May 27, 2015
KEEPING THE FAITH: Princeton University women’s open crew star Faith Richardson churns through the water in recent action. Senior co-captain Richardson has been a mainstay for the varsity 8 the last two seasons. Earlier this month, Richardson and the Tigers took third at the Ivy League championship regatta. They are now headed to the NCAA Championships, which are taking place from May 29-31 at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

KEEPING THE FAITH: Princeton University women’s open crew star Faith Richardson churns through the water in recent action. Senior co-captain Richardson has been a mainstay for the varsity 8 the last two seasons. Earlier this month, Richardson and the Tigers took third at the Ivy League championship regatta. They are now headed to the NCAA Championships, which are taking place from May 29-31 at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Faith Richardson started her high school sports career as a cross country star for Wellesley High near Boston.

But after suffering a series of injuries, she took up rowing in the winter of her sophomore year to rehab and stay in shape.

That decision changed the course of her life as Richardson fell in love with crew.

Transferring to Groton School (Mass.), Richardson continued to excel in running but her rowing career took off as she competed in the 2009 and 2010 Junior World Championships and led the Groton women’s 8 to victory at the 2011 Women’s Henley Regatta.

For Richardson, running and rowing complemented each other. “Both sports require the same kind of intensity and dedication,” said Richardson, who was the 2009 ISL cross country champion and was a three-year MVP for the Groton squad. “Running is tough.”

Opting to focus on rowing in college, Richardson joined the Princeton University women’s open crew program in 2011.

Richardson acknowledged that the first two years of college rowing were tough for her.

“Probably the volume and intensity was the biggest difference, any freshman will tell you that,” said Richardson, who rowed on the second varsity 8 her first two seasons, helping the boat take first in the Ivy championships and fourth in the NCAAs in 2012 and then place third in the Ivies and sixth at the NCAAs the next year.

“The biggest jump was from freshman to sophomore year; I did a lot of strength work that summer. I had some injuries freshman year. I had a hernia at the end of fall and a shoulder injury that winter that kept me out for 12 weeks.”

Competing on the second varsity helped Richardson become a stronger rower.

“The 2V has traditionally been a good boat, you can learn a lot from it,” said Richardson. “My freshman year on the boat was awesome. We had really good senior leadership. It was a really tough boat. It was also a really good boat in my sophomore year.”

As a junior, Richardson moved up to the varsity 8, helping it win the Ivy regatta and then finish seventh at the NCAAs.

“It was definitely tough, it was a different boat,” said Richardson, reflecting on moving up to the top boat.

“We had a rough start and then did well in Ivies. The NCAAs was definitely humbling for the boat coming off Ivies. Winning the petite final was good coming from where we were.”

Coming into her final season, Richardson had the honor of being selected as the co-captain of the open team along with classmate Nicki Byl.

“You always look up to the captain, we have had some very strong women on this team,” said Richardson. “I am a major believer in leading by example. Nicki is the co-captain and we both bring different things.”

Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny credits Richardson with setting a good example on a daily basis.

“Faith is very hard working,” said Dauphiny. “She has a work ethic that very few have and is an example of what it takes.”

The Tigers had to work hard to get on track this spring, getting a late start on the water due to icy conditions on Lake Carnegie. Princeton suffered early season defeats to Virginia and Brown before
ending the regular season with a 4-0 run and taking third at the Ivy Regatta.

As a result of the strong finish, the Tigers earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, which are taking place from May 29-31 at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River, Calif. Princeton is one of three collegiate programs (Brown and Washington) to be invited to every NCAA Championships regatta since the inaugural event in 1997.

For Richardson, making the NCAAs is the ideal way to cap her Princeton career.

“Definitely getting the bid for the NCAAs was great, that was one of the goals we had this season,” said Richardson. “We need to find more speed against the boats we have raced, as well as the different boats we will see. We have been working pretty hard this week.”

Richardson and her classmates are bringing a sense of urgency to their final push.

“We are going at this as a team, looking to do well as a team,” said Richardson. “I am ready to graduate. We have a lot of seniors on the NCAA boats and we are all going at this with the same attitude.”

After graduation, Richardson has her eye on joining another special team, having applied to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School.

“I am interested in doing intelligence, I appreciate military values,” said Richardson, who plans to row this summer for a club in Great Britain.

“I like the training. I may do government law enforcement. I figure it could be worth a shot.”

But this weekend, Richardson will be focused on taking a shot at NCAA glory.

WINNING LOOK: Princeton University men’s golfer Quinn Prchal looks down the course during the Ivy League Championships in late April at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. Sophomore Prchal went on to win the individual title at the competition, carding six-under 210 in the three-round competition. Prchal’s heroics helped the Tigers finish second in the team standings by one stroke to Penn. Prchal went on to compete in the NCAA regional held at the Course at Yale earlier this month, where he shot a six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field.(Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League/Sideline Photos)

WINNING LOOK: Princeton University men’s golfer Quinn Prchal looks down the course during the Ivy League Championships in late April at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. Sophomore Prchal went on to win the individual title at the competition, carding six-under 210 in the three-round competition. Prchal’s heroics helped the Tigers finish second in the team standings by one stroke to Penn. Prchal went on to compete in the NCAA regional held at the Course at Yale earlier this month, where he shot a six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field. (Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League/Sideline Photos)

Playing in the Ivy League Championship in 2013 as a freshman, Quinn Prchal got off to an inauspicious start.

“I was six-over for the first six holes,” said Prchal. “I was working my way back the rest of the event; it was a lot of patience. I hadn’t played in an Ivy championship and I let it get to me at first.”

Displaying his talent and poise, Prchal worked his way all the way back into a tie for fourth, helping Princeton win the team title and earning Ivy Rookie of the year honors in the process.

“It was a bunched leaderboard; there were five teams within a couple of shots coming into the last day,” recalled Prchal. “It was really exciting. In some tournaments, you plod along and it falls in your lap. We went out and won the event, that was exciting.”

After taking a hiatus from school for a year, Prchal returned this spring for his second Ivy tourney. Utilizing his experience, Prchal produced some exciting golf, carding a six-under 210 in the three-round competition at the Grace Course at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. to earn the individual title.

Once again, Prchal started a little slowly, firing a three-over 75 in the first round before producing rounds of 68 and 67 to win the title by three strokes over Penn’s Austin Powell. He was the second Tiger in three years to win the title as Greg Jarmas prevailed in 2013.

“I think part of it was familiarity with the golf course,” said Prchal, whose heroics helped Princeton place second in the team standings at the event, just one stroke behind champion Penn.

“We had a practice round and then started on Friday. The final day was one of my best rounds. I was seven-under through 13; I made a couple of bogeys down the stretch. Mostly I putted the ball really well. I gave myself opportunities. It is very exciting. You work hard to try to put yourself in that position. My coach and teammates helped me all spring, pushing me to put everything together.”

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in Glenview, Ill., Prchal worked harder on baseball and hockey than golf.

“My parents both played a little bit, I picked up the game on the range when I was five or six playing with them,” said Prchal. “I played baseball and hockey more when I was younger. I fit the sports in with the seasons.”

Standing 5’0 in eighth grade, Prchal’s prospects in baseball and hockey weren’t great at the high school level so he started focusing on golf. After a spurt which saw him gain 10 inches in height by his sophomore year, Prchal grew into a star golfer.

“I had a couple of strong finishes in some state junior events,” recalled Prchal, a three-time All-Conference performer and two-time team MVP for Glenbook South High and the winner of the 2012 Illinois State Amateur tourney. “On the national level at AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), I didn’t win but I had solid finishes, some top 10s.”

Taking a tour of east coast schools after playing in a tournament held in Massachusetts, Prchal visited Princeton and felt an immediate comfort level.

“I am from the suburbs and I liked the suburban feel of the school,” said Prchal.

“I had an official visit later. I liked the guys and the coach (Will Green). The Springdale course is close to campus, I didn’t have to go 20 minutes to play.”

Prchal started playing from the start of his career, tying for 22nd in the season-opening McLaughlin Invitational, a three-round event hosted by St. John’s that wrapped up at Bethpage Red on Long Island.

“I was nervous, I was not exactly sure how well I would play,” said Prchal. “It was a different level from high school. Our first event was at St. John’s; I played two decent rounds and then had a good one.”

In the spring, Prchal had a good experience competing in the NCAA Regional, carding a six-over 222 to tie for 57th.

“It was exciting to play in a field that strong,” said Prchal. “I saw a different mentality. They were going out to make birdies and taking advantage of conditions. You had to find your second gear; I have been working on doing that. It is feeling comfortable at two-under and then working hard and pushing to make more birdies. It is something I needed to learn.”

In the NCAA regional held on the Course at Yale earlier this month, Prchal put that knowledge to work, shooting six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field.

“It is a fun golf course; the first two days I didn’t play poorly but I didn’t score well,” said Prchal, who carded a three-under 67 in the final day of the competition to move up the leaderboard.

“I hit the ball well on the first day and I had a couple of bad swings. On the second day, I got stuck on the second hole. The third day, I hit the ball great. I was able to string together a bunch of birdies and finished in the middle of the pack.”

Looking ahead to his junior season at Princeton, Prchal believes the Tigers have the talent to be at the front of the pack.

“With everybody back, it is exciting,” said Prchal, who is planning to play in the Illinois State Amateur and the Illinois Open this summer and hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur which is being held in the Chicago area this year.

“We brought in three really good freshmen (Michael Davis, Marc Hedrick, and Eric Mitchell) this year. We learned what we need to work on. We came together later in the year. We want to start off strong in the fall and push things to a higher level.”

GETTING IT DONE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Donovan heads to goal last Thursday in the state Prep A title game against Lawrenceville. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan tallied four goals and an assist to help Hun prevail 14-6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Donovan heads to goal last Thursday in the state Prep A title game against Lawrenceville. Post-graduate and Georgetown-bound Donovan tallied four goals and an assist to help Hun prevail 14-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was lights, camera, action for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team as it started last week by facing Haverford School (Pa.) in the championship game of the Inter-Ac Challenge.

The battle of unbeatens between No. 4 Hun and top-ranked Haverford at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pa. on the evening of May 19 was billed as a national championship game and was broadcast on TV over the Comcast network.

The Raiders proved ready for prime time, battling the Fords hard for three quarters, trailing 10-7 entering the fourth. Haverford, though, pulled away over the last 12 minutes to earn a 15-8 victory.

Three days later, another crown was at stake as Hun hosted 13-time champion Lawrenceville in the state Prep A title game.

After licking their wounds from the Haverford game, Hun post-graduate star attacker Chris Donovan and his teammates weren’t going to let disappointment and fatigue stand in their way as they went for the program’s first Prep title since 1998.

“Bouncing back from Monday night was very tough,” said Donovan. “We gave it our all against the No. 1 team in the nation, they played incredibly. We knew we had to come out hard, we knew we were going to be tired. This got pushed back because of that. We are just hungry and humble, that is our motto this year.”

In the early going against the Big Red, Hun looked a little tired as it ended the first quarter clinging to a 4-3 lead. In the second quarter, however, the Raiders clicked at both ends of the field, outscoring Lawrenceville 7-1 to seize control of the contest.

“I think it was getting back to it, we were a little tired and took time getting the feel of the game again,” said Donovan.

“A lot of emotions were spent on Monday night obviously but getting back here was great. We knew what was at stake. We hadn’t won one since 1998; that was in the back of our minds. We just got back to practice and worked on things we needed to work on and obviously it showed here.”

In the second half, the Raiders took care of business, weathering a couple of Lawrenceville flurries to earn a convincing 14-6 win.

“We knew they were going to come back strong, they are a very talented team with a lot of big, strong guys,” said Donovan, who ended up with four goals and an assist on the day.

“I bounced right off of one of them and I was like oh my god. They have great players. We just kept going.”

In reflecting on Hun’s great campaign, which saw the Raiders post a 19-1 record, Donovan pointed to chemistry as a key ingredient in the squad’s success.

“I think it is just everybody loves each other, I have to say that,” said Donovan. “Half of the team boards at the school and we are up with each other until 1 in the morning, talking about lacrosse and the state championship. Since the fall, we have been going to bed every night dreaming about this.”

The attack line of Georgetown-bound Donovan and fellow post-graduates, Yale-bound Brendan Rooney and Hobart recruit Chris Aslanian, gave Hun’s foes nightmares this season.

“Chris, Rooney, and me had a great connection,” said Donovan, who led Hun in scoring this scoring with 105 points on 56 goals and 49 assists.

“Aslanian is my roommate, we talk about this all the time. We stay after practice every day, catching passes. Rooney has taught me a lot of things I will never forget, like the behind the back shots. Chris Aslanian is a great kid, a great person, a great athlete.”

Hun head coach MV Whitlow was thrilled to see his squad show its greatness in the win over Lawrenceville.

