May 14, 2014
FINAL PUSH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd, left, gets pushed by a Cornell player in the recently held Ivy League tournament. Last Sunday, senior midfielder Lloyd contributed a goal and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 13-11 to sixth-seeded Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 12-7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd, left, gets pushed by a Cornell player in the recently held Ivy League tournament. Last Sunday, senior midfielder Lloyd contributed a goal and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 13-11 to sixth-seeded Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 12-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, its NCAA assignment last weekend included a cast of familiar characters.

The Tigers faced Penn State in the first round on Friday, just weeks after falling 13-12 to the Nittany Lions in the regular season finale. The winner was set to face host sixth-seeded Virginia, who the Tigers had edged 15-13 on March 15.

“We were really excited about the draw,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

“We had as good a shot as anyone, any one of the three teams could win. We were closely matched.”

The rematch against Penn State was nearly as close as the first meeting with Princeton rallying from a 9-6 second half deficit to pull out a 16-13 victory.

“We executed the things we worked on,” said Sailer, who got four goals and an assist from junior star Erin McMunn with freshman Olivia Hompe tallying six points on two goals and four assists and senior goalie Caroline Franke making 12 saves off the bench.

“We have a habit of being able to score goals when we need them. Our Achilles heel has been starting slowly. We had some troubles early. We put Caroline Franke in at goalie, she is bigger and she had a great day in the cage. She gave us a spark.”

Sailer knew her team faced a big challenge in taking on host Virginia with a two-day turnaround.

“The tournament is set up to to give the top six teams an advantage; they can watch you play and rest,” said Sailer.

“UVa had two weeks off although you never know how that is going to play out. We played a really hard game on Friday but I thought the girls recovered quickly. It was 20 degrees hotter than what we had been used to. We did much better than we did at the Ivy tournament the week before.”

While Princeton is used to coming from behind, spotting an early  four-goal deficit to the Cavaliers proved to be too much as the Tigers lost 13-11.

“We got down 4-0 against UVa, you can’t keep digging holes like that and expect to win every game,” said Sailer.

“After those early minutes, we won by two. When you play a good team like UVa that is patient, they hold on to the ball and you have to come out eventually. That can lead to some easy goals for them.”

The Tigers certainly didn’t make things easy for Virginia, cutting the Cavalier lead to 12-10 with 3:29 remaining in regulation.

“I am really proud of how the players keep fighting,” said Sailer, who got four goals from junior Erin Slifer in the defeat with senior Mary-Kate Sivilli chipping in three goals and senior Sarah Lloyd contributing a goal and two assists.

“Sarah Lloyd and Erin Slifer and the middies worked their butts off. MK had some important goals for us.”

Sailer credited the team’s group of seniors with setting the tone in terms of work ethic as the Tigers finished with a 12-7 record.

“It was really a strong season for Princeton lacrosse,” asserted Sailer, whose group of seniors includes Liz Cutting, Colleen Smith, Grace Bowen, Kellie Ragg, and Erin Williams in addition to Lloyd, Sivilli, and Franke.

“I am very proud of the seniors and what they have done to change the culture of the team. We were unified, hard working, and driven.”

Despite the loss to Virginia, Princeton has a lot to be proud of when it looks back on the 2014 campaign.

“We got a share of the Ivy regular season title which is always the No. 1 goal coming into the season,” said Sailer, a Hall of Fame coach who has now completed 28 seasons at the helm of the program and has guided Princeton to 22 NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, and 2003).

“We have 11 Final 4s and 10 regular season Ivy titles so that shows how tough the league is. I am happy that the team made it to the NCAAs as an at-large team and got a good draw. We advanced in the NCAAs which means we were one of the top 16 teams. We would have liked to be in the elite 8 and we were very close. In a few days, when we look back and get some perspective, we will realize that we took some really positive steps this year.”

With such standouts as McMunn, Hompe, and Slifer coming back along with freshman Madeline Rodriguez, sophomore Liz Bannantine, freshman Anna Doherty, sophomore Anya Gersoff, freshman Amanda Leavell, junior Annie Woehling, and sophomore Alexandra Bruno, the future looks positive for the Tigers.

“Looking at the returnees, we have strength across the board,” said Sailer.

“We have a lot of good players who saw a lot of action this year. There was growth and improvement in each class. Everybody on the team got better this year and that is the direction you want to go in.”

STROBE LIGHT: Princeton University women’s lightweight rower ­Maggie Stroebel pulls hard in a race earlier this spring. Senior co-captain ­Stroebel is looking to end her Princeton career on a high note as the Tigers wrap up the season by competing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor later this month.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

STROBE LIGHT: Princeton University women’s lightweight rower ­Maggie Stroebel pulls hard in a race earlier this spring. Senior co-captain ­Stroebel is looking to end her Princeton career on a high note as the Tigers wrap up the season by competing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor later this month. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maggie Stroebel demonstrated plenty of athletic versatility as a high schooler.

A native of Saukville, Wisc., Stroebel lettered four times in track and cross country and twice in basketball for Cedarburg.

But a college trip east inspired Stroebel to add another athletic pursuit.

“My older brother (Spencer) went to Princeton in the Class of 2012 and had walked on to the men’s lightweight team,” said Stroebel. “I had visited him and I really loved the school.”

Joining the Milwaukee Rowing Club in the summer after her junior year in high school, Stroebel ended up following her brother’s footsteps, becoming a member of the Princeton women’s lightweight crew program in the fall of 2010.

Later this month, Stroebel will wrap up her Princeton crew career as she leads the lightweight varsity 8 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor.

Stroebel has made up for lost time in her rowing career. “I actually started really late for someone who got recruited,” said Stroebel.

“Crew is not a sport like basketball or soccer that requires a skill set developed over the years. You can be recruited with a good ERG (ergometer) score. I picked up the technique quickly. I rowed my entire senior year in high and the summer after. We rowed at the Head of Charles in the fall of my senior year and did well. We went to club nationals in Tennessee that spring.”

In her freshman year at Princeton, Stroebel quickly made her presence felt. “We had a really strong team and a really strong group of seniors,” said Stroebel.

“I raced in the 1V (first varsity 8) in the fall. I was thrown into the fire and that was a good experience. I ended up helping the 2V get a bronze that spring at the Eastern Sprints.”

Over the next two seasons, Stoebel was a fixture in the program’s top boat.

“I was in the 1V in the spring; it was definitely a rebuilding year after losing so many seniors,” said Stroebel.

“That year we had some downs after the highs of the year before. In junior year, we did better; we were on the way to getting back to where we were in 2011.”

This year, Stroebel has led the way for the Tigers, serving as a team captain along with junior Rebecca Kreutter.

“It was such an honor; I have so much respect for the previous captains,” said Stroebel.

“I come down every day looking to be a leader and looking to be positive. Things can drag so I try to keep people motivated and keep us going.”

Princeton has enjoyed a positive spring, taking second in the san Diego Crew Classic, winning the Knecht Cup regatta, and taking third at the Eastern Sprints. “Every year, we want to medal at the sprints and IRAs,” said Stroebel.

“We were excited to win the Knecht Cup. We got a third at the Sprints; we had a good race.”

Learning from the Sprints where Princeton grabbed an early lead before getting passed by champion Harvard-Radcliffe and runner-up Wisconsin, Stroebel believes the top boat can race even better at the national championship regatta.

“We are looking forward to the IRAs; we think we can beat Wisconsin and Harvard-Radcliffe,” said Stroebel, who has been rowing in the No. 2 seat for the Tigers this spring.

“I like that strategy of going out fast. It is hard to sit back and get a medal. We are working on base pace and endurance. We have a young boat, with two freshmen and some sophomores. We have been very focused. Everyone comes down and even though we are in exams, they put that aside and work hard. We have a good group.”

As Stroebel heads down the homestretch of her Princeton career, she is determined to have a good time in the water.

“I am trying to relish it; talking about graduation seems unbelievable,” said Stroebel.

“I am trying to enjoy every day on the water. I hope to row later in life but this is the last time I will be on an eight like this. This is it for me with competitive rowing.”

No matter what happens, Stroebel is glad she followed her brother’s path.

“I think rowing has helped me so much, being on a team is special,” said Stroebel, who will be working in marketing for a New York City firm after graduation.

“I couldn’t imagine going through Princeton any other way; my teammates have really been supportive in so many ways.”

TUCK AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman scoops up a ground ball last Monday as PDS hosted Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B championship game. Sophomore midfielder Tuckman contributed three goals and two assist as Panthers edged the Argonauts 10-8 to win their first Prep B crown since 1996.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TUCK AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman scoops up a ground ball last Monday as PDS hosted Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B championship game. Sophomore midfielder Tuckman contributed three goals and two assist as Panthers edged the Argonauts 10-8 to win their first Prep B crown since 1996. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On one hand, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was bitterly disappointed by its 5-4 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament.

But that defeat sowed the seeds for a memorable effort two days later as PDS edged perennial power Rutgers Prep 10-8 last Monday in the state Prep B championship game.

Senior goalie and tri-captain Culver Duquette said the Panthers were on a mission as they hit the turf at Jan Baker Field last Monday.

“Coming off of Saturday against Notre Dame, the first thing that coach D’Andrea (assistant coach Rich D’Andrea) said was that this game would define this team, not our season, it would show who we are as people,” said Duquette, noting that Rutgers Prep had routed PDS 16-3 in the 2013 Prep B final. “To recuperate and bring it all together for a game like this was just a treat.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman, who was guiding the squad for the final time after announcing his retirement from coaching last fall, saw a special sense of urgency in his players.

“They were hyped up for it, especially coming off of Saturday,” said Tuckman, whose team ended the spring with a 13-3 record. “It made it all about just this game and they were able to really focus on it.”

The Panthers didn’t waste any time showing their focus on Monday, jumping out to a 5-1 lead over Rutgers Prep.

“That was great; throughout the season we haven’t really been a first half team and we really brought it this time,” said sophomore midfielder Jonah Tuckman, the head coach’s son.

Early in the second half, though, Rutgers Prep brought out its firepower, tying the game at 5-5 with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter.

“They have got a lot of talent but we have been preaching all season long that it is game of peaks and valleys,” said the younger Tuckman.

“It was one of our valleys and they took a peak and we just knew that we had to respond in the same way and we did.”

PDS responded with a barrage of goals, producing a decisive 5-1 run to grab a 10-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“I think we knew we could do it so we got out there and just played with confidence and never doubted ourselves at any point,” noted Tuckman. “Our defense was putting up stops and our offense was putting the ball in the net.”

Tuckman put three balls in the back of the net himself and assisted on a fourth goal in the run.

“It was absolutely due to my teammates,” said Tuckman, reflecting on his outburst. “They happened to get me the ball and I finished it. They were just creating opportunities and I was happy to finish them.”

Duquette and the defense had to hold the fort at the finish, thwarting a furious Rutgers Prep rally.

“This whole year, any time the other team has gotten momentum it is about how we answer,” said Duquette. “Our defense has been key for that, they make my job as easy as possible. I just clean things up.”

As the final whistle blew, the PDS players all threw their gloves and sticks in the air and sprinted to mob Duquette in front of the goal.

In the view of head coach Tuckman, accomplishing the goal of a state title was sweet.

“We have been knocking on the door and this is a big one for us,” said Tuckman, reflecting on the program’s first Prep B title since 1996. “The program has been building and building.”

Building strength at both ends of the field helped the Panthers become a championship squad.

