May 13, 2015
FACE DOWN: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane faces down a shooter in a game last season. Last Thursday, senior star and Michigan-bound Shane made 16 saves in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS lost 5-4 to top-seeded and eventual champion Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. On Monday, Shane made 14 saves as PHS fell 10-8 to Hopewell Valley in a regular season contest to drop to 8-12.  The Little Tigers will be starting action in the state tournament this week where they are seeded ninth in the North Group 3 sectional and will play at eighth-seeded Roxbury in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OVER THE HOMPE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe, second from right, celebrates after one of her career-high six goals last Friday in a 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy League semifinals. Two days later, sophomore star Home scored three goals to help Princeton defeat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy championship game. Hompe was named the tournament MVP and was an all-tournament pick.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)goal.

OVER THE HOMPE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe, second from right, celebrates after one of her career-high six goals last Friday in a 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy League semifinals. Two days later, sophomore star Home scored three goals to help Princeton defeat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy championship game. Hompe was named the tournament MVP and was an all-tournament pick. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)goal.

Olivia Hompe was initially feeling out of rhythm last Friday evening as the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team battled Harvard in the Ivy League tournament semifinals.

“Early in the first half we were having some trouble really possessing the ball on offense,” said sophomore star Hompe.

“I think Harvard was doing a really great job of having long possessions and really working our defense.”

With Princeton trailing Harvard 4-2 late in the half, the Tigers got on track as Erin Slifer scored with 3:30 left in the period and then Hompe found the back of the net with 1:35 left to make it a 4-4 game at halftime.

“I think at the end of the half, it was just us focusing on doing our part and stepping up like the defense did for us,” said Hompe, a 5’9 native of New Canaan, Conn.

In the second half, the Princeton offense stepped into high gear, going on a nine-goal run to build a 14-5 lead and cruised from there.

“I think we just got into a circle set and it really just let us do anything we wanted,” said Hompe, reflecting on the second half outburst.

“It was really free-flowing and I think we just started moving for each other and seeing each other really well. We had an incredible amount of assisted goals in this game, which was great to see. We were just seeing each other really well.”

While Hompe ended up with a career-high six goals, she was more impressed with the team’s collective play than her individual exploits.

“I am really happy withthe  way I played but I think really our whole offense is clicking so well,” said Hompe.

“We have played better and better every game throughout April and to see it all come to fruition in May is really rewarding.”

Two days later, Hompe scored three goals to help Princeton beat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy title game and earn an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. In the wake of her nine-goal weekend, Hompe was named All-Tournament and chosen as the tournament MVP.

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was very happy to see Hompe receive those accolades.

“She is just such a competitor, that girl finds a way,” said Sailer of Hompe, who now has a team-high 48 goals on the season and earned first-team All-Ivy honors this spring.

“I have said all season that she has brought this team an energy. We have fed off of her energy, her big playmaking and how much fun she has on the field. She can light it up like she showed this weekend. Liv brings a little something extra; she has been just phenomenal for us this year.”

Hompe will be looking to light it up this weekend as Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

“It is really about proving ourselves,” said Hompe. “It is a great time for us show that we can compete with the best of the best.”

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore midfielder Currier had a goal, eight ground balls, and won 11 of 24 face-offs in a losing cause as No. 16 Princeton fell 11-10 to No. 9 Yale in the Ivy League championship game in Providence, R.I. with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 9-6 as they did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs when the 2015 bracket was revealed on Sunday evening.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore midfielder Currier had a goal, eight ground balls, and won 11 of 24 face-offs in a losing cause as No. 16 Princeton fell 11-10 to No. 9 Yale in the Ivy League championship game in Providence, R.I. with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 9-6 as they did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs when the 2015 bracket was revealed on Sunday evening. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Chris Bates, the prayer that talks about one having the serenity to accept things that can’t be changed and having the courage to change things that he can has been a theme this season as he has guided the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

That message was relevant on many levels last weekend as Princeton produced a big 11-7 win over Cornell in the Ivy tournament semis on Friday only to get edged 11-10 by Yale in the title game with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. Hours after the loss to Yale, Princeton found itself on the outside looking in as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

In the win over Cornell, Princeton showed a capacity for change as it bounced back from a 15-10 loss to the Big Red six days earlier.

“We prepared with energy and a sense of urgency this week; every practice was good,” said Bates.

“You could feel early on that we were ready to play, the energy and competitiveness were there. We made some changes. We had Zach Currler take every face-off and had a different look on the wings.”

The Tiger defense had a different look in the rematch as freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell shut the door on the Big Red with 14 saves.

“Tyler gave us a great energy and made some great saves, that is why we made the change to put him in as a starter,” said Bates. “Defensively we were really on point. Bear Goldstein and Aran Roberts were good. We focused less on Cornell and more on Princeton. We were better closing them down, we slid with a purpose. We knew they were going to make a push and we did a good job with that. We were really playing as a unit.”

Facing nemesis Yale in the Ivy title game on Sunday, Bates knew Tigers were in for a nail-biter.

“It was a quick turnaround, the last six games with them have been decided by one goal so every possession is critical,” said Bares. “We told the guys it was going to be at least a 60 minute game and maybe more.”

The Tigers dug an early hole in the game but didn’t lose faith. “At halftime we were down 4-2 and I said our best players hadn’t done anything and that there was a lot of lacrosse left,” recalled Bates. “They seemed to respond to that. We felt good throughout, the energy was good. We stayed together. It came down to our last possession.”

On that last possession, which started with 12.7 seconds left in regulation, sophomore star Currier generated a good opportunity but couldn’t cash it in.

