June 3, 2020

STANDING TALL: Princeton University women’s hockey goalie Steph Neatby guards the crease this winter during her senior season with the Tigers. Senior Neatby came up big for Princeton in the ECAC Hockey title game at top-ranked Cornell, making 31 saves as Princeton rallied for a 3-2 overtime win in the March 8 contest. That turned out to be Neatby’s last appearance for the Tigers as the NCAA tournament was canceled days later due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Neatby will be continuing her hockey career, having signed a contract to play with Swedish professional club Linkoping HC. She will be joined on the squad by classmate and star forward Carly Bullock. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was a rough start for Steph Neatby as the Princeton University women’s hockey team played at top-ranked Cornell in the ECAC Hockey championship game in early March.

With senior goalie Neatby yielding two goals in the first 2:49 of the contest, the No. 6 Tigers fell behind 2-0 and appeared to be in for a long afternoon against a team that had already defeated them twice handily in regular season play.

“We had a TV timeout after the first five minutes; I went to the bench and I always talk to my goalie partners and Rachel [McQuigge] turns to me and I was like ‘oh God, what do I do,’ ” said Neatby, 6’0 native of Toronto, Ontario.

“She said it can’t get any worse and I was oh you are right. She calmed me down and I thought I might as well just go for it. Then I went back in the first period and they almost scored three more but I would make the save.”

Neatby kept on making saves, ending up with 31 as Princeton rallied for a 3-2 win in overtime, earning the program’s first-ever ECACH title.

“I keep talking about it, for us and the men’s team, luckily we were the teams that got to end on wins,” said Neatby, noting that the Tiger men’s team swept Dartmouth in the opening round of the ECACH playoffs that same weekend. more

TOUGH TO TAKE: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cal Caputo heads to goal in a game last year. Senior attacker and co-captain Caputo was primed for a big finale as PDS was shooting for a fifth straight Mercer County Tournament title before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Caputo will get to continue his lacrosse career at the next level as he has committed to attend Williams College and play for its men’s lax program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team headed into the second week of preseason this March, Joe Moore sensed that things were coming together for his squad.

“It was going well; in first few weeks, we spend a lot of time filling in the gaps from the guys that left the year earlier,” said second year head coach Moore, who guided PDS to a 13-3 record last spring and the program’s fourth straight Mercer County Tournament title.

“We graduated a lot of guys on offense last year, especially in the midfield, so we were trying in the early part of the season to identify guys who could fill those holes. We were actually getting more and more excited about the season as time went on because we were seeing all of those holes being filled and new guys stepping up.”

With senior stars and co-captains Cal Caputo and Jake Bennett leading the attack, PDS was primed for another championship campaign.

“Without being too cocky about it but for our guys it is an expectation for our team with four counties in a row, especially for guys like Cal and Jake who have been around for four years,” said Moore, whose other senior co-captains included Andrew Ciccarone and Kevin Dougherty.

“They have gotten three so for them to go out and finish on a high note was something that they definitely wanted to do.” more

MOVING FORWARD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Ben Quinones races upfield in a game last spring. Senior star and captain Quinones had led the way for PHS on and off the field as the 2020 season was halted in mid-March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having failed to qualify for the state tournament the last two seasons, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was bringing a lot of hunger into the 2020 campaign.

“We did a lot of really good work in the offseason; we did a lot of leadership reading and had discussions,” said PHS head coach Chip Casto, who led the Tigers to a 6-9 record last year.

“I usually post a note every day of the season outside of my classroom but this year the seniors wanted to start posting notes earlier and said let’s count down so we started with 100 days to go. We have been really looking forward to this year coming off the last two years of not even making the state tournament. It is just uncharacteristic so they were itching to get back.”

PHS got back on the field for a week in March before school was closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and weeks later the season was formally canceled.

