pinheiro in 6:49.

Skillman resident Fraser Marlow won the fourth heat with a time of 5:22.4, with Jeff Knoll next in 5:25.3 and Chuck Hetzler third in 5:26.9.

Jen Found of Hopewell recorded the fastest female time of the evening in 5:36.8.

The Princeton Community Mile is the first of three running events being sponsored by the PAC this June. The PAC is a nonprofit running club that organizes group runs and sponsors several running events for the community each year. It is a member club of the USA Track and Field New Jersey and Road Runners Club of America.

Next up in the Wednesday evening series is a June 20 Cross County 5k and youth mile at Rosedale Park in Pennington and a June 27 All-Comers Track Event (3000 meters, 100 meters, 800 meters, 4×400 relay) at the PHS track.

For more information and to sign up online, log onto www.princetonac.org.

June 13, 2012

INNKEEPER: Bobby Davison of Ivy Inn heads up the court against the Ballstars last Monday night in opening night action of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Davison and Ivy Inn cruised to a 64-30 win as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last decade, the Ivy Inn team has established itself as a consistent championship contender in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The squad, formerly known as George’s Roasters, won four of six league titles between 2005-2010.

But last summer, the proud unit fell on hard times, going 3-6 and getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Team manager and star forward Bobby Davison acknowledged that 2011 was a nightmare.

“Last year was an unbelievably disappointing year with Scott [Findlay] being hurt and Mark [Aziz] playing overseas,” said Davison, a former hoops standout for Princeton High and The College of New Jersey. “We were pretty much just playing six guys every game. It was tough.”

Coming into last Monday’s season opener against the Ballstars, Ivy Inn boasted plenty of manpower. In addition to Davison, Aziz and stalwarts Shahid Abdul-Karim, Kyle Burke and Buddy Thomas, the team added Davon Black, Tommy Soulias, A.J. Rubin and longtime Winberie’s star Chris Hatchell.

“We have got our nucleus; it is great having Mark back from Egypt and Scott is coaching,” said Davison, a former assistant coach for the PHS boys’ hoops team who is working as a patrol officer for the East Windsor Police.

“I think he is going to get the bug around week three; his knee is healthy. We picked up Davon; that is huge, I coached him a couple of years. I coached Tommy in AAU; he is from Spotswood. We picked up A.J. and a big pick-up was the addition of Hatchell. He wanted to play with another team. It is nice playing with him and not playing against him like I did for so many years.”

The team came together quickly in the game against Ballstars, jumping out to 34-5 halftime lead on the way to a 64-30 win.

“I think it adds a real nice dynamic with our wisdom of basketball and knowledge and their intensity and athleticism,” said Davison, reflecting on the teams blend of experience and young legs. “You know what, they are hungry; they want to prove something.”

In other action Monday, Winberie’s edged SMB 44-41 in overtime as Evan Johnson scored 18 points for the victors while the PA Blue Devils topped the Clinton Kings 52-29 behind 15 points from Kevin Janowski.

For Ivy Inn, stifling defense paved the way to its rout of new league entry Ballstars.

“We talked about it on our pregame; it was first things first, let’s take our time on offense but we have got to get stops on defense,” recalled Davison.

“I think that has been the key for so many years in this league, we have always been able to stop guys. So we talked about going man-to-man right from the gate and just stop them and when we get the ball, let’s be patient and run our offense through Mark. It is the first game and we have to get everyone acclimated with one another.”

Based on the opening night effort, it looks like Ivy Inn could be poised for another good run this summer.

“It was very good,” said Davison, reflecting on a night in which Ivy Inn was led by 16 points from Soulias with Aziz adding 12 and Hatchell chipping in nine.

“The first thing that has helped us for so many years is we are a really unselfish team. We try to add something to the puzzle every year. No matter who we add with these young guys, the older guys are going to welcome them with open arms and instill a little bit of their knowledge and put them right on the team.”

NO SHIRT REQUIRED: Mahesh Sambasivam heads to the tape at Princeton University’s Weaver Stadium last Sunday on his way to winning the Princeton Healthcare 10k. Pennington resident Sambasivam clocked a time of 33:27 to outlast runner-up ­William Washer of Ogdensburg, N.J., who finished in 33:36. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For marathoner Mahesh Sambasivam, running against the clock, not his opponents, is his main focus when racing.

When the Pennington resident toed the starting line last Sunday morning at the Princeton Healthcare 10k, he had a number in mind.

“I was shooting for a 34:30,” said Sambasivam, 45, a veteran of several Boston and New York City marathons.

“I usually run my own pace; first place or second place, it doesn’t matter to me. I go by time.”

The wiry Sambasivam outdid himself on Sunday, running a 33:27 to easily achieve his main goal, and in the process, got a bonus as he placed first of 550 finishers in the 34th annual installment of the race,

Sambasivam outlasted runner-up William Washer of Ogdensburg, N.J., who clocked a 33:36 and was in sight of the winner as the runners hit the track at Weaver Stadium for the home stretch of the race. Kathy Rocker of Metuchen was the top female finisher, taking 23rd overall in a time of 40:10.

In reflecting on his win, Sambasivam credited Washer with pushing him to his superb time.

“It was that guy, he set the pace,” said Sambasivam, motioning to Washer across the track. “I let him go until mile five. Getting in the 33:20s, I am ecstatic.”

For Sambasivam, getting into running some 14 years ago has led to moments of ecstasy over the last decade.

“I started running in 1998; my boss at a previous company was a runner,” said Sambasivam, a native of India who works for ConvaTec.

“I have been hooked on it. I always wanted to get involved in sports and this is a way of getting back into it.”

Sambasivam has taken his involvement in the sport to a high level. “When I don’t train for a marathon, it is 50 or 60 miles a week,” said Sambasivam.

“When I am training for a marathon it is 80 a week. I have been at 40 or 50 recently because I have been very busy at work.”

While Sambasivam may be focused on time targets, placing first was a nice payoff for his diligence on the road.

“It is very motivating,” asserted Sambasivam. “The effort I put in pays off. I am a serious runner; I work my butt off.”

THE REAL MCCOY: Princeton Day School senior baseball star Sean McCoy gets ready to hit in a game this spring. The leadership of senior tri-captain McCoy helped the Panthers go 12-9 this season, a marked improvement on the 4-14 record the program posted in 2011. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the spring, Ray O’Brien thought his Princeton Day School baseball team had the pieces in place to have a big season.

“We were so shorthanded and inexperienced last year,” said PDS head coach O’Brien.

“I thought we had a good combination this year. We had some good seniors and a really good freshman class.”