“Zach had a shortstick on him and we feel that is always a good matchup for him so he called an audible on the play we had drawn up,” said Bates, who got a goal and eight ground balls from Currier in the loss with senior star Kip Orban leading the attack with a game-high four goals.

“His shot was from a funky angle, it just bounced wide. Then it was a Hail Mary with 2.5 seconds left, that is always tough.”

Hours later, the Tigers got the tough news that they were not going to be selected to compete in the NCAA tourney.

“It came down to four teams and we thought we had as good a shot as any of them,” said Bates, whose team was in the mix for the last three at-large slots along with Ohio State, Brown, and Cornell.

“When Brown’s name was called, we knew we were going to be on the outside looking in. It is tough to swallow. We wanted a shot and we thought we had the body of work to deserve that. We had wins over Cornell and Yale. The win over Hopkins turned out to be big win. We had the RPI.”

For Bates, getting shut out of the tourney was particularly hard to accept since it deprived senior stars Mike MacDonald and Kip Orban of the chance to extend their storied careers. MacDonald broke Jon Hess’s school record for points in a season this spring, piling up 78 points on 48 goals and 30 assists, better than the 74 points tallied by Hess in 1997. Orban’s 45 goals this season are the most ever by a Princeton midfielder and the fifth-best by an Ivy middie.

“They had historic seasons,” said Bates. “Mikey breaks the single season record; that is something looking at the history of the program, the names he has passed, and the schedule we play. They are good, humble kids. I know they would trade it all for one more game. But as time goes on, I think they will be very proud of what they did. Those are records that aren’t going to be broken any time soon.”

While the Princeton players and coaches were left with broken hearts, Bates will have fond memories of this spring.

“This is one of my favorite groups to coach, based on the adversity we faced all year,” said Bates.

“We lost four prominent guys to injury during the season. We responded to the adversity with an even-keeled attitude and didn’t blink. From an overall perspective, I could not be more proud. They accomplished a lot, on the field and in the locker room. It was a really good senior group. Kip had a lot of responsibility and shouldered it really well.”

In Bates’ view, the future looks good for the Tigers. “We have learned a lot of things in the last few weeks that will help us, there is a solid foundation for Princeton lacrosse going forward,” asserted Bates.

“The culture and the locker room are in good shape. There is optimism. I sit here this morning disappointed but I am excited about the prospects. We have good returners and some great players on the way.”

Princeton University men's tennis, Princeton, NJ,  September 12, 2014

Princeton University men’s tennis, Princeton, NJ, September 12, 2014

In taking the helm of the Princeton University men’s tennis team three years ago, Billy Pate realized that he was becoming part of something special.

“When I interviewed for the job, I saw that there was such a rich heritage here,” said Pate, who had previously been the head coach at the University of Alabama, where he guided the Crimson Tide to seven NCAA tournament appearances in 10 seasons.

“Men’s tennis is the school’s most successful program, it had the most number of wins (an all-time record of 1,054-398-6  and a .725 winning percentage through 2013-14).”

Upon taking the Princeton job, Pate was determined to add to that history.

“I was looking to restore the program back to the level where it is nationally relevant,” said Pate.

“I thought it was fair to set that as a goal and shoot to be a top 25 program and win Ivy League titles.”

While Princeton hasn’t won an Ivy title yet under Pate, the program is returning to the national stage this weekend as it competes in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, earning an at-large bid after going 19-7 overall and 4-3 Ivy.

“I think the guys really bought into the vision that we had, we sold them on the idea that we could be at this level,” said Pate, reflecting on the accomplishment.

“We have made progress, we have had some measure of success. We have not gotten everything. We did make it as a high as No. 23 this season. This is still a big step for the program, we have re-established ourselves.”

In its first appearance in the NCAAs this century, 36th-ranked Princeton will face No. 23 Minnesota (20-7) in a first round match on May 8 in Charlottesville, Va. The Tigers will be joined at the site by the 43rd-ranked Princeton women’s team (12-8 overall, 6-1 Ivy), who won the league title and are playing South Carolina (14-10) in a first round contest on May 9. The women’s squad will be looking to build on last year’s NCAA performance, when they topped Arizona State in the opening round for the program’s first-ever win on the tourney.

While the women had a relatively smooth path to the NCAAs, the men’s road to the tourney was a bit bumpy as the Tigers dropped three straight Ivy matches after starting 3-0 in league play, losing 5-2 to Dartmouth, 4-3 to Harvard, and 5-2 to eventual Ivy champ Columbia.

“We knew Harvard and Columbia were going to be tough,” said Pate, noting that both of those teams are in the NCAA field. “We didn’t play well against Dartmouth, we came out flat.”

Showing resilience,  Princeton rebounded by edging Cornell 4-3 in the regular season finale on April 19.

“I told the guys that was the most significant win we have had,” recalled Pate. “It really helped us, it stopped the bleeding. We were probably already in the NCAAs but if we had lost, I would have been really nervous.

The presence of senior Zack McCourt and sophomore Tom Colautti at the top of the Princeton lineup has helped ease Pate’s nerves.

“McCourt and Colautti have been rock solid,” said Pate of the two All-Ivy performers.

“Colautti was 6-1 in the league as a sophomore at No. 2. McCourt has improved a lot over his career. You know everybody is going to be good at No. 1 and 2 so it is really good to have two guys like that.”

The addition of a good group of freshmen in Kial Kaiser, Ben Tso, Diego Vives, and Luke Gamble, has been a big help for the Tigers.

“The guys came in and did a really good job,” added Pate. “We didn’t have to throw them into the fire as much. Last year we had to play the freshmen at 2-3-4, they gained a lot of experience from that. This year, they got experience but weren’t playing too high so they got some wins.”