“The defense has really been the foundation of this team and it is fitting that at the end of this game, the defense had to make a hold and they did and that is what they have done all season long,” said Tuckman, who is handing the coaching reins to D’Andrea, a former star goalie at Georgetown.

“We are a six-man team on offense and we have been all season long. They didn’t focus on one, it was a team effort. Every game we had five, six, or seven scorers. I have six kids with double-digit scoring for the season.”

Duquette, for his part, credits the team’s youthful core with maturing quickly.

“We are a young team and the younger kids are stepping up,” said Duquette, reflecting on the day which saw sophomore Tuckman, freshman Will Brossman and junior Jacob Shavel all tally three goals with sophomore Connor Fletcher chipping in a goal and two assists.

“The first thing we said is that the younger kids had to understand that they could step up and have an impact right away in this program. You see that today, all of our goals are scored by juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.”

The PDS seniors made an impact by keeping the team on an even keel.  “After last season and losing some of our best players because it was a great senior class, we said that nothing changes this year and that we can go further,” said Duquette, whose fellow captains are classmates Lewie Blackburn and Ben Levine with Gabe Castagna, Zack Banks, Nelson Garrymore, and Connor Bitterman rounding out the squad’s Class of 2014. “We proved that today.”

The younger Tuckman and the underclassmen were determined to stop at nothing to earn the title.

“We wanted to go out with a bang; these seniors have meant a lot to us and we wanted to give them something to remember,” said Tuckman.

“It is huge, not just for my dad, but the team hasn’t won in forever. It was great to finally get one. Timing is everything.”

For Tuckman’s dad, the win on Monday was something he will never forget.

“It is wonderful,” said Tuckman, with his voice cracking and his clothes soaked after having the water bucket dumped on him by his players in the raucous postgame celebration. “It is a great way to end my career as a head coach.”

FIGHTING SPIRIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races upfield last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Smith chipped in an assist as third-seeded PHS fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, now 14-3, will start play in the state tournament where they are seeded third in the Group III South section and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIGHTING SPIRIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races upfield last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Smith chipped in an assist as third-seeded PHS fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, now 14-3, will start play in the state tournament where they are seeded third in the Group III South section and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team trailed WW/P-N by four goals with 1:38 remaining in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Saturday, Dana Smith wasn’t about to throw in the towel.

Fighting for the draw after the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 13-9, PHS senior midfielder and Lafayette-bound Smith scooped up the ball and raced through and around two WW/P-N defenders to set up a possession that led to a goal by classmate Emilia Lopez-Ona.

The third-seeded Little Tigers added another tally with 12.7 seconds left but time ran out for them as they fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N.

“We never put our heads down,” said Smith, reflecting on the late rally. “We never quit, that was our goal for this game. No matter what, we were going to fight until the end.”

In Smith’s view, fighting to the end was a reflection of PHS’s growth over the spring.

“I think when we started off the season, we sometimes got very frantic,” said Smith.

“We threw the ball away a lot and caused a lot of turnovers. I was very proud of how the team did today, really controlling those turnovers. We barely lost the ball on attack and that was one of our goals.”

Smith was proud of the brand of lacrosse the Little Tigers displayed against WW/P-N.

“We were playing well as a team; Liz Jacobs and Emilia Lopez-Ona were really connecting,” added Smith, reflecting on the setback which dropped PHS to 14-3.

“Gabby Gibbons was awesome coming around the cage. Mira was great in goal. Our juniors are looking so great. Our sophomores, Taylor Lis and Julia Ryan, have stepped up so much.”

As a senior co-captain and battle-tested veteran, Smith seeks to lead by word and deed.

“I like to play on both sides of the field, I like to be in it on both ends,” said Smith, who had an assist in the title game.

“We have so many younger players that it is nice to be a senior. We have eight seniors so we have really great leadership. It is really awesome to be part of that and be able to guide the underclassmen and to work with coach [Kelsey] O’Gorman to really help raise the level of every single person on this team.”

With PHS getting seeded third in the upcoming state Group III South sectional, Smith believes that competing against the likes of WW/P-N will help raise the level of the Little Tigers’ game.

“We are going to face some really tough competition states and North is a great squad so that is really good practice for how the competition is going to be in Group III South,” said Smith, who will look to get PHS back on the winning track as it hosts 14th-seeded Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the sectional on May 15.

“In games like this, we had to learn how to play under pressure. In those last two minutes, the draws were so tight and we had to learn to come up with those 50/50 balls and fight through every single ground ball and make those clutch shots at the end and that’s really important. Being able to keep our calm even when we are down and the clock is running out.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman was proud of the way her team fought to the final whistle in the loss.

“I think we showed our true character and what we are capable of as a team,” said O’Gorman.

“You really can’t count us out. If you gave us two more minutes on the clock, we would have won this game. I was proud that they were able to translate what we talked about in the timeout on to the field in the last two minutes because I think that really shows the true content of a team. I was proud that they left it all on the field today and you can see everyone is leaving saying we gave it our all.”

O’Gorman credited Smith and her classmates with showing character. “Our senior leadership is phenomenal and they know how to take charge,” said O’Gorman, whose group of seniors includes Liz Jacobs, Emily Young, Krysta Holman, Stephanie Hauer, Kristi DeMilt, and Taylor Chiang in addition to Smith and Lopez-Ona. “They know how to help the younger players step up in these types of games.”

Making a run to the county title game should help the Little Tigers step up in the state tourney.

“We ended at the county semifinal game last year so having this game instead of watching in the stands was a great opportunity,” said O’Gorman.

“It was definitely great competition today. I think it does come down to the little things. North played a tremendous game and they did a lot of those little things right. We had a ball out of bounds, a missed draw, an uncontested ground ball and things like that came down to them being on top. It was a great game, we can clean up those things and bring it into the state tournament for our section.”

Smith, for her part, vows that PHS will compete to the end. “We are never going to give up in the state tournament,” asserted Smith.

“It has been four years, I love this team so much. None of us want the season to end so we are going to take it as long as possible. I would love to be playing at the end of May.”

IRISH DANCE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse senior star Liz Jacobs, center, celebrates with Gabby Gibbons, right, and Allie Callaway after a PHS goal. Last Thursday, the Dartmouth-bound Jacobs exploded for five goals and an assist to help the Little Tigers top Notre Dame 19-9 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, avenging a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IRISH DANCE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse senior star Liz Jacobs, center, celebrates with Gabby Gibbons, right, and Allie Callaway after a PHS goal. Last Thursday, the Dartmouth-bound Jacobs exploded for five goals and an assist to help the Little Tigers top Notre Dame 19-9 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, avenging a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Liz Jacobs was held without a goal as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team fell to Notre Dame 15-10 in early April.

When the rivals met again last Thursday in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament, PHS senior star and Dartmouth-bound Jacobs sensed that things were going to come out differently in the rematch.

“It was early in the season and obviously they are a great team,” said Jacobs. “I think throughout the season, we have been jelling a little bit more. I think we always end up doing well at the end of the season.”

After falling behind 3-2 in the MCT contest, which was played at Hightstown High, third-seeded PHS started doing very well as it reeled off seven unanswered goals against the No. 3 Irish to seize momentum. Jacobs spearheaded the 7-0 run, tallying the first three goals, two of them on assists by junior Gabby Gibbons.

“We just picked up a lot of momentum in the transition; we were all making great connections in the midfield,” said Jacobs.

“Gabby had an awesome game and it seemed like we clicked; that was nice. We were all looking for each other.”

The Little Tigers never looked back, pulling away to a 19-9 win over the Irish.

“We just needed to regain control; brush off the last three minutes of the first half and just stay strong and keep persevering,” said Jacobs, who ended up with five goals and an assist in the victory.

“I think a few goals at the beginning of the half definitely helped get us into our groove. I think once we relaxed a little bit as a team, we started playing our game.”

While PHS didn’t quite find its groove on Saturday as it fell 13-11 to WW/P-N in the MCT title game, Jacobs believes the team can end things with a bang as it competes in the state tournament.

“It has been a long four years and we all want to end this on a good note,” said Jacobs of the Little Tigers, who are seeded third in the Group III south sectionals and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest.

“We seem to be coming together a little bit more than we have in the past. We were just on the same page today which was really nice.”

Although the Princeton High golf team finished in the middle of the pack at the Mercer County Tournament last week, Sheryl Severance liked the way her squad competed.

“They played well,” said longtime PHS head coach Severance, whose team placed ninth of 15 schools at the MCT, which was played on May 6 at Mountain View.

“The girls were a little disappointed that they had to play back, they were hitting long shots all day. The boys were happy; they played their games.”

Building on that effort, PHS finished the week with two encouraging wins, topping Hightstown 217-224 on Wednesday and defeating Lawrence 217-235 a day later.

“We hit our low for the season at 217 two matches in a row,” said Severance, whose team defeated Hamilton 232-291 last Monday to improve to 8-7 in dual match action this season.

Senior standout Laura Burke led the way for the Little Tigers in the victories last week, carding a 39 against Hightstown and a 38 against Lawrence.

“Consistency is her strength,” said Severance of Burke, who will be playing in the state girls’ tournament on May 22.

“Her approach shots are right on so that keeps her putts to a minimum. She drives it right down the middle, she spends matches walking down the fairway.”

PHS is also getting good play from two other female players in senior Diane Karloff and freshman Kelly Qiu.

“Diane is playing well; she had a 40 against Hightstown, that is her lowest round in four years and she was really excited,” said Severance.

“Kelly is a freshman and I am excited about her. She doesn’t hit a long ball but she hits it straight. Her chipping and putting are very accurate. She is going to be like Laura when she is older.”

Severance is excited by the progress made this spring by junior Max Rodewald and sophomore Andrew Huang.

“Max Rodewald is playing well; it is his first year with us,” said Severance. “He had a 42 in the win over Lawrence. Andrew Huang started out a little rough this spring; he was away on an orchestra trip and was a little out of synch. He is playing better. He wasn’t hitting well with his driver and that was getting him in trouble. Now he is hitting better with his driver.”

The trio of senior Paul Murray, junior Max Tarter, and freshman Joseph Phelan have also experienced some highs this season.

“Paul Murray is up and down; he has had some nice scores and some rounds in the 50s,” said Severance, whose team will wrap up the regular season by hosting Notre Dame on May 14.

“Max Tarter has had some rounds in the 40s. Joseph Phelan is a freshman and whenever I need a sixth player, I pick him right away. He is consistently between 45-50.”

With a lineup including three seniors in Burke, Karloff, and Murray, Severance believes the program is heading in the right direction.

“We’ll be fine; we will miss Laura at top of lineup and Paul and Diane have been constants in our top 5,” said Severance. “I told the younger players that they are going to have to step up more next year.”

QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For John Reid, starring on the ice for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team last winter has helped him on the diamond this spring.

“I think I am constantly ready to compete,” said junior Reid, a forward in hockey and an outfielder for the PHS baseball squad.

“I think my competitive drive has actually increased this last year with the great hockey season that we had. I think it definitely benefits my game.”

Batting in the cleanup spot, Reid has emerged as an offensive threat this spring for the Little Tigers.

“I think last year, I was a year younger and I hadn’t seen any varsity pitching,” said Reid.

“Going forward into this year, I was a little more comfortable in the box. It is still tough but I think I have been seeing some better pitches and I have been a little more patient.”

PHS showed its toughness last week, topping Pennington 10-0 on May 5 and then blanking Lawrence 6-0 a day later to clinch a spot in the upcoming state tournament.