O’Brien’s analysis proved correct as the Panthers went 12-9, a marked improvement on the 4-14 record the program posted in 2011. A major feather in the cap for PDS was its success against Prep A foes Peddie, Blair, Hun, and Lawrenceville.

“I think it was the first sweep of the Prep A teams ever in one season for us,” said O’Brien.

“We beat Hun and Lawrenceville by 10 runs; it was nice to beat them like that.”

It was nice for the team to end the season with a 1-0 victory over New Hope-Solebury.

“It was our senior day and Jacob Eisenberg had a big last game,” said O’Brien.

“He pitched a three-hit shutout and hit a grounder to knock in the winning run. It was a good group of seniors; it was nice to see them go out like that after the way we struggled last spring.”

Senior tri-captain Sean McCoy’s upbeat attitude gave the group a lift. “McCoy gave us leadership beyond his numbers,” said O’Brien of the Pomona College-bound McCoy who hit .273 this spring with 16 runs scored.

“He was a vocal leader. Some guys are quiet and he speaks up. A lot of people talk about being a team player but he lives it. He is always asking me ‘coach where do you need me to play?’ He is the most self-less and team-oriented player I have coached.”

Williams College-bound senior shortstop and tri-captain Beau Horan raised the level of his play this spring. “Beau put things together this year,” said Horan. “He had a good year at the plate and in the field. He was fifth in the team in hitting (.355 batting average) and tied for the team lead in extra-base hits (13).”

In addition, Matt Cook and Eisenberg produced big years in their final PDS campaigns.

“Cook and Eisenberg gave us good pitching. Eisenberg pitched the most innings and won four games,” added O’Brien.

“Cook was versatile. He played in the outfield. He hit well (.302 batting average) and he won three games on the mound. He pitched very well in a 3-2 win over Peddie.”

Freshman first baseman J.P. Radvany played surprisingly well, emerging as the team’s top batting threat.

“Radvany had a really good season, especially for a freshman,” asserted O’Brien, noting that Radvany was a first-team All-Prep B pick with Horan, Rob Colton, and B.J. Dudeck getting named as second-team performers and Eisenberg and Jake Alu earning Honorable Mention.

“He led the team in hits (30), tied for the lead in extra-base hits (13), and led in batting average (.484), RBIs (32), and slugging percentage (.806). He was really consistent all season. After the first game, I moved him to fourth in the order and left him there. He is a big kid with power. Having him and B.J. Dudeck (.379 batting average, 16 RBIs) coming back gives us two big boppers.”

The other freshmen, Alu, Cole McManimon, and Ross Colton, also made an immediate impact.

“Alu (.358 batting average) had a great season, playing outfield and third,” said O’Brien.

“McManimon pitched really well; he had a tough loss to Notre Dame and beat Hamilton West. Ross had a good year; he played well at second. We added five good players with the freshmen and [junior transfer] Rob Colton (.454 batting average).”

The team’s coaching staff also came together, setting a positive tone. “The coaches were a big help,” said O’Brien.

“Kevin Schneider was the pitching coach and he did a really good job. He really settled the kids down, working with pitchers and calling games. Matt Russo worked with the hitters. Brian Dudeck also helped out. It was an enjoyable season all around.”

O’Brien is looking forward to more enjoyable moments in the future. “I think we are getting back on track,” said O’Brien. “I am really excited about next year; we have a lot of kids playing this summer and in the fall.”

TRUE GRIT: Princeton Day School senior boys’ lacrosse star Garret Jensen heads to goal in action this spring. Playing through knee and ankle injuries, Jensen scored a team-high 44 points to help the Panthers advance to the state Prep B semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Garret Jensen and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team sensed they could do some big things this spring.

“Going into the season we knew we had a young team but we thought we were really talented,” said senior attacker Jensen. “We wanted to make the Mercer County and Prep B finals.”

Some three games into the season, it looked like Jensen might not be around for any postseason play.

“I got hurt in the Pennington game,” recalled Jensen. “I tore the IT band in my leg. It really stunk. I missed three games and worked really hard with our trainer.”

Throwing away his crutches, Jensen returned to action in late April and played like a man on a mission.

“Every time I was on the field, I knew I couldn’t give 75 percent, I had to give 110 percent,” said Jensen, who also dealt with a sprained ankle later in the season. “Our whole team felt like that.”

Once playoff time rolled around, the Panthers showed that kind of intensity. In the Prep B tourney, they rallied from a 6-3 halftime deficit to top Morristown-Beard 12-10 in the quarterfinals before dropping a tough 8-5 decision to Montclair Kimberley in the semifinals.

“In the Mo-Beard game, we battled back; we were down at halftime but the second half was all ours,” said Jensen, who made a key steal and goal early in the third quarter to spark the Panthers’ rally.

“Even though we didn’t win the semis, we showed we were capable of playing with them. MKA had a great team last year and we knew they were going to be really good. We had five or six chances at the beginning that didn’t go in and we made it a close game.”

Coming into the county tournament, the seventh-seeded Panthers thought they were capable of being a title contender.

“We had a little chip on our shoulder; we knew we should have been seeded in the top three or four,” said Jensen.

After cruising past Hightstown 15-7 in the opening round, the Panthers faced defending champion and second-seeded Notre Dame.

“We wanted redemption against Notre Dame,” said Jensen. “We had lost to them in the last 30 seconds the year before in the county tournament.

Producing one of the greatest clutch performances of his career, Jensen helped PDS get that redemption. The gritty attacker scored a goal in the waning moments of regulation to make it a 7-7 contest as the Panthers forced overtime. In the extra session, Jensen snaked through the Irish defense to score the game-winner in an 8-7 triumph.

“Getting that overtime win was great, especially as a senior,” said Jensen. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into the Princeton High game.”

The Panthers produced another stunning rally in the matchup at third-seeded PHS in the semis, coming back from a 6-4 halftime deficit to pull out an 8-7 victory in overtime.

“I have a lot of buddies on PHS,” said Jensen. “We really wanted to beat them; we hadn’t won against them in six years. It was great to win on their home field in a tournament game.”

In the title game against top-seeded Hopewell Valley, Jensen ran into injury problems at an inopportune moment, sustaining a concussion as he scored a third period goal to cut the HoVal lead to 3-2.

“I jumped up for a shot and got it over the defender, fortunately it went in but I was off balance and I landed on my head,” said Jensen.

“I tried to go back in but I realized that I couldn’t play. It was tough to not play the last quarter of my high school career.”

While PDS ended up falling 6-2 to HoVal, that didn’t take away from a superb spring that marked a high point in Jensen’s high school career, which also saw him star for the Panther boys’ hockey program.