Pate acknowledges that it is not going to be easy to get a win over Minnesota in the first round match-up. The victor of the match will face the winner of the Virginia-St. John’s first round clash on May 9 for a spot in the Round of 16.

“They are really good; they had a huge year like us in terms of making a step,” said Pate. “They brought in some good new guys and shared the Big 10 title. We match up okay, it is going to be interesting. If we play well, it will be a good match. The match between the two and three seeds is always close. It is usually two even teams.”

As he hones his team for the regional, Pate will be drawing on his experience in Alabama.

“Less is more, we will focus on fitness,” explained Pate. “It is hard to lift in the season and if you are not lifting twice a week, you lose the effect. We will get in two to three lifts a week and will be doing our running. We will be doing some game-planning. I want the guys to be fresh.”

No matter what happens this weekend in Charlottesville, the experience should help lift Princeton closer to its goal of again being a nationally prominent program.

“To advance in the first year, would be great,” said Pate. “If not, it is a next step. You want to play well. If you play well and come up short, that is okay. Losses help you grow. If you don’t play well, it does leave a bitter taste. We are well positioned for the future to build on this and be better.”

FINDING HER WAY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Allie Callaway heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star and George Mason-bound Callaway scored two goals to help fifth-seeded PHS top No. 12 Stuart 20-4 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-10 with the win, were slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINDING HER WAY: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Allie Callaway heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star and George Mason-bound Callaway scored two goals to help fifth-seeded PHS top No. 12 Stuart 20-4 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-10 with the win, were slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team lost to Lawrenceville last week to suffer its sixth straight defeat, it would have been easy to write off the squad’s chances to do anything in the postseason.

But PHS junior star Allie Callaway sensed that the Little Tigers would benefit from those tough losses down the road.

“Coach said that we are the best 5-10 team he has ever seen and everyone chuckled,” said Callaway.

“But honestly I think it is true. The games that we have played against tougher teams undoubtedly helped us get prepared for the postseason and our goals for the year which include Mercer County Tournament and the states.”

After rolling to a 19-1 win over Hamilton on April 28 with Callaway scoring four goals, PHS came roaring out of the game in the MCT as the fifth-seeded Little Tigers defeated 12th-seeded Stuart 20-4 last Saturday in a first round contest.

Callaway tallied two first-half goals as PHS built an 11-1 lead over the Tartans and never looked back.

“I think the offense is making some great plays; we have really constructed some attacking methods that work for the skills of some of the older girls and that has definitely helped us out,” said Callaway.

“We have some different plays, different angles that we can attack from and different people that can cut through and create space and distract the other teams.”

With two seasons of high school lax under her belt, Callaway is looking to be a bigger playmaker for the Little Tigers.

“I see myself as more of a leader now,” said Callaway. “I am able to get girls going into plays so they can capitalize on our opportunities. I have been working on my cuts up top which has really been helping me to improve.”

PHS head coach David Schlesinger liked the way his players capitalized on their opportunities in the win over Stuart.

“We were to able to dominate draw control and ground balls so we kept possession,” said Schlesinger.

“The first couple of shots, we shot right at the goalie and then we started finding our range. I thought they played great. I thought we moved the ball well, I think we had a lot of assisted goals. The whole game really revolves around draw control and maintaining possession and we did a great job of that.”

In Schlesinger’s view, the Little Tigers are on the right track after their mid-season skid.

“We lost six games in a row so it’s important for us to get our confidence back and dominating possession is the way to do that,” said Schlesinger, whose team fell to Princeton Day School, Rumson-Fair Haven, Hunterdon Central,  Allentown, and Notre Dame in addition to Lawrenceville in that losing streak.

“We are getting much smarter, we are making smarter passes. We are making good decisions with the ball; we are not taking bad shots any more. We are really improving.”

Callaway’s improvement has been a big plus for PHS. “Allie’s shot has been phenomenal; we are trying to find her more and free her up,” added Schlesinger.

“She has such a hard, accurate shot. She had struggles midway through the season with a little bit of a leg injury and I think she is feeling a lot better. She is getting her speed back, she played really well today. We have been able to count on her for some really great early goals.”

Junior star Taylor Lis has emerged as a great offensive weapon for the Little Tigers.

“Taylor dominated the draw, that is to start,” said Schlesinger of Lis, who tallied seven goals and an assist against Stuart. “She has just become a remarkable finisher. She knows when to shoot, when to fake. She gets lots of opportunities because she is such a talented player. She is fast, she has great endurance. She is becoming a really smart lacrosse player.”

Schlesinger pointed to sophomore Jordyn Cane as another player generating opportunities for his squad. After missing a few games due to illness, Cane showed she is at full strength in the win over Stuart, chipping in seven points on four goals and three assists.

“I told Jordyn in the beginning of the season that she is as talented a player as we have on the team,”  said Schlesinger.

“She has remarkable quickness, a great first step and dodge. She has really learned how to shoot this year. She is really putting it together, you can just see how natural the game comes to her, she makes it look effortless almost.”

Based on PHS’s effort against Stuart, it looks like the team could enjoy a fine stretch run.

“We are just trying to improve every day,” said Schlesinger, whose team is slated to play at No. 4 Allentown in the MCT quarterfinals on May 5 with the victor advancing to the semis on May 7.

“So if we play as well as we just did and get better from there, which is what we coach every day, then we’ll give any team tough competition. If we are in the game, we have really good talent and we’ll see what happens.”

Callaway, for her part, is confident that the Little Tigers can make some good things happen over the next few weeks.