“We knew that we had to win those two games to get into the state tournament for the first time since 2001,” said Reid.

“We really put an emphasis on making sure that we got guys on and we got them in. The pitching was great. We knew that we had to win those two games and we ended up doing that.”

In Reid’s view, making the states is important for the PHS in both the short term and the long term.

“I think with the team we have this year, there are some guys that felt bad not being in states for a while,” said Reid.

“I think it means a lot for the program to do that and hopefully build on it for next year as well.”

Things didn’t go as well for PHS last Friday as it fell 4-0 at Nottingham with Reid contributing two infield hits in a losing cause.

“I think lately I have been swinging earlier in counts and I am seeing some more fastballs,” said Reid, reflecting on his performance in the defeat.

“I think it was a tough day today; they kind of lulled us into a slow game and I think that is what brought us down.”

While PHS head coach Dave Roberts was pleased with how his team came through to earn the state berth, he was disappointed to see his team subsequently fall 5-2 to Pennington in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on Wednesday and then lose to Notttingham.

“The early week was positive; it is hard to remember that we did have a .500 week,” said Roberts.

“We can’t score 16 runs in the first two games of the week and then score two in the next 14 innings. It doesn’t make for a recipe for success.”

Roberts acknowledges that playing in the states will be a huge positive for the program.

“It is exciting; it looks like we will be matched up against Wall; they are a real good shore conference team,” said Roberts.

“It will be great, the seniors deserve a state game and they got themselves a state game. It will be tons of fun.”

Reid’s progress this spring has been exciting for Roberts. “John scratched out a couple of hits today which was nice to see because he had been struggling mightily before that,” said Roberts of Reid who went 1-for-2 last Monday to help PHS defeat Notre Dame 6-2 and improve to 7-11. “It was nice to see him get a little bit back on track today.”

Sophomore Hayden Reyes has given PHS a nice lift, sparking the offense from the No. 2 spot in the lineup and starring at shortstop and pitcher,

“Hayden has been phenomenal since last year,” said Roberts. “Every time we step out here, I definitely feel like whenever he is playing shortstop, he is in the top three shortstops in the CVC defensively and even offensively. He has pitched all his life. He throws strikes, he doesn’t walk people and most importantly he works quick.”

The PHS pitching rotation has been led by sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt.

“Joaquin has been tremendous all year, he has been dominant on the mound,” said Roberts of the Hernandez-Burt, who yielded three hits and a run in five innings to earn the win in the victory over Notre Dame.

“He’s been our absolute workhorse; every single outing he had would qualify as a quality start. He has two shutouts; he’s been awesome on the mound.”

With a roster featuring a number of sophomores and juniors, Roberts believes the program has a quality foundation going forward.

“Hopefully they are learning every day and from every single experience that we have, especially the county tournament game that we lost on Wednesday and the game we lost today,” said Roberts.

Reid, for his part, believes that the lessons learned this year will benefit PHS in the future.

“Pretty much our whole infield is going to be juniors next year,” said Reid. “You take that experience and the few juniors that we do have on the team this year, we should continue with that success.”

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

James Radvany came into the spring expecting that his main duties for the Princeton Day School baseball team would center on playing first base and providing punch in the middle of the lineup.

But when mound ace Cole McManimon was injured in the season opener and sidelined for all of April, Radvany’s portfolio changed as he became the team’s workhorse starting pitcher.

Befitting his stature as a team quad-captain, Radvany willingly assumed the additional responsibility.

“It has been tough, I have had to throw a lot of innings this year,” said junior Radvany.

“My arm wasn’t really ready for that but I have done the best I could and I have labored on.”

Last Wednesday, Radvany put in some hard labor on the mound as he started and went four innings in a 9-1 loss to Hamilton in the opening round of the Mercer  County Tournament.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today but they are a good team,” said Radvany, who gave up seven runs in the first two innings but only one after that.

“They grind out at-bats, they are all good baseball players at the front of their lineup. I had some two-strike counts but they had some good swings. I started to get the ball down a little bit, I left it up in the first two innings. I had some good plays behind me in the last two innings so that helped out.”

After struggling at the plate earlier in the spring, Radvany has been swinging the bat better in recent weeks. He had a single and scored the only run in the loss to Hamilton.

“I started to turn it around pretty well; I have had three or four doubles in the last few games,” said Radvany, who has committed to attend Villanova University and play for its baseball program.

“I have had a lot more hits. I am just trying to stay through the middle. I have had to change my approach a little but I think it is starting to turn around at the right time and that was what I was hoping for.”

While things haven’t turned out this spring as PDS had hoped with the Panthers dropping to 4-10 after losing 2-1 to Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday in the opening round of the state Prep B tourney, Radvany and his teammates are staying upbeat.

“Losing Cole in the first game was tough but we have hung in there,” said Radvany.

“We only have one senior but the freshmen have given a lot more than we thought. They have all been great, they have all been better than we expected. It is what you hope for; we have hope for next year.”

May 7, 2014
PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

A 1998 match between pro tennis stars Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf changed the course of Lindsay Graff’s life.

“When I was 5, I was watching TV and Lindsay Davenport was playing against Steffi Graf and I thought my name is a combination so maybe I should try tennis,” said Graff, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I picked up a racket a few weeks later and I have loved it ever since.”

Graff moved up the ladder in tennis, breaking into juniors in middle school and starring at Pine Crest High, where she was a three-time Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel Player of the year and the Florida Class 2A doubles champ in 2009 and singles champ in 2011.

Joining the Princeton University women’s tennis team in 2011, Graff played like a combination of tennis legends Davenport and Graf this spring, getting named Ivy League Player of the Year as the Tigers went 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown.

This week Graff and the Tigers, 18-5 overall, head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.

“It is a good matchup for us,” said Graff, reflecting on Princeton’s first NCAA appearance sine 2010. “We are on a roll and everyone is playing well. We want to win a few matches at the NCAAs and go on a little run.”

It took a while for Graff to get on a roll in her college career. “In college, the biggest challenge is the the physical level, there a lot of bigger and a lot of stronger players,” said Graff, noting that she has packed 20 pounds of muscle on to her 5’5 frame since freshman year. “They hit a heavier ball.”

After earning second-team All-Ivy honors at singles playing at No. 2 and first-team All Ivy at doubles as a freshman, Graff moved to the top spot in singles in 2013, finding a comfort level on and off the court.

“At high school, you are used to being at the top academically and at the top of your activity,” said Graff.

“At Princeton, you are competing with all these kids who were in the same position. I was able to get my priorities in line; it is tough to do everything at a high level. You have to choose the things that are important to you. I love tennis so I have focused on that.”

Last summer, Graff raised the level of her game as she won a regional qualifier for the U.S. Open at singles and mixed doubles.

“That was one of the best experiences for me; I spontaneously decided to play and ended up winning the regional,” said Graff, who ended up falling short of a bid for the U.S. Open as she lost in the national playoffs in New Haven, Conn.

“I was playing a lot and working hard all summer long. It was a great experience to be playing against top players like that. In the second round, I saw a lot of good players and saw where I stood. Coming into the year, I felt a lot more confident.”

Coming into this spring, Graff was confident that Princeton could be an Ivy title contender.

“We had the capability of having a big Ivy season,” said Graff, noting that the arrival of four freshmen this season had upgraded the talent level for the program which posted a 4-3 Ivy mark in 2013.

“We had 10 players and everyone was playing for a spot. I felt that we could be a good team and we would regret it if we didn’t work hard.”

A critical 4-3 win over three-time defending Ivy champion Yale on April 4 showed that Princeton had a very good team.

“We fell behind 3-0 and the girl playing No. 5 (Caroline Joyce) had a big win and our No. 2 (Amanda Muliawan) won and our No. 6 (Katie Goepel) was going into a third set,” recalled Graff.

“I lost the first and was behind in second. It was very much on my shoulders, I knew I had to win the match. I was not going to lose that third set. I was not getting off that court until I won.”

Graff ended up pulling out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Yale’s Madeleine Hamilton to seal the victory for the Tigers.

“I showed mental toughness; my teammates were cheering me on from the sidelines and I wanted to do this for them,” said Graff. “They were so loud and so genuinely supportive. I try to fight for myself but I was really excited to win for them.”

Heading into the regular season finale against Columbia on April 20 with a one-game lead over the Lions in the league standings, the Tigers weren’t about to settle for sharing the title.

“Columbia did beat us a few weeks before the Ivy season but we were 6-0 we were so hyped up and so confident,” said Graff.

“We were a different team. We showed we weren’t intimidated from the first point of the doubles match; they saw how we had come together as a team. I saw we were up 2-0. In my match it was 7-6, 5-4 and our girl at No. 4 (Sivan Krems) was winning. I was focusing on the match point and then I was swarmed by the team. I realized that No. 4 had won just 20 seconds before so I got the point to clinch the match. It was the best feeling.”

In Graff’s view, the team’s feeling of unity has helped spur it to a title. “Our talent level is there but if our work ethic didn’t match our talent, we might be disappointed,” said Graff of the squad which is guided by second-year head coach Laura Granville.

“For the last 1½ to 2 months, all the players have jumped on board. People are putting it all on the court, we are fighting for each other. We realized we can accomplish more together.”

While accomplishing the Ivy Player of the Year award was exciting for Graff, its main importance to her comes in the context of the team’s success this spring.

“It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year,” said Graff, who has an 18-4 record this spring and is riding a nine-match winning streak heading into the NCAAs.

“I realized when I was 12-4 that each time I lost a match, the team had lost. I lost a match in Miami and I said coming off the court that day that was the last match I was going to lose. I want to win every match. Although every point counts the same, it is important to win at No. 1. Every match I have won has helped the team win so that is the important thing.”

Looking ahead, Graff hopes to someday win matches at the pro level. “I am a junior so I am thinking about that,” said Graff, reflecting on her aspirations to keep playing tennis after college.

“I would love to stay in the game. Tennis is my favorite thing to do; there is no other place I would rather be than on the tennis court. It is high priority. It is a long road to the pro tour. I would love to give it a shot.”

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5.  On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5. On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary-Kate Sivilli and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team had a special message written on their arms as they hosted Penn last Sunday in the championship game of the Ivy League Tournament.

With senior co-captain Colleen Smith having been sidelined after injuring her knee on the opening draw in Princeton’s 12-5 win over Cornell on Friday in the Ivy semis, the Tigers brought her on the field with them in the final via magic marker.

“It is really hard to make up for Colleen, she is a big presence, she has a lot of spirit,” said senior attacker Sivilli.

“We actually wrote her number on our wrists today. We played for her, keeping a piece of her with us in our heart the whole game. Unfortunately it is not the same but we tried to embody her presence.”

The Penn players also scrawled some inspiration on their arms with the words “Penn Ball,” paying homage to the Duke men’s basketball’s team slogan of “Duke Ball” used as inspiration to go hard after any loose balls.

In the early stages on Sunday, the Quakers did a better job of staying on message, scoring the first six goals of the game on the way to taking a 6-2 lead at halftime.

“I thought they really came out and took the game today,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, whose team was outshot 21-3 in the first half and lost 7-of-9 draw controls.

“I think you just have to give them a lot of credit, they went after it at the start of the game. We were slow starting today. I thought Friday night we played one of the best games, if not the best game, that we have played all season. Today was the other end of the spectrum. I think Penn just came out like a force. They worked really hard offensively and we were trying to just keep up defensively.”