“The mindset was to finish,” said Whitlow. “I think the willfulness of this team and the character of the team really was evident coming off of that loss on Monday night to the No. 1 team in the country. Being able to rebound emotionally and physically and play a state championship game just says a lot about these boys and their character. This is a really special group of young men, a very high character group of men and they were a pleasure to coach.”

It was a pleasure for Whitlow to watch his team go on its 7-1 second quarter run.

“I think we opened the game up a little bit, we got into transition,” said Whitlow.

“We figured out what their defensive schematic was after one quarter and we knew where the openings are and we took advantage of them.”

Whitlow noted that Donovan has been particularly adept at taking advantage of his scoring chances.

“He is truly a generational type player,” asserted Whitlow, who also got three goals from Aslanian in the win with Rooney and Cole West chipping in two apiece.

“The level of lacrosse in the Princeton area is very good this year and I think some of that is due to Chris Donovan and his level of play. His performance Monday night against Haverford was truly an inspiring performance. They were shutting him off today so I put him in the midfield to let him be the athlete that he is and he had four goals.”

Achieving the goal of winning the Prep A title was sweet for Whitlow, a former assistant coach at Lawrenceville.

“It means everything to these guys,” said Whitlow. “I really wanted these guys to have champions next to their name and they will have it now and we will hang a banner. This team will live on at the school because they deserve that and they worked for it.”

In Whitlow’s view, the title run was fueled by a focus on team. “The closeness of the group, the selflessness stands out,” said Whitlow.

“The group really didn’t care about individual stuff, they were all about the team and the teammates. They really worked hard in the offseason and they were a truly selfless, high character group of young men.”

Donovan, for his part, will always remember his year with the group.

“It has been great, this school has given me everything I could ask for,” said Donovan. “I am going to miss the hell out of it.”

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team display the trophies they earned last week as the program won its third straight state Prep B title. PDS scored 12 points at the competition as runner-up Montclair Kimberley had nine. The Panther championship line-up included Anupreeth Coramutla at first singles, Scott Altmeyer at second singles, Lex Decker at third singles, Josiah Meekins and Vivek Sharma at first doubles with Hari Rajagopalan and Jacob Chang at second doubles. The team’s head coach is Will Asch and the assistant is Ed Tseng.

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team display the trophies they earned last week as the program won its third straight state Prep B title. PDS scored 12 points at the competition as runner-up Montclair Kimberley had nine. The Panther championship line-up included Anupreeth Coramutla at first singles, Scott Altmeyer at second singles, Lex Decker at third singles, Josiah Meekins and Vivek Sharma at first doubles with Hari Rajagopalan and Jacob Chang at second doubles. The team’s head coach is Will Asch and the assistant is Ed Tseng.

While most tennis players aspire to be singles stars, Josiah Meekins relished playing doubles throughout his career with the Princeton Day School boys’ squad.

“I was coming off eighth grade and I played high singles,” said Meekins. “In high school, I was more part of a team. I didn’t mind playing doubles. I would be ecstatic to play singles but I wanted to help the team. In terms of the team aspect, that was more fun for me, there was more camaraderie, playing with someone else.”

Meekins’ outstanding play at doubles and team-first attitude over the last four years has helped the PDS team emerge as a force in state Prep B circles.

In 2013, the Panthers shared the Prep B crown in a three-way tie before winning it outright this spring.

Coming into this year’s tourney, first doubles star Meekins and his teammates were primed to achieve a three-peat.

“We were pretty confident, we knew our matchups because we got the draw pretty early,” said Meekins, who helped PDS sweep all 10 matches in the preliminary rounds on May 17 as PDS clinched a tie for the title before the final round was even contested. “I was surprised but confident that we could sweep the matches on Sunday.”

The Panthers took care of business in the finals on May 19 at Wardlaw-Hartridge as junior Scott Altmeyer prevailed at second singles and freshman Lex Decker won at third singles to clinch the championship outright as PDS piled up 12 points with runner-up Montclair Kimberley scoring nine.

Meekins and his teammates weren’t in the mood to share the title. “I was tired of having our name next to someone else so that was lots of motivation,” said Meekins. “We wanted to three peat.”

Accomplishing the three-peat was a special way for Meekins to end his PDS career.

“I know it meant a lot to everyone but especially to Hari (Rajagopalan) and me as seniors,” said Meekins, who is heading to Goucher College where he will be playing for its men’s tennis team.

“We had such a good group of guys, we really wanted to win it for them.

I think this was one of the closest group of guys.”

Meekins developed a good chemistry this spring with his doubles partner, freshman Vivek Sharma.

“In my first season, I won a second doubles Prep B title with James Sanderson,” said Meekins.

“I was a freshman and he was a senior. This year, it was reversed. I was the senior. I tried to motivate Vivek and pull him through. It made my year. I brought him along and we played really well.”

PDS head coach Will Asch credited the affable Meekins with setting a positive tone for the team.

“Josiah was a great leader, he is such an excellent kid,” said Asch of Meekins, who also starred for the PDS boys’ hoops team and received the school’s “Frankie K” sportsmanship senior award along with classmate Katie Alden. “Everyone got behind him, everyone wanted to play doubles with him.”

Meekins’ fellow senior, Rajagopalan, produced an excellent finish at second doubles.

“Hari had a great season, he really came on in the last few weeks,” asserted Asch. “He played the best tennis of his four years in the last few weeks of the season. He made a dramatic improvement. Andy Erickson played with Hari most of the year, in practice, some of other kids can beat them in singles but in a match, the seniors are much better, they are much more coachable. They had a lot of experience playing together.”

There wasn’t much drama involved in connection with PDS clinching the outright title.

“Coming into Tuesday, there wasn’t really any doubt,” said Asch. “We had a very nice practice on Monday, the boys had a lot of fun. All Scott had to do was win; he was playing a guy Lex had beaten 0 and 0 earlier. It was nice, we were all very relaxed; it was a coronation really. We were there to have a good time. Scott played fast, his match was over in about 20 minutes. Lex won 0 and 0 in his but it took about an hour.”

With a singles lineup that features sophomore Anupreeth Coramutla at No. 1 along with junior Altmeyer and freshman Decker, PDS boasts a strong core of young talent.

“We have three really good singles players,” said Asch. “Anupreeth is a very talented kid, his best days are ahead of him, he could get a lot better. Scott just keeps getting better. He keeps coming at you, he is very aggressive. He hits the ball hard. Anupreeth is more of a defensive player. Lex is very crafty, he has slices, he hits drop shots, he has an excellent forehand. They all like each other.”

Asch likes the team’s prospects so much that the program is thinking about competing in Prep A next season.

“We are so good at second and third singles, we are thinking about moving up to Prep A next year,” said Asch. “Doubles is going to be a challenge for us. If you want to win tournaments you have to get a few wins at doubles. We have talented players but the question is at what point do they develop chemistry.”

Meekins, for his part, is ready to move up to college tennis. “I am ready to make tennis my life; I loved basketball, but that chapter of my life is closed,” said Meekins.

“I am going to go down to Goucher this summer and hit with the guys, I also want to play a lot of tournaments in the New Jersey area and hit with my PDS teammates.”

NOAH’S ARC: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Noah Lilienthal shows his forehand form. Last Wednesday, freshman Lilienthal posted a 6-0, 6-1 win at first singles to help PHS edge Tenafly 3-2 in the Group 3 state semifinals. The Little Tigers went on to lose 5-0 to powerful Millburn in the Group 3 championship match later that day to finish the spring with a 17-3 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NOAH’S ARC: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Noah Lilienthal shows his forehand form. Last Wednesday, freshman Lilienthal posted a 6-0, 6-1 win at first singles to help PHS edge Tenafly 3-2 in the Group 3 state semifinals. The Little Tigers went on to lose 5-0 to powerful Millburn in the Group 3 championship match later that day to finish the spring with a 17-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Noah Lilienthal was nervous as he took the court for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team at first singles in the Group 3 state semifinals against undefeated Tenafly last Wednesday at Mercer County Park.

“I started a little bit slow,” said freshman star Lilienthal. “I was a little tight, these are pretty big matches, being in the state semifinals.”

Showing his talent and composure, the precocious Lilienthal found his rhythm and rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Scott Einsidler.

“I started getting into my groove and just focused on improving after every shot,” said Lilienthal, who won the first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament earlier this season.

“It was probably my transition balls, getting up to net and putting balls away. I did that better than I usually do and my return of serve was also working pretty well.”

Lilienthal’s win helped PHS pull out a 3-2 victory and earn a trip to the finals. The freshman was thrilled to see PHS make it up to the top level of Group 3.

“I am really happy that we are in this position,” said Lilienthal “We have worked really hard to get to this spot, we all do it as a team. We all contribute. It shows that we have really good character and I was happy we could do it for Princeton.”

The team’s veterans showed their character earlier in the season as they welcomed Lilienthal to the fold without jealousy or rancor.

“It was really great, before the first ball had even been hit before the season, everyone was really looking forward to having me on the team, especially Rishab (Tanga) and Tyler (Hack),” said Lilienthal.

“It was not easy for them to give up their positions. They are my biggest supporters, they have really helped me and they have stepped it up.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was proud of the way her team stepped up against Tenafly as the second doubles team of Eric Lin and Kevin Yang prevailed in a third set tiebreaker and senior Tyler Hack posted a hard-earned 6-4, 6-4 victory at third singles to give the Little Tigers the three points needed to advance.

“We didn’t really know much about their team but I just told everyone to go out and do the best they could,” said Hibbert.

“Both doubles teams had really close matches. Second doubles did a great job of getting through that tiebreaker and not letting the second set affect them and coming back to win a clutch point for us. Tyler did a great job. He has been fighting his allergies and was not feeling well all week. He knew that we needed him and he worked hard. He was able to close out a great game at 5-4 to clinch the match for us. Noah is Noah, he played a fantastic match.”

Later in the day, the Little Tigers were unable come up with another great match as they fell 5-0 to perennial power Millburn in the Group 3 final.

While Hibbert would have liked to have seen her squad give Millburn a better fight, making the state finals was a major accomplishment.

“We haven’t been able to get out of our sectional for the last several years, I think ’08 was the last team,” said Hibbert.

“It was nice to not only get out of the area but also to be able to make it to the final. Millburn is a tough team, they have won the Tournament of Champions over and over again. They just outplayed us but we worked hard to get there.”

Throughout the spring, the Little Tigers put in some good work as the team posted a final record of 17-3.

“Overall, we had a very strong season, especially considering that we had four new players in the lineup,” said Hibbert.

The future looks bright as the team is only graduating Hack and second singles player Rishab Tanga.

“Obviously losing Rishab and Tyler will be tough for the team to replace,” said Hibbert.

“Having Noah back will be huge, he is an incredibly strong addition to our lineup.”

Lilienthal, for his part, believes that PHS has developed the mindset to keep getting better.

“I think it is that we all try to improve,” said Lilienthal. “It is not just about getting the win, it is the gradual everyday grind and making progress.”

FIRING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane fires the ball upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 14 saves but it wasn’t enough as ninth-seeded PHS fell 9-8 in overtime to fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the North Group 3 sectional semifinals. The loss left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRING LINE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane fires the ball upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 14 saves but it wasn’t enough as ninth-seeded PHS fell 9-8 in overtime to fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley in the North Group 3 sectional semifinals. The loss left the Little Tigers with a final record of 10-13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bringing an 8-12 record and a two-game losing streak into the state tournament, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team seemed destined for an early exit.

But PHS senior goalie Mira Shane and her classmates were determined to help the ninth-seeded Little Tigers make a run in the North Group 3 sectional.

“We went into the states looking to stay alive,” said Shane. “We had four seniors with three of of us playing and one hurt and we said this is it. This team is super important to all of us.”

Playing at eighth-seeded Roxbury in the first round, PHS stayed alive with a 13-9 win, bouncing back from a 5-4 defeat to Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals and a 10-8 loss to Hopewell Valley in the regular season finale.

“The Roxbury game gave us some momentum,” said Shane. “Coming out of MCTS, we were angry. In the Hopewell game, we were beaten down in the first half and came back in the second half.”

The win over Roxbury earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Northern Highlands in the sectional quarters and the Little Tigers thrived in the underdog role, jumping out to a 4-1 halftime lead on the way to a 7-4 upset win.

“Honestly for that game, we just wanted to show that we can play at their level,” said Shane, who will be playing lacrosse at the next level for the University of Michigan.

“We only knew about one team that they played. We scouted them and we did some research on some of their players but it was about us. We were trying to match and surpass their intensity. It is all about energy. We had energy in that game, especially on defense. It was good to close it out in the second half. Coach (David Schlesinger) was talking about shocking the world.”

In Shane’s view, the stunner spoke volumes about the team’s character.

“I think it just showed the amount of heart we had,” added Shane. “We had faced a lot of adversity this year. It was an up and down season. We had a tougher schedule and we were feeling out a new coach, who is an awesome guy and an intense coach.”

Playing at fifth-seeded HoVal in the sectional semifinals last Thursday, the Little Tigers produced another intense effort but fell just short in losing 9-8 on overtime to end the season.