With the players working from home, the team’s veterans have kept things together. more

May 27, 2020

HEADING TO EUROPE: Carly Bullock controls the puck in a game this winter during her senior season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. With Bullock scoring a team-high 30 goals on the year, the Tigers won the ECAC Hockey tournament for the first time in program history and boasted a 26-6-1 record heading into the NCAA tournament. Princeton was deprived of a chance to make a run for a national title as the tourney was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bullock will get a chance to continue her hockey career as she recently signed a contract to play with Swedish professional club Linkoping HC. She will be joined on the squad by classmate and star goalie Steph Neatby. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Carly Bullock and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s hockey team believed that they were national title contenders as the squad headed into mid-March.

With senior star forward Bullock having scored a goal to help Princeton rally to a 3-2 overtime win at No. 1 Cornell on March 8 in the ECAC Hockey championship game, she sensed that the Tigers could go all the way in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

“We were playing some of our best hockey, we had just beaten the No. 1 team in the championship game,” said Bullock, a native of Eden Prairie, Minn., noting that it was the first-ever ECACH title for the program.

“We have been a really close team all year but around the playoffs we just hit a new level. We were just having so much fun and I think that really translates to things on ice. We were singing and dancing between periods.”

But the fun stopped days later when all college winter and spring sports were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the Tigers getting ready to play at Northeastern in the NCAA quarterfinals, the abrupt end to the postseason run was hard to process for a team that had gone 26-6-1, setting a program record for most wins in a season. more

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton High baseball player Jason Ramirez fires a pitch in a 2019 game. Senior Ramirez had assumed a leadership role for PHS this season, being selected as a tri-captain along with classmates Judd Petrone and Gautam Chawla. The trio has stepped up to keep the Tiger players on the same page after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heading into his second season at the helm of the Princeton High baseball team, Dom Capuano liked the vibe around the squad.

“We had 45 people try out and we had cuts; while making cuts is never fun, it is good that the program is growing,” said PHS head coach Capuano, who guided the Tigers to a 9-13 record in 2019 as it won six of its last eight games and advanced to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals.

“We were excited. We lost some stuff from last year but I don’t think the team makeup was going to be that much different.”

Capuano credited his group of seniors — Jason Ramirez, Judd Petrone, Gautam Chawla, Brian Frost, Aidan Regan, Enoch Zeng, and Connor Parish — with setting a positive tone.

“I didn’t take over until basically almost February last year so there wasn’t the ability for those seniors to work in what we are trying to do now with the culture,” said Capuano.

“With this group of seniors, especially, the captains (Ramirez, Petrone, and Chawla) ran with it, leading the workouts and everything. They did an excellent job.” more

TAGLINE: Hun School softball player Gigi Venizelos looks to tag a baserunner in a game last spring. Senior star and Colgate University-bound Venizelos was poised for a big final campaign before the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Led by a trio of battle-tested and dedicated seniors, the Hun School softball team was bringing high hopes into this spring.

“I thought it was a promising season, our seniors did such a great job, working out this fall and winter,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, whose Class of 2020 featured Gigi Venizelos, Abby Zucatti, and Jackie Drozd.

The Raiders did see some game action on their annual preseason trip to Florida.

“We did a get a chance to go to Florida and play two games down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-6 in 2019 as it advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.

“We were starting to jell, we were young. Of the pitchers we had on the mound, one was a freshman and one was a sophomore. We had a freshman at first base, who was very similar to Meg Donohue and we had a new sophomore at shortstop.”

But the trip was cut short due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak and the season was subsequently canceled, leaving Quirk feeling particularly sad for her veterans. more

May 20, 2020

BATTLING BACK: Princeton University baseball player Chris Davis displays his batting form in a game last spring. After dealing with a series of injuries early in his career, outfielder Davis emerged as a key contributor for the Tigers, hitting .281 in 2019 as a junior and leading the Tigers in slugging percentage with a .407 mark. With his final season getting cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis is headed to Duke University as a graduate student in its Fuqua School of Business and will be playing for the Blue Devil baseball program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Resilient gets thrown around a lot in these uncertain times, but few befit the adjective better than Chris Davis.

The Princeton University senior baseball star will graduate this June after having his final season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, the third season he has missed out on in his career. He’s been through a lot in the last five years, yet still has his sights on playing pro ball.

“He’s just as resilient a young man as we have ever had,” said Scott Bradley, the Tigers head coach the last 23 years. “It’s incredible what he’s done.”