In the second half, the Tigers took a page out of Smith’s book, playing with heart and fire as they cut into the Penn lead.

“I was really proud that the team showed a very different effort and fight in the second half,” said Sailer of the Tigers, who had a 9-3 edge on shots in the second half and won 6-of-7 draw controls.

“If you look at the draw control statistics, they were reversed, that was the name of the game. We were outhustled and outperformed on the draw in the first half and we did the reverse on the second half so we had an opportunity.”

But the early hole proved too big as Princeton ultimately succumbed 9-6 to the Quakers to drop to 11-6. The Tigers will get a chance to fight another day as they earned an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament and will play Penn State on May 9 at the University of Virginia with victor to face host Virginia on May 11 in a second round contest.

Princeton junior attacker Erin McMunn believes that the self-belief that the Tigers displayed in their rally will serve the squad well in the NCAAs.

“I think the first thought you have to have, and I think it is something our team has done a really good job of doing all year, is really buying in and believing in yourselves,” said McMunn, who scored three goals to lead the Tigers with Sarah Lloyd, Olivia Hompe, and Mary-Kate Sivilli chipping in one apiece.

“I think we did that and I think the second half shows you that. It is tough to come back from 6-2 at halftime but it didn’t get to us in terms of believing that we could take this game.”

Sivilli, for her part, sees team’s success coming down to taking care of the ball.

“Draw controls and momentum win games,” said Sivilli, who was named to  the All-Tournament team last weekend along with fellow Tigers McMunn, Liz Bannantine, and Annie Woehling.

“We didn’t have the ball the first half of the game and you can’t win a game without the ball.”

In Sailer’s view, 17th-ranked Princeton, which lost 13-12 to No. 11 Penn State in late April and beat 15th-ranked Virginia 15-13 on March 1, needs a fiery attitude along with ball possession to make an NCAA run.

“It is the mentality piece; we have to go after what we want,” said Sailer, who has guided Princeton to 22 NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, and 2003).

“We have got to be ready from the first draw. Things are going to be hard but that doesn’t mean that we can’t prevail. We just need to have more of that gritty, fighting attitude from the start. I think you saw that in the game Friday night.”

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Even through the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew fell to Columbia last Saturday to suffer its second defeat to the Lions this spring, Marty Crotty is not pushing the panic button.

“During the H-Y-P (Harvard-Yale-Princeton) race (on April 26) one of our rowers was injured and we thought we could plug the hole this week but we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Crotty, whose top boat clocked a time of 5:55.4 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J to trail Columbia by 2.2 seconds but edge third-place Delaware by 0.8 of second.

“We got off to another flat start on Saturday and Columbia is a good enough boat to take advantage of that. We were dealing with a different lineup. We have a lot to do in the next two weeks but we have eight strong rowers and a good cox. It is not like there is a significant time difference. Losing could be a step back but it wasn’t in this case, the race showed us what we need to work on.”

The second varsity 8 took another step forward last Saturday, winning its race to remain undefeated this spring.

“It is amazing to go through unscathed, they have had a different lineup in every race,” said Crotty, noting that injury, illness, and lineup changes come with the territory. “To be able to rotate guys through varsity and still win every week is an accomplishment.”

With the varsity 8 at 7-3, having also lost to Cornell, Crotty believes the boat has plenty of potential.

“It has been an up and down season,” said Crotty, whose boat was ranked second nationally coming into the regatta last Saturday.

“We are trying to get the pieces together. We have shown flashes. Even in the losses, we have matched the speed of the other boats over the last 1,500 meters.”

As Princeton prepares for Eastern Sprints, which are slated for May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., the focus is clear.

“We need to get off the line with the field so we are not working from behind,” said Crotty.

“I am not used to that as a coach. If anything, I have been known for getting boats out too fast. I need to get guys hyped up and aggressive in the first 40 strokes. We just need to be a little cleaner and a little sharper at the start.”

Crotty believes his rowers can clean up at the Sprints. “We are going into the next two weeks thinking that every boat can win at Sprints,” said Crotty.

“We are not using hope as a strategy. We have the talent to win. Cornell and Columbia have gotten the best of us so far. We just need to clean things up at both ends and this is the time of the year that you do that.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ay in the regular season finale for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The star junior attacker managed just one goal on two shots as the Tigers fell 13-12 at Penn State on April 26.

Last Friday, McMunn made plenty of noise, scoring a career-high seven goals as top-seeded Princeton defeated fourth-seeded Cornell 12-5 in the semis of the Ivy League postseason tournament at Class of 52 Stadium.

“I was really lucky, the kids were looking to hit me today and the shots were falling,” said McMunn, reflecting on her outburst.

“I think more than anything it was just that we were really working together well tonight and we were looking for those feeds inside and I happened to get a little lucky that I got seven of them. It was a lot of fun to be out there today.”

Two days later, McMunn had a lot less fun, scoring three goals in a losing cause as Princeton fell 9-6 to second-seeded Penn in the Ivy title game.

The 17th-ranked Tigers, who dropped to 11-6 with the defeat, are still alive in postseason play as they received an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament where they will get a rematch against No. 11 Penn State in a first round contest on May 9 at the University of Virginia. The victor will face host 15th-ranked Virginia in the second round on May 11.

In the view of Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, the lessons McMunn learned from her subpar game against Penn State helped her explode last weekend.

“I don’t think there is a bigger turnaround in six days than Erin McMunn showed on the field,” asserted Sailer after the victory over Cornell.

“Today, I think she learned how to play against a tight mark. She saw what is going to happen when she works hard and when she puts herself in a position to make a difference. She worked hard, she saw the opportunities,  she got separation but then her teammates were ready to hit her and they didn’t hesitate to make the pass.”

In McMunn’s view, the team’s balanced attack opens things up for everybody.

“I think in terms of flow, it is just the fact that any person on our attack could score at any time; we have eight kids with 20-plus points and that is amazing to me,” said McMunn, who leads Princeton with 40 goals and 52 points.

“I think a huge part of it is that everyone is a threat when they have the ball, regardless of who it is.”

McMunn and the Tigers will look to use their performance against Cornell as the blueprint for a run in the NCAA tournament.

“We know that we have put in the prep work, we are excited to play but at the same time we know that we have to keep doing those little things to continue having this kind of performance,” said McMunn, a first-team All Ivy selection on the season and was an All-Tournament honoree last weekend.

“You want to be confident to the point that it really pushes you to play well and puts you in a good mental state but not so much that we become complacent. We are doing a good job right now of finding that balance so I think that is going to be big, not just for the attack, but for the whole team going forward.”

SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton High softball team trailing Lawrenceville 8-0 in the fourth inning last Friday, Dave Boehm urged his players to relax.

“It was just come out swinging,” said PHS head coach Boehm, reflecting on his message to his charges.

“We are looking at too many good pitches; we let good pitches go by and we are swinging at bad ones.”

PHS responded with two runs in the fifth as sophomore Natalie Campisi got things rolling with a single and then her older sister, senior tri-captain Jessica Campisi, along with freshman Kayla Volante delivered RBI hits.

“We got a couple of hits but we have to keep going,” said Boehm, whose team went on to lose 9-2 as the Campisi sisters and Volante all had two hits in a losing cause.

Having dropped nine of its last 11 games, PHS is struggling to get in synch.

“It is just mental mistakes,” said Boehm, whose team fell 6-2 at Lawrence High last Monday to lose its fourth straight game and drop to 3-12 on the season.

“I think it is a learning process for these girls. A lot of them didn’t play varsity last year and they are learning now that the speed of this game is a lot faster than they thought. By the time they think of where they have got to throw, it is already too late.”

Volante threw well in relief against Lawrenceville, holding the Big Red to one run over the last three innings.

“She is not the fastest kid throwing but she has nice movement on her pitches, especially her curve,” said Boehm, noting that Volante has also emerged as a batting threat for the Little Tigers. “It drops out a little bit on the bottom so she will hold us into games.”

Two of PHS’s veterans, junior Sarah Eisenach and senior Liana Bloom, have been holding their own in recent action.

“Sarah is also hitting the ball well,” said Boehm of Eisenach, the team’s top pitcher who performed well in the circle against Lawrence on Monday in a losing cause, recording nine strikeouts.

“I would say the last three games, Sarah has hit the ball very well. Liana Bloom is doing a good job at first base, she is filling in for Emily DiLella, who twisted her knee in Ewing. She is playing well in the field.”

Boehm is confident there are good times ahead for the Little Tigers, who have two freshmen, two juniors, and six sophomores seeing a lot of action this spring.

“I think they will come along,” said Boehm. “We have got a good young nucleus, mostly sophomores. There are only a couple of seniors that are really playing.”

In Boehm’s view, the Little Tigers need to stay loose as they head into a busy homestretch, which includes the start of the Mercer County Tournament and regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9.

“Next week, we have six games,” said Boehm, whose club is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at No. 5 WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.

“We start the county tournament on Saturday. I told them at the end there that no one expects you to beat them now so just go out there swinging and play the best you can.”

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Morgan Foster and the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, its state Prep B tournament opener last week against Montclair-Kimberley Academy wasn’t just the beginning of the postseason, it represented a vital step in a healing process.

The April 29 contest marked the team’s first action in 12 days as its games the previous week were cancelled after the passing of Nancy Dwyer, the mother of PDS junior goalie Sara Dwyer.

“This game was definitely important for us,” said PDS junior star Foster. “We had a lot riding on it, especially because it is a tournament game and, in light of recent events, you really want to go out there and show that we still have got it.”

Foster didn’t waste any time showing that her finishing skills were as sharp as ever, scoring two goals in the first 6:01 of the game as the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“It got the ball rolling, it got the momentum up,” recalled Foster, who ended up with three goals and an assist on the day as the Panthers prevailed 13-12. “It was going our way for a while. I was really happy that I was able to get the opportunity to score.”

As the team helped Dwyer deal with her loss, it has used that situation as an opportunity to become even closer.

“We really made sure that we were there holding each other’s hands the whole time,” said Foster. “We made sure that every single person was on the same page. We are only as strong as our weakest link.”

Foster acknowledged that PDS had to fight through some weak moments as Montclair Kimberley narrowed an 11-6 PDS lead to 11-10 to turn the game into a nailbiter.

“Towards the end, we were put in situations that we were not exactly happy to put ourselves in,” said Foster.

“But we think it is important that we were able to practice them on such a big stage and get a little bit more experience under our belts for that one.”

The battle-tested Foster, a starter since the beginning of her freshman season, is utilizing her experience.

“As a junior, I am stepping into the role of becoming a senior and having a bigger voice on the team and having the girls look up to me for advice,” said Foster.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas credited Foster with being a catalyst for her teammates in the win over MKA.

“Morgan just got us going, she set the tone,” said Thomas. “She always brings her best to the field. She did a great job of going to goal and finding out what worked against this goalie and then everybody followed suit so that was really good.”

Sophomore Hope Anhut was really good in the win, scoring five goals to lead the PDS attack.

“Hope has taken it to another level; she is more confident,” said Thomas. “We have used our plays to work to her a little bit. They are working well. You have your top dogs out there and they are all together.”

Showing a high level of commitment and courage, junior Kirsten Kuzmicz, normally a midfielder, stepped into goal for Dwyer and made 10 saves.

“What can you say, not bad for three days,” said Thomas, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s performance in the cage.

“She stepped in there and she was tough the whole time. It takes a special person to step in and do what she did today and do it well.”