“I think we are really happy with what we did,” said the Trinity College-bound Jensen, who scored a team-high 44 points on 22 goals and 22 assists this spring and tallied 119 points in his PDS career on 49 goals and 70 assists.

“We really bonded and became a family. I have been on a lot of good teams at PDS but this may have been the greatest experience with the kids, coaches, and what we accomplished.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman pointed to Jensen’s performance and guts as an inspiration for the Panthers.

“Garret is banged up, so for him it is a herculean effort every time he steps on the field,” said Tuckman, whose team finished the spring with a 10-7 record. “He is our senior captain; he has really been an incredible leader. His gutting it out through the pain is really a reflection of the leadership he provides.”

For providing both production and courage to help trigger PDS’s post-season run, Jensen is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the spring high school season.

Top Female Performer


ver the early stages of her career with the Princeton High girls’ track team, Bryell Wheeler established herself as one of the top sprinters in the area.

But as senior star Wheeler went through the indoor season this winter, she realized she had more to give to the Little Tigers.

“I started doing the triple jump in winter track and on my first jump I did 31’6,” said Wheeler.

“Ever since then, I keep setting personal records. In the Mercer Relays I did 38’1 and we set a record with 72’2. My best event is now the triple, it used to be the 100.”

Although Wheeler dealt with a balky hamstring this spring, she felt like she was gaining strength as the season went on. “I am lifting more,” said Wheeler. “I am getting stronger.”

In the Mercer County Championships in early May, Wheeler produced one of the strongest performances in school history,  placing first in the 100 (12.32), long jump (17‘2.50), and triple jump (38‘1.25) and taking fourth in the 200 (26.35).

Wheeler’s heroics helped the Little Tigers win its first team title in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet. (The program did win the indoor county title in 1989.) It was a photo finish as the Little Tigers accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S, who totaled 86.5 points.

PHS head coach Jim Smirk appreciated the way Wheeler rose to the occasion.

“Bryell has had nagging hamstring issues this spring,” said Smirk. “Coach [Ben] Samara and I sat down with her last week and said ‘here’s the deal, you recognize your talent but in the big meets you struggle. We think you are ready to do well but you have to believe it.’ She went out and competed.”

Two weeks later at the sectional meet, Wheeler took first in the 100 (12.61) and the triple jump (a meet record of 38’6.50) with a third in the long jump (16’8-75) to help the program win its first-ever Group 3 title and its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989.

“Bryell has gained a lot of confidence in her jumps,” said Smirk of Wheeler who produced a county-record leap of 39‘2.50 to take second in the Group 3 state meet and qualify for the Meet of Champions.

“She has more confidence in her jumps than sprints which is amazing with her sprinting background.”

Wheeler’s amazing performance this season which saw her fight through injury and add record-breaking performances in the triple jump to her sprinting prowess makes her the choice as the Town Topics top female performer this spring.

Top Newcomers


ames “JP” Radvany didn’t waste any time showing that he could be a big contributor this spring in his freshman season for the Princeton Day School baseball team.

“JP Radvany was probably our best hitter in Florida,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien, referring to the team’s preseason trip to the Sunshine State.

O’Brien moved Radvany into the clean-up spot in game three and the first baseman made his coach look like a genius.

Radvany ended up leading the Panthers in batting average (.484), hits (30), RBIs (32), and slugging percentage (.806)

The offensive punch provided by Radvany helped PDS go 12-9 and post a sweep of Prep A foes Blair, Hun, Lawrenceville and Peddie.

In reflecting on the spring, O’Brien credited Radvany for playing a key role in the Panthers’ success as the program bounced back from a 4-14 season in 2011.

“Radvany had a really good season, especially for a freshman,” said O’Brien. “He was really consistent all season. He is a big kid with power.”

For making a powerful impact in his freshman campaign, Radvany gets the nod as the top male newcomer of the spring.

As Kathy Quirk assessed her 2012 Hun School softball team, she recognized that it was likely to work through some growing pains.

“We are young and lacking some varsity experience,” said Hun head coach Quirk. “I think we can hold our own. We need to be confident in ourselves.”

Quirk showed a lot of confidence in one of her youngest players, inserting freshman Julia Blake at the key position of shortstop.

Blake justified Quirk’s faith in her, providing sparkling defense from the start and getting into a groove offensively as the season unfolded.

With Blake emerging as a constant in the middle of the diamond and at the top of the batting order, Hun overcame a sluggish start and produced a 9-7 record and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.

Blake ended her debut season with a batting average of .431, together with 18 runs, 12 RBI’s  two doubles, and a triple.

“Julia Blake, for a freshman, was phenomenal at shortstop, both hitting and defensively,” said Quirk.

Blake’s emergence as a star in a vital spot for Hun makes her the choice as the top female newcomer of the spring.

Top Coaches


ver the past few years, the Princeton High girls’ track team has been solid but unspectacular when it comes to the big meets.

In 2011, the Little Tigers placed fifth in both the Mercer County Championships and the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet. A year earlier, PHS took eighth in the county meet and ninth in the sectional competition.

Coming into this year’s county meet, head coach Jim Smirk thought his squad could be ready for a breakthrough.

“We knew we had a pretty good team,” said Smirk. “We thought of ourselves as a top three team. Last year, we felt we didn’t have our team quite together. We have been talking about redefining what our team could be.”

Displaying its depth and competitive fire, the Little Tigers ended being the top team at the meet. It was a photo finish as PHS accumulated 87 points, edging runner-up WW/P-S by 0.5 points.

While Smirk had the sense that his team was special, the county title still came as a surprise.

“It is huge; when I started years ago as head coach, I wrote down goals and I said is a county title even possible with Trenton, WW/P-S, WW/P-N, and Hopewell, which was a dynasty then.” said Smirk, reflecting on the crown which was the program’s first in the 34-year history of the outdoor meet.

“It was great that we got it with a group of girls who have gone through a lot. The seniors lost a teammate when Helene [Cody] passed away. They are more battle-tested. Doing what they did over time is a testament to how much they have been able to grow.”

The Little Tigers showed that growth two weeks later as they took the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title, piling up a winning total of 88 points with Neptune second at 82 and Jackson Liberty third at 67.5.

The win marked the program’s first-ever Group 3 title and was its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989.

“A lot of people say the county title is a fluke but we are showing that we are a consistently good team,” said Smirk.

“We are the team making the least amount of mistakes. I am so impressed by what they have gone through and how they approach everything, on and off the track, with a fervor for being great.”

For guiding PHS to one of the greatest runs in program history, Smirk is the pick as the top coach of a female team this spring.

Rob Tuckman has talked about putting his Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team on the map.

While the Panthers had shown gradual improvement over the last few seasons, they had not enjoyed much success in tournament play.