“I think we are on the right track, we are getting there as a team,” said Callaway.

“Everyone is starting to play up to their abilities as a team and individually as well.”

Moving up to the Princeton High varsity baseball team this spring as a senior, Steve Majeski got off to a slow start.

But as the weather has warmed up, so has Majeski’s bat. He went 4-for-4 in a 15-6 win over Lakewood on April 25 and followed that up with two straight 2-for-4 games. Last Thursday, he blasted two triples to help PHS defeat Princeton Day School 11-6.

“I had a rough season starting but I have definitely picked it up right now,” said Majeski, who went 2-for-4 with a run and four RBIs in the win over PDS.

“I feel more involved and very connected. I feel like I am in the groove right now. It is about getting more practice time and getting more hits.”

PHS got into a good hitting groove last week, topping WW/P-S 10-8 a day before the outburst against PDS.

“We can string some pretty nice hits together and we need to get into that mentality because sometimes we can get quiet,” said Majeski.

“When we really start to make good contact and we get chatter up on the bench, we can get some runs. The good thing in the last two games is that we have been able to keep it up. PDS and South are two definite rivals, we play them all the time, they are very close. It was a really good feeling to start getting some hits and keep it up.”

Majeski helped start the PHS onslaught against PDS, slamming a run-scoring triple in a 5-run third inning as the Little Tigers jumped out to a 6-3 lead on the way to the victory.

“It felt really good, I have been working on my batting average,” said Majeski.

“I am hanging on to .500, going 2-for-4 in the last two games. I really want to keep it up.”

Moving to catcher from outfield has helped keep Majeski in the game. “It is tough to practice the entire offseason with the coaches saying, we are going to have you in the outfield and then all of a sudden, I am dropping you in the infield,” said Majeski.

“Getting behind the plate can be tough at first but if anything it would help out because I am getting a lot more action to build up my strength.”

PHS head coach Dave Roberts was pleased about his team’s strong batting efforts in the wins over WW/P-S and PDS.

“Almost 30 hits in two games, that is more than hitting it,” said a smiling Roberts. “They have been stroking it. Yesterday was more doing some hitting and running to get it going against South. Today we took advantage, we stole seven or eight bases as well today. We really got that running game going, that was important.”

Majeski’s hitting surge has been an important factor for the Little Tigers. “He is just crushing the ball,” asserted Roberts. “He is in a routine, he is seeing it. The ball must look like a grapefruit to him. I swear to god, nothing can get by him, it is crazy.”

Junior second baseman Matt Lambert crushed the ball against PDS, going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer.

“Matt is a good hitter, he is down in that nine spot because he is so fast and it is that double leadoff theory,” said Roberts.

“He is down there because he is fast and when he gets on there at the nine spot, he can steal bases, which he did today, and a home run is just a blessing.”

The Little Tigers were blessed with contributions up and down the order as junior Colin Taylor and Hayden Reyes also sparked the attack.

“Colin broke out of it yesterday and continued it today,” added Roberts. “Hayden had a couple of nice hits today. He is doing a good job in the leadoff spot, he stole some bases for us today. It was all good things from everybody.”

After PHS gave a very good effort in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament as the 15th-seeded Little Tigers fell 3-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame last Monday, Roberts is looking for his players to take care of business down the stretch.

“Now we are just closing out games, the Pennington game (a 4-3 defeat on April 21) and the WW/P-N game (a 7-6 defeat on April 24) were tough losses, both one run,” said Roberts, whose team hosts South River on May 7 and Allentown on May 8 before playing at Lawrence on May 9 and at Hightstown on May 11.

“We lost the North game, giving up four in the bottom of the seventh. It is just shutting the door and we are doing that. That is what we need to do.”

Majeski, for his part, believes that the way that PHS won the games over WW/P-S and PDS is a harbinger of good things to come.

“If we get a team that strikes a chord with us, we can easily get a win,” said Majeski.

“We just need to have the desire we have had for the past two days to beat PDS and South. It is good to know that we could put two wins together and the same sort of wins with big hitting.”

CUTTING LOOSE: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante takes a big cut in  a recent game. Last Friday, sophomore Volante hit a two-run homer in a losing cause as PHS fell 7-6 to Trenton. The Little Tigers, now 4-11, host Allentown on May 6 before playing at Trenton on May 11. In addition, PHS will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CUTTING LOOSE: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante takes a big cut in a recent game. Last Friday, sophomore Volante hit a two-run homer in a losing cause as PHS fell 7-6 to Trenton. The Little Tigers, now 4-11, host Allentown on May 6 before playing at Trenton on May 11. In addition, PHS will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There is no question that the Princeton High softball team will battle to the final out.

Last Thursday against WW/P-S, PHS fell behind 3-1 and 9-6 to tie it 9-9 before losing 10-9.

A day later, the Little Tigers trailed Trenton 7-2 before getting two-run homers from Nancy Gray and Kayla Volante in the fifth inning to narrow the gap to 7-6. The Little Tigers got runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t push across another run in falling by that 7-6 margin.

On Saturday, PHS started the day by falling behind Hightstown 8-0 before narrowing the gap to 9-5 in the bottom of the fifth. In the final inning, the Little Tigers added another run but the rally fell short in a 10-6 loss.

“We keep coming back,” said PHS head coach Dave Boehm, whose team played a second game on Saturday, falling 7-0 to Hopewell Valley in dropping to 4-11.

“We get behind and we chip away, we chip away but we are not that good a hitting team to overcome our mistakes.”

While PHS hasn’t scored enough runs to negate its lapses, the team is showing some good punch.