Thomas was proud of how her players stepped up collectively under tough circumstances.

“It was good to get back; we are just all there for everybody,” said Thomas, whose team fell 17-11 to WW/P-S last Thursday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament before losing 23-16 to Morristown-Beard last Monday in the Prep B semis. “They have been there for each other the whole week and that has been good.”

Foster, for her part, is determined to be there for her teammates. “I definitely feel like I am out here to score and I am out here to assist and make other people look good,” said Foster. “I would like to think of my play as a balancing act.”

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Brendan Black scored two goals as the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team topped visiting Peddie 13-5 last Monday in the state Prep A semis, the junior star prefers seeing others take care of the finishing duties.

“I just try to quarterback the offense as much as I can and get the other guys good looks because they can stick them in, that’s for sure,” said attacker Black, who had seven assists in the victory, which improved the Raiders to 10-4 and earned them a date with perennial state champion Lawrenceville in the Prep A final. “I just roll with whatever comes.”

One of Black’s favorite targets is his younger brother, sophomore midfielder Owen Black, who tallied two goals for second-seeded Hun in the victory over No. 3 Peddie.

“We do have a connection on the field, I love playing that wing with him,” said Black, who is committed to join the Villanova University men’s lacrosse program along with his brother.

“I know where he is going to be and he knows where I am going to be. We have been playing together forever. We are going to keep playing together for years to come.”

Having defeated Peddie 10-5 in a regular season contest on April 25, Black knew that the Falcons presented a challenge in the tournament rematch.

“They are a great team and we knew they were a threat; they have a really good face-off guy, a good goalie, and good attackmen so they have the formula to win,” said Black.

“We knew that they were going to be a threat. We were nervous but I think we handled them well. We knew if we jumped on them early we would be able to have them. We had great face-off play from Alex Semler so that really helped us get it going offensively.”

Things have been going very well for the Raiders as they have won seven straight games and 10 of their last 11.

“We knew from the start of the year that we were going to have some rough games off the bat but that is always what we want,” said Black.

“Our motto is that it is not about winning at the beginning of the season, it is about May. I feel like now we are really starting to click as a team and it is May 5 and we are getting going now.”

Black credits Hun’s defensive unit with playing a critical role in getting the team going.

“Our defense led by Jim Jannicelli, Cam Dudeck, Chase Goulburn, and Chris Fake is a sound defense,” said Black.

“Our longstick midfielder Tucker Stevenson and our defensive middies, Mike McMenamin and Matt Bruno, don’t get a lot of credit, but they are really a sound group of guys. They protect Jon and Jon makes great saves. The defense is the backbone of our team and they always have been. Without our defense, we wouldn’t be getting the ball on offense.”

In the view of Hun head coach MV Whitlow, the Black brothers also give the team some backbone.

“Brendan is a team captain and is the older brother,” said Whitlow. “Owen brings an on the field leadership with his poise and his lacrosse IQ.”

Sophomore Semler gave the Raiders some intelligent play in the middle of the field.

“I think the biggest difference in the game was Alex Semler at the face-off X because Nick Donahue is one great player and a great face-off guy. We had a face-off-enhanced possession disadvantage in the last game and Alex did a good job at the X so we weren’t at such a possession deficit.”

Once Hun got the ball, juniors Cole West and Drake Roy capitalized with West tallying two goals and four assists and Roy contributing a game-high four goals.

“Cole is a very dynamic player,” said Whitlow. “He is very quick and he has great vision, that’s a good combination. He feeds off other people; he likes to get the ball distributed. He finishes his own looks but he does like to look for his teammates so that brings everybody together. Drake is a great finisher and he is showing great leadership in his shooting touch.”

In Whitlow’s view, veteran leadership has played a key role in Hun’s hot streak.

“We just promoted four guys to assistant captain, who are all seniors in Matt Bruno, Mike McKeon, Chase Goulburn, and Corey Reynolds,” said Whitlow.

“We are getting good leadership from our senior class and as your seniors go is how your team is going to go. It is a good group of guys, it is a tight group of guys.”

Whitlow likes the way Hun has tightened up things at both ends of the field. “It has always been our goal to play our best lacrosse in May,” asserted Whitlow.

“We have been working real hard on a lot of different fundamentals and those things have come to fruition now and we are starting to play our best lacrosse right now.”

Hun will need to play its best lacrosse in order to topple top-seeded Lawrenceville, which has won 13 straight Prep A titles.

“We were always going to define success on our own terms and we are thankful to be able to play in a championship game,” said Whitlow, noting that a date for the title contest is to be determined after both teams wrap up play in the upcoming Inter Ac tourney.

“We have a lot of respect for the Lawrenceville program and the Lawrenceville players. It sets up to be a nice championship game.”

Black, for his part, believes that the Raiders have the game to hang with the Big Red.

“We are really looking forward to it, they are a great, great team with great history,” said Black.

“We know it is going to be a great game and we want to get after it. We feel we are really clicking at the right time. Hopefully, we will keep going until the end.”

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Gideon Friedberg displayed his development as a hitter last Saturday as the Hun School baseball team hosted the Blair Academy.

After looking overmatched against the Blair pitcher with two swings and misses in the second inning, Hun junior Friedberg connected for a solid single to right field. He then stole second base and went on to score on an error as Hun jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

“I was behind the first two so I figured that he wasn’t going to give me anything off-speed because I didn’t come close to the other two,” said Friedberg. “My approach is to go to right field and I got it and hit it on the line.”

Friedberg’s run, though didn’t hold up as Hun gave up four runs in the top of the sixth and another in the seventh to fall 5-1.

With Hun having dropped four straight heading into the Blair game, Friedberg acknowledged that the team has had trouble closing out games.

“We started out pretty strong there but obviously we weren’t able to string the hits together like we needed,” said Friedberg.

“He pitched a heck of a good game and we just sort of let up, that is the problem we have been having. In the last game we had five strong innings and one bad one and that is what undoes us.”

Despite the recent slump, the Hun players are not hanging their heads. “We are approaching it the same way,” said Friedberg. “We have really good team chemistry and everybody is pulling for each other. It is tough.”

Friedberg, who went to Princeton High for two years before transferring to Hun, is having a good experience with the Raider squad.

“I always knew coach (Bill McQuade) through camps as a young kid and I really liked the culture here and the program and the school is a good fit,” said Friedberg. “I am very happy to be here.”

Getting the chance to play third base this spring in addition to his natural position of catcher, Friedberg believes he is making good progress.

“I grew a little bit and I was in the weight room over the winter getting stronger,” said Friedberg.

“It is a transition over to third but I have a lot more confidence swinging the bat. It is just having another year, getting more confident. I am one of the older guys now.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade likes the growth he has seen in Friedberg.

“Gideon has a great arm, he has great, soft hands,” said McQuade.

“Like so many of these kids, they have just got to believe in themselves a little more. He can look like he is out of sync and then all of a sudden, he will lash one out to left center or right center. I see that he is playing the game with more intensity and staying more focused. He is a big kid; he is not the little guy that transferred here.”

In reflecting on the loss to Blair, McQuade acknowledged that his team lost focus as the Buccaneers took the lead with a two-run homer in the sixth and then tacked on two more runs in that frame to seize momentum.

“George Revock was on a roll; he had them confused up there and we scratched out the one run,” said McQuade, referring to his sophomore starting pitcher.

“With a couple of hits we could have gotten more. We haven’t been getting key hits in big situations so that hurt us again. The homer changed things but there was a missed cutoff in the outfield and there was a bad pickoff play here. I think that rattled George a little bit and then he threw one over the middle of the plate and the guy yanked it out of the ballpark and that was the difference in the game. One play can turn everything around.”

Dealing with a lot of roster turnover, McQuade sensed that his team was going to be in for a rocky road this spring.

“We knew that coming in; we had young kids or inexperienced older kids so either way you looked at it, we were inexperienced,” said McQuade, whose team came through with a 5-0 win over Peddie last Monday to improve to 7-8.

“We weren’t as physical as we were before. But it makes some of the young kids step up. Now, what is happening is that they are finding out what it is like playing at the varsity level against good competition. But when we revisit the games as coaches, we feel we could have won a number of these games.”

As Hun heads into the postseason, starting action in the Mercer County Tournament this week with the state Prep A tourney around the corner, McQuade believes his team can raise the level of its play.

“They are keeping their heads up, they are still fighting because they know they have to get better and that is what we keep preaching, get better,” said McQuade, whose team is seeded 10th in the MCT and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.

“It is not going to happen overnight. You are never going to get better if you put your head down. So our mantra all along with these kids is to hang in there.”

Friedberg, for his part, is confident that the Raiders can turn some heads come tournament time.

“We just need to have timely hitting,” said Friedberg. “We work together, we have a solid team. We are still coming with the same good attitude.”

April 30, 2014
STINGING SENSATION: Princeton University women’s water polo player Molly McBee looks for an opening. Last Sunday senior star and co-captain McBee scored a team-high three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Indiana in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 31-2, setting the program’s single-season bests for most wins and fewest losses.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STINGING SENSATION: Princeton University women’s water polo player Molly McBee looks for an opening. Last Sunday senior star and co-captain McBee scored a team-high three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Indiana in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 31-2, setting the program’s single-season bests for most wins and fewest losses. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Molly McBee thrives under pressure, feeling that high-stakes contests have brought out the best in her as she has starred for the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

“In my way of playing, I step up in big games,” said senior co-captain McBee. “There is an excitement, I don’t feel as tired.”

As Princeton faced Indiana last Sunday in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line, McBee showed her clutch gene, scoring a team-high three goals.

While McBee’s heroics weren’t enough as the top-seeded Hoosiers edged second-seeded Princeton 11-10, she gained some satisfaction from leaving it all in the pool.

“I was pleased with the way I played; I did all I could,” said McBee, who earned second-team All-Tournament honors in her final weekend with the Tigers. “I have a little more peace of mind because I felt like I brought it all to the table.”

McBee was not pleased to see Princeton come up short as it ended a superb spring at 31-2, setting program single-season records for most wins and fewest losses.

“We let it slip away,” said McBee, noting that Princeton jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Indiana.

“I was definitely feeling good, we were playing well. I knew we would come out strong even before the game. They had some goals here or there and we had some mistakes here or there. The last goal was a heartbreaker, it barely went in.”

It was heartbreaking for the Tigers to miss out on a third straight trip to the NCAAs.

“We had produced a high level of play in other games and against some big teams,” said McBee, a native of Palos Verdes, Calif.

“I was not ready to be done with this sport. It would have been great to have a few more games and to go to Southern California where I am from and where a lot of my teammates are from.”

While her final season ended earlier than McBee had hoped, she won’t soon forget the bonds forged this spring.

“It is just the friendships that develop on a team like that; we have such a huge travel schedule,” said McBee, a team co-captain along with classmate and fellow Californian Katie Rigler.

“We are together on the road most weekends. This year, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls. We are really all best friends; it is awesome.”

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao desperately wanted his girls to keep playing. “I am depressed; it was a brutal loss, we made one too many mistakes,” said Nicolao.

“We let a 4-0 lead slip away. We made turnovers that led to fast breaks and made it hard on Ashleigh (sophomore goalie Ashleigh Johnson). It was a nailbiter, back and forth. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t. We had two or three 6-on-5s in the last three minutes and and we didn’t score. It was just the way things fell.”

Nicolao was thrilled with the way McBee played in her final action with the Tigers.