Davis, a 5’9, 175-pound outfielder from Avon, Conn., was set back by a shoulder problem in his first year at Princeton, a life-threatening freak injury the next year, and now after two promising seasons, his final campaign was erased by precautions taken by the Ivy League and NCAA due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Losing a baseball season doesn’t match some of the loss and hardship some of the people across the world have had,” said Davis. “It’s crazy how much it has escalated with the reasons I’ve missed seasons.”

Returning from the first two years off to enjoy strong seasons, Davis is looking forward to his next opportunity on the diamond that will come next year as a graduate student in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. This spring, he had been hoping to build on a 2019 season that saw him start every game, batting .281 and leading the Tigers with a .407 slugging percentage as well as 16 extra-base hits. He had a hit and two walks this year in seven games as the Tigers went 0-7 before the remainder of the season was canceled. more

MAKING STRIDES: Mariana Lopez-Ona heads up the field last year in her senior season for the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team. This past spring, Lopez-Ona made her debut for the University of Michigan women’s lacrosse team, tallying one goal in three appearances for the Wolverines as they went 5-1 before their season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mariana Lopez-Ona started from day one of her career with the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team in the spring of 2016 and ended up tallying more than 300 goals over the next four seasons.

Heading to the University of Michigan last fall to join its Division I women’s lacrosse program, things didn’t come so easily for Lopez-Ona.

“The college game is just so much different and faster,” said Lopez-Ona, a 5’9 midfielder.

“There is a lot more work involved in bringing it up to that level. When you start playing outside of the high school realm, it is just a shock when you first get there.”

In dealing with those challenges, Lopez-Ona found she was able to lean on her teammates.

“One of the most beneficial things is that it is somewhat different from high school because everyone is so insanely supportive of each other,” said Lopez-Ona.

“You are all going through the run test and tough coaching together and you are basically living together. If you are having a bad day at practice, your teammates are there to pick you up.”

Former PHS teammate and star goalie for Michigan, Mira Shane, also helped to pick up Lopez-Ona’s spirits.

“I talked to Mira a lot throughout my fall about practices and everything; she was really, really helpful,” said Lopez-Ona. more

STICKING TOGETHER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Allison Cowan goes after the ball in a game last spring. Senior star Cowan and her classmates were poised for a big finale before 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hun players have remained connected through Zoom and Instagram as they have worked from home. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Rachel Hickey sensed something special about her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team this spring.

“I don’t know if I have ever been part of a team where I have seen so much growth, not only physically but in terms of culture as well,” said Hun head coach Hickey.

“It was just a really wonderful feeling of how the girls were really enjoying being there. They were really enjoying each other and just working so hard. They were wanting to work hard for each other and we worked to change the culture.”

Hickey credited her senior group with taking a major role in setting that positive tone.

“A huge piece of it as well was this year I had 10 seniors so that was real special,” added Hickey, whose Class of 2020 included Emily Albanese, Sophie Bennett, Emma Caforio, Allison Cowan, Grace Davis, Rose Denommee, Ariel Gold, Samantha Gold, Julia McBryan, and Chessie Ross.

“All of the seniors were friends as well. When you have a group of leaders who are friends that in and of itself goes so far when kids want to play for each other.”

With Hickey in her second year at the helm of the program, the players had developed a greater comfort level from the start of the school year.

“Kids in high school are young and change is challenging for anyone,” said Hickey. more

May 13, 2020

CORY STORY: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Annie Cory heads up the field in a game this spring. Senior midfielder and tri-captain Cory tallied four goals and picked up eight ground balls to help Princeton go 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League before its season was canceled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Annie Cory is putting the best spin she can on the cancellation of the Princeton University women’s lacrosse 2020 season.

It’s the second straight spring that the Tiger senior midfielder has had to deal with misfortune.

“For me personally, last year I wasn’t on the field and I think I experienced the greatest growth — maybe not as a lacrosse player — but as a person and as a leader even when I wasn’t on the field,” said Cory.