“Nancy Gray has been hitting the ball well, I am happy with her,” added Boehm.

“Sarah Eisenach is ripping the ball, she had two triples this week. Both Genna Garlock and Kayla Volante have come through with big hits.”

In order to come through with some more wins, PHS needs to play sharper all around.

“It is tough, there is no consistency and that goes for the fielding and the hitting,” said Boehm, noting that his team committed nine errors in the loss to Trenton.

“We are not getting the two-out hits. It is mental and physical. We get down and the mistakes multiply; we are not making our own breaks.”

Despite the recent string of tough losses, the PHS players are not getting down on themselves.

“I want them to just try to get some confidence,” said Boehm, whose team hosts Allentown on May 6 and plays at Trenton on May 11 and will be starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 11th and will play at No. 6 WW/P-N in a first round contest on May 9.

“We can’t go into a game just thinking we are going to win, we have to perform. This is a 4-11 team but they have a good attitude. They want to play hard, they want to win.”

BLACK MAGIC: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black, left, celebrates with older brother Brendan, after scoring a fourth quarter goal in Hun’s 12-10 win over Montgomery last Wednesday. Junior Black’s tally was set up by a pass from his senior star brother. Last Monday, the younger Black added two goals as top-seeded Hun defeated fourth-seeded Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals to improve to 14-0. The Raiders will host second-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game on May 19. In addition, the Raiders will play at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 6 and at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on May 9 before starting action in the Inter-AC Invitational on May 11.(Photo by John Dowers)

BLACK MAGIC: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black, left, celebrates with older brother Brendan, after scoring a fourth quarter goal in Hun’s 12-10 win over Montgomery last Wednesday. Junior Black’s tally was set up by a pass from his senior star brother. Last Monday, the younger Black added two goals as top-seeded Hun defeated fourth-seeded Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals to improve to 14-0. The Raiders will host second-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game on May 19. In addition, the Raiders will play at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 6 and at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on May 9 before starting action in the Inter-Ac Challenge on May 11. (Photo by John Dowers)

When Owen Black scored a dazzling over-the-shoulder goal early in the fourth quarter to help the Hun School boys’ lacrosse pull out a 12-10 win over Montgomery last Thursday, it appeared to be a superior individual effort.

But in actuality, the eye-catching tally was a family affair, years in the making.

“It was just a great look from my brother,” said the junior midfielder, referring to older brother, senior Brendan Black.

“I know he is always looking for me out there, all I really had to do was throw it behind my back and it went in.”

The Blacks have been looking for each other on the field for nearly a decade and the family connection will continue beyond Hun as they have both committed to go to Villanova University and play for its men’s lacrosse team.

“We have been playing together since second grade; I was in second grade and he was in third,” said Black, noting that he and his brother committed to Villanova on the same day last year.

“I am pumped that we get to play together after high school and in college. I know he has always got my back out on the field, no matter what team we are on. We play together pretty well.”

In the victory over Montgomery, Hun played very well in jumping out to an 8-2 halftime lead over the Cougars.

“We had everyone crossing the finish line to start out the game; we really focused on coming out hot and we did,” said Black.

In the third quarter, though, Montgomery came out hot, outscoring Hun 6-2 in the period. Sparked by Black’s highlight reel goal, Hun was able to weather the storm and earn the 12-10 triumph.

“Montgomery is a great team, they are very well coached and have a couple of great players,” said Black, who tallied three goals and an assist in the victory.

“They just came out firing in the third quarter and we didn’t. But we stayed together and we came out with the win.”

Hun is establishing itself as a great team, improving to 14-0 this season by beating Peddie 19-4 in the state Prep A semifinals last Monday. As a result of its gaudy record and wins over such powers as IMG Academy, St. Augustine Prep, Episcopal Academy (Pa.), Shawnee High, and Lawrenceville, Hun is nationally ranked, making huge strides in Black’s time with the program.

“It has definitely been a crazy ride, especially for the guys who have been here for a while,” said Black.

“Tucker Stevenson, my brother, and I have been here since middle school playing together. Watching this program grow and being part of the team has been something special to me.”

With the Inter-Ac Challenge and a Prep A title clash against Lawrenceville on the horizon in the next two weeks, Hun is looking to do some special things.

“We never look ahead, just take it one game at a time and stay smart,” said Black.

“I think if we all play together and just focus on the team aspect we can do anything we put our heads to.”

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School baseball player Pete Schintzler follows through on a swing earlier this spring. Last Wednesday, senior second baseman Schintzler drove in the winning run in a seventh-inning rally as Hun edged the Hill School (Pa.) 4-3. Last Monday, Schintzler went 2-for-4 with three runs to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Raiders, who improved to 10-5 with the victory, will face top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School baseball player Pete Schintzler follows through on a swing earlier this spring. Last Wednesday, senior second baseman Schintzler drove in the winning run in a seventh-inning rally as Hun edged the Hill School (Pa.) 4-3. Last Monday, Schintzler went 2-for-4 with three runs to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Raiders, who improved to 10-5 with the victory, will face top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Hun School baseball team locked in a 3-3 tie against the Hill School (Pa.) with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning last Wednesday, Pete Schintzler had the game in his hands as he came to the plate.

The Hun senior second baseman, though, felt right at home in the pressure situation.

“We have played close games all season, we really haven’t blown teams out,” said Schintzler. “Everything has been close, that is what we are used to. He had been throwing a fastball and then a curveball every at bat. I had a fastball and a curve ball so I just figured, especially with the sun being tough, I might as well put something out there and hope for the best and that is what ended up happening.”