“We definitely wanted to start from the second half of the previous game,” said Shane, who recorded 14 saves against the Bulldogs in a losing cause.

“We watched the film of the first game the day before to see what we did wrong in the first half. The second half was much better but it wasn’t our best. We wanted to bring our best. It was awesome to see the transition of the team from one week before; certain players really stepped up. I would have liked us to have a few more offensive possessions and not the turnovers that we had. We played a lot of defense, I think that got us in the end. They also did some good things on offense.”

While PHS finished with a 10-13 record, Shane believes that the squad did a lot of good things over the course of the spring.

“We lost a lot of seniors from the year before, we needed to shape a new team, not building off what we had done,” said Shane.

“This season was about establishing a new foundation. I kept saying we need to grow up. It was about growing up and having the best head and heart to pay lacrosse and be better people to see what a loving team can do. I was really proud of what we accomplished. We may not have the killer record to reflect that but we grew as a team.”

The seniors experienced a lot of growth as they went through a roller-coaster ride over the last four years.

“The senior class feels indebted to the awesome lacrosse program, athletic department, and the school in general,” said Shane, whose fellow seniors included Oona Ryle, Campbell McDonald, and Robin Reigle.

“We had a great learning experience and we showed that we can fight through adversity. It was beautiful to see the different teams come through.”

Shane gave PHS some beautiful play in goal over the years as she made around 700 saves in her career, starting from day one as a freshman.

“I would say as a freshmen, it was more about athleticism and less about technique,” said Shane.

“As a junior, I started to understand it was about fundamentals and staying calm. This year I worked on patience, it was like a meditation, getting that extra second to not take a step. I think as a goalie you have power too. The shooter knows where they want to shoot but I have gotten better at baiting shooters and getting in position before the shot comes.”

Looking forward to starting her career at Michigan, Shane is pumped up to take her shot at college lacrosse.

“I am getting a workout packet on June 1; I am totally excited,” said Shane. “It will be conditioning and lifting. I have been mentally and physically preparing for this a long time. Even when I was in basketball last winter, I was doing additional lifting and conditioning. School starts around September 10 but I am going out in late August to be with the team. I think it is going to be a good second team for me after my great PHS team.”

BIG STRIDES: Princeton High star runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a cross country race earlier in her career. Last weekend at Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, senior Metzheiser took third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22) to help PHS place fourth in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG STRIDES: Princeton High star runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a cross country race earlier in her career. Last weekend at Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, senior Metzheiser took third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22) to help PHS place fourth in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Featuring strength from the sprints to the distance events, the Princeton High girls’ track team used that balance to excel last weekend at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet.

“I think a big part of our success this season has been on the track and that theme continued this weekend,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk, whose team placed fourth of 18 teams in the sectional held at Northern Burlington High and saw a number of athletes earn the top-6 finishes necessary to book them spots in the upcoming state group meet.

Junior Maia Hauschild set the pace in the sprints, taking fourth in the 200 (25.97) and second in the 400 (58.57). Freshman Jackie Patterson took sixth in the 400 (1:00.02).

“Maia has had moments this season where she has looked brilliant and other times where she looked like she was trying to figure things out,” said Smirk. “She figured things out last weekend. She has also been a mentor for Jackie Patterson who has learned a lot from her.”

In the middle distance events, senior Paige Metzheiser continued her superb final campaign, taking third in the 800 (2:20.57) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:09.22).

“Paige is an amazing athlete for us; she has always been a team player,” asserted Smirk.

“She said she wanted to take a shot at the mile, she has been watching it and she had a personal record against a quality field. She has been a go-to athlete all season in the 800.”

Junior Lou Mialhe stepped up in the 3,200, taking fifth (11:16.83) with senior Mary Sutton coming in eighth (11:41.16).

“Lou has been a miler and we put her in the 2-mile and she didn’t disappoint,” said Smirk of Mialhe, who also took eighth in the 400 hurdles. “She had a personal best of 11:16.”

Youth was also served for PHS at the meet as sophomore Noa Levy tied for second in the high jump (5’0) with sophomore Aileen Wu taking eighth in the 800 (2:26.88), freshman Chloe Taylor placing 11th in the 3,200 (11:58.16), and sophomore Annefleur Hartmenshenn helping the 4×800 relay take second (9:43.58).

“In the winter, Noa was inconsistent, the focus was fitness,” said Smirk, whose team is next in action when its qualified athletes compete in the Group 3 meet from May 29-30 at South Plainfield.

“She was patient and that is hard for a young athlete. It is paying off. Aileen Wu had breakout race in the 800. Annefleur Hartmenshenn did well in the 4×800. We were wondering who was the fourth girl in the 4×800 and she stepped right in there.”

May 20, 2015
TOTAL TEAM EFFORT: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew program celebrate after Princeton won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints last Sunday. The Tigers placed third in the first varsity eight finals and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor.(Photo by Aleka Gürel)

TOTAL TEAM EFFORT: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew program celebrate after Princeton won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints last Sunday. The Tigers placed third in the first varsity eight finals and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor. (Photo by Aleka Gürel)

In posting wins over Harvard and Brown down the stretch of the regular season, the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew showed speed and a flair for drama.

Against Harvard on April 18, the Tigers posted a 4.5 second win in beating the Crimson for the first time since 2006. Utilizing a furious rally over the last 300 yards, Princeton overcame Brown by 0.7 seconds.

“We have certainly found a way to make it exciting,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes.

“Those wins showed us that the speed we had was solid. They were both learning opportunities. You see your strong points and weak points when going against strong teams like that. It helped us across the board.”

Last Sunday, the Tigers displayed their strength across the board as they won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. Princeton placed third in the first varsity eight final and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005.

Coming into the weekend, Hughes sensed that his rowers were headed in the right direction.

“As a whole team we made some really good progress since the end of the regular season,” said Hughes. “It is not easy to do when you go into exams and have a weekend off from racing. Looking at the results from yesterday and the competitiveness of the races, we needed that improvement.”

The first varsity 8 showed its competitiveness in its grand final, going after eventual winner Yale and then engaging in a three-boat battle for second.

“Yale is a really strong boat, we knew that going in,” said Hughes of the Bulldogs who clocked a winning time with Northeastern second in 5:37.089,  Princeton next in 5:37.438, and Brown fourth in 5:37.549.

“We threw everything at them, as did Northeastern and Brown. They did a good job of holding us off. Yale proved they are the top boat at the sprints.”

But in taking third, Princeton once again proved its strength of character.

“What I was proud of with our crew is that they fought and stayed tough, added Hughes.

“That is part of their identity. They do well when they get a lead but when someone else gets momentum, they stay tough. They had to be ready to defend and respond.”

The undefeated second varsity 8 responded in style, taking first in its grand final in a time of 5:43.954 with Boston University second in 5:45.031.

“For those guys the heat was a really good learning experience; all season long, they have been fortunate to get decent margins,” said Hughes.

“In the heat, they had a real race and they had to execute. In the final, Harvard went high and hard and they had to execute. Boston University took a late run and they stayed in command.”

In the third varsity grand final, Princeton made a dramatic late run to overtake Brown for the victory.

“That was one of the most impressive last 500 meters I have seen, it was a sheer guts move,” said Hughes, whose boat clocked a winning time of 5:48.608 to nip Brown, who was just behind in 5:48.885.

For Hughes, the most impressive aspect of the team title is the daily effort he is getting from his rowers across the board.

“What I see is that so much of the work we do is behind the scenes; that work can be boring but the team attitude is what makes you fast,” said Hughes.

“What you see is that a team’s hard work and attitude from top to bottom is what develops speed. A strong team makes fast individual boats. Every kid played a part, there was not one guy who didn’t make a difference. The first varsity didn’t get gold but those final strokes made the difference for the Rowe Cup.”

The addition of coaches Matt Smith and Brandon Shald this season has also made a difference for the Tigers.

“The two assistant coaches have been great,” said Hughes. “We talk about the contribution of every athlete. We have 47 athletes and only three coaches so they are a huge part of the team. Matt Smith has been a remarkable addition. The same thing with Brandon Shald, his ability to inspire rowers has been great. For me as a head coach, it is like having co-coaches. There is a lot of group decision-making and group input. We have conversations back and forth about every kid. There is a diversity of ideas. We want the kids to do that on each boat and I am lucky to have a staff that does that.”

With Princeton ending its season by competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor, Hughes will be looking for more group dynamics.

“Even in races that we win, we see things we can do better,” said Hughes. “There is not a lot of time before the IRAs. We need to build on what we have done so far and be better prepared for tight, intense racing, and executing well in tight quarters.”

DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton University women’s lacrosse goalie Ellie DeGarmo guards the cage in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore DeGarmo made eight saves and picked up three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 7-3 to third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The loss to the Blue Devils left the Tigers with a final record of 16-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton University women’s lacrosse goalie Ellie DeGarmo guards the cage in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore DeGarmo made eight saves and picked up three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 7-3 to third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The loss to the Blue Devils left the Tigers with a final record of 16-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In stifling sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the second round of the NCAA tournament earlier this month, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team produced a superior defensive effort.

Last Saturday, the tables were turned on the Tigers as they fell 7-3 to third-seeded and stingy Duke in a NCAA quarterfinal contest.

Bringing an eight-game winning streak into the game, Princeton was confident that it could keep rolling.

“I think we were excited to play Duke,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer. “We were riding a high, we were playing so well. We thought we matched up well with them.”

After taking a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game on a goal by Anya Gersoff, Princeton was blanked for the rest of the half and trailed 3-1 at intermission.

“We struggled to find a rhythm on offense,” said Sailer. “They were playing really good defense and we were not getting great looks, they did a good job of taking (Erin) Slifer and (Erin) McMunn out of the game.”

Picking up where it left off against Stony Brook, Princeton played some good defense of its own as it put the clamps on a Duke team that came into the game averaging 12.9 goals a game.

“We played exceptional defense throughout, they got a goal in the last few seconds so we basically gave up just six goals over most of the game,” said Sailer, who got eight saves from sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo with junior defender Liz Bannantine causing three turnovers and getting three ground balls. “I would have thought we would win if we could do that.”

But it was the Duke defense that carried the day, holding Princeton to its lowest output since a 16-3 loss to Virginia in 2006.

“Hats off to them, it is highly unusual for us to just get three goals,” said Sailer, whose team finished the season with a 16-4 record.

“We had opportunities. We had 16 shots but just made three, that is not our normal shooting percentage. They were getting out on our hands, making good slides, and making us rush shots.”

While Princeton was disappointed to get knocked out of the tourney, Sailer is proud of what her team accomplished this spring.

“It is hard to be that close to making the final 4 and feeling that you didn’t play your best game at the end,” said Sailer.

“We had a great season, everyone knows that, everyone appreciates that. It was one of best seasons we have had at Princeton in a decade. We went 7-0 in the Ivy League and won the title outright. We won the Ivy tournament, and made NCAA quarters. We beat the sixth-seeded team. In other years before the bracket was expanded, two wins in the tournament would get you to Final 4.”

With most of the team returning, Sailer sees a lot of wins on the horizon for the Tigers.

“We were predominantly underclassmen, it is a very young team,” noted Sailer.

“Some of the juniors who played were relatively inexperienced. We grew a lot over the course of the season. The future looks bright, we have the whole defensive unit back. Losing Slifer and McMunn from attack is a huge loss, they are No. 1 and No. 2 in program history in assists. (McMunn with 91 and Slifer with 81.) There was a great connection between the two of them. Our offense will change but we have a lot of good players coming back and a great freshman class coming in.”

In Sailer’s view, the team’s Class of 2015 which included Erin Curley, Erika Grabbi, Jess Nelson, and Annie Woehling in addition to McMunn and Slifer, made a great impact that won’t be soon forgotten.

“There were two starters and two who played a lot but the class as a whole was phenomenal, setting an example and giving to the program,” said Sailer.

“They did anything they could to help the team even if it came at their personal expense and cut into their playing time. They handled it the right way, they are leaving a great legacy.”

OPENING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 churns through the water in a regatta earlier this season. Last Sunday, the top boat took third in the grand final at the Ivy League championship regatta. Princeton finished third in the Ivy team points competition, trailing champion Brown and runner-up Yale. The Tigers hope to continue their season at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997.             (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

OPENING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 churns through the water in a regatta earlier this season. Last Sunday, the top boat took third in the grand final at the Ivy League championship regatta. Princeton finished third in the Ivy team points competition, trailing champion Brown and runner-up Yale. The Tigers hope to continue their season at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 crew was in for a dogfight at the Ivy League championship regatta last weekend at Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J.

The ninth-ranked Tigers were in the title mix with undefeated and fifth-ranked Brown, 10th-ranked Yale, and No. 15 Harvard-Radcliffe.

“Brown was the favorite but we knew Yale would be tough as well as Harvard,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny.

“There was one second between us and Yale in the regular season and only  two seconds between us and Harvard.”