“That’s the mentality that I’m trying to bring to this. I can’t be on the field, but how can I use this time period to experience growth as a person, as a leader, as a teammate? Although it’s not ideal, and I think everyone would agree, whether it’s a high school sports player or a professional sports player, and all the college athletes, we’d much rather be on the field growing in that way, but if we can’t do that we have to figure out some other ways to be productive and be positive about this time. That’s the approach I’ve taken.”
Cory tore her ACL one week into preseason as Princeton was preparing for its first scrimmage. She did not play in a single scrimmage or game in 2019, but showed her true colors in a tough time.

“The thing I loved about Annie is regardless of whether she was on field or during the time she was injured and couldn’t play, she was all in,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer. more

LEAP OF FAITH: Stuart Country Day School track star Heather Kwafo displays her jumping form in a meet this past winter. Senior Kwafo placed first in the long jump (17’10 ½) and third in the triple jump (34’4 ½) at the Mercer County Indoor Championship meet in late January. The Vassar College-bound Kwafo helped Stuart win its third straight state Prep B indoor title on February 1, placing first in both the 55 dash and 200 dash and finishing second in the 55 hurdles.

By Bill Alden

For Heather Kwafo, joining the Stuart Country Day School track team as a freshman in 2016 was a family affair.

With her older sister, Michele, having emerged as a star for Stuart, Kwafo decided to give the sport a try.

“I started in the ninth grade, I hadn’t run in middle school or anything,” said Kwafo.

“I basically did it because my older sister did. She liked it and she was very passionate about it. That kind of let me know that it was something I could be passionate about too.”

While Kwafo admired her sister, who was a junior at the time, she was a bit intimidated by Michele’s success in piling up a number of state Prep B individual titles and school records on the way to heading to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and joining its women’s track program.

“She was really good at it, she was very talented right off the bat even though she put in a lot of hard work,” said Kwafo.  more

KEEPING SPIRITS UP: Hun School baseball head coach Tom Monfiletto enjoys the moment during a 2018 game. Monfiletto was enthusiastic about his team’s prospects this spring as several veterans were ready to step up with Hun coming off a 22-2 campaign in 2019 that saw the program win its fourth straight state Prep A title. In the wake of the 2020 campaign being canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Monfiletto has been keeping in frequent contact with his players, providing them with a practice plan and a workout on a daily basis. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Hun School baseball team, this spring was shaping up to be a season of opportunity.

Coming off a 22-2 campaign in 2019 that saw the program win its fourth straight state Prep A title led by a group of seniors, several veteran returnees who patiently waited their turn were primed to shine this year.

“It was never a sense of how do we figure this out; it was hey we have built the foundation and the sky is the limit,” said Hun head coach Tom Monfiletto.

“It was a different cast of characters, but it is the same show. Each one brings their own personality and strengths. It was a different feel but it was really, really exciting. I knew that we had talent across the board. I knew that we had guys that worked their butts off but we didn’t have the experience that we had last year. The guys that were going to be starting for us, some of them were starters last year and some of them definitely contributed last year, but not many were everyday guys and they were going to have to become everyday guys.”

Those guys showed they were ready by playing well in two scrimmages in Florida in early March as they faced the ELEV8 Baseball Academy (Fla.) and New Jersey prep powerhouse Delbarton.

“We came out and we won that scrimmage against ELEV8 and looked very good on the mound,” said Monfiletto. more

May 6, 2020

WINGING IT: Bella Alarie depicted in the uniform of the Dallas Wings of the WNBA. After a superb senior season for the Princeton University women’s basketball team which saw Alarie help the Tigers go 26-1, she was chosen by the Wings as the fifth pick in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft in mid-April. (Photo by Jarrod Allison/Dallas Wings)

By Justin Feil

Bella Alarie woke up on April 17 and tried to go about her usual day with breakfast at her home in Bethesda, Md., time with her parents and two younger brothers, and some academic work.

Although her thesis was due in just one week, it wasn’t foremost on the mind of the Princeton University senior star forward who by that midday was feeling anxious about the upcoming WNBA draft.