“Molly McBee probably had the best weekend of anyone on the team,” asserted Nicolao of McBee, who ended the season with 49 goals and 36 assists.

“She was good in all the games and really deserved to be first-team all tournament.”

Although the defeat to Indiana stung, it couldn’t undo all the good things Princeton accomplished in its record-breaking campaign.

“My main message was that one game doesn’t define a season,” said Nicolao.

“We were 31-2. That is a great year and I would take that record every year. We had great balance from top to bottom, everyone contributed. Ashleigh is a great player and we played good defense in front of her. We had great chemistry and we were able to win a lot of close games. We just didn’t win that last one.”

The longtime coach credited senior stars McBee and Rigler with setting a great example. “They have had great careers,” said Nicolao. “They won two Eastern (CWPA) titles and they are leaving a great legacy.”

Looking forward, Nicolao is confident that next year’s team will add to the legacy established by McBee and Rigler.

“We have a lot of talent coming back and some freshmen on the way who should help,” said Nicolao who welcomes back All-America goalie Johnson along with such offensive threats as Diana Murphy (46 goals in 2014), Ashley Hatcher (53 goals), Taylor Dunstan (19 goals), Morgan Hallock (18 goals), Pippa Temple (33 goals), Hannah Lapkin (17 goals), Kimi Klein (22 goals), Jesse Holechek (42 goals), and Kelly Gross (16 goals).

“Some of our best seasons have come after tough losses. I think they will work that much harder to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

For McBee, the hard work over the last years in and out of the pool had been more than worth it.

“The sport itself is great, getting away from the academics,” said McBee, who will be working in IT consulting for a firm in Dallas, Texas after graduation.

“It is a balancing act. I was writing my thesis during the season and captaining the team. You get a break from school, you go to the pool with your friends and you have a physical activity and it is the only thing you think about for those two hours. It is another passion. We have so much fun with this team and our coaches.”

LAST UP: Princeton University softball player Maddie Cousens waits for a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior outfielder Cousens ended her college career on a high note, helping Princeton sweep Cornell 3-2 and 5-2 in its final action of the season. Cousens went 4-for-4 with two runs in the nightcap as the Tigers ended 2014 at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy League.(Photo Courtesy of PU’s Office  of Athletic Communications)

LAST UP: Princeton University softball player Maddie Cousens waits for a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior outfielder Cousens ended her college career on a high note, helping Princeton sweep Cornell 3-2 and 5-2 in its final action of the season. Cousens went 4-for-4 with two runs in the nightcap as the Tigers ended 2014 at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy League. (Photo Courtesy of PU’s Office of Athletic Communications)

The numbers 21, 19, and 2 were stenciled in purple near first base at the Class of 1895 Field as the Princeton University softball team hosted Cornell last Sunday in its season-ending doubleheader.

The message in the dirt was a tribute to the program’s Class of 2014 as it celebrated Senior Day.

While No. 21, outfielder Maddie Cousens, and No. 19, third baseman Tory Roberts, were on hand to wrap up their Tiger career and accept the cheers for a superb four-year run, it was No. 2 that sparked the most heartfelt emotion as it represented Khristin Kyllo, a high-spirited infielder/outfielder who entered Princeton with the Class of 2014 but passed away in her freshman year on January 13, 2011 from natural causes.

As Cousens reflected on the day, she noted that she experienced a wide range of emotions. “I think it was mostly just remembering Khristin,” said Cousens.

“We had her jersey here today and looking at that and remembering the games we did get to play with her in the fall of her freshman year. Also I just tried to make it happy and just think about how amazing our time has been here for Tory and I. It is really nice having a small class because we are really close; so together we were able to celebrate today and celebrate Khristin.”

Cousens proceeded to celebrate a special day on the diamond as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the opener to pull out a 3-2 victory and then won the nightcap 5-2 as the Albany, Calif. native went 4-for-4 with two runs in her final appearance in orange and black.

“My trainer calls it swiss cheese defense and thinks you have got to find the holes so that was my goal for the day,” said Cousens.

“I didn’t really hit the ball that solidly but I found some holes. It was a little senior luck; it felt really good to end that way.”

While Princeton didn’t achieve its goal of winning an Ivy League title this spring, ending at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy, Cousens saw plenty of positives.

“I just think we played with a lot of heart,” asserted Cousens, who ended the 2014 campaign with a .300 average, going 33-for-110 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs.

“The team is really young and it is amazing to meet all of these freshmen. It makes me sad that I don’t get to spend more time with them.”

Cousens believes good times are ahead for Princeton under the guidance of head coach Lisa Sweeney and assistant coach Jen Lapicki.

“It is coach Sweeney’s and coach Lapicki’s first two years here,” said Cousens.

“They are building a dynasty and it is just going up from here. It is going to be great.”

Sweeney, for her part, believes things are headed in the right direction for the Tigers. “Every season has its challenges but I think for this team there was a lot of emotional and mental growth that had to happen for us,” said Sweeney.

“I think a lot of people will be introspective about that and say what can I do better. Our coaching staff will do the same, taking a step back and saying how can we improve, how can we figure this out, and make sure that next season is more of a reflection of the work that we put in.”

The program wanted to make sure that Cousens and Roberts had a special finale.

“It is always emotional on Senior Day, regardless of how the season has gone,” said Sweeney.

“It is so special for them. You remember it from your own career. Being able to play our last games at home is a big deal for them. It was cool, it was a good day for both of them.”

It was also good for the late Kyllo to be honored. “It is so fantastic because Tom and Julie (Kyllo’s parents) have stayed a part of the program, they are at every game and it was just so nice to be able to represent her today as well,” said Sweeney. “It was important closure for the seniors to feel like she was with us today.”

In  Sweeney’s view, Kyllo’s impact will be felt beyond the softball field. “The awareness for epilepsy is Kristin’s legacy now,” said Sweeney of Kyllo, who suffered a series of seizures, starting in high school.

“All of us try to do our job to make sure that people are educated about the causes. It is important.”

Cousens and Roberts have played an important role in leading the Tigers this spring.

“I think they were dedicated to pushing the program in a different  direction,” said Sweeney.

“Although this season, the wins and losses didn’t reflect that, they understand and the girls understand that we are on a different path and that we always have bigger and better goals. They were just great leaders, and more importantly, great people for the rest of the girls to look up to and model their careers after.”

As the Princeton players took the field on Sunday, they were primed to come up big for their seniors.

“We challenged the girls with it yesterday, saying when you come tomorrow, you are not playing for yourself, you are  playing for your seniors,” said Sweeney.

“There is a special element to that, you are competing both for your own pride but  also for somebody else on the team standing right next to you and you know how much this program means to them. The team came through today, it was great.”

For Cousens, spending four years in the Princeton program is leaving her with a lifetime of memories.

“Honestly, most of the things I am going to remember are off the field, the kind of things like the long bus rides, stressing out over homework and having teammates be there for you, and all the little traditions we have” said Cousens, who will be working for a startup firm in New York City after graduation.

“There are the big games that really stick with you but most of the moments are the bonds I have created with all of these people on the team and that is what I am going to look back on.”

END GAME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Forest Sonnenfeldt gets stymied in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sonnenfeldt and the Tigers lost 12-10 to Cornell in their regular season finale. The defeat ended any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament as the Tigers ended the spring at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

END GAME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Forest Sonnenfeldt gets stymied in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sonnenfeldt and the Tigers lost 12-10 to Cornell in their regular season finale. The defeat ended any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament as the Tigers ended the spring at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)B

The last time the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team met Cornell, the rivals produced a battle for the ages as Princeton prevailed 14-13 in overtime in the 2013 Ivy League semis.

When the teams faced off last Saturday in the Battle of Bethpage, it looked like they may be headed to another run-and-gun classic.

Princeton took a 6-5 lead at half and then the teams combined for 10 goals in the third quarter with Cornell emerging with an 11-10 lead.

In the fourth quarter, though, the defenses rose up and the Big Red tallied just once but it was enough to pull out a 12-10 win, ending any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with the effort he got from his team as it ended the season at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League.

“The team knew what was on the line; we talked about how this was a do or die situation,” said Bates. “We came ready to play, no doubt.”

Bates acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t play well when it counted down the stretch.

“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game,” said Bates. “We had bad decision-making on offense and some of those turnovers turned into early offense for them.”

Noting that five of Princeton’s losses this spring came by a total of seven goals, Bates rued what might have been.

“Until there was 40 seconds left in game Saturday, I thought if we got into the tournament we could peak, and with some breaks, could go on a run,” said Bates, whose team had already failed to qualify for the four-team Ivy postseason tourney.

“I feel like on any given day, we could beat anyone so it is very disappointing to be sitting here without a game to prepare for this weekend.”

It was a disappointing ending for the squad’s Class of 2014, who only made one NCAA appearance in their careers, falling 6-5 to Virginia in a 2012 first round contest.

“There were 14 seniors in the room and they had given their blood, sweat, and tears,” said Bates, who got a career-high four goals from senior Tucker Shanley in his finale with freshman Zach Currier adding two goals and senior Tom Schreiber, junior Kip Orban, sophomore Ryan Ambler and sophomore Jake Froccaro adding one goal apiece.

“I feel like they deserve more. They gave so much and worked so hard. They set a good example. Tom [Schreiber] gets a lot of attention but there were a lot of guys who worked very hard. The expectation when you play for Princeton is that you are going to play into May. They can hold their heads high. They may be disappointed but there is no reason for regret.”

While All-American midfielder Schreiber was held to one goal in his final game for Princeton, that tally helped him accomplish more milestones as it gave him 30 goals for the season and 200 points in his brilliant career.

“He is an all-time great for the position he plays; everyone recognizes his  numbers and what he has done in his career,” said Bates.

“He is a humble kid and a team guy and I think he would trade it all for some wins in the NCAAs and a shot at a title.”

In Bates’ view, the team’s failure to make the NCAAs this season was the product of several factors.

“It was a combination, it was a little bit of everything,” said Bates. “We didn’t have the edge to make the big plays and grab the jugular. On any day it could be any of the above, it could be poor defense, bad decision making, or bad luck. We faced a lot of good goalies and hit a lot of pipes.”

While Princeton has a good foundation in place, Bates acknowledges that both coaches and players need to engage in some soul-searching over the off-season to regain the edge that made the program a perennial NCAA power.

“There is very good young talent here and some good players on the way,” said Bates.

“The challenge is to right the ship and notch things up in a different way, starting with the leadership approach. It is not a comfortable feeling. I have faith in the staff and our players. We will find out how hungry the players are. We need to play offense differently. We can’t be playing 15-14 games. We need to do a better job of managing games. We will have a more experienced defense, we have an incumbent goalie coming back.”

LEAPING INTO HISTORY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse midfielder Emilia Lopez-Ona leaps up to take a shot. Last Thursday, senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona notched the 300th goal of her PHS career as she tallied six goals in a 14-10 win over Allentown. She added to her total last Monday, tallying five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 to improve to 11-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEAPING INTO HISTORY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse midfielder Emilia Lopez-Ona leaps up to take a shot. Last Thursday, senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona notched the 300th goal of her PHS career as she tallied six goals in a 14-10 win over Allentown. She added to her total last Monday, tallying five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 to improve to 11-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Emilia Lopez-Ona, getting the 300th career goal in her Princeton High girls’ lacrosse career didn’t come easy.

After scoring her fifth goal against visiting Allentown last Thursday with 22:20 left in the second half to reach the 299 mark, Lopez-Ona started misfiring.