In the grand final at the Ivy regatta last Sunday, the boats were again separated by a few seconds. Princeton went after Brown from the start but couldn’t catch the Bears, who won the race with a time of 6:15.421. Spent by that effort, the Tigers were passed by runner-up Yale, who came in at 6:18.900 with Princeton next in 6:19.703.

“We didn’t discount anybody,” said Dauphiny. “We wanted to go with Brown, we were in the lane next to them. We knew we had closed the gap somewhat. We went for it to see what we could do. We fought hard and paid a price for it later. Brown had pushed into first at 1,000 but they were not out of reach, they are a great crew. Yale had a strong third 500.”

Princeton ended up finishing a strong third in the team points standings at the regatta as Brown won the title with 87 points with Yale second at 72 and the Tigers just behind with 69.

With Princeton earning five top-three finishes at the competition, Dauphiny was haunted by a fourth place finish from the second varsity 8.

“That was a heartbreaker,” said Dauphiny. “I can’t tell you what happened. They said they put it all out there; they had a better race than in the heat. They had a rough start in the heat; it was messy and they got rattled. We talked about their weaknesses and how we could overcome them and they did but it wasn’t enough.”

On the flip side, the Tigers overcame some adversity and inexperience in fours as the first varsity 4 placed third and the varsity 4 C won its race.

“It was good for the varsity 4, they had some injuries and they handled it well,” said Dauphiny. “They had a rockier approach to the finals. The 4C was great, they hadn’t practiced together and they rose to the occasion.”

While Princeton fell short of the team title, Dauphiny liked the way her rowers rose to the occasion collectively last Sunday.

“I was happy, there was some disappointment,” said Dauphiny. “The good part was that almost everyone won a medal. We came in third and we would have liked better but everyone stepped up. Overall, it was a decent showing for us.”

Dauphiny credited her 10 senior rowers with showing the way. “The senior class had a lot to do with that,” said Dauphiny. “They were peppered throughout the program. They stepped up in their boats. There was a lot of senior impact, they made a difference.”

Those seniors will be looking to continue their careers at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as the Tigers hope to be an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997.

“We focus on getting another opportunity and a chance,” said Dauphiny.

“They are still in finals so it is important to balance the academic commitments with rowing. It is an exciting opportunity that not everyone gets. We will make sure that we value the additional chance to race.”

CHAMPIONSHIP FORM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Tyler Hack displays his backhand form. Last Monday, Hack posted a straight sets win at third singles to help top-seeded PHS defeat sixth-seeded Hopewell Valley 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHAMPIONSHIP FORM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Tyler Hack displays his backhand form. Last Monday, Hack posted a straight sets win at third singles to help top-seeded PHS defeat sixth-seeded Hopewell Valley 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tyler Hack didn’t waste any time taking care of business as the top-seeded Princeton High boys’ tennis team hosted fifth-seeded Hightstown in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional semis last Thursday.

The PHS senior star dispatched Ritesh Neelamagam 6-0, 6-0 at third singles in a match that took less than an hour.

“I think my forehand was a very strong weapon today and also my first serve percentage,” said Hack.

“I was told if I have a very high first serve percentage that his returns would crumble over time and that is exactly what ended up happening. I think also consistency off of my backhand side which combined with the offense of the forehand was a winning combo.”

On Monday, Hack enjoyed another winning effort, rolling to a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Harrison Fu of Hopewell Valley as PHS defeated the sixth-seeded Bulldogs 5-0 in the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional finals. The Little Tigers, now 15-2, will face Tenafly in the Group 3 state semifinals on May 20 at Mercer County Park with the winner advancing to the finals later that day against the victor of the Millburn-Moorestown matchup in the other semi.

“I am really proud of the team this year,” said Hack. “We have got in some great matches, ones that I will certainly remember for a while.”

Hack has posted some memorable victories in his final campaign. “I think this is my strongest year in terms of fitness,” said Hack, who placed second at third singles in the Mercer County Tournament earlier this season.

“Experience had helped with that. I am stronger mentally as well. I have been through a lot of tough matches.”

The experience of playing four years with classmate Rishab Tanga, the team’s second singles players, has been a highlight for Hack.

“We are great friends, I am sure we will stay in touch many years from now,” said Hack.

“We still have this one photo of us freshman year which is pretty funny to look back on.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert appreciates the great contribution she has gotten from Hack and Tanga.

“Tyler has been a great addition to the team, he is a hard worker, you can always count on him to do everything he can,” said Hibbert.

“He is a great kid. He and Rishab have been a great addition to the program, starting at second doubles together freshman year and then gradually moving into our singles lineup. They have been staples in our lineup for the last four years and we are obviously going to really miss them, both their personalities and tennis ability. I have been really grateful for their presence on the team the past four years.”

It has been great for PHS to have freshman star Noah Lilienthal at the top of the lineup this spring.

“Any time you bring in a player of Noah’s caliber to the team, it just helps you,” said Hibbert of Lilienthal, who won the MCT crown at first singles and didn’t lose a set in his three team sectional matches.

“We don’t have attitudes on the team, Rishab and Tyler were perfectly happy to be bumped down a spot because they know what that added to them. They knew they had a better shot of winning. They knew how it helped the team and how it helped them.”

Hibbert believes PHS has a good shot of challenging for a state crown. “Overall, we seem to be doing well, hopefully we are peaking at the right time,” said Hibbert.

“At the beginning, we talked about the season  being challenging and choppy. We had an early county tournament and I was pleased with how well the guys did there considering how little practice they had. As we have gotten into the heart of the season, they have been getting better. It is a nice group of kids, they work hard. They are playing well when it counts so hopefully we will be able to continue the run.”

Hack, for his part, has relished his final run with PHS. “It seemed like we just got through all of the rainy days last week; the season has really flown by,” said Hack, who is headed to Santa Clara University where he plans to play club tennis.

“I think I will look back on this as a great opportunity. It has been a lot of fun. I have made good friends with these guys, on and off the court.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres, right, thwarts a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior defender and Drexel University-bound Andres helped fourth-seeded PHS blank 13th-seeded Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. Andres contributed a goal and an assist as the Little Tigers improved to 8-8. PHS was slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres, right, thwarts a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior defender and Drexel University-bound Andres helped fourth-seeded PHS blank 13th-seeded Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. Andres contributed a goal and an assist as the Little Tigers improved to 8-8. PHS was slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a 15-2 defeat by Princeton Day School in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament on May 9, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team went back to basics last week as it prepared for the state tournament.

“It was rough,” said PHS senior defenseman Jackson Andres. “We had a nice week with five days of practice. We worked on everything, offensive plays, defensive stuff, just to get back from that upsetting loss.”

The team’s hard work paid dividends last Saturday as fourth-seeded PHS blanked No. 13 Jackson Liberty 14-0 in the first round of the South Group 3 sectional. The win improved the little Tigers to 8-8 and earned them a spot in the sectional quarterfinals where they are slated to host fifth-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on May 19 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 21.

“We planned on coming out real strong,” said Andres. “We didn’t want to let anything up, no let-up goals, no nothing.”

Andres was a bit surprised that PHS was able to post a shutout. “It is rare, I think we were just talking more,” said Andres.

“Colin Buckley is the glue for the defense, he was shutting down their best player. Ian Jacobs is a freshman and he is really stepping up. Tooker Callaway is such a solid player. Kenan Glasgold was playing unbelievable in goal today. We are all just jelling.”

Showing his versatility, Andres picked up an assist and scored a point blank goal off a nice feed by classmate Chris Diver.

“It was just nice ball movement from me and Div,” said Andres, reflecting on his goal. “We are good friends. We know where each other is on the field. It is fun playing with my friend.”

Andres had fun helping out on the offensive end this season. “I have been looking to get involved,” said Andres. “We have been in need of an extra scorer so I have filled that role pretty nicely. I am just trying to do what I can to help the team out.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton liked the way his guys went about their business in the wake of the loss to PDS.

“It is to the boys’ credit that they took a disappointment and they channeled it into hard work,” said Stanton.

“We were a more talented team today but we played really good lacrosse. That was the lacrosse that we thought we could play all season long.”

The Little Tigers played some stellar defensive lacrosse in stifling Jackson Liberty.

“Their player #40, Troy Wolf, is very talented; it looked on film that he could create offense for his team and it all started with him being able to beat his man,” said Stanton. “We put Colin Buckley on him and Colin frustrated him early. A really key sequence early in the game was when they were man up and we shut him off with Luis Lazo who didn’t give him an inch to breathe. He acted a little frustrated and I think he made a foul. We got the ball and scored right after and then it was OK, we are in their best player’s head.”

Andres has established himself as one of PHS’s best players. “Jackson is such a valuable defender, basically people don’t dodge at him,” said Stanton.

“It is like if he is guarding me, I am passing the ball. He is able to take players out of the game, he is able to take areas of the field away. He is a two-time All-American for a reason.”

Senior Diver showed some game on attack, tallying two goals and three assists in the win.

“Chris played at midfield last year and with what we graduated at attack, we converted him down there,” said Stanton, who got four goals and three assists from sophomore Johnny Lopez-Ona with junior Rory Helstrom chipping in four goals and two assists.

“He has really good sports sense but even still, it was a big adjustment for him. The field looks a lot different from attack. It was great to see him do well, exactly what he did today was what we had hoped he would be able to do for us this year, finish those balls in transition and make the extra pass.”

The way PHS rebounded last week has Stanton confident that the team can produce a big finish to the season.

“Sometimes a setback like we experienced last Saturday will make you doubt yourself and make you look forward to doing other things,” said Stanton.

“Our guys have really shown a lot. It started on Monday when we came back and we worked hard and we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We didn’t get down on ourselves, we just worked. If you have boys who are going to do that, you absolutely plan on making a run.”

Andres, for his part, wants to extend his PHS lax career as long as possible. “It went by so much faster than I thought it would; all the seniors in the past have always said it goes by so fast,” said Andres, who is headed to Drexel University where he will be playing for its men’s lacrosse program.

“The first three years are slow and then the fourth is just a blink. It is bittersweet, I don’t want it to end. It is going to be tough, it has been fun. I love these guys, I love this team. I have loved all four years.”

HANGING TOGETHER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jacob Shavel, center, celebrates with teammates after a goal. Last Thursday, senior star and RPI-bound Shavel tallied two goals and an assist in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 9-7 to top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. The Panthers, who also advanced to the state Prep B semifinals, finished the spring with an 11-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HANGING TOGETHER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jacob Shavel, center, celebrates with teammates after a goal. Last Thursday, senior star and RPI-bound Shavel tallied two goals and an assist in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 9-7 to top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. The Panthers, who also advanced to the state Prep B semifinals, finished the spring with an 11-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After it was over, there were just the sounds of muffled voices and the thuds from one bear hug after another.

In the wake of its season-ending 9-7 loss to Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team observed its tradition of thanking its seniors.

The five members of the squad’s Class of 2015 stood together on one side of the field at Princeton High and the rest of the players and the coaches solemnly went through one by one, hugging and consoling each other after the tough loss.

For senior attackman Jacob Shavel, the appreciation was a two-way street.

“It is just thanking the seniors for all they have done,” said Shavel, whose classmates on the squad included Chris Azzarello, Chris Markey, Christian Vik, and Kevin Towle.

“Honestly I wish it could be the other way, I want to thank these guys for all they have done for me. It has been the most incredible year of my life playing with these guys.”

It was a tough year for the squad as it suffered some tough losses on and off the field.

“I think it centers around Jonah and Elon Tuckman,” said Shavel, referring to the brothers whose mother passed away during the season after a long battle with cancer.

“They are the heart and soul of this team, what they have gone through this year, the amount of resilience and courage those two guys have displayed, honestly, is beyond incredible. It has been the heart and drive of this whole team. They are the core.”

PDS showed heart in the loss to HoVal as it was tied 3-3 at half and 5-5 heading into the fourth quarter, said RPI-bound Shavel, who had two goals and an assist in the defeat which left the Panthers with a final record of 11-7.

“We always give it our all,” said Shavel. They got a few looks, the ref gave them a few calls, that is how it went. We didn’t get the amount of looks we would have liked. We didn’t get the result we wanted.”

While the final result was disappointing, Shavel and his classmates, who are all going on to play college lacrosse, forged deep bonds.

“The five of us have been through a lot these past four years and we have done it together, every single day out there working,” said Shavel.

We were out in the middle of the winter, shooting after shoveling snow off the turf. These are four guys I know are going to be my brothers for life. I wish them all the luck as we all go and play against each other the next four years.”

In Shavel’s view, there are some good years ahead for the PDS program. “I think that anyone betting against this program is completely wrong at this point,” said Shavel.

“We have proven in the past few years how we can grow. I wouldn’t want to play against us if I was anyone else right now.”

PDS first-year head coach Rich D’Andrea was proud of the way his team grew over the course of the season.

“We knew it was going to be a tough year going in when we added some pretty competitive teams to our schedule,” said a subdued D’Andrea, speaking barely above a whisper.