“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 PDS head coach Tuckman as he looked ahead to the 2012 campaign.

“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.”

Playing a competitive schedule, the Panthers were ready to make a mark when tournament time rolled around.

In the state Prep B quarterfinals, PDS overcame a 6-3 halftime deficit against Morristown-Beard to pull out a 12-10 win over the Crimson. Although the Panthers fell 8-5 to Montclair Kimberley on the Prep B semis, there was more playoff drama to come.

Disappointed by getting the seventh seed in the Mercer County Tournament, PDS proved that it could step up in important games. After cruising past Hightstown 15-7 in the opening round, the Panthers staged two improbable rallies to reach the title game.

In the quarterfinals against second-seeded and defending champion Notre Dame, PDS trailed 5-3 at halftime only to pull out an 8-7 overtime thriller. Two days later in the semis, it was a case of deja vu as PDS overcame a 6-4 halftime deficit to top third-seeded Princeton High 8-7 in overtime.

Facing top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the county championship game, the Panthers trailed just 3-2 heading into the fourth quarter but ran out of magic as the Bulldogs pulled away to a 6-2 triumph.

Although the Panthers didn’t win a title, they certainly made a mark this spring.

“Nobody expects a seventh seed to be playing the final; it is all icing on the cake,” asserted Tuckman, whose team finished with a 10-7 record. “Overall it was a great season, I am really proud of the team.”

Tuckman’s vision and ability to get his team to rise to the occasion makes him the choice as the top coach of a male program this spring.

June 6, 2012

GOING THE DISTANCE: Princeton High girls’ track star Elyssa Gensib displays her form in a 2011 race. Last weekend, senior Gensib took second in the 3,200 at the state Group 3 meet to qualify for the upcoming Meet of Champions (MOC). ­Gensib placed seventh in the 1,600 and made the MOC as a wild card in that event. Gensib will be joined in the June 7 meet at Old Bridge by teammates Jenna Cody (3,200), Bryell Wheeler (triple jump), Maddie Lea (triple jump), and Michelle Bazile (discus). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

During May, the Princeton High girls’ track team produced one of the greatest stretches in program history, winning the Mercer County Championships and the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional.

While PHS started June by taking seventh last weekend at the state Group 3 meet to see its title streak end, head coach Jim Smirk had no qualms about how his athletes competed.

“We didn’t have things going like previous weekends but we saw some gutsy performances,” said Smirk. “The girls were trying to risk things and do something great; that is what we were looking for coming in.”

Senior distance star Jenna Cody showed plenty of guts as she didn’t let a stumble keep her from finishing seventh in the 3,200 and earning a wild card entry into the Meet of Champions (MOC) slated for June 7 at Old Bridge.

“Jenna breaks out and was going for it in the 2-mile and the girl in front of her falls and she trips over her,” recalled Smirk. “She popped right back up and ran an 11:09.”

Cody’s classmate and fellow distance star, Elyssa Gensib, pushed herself to the breaking point in the 1,600 as she took seventh in 5:00.62 and earned a wild card spot in the MOC.

“In the mile, Elyssa went for it in the third lap and put herself in a good position,” said Smirk.

“She showed some inexperience on the last lap; she would have been a medalist in any of the other group meets.”

In the 3,200, though, Gensib showed some veteran savvy in taking second with a time of 10:48.18.

“She ran a textbook race; she really executed the race plan, especially with such a quality field,” asserted Smirk

“There were six girls in the race who had gone under 11; they are all experienced and fierce competitors.”

Senior standout Bryell Wheeler displayed her competitive fire, fighting through injury to take second in the triple jump with a leap of 39’2.50.

“Bryell went out in the trials in 100; her hamstring was bothering her all weekend,” said Smirk.

“She found a way in the triple jump to take second and set a county record with a pulled hamstring. The next day, she was hurting in the long jump.”

Wheeler’s fellow jumping star, Maddie Lea, found a way to pull out a fifth-place finish in the triple jump.

“Lea was the competitor of the weekend; she was on the outside looking in during the triple jump preliminaries,” said Smirk.

“She fouled on her first two jumps and popped 36 on the last one to qualify. In the finals, she was seventh coming into the final jump and came back with a 37 to get a medal. It takes a strong person to not freak out when things aren’t going her way and still put in a great effort.”

As Smirk looks ahead to the MOC, he is expecting some more great efforts from his athletes.

“We are looking at some exciting things; Elyssa could go for a sub-5 minute mile or go for the 10:34 school record in the 2-mile,” said Smirk, whose sophomore throwing star Michelle Bazile took fourth in the discus at the group meet with a toss of 117’11 to also qualify for the MOC.

“For Jenna, her race is all about proving that she is one of the top runners in the state in the 2-mile; she is not happy with 11:09. We talked after the race and she said everything went the wrong way on Saturday so hopefully everything will go the right way next week. Maddie is looking to end her high school career by getting in the 37’3 – 37’6 area. For Bryell, it is about competing at the highest level. She can come in and loosen up and know when she is jumping. She won’t have to worry about balancing events.”

In any event, Smirk has enjoyed the ride this spring. “It has been fun; sometimes you get the perfect storm,” said Smirk. “The coaching staff and girls have really been doing a good job.”

THE RIGHT CALL: Princeton High senior Daisy Wu calls the shots in action this spring for the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC). Wu, who made an early transition from rowing to being a cox, is heading to her second straight USRowing Youth National Championships where she will be piloting the MJRC women’s varsity 4. In addition to Wu’s boat, the MJRC is also sending a women’s pair, a women’s lightweight 8, and a men’s open 8 to the competition that will take place from June 8-10 on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

When Daisy Wu first tried her hand at crew, things didn’t go too well.

“Over the summer before high school, I attended the pre-high camp [held by the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC)],” recalled Wu.

“At first I started rowing but I was the one who caught the crabs (a bad stroke where a rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water) every time.”

As a result, the coaches suggested that Wu try a different role in the boat.

“They said why don’t we put you in the coxswain seat,” said Wu. “They were like you can steer straight, you should try out for the team as a cox.”

Wu made the transition to coxswain and now the Princeton High senior is headed to her second straight USRowing Youth National Championships where she will be piloting the MJRC women’s varsity 4.

In addition to Wu’s boat, the MJRC is also sending a women’s pair, a women’s lightweight 8, and a men’s open 8 to the competition that will take place from June 8-10 on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Wu took an important step on her journey to the nationals in the fall of her freshman year when she started to grasp the nuances of being a cox.

“I guess the biggest challenge is figuring out that it is not just sitting there and yelling,” said Wu.

“You have to figure out what to say and what gets people going. You have to become friends with the people on your boat quickly since you are all from different schools and put together quickly.”