“After I scored five goals, I think I missed four shots,” said senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona.

“They were open shots. My shooting string loosened up so I had zero whip in my stick. I fired one over the goal. I took one to the pipe.”

With 5:45 left in the contest, Lopez-Ona found the back of the net to hit the 300 milestone. The game was stopped and the PHS players mobbed Lopez-Ona, waving posters and posing for photos.

The moment was special for Lopez-Ona on several levels. “I am glad I scored it here at home; my dad was able to see it, he missed my 100th because he was coming back from a business trip,” said Lopez-Ona, who ended the day with six goals as PHS pulled away to a 14-10 victory over the Redbirds.

“It means a lot that my teammates would do that; they were truly happy for me. Watching them do that for me it feels really nice.”

Noting that she never expected to hit the 300-goal mark when starting her PHS career in the spring of 2011, Lopez-Ona said that her progress reflects a love of the game.

“Part of the beauty of the sport is in terms of the growth and the ability of someone to improve,” said Lopez-Ona.

“The sport allows for people to make rapid transitions throughout their career. I know that I have watched a lot of the younger players on our team raise the level of their games.”

PHS raised the level of its game as it overcame a tough and talented Allentown squad.

“We were able to pull together, the theme of this game was controlling tempo,” said Lopez-Ona.

“They did a great job in the first half of running the motion offense. Our defense was able to hold them for a really long time. To be able to build that lead and change in the second half to control that tempo I think shows a lot of the growth in our team.”

With PHS having prevailed in a number of close games recently, Lopez-Ona believes the team is growing into something special.

“When we do need to make changes as a team, we can control the tempo and the possessions in the middle of the game to gather ourselves,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 last Monday to improve to 11-2. “That shows a lot of maturity.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way PHS took control of the Allentown game.

“It is always nice to beat Allentown, especially on your home turf because they are just a great team,” said O’Gorman.

“It is great to have a competitive matchup and we have had a lot of those this year. They play tough the whole game. They picked up their intensity and we picked up ours. A lot of great lacrosse was played today. We had a lot of great contributions from many of our players.”

It was a great moment for the program to celebrate Lopez-Ona’s achievement.

“It was an exciting day for Emilia; I think the biggest thing about her is that she contributes all over the field,” said O’Gorman.

“She is the definition of a midfielder, look at her on the draw, look at her on the circle and on the line. With her knee hurting her and everything, she fights through. She had a lot of fouls on her today and you never see her go where’s the call, she is composed out there. She has had to be dealing with that pressure since she was a sophomore.”

While Lopez-Ona possesses athletic gifts in terms of speed and coordination, it is her diligence that has made her so prolific.

“It didn’t come easy; she works really hard,” added O’Gorman. “Those 300 goals came from coming out here when no one is on the turf with a bag of balls and shooting nonstop. She has worked hard for this milestone. I am really proud of her; it is phenomenal to coach a player like her.”

O’Gorman likes the way PHS is working collectively as it heads into postseason play.

“We are playing smart and taking care of the ball in crucial situations,” said O’Gorman, whose team starts action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded third and is slated to host No. 14 Ewing in a first round contest on May 3.

“I think when we played Notre Dame we had errors nonstop and they kept piling up. Now we are making up for each other’s errors. We have adjusted to the draw a little better. We are ready, it is great to gather that momentum. It is a new season.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, is confident that PHS can ride that momentum to some deep tournament runs.

“I think if this team stays on the right track in terms of what we are doing with the 50/50 ground balls,
our draw controls, keeping our turnovers low, and controlling the tempo of the game, we can make that change to coming out on top in these bigger games,” said Lopez-Ona.

DAY TRIP: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday races upfield in recent action. Last Friday senior star Halliday tallied seven goals and two assist to help PHS top Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 and improve to 9-2.  The Little Tigers wrap up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1 and will then start postseason action by competing in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DAY TRIP: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Kevin Halliday races upfield in recent action. Last Friday senior star Halliday tallied seven goals and two assist to help PHS top Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 and improve to 9-2. The Little Tigers wrap up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1 and will then start postseason action by competing in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday’s propensity for dazzling runs to goal made him one of the deadliest scorers in recent years for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

Halliday’s finishing ability caught the eye of college coaches and he will be playing for the Tufts University men’s soccer team this fall, once again joining forces with his older brother Zach, who is a member of the Jumbos’ squad.

The skills that Halliday displays in the fall have proven transferable to the spring as the talented senior is also a top gun for the PHS boys’ lax team.

Last week against visiting Robbinsville, Halliday was a force, tallying three goals and an assist as the Little Tigers pulled away to a 12-5 victory over the Ravens.

Halliday took off on several trademark end-to-end jaunts over the course of the game and provided one of the highlights of the day with a brilliant solo effort in the third quarter, racing past and through the Raven defense to make it 8-4.

“I try to implement athletic knowledge in general,” said Halliday, reflecting on the highlight reel tally.

“Whenever I see a break, hopefully I can open a guy up and give a pass. That time I saw the lane and I thought I would take it. Whenever you are running in front of a guy with his back turned to the goal it is kind of easy.”

Things hadn’t come easy for PHS over the previous week as it lost 17-4 to Lawrenceville on April 14 and 14-2 to Summit on April 19.

“It was definitely important to bounce back after two losses in a week, albeit to good teams,” said Halliday.

“We wanted to take what we learned in the past week and really put it to use today.”

While the Little Tigers sputtered in the first half against Robbinsville, the team got rolling in the second half.

“In the first half, we struggled but I think in the second half we gave it a pretty good effort,” said Halliday.

“It was much sharper, especially in the clearing and the ground balls. In the first half, we couldn’t clear it and we kept giving them second chances by turning the ball over.”

Halliday and freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona looked sharp as they connected on several goals.

“I love little Johnny; he is a great guy,” said Halliday of the precocious Lopez-Ona, who tallied four goals and an assist in the victory over Robbinsville.

“He has been doing really well this year. I think he is a good finisher and he is really impressive being a freshman. I think it is good that we are getting him touches and building up his confidence because that is important as a freshman. He is a great hustler; he knows the game. I am really excited for this program with him coming up the next four years.”

As Halliday plays his last season for the PHS program, he is savoring his final weeks in the game.

“This is it for me in lacrosse,” said Halliday, who exploded for seven goals and two assists last Friday as PHS topped Christian Brothers Academy 14-5 to improve to 9-2.

“I had fantasies of maybe trying out for the team at Tufts. I thought that would be fun but I think it is time that I focus on soccer. I have to choose one by the time I am in college. I will still love lacrosse. I will still play it when I am back here.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton loves the  way Halliday plays lacrosse.

“Kevin is fantastic,” asserted Stanton. “He has the things that you can’t coach — the quickness, the change of direction, creativity, and vision. He is just a special athlete.”

Junior goalie Kenan Glasgold displayed some athleticism and vision as he made nine saves in the Robbinsville contest.

“Kenan had a couple of clutch saves at clutch moments,” said Stanton. “He had a couple on the doorstep. He saw the ball a lot better today, he was relaxed. What tends to happen when we are playing those tough games is that the goalie is a little bit tight, a little bit tense. They start guessing and saves that they might have been able to make, they take themselves out of it. Today being relaxed, he was able to make saves.”

The one-two punch of juniors Colin Buckley and Jackson Andres adds toughness to the PHS defense.

“Our defense is built around Colin and Jackson controlling the middle of the field,” said Stanton. “If we are able to limit shots to the perimeter, we feel like that is going to give us a chance.”

In Stanton’s view, getting the chance to play perennial powers like Lawrenceville and Summit helps PHS build resilience.

“That’s why we play them, you get exposed, your weaknesses get found out,” added Stanton, whose team wraps up regular season play by hosting Hopewell Valley on May 1. “You also get to see who can play well under pressure. The films that we get from those games are very valuable.”

The pressure is on for PHS as it heads into the postseason this week, starting with the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on May 3.

“We are on short time,” said Stanton, who guided PHS to the 2013 MCT crown.

“We have Christian Brothers on Friday and that is another one of these big games. We hope to see the progress in that game. After that, it is two games and if we win, then we are CVC champs and then its the county tournament and the state tournament so it is the time to do it.”

Halliday, for his part, believes that the recent losses to high-powered foes can pay dividends for the Little Tigers over the next few weeks.

“Just about any team we see in the county or state tournaments, we can say hey we played guys better than this team and we don’t have to shudder,” said Halliday.

“We can go straight at them and give it our all. I think playing good teams like Summit and Lawrenceville will give us the ability to have the poise and confidence in the postseason.”

SECOND WIND: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devulapalli smacks a forehand last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior Devulapalli placed second at second singles to help PDS take third of 17 schools in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SECOND WIND: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devulapalli smacks a forehand last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior Devulapalli placed second at second singles to help PDS take third of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Neeraj Devulapalli was ready to go the distance as he competed in his final Mercer County Tournament for the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team.

After winning his two preliminary round matches at second singles on Tuesday, senior Devulapalli arrived at Mercer County Park on Thursday hungry for a title.

In his semifinal match against Notre Dame’s Joe Sison, Devulapalli dropped the first set 7-6 but was undeterred, rallying to win the next two sets 6-1, 6-2 in advancing to the finals.

“It was tough, I was up 5-2 in the first set and I lost,” recalled Devulapalli. “It was nice to come back after that.”

Taking on Vashishta Kalinadhabhotla of WW/P-N in the championship match, Devulapalli dug another hole, losing the first set 6-2.

But showing his resolve, Devulapalli roared back to take the second set 6-2.

“I wasn’t being aggressive enough in the first set, I took it to him a little more in the second,” said Devulapalli, reflecting on his rally.

The PDS senior, though, ran out of gas in the decisive set. “He came through in the end; I wasn’t able to keep the momentum going,” said Devulapalli.

“I have been playing him since I was 10 years old so we go a ways back, both of us played well. I wish I could have won because I wanted to do well for the team.”

The Panthers proved to be one of the top teams at the tourney taking third behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up WW/P-N in the competition which included 17 schools.

“I love the team,” said Devulapalli. “I love Anupreeth [Coramutla] at first singles. He is playing really well, he is a very talented player. Scott [Altmeyer] had a great tournament. It is a luxury to have someone like that at third singles. At most other schools, he would be playing No. 1.”

PDS head coach Will Asch liked how his team performed at the MCT. “I couldn’t be prouder of how our boys played in the tournament,” said Asch. “I was real pleased.”

Asch was especially pleased with Devulapalli’s effort. “Neeraj had a great day; I was very pleased with both of his matches, he never gave up,” said Asch.

“He was one set down and he came back against a very strong player in the second match. I thought he battled him right to the end. I was real pleased with the way he played down to the last shot, the other kid was just playing too well today, that’s all.”

In Asch’s view, Devulapalli displayed his maturity as he fought through early deficits.

“I think he seemed very positive throughout the whole day,” said Asch. “Experience is helpful; kids grow up.”

Sophomore standout Altmeyer got some great experience at third singles, making it to the championship match where he fell to Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S, who posted a 6-1, 6-0 win.

“Scott was great; I think he was a little overmatched against Kabir but there is next year,” said Asch.

“He has been playing great, he played a tournament this weekend and he won it. He loves to play.”

At first singles, freshman Coramutla produced several great moments as he advanced to semifinals and ultimately finished fourth.