Schintzler lofted a ball to left field which dropped in as the Hill outfielder struggled with the sun, knocking in Evan Barratt to give Hun a 4-3 win.

“The way he came off the ball and dropped to his knee, you could tell that either he was going to get lucky and catch it or I was going to get lucky and it was going to drop,” said Schintzler, recalling the game-winning hit. “That wasn’t my best swing.”

In Schintzler’s view, Hun’s resilience has shown through this spring as it has come back from some disappointing setbacks.

“Coming off the tough loss to Steinert (14-12 on April 11) and working through that was big,” said Schintzler.

“It showed that we could come back from a big loss and then coming off the Nottingham loss (7-4 on April 18), we have been playing well too. We are a good bounce-back team.”

The team’s good character has helped Hun battle through the ups and downs it has experienced.

“We are not the most talented team individually but we work and there is chemistry,” said Schintzler.

“Even the guys that aren’t getting in, they are working on the bench every day, every game. They are screaming their butts off, that gets everybody going.”

As a fixture on the top of the Hun batting order, Schintzler looks to get the Raiders going offensively.

“I have been in the two hole every game,” said Schintzler,  who went 2-for-4 with three runs last Monday to help eighth-seeded Hun edge ninth-seeded WW/P-S 7-6 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

“Most of my hits this season have been line drives to center or left. So if someone gets on, it is easy to move them over like that.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade likes the upbeat mentality he has been seeing from his players all season.

“We have had a couple of letdowns this year but normally they are enthusiastic,” said McQuade.

“They yell and scream, like a little league team. They have been doing that from day one on our Florida trip so that is the personality of the team.”

The Raiders’ seventh-inning rally against Hill had the players screaming for joy. Nick Perez led off the frame with a walk and later scored on a single by sophomore Barratt, who advanced to second on an error. That set the stage for Schintzler’s heroics.

“Schintz is having a great season so far; he is getting his bat on the ball,” said McQuade. “He battles that way. Barratt is just an athlete, he is a winner. You saw it in hockey, he brings that same mentality here.”

On the mound, senior and Villanova-bound Jason Applegate is bringing a battling spirit. He went the distance in the win over Hill, giving up four hits and striking out nine.

“Other than probably just three, four, or five sloppy pitches, it was his best game of the year in terms of location and mixing pitches,” said McQuade of Applegate, who starred with his bat in Hun’s win over WW/P-S in the MCT opener, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs  “He has really turned it on as a leader and he is the ace of the staff by far. That is probably his sixth win already.”

Hun’s win over Hill kept the Raiders alive in the race for the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) crown.

“We could actually win the title, which would be an unbelievable season,” said McQuade, whose team is now 10-5 and will continue its quest for another title as it faces top-seeded Steinert in an MCT quarterfinal contest on May 6. “If we could play like we did in the last week then we are going to be OK. Some of the other guys have to go and step up for us.”

Schintzler, for his part, is primed to keep going as long as possible this spring.

“I am playing legion ball this summer; this is my last year with these guys and my last year playing competitive ball,” said Schintzler. “I want to get everything out of it that I can.”

April 29, 2015
PERFECT ENDING: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star McMunn scored five goals to help Princeton top Brown 14-8 in the regular season finale. The win gave Princeton the outright Ivy League crown as it moved to 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. This weekend, Princeton will host the Ivy tournament which will decide which team gets the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Princeton is seeded first and faces No. 4 Harvard in a semifinal contest on Friday evening. The winner will play the victor of the the Penn-Cornell semifinal in the title game on Sunday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PERFECT ENDING: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star McMunn scored five goals to help Princeton top Brown 14-8 in the regular season finale. The win gave Princeton the outright Ivy League crown as it moved to 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. This weekend, Princeton will host the Ivy tournament which will decide which team gets the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Princeton is seeded first and faces No. 4 Harvard in a semifinal contest on Friday evening. The winner will play the victor of the the Penn-Cornell semifinal in the title game on Sunday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Erin McMunn’s senior season with Princeton University women’s lacrosse team nearly ended prematurely when her right leg was banged hard against Harvard in late March.

The star attacker left the game with a strained MCL and bone bruise in her right knee. After being sidelined for the next game and undergoing some furious rehab, McMunn was able to make it back to the field, albeit at less than full speed.

Hobbling through the next few games, McMunn managed to break the program’s career record for assists and pass the 200-point mark as Princeton rolled to a league crown.

So last Saturday, McMunn was particularly emotional as she was honored along with her classmates on the program’s annual Senior Day before its regular season finale against visiting Brown.

“This has just been four years of incredible experience with this program and we are so grateful for everything that Princeton has given all of us as a senior class,” said McMunn, a 5’8 native of Westminster, Md.

“I think we just really wanted to come out here and make a statement today and play for each other and play because we love being part of this team.”

Making a statement with her play, McMunn scored three goals in the first 21 minutes of the contest as Princeton jumped out to 7-3 halftime lead.

“I realize how fortunate I am to have so many great people surrounding me, teammates, coaches, and staff,” said McMunn.

“I think I just really felt that on the field today. I play best when I feel that gratitude and feel that love a little bit. We certainly felt that today and I think we were all giving it to each other. There were just some really great feeds that people were hitting me on and I got lucky to put them away.”

The Tigers went on to 14-8 win as they ended the regular season at 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. The Tigers will now host Harvard on Friday evening in an Ivy tournament semifinal contest with the winner advancing to the final on Sunday against the victor of the Penn-Cornell semi.

“We just really wanted to finish that Ivy season and leave no doubt that we deserve that title today,” said McMunn, who ended the day with five goals and an assist.