“It was definitely not a productive thesis day,” said Alarie. “It was very hectic and there was a lot to get done. I had my family to help me out and get ready. I was so excited for 7 o’clock to come, I felt like it was taking so long and the day was going so slow. I was so excited when it got to 7 o’clock. It was a lot of mixed emotions honestly with excitement and nerves and all that. The whole day, it wasn’t exactly what I imagined my draft day would look like, but all the emotions I would have felt on a stage in New York, they were all the same.”

Alarie was thrilled to be chosen fifth overall by the Dallas Wings, matching the highest selection ever of an Ivy League player, equaling that of Harvard’s Allison Feaster, who was picked fifth by the Los Angeles Sparks 22 years earlier.

“I’m super proud of myself and happy; that’s a huge accomplishment,” said Alarie.

“I’m really grateful that I was selected that high and they believed in me. And to come out of the Ivy League, there haven’t been a lot, but I do have great players to look up to from Princeton like Leslie Robinson and Blake Dietrich who have had WNBA experience. It’s a huge honor. I definitely take it seriously because I do want to represent Princeton and the Ivy League as best I can and it’s been like 20 years since we’ve had a first-round pick out of our league. I have a lot of honor and pride and I want to make the most of it. It’s really special and it’s a testament to all the coaches and teammates and all the development and time they put into making me better. You can’t do it alone.” more

BACK IN THE GAME: Mira Shane guards the net in a 2019 game during her senior season playing goalie for the University of Michigan women’s lacrosse team. After a superb career for the Wolverines, Princeton High grad Shane has returned to the game, joining the Harvard women’s lax program last fall as a volunteer coach. (Photo provided courtesy of Michigan Photography)

By Bill Alden

Mira Shane seemed to have it all after graduating from the University of Michigan last spring.

After a jam-packed four years in Ann Arbor which saw Shane star as goalie for the Michigan women’s lacrosse team, perform in the 58 Greene a cappella group, serve as the president of Michigan’s Athletes for Community Transformation, and oversee mental health initiatives for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, she landed a corporate job with Anheuser-Busch.

But after working a few months for the brewing giant at its headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., Shane decided something was missing in her life.

“I had all of these cool plans to do the corporate thing and it really didn’t end up being me which is totally OK,” said Shane, a girls’ lacrosse and basketball star for Princeton High who set Michigan program career records in wins (24), career saves (360), and career save percentage (.451), getting named as an Inside Lacrosse honorable mention All-American in her senior season as the Wolverines went 16-4.

“I realized three months in that this isn’t Mira. I need a little bit more energy, passion and something I really want to get up for every morning and I knew that was going to lie in lacrosse.”

Following that passion, Shane decided to get back into the game as a coach and ended up heading east to join the staff of the Harvard women’s lax team as a volunteer assistant, aided by a Michigan connection and admiration for Harvard head coach Devon Wills, a former All-American goalie for Dartmouth. more

TEEING OFF: Raj Bhardwaj, right, tees off on the first hole at the Princeton Country Club last Saturday with Venu Avula looking on as golf courses reopened across New Jersey pursuant to an executive order issued last Thursday by Gov. Phil Murphy. Golf courses had been closed since late March as part of the social distancing guidelines set forth by Murphy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

By issuing Executive Order 133 last Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy unleashed thousands of golfers to tee off across New Jersey last weekend after courses had been closed since late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the terms of the order, parks, and golf courses were reopened on Saturday morning with Murphy acknowledging that “we understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up,” but adding that “this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place.”

Local clubs did experience a rush as golfers wasted no time booking starting times as soon as they could.

At TPC Jasna Polana on Province Line Road, members reserved all openings for Saturday within minutes of the club’s website opening its online tee sheet on Thursday evening.

In an email to members, Jasna Polana club management noted that “while we knew the demand to play golf would be the highest in our history, we would not imagine the starting sheet would be completely booked within six minutes.”

As for the Mercer County Park Commission’s four golf courses, its online booking service temporarily crashed Thursday evening due to the volume of players looking to reserve tee times for Saturday. more

April 29, 2020

POINT COUNTERPOINT: Star point guard Blake Dietrick, left, triggered the 2014-15 Princeton University women’s basketball team to a 31-1 record in a senior campaign that saw her get named as the Ivy League Player of the Year while junior guard Carlie Littlefield was a first-team All-Ivy performer this winter as the Tigers went 26-1. (Photos by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

The Princeton University women’s basketball team was left with a number of what-ifs following the cancellation of the NCAA tournament in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a postscript to an historic season that saw Princeton dominate the Ivy League and barge its way into the Top 25, there is a lingering hypothetical what-if.