Last spring, Wu relished the challenge of nationals as she guided a youthful men’s varsity 8 at the competition.

“They were all underclassmen, sophomore or freshmen, and it was them just learning the ropes for what they were going to do the next year,” said Wu. “They are pretty fast this year; they have all been learning. It wasn’t overwhelming for me; it was a great experience.”

As a senior, Wu has had the experience of leading the MJRC girls’ team, serving as captain along with PHS classmate Reina Gabai.

“It felt really cool because Reina was the other captain and she is my best friend,” said Wu.

“It was a big honor to do it with her. Reina was the one who could lead by example because she rows. I was more the motivational backbone for everyone. I wrote speeches; we set up team workshops. We had a lot of psyche parties. I loved it. I thought Reina and I did a pretty good job.”

The work of Wu and Gabai has resulted in a special chemistry around the MJRC boathouse.

“The team this year is great; we became one united front; we weren’t segregated by what boat we were in or how we did,” said Wu.

“We were one really strong team and we just really cared for each other which is why this year has been so great.”

In Wu’s view, the varsity 4 heading to the nationals exemplifies that spirit.

“The athletes are really, really strong and they want it which is really important, that is the biggest thing,” said Wu of the boat that also includes Laura Foster of WW/P-S, Emily Goodman of PHS, Samantha Woo of WW/P-S, and Vicki Jorgensen of WW/P-N.

“It is also because we all click well together. Our personalities are compatible; we want to do it for each other, which is the biggest thing.”

The group, which was put together midway through the season, showed how well they could do as they won the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship regatta on its home course at Mercer Lake in mid-May to qualify for the nationals.

“Our heat was Friday night and the plan was don’t over exhaust yourself,” said Wu.

“Play it smart, if you are in first great. If you are in second, don’t fight it. We were in first during heat and there was a boat next to us battling over the last 250 and we let them have it. We had a pretty good final. We had open water and the boat that was first in the semis, we didn’t even know where they were in the final.”

As the boat heads into the nationals, Wu has her sights set on making another final.

“We ultimately want to get into the A final; that is a big deal,” said Wu, referring to the grand final which features the top six boats in the division.

“The competition is really tough so if we can get into the A final at nationals, that would be a pretty darn good way to end it, even if we don’t win.”

That won’t be the end for Wu and her boat, however, as they will be competing later in the summer at the Henley Royal Regatta in England.

“We have the potential to do well at Henley,” asserted Wu. “We just have to keep working for it. We have the idea that we could go overseas to race and do well.”

TOP GUN: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse star Hannah Levy heads to goal in action this spring. Junior Levy piled up a team-high 94 points this season on 69 goals and 25 assists to help PDS overcome a 0-5 start and finish with a 9-9 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team played at the Hun School in its season finale, it may have been a Mercer County Tournament consolation game but there was still a lot on the line.

PDS came into the contest looking to raise its season record to the .500 mark and seeking to prove it was for real after edging Hun in a regular season contest.

Utilizing a balanced attack, PDS made its point, pulling out an 18-17 win to end a roller-coaster spring on a high note.

For PDS head coach Jill Thomas, the season-ending triumph was meaningful on several levels.

“It evened our record at 9-9,” said Thomas. “I think a lot of people thought our win there earlier in the season was a fluke so to come back and do it again was big. We can use that win as a positive as we go into the offseason.”

The Panthers got a special highlight in the contest as the team’s lone senior, Shannon Towle, scored the game-winning goal in the waning moments.

“For Shannon to get the winning goal in her last game in the PDS uniform was big,” said Thomas.

“You should have seen the look on her face; that goal will be in her thoughts for a long time.”

As Thomas looks back on the spring, she acknowledges that it was a bumpy ride.

“When you are young, it is fun and frustrating,” said Thomas. “At times everyone had some frustration this year but is not where you start, it is where you finish. We were 0-5 on April 4 and then we won our next five games. We played with the big girls in Prep A and took our lumps. All the kids got better, we have everyone coming back but one player; they learned what it means to wear the PDS uniform.”

Junior star Hannah Levy brought a lot of honor to the PDS uniform this
season, scoring 94 points on 69 goals and 25 assists.

“Hannah had a pretty big year; she could have been frustrated with the team but she went out every day and played really hard,” said Thomas of Levy who was named as a first-team All-Prep A performer this spring.

“She is a very talented athlete; she is tough and has a style all of her own. She accounted for almost 100 goals; we depended on her to do so many things. She played low attack; she took the draws. She ran the offense; she ran the defense.”

The Panthers have plenty of returning talent in such players as juniors Corinne Urisko and Ellen Bartolino, freshmen Kirsten Kuzmicz and Morgan Foster, and sophomore Lucy Linville.

“Urisko had 35 goals; she was our unsung hero,” asserted Thomas. “Kuzmicz played nearly every minute of the season and did all the little things. She can play; she is the real deal. Foster came on at the end. Linville had moments of brilliance; she had 15 goals and five assists. I am excited to see what she is going to do over the next two years. Ellen Bartolino was someone who figured it out; she can be a force on the field.”

Junior goalie Sarah Trigg proved she can be a force on the field as she took over the starting role in the wake of the graduation of four-year starter Jess Frieder.

“Trigg made big improvements; she is very tough,” added Thomas of Trigg, who is also a star goalie in field hockey.

“She had big shoes to fill. It is tough going from stopping the ball with your feet in field hockey to using your hands. She improved day in, day out.”

In Thomas’ view, the Panthers should keep improving as long as they keep their noses to the grindstone.

“When you are young, you hope for the best,” said Thomas, noting that there are some strong players coming up the ranks from the school’s JV and middle school programs.

“The main lesson is to never, ever give up and to work hard everyday. They need to put in time with the stick and ball. Summer leagues and camps are nice but the key is spending time with the stick and ball and developing stick skills with both hands.”

HEATED COMPETITION: DeQuan Holman, right, of University Radiology looks to get past Chris Edwards of Winberie’s/Miller Lite in last year’s championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Holman and University Radiology went on to win the crown 2-1 in the best-of-three series. The 2012 summer men’s hoops season tips off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Utilizing a blend of talent and big-game savvy, University Radiology broke through last year to win the title of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The core of the team consisted of Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, former Princeton High hoops standouts who reached the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals during their high school careers.

On paper, this group looks like it could become a dominant force in the league, following in the footsteps of such legendary dynasties as Tiger’s Tale, Ivy Inn, and George’s Roasters.

But with the 2012 summer men’s hoops season tipping off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts, the jury is out on University Radiology’s staying power as it looks to defend the title it earned by beating Winberie’s/Miller Lite 2-1 in a hotly-contested best-of-three championship series.