“Anupreeth had a very tough first set in the third place match; he lost it in a tiebreaker,” said Asch. “John Hu (of WW/P-S) is more experienced and I think his experience really showed.”

The first doubles pair of Josiah Meekins and D.J. Modzelewski showed some resilience by shaking off a Round of 16 loss to prevail in the consolation bracket.

“They won the backdraw very easily,” said Asch. “I thought that they would have a good chance to get to the semis and possibly get in the finals. It was a disappointing loss to PHS but they rebounded well. They did a good job; they are a good team. They like each other very much and they work together as a team very well.”

Asch likes his team’s chances as it pursues another state Prep B championship in early May. “I expect that we will have a good showing there so I am very, very pleased,” said Asch, who guided the Panthers to a share of the 2013 Prep B title along with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley.

“I thought the boys learned a lot here, they are very easy to talk to. I think they know what they have to work on.”

Devulapalli, for his part, is ready to keep working for a title. “It is bittersweet, I came in second at preps and MCTs last year so I was hoping for a win somewhere this year,” said Devulapalli.

“I think the competition in the counties is a little bit better than in the preps. I just hope to do better in the next tournament.”

REPLACEMENT VALUE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Lucas Mitchell goes after a ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After playing doubles all spring, Mitchell moved into the singles lineup for PHS at the MCT due to injury and ended up taking third at third singles. The Little Tigers placed fourth of 17 schools in the team competition, which was won by WW/P-S.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REPLACEMENT VALUE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Lucas Mitchell goes after a ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After playing doubles all spring, Mitchell moved into the singles lineup for PHS at the MCT due to injury and ended up taking third at third singles. The Little Tigers placed fourth of 17 schools in the team competition, which was won by WW/P-S. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lucas Mitchell got a big surprise last Tuesday when he arrived to compete for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team in the opening day of the Mercer County Tournament.

Having played first doubles all spring for PHS, sophomore Mitchell learned that he was going to be playing third singles at the MCT.

“I was supposed to play doubles but Adib (Zaidi) had a neck sprain so he couldn’t come so we had to make a last minute change in the morning,” said Mitchell.

Unfazed by the last minute change in plans, Mitchell was ready for the opportunity to move up in the Little Tiger lineup.

“I was actually excited,” said Mitchell. “I like to be challenged.”

Mitchell proved up to the challenge as he won three matches to advance to the semifinals.

“I did like the way I played on Tuesday, I thought I was pretty consistent,” said Mitchell.

In the final day of the tourney, Mitchell fell to eventual champion Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S in the semis before winning the third-place match with a hard-earned 7-5, 7-6 victory over Patrick Blake of Hopewell Valley.

In reflecting on the third place finish, Mitchell acknowledged that he had to gut things out.

“That was a really close match, there were a few times when I almost had given up mentally and I just hung in there,” said Mitchell.

“In the end it just came down to a few points. I made an overhead shot and that was it.”

Noting that he has played a lot of singles over the years, Mitchell’s improved net game helped him come through last week.

“I feel more aggressive and I feel more confident, so I know that I could go into the net more,” said Mitchell.

PHS head coach Christian Herzog liked the aggressiveness he saw from all of his players at the MCT as the Little Tigers placed fourth in the team competition won by WW/P-S.

“I was impressed with the boys’ performance, especially considering that it wasn’t our original lineup,” said Herzog. “We talked about going for every ball and every point of the match.”

The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Zack Kleiman took third but had Herzog going a little batty.

“It looked like they were taking it easy a little too much; it was making me stress out,” said a smiling Herzog. “We joke that sometimes they like to get down to bring out the best in them. They like to make the match harder than it has to be.”

At second doubles, Andrew Lin got called up from the JV and acquitted himself well, playing with Andrew Wei.

“Andrew Lin stepped up and they ended up fourth,” said Herzog. “They took the first set and then had a little bit of a meltdown but that goes to experience. We had a guy that was on the JV and Andrew Wei was the last guy to be cut from the team last year.”

Mitchell was the guy that drew some of the highest praise from Herzog. “I can’t say enough positive things about Lucas; he has really worked hard,” said Herzog, whose team fell 4-1 to WW/P-S last Monday in a dual match to move to 6-1 and will play at WW/P-N on April 30 before hosting Hightstown on May 2 and Nottingham on May 5.

“Even when were doing the ladder in the beginning of the season, it was a really close match between him and Adib. It was a tiebreaker in the third and that’s how Adib beat him out. Lucas’ game is a stronger singles game. He can play doubles. I think he would prefer to play singles but he will do whatever the team needs.”

Mitchell, for his part, believes last week’s experience will help him be a better doubles player over the rest of the spring.

“I will go back to doubles; this has definitely helped my confidence in myself,” said Mitchell.

“Playing first doubles isn’t shabby at all. I feel pretty confident with my partner. Zach (Hojelbane) is a great doubles partner and he is great at the net. He is a real wall, as they say.”

A CUT ABOVE: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu takes a cut in recent action. Junior star and Boston College-bound Alu has been a triple threat for the Panthers this spring, starring at pitcher and shortstop while also swinging a hot bat. PDS, which fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday, is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A CUT ABOVE: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu takes a cut in recent action. Junior star and Boston College-bound Alu has been a triple threat for the Panthers this spring, starring at pitcher and shortstop while also swinging a hot bat. PDS, which fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday, is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Taking a 4-2 lead into the top of the seventh inning over Gill-St. Bernard’s last Wednesday, the Princeton Day school baseball team was on the verge of a much-needed win.

But the Knights scored two runs in the frame to force extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Gill scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead.

While PDS could have folded, it put the pressure on as it loaded the bases and brought the potential winning run to the plate. A fly out ended the rally and sealed the 7-4 defeat but PDS head coach Ray O’Brien tipped his hat to his club.

“We had that tough inning, they took the lead and we still managed to get the bases loaded and we still had a shot,” said O’Brien.

“I like the way they are battling. They are all sticking together, which I like. Hopefully we can take something away from this.”

In O’Brien’s view, the loss provided some valuable lessons for his young squad.

“We are just making the mistakes that are costing us games right now; it is part of the growing experience,” said O’Brien, noting that he only has 13 players currently available on his roster.

“We scored three in the first. We relaxed a little and we didn’t keep the pressure on them and that’s another part of the learning experience. We just have to grind it out. We have four freshmen that are a solid part of this team and three sophomores who are as well.”

Junior star and quad-captain Jake Alu gave the Panthers a solid performance in the loss to Gill St. Bernard’s, pitching five strong innings and chipping in three hits.

“Jake pitched well; I don’t like him to throw that much because he is mainly a shortstop,” said O’Brien, noting that the team has been without the services of junior pitching ace and quad-captain Cole McManimon, who hurt his hand in the first game of the season and has been sidelined ever since. “He did a tremendous job on the mound. He is hitting well.”

O’Brien is getting some good work from his two other captains, senior centerfielder Ford Schneider and junior pitcher/first baseman and Villanova-bound James Radvany.

“Ford is having a real nice year, he is hitting the ball well and he is playing a nice center field,” said O’Brien.

“He is a great leader. I am really happy with Ford. JP has picked up the slack for Cole and he is not a natural pitcher. His hitting has been up and down. I just hope we all get hot at the right time when the tournaments start.”

While it has been a tough year for the Panthers so far, O’Brien believes the team can pick it up down the stretch.

“We are making progress; right now we can’t afford to have any lapse,” said O’Brien, whose team fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday and is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3.

“It is a good group of guys, they work hard. They are a little down and they will come back. It is going to take a little while for us to learn to win. We are right there and I am happy with that.”

STICKING WITH IT: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Bri Barratt eludes the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) defense last Saturday. Senior star and Syracuse-bound Barratt scored four goals in the game but it wasn’t enough as Hun lost 20-13. The Raiders, now 1-10, are slated to wrap up their season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING WITH IT: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Bri Barratt eludes the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) defense last Saturday. Senior star and Syracuse-bound Barratt scored four goals in the game but it wasn’t enough as Hun lost 20-13. The Raiders, now 1-10, are slated to wrap up their season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bri Barratt and the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team came out firing as they hosted the Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) last Saturday.

“Our first two minutes were great; we were up 2-0,” said senior star Barratt.

The next 35 minutes or so didn’t go as well for Hun as Mercersburg built a 9-5 lead by halftime and extended its advantage to 17-7 with 11:04 left in the contest.

Over the last 10 minutes of the game, the Raiders found a rhythm, outscoring the Blue Storm to narrow the final gap to 20-13.

“I think we really played as a team,” said Barratt, reflecting on that final stretch in the game on an afternoon which saw her score a team-high four goals.

“We were connecting in our transitions and our passes were working. We just needed to finish a little more.”

While Hun has taken its lumps this spring as it has gone 1-10, tri-captain Barratt has maintained an upbeat approach.

“I just want to bring all this positive energy to the team,” said Barratt, whose fellow captains are classmates Francesca Bello and Hanna Bettner. “I think as a captain and as a leader, positive energy is the best thing you can bring.”

Barratt also brings lacrosse savvy and skill to the field for the Raiders. “I am older and more mature,” said Barratt. “In the past I wasn’t as confident. As a senior, I feel like I can help lead the team.”

Barratt is excited to be joining another team this fall as she has committed to attend Syracuse University and play for its women’s lax program.

“I am looking forward to playing next year at Syracuse,” said Barratt, noting that the Orange are currently ranked second in the nation. “Gary Gait, Regy Thorpe, and Katie Rowan [the Syracuse coaches] are three of the best players ever in lacrosse, that had a huge influence on my decision.”

In the view of Hun head coach Haley Sanborn, Barratt has what it takes to succeed at the next level.

“Bri has demonstrated much discipline this season in all areas of her play, specifically in her stick skills,” said Sanborn.

“She exhibited more composure under pressure on attack and created some fantastic scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates. Bri emerged as a fierce competitor this season right from the start and made her presence known in every competition. Bri also took many draws for us this season and did fantastic, a tribute to her versatility as an athlete.”

Barratt’s competitive fire has helped hold the Raiders together this spring as they have gone through some growing pains.

“Bri has kept us on the scoreboard in many games this season and has lead the team in goals,” said Sanborn, who had two goals each from Erica Dwyer, Shannon Dudeck, and Bello in the loss to Mercersburg with Katie Consoli, Lindsay Ruddy, and Maura Kelly adding one apiece.

“Her leadership on offense has been seen in her intensity in getting the ball into our attacking end. Bri has been a solid, dependable, and talented member of our team since she came to Hun, and she will graduate having left her mark on the Hun lacrosse program — she will be missed significantly.”

In Sanborn’s view, Hun’s late surge in the Mercersburg game showed the mark it can make as it gains experience.

“We are a young team but do have much talent that has been maturing throughout the season,” said Sanborn, whose team lost 17-4 to Kent Place last Monday in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament and is slated to end the season by playing at the Pennington School on April 30.

“The 6-3 run at the end of the game worked well because we were playing as a team, letting the ball do the work, communicating and riding the wave of intensity and hustle that we had created. It was a great last home game for our seniors. I do think we had an opportunity to run away with the game at one point, but nonetheless there were some beautiful moments of pristine lacrosse displayed by the team. Mercersburg is a well-coached team and it was great competition for us.”

Barratt, for her part, believes there are some good moments ahead for Hun. “We are a real young team, I wish them the best of luck next year,” said Barratt.

“They are going to do great. There is a lot of young leadership and I think we are ending on a good note.”