“I can’t be more proud of these guys, they battled through it. They stayed together the entire time and ended up learning a lot about themselves in the process.”

PDS stayed together against HoVal but fell short as the Bulldogs scored two goals over the last three minutes of the contest to pull out the victory.

“They played hard today, it didn’t go how we wanted it to go,” said D’Andrea, who got a goal apiece from Azzarello, Joey Levine, Will Brossman and the Tuckman bothers.

“We were a man down a bunch, a couple of breaks didn’t go our way. You have to give Hopewell a lot of credit; coach (Rich) Siris had his guys ready to go and they did a great job.”

In D’Andrea’s view, his seniors did a great job over their four years with the program.

“It is a special group here, it is actually my first group that I came in with,” said D’Andrea, who was an assistant coach with the program before taking the helm.

“It has been a neat process for me to see them go and grow into the young men that they are right now. They are tremendous leaders. All five of them are starters, all five of them are impact players. All five of them are going on to play in college and all five colleges are lucky to have them.”

With a number of good players returning, D’Andrea expects PDS to make an impact over the next few years.

“We have some nice pieces in place over the last few years here,” said D’Andrea.

“It is one of the neat things with such strong leadership at the top from the juniors and seniors, the younger guys feed on that. They know what the program’s expectations are and they know they have to work hard if they want to find a place with us.”

Shavel, for his part, found a special place in the PDS program. “This team is really a band of brothers, the stuff that we have gone through this year as a team has forged us together,” said Shavel.

“You look at these pink shirts we are wearing and those are shirts these guys are going to wear the rest of their lives. This is my team for the rest of my life.”

TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton Day School senior softball player and team captain Katie Alden, right, guards the line at third base in recent action. The leadership provided by Alden, who also served as the captain of the PDS field hockey and girls’ hockey teams, helped the Panthers make progress this spring as it went 2-11 after a winless campaign in 2014.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton Day School senior softball player and team captain Katie Alden, right, guards the line at third base in recent action. The leadership provided by Alden, who also served as the captain of the PDS field hockey and girls’ hockey teams, helped the Panthers make progress this spring as it went 2-11 after a winless campaign in 2014. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Variety has been the spice of Katie Alden’s sporting life. She started playing softball in kindergarten, took up ice hockey in elementary school, and began competing in field hockey at middle school.

When Alden (this reporter’s daughter) came to the Princeton Day School as a freshman in 2011, she saw the opportunity to keep wearing three hats athletically and proceeded to make the varsity teams in each of her sports.

Over the last four years, Alden proved to be a player for all seasons. In field hockey, she ended up as a two-year starter at goalie, a team captain, a first-team All Prep B performer and a NFHCA National Academic All American. On the ice, she played goalie, served as a captain, and was a WIHLMA All-Academic first team honoree. She won the school’s Varsity Award for both programs. On the diamond, she is a starting infielder and the team captain.

Earlier this month, Alden reflected on her three-sport experience as she was the focus of the softball program’s annual Senior Day being the only member of the Class of 2015 on the squad.

“All senior days are bittersweet for an athlete and I think this was extremely bittersweet for me since it is my last season at PDS,” said Alden. “I have been playing on varsity teams since I was a freshman. It has really been a large portion of my experience at the Princeton Day School.”

With the PDS softball program struggling to stay alive in the wake of low numbers, Alden was touched to be the lone senior on the team.

“For softball especially, the struggle we have gone through to keep the program and to see it flourishing in my senior year is really heartwarming for me,” said Alden.

“I never expected to have 17 girls on the team in my senior year when we started my freshman year with a crew of nine or 10.”

Alden played a key role in keeping the program afloat, recruiting ice hockey players to take up the sport.

“There are five ice hockey girls and two girls from my advisory group on the team,” said Alden.

“I really emphasized to them that it is a fun game, there is not much pressure, it is not scary. It is something to be together and have fun. The hockey girls love playing with each other and being with each other. I emphasized to them that it would be another opportunity for them to play for their school. It is hard to turn down an offer to support your school in a positive way.”

Drawing on her experience in field hockey and ice hockey, Alden has gone out of her way to create a positive atmosphere around the team.

“In my third season as a captain, it almost comes naturally to me to be in that leadership role,” said Alden.

“There is a fine line between helping the coach lead and being too much of an influence on girls. You have to make sure that they know that you are one of them and are on their side no matter what. I try to make that clear to the coach and my team.”

Alden’s time in the game has helped her influence the newcomers to softball. “With softball especially, I have more experience,” said Alden, who utilized that knowledge by filling in a number of spots around the diamond this spring for the Panthers, playing at first base, second, shortstop, and third at various points this season and batting second in the order before moving to the leadoff spot.

“I have been playing softball since I was five so I have 13 years of experience in the game. It is engrained in my head what to do in every situation. I like to share that with them so they know and can teach others as well.”

Those efforts have borne fruit as the Panthers went 2-11 this spring after a winless campaign in 2014.

“I had hoped that I was a part of making this program what it is today,” said Alden.

“We didn’t play necessarily to win every game, we play to have our strongest game, be a team, and have fun. Winning comes second and third but it is always fun to win and it really shows that this program will continue to be a program. It is going to grow and it is going to improve. I hope one day it will be extremely competitive with the surrounding schools.”

PDS head coach Paul Lano, for his part, credits Alden with playing a major role in the program’s progress.

“We have got half a roster of hockey players who never played softball before which is directly due to Katie Alden,” said Lano.

“She was the first hockey player to come out here and do this and she inspired the rest. Now they all love it. I owe it to her, she is the one.”

Lano loved seeing Alden’s growth as a leader this spring. “She became this mother hen, she really took over back in January when we had our first team meetings,” said Lano.

“She helped me run the show, helped get everyone involved. Katie has really shined in a leadership role this year. I couldn’t be more proud of her because I would hate to say that I didn’t anticipate this but it is a pleasant surprise how well she has handled all of it. The team leans on her, they know she has all of the experience. She is always there to answer questions from all of the rookies we have in the game.”

The team’s improvement on the field this year has pleasantly surprised Lano as well.

“They are growing faster than I expected,” asserted Lano. “Their interest is overwhelming. I am here a half hour to an hour after practice because they don’t want to leave. They want to stay, they want to learn, they want to get better, they are all inspired. They have a good idea now of what is in front of them and what is expected of them as far as themselves, their teammates, and the coaching staff. I really think that they are much more on task.”

For Alden, handling the task of playing three sports has helped her grow in many ways.

“It is fun to have those friends and get those connections,” said Alden, who is headed to Bucknell University where she is looking to play club field hockey and ice hockey.

“You learn a lot in sports. You can see a lot of life lessons and how that translates into the classroom and everyday life skills. I also think it is great to be a role model in your school and really show PDS colors through athletics. I know the Princeton University motto is education through athletics and I really stand true to that. I think it is fun to support your school and really show them what PDS is made out of.”

GOING DEEP: Hun School softball player Alexis Goeke slugs a homer against Lawrenceville last week in the state Prep A semifinals. Junior Goeke’s heroics weren’t enough as Hun fell 5-3 to the Big Red in the May 12 contest. The defeat left the Raiders with a final record of 9-9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING DEEP: Hun School softball player Alexis Goeke slugs a homer against Lawrenceville last week in the state Prep A semifinals. Junior Goeke’s heroics weren’t enough as Hun fell 5-3 to the Big Red in the May 12 contest. The defeat left the Raiders with a final record of 9-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexis Goeke led off for the Hun School softball team in the top of the fifth inning at Lawrenceville in the state Prep A semis last week with the foes locked in a 2-2 tie.

After falling behind 1-2 in the count, junior star Goeke wasn’t trying to be a hero in the May 12 contest.

“I know with two strikes, I have to be more aggressive protecting the plate,” said Goeke. “I knew we needed to score runs; it was really important. I was just looking for contact and looking for a single.”

Uncoiling on the next delivery, Goeke made solid contact, lining the ball over the left field fence for a go-ahead homer.

“I saw my pitch, it was inside,” recalled Goeke. “I always bat better with two strikes. I had no clue it was a home run, I was just running hard, thinking it was a double and then I was like wow.”

The Raiders, though, couldn’t hold the lead giving up a run in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the sixth on the way to a 5-3 defeat.

“We played hard as a team and we all stayed positive throughout the whole game, no matter who had the lead,” said Goeke, reflecting on the loss which left Hun with a final record of 9-9.

“I think it is important to play as a team and we just fell short at the end. It just didn’t turn out in our favor, they are a good team also.”

Noting that Hun had been drubbed 16-4 at Lawrenceville on April 23, Goeke  liked the way the Raiders tightened things up in the playoff rematch.

“We played much better than the last time and we were proud of that, even though we didn’t end up winning,” added Goeke.

Goeke is proud of how the Raiders bounced back from a 2-6 start, going 7-3 over its last 10 games.

“Throughout the whole season, I think we have grown as a team from when we went down to Florida during preseason,” said Goeke.

“We had a couple of rough games and a couple of rough spots but I think we learned from them, developed, and helped each other. I think that made us better throughout the season. We ended up even, which isn’t really that bad.”

In Goeke’s view, the turning point for Hun came after a 12-0 loss to Steinert in mid-April.

“After the Steinert game, we knew that we had to work really hard in practice,” said Goeke. “We had to make a change, we had to do something different in order to turn our season around.”

Doing good things in the field and at the bat, Goeke helped spark the team’s late surge.

“I love playing in the infield, I love playing at first,” said Goeke. “I have worked really hard on my hitting during the offseason. I think having my approach in mind when I go up to the plate every time — knowing what I am looking for — has helped me a lot.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk thought that Goeke’s big fifth inning hit was going to help turn the tide in favor of Hun in the game against Lawrenceville.

“Definitely you hope so,” said Quirk reflecting on Goeke’s homer. “We always know that they never give up until the end. I thought we were going to keep going too but we just fell short. The last time they beat us 16-4. It was a lot different today, they have nothing to be embarrassed about.”

In Quirk’s view, Goeke has made a difference for the Raiders this spring

“She is tough, no matter where I put her she gives me 100 percent,” said Quirk. “I tried leading her off to take some of the pressure off of her from being in the middle of the order. I think it has paid off. She has walked a lot and hit well. I am pleased with her defense also.”

Quirk was pleased with how her team came together down the homestretch.

“After the Lawrenceville game here, the kids themselves sat and talked,” said Quirk.

“I think they decided that they wanted to play ball. Kacey Abitz and Julia Revock both did a great job on the mound. The outfielders improved. Our infield was solid.

The Hun infield was anchored by the team’s lone seniors, Julia Blake and Vicki Leach.

“They are going to be missed, their leadership is unbelievable,” said Quirk, noting that they both got on base in the final inning against Lawrenceville before a Hun rally sputtered. “They are just good kids. They have been even more special because they both played field hockey for me.”

With the rest of her players returning, Quirk believes Hun can do some special things next spring.

“We are young, we have got a lot of potential,” asserted Quirk. “I am going to talk to each girl and tell them what they need to work on for next year. We are getting four players in so I think that is going help balance us out and help us move forward.”

Goeke, for her part, feels that Hun’s good work over the last month of the season bodes well for the future.

“We have a lot of players who developed this year and I think we have a really good core of girls returning,” said Goeke. “We just have to build on where we left off.”

FINAL CUT: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella makes contact in recent action. Last weekend, senior first baseman and Swarthmore College-bound Pontrella helped Hun make it to the final round of the state Prep A tournament where it fell to Blair to end the season at 14-8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL CUT: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella makes contact in recent action. Last weekend, senior first baseman and Swarthmore College-bound Pontrella helped Hun make it to the final round of the state Prep A tournament where it fell to Blair to end the season at 14-8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was Justin Pontrella’s last day as a Hun School baseball player and he couldn’t wait to hit the field.

With the Raiders hosting Blair Academy in the final round of the state Prep A tournament last Sunday, senior first baseman Pontrella was primed to go for a title.

“I woke up at 6,  we were all up early,” said Pontrella. “We couldn’t sleep we were so ready for this game. The MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) didn’t go our way, the MCTs (Mercer County Tournament) didn’t go our way so we had it all bottled up, especially me and the other seniors. We were finishing our Hun baseball career. We were really, really ready to do this.

Pontrella and his teammates faced an uphill battle in the double-elimination tourney as they had fallen to Blair on Saturday in the semifinal round and needed to beat the Buccaneers twice to earn the championship.

In game one, the Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the second inning and rode the pitching of senior star Jason Applegate to a win by that margin.

“We knew that as soon as Jason threw that first pitch stroke, we were going to win that game,” said Pontrella, referring to Applegate who gave up three hits in earning the shutout.

“When we came in and Evan (Barratt) led off in the bottom of the inning with a hit. Everyone was so fired up, there was not a doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game. It was just all energy.”

In the decisive game, though, Blair had the energy, scoring two runs in each of the first three innings on the way to a 12-0 win and the title.