“There have been a ton of close games and I am just so proud of this team. This has been our goal since last year. We knew that we wanted to win this title outright because none of us as seniors have done that. We shared it last year and we knew that was not something we wanted to do this year. Being able to have the opportunity to win that outright on our Senior Day at home was huge and something we were all really excited for.”

McMunn is excited to be getting back up to full speed. “It is definitely starting to come back, it was a little tough there for a little while,” said McMunn.

“It was just causing some swelling that was keeping it a little bit tight. It has been feeling really great and I can’t thank our athletic trainers enough, they have been doing an awesome job taking care of me. I have just been really lucky to be back out there and having a lot of fun.”

In assessing her career milestones, McMunn credits the backing she has gotten from her teammates.

“That is the complete reflection of the people that are around me,” said McMunn, a three-time All-Ivy choice and a two-time All-American who now has 22 goals and 13 assists this season giving her 209 career points on 124 goals and a program-best 85 assists.

“The assist record is them; if they don’t bury that shot, it doesn’t matter. I could throw it at somebody all day long and they could miss shots.”

McMunn acknowledges that she is going to miss playing for Princeton. “It is very bittersweet but all you can really do is live in the moment and be grateful for the time I have been given here and with the program,” said McMunn. “I feel that every single day.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer is grateful for all that the team’s seniors have given to the program over the years.

“They have just been such a great class, they are just really quality kids,” said Sailer of the Class of 2015 which includes Erin Curley, Erika Grabbi, Jess Nelson, Erin Slifer, and Annie Woehling in addition to McMunn.

“This year we just have two (McMunn and Slifer) in our starting lineup but all six of them have given so much. They have worked so hard, they have been really great examples of selfless leadership and putting the team first and continuing to work and doing whatever they can to help our program improve. When you have kids like that, that are setting such great examples and bringing great energy, it can’t help but rub off on the rest of the group. They know how much it means to them and how they have sacrificed for it.”

Sailer was thrilled with McMunn’s great performance on Saturday. “That was great, I think this was her breakout game,” asserted Sailer. “She is moving much, much better. She seems like she is moving like her old self before her injury and that is going to be really helpful as we get to the tournament to have her functioning at top capacity.”

Princeton’s top player this spring has been Slifer, who has a team-high 55 points on 36 goals and 19 assists and also leads the team in ground balls with 22.

“She has been our force, having an impact in all phases of the game,” said Sailer of Slifer.

“There is no doubt in my mind that she is one of the top players in the country and her impact on us has been very obvious to anyone who watches our games.”

Going undefeated in the league this spring has taken a huge effort in all phases of the game.

“It is great, there is a lot of parity and every team gets up and tries to bring their best against you,” said Sailer.

“I think we have only had an undefeated Ivy champion now five times at Princeton so it is really special. It is a hard league to win undefeated. I am just really happy for these girls because they really put a lot into this year. It is nice to come through with a young team. We graduated eight seniors we start six sophomores so it is exciting.”

Sailer is excited about Princeton’s postseason prospects, starting with the Ivy tournament this weekend.

“I think we just have to keep doing what we are doing and really just keep the emphasis on our preparation and our work,” said Sailer.

“You can’t get thinking, you have got to win this tournament. You have got to win the ground balls, win the draws, and take a smart shot. It is a whole new ball game, everybody is 0-0 so it doesn’t matter what has happened before. We know that and we are just going to get to work on Monday.”

The Tigers will have to work hard to overcome a tough Harvard (8-7 overall, 4-3 Ivy) squad.

“Harvard is a very, very good team, they lost by one goal to Syracuse and it was a tight game here,” said Sailer, whose team beat the Crimson 17-12 in the rivals’ regular season meeting on March 21.

“We pulled away at the end, but they are talented kids, there is no doubt. They have a lot of speed, they check very aggressively, they go to goal hard. We are going to have to be ready, that is for sure.”

McMunn, for her part, is ready for a big postseason run. “The key is that we have to keep getting better every single day and I think that is something this team has done a great job of focusing on so far this year,” said McMunn.

“We feel that sense of urgency and we don’t want to waste any time out there together. I think that is something that we have to keep going for the last week; we’ll be good.”

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker MacDonald tallied three goals and two assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 15-10 at Cornell. MacDonald now has 43 goals and 28 assists this season, becoming the third Princeton player to reach 70 points in a season, joining Jon Hess (74 in 1997) and Jesse Hubbard (72 in 1996). The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker MacDonald tallied three goals and two assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 15-10 at Cornell. MacDonald now has 43 goals and 28 assists this season, becoming the third Princeton player to reach 70 points in a season, joining Jon Hess (74 in 1997) and Jesse Hubbard (72 in 1996). The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Needing a win at Cornell last Saturday to clinch the Ivy League title outright and earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team came out firing.

Princeton jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Big Red after one quarter with Kip Orban scoring two goals, Mike MacDonald chipping in a goal and two assists and Ryan Ambler and Gavin McBride each getting a goal and an assist.

“We came out and played really well,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “It was a perfect storm for us in the first quarter, we hit our shots and Cornell made some turnovers that we capitalized on.”

But in the second quarter, the Tigers were buried by a blizzard of goals as Cornell outscored Princeton 9-0 to take a 9-5 lead at halftime.

“The second quarter was upside down from the first; the things that had been positives turned into negatives; we couldn’t get a face-off and we turned it over twice,” said Bates, whose team was outshot 25-4 in the period and lost 9-of-10 face-offs.

“We didn’t have a settled offensive possession in the whole quarter. We got punched between the eyes, it was a standing eight count. We limped into the locker room. There was a steamroller effect. I was just trying to find a way to stem the tide but that is tough when you are not winning face-offs. We were just holding on.”