“I think they are pretty much intact,” said Evan Moorhead, league commissioner and longtime observer of the summer hoops battles.

“There has been talk of a dynasty; we have had a lot of flashes in the pan. Over the first 23 seasons, we have had a lot of teams that thought they were the new Tiger’s Tale or Ivy Inn. They have all the pieces but it remains to be seen.”

Last year’s runner-up, Winberie’s, may not have all of its pieces in place as it looks to mount another championship chase.

“Al Gerido is not playing for them and Chris Hatchell had knee problems at the end of the season,” said Moorhead.

“Mark Rosenthal [team manager] plays it close to the vest. They had a great regular season last year. Hatchell was the regular season MVP and they went undefeated. They will have another strong team if they have some of the same players. I think Evan Johnson, their big guy, is back.”

Another big question coming into the summer is whether Ivy Inn (formerly known as George’s Roasters/Ivy Inn) can get back the mojo that helped the club win four of the last six titles coming into the 2011 campaign.

“Last year was rough for them,” said Moorhead, noting that the club went 3-6 in regular season play and was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last summer.

“We will see if they can come back strong. Brian Halligan moved out of state and they will miss his steady play at point guard. Scott Findlay was coming back from a knee injury last summer and may not be playing for them. I think Mark Aziz is back from playing in Egypt and Bobby Davison is there.”

Two other league denizens, Dr. Palmer and SMB, could emerge as dark horses.

“Dr. Palmer hasn’t had a deep run in a while,” added Moorhead. “They always have talent; they always have size. They could be right there in the mix. Greg Ford will be back; he was one of the top scorers in the league last year. SMB finished up in the middle of the pack in the regular season but made it to semis and took Winberie’s into OT.”

The PA Blue Devils are back after making a semifinal run of their won last summer.

“They were strong last year; they made the semis and they were only a basket away from the finals,” said Moorhead.

“They have the same core guys. The guys play in Division III and community college; they keep active and have young legs.”

Another team with youth on its side is Team TB which features several recent PHS grads.

“Team TB has picked up Davon Holliday Black,” said Moorhead of the former Little Tiger star who had played for Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS boys’ hoops entry in the summer league. “There is a lot of talk that they could make a run.”

The league boasts two newcomers in the Ballstars and the Clinton Kings. “The Ballstars are mainly PHS guys like Aaron Thomas, Marcus Budline, Matt Hoffman, Ben Harrison, and a PDS guy Robby Smukler,” said Moorhead.

“The Clinton Kings are similar to PA Blue Devils; They have some college D-3 players; they will be coming down from the Clinton area.”

In Moorhead’s view, the fans coming down to Community Park this summer will be treated to plenty of heated contests.

“This is the first time we have had 10 teams since 2006; it looked like there were only going to be eight teams and then two teams came out of nowhere right before the deadline,” said Moorhead.

“I think it is going to be very competitive. There are not a lot of easy outs on paper; there is a lot of parity.”

May 30, 2012

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Princeton High girls’ track distance stars, Jenna Cody, right, and Amelia Whaley, run away from the competition in a meet earlier this spring. Last weekend, Cody and Whaley helped PHS win the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. Senior Cody took second in the 3,200 and fourth in the 1,600 while junior Whaley was fifth in the 3,200. The pair will next be in action when the Little Tigers compete in the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High girls’ track team brings plenty of talent to the table, it is a dogged spirit that has been the main ingredient in a championship run.

“Some people say a good team has to have a swagger but we are not flashy,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“We talk a lot about ‘sisu,’ a Finnish work for stubborn determination. The girls have a self-confidence, a self-confidence that is earned.”

Last weekend, the Little Tigers displayed their self-confidence and will as they methodically out-dueled the competition on the way to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title.

PHS piled up a winning total of 88 points with Neptune second at 82 and Jackson Liberty third at 67.5.

The win marked the program’s first-ever Group 3 title and was its first sectional crown since PHS took the Central Jersey Group 2 title in 1989. It was a second breakthrough in two weeks for the Little Tigers as they had edged WW/P-S earlier this month to win the county championship.

Setting the pace for the Little Tigers in the sectional meet were its two senior superstars, Bryell Wheeler and Elyssa Gensib. Wheeler took first in the 100 (12.61) and the triple jump (a meet record of 38’6.50) with a third in the long jump (16’8-75) while Penn-bound Gensib was first in the 3,200 (10:53.90), second in the 1,600 (5:03.97), and fourth in the 800 (2:20.33).

Fellow seniors Maddie Lea and Jenna Cody also made big contributions with Lea taking second in both the triple jump (36‘2.50) and long jump (16’ 9) and Cody placing second in the 3,200 (11:05.40) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.68).

Wheeler displayed grit as well as talent in coming up big, fighting through a nagging hamstring to earn her titles.

“Bryell has gained a lot of confidence in her jumps,” said Smirk. “She has more confidence in her jumps than sprints which is amazing with her sprinting background. She ran the 200 in the prelims and said her hamstring didn’t feel right. We thought she had a better shot in the long jump so she dropped out of the 200. She barely made it to the final in the long jump and then ends up jumping third. I have to give a lot of credit to her performance on day two to coach [Ben] Samara. He got her focused and really helped her deal with the hamstring.”

Lea has displayed a special focus in crunch time. “Last year, Maddie developed into a star athlete.,” said Smirk.

“As the season goes on, she gets better little by little but doesn’t put anything great out there. But in sectionals and states, she is great. You put her in the moment and she gives you every inch and every ounce of effort.”

Distance star Gensib likewise demonstrated her flair for rising to the occasion in the big moment.

“Elyssa was incredible; when you tell most athletes that they are going against a national record holder in the 800 and the mile like Ajee Wilson of Neptune, they say ‘oh god’ but Elyssa said hey I am finally going against someone who will help me see what I can really do,” said Smirk.

“She made a mistake in the mile and was too aggressive in the 800. She was really great in the two-mile. What more can you ask of an athlete; she is great at preparing and is great at making race-time adjustments.”

Senior standout Amelia Whaley made a key adjustment as she rose to fifth place in the 3,200 (11:53.01) despite being placed in the slower second heat.

“I sat down with Amelia and talked about it,” said Smirk. “She was a real veteran; she said there was nothing we could do about it. I told her she has run a dozen workouts on the track by herself so she knows what is it like to run fast alone. We could see the group falling behind her so we knew she was running the right pace.”

Bouncing back from illness that kept her out of the county meet, Cody was up to speed as well.