In the same vein as water cooler debates over which storied NBA teams could have beaten the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, the subject of the ESPN documentary The Last Dance, strong opinions are sparked by the question of how would the 2019-20 Tigers team fare against the 2014-15 Princeton team in a matchup of the two best seasons in program history.

Former Princeton players and coaches — rather reluctantly — compared their teams, always with the caveat that they were each other’s biggest fans, not rivals in any way.

“I really wish this year’s team could’ve made their run in the tourney,” said Annie Tarakchian, who starred for the 2015 team before graduating in 2016 and returning to her home state of California. “We were all so looking forward to that and gearing up to go wherever the games were seeded.” more

GAME OFF: Hun School Director of Athletics Bill Quirk, left, and his wife, Kathy, discuss strategy in their roles as coaches of the Hun softball team during a game in the 2016 season. Last week, Quirk and the school’s administration formally canceled its 2020 spring sports season, concluding that it would not have time to compete in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to keep schools closed through May 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As schools across New Jersey were shut down by Gov. Phil Murphy in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hun School was hopeful that it could hold an abbreviated spring sports season starting in May.

But with Governor Murphy’s later decision to extend the school closure to May 15, time has run out on Hun and it formally canceled its spring campaign last week.

“We tried to hold off as long as we could,” said Hun Director of Athletics Bill Quirk of the decision, which comes in the wake of the Peddie School and the Lawrenceville School having previously pulled the plug on their spring seasons.

“Once the governor kept moving that date back with us being scheduled to graduate on May 27, by the time we would come back, there would be only nine days of school.”

For Quirk, who also serves as an assistant coach of the Hun softball team, the cancellation was a tough pill to swallow.

“Spring is one of those seasons where you see the kids working out all the time from September on,” said Quirk. “The teaser was that the majority of them got to go on their spring break trips and then they come home and find out that basically was your season. It is disheartening.” more

April 22, 2020

LAST DANCE: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew enjoy the moment in front of their boathouse on March 12 after they held a spirited last row in their final practice of the season. Before competing against each other in a speed order, the rowers shared their thoughts, reflecting on what they gained from a season halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By Bill Alden

On the afternoon of March 11, Greg Hughes spent practice with his Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing team by discussing the shattering announcement released earlier that day regarding the Ivy League’s decision to cancel spring sports due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“That was a hard conversation, somebody asked me what I said and I said I don’t really know what I said,” said Princeton head coach Hughes.

“There were tears, it was emotional. I think the hardest emotions were for the seniors. It took a lot more time to digest that and they still are processing it.”

A day later, the team’s final practice of 2020 turned into a moving and joyous day of rowing and reflection.

After Hughes notified his athletes they would get one last day on the water, he sensed it would prove to be a memorable session.

“The guys were pumped, they were so excited,” said Hughes. “What was really neat about that was when we met up and ran our normal warmup, you could see the energy. People truly embraced this opportunity.” more

SPEAKING OUT: Noah Savage provides analysis courtside as part of the ESPN college basketball broadcasting team during the 2018-19 season. Savage, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who also works as a color commentator on Tiger broadcasts, recently contracted COVID-19 and recovered from the virus after a two-week battle.

By Bill Alden

Noah Savage has gone through a tough 2020 health-wise.

The former Princeton University men’s basketball star and current color commentator on Tiger hoops and ESPN broadcasts has suffered a broken thumb, a stomach flu, and Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle, in the first few months of the year.

But on March 15, those ailments paled in comparison when Savage learned the scary news that he been caught up in the coronavirus pandemic, finding out that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Living in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, Savage was not surprised that he was diagnosed with the virus after feeling ill in early March.

“I had that persistent cough that wasn’t like a productive cough; the urge to cough was there all the time but nothing was happening,” said Savage, 34, who suffers from asthma.