“They scored first and that is huge,” said Pontrella, who pounded out two hits in the finale. “If you can get a run across in the first inning in high school, more often than not, you are going to win the game. They put two on in the first and two in the second. We couldn’t string together the hits.”

Pontrella loved playing out the string in the infield with classmates, second baseman Peter Schintzler and shortstop Nick Perez, along with the rest of the 2015 squad as it posted a 14-8 record.

“There are three out of four infielders that played with me on JV freshman and sophomore year so we have been together for four years,” said Pontrella.

“We had young guys who wanted to play, we had two sophomores in the lineup. Everyone just wants to play. There are no egos, there are no superstars, everyone is just solid. We all loved to play baseball. Everyone is smiling, we are louder on the bench than any other team. Everyone is smiling and joking and having a good time with each other. We just pull for each other, it is so great.”

In reflecting on his Hun career, Pontrella said he pulled things together for a big senior year.

“I have been through everything,” said Pontrella. “I played really, really well on JV for the first two years. I got up here junior year and didn’t do so well and this year, I had a great season to go away.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade gave his team credit for fighting through a tough weekend which saw it lose 4-0 to Blair in the winner’s bracket game in the semifinal round on Saturday and then come back later that afternoon to beat Peddie 5-3 to make it to the final round on Sunday.

“We had four games in two days in the heat and humidity,” said McQuade. “It is tough. The kids are young so it is more mental than anything else.”

Senior star and Villanova-bound Applegate showed his toughness in the first game on Sunday, mowing down Blair to get Hun to a winner-take-all title contest.

“Applegate pitched an unbelievable game, he capped a great career,” said McQuade. “He went 9-0 this season, it is the second most wins in a season of any pitcher at Hun. One guy had 10 so what he did was absolutely spectacular to get us to this level.”

Hun, though, couldn’t maintain that level in the finale, digging an early hole that ultimately doomed their chances for a crown. “We play well when we get ahead, they got ahead of us 2-0 and we almost scored in the first inning, which would have been crucial,” said McQuade.

“Then they got two more runs and then I think the pressure started to mount a little bit at 4-0 down and then it got to six. That is where the mental part started kicking in and all of a sudden you see kids hanging their heads in the heat.”

Despite falling short of the Prep A title, the Hun players have no reason to hang their heads.

“From the time we started the season, the team had a personality, differing from recent years that way,” said McQuade.

“We got down to Florida for our spring trip and they bonded down there. They had fun. The season itself was terrific, to be co-champs in the MAPL is huge because Mercersburg, year in, year out, is good.”

McQuade had fun watching Pontrella develop into a star for the Raiders.

“He is so emotional about everything, he has got that presence,” said McQuade.

“The way he carries himself around the bag is great, he has some of the softest hands I have ever seen of any first baseman. He hits, he fields.”

The senior class which included Brayden Stasow, Matt Kooker, Kyle O’Sullivan, Dalton Bianco, and Gideon Friedberg in addition to Pontrella, Applegate, Perez, and Schintzler, had a great impact in their final campaign.

“They were in some tough games last year, we struggled with wins and losses,” said McQuade, whose team went 8-12 in 2014.

“A lot of our games were really close so you learned a lot from that. The challenge was — hey now you are seniors, and it is your turn, you own it or are you just going to coast through the season. They bought into that they owned it and they worked hard every day. They did everything I asked them. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard these kids worked. They come down to practice and they goof around, which is fun. The game is meant to be fun so we try to have as much fun as possible.”

The Hun players also learned from some alumni coaches, who helped carry on the winning tradition developed under McQuade’s 45 years at the helm of the  Raiders.

“We get the younger alums here with Chris Leach and Tommy Monfiletto just taking off work to be here,” said McQuade.

“We preach program and they are the heart of the program. When the kids see the alums that are here day in day out, week in, week out and the alums that come to our games, that is what we preach. We carry a ton of kids and I will always do that because I would rather have more kids that want to be a part of the program than turn them away.”

For Pontrella, being part of the Hun program has been an unforgettable experience.

“When I am having a bad day at school, at night I will just come and sit in the dugout and think about this and how awesome this was,” said Pontrella.

“Luckily I am going to be playing in college at Swarthmore. Even if I wasn’t, I would be happy to end my career on this field because this is so great, everything about it. When I look back at Hun, this is what I see, the coaches and the guys.”

May 13, 2015
NET VALUE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action earlier this season. Last weekend, junior star Johnson excelled at the NCAA championships as Princeton finished sixth in the national competition held in Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, Calif. Johnson set a new NCAA Tournament single-game record with 22 saves in a 6-5 loss to Cal-Irvine on Sunday in the fifth-place game and ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. Princeton posted a final record of 31-5, tying the program mark for single season wins.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET VALUE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action earlier this season. Last weekend, junior star Johnson excelled at the NCAA championships as Princeton finished sixth in the national competition held in Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, Calif. Johnson set a new NCAA Tournament single-game record with 22 saves in a 6-5 loss to Cal-Irvine on Sunday in the fifth-place game and ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. Princeton posted a final record of 31-5, tying the program mark for single season wins. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After cruising to a 12-2 win over Wagner in an NCAA play-in game on May 2, the ninth-ranked Princeton University women’s water polo team was primed to see how it stacked up against the elite teams in the college game as it headed west to the national quarterfinals.

“As a group we were excited to go and play well and compete and we did,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, reflecting on the NCAA championships, which were held at Stanford, Calif.

Competing hard and placing sixth overall, Princeton fell 7-2 to eventual national champion Stanford in the quarterfinals on Friday before edging Hawaii 7-6 in the consolation round on Saturday and ending the competition by falling 6-5 to Cal-Irvin in the fifth place game.

In the battle with host Stanford, Princeton trailed by just 2-0 after the first quarter before things got away in the next period.

“We knew that they had to have a bad game and we needed our best to beat them,” said Nicolao, who got 18 saves from junior goalie Ashleigh Johnson in the defeat with seniors Ashley Hatcher and Taylor Dunstan notching goals.

“Ashleigh kept us in the game, she was unbelievable. Other than the second quarter, I liked the whole game. They smothered us defensively in the second quarter. We made four mistakes in the quarter and they outscored us 4-0. A team like that makes you pay for mistakes.”

A day later, the Tigers rebounded with a dramatic 7-6 win over No. 5 Hawaii which saw Tiger senior Jesse Holechek score the winning goal with four seconds remaining in regulation.

“It was a great game, we talk about that second game at the tournament, it is more our level, playing teams where we are ranked,” said Nicolao.

“We had lost to Hawaii before this season and we didn’t play our best. It was a real battle, both teams responded well from their first game. Holechek has always been a big game player for us, she has a good outside shot, I was really happy to see her get that goal. The defense allowed us to have a chance to win. We didn’t want to be in that last place game.”

In the fifth-place game against No. 6 Cal-Irvine, Princeton held a 2-1 halftime lead and was ahead 4-3 and 5-4 in the second half but the Anteaters scored two late goals to pull out the victory.

“The whole game we were up by one, we couldn’t get that 2-goal lead,” said Nicolao, reflecting on the game which saw Johnson set an NCAA tournament single-game record with 22 saves. “I thought that would give us the cushion we needed with Ashleigh. It was a bummer to lose that last one.”

Having Johnson in net gives Princeton a chance in any game it plays. “Ashleigh had an amazing weekend, she stood out as an elite goalie,” said Nicolao of the Miami, Fla. native who ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. “The Stanford game was great, to play that well against those kind of shots.”

Nicolao was happy to see his group of seniors, Hatcher, Dunstan, Holechek, CeCe Coffey, Kelly Gross, and Camille Hooks, go out with a great campaign.

“I am thrilled with the season, we had a great year,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the spring at 31-5, tying the program record for single season wins.

“The seniors were 119-19 over their four years and I will take that every four years. They had a great four years and a great ride.”

While graduation will leave a void, Nicolao is already looking forward to next year.

“We lose a large group and Ashleigh is taking the year off from school to train with the U.S. national team as it gets ready for the Olympics,” said Nicolao.

“We have lost great players in the past and other girls have stepped up. The returners have experience in winning and they love to compete. We have a good freshman class coming in.”

For Marty Crotty, it has been a pleasure to coach his Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 this spring.

“They have had a lot of consistency in terms of improvement,” said Princeton head coach Crotty, as he looks ahead to the Eastern Sprints, slated for May 17 on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.

“They have had some really good practices. They just need to add a layer of speed over the next 10 days. They are easy to watch, they are easy to coach.”

With Princeton classes having ended on May 1, the rowers can accelerate their improvement with extra time on the water.

“If you look at HYP to the finals of sprints, from April 25 to May 17,

that is 22 days and you might have 15-16 practices in normal schedule when in school,” said Crotty.

“Over that 22-day period we will be out on the water 30-35 times with classes out. We spend a lot more time on the boat and they want to do that. We may talk about recovering from workouts but they are asking if they can row the next morning at 7 and I say I will be there. This time of year, the boat naturally gets better.”

The competition throughout the program has helped the Tigers get better across the board.

“It hasn’t stopped, the 2V and 3V had a tete-a-tete today,” said Crotty. “The ability and the depth come from the rowers getting equal attention; they are getting good, solid coaching and it is not just from me. Bill Manning is a real professional. Alex Mann went to the Institute of Rowing Leadership in Boston, he has been a real good addition to the staff. The improvement directly reflects the coaching and hard work being put in by everyone.”

The program’s group of senior rowers, Karthik Dhore, William Downing, Matt Drabick, Jason Elefant, Fabrizio Filho, Andrew Frazier, Steve Swanson, and captain Casey Ward, have set a positive tone.

“They are good leaders and good guys,” said Crotty. “Day in, day out, they set good examples of how to carry yourself and the way to react to the results of selection. The guys enjoy coming to the boathouse everyday. They strive to be better and they want to be on higher boats but they are able to keep that internal and exclude toxicity.”

Crotty has enjoyed seeing Ward’s emergence as a leader in the program.

“Ward has been leading for several years; he was leading more quietly than he has this year,” added Crotty.

“We have the largest team in our history; we are sending six 8s to sprints. We have never done that before, having that kind of crossover is a task and he does it on the fly. There are 16 freshmen and nine or 10 guys in the other classes and he deals with all of that. He knows what to bring to me and what not to bring to me.”

With his varsity 8 having produced an 8-3 regular season with one loss to Cornell and two defeats to Columbia as it has risen to the top-5 in the national rankings, Crotty knows his rowers will have to bring it this weekend to prevail at Eastern Sprints.

“I am excited to see how things go,” said Crotty. “Cornell is very good, Columbia is very good, both boats are flat out good. We have to continue to make progress and we have been doing that. It is decimal points, having this guy be a little better one day or that boat be a little better. It is incremental progress so that when you get on the bus to go to sprints you are confident enough to relax. To improve our position against the Ivies, we will need to have a great heat to make the final and have our best race of the season in the final.”

LAST STOP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz guards the cage last Monday in PDS’s 18-11 victory over Pennington in the state Prep B championship game. Senior star Kuzmicz made 12 saves in the win as she earned her second state title of the year after helping the PDS girls’ soccer team to the Prep B title last fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAST STOP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse senior goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz guards the cage last Monday in PDS’s 18-11 victory over Pennington in the state Prep B championship game. Senior star Kuzmicz made 12 saves in the win as she earned her second state title of the year after helping the PDS girls’ soccer team to the Prep B title last fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After helping the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team win the state Prep B title last fall, Kirsten Kuzmicz was determined to add another state crown to her resume this spring.

Kuzmicz had last Monday circled on her calendar as that was the date slated for the Prep B title game in girls’ lacrosse.

In the wake of making 12 saves to help top-seeded PDS defeat second-seeded Pennington 18-11 in Monday’s title showdown, the star goalie savored ending her Panther career by achieving that second state championship.

“May 11, that was our ticket,” said a beaming Kuzmicz. “It is an awesome way to end it. It feels great after four years, finally getting a championship in lacrosse.”

Things didn’t start out great for the Panthers as they fell behind 2-0 in the first 2:30 of the contest.

“It was a little shaky in the beginning,” said Kuzmicz, who was converted to goalie from midfield last spring in her junior season. “There was a whole another 50 minutes left so we know we have to fight hard until the end.”

Kuzmicz fought hard in the cage, making some key saves as PDS started to roll, going on an 11-0 run that broke open the contest. “Our team clicked in. I was feeling good,” said Kuzmicz, recalling the first half run.

The Panthers never looked back, building their lead to 18-5 late in the second half to turn the game into a rout.

In the raucous post-game celebration, the Panthers repeatedly chanted May 11, May 11 while Kuzmicz and the team’s other senior, Morgan Foster, brandished the trophy and plaque the team earned with the victory.

In reflecting on the qualities that made PDS a championship team, Kuzmicz cited intensity of effort and feeling.

“We are a hard working and very passionate team,” said Kuzmicz. “We have bonded really well since the beginning of the season. As the season went on, we played a lot harder. We kept stepping up our game.”