“We were really happy to have Jenna this weekend,” said Smirk. “In the mile, she was nipped by HoVal girl [Sarah Chandler]. She made a little mistake; she was too passive in the middle of the race. We had a real aggressive race plan for the two-mile. We wanted her to do the first mile in 5:20. Gensib kept pressing and passed her at the right time while Cody kept battling and holding on.”

In producing the championship run, PHS has shown an ability to execute its plan.

“A lot of people say the county title is a fluke but we are showing that we are a consistently good team,” said Smirk. “We are the team making the least amount of mistakes.”

As the Little Tigers head into the state Group 3 championship meet this weekend at South Plainfield, Smirk will be looking for his athletes to dig even deeper.

“It is going to be incredible; Winslow is stacked and they look to be at a different level,” said Smirk.

“What I would like to see is for us to risk a little more. They have performed at their best but maybe not at their absolute best. It is less about points and more about doing their best.”

But no matter what the scoreboard says after Saturday, Smirk has drawn inspiration from how his athletes have performed all spring.

“I am so impressed by what they have gone through and how they approach everything, on and off the track, with a fervor for being great,” asserted Smirk. “It is fun to coach athletes like that.”

UPWARD CURVE: Princeton High boys’ track senior star Bruce Robertson flashes his form through a curve earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Robertson took second in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet to help the Little Tigers place fourth in the team standings. Robertson and the team’s other top-6 finishers at the sectional competition will be in action this week at the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ track team, its performance last Saturday at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet represented a step forward.

“Looking at it overall, it is the largest number of qualifiers and largest number of points we have had since I started coaching in 2001,” said PHS head coach John Woodside, whose team placed fourth with Northern Burlington taking first followed by Hamilton and Ocean Township.

“Two years ago, we 10 medals and 41 points. Today we had 11 medals and 46 points. We had a lot of good things happen.”

But Woodside was left with a nagging feeling that even better things could have happened in the meet which took place at Monmouth Regional.

“I think we have a good enough team that we could have done even better,” maintained Woodside.

“The winner had 67 points, that is not that much to win a big meet. The door was wide open.”

Junior throwing star Tim Brennan, though, could not have done much better, winning both the shot put (50’ 7.50) and the javelin (143’3).

“It is hard to describe where to start about him; he is a very important part of our team,” asserted Woodside.

“He is a great kid, great athlete. He works as hard as any kid I have been around. More than that, he helps his teammates get better. He knows how to approach a meet and how to compete. I think of him as the rock. He is a great asset to our team; he is indispensable. He won two events, that is hard to do.”

Senior Bruce Robertson has been an asset to the team and he came up big at the sectional, taking second in the 800 (1:59.69).

“Bruce has been good all year; he had a solid race today,” said Woodside. “It was not spectacular in terms of time but it was a hot day. He ran a good race to finish second. He got himself in a good position; I am happy for him.”

The distance guys were solid across the board for Woodside. “We had 7 qualifiers — three in 1,600 (Ian McIsaac-4th; Conor Donahue-5th; Kevin Ivanov-6th), two in 800 (Robertson-2nd; McIsaac-5th) and two in 3,200 (Luke Bozich-4th; Jacob Rist-5th),” added Woodside.

“McIsaac was the only guy who qualified in two events so we had six different guys. That is the most we have had; it was a good showing. We competed hard. I am proud of them.”

Junior star McIsaac did yeoman’s work for the Little Tigers as he helped the 4×400 relay take fifth in addition to his top-six finishes in the 800 and 1,600.

“I know Ian is a little disappointed but that is good because he wants to do better,” said Woodside.

“He had a little hamstring problem on 1600 and still ran 4:28. The 800 was a good performance for him and he led off the 4×400 relay with a 52.0.”

PHS got a superb performance in the 400 hurdles from sophomore Sabar Dasgupta as he took sixth.

“Sabar ran a tremendous race in the 400 hurdles; “ said Woodside. “He had a big breakthrough a week ago with a 57.8. He ran a 57.50 today so he made breakthrough and beat that a week later.”

Woodside will be looking for more breakthroughs this weekend as his team competes in the state Group 3 meet at South Plainfield.

“We want to try to build on it; that’s the goal,” asserted Woodside. “We are going against really top level guys. We want to improve on what we did this week. The distance runners certainly feel they can do better.”

QIU SCORE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Kevin Qiu, right, hits a backhand as partner Adib Zaidi moves to the net. The first doubles pair of senior Qiu and freshman Zaidi helped PHS advance to the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals where they fell to eventual sectional champion Hopewell Valley. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Eddie Percarpio’s shoulder had been ailing but the Princeton High boys’ tennis team senior star was not about to sit out the state tournament.

As PHS played Monmouth in the second round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney, Percarpio took the court at first singles even though he could only serve underhanded.

Showing grit and savvy, Percarpio pulled out a 7-6, 6-3 win to help the Little Tigers prevail 5-0.

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert saw Percarpio’s performance as a sterling example of senior leadership.

“Eddie had a great match; he has been out for a while with a sore shoulder and has been resting it as much as he could,” said Hibbert.

“He asked me to play; he is a senior and it is his last chance in states. He was a great asset for us. He relied on his ground strokes and mental game.

Percarpio’s effort set a tone for the fourth seeded Little Tigers didn’t drop a set in the win over fifth-seeded Monmouth.

“We didn’t know what to expect; we hadn’t played them and we didn’t play teams they compete against,” added Hibbert.

“Once we got started I was pleased with how the guys played and took care of business.”

Advancing to play top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the sectional semis, Hibbert knew her team was facing a formidable foe.

“We had a tough match with them earlier in the season,” said Hibbert, whose team had lost 5-0 to the Bulldogs on April 12 in a regular season meeting.

“I told the guys we are a much different team than we were a month and a half ago. We had played in the county tournament and we had a lot of tough matches. I told them we had a shot at this.”

While PHS ended up falling 4-1 to the Bulldogs in the May 16 rematch, the Little Tiger players certainly gave it their best shot.

“We won two first sets; we only won one first set in the earlier match,” said Hibbert,

“We were a lot more competitive in a lot of the matches. We played a much closer match than the first time. There were a few tough decisions here or there.”

Once again, a senior showed toughness for PHS as third single player Julian Edgren played on through pain even after HoVal had clinched victory.

“It came down to two matches and they were both split through the first two sets, recalled Hibbert.

“After second singles lost, they had it. Julian started getting leg cramps but he stayed out there.”

The team’s core of seniors, Robert Zhao, Kevin Qiu, Percarpio, and Edgren, have demonstrated staying power over their careers.

“They have been a very strong group,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Lawrence 5-0 on May 18 to improve to 13-3 and was slated to wrap up the season with matches against Notre Dame and WW/P-S.