“I work in pharmaceutical sales in New York, I go to offices to see people. I have all of the symptoms, I checked all of the boxes. I am not interacting with the patients but I walk in the waiting room and then I meet with the doctor. Then I started feeling chest tightness all the time that I haven’t had since my asthma. I used to use an inhaler every day when I played and now I really don’t use it. I had to start using it again for the first time in five years. This was worrisome so I called up my doctor.” more

NEW STAR: Coby Auslander unloads the ball this spring during his freshman season for the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team. Princeton Day School alum Auslander made a superb debut for the Captains, scoring 8 goals and 10 assists in six games as the season was halted due to coronavirus pandemic. Last week, he was named as an Inside Lacrosse 2020 Division III All-Freshman midfielder. (Photo provided courtesy of Christopher Newport Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Coby Auslander didn’t know much about Christopher Newport University when he headed down to Newport News, Va., in 2018 to check out the school and its men’s lacrosse program.

It didn’t take long for Auslander, a former boys’ soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse star at Princeton Day School, to feel at home in the Tidewater area.

“A lot of people up here haven’t heard of Christopher Newport, myself included in the beginning,” said Auslander, a 2019 PDS grad.

“The second I stepped on campus, took the tour, and met with the coach, I knew right away that it was the perfect fit. I looked at my mom and said this school is so beautiful; this campus and the team seems like the culture I want to part of,” he said.

This spring, Auslander emerged as a key part of the team, scoring 8 goals and 10 assists in six games before the season was halted in early March due to coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Auslander was named to the Inside Lacrosse 2020 Division III All-Freshman team. In choosing Auslander, the publication noted that he “ran on the first line midfield, took the wing on face-offs, was a member of the man-up unit, and played a ton of defense for the Captains.”

For the 5’7, 150-pound Auslander, earning such responsibility didn’t come easy. more

April 15, 2020

STORMY MONDAY: Princeton University wrestler Quincy Monday, top, controls a foe during a match this winter. Although the 2019-20 season ended prematurely in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, sophomore Monday made a lot of progress, going 23-4 at 157 pounds and getting seeded fifth for the NCAA Championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

One day at practice this season, Princeton University wrestling head coach Chris Ayres mused out loud in amazement to his team, rattling off the opponent rankings faced by one of his charges.

The wrestler in question, Quincy Monday, battled a gauntlet of foes ranked at No. 7, No. 4, No. 6, No. 10, No. 9, and No. 20.

Undeterred by that challenge, Monday beat them all during a sophomore year that thrust him into the top five nationally for most of the year and helped push the Tigers team to new heights. He helped Princeton dethrone Cornell for the Ivy League crown to earn the program’s first league title since 1986 and put himself squarely in the picture for a national title at 157 pounds.

“It felt like we were setting new records every week we competed,” said Monday. “It was really exciting to be a part of something like that. It felt like we had momentum building up every week. We were always making headlines. It was fun to be a part of.”

Monday enjoyed a great debut season last winter that saw him earn first-team All-Ivy League as the only Princeton wrestler to go unbeaten in the conference, finish third in the EIWA, and qualify for the NCAA Championships.  more

By Bill Alden

While the NCAA announced in late March that member schools could extend an extra year of eligibility to all spring sport athletes, Princeton University has decided that it will not allow student athletes who withdraw from school this spring to get that additional season.

As reported in the Daily Princetonian on April 9, Princeton Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91 sent an email that day to spring sport athletes advising them of the University’s position on the issue.

In her email to the athletes, Samaan noted that “due to the University’s strong belief that all students should remain in school now more than ever, Princeton has decided that it will not approve the necessary waivers for students who withdraw from the Spring ’20 semester to use their 5th year of eligibility at Princeton.”

The Ivy League had previously announced that it would not be changing its policy that prevents graduate students from competing in athletic events, thereby limiting athletes to four years of undergraduate athletics.

Ivy schools learned last Thursday that “withdraw and re-enroll” eligibility would be an institutional decision, with Yale and Princeton administrations electing to disallow a loophole that would have created an option for Ivy seniors to play during the spring of 2021 semester through withdrawing from school now and returning next year with the necessary waivers. more

BY GEORGE: Pat George enjoys the moment after helping to coach Jackson Memorial High baseball team to a Group IV South sectional title in 2018. Earlier this year, George took the helm of the Princeton Day School baseball program, succeeding Brian Dudeck.