Longtime PDS head coach Jill Thomas was thrilled to see Kuzmicz and Foster end their careers in style.

“A year in goal and she wins a state title so there you go, you can’t really beat that,” said Thomas. “It is terrific, what a feeling to go out with a championship, good for them.”

PDS played terrifically all over the field as it went on its 11-0 first half run that changed the tone of the contest.

“We played pretty darn well; we made the adjustment on the draw and took control of the center of the field,” said Thomas.

“They just got into what we have been working on in the past couple of weeks, playing our game and setting our tempo; doing what we do instead of worrying about what everybody else does. Once we could do that, it was great.”

The Panthers showed great balance on the offensive end as sophomore Morgan Mills and freshman Madison Mundenar each tallied five goals and an assist in the win over Pennington with sophomore Hannah Bunce chipping in three goals and an assist, freshman Kate Bennett contributing two goals and two assists, and senior standout Foster adding a goal and four assists.

“It is pretty hard to face guard one because we have a bunch of people we can go to, which is kind of nice,” said Thomas.

It has been nice for Thomas to see her young squad develop into such a force.

“They believe in their senior leadership,” said Thomas, whose team ended the season with an 11-6 record.

“They have grown so much. We got eight sophomores and freshmen on the field out of 12. We started to jell and understand in Florida and then we had bumps along the way. The Peddie game (a 13-11 win on April 29) is when we really said we can play this game. We really started to sense what we had to do and to not have the unforced turnovers. They realized what they were. They have really worked hard and gotten it done so that is good.”

Kuzmicz, for her part, is proud of how the team worked through the ups and down to finish with a title.

“We were in a lot of the games and even the games we didn’t do so well in, but we still worked hard,” said Kuzmicz, who is heading to Franklin and Marshall College where she plans to walk on to the school’s women’s lacrosse team. “We didn’t really stop, we have been going seven days week.”

MAN POWER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman fires the ball in third-seeded PDS’s 15-2 win over sixth-seeded and two-time defending champions Princeton High in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal last Saturday. Junior star Tuckman tallied three goals and an assist in the win. On Monday, PDS fell 11-10 to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals to drop to 10-6. PDS was slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAN POWER: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman fires the ball in third-seeded PDS’s 15-2 win over sixth-seeded and two-time defending champions Princeton High in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal last Saturday. Junior star Tuckman tallied three goals and an assist in the win. On Monday, PDS fell 11-10 to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B semifinals to drop to 10-6. PDS was slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing through an intermittent drizzle, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team built a 3-1 first quarter lead against crosstown rival Princeton High in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal clash last Saturday.

But in the second quarter, Jonah Tuckman and his PDS teammates poured it on visiting PHS, as the third-seeded outscored the sixth-seeded and two-time defending county champion Little Tigers 7-0 to take a 10-1 halftime lead.

“I think we just started to click; I think everyone started to move the ball well,” said junior star Tuckman.

“Every one of our goals was just multi touch, everyone was helping each other. We didn’t really dodge through and shoot. We were all playing really  unselfishly and that is what we were looking for today.”

PDS never looked back, rolling to a 15-2 win over PHS. The Panthers are slated to face second-seeded Allentown on May 12 in the MCT semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 14.

Tuckman ended up with three goals and an assist in the win over PHS and formed a productive partnership with younger brother, freshman Elon, who chipped in two goals and three assists.

“It is fun, we just go back to playing in the backyard,” said a smiling Tuckman, reflecting on the connection he feels with his brother.

“We used to come out here on the turf over the summer and stand by the crease, pass it back and forth and just try and finish on an empty net. It is showing on the field; it is a really good time to have him out there.”

Tuckman’s bond with senior star Jacob Shavel, who added three goals and an assist in the win over PHS, exemplifies the team’s on-field chemistry.

“Jacob is one of my best friends and throughout the whole offseason we have been playing together and we have been working hard in the weight room,” said Tuckman.

“We have really built a lot of chemistry throughout the whole team. It is not just Jacob and I or Elon and I, the whole team has a lot of chemistry. It is really working well.”

The team came to the aid of the Tuckman brothers earlier this season after their mother passed away after a long battle with cancer.

“The day after it happened, I was downstairs in my basement and I looked up and seven or eight of the guys on the team were just standing there to hang out with me and my brother  the whole day and just be with us,” recalled Tuckman.

“The team has been doing that the whole time, we have really been there for each other, it has been great.”

Tuckman has worked hard to be there for for his teammates. “I put a lot of work in over the offseason; it was a lot  of growth both in the weight room and mentally so I have been playing well,” said Tuckman, who scored three goals and two assists in a losing cause as PDS fell 11-10 at Rutgers Prep last Monday in the state Prep B semifinals.

“Also, our whole team has been playing well together. That definitely has a lot to do with my numbers boosting.”

As PDS looks ahead to the MCT semis, Tuckman believes the Panthers are saving their best for last.

“We pumped up our schedule like no other this year,” said Tuckman. “Early in the year our record wasn’t showing what we were but we knew we were playing good lacrosse and then we ended up just turning around. We knew we were playing well and now we are just thriving, playing our best lacrosse when it matters.”

PDS head coach Rich D’Andrea was thrilled with the way his team played in its second quarter outburst against PHS.

“We have been trying to dictate the pace the entire year,” said D’Andrea. “That is one of the big things for us, having guys understand, based on the makeup of our team, that there is always a premium on possession. Guys have really worked on clearing the ball. If you clear the ball well, it gives way to more possession and luckily, we were able to capitalize on some of those today.”

The dominant play of sophomore Nick Day on face-offs helped PDS control possession against the Little Tigers.

“Nick was fantastic at the X, we are lucky to have Nick,” said D’Andrea of the WW/P-N transfer.

“He is a hardworking guy; he is a locker room guy. He has worked really, really hard. In the few last weeks, he has become really disciplined. He is doing all the right things now at the right time.”

Day’s good work has freed up the older Tuckman to focus on his offensive production. “Last year, Jonah was a guy we relied on for face-off, man-up, man-down, and defense,” said D’Andrea.

“It was rare that he left the field. Having Nick with us this year has taken a little pressure off of him. He has really worked hard to develop his shot. He is dodging hard, he is moving the ball well. Jonah is a special player; he is one of our spiritual lightning rods.”

Senior star Shavel is another spiritual leader for the Panthers. “Jacob has a nose for the ball, he does some great things for us,” said D’Andrea.

“He finishes the ball, he is one of our guys who handles and possesses well. Jacob has a way of finding ground balls in big spots; it has been fours years of that. He brings such good experience to the field, that is why he is one of our captains.”

The Panthers’ experienced defensive unit, spearheaded by seniors Christian Vik and Kevin Towle, juniors Amir Melvin and James Fragale, along with senior goalie Chris Markey, shut the door on PHS.

“They did a great job, they pressured hands the whole time,” said D’Andrea.

“They knew the assignments, right, left. Those guys have a way of backing each other up. Not only are they a talented group but knowing that you have Chris Markey in goal for you is a big help. He made some big ones when he needed to; he has done that for us all year.”

No matter how the year ends for PDS, D’Andrea likes the way his players have gone about their business.

“I think for us, it hasn’t been about one game the entire year, it is about showing steady progress,” said D’Andrea.

“There is an art to when teams peak; it is an inexact science. Most importantly, the guys are more focused than they have been, they are working hard, they are tweaking on a daily basis. That is all you can ask for, who knows what is going to happen.”

Tuckman, for his part, is confident that the Panthers will show their teamwork to the end.

“We just have to keep moving the ball and keep playing together,” said Tuckman. “The whole year we have been preaching family and togetherness; that is what we have to look for. We have to have each other’s back and play together.”

YOUNG GUN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Johnny ­Lopez-Ona races up the field in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, sophomore star Lopez-Ona tallied two goals and two assists as sixth-seeded PHS toped No. 11 Steinert 18-2 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. Two days later, Lopez-Ona and his teammates couldn’t get it going as they fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School on the MCT quarterfinals to move to 7-8. In upcoming action, PHS will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Johnny ­Lopez-Ona races up the field in a game earlier this spring. Last Thursday, sophomore star Lopez-Ona tallied two goals and two assists as sixth-seeded PHS toped No. 11 Steinert 18-2 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. Two days later, Lopez-Ona and his teammates couldn’t get it going as they fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School on the MCT quarterfinals to move to 7-8. In upcoming action, PHS will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into his sophomore season on the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team, Johnny Lopez-Ona knew that he had to make things happen on his own.

After a promising freshman campaign in 2014 that saw him ride the coattails of such senior offensive stars as Kevin Halliday, Matt Purdy, and Matt Corrado, Lopez-Ona realized that graduation left a void on the PHS attack.

“I definitely think there were a couple of roles to fill with the four captains that graduated last year,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We have had some great kids that stepped up too, like Rory Helstrom and Chris Diver. I definitely have more goals this season where I have dodged and scored rather than some of the other times last year where I was fed by dodgers.”

Getting off to a hot start in May, the wiry, baby-faced Lopez-Ona has scored some big goals, tallying three goals with four assists in an 18-8 win over WW/P-N on May 1 before notching three goals and an assist in a 7-6 victory over Hopewell Valley on May 5.

In Lopez-Ona’s view, the performance against Hopewell Valley was a big step forward for the Little Tigers.

“It confirms the work we have been doing throughout the season to get better and to be able to play against opponents like that,” said Lopez-Ona.

Lopez-Ona and his teammates played well in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament as sixth-seeded PHS rolled to an 18-2 win over No. 11 Steinert.

“I think our coaches and captains have been instilling a precedent of focus,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied two goals and two assists in the win.

“I think it had rubbed off on me where everybody is getting ready for the postseason and trying to do the best they can and save the best for last.”

Following in the footsteps of older sister, Emilia, a former PHS field hockey and lacrosse star who is playing in her freshman season this spring with the Penn women’s lax team, has given Lopez-Ona extra inspiration to do his best.

“My younger sister, my older sister, my dad, and I would always play outside,” said Lopez-Ona. “I feel like having to live up to her has been pushing me to play better.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way Lopez-Ona is pushing himself to get better.

“The game that he played against Hopewell was amazing,” said Stanton.

“Last year, he had the benefit of playing with three really experienced seniors on the offensive end. Against Hopewell, the team that set the standard for the CVC this year, he had two fantastic individual goals where he took the ball strong to the front of the goal and threw it by a good keeper. To see him do that in a really meaningful game was a great sign for his development.”

While PHS fell 15-2 to third-seeded Princeton Day School in the MCT quarterfinals last Saturday to end the country title defense for the two-time champions, Stanton believes his squad is headed in the right direction.

“We have finally learned our roles and a big part of that was coaches understanding what our players are capable of and putting them in the right places,” said Stanton, whose team will be taking part in the upcoming South Group 3 sectional where it is seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Jackson Memorial in a first round contest.

“Our guys know how we can win. We are going to have to win a little bit differently than we have in the past. We have figured something that can work for us.”

Lopez-Ona, for his part, believes that things are starting to work well for the Little Tigers.

“After a slow start, we have now had probably five games where we have really stepped it up,” said Lopez-Ona. “It definitely feels like we are peaking.”

FACE DOWN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane faces down a shooter in a game last season. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 16 saves in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS lost 5-4 to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. On Monday, Shane made 14 saves as PHS fell 10-8 to Hopewell Valley in a regular season contest to drop to 8-12.  The Little Tigers will be starting action in the state tournament this week where they are seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE DOWN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane faces down a shooter in a game last season. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 16 saves in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS lost 5-4 to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. On Monday, Shane made 14 saves as PHS fell 10-8 to Hopewell Valley in a regular season contest to drop to 8-12. The Little Tigers will be starting action in the state tournament this week where they are seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mira Shane didn’t waste any time showing that she meant business as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team played at Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday.

The PHS senior star goalie repelled three Notre Dame shots in the first two minutes of the contest.

That was just the beginning of a sensational performance by the Michigan-bound Shane, who went on to make 16 saves, including several point blank stops against the high-powered Irish attack.

Shane’s heroics, though weren’t enough as the fifth-seeded Little Tigers dropped a 5-4 heartbreaker to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame.

PHS head coach David Schlesinger lauded Shane’s performance. “Mira is amazing; she is so athletic and so quick,” said Schlesinger, who consoled Shane afterward as the goalie slumped over in tears near the team huddle after giving her all physically and emotionally.

“Her understanding of the position has grown so much this year, the way she plays angles and now she is a step ahead of the shooters. She knows what she wants to give up. She is forcing the shooters to shoot where she wants them to shoot. She is an amazing leader, a great player.”

In reflecting on the defeat, Schlesinger acknowledged that his team misfired as it dug a 3-1 hole at halftime.

“I thought we could do a little bit more offensively,” said Schlesinger. “We struggled a little bit in the first half moving the ball the way we wanted to. In the second half, it started to click. It was a great battle.”