“They came in as freshmen and played at the top of JV and had some varsity matches. By sophomore year, they ended up in the varsity lineup. They have had various spots. The last two years, they were at singles with Kevin as a staple on doubles. It is always sad to lose a core of seniors. The guys are close; they hang out away from tennis and they are friends off the court.

Having gone with freshmen Adib Zaidi, Tyler Hack, and Rishab Tanga in the starting lineup, the Little Tigers boast a good core of players going forward.

“It is a steady group of players; we do have some bright young prospects with the three freshmen who played this year,” added Hibbert. “I think they can be a great help to us in the future at singles or doubles.”

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: Princeton High softball star Louise Eisenach makes contact in action this spring. The leadership and production of senior shortstop and tri-captain Eisenach helped PHS become more competitive this season. PHS went 9-14, tying a single season record for victories, as it won the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, its first triumph in county play in recent memory, if ever. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High softball team had never won a game in state tournament competition, the squad was not intimidated when it played at Nottingham last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney.

“We had no lack of confidence coming into that game,” said PHS first-year head coach Dave Boehm, reflecting on the matchup between his 11th seeded Little Tigers and the sixth-seeded Northstars.

“We had played two close games with them. We lost in the top of the seventh and bottom of the seventh.”

While PHS got off to a rough start in the contest, falling behind 4-0 after two innings, the squad didn’t fold. The Little Tigers rallied for a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior Hannah Zink but couldn’t tally after that on the way to a 4-1 defeat

“We knew they had a good pitcher who was going to be tough,” said Boehm, whose team ended the spring at 9-14, tying a program record for single-season wins.

“We gave up four runs in the first two innings and no more after that. They had five hits; we had two.”

The Little Tigers showed toughness this spring in making some key breakthroughs as they won an in-season tourney and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in extra innings in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“We won the Teaneck tournament, we had lost there the last three years,” said Boehm, whose team beat Ridgefield 8-4 and Teaneck 15-3 on the way to the title of the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament.

“We took the next step in MCT; that was our first county win in recent memory. That team had beaten us 13-0 last year and really pounded us. I think they came in there thinking they were going to roll us over. We stepped up; it was an exciting game.”

Junior star outfielder Marisa Gonzalez stepped up this spring, moving to the No. 3 spot in the PHS batting order and responding by hitting over .500.

“Marisa had 38 hits and 42 RBIs; she was the most important part of our team,” asserted Boehm, noting that Gonzalez will be playing high-level travel ball over the summer. “She has 112 hits going into senior year; she has a good chance at getting 150.”

The team’s senior trio of Louise Eisenach, Hannah Zink, and Angela Matchum made a good contribution.

“They took more of a leadership role,” said Boehm. “Louise came into her own; she really stepped up as a leader. Zink was steady at first base and a good influence on the younger players. Matchum played a nice right field for us.”

PHS has some nice pieces in place with the freshman pitcher Sarah Eisenach, junior third baseman Hannah Gutierrez, junior catcher Maddie Cahill-Sanidas, and junior outfielder Helen Eisenach.

“Sarah pitched two-thirds of our games and I batted her fourth a lot,” said Boehm.

“She will throw the ball harder. I think she will hit with more power in the future, she just needs to shorten her stroke. All of them (Gutierrez, Cahill-Sanidas, and Helen Eisenach) are solid players. We will have three good arms and good players in outfield with Gonzalez, Helen, and Charlotte Gray.”

In order to become even more competitive, PHS needs to play harder on a constant basis.

“We need to play a full seven innings,” said Boehm. “There were games where we got behind and chipped away and then there were games where we lost leads. We hung tough.”

For Boehm, taking the helm of the program after serving as an assistant coach the last four seasons was not a tough transition.

“I enjoyed it; I knew that I didn’t have a team that was going to rip the cover off so I knew we had to play some hit and run, bunt, and steal bases,” said Boehm.

“Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was fun. It was a good group of girls; they responded well. They had fun, even in practice. There was a good chemistry. The seniors and juniors were helping the younger players.”

SAVED BY BELL: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse goalie Harlyn Bell clears the ball in a game this spring. The development of freshman Bell into a star was a major plus for Stuart this season. Bell and the Tartans topped Nottingham 16-5 in their season finale to end with a 4-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team, its season-ending 16-5 win over Nottingham reflected how much the team has grown over the spring.

“It was a great way to end the season,” said Stuart first-year head coach Caitlin Grant.

“The team played well together defensively. They really came together, like we have been working on.”

Senior star Ani Hallowell ended her career in style, scoring six goals to help lift Stuart to a 4-11 final record.

“Ani was the heart and soul of the team,” asserted Grant of Hallowell, who is headed to Holy Cross.

“She scored goals. She helped all over the field. She had 113 goals in her career with around 70 this year.”

The Tartans saw young players step up all over the field with freshman goalie Harlyn Bell, freshman attacker Nneka Onuwugha, and junior attacker Alaina Ungarini turning heads.

“Bell was a brand new goalie and I think she was one of the best we saw in the area,” said Grant.

“She likes the responsibility; she sets a high standard for herself and gets upset when she doesn’t hit her goals. Nneka Onuwagha had never even touched a stick before this year and she ended up with four or five goals. Alaina was kind of timid at first. Last year was the first time she had played. She took it upon herself to score more and she did.”

Sophomore Amy Hallowell figures to pick up some of the scoring load after the graduation of older sister Ani.

“Amy Hallowell was in her sister’s shadow at the beginning; she let Ani take over,” said Grant.

“I know it is tough; I played with my older sister in high school. Amy is a great player. She has around 50 goals so she is in line to get 100. She is going to step up more without Ani there.”

Grant believes that offensive balance will be a key to the program’s continued progress.

“I want them to learn that they can really work together and not rely on one player,” said Grant. “Each of them can take the ball to the goal.”

For Grant, getting the chance to work with the Tartan program helped her become a better teacher of the game.

“It is different from Notre Dame High where I played,” said Grant, who went on to play college lax at The College of New Jersey.

“We had so many players that we could pick and choose and work on plays and more intricate things right away. With Stuart, there are a lot of new players. We have to work on throwing and catching and the basics; we had to teach some of them the rules.”

But while the program may not be strong in numbers, it boasts a special unity.

“It is such a tight little group, you know everyone right away,” said Grant. “We had only 17 or so players. They work well together. Everyone has to play.”

In order to enjoy more success in the future, the Stuart players can’t wait until next spring to improve.

“We have a summer camp and I would like them to come to that; I also have pointed them in the direction of summer clinics and camps,” said Grant.

“I want to talk to next year’s captains [Amy Hallowell and Isabel Soto] about having the team play with each other in the offseason so they know the ins and outs of their game and we can start working on plays right away.”