By Bill Alden

Pat George is only 31 years old, but he has paid his dues when it comes to coaching baseball.

After playing for the St. John Vianney High School baseball program and then going on to Rutgers where he took a break from the game to focus on his studies, George had stints as an assistant coach at St. John Vianney, Bishop Eustace, and Jackson Memorial. In addition, he helped coach Hamilton Post 31 of the Mercer County American Legion League (MCALL) to the 2017 state legion title game.

In reflecting on those stops, George said he was influenced by two head coaches in particular, Bishop Eustace’s Sam Tropiano and Jackson Memorial’s Frank Malta.

“Eustace is one of the premier powers in the state; coach Tropiano has been there since the late ’80s,” said George. “It was incredible to learn from a guy like that, all of the knowledge he has of the game helped me boost my knowledge and my career. Jackson is a big power in the state and coach Malta has done great things over there. Being able to see those kids in the hallway every day and talk to coach Malta every day, that was best of all the coaching experiences.”

Growing from those experiences, George got the itch to become a head coach himself.

“Last year, I decided that I wanted to run a program and build my own program,” said George, a history and social studies teacher at Jackson Memorial. more

April 8, 2020

SO TOUGH: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Michael Sowers battles to get past a foe in a game this season. Senior attackman Sowers was adding to his slew of team records this spring before the season was halted due to the coronavirus outbreak. He averaged 9.4 points per game in 2020 to lead Division I. As Princeton went 5-0, Sowers piled up 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists), leading the country in assists and points while also setting an Ivy League record with a 14-point game (3 goals, 11 assists) against Colgate in a 20-11 win on February 18. On Tuesday, Sowers was named by Inside Lacrosse as its Men’s DI Player of the Year. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A meeting in a dorm last year helped plant the seeds for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team to grow into a 5-0 juggernaut this spring.

“At the end of the season last year, we all met in Phil Rob’s [Phillip Robertson] room,” said Princeton senior star attackman and co-captain Michael Sowers.

“We were just like listen, we don’t know what we wanted to look like but we knew next year when we came back, we wanted to be different. We wanted to all commit to something. I think it started that summer in the sense that all the seniors and everybody were extremely bought in for the summer workouts. We had guys FaceTiming the freshmen, introducing themselves and getting to know them.”

In a solemn meeting on March 11, the team learned the sad news that that its undefeated campaign was coming to a halt due to concerns stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. more

BIG TRAIN: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Aidan Trainor brings the puck up the ice in a game this winter. Senior star forward and team captain Trainor tallied 24 goals and 19 assists this season to help PHS go 18-4-2 and win its first Mercer County Tournament title since 2011. Trainor ended up with 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Aidan Trainor, playing for the Princeton High School boys’ hockey team has been a family affair.

The senior forward was preceded in the program by his older brothers Anthony ’17 and Robby ’19 and has played the last two seasons with younger brother Colm ’21.

But Trainor’s family feeling on the squad extended beyond his brothers as he enjoyed a special experience during his time with the program.

“I have been lucky enough to play on four great teams in my four years at PHS — we have been really successful,” said Trainor.

The prolific Trainor played a key role in that success, tallying 212 career points on 102 goals and 110 assists.

Coming into his final campaign this winter, Trainor was determined to go out with a bang.

“This is my last year; it is easy to ignore that and not to think about that when you are a freshman, a sophomore, or even a junior,” said Trainor. “This year, I have a bigger sense of urgency to perform and just do my best to help the team succeed.”

PHS first-year head coach Joe Bensky was thrilled to have Trainor on his team. “It is not a secret how good he is, what impresses me is how approachable he is as a 17-year-old young man,” added Bensky. “The kids really like him and look up to him. He doesn’t have a cocky attitude, he is a great young man.”

With Trainor tallying 24 goals and 19 assists over the winter to spark a balanced attack that featured five players with 17 or more goals, PHS put together an impressive regular season record of 15-3-2. more