PHS did get a great offensive effort from rising star Jordyn Cane, who scored three goals on the evening.

“Jordyn has stepped up and is playing the best lacrosse of her life,” asserted Schlesinger. “She is a marvelously talented player with great speed, great stick skills, and a great head for the game.”

While the PHS players were teary-eyed and glum after the setback, Schlesinger saw a major positive in the way they stepped up their intensity.

“I am just so proud of them,” said Schlesinger, whose squad lost 10-8 to fellow MCT semifinalist Hopewell Valley last Monday in a regular season meeting to drop to 8-12.

“This is why you coach, to help kids learn about themselves and give a level of effort they never thought was possible. I thought our effort was tremendous and I am really happy for them even though they are all disappointed right now.”

With the state tournament on the horizon, Schlesinger believes that the effort his team gave against Notre Dame bodes well.

“We are playing good lacrosse right now,” said Schlesinger, whose squad is seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest.

“We are all banged up; we have got two girls with concussions and another girl with a high ankle sprain so we are very short of players right now. For us to have to kind of effort, that kind of performance was great.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Nicole Apuzzi runs around a defender in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Apuzzi scored two goals to help Hun defeat Stuart Country Day 15-9 in its season finale. The victory gave the Raiders a final record of 7-8 this spring, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING THE CORNER: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Nicole Apuzzi runs around a defender in recent action. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Apuzzi scored two goals to help Hun defeat Stuart Country Day 15-9 in its season finale. The victory gave the Raiders a final record of 7-8 this spring, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was some crying when the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team lost 12-7 to WW/P-N in the Mercer County Tournament earlier this month but Liz Cook was smiling inside.

“For some reason, the game against North was so awesome, something clicked on the way to the game, they said coach we have got this,” said Hun first-year head coach Liz Cook.

“They had tears at the end and that was nice to see, it showed how much they cared. They showed a real progress. All that work from October on really paid off. The transition game was beautiful. I think we played at a whole other level. They really believed in themselves. They played together and were connecting together.”

Hun gained some self belief in two other key games down the stretch, a 15-14 regular season win over Prep B finalist Pennington in overtime on April 29 and a 10-9 victory over Blair in the state Prep A quarterfinals two days earlier.

“Pennington has a really great team, they have a lot of speed,” said Cook. “The girls have worked hard before games, watching film. They have studied hard, they are like sponges. They have learned to adjust and play against each team; doing things to take away their strengths and play to our strengths. We did that against Pennington. We watched a lot of film on Blair before that game. We had a game plan and they carried it out. I really enjoyed watching that; it was a great bus ride back.”

The Raiders ended their good ride this spring with a 15-9 win over Stuart Country Day last Wednesday, giving the squad a final record of 7-8, a vast improvement on the 1-11 mark posted in 2014.

“We really needed that, it was great to come out with a win,” said Cook, who got four goals and four assists from senior star and Bryn Mawr-bound Erica Dwyer in the win over Stuart. “It was funny, after the Stuart game, the kids all wanted to have practice the next day.”

Cook knows she was lucky to have a group of seniors that included defenders Shannon Graham, Amanda Barbour, and Taylor Nehlig along with midfielder/attacker Dwyer.

“I will miss every single one of them; it was my first year here and they were my leaders,” said Cook, referring to her quartet of seniors.

“I could really count on them. The three defenders helped hold our defense together and Erica settled our attack and calmed things down when we had the ball.”

Cook, for her part, enjoyed making an impact in her first year at the helm of  the Hun program.

“I wanted them to believe in themselves and to have a female mentor to help them athletically and academically,” said Cook.

“I told them the culture of losing is over; they see that they are able to attain anything they go after. I told them they needed to improve every day in practice and in every game and they did that. They always had the talent, they just needed some guidance.”

With a core of talented players coming back, Cook believes that Hun will keep improving.

“I am really excited about the future,” asserted Cook. “We have such a young team, they are so hungry for it. A lot of them play lacrosse outside of school. Over the next two or three years, they could be something really special. They are really together.”

ABBY ROAD: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Abby Finkelston heads to goal at the Ivy League tournament earlier this month. Last Sunday, freshman attacker Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to help Princeton defeat sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 16-3, play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ABBY ROAD: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Abby Finkelston heads to goal at the Ivy League tournament earlier this month. Last Sunday, freshman attacker Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to help Princeton defeat sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 16-3, play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In putting together a six-game winning streak heading into the start of NCAA tournament last weekend, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse had demonstrated that it could excel at both ends in the field.

At the Ivy League tournament over the first weekend of May, host Princeton stifled Harvard 15-8 in the semis before outscoring Penn 14-11 in the championship game.

Playing at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the campus of Stony Brook Brook University  to start NCAA play, the Tigers showed their versatility once again, rolling past Fairfield 18-8 in a first round contest on Friday before shutting down sixth-seeded and host Stony Brook 8-4 two days later to earn a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Princeton, now 16-3, will play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the quarters with the winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia, where the semis are slated for May 22 at PPL Park.

“The attack really carried us against Fairfield; to get 18 goals in an NCAA tournament game is a lot of goals,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, who has guided Princeton to three national titles in her Hall of Fame tenure. “The defense dominated on Sunday.”

It took a little while for Princeton to get rolling in the win over Fairfield as the Tigers were clinging to a 10-7 lead at halftime before outscoring the Stags 8-1 over the final 30 minutes of the contest.

“I think they came out hard, winning ground balls and draws,” said Sailer, who got a career-high three goals from sophomore Lauren Steidl in the win over the Stags with sophomore standout Olivia Hompe tallying a game-high four and senior Erin McMunn adding three.

“We had to match their intensity and play our game better. We just had to turn it around and we did just that.”

Sailer knew that Princeton faced a hard challenge in the Round of 16, taking on host Stony Brook, who brought at 18-1 record and a seven-game winning streak into the contest.

“They are a great team, they only had one loss and a lot of great wins over teams like Florida and Northwestern,” said Sailer of the Seawolves who were averaging 12.1 goals a contest.

“They had great sticks, they had an incredible attack, deadly off cuts and screens. They are very physical and scrappy and play a different kind of zone defense with a rover.”

Princeton jumped out to a 2-0 lead to gain early momentum and then took control of the game in the second half as it broke open a 3-3 game by outscoring Stony Brook 5-1. Freshman Abby Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to lead the Tigers’ attack.

“They expected to advance deep in the tournament and it was important for us to assert ourselves early and get that lead,” said Sailer.

“It took us a little while to figure out how to be effective on offense. We had to change up some things. We had some great ball movement and Finkelston was finishing well.”

The Tiger defense was effective all game long, holding the high-powered Seawolves to 12 shots with sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo making 12 saves.

It was a great defensive effort; to hold a team like that to four goals on their home field is quite a feat,” asserted Sailer whose team had a 15-11 edge in ground balls in the afternoon and won 8-of-13 draw controls.

“Jen Cook (assistant coach) did an awesome job with her defensive scout and game plan. The girls executed things beautifully, they knew what Stony Book Brook was going to do before they did it.

Advancing to the NCAA quarters for the first time since 2011 is a nice feat as well for Princeton.

“It is really exciting for the program,” said Sailer. “Now that the bracket has expanded to 28 teams, you have to win two games and beat a top 8 seed to make it the quarters so it says a lot about the way we are playing right now. We are performing at a high level. We are excited to be back and we think we can play with anybody.”

While Princeton has plenty of respect for powerful Duke, Sailer is excited about her team’s prospects in the matchup.

“They have had a great year; they have been a consistently strong team,” said Sailer of the Blue Devils.

“They have gone through the ACC so they have been playing strong teams game in, game out. We are excited to go down there and play Princeton lacrosse. The girls are dialed in and focused, they are executing what we tell them. We have a nice flow on offense and the defense is playing really well. Ellie DeGarmo has been great in the cage.”

May 6, 2015
LEAVELL BEST: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Amanda Leavell races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore defender Leavell starred as Princeton won the Ivy League tournament at the Class of 1952 Stadium. Leavell had an assist in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the semis on Friday and then added a goal as the Tigers topped Penn 14-11 on Sunday in the title contest. Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEAVELL BEST: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Amanda Leavell races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore defender Leavell starred as Princeton won the Ivy League tournament at the Class of 1952 Stadium. Leavell had an assist in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the semis on Friday and then added a goal as the Tigers topped Penn 14-11 on Sunday in the title contest. Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, its final game at Class of 1952 Stadium last season turned into a nightmare.

Facing Penn in the 2014 Ivy League tournament championship game, Princeton fell behind 6-2 at halftime on the way to a 9-6 setback that left the Tigers glum and teary-eyed.

Last Sunday, when Princeton faced the same scenario as it hosted Penn in this year’s Ivy title game, it was determined to not let history repeat itself.

“I think everybody remembered that, there is no worse feeling than being at your home field and watching perhaps your biggest rival take home the title,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

“I think we wanted to finish it off in the right way, not just because of last year but because of the great season we have had, we knew we were capable of winning both the championship and the tournament.”

This time, the 11th-ranked Tigers enjoyed a dream-like afternoon, finishing off No. 13 Penn in style, taking a 6-4 lead at halftime and extending its advantage to 13-8 with four minutes left in regulation on the way to a 14-11 victory.

“I am so proud of the team, they have worked so hard to get us to this point from the start of the year,” asserted a beaming Sailer, whose team improved to 14-3 overall with the win and completed a perfect league campaign with a 7-0 Ivy mark in the regular season and two wins in the tourney.

“I think we are playing our best lacrosse right now which is when you want to be playing our best. Everybody on the team today stepped up in a big way. We got  some amazing goals from kids who might not be high on the scoring column, like Amanda Leavell, Cammie Sullivan, and Abby Finkelston. It was truly a team effort today, the defense was awesome. We put a new look in and they executed it really, really well. There was just a ton of heart on the field and we are excited to be Ivy tournament champions and headed to the NCAAs.”

On Sunday evening, Princeton learned that it will play Fairfield in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. The winner will play host Stony Brook, the No. 6 seed on May 10 in the Round of 16 for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Senior midfielder Erin Slifer basked in the glow of helping Princeton win its first Ivy tournament title since 2011.

“As a team, this has been our goal from when we stepped on campus in September,” said Slifer, who tallied three goals and an assist in the win over Penn and was named to the All-Tournament team along with fellow Tigers, Anna Doherty, Amanda Leavell, Erin McMunn, Ellie DeGarmo, and Olivia Hompe, the tourney MVP.

“But as a senior, it is the finishing touch to go out and win the tournament for the first time and win the Ivy outright for the first time. It is just really exciting to see our four years really come to this peak. It is peaking at the right time and it is going to carry us into the postseason.”

As the season has unfolded, Slifer sensed that this Tiger squad could do some exciting things.

“This group just has a different edge to it; I think it is a confidence we really didn’t have before,” added Slifer.

“Even though we are the underdogs in a lot of games, we have the opportunity to beat any team when we step on the field and play at our best level. I don’t think in the past, it has always been that way. We have doubted ourselves sometimes. I think this group knows that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Senior McMunn saw that confidence manifest itself on the offensive end against Penn as the Tigers went on a 7-4 run in the second half to break open the contest.

“I think our attack has just been clicking really, really well together,” said McMunn, who chipped in a goal and two assists in the win.

“We are playing our best lacrosse right now. In terms of being able to pull away in the second half, it was a great effort on the draw that allowed us to come up with the ball in the first place. From there, the  coaches put a lot of trust in us as a unit to just work and play off each other and make the decisions and take the shots that we know we can score. It was really just a matter of playing within our game plan and being very disciplined.”

The Tigers showed discipline on defense as well, coming together in stifling the Quakers.

“We had our game plan and what I think went really well is that we stuck to it,” said sophomore defender Leavell.

“We just had each other’s backs and we were going 100 percent. I think when we do that, it is beautiful to watch and it felt good to just be with each other and working as a unit.”

Goalie Ellie DeGarmo benefitted from the strong defense, making 12 saves in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy semis on Friday and then recording eight stops in the championship contest.

“I was seeing the ball really well and I can definitely attribute that to the defense, they were playing incredible one-on-one defense,” said sophomore DeGarmo.

“In the Harvard game, they were forcing the wide shots, the bad shots, and I could see the ball the whole time. Today we were throwing in new looks and I think they did such a good job adapting to that. We threw them off because they weren’t expecting the new stuff that we put in.”

McMunn, for her part, is expecting the Tigers to make a deep run in the NCAAs.

“I love our chances and I love our chances purely for the fact that I think this is a really special group in terms of how we all care about each other and we all really click with one another, on the field, off the field,” said McMunn.

“I think in terms of what makes a team dangerous, especially at this point of the year when people are starting to get fatigued and you have been playing a long season, is that extra little bit, and that playing for one another. Loving to play with one another is what is going to take us really far; that is something that is going to make us really dangerous in this postseason. I think that people might underestimate us a little bit and that is the spot we like to be in. We are excited to take this as far as we can go.”