At halftime, Bates focused on holding his dispirited team together. “They were stunned, we just tried to settle them and remind them of how we played in the first quarter and how good we felt,” recalled Bates. “We told them to find their fight and find their competitiveness.”

In the second half, the Tiger showed some competitive fire, outscoring the Big Red 4-2 in the third quarter but the rally fell short as Cornell pulled away to a 15-10 win.

“We played well but we just couldn’t get that momentum going,” said Bates, reflecting on the second half. “We ran out of time.”

Bates also acknowledged that Princeton ran into a buzz-saw in Cornell. “It was tough game, Cornell played well, they showed us some things we hadn’t seen,” said Bates, who got four goals from senior star Kip Orban, making him the first Princeton midfielder ever to get 40 goals in a season.

“Our inexperience on defense came to light. They ran an open set with no crease; we got gun-shy a little and were slow to make the slides. They won some one-on-one battles.”

Although Princeton, now 8-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy, lost the battle last Saturday, it could win the war as it will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday.

“We have been in this position before, two years ago we got thumped by them at Giants Stadium and then beat them in Ithaca,” noted Bates.

“I will be interested to see how the team reacts; this group has something on its mind about what it wants to do. We have to do better on face-offs and deal with their open set better. We have good leadership, the right message will be sent. The guys will be excited. We talk about responding when you get knocked down.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University softball player Sarah McGowan gets ready to swing at a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior infielder McGowan ended her Princeton career on a high note, helping the Tigers beat Cornell 3-1 in the season finale. The win gave Princeton a final record of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League. The Tigers ended the spring taking second in the Ivy South division, trailing Penn, 22-18 overall, 13-7 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University softball player Sarah McGowan gets ready to swing at a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior infielder McGowan ended her Princeton career on a high note, helping the Tigers beat Cornell 3-1 in the season finale. The win gave Princeton a final record of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League. The Tigers ended the spring taking second in the Ivy South division, trailing Penn, 22-18 overall, 13-7 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a do-or-die situation for the Princeton University softball team last weekend and they were thrilled to be in that position.

Playing a four-game set at Cornell, Princeton came into the action with an 8-7 Ivy League record, alive in the race for the Ivy South title as it trailed leader Penn by a game and a half.

“I think they were excited for the opportunity; this team has never had the chance to be playing for something on the final day of the season,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren.

“They were ready to do their best to make it last as long as possible, everyone was psyched to do whatever they could. We prepared well all year and we had some really productive practices last week.”

In Saturday’s doubleheader, Princeton took the opener 6-3 and led 7-4 in the nightcap before falling 10-7.

“We got off to a nice start in the first game,” said Van Ackeren. “We had it in game two but we couldn’t get it done in the circle.”

On Sunday, Princeton dropped the opener 7-5 before ending the spring on a high note with a 3-1 win in the finale.

“The kids bounced back really well on Sunday,” said Van Ackeren. “The offense stepped up; we had good run production all weekend.”

While Princeton knew it had been officially eliminated from the Ivy South race by its loss in the opener, the team’s seniors were determined to make the most of their final game.

“It was senior leadership; when seniors are that emotional, the team will fall in line,” said Van Ackeren, whose Class of 2015 includes Rachel Rendina, Alyssa Schmidt, Cara Worden, Meredith Brown, Sarah McGowan, and Libby Crowe.

“We had a class of six and five started. The sixth (Crowe) was hurt but was the first base coach for an inning. Brown started at pitcher; she has been dealing with some injuries. She threw six shutout innings, fighting to do her best. Rendina, Schmidt, and Worden did what they do on the field. Sarah McGowan did well at third. It is hard to hold Cornell to one run. They passed the torch.”

In Van Ackeren’s view, the seniors have made a positive impact on the program.

“The seniors were excited; they thought about all the things we have been through to get to this point,” said Van Ackeren.

“They are an eclectic group, they have strong personalities. They leave the program better than they found it and that is the legacy you want to have.”

While Princeton had hoped to have a better record than its final mark of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League, Van Ackeren believes that the team’s younger players gained some valuable experience this spring that will help their resolve going forward.

“There were a lot of lessons to learn; we were in a lot of close games in the league,” said Van Ackeren.

“Those one-run losses teach us how to win. It is a programmatic challenge for us to improve so that those close games go our way. I think the returners will come back with a bad taste in their mouths from those close losses and will work even harder. There has been a cultural shift in the program in the last few years where the players are embracing hard work and embracing a blue collar attitude to do whatever it takes to win.”

NO PROBLEM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Noah Lilienthal displays his forehand form last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Freshman Lilienthal won the first singles title, helping PHS finish second to champion WW/P-S in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO PROBLEM: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Noah Lilienthal displays his forehand form last week in action at the Mercer County Tournament. Freshman Lilienthal won the first singles title, helping PHS finish second to champion WW/P-S in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Noah Lilienthal looked like a freshman in over his head as he played in the first singles semifinal at the Mercer County Tournament last Thursday.

The Princeton High freshman dropped the first set 6-2 to defending champion Jerry Jiang of Pennington.

Coming into the match, the third-seeded Lilienthal knew that he faced a big challenge in top-seeded Jiang.

“I train with him at the Marc Hill Tennis Academy, I think of him as the big kid and I am the kid at a lower level,” said Lilienthal. “In the first set, he really blew me away the way I expected.”

But Lilienthal raised the level of his game after that, winning the next two sets 6-1, 6-3 to pull out the match and earn a spot in the finals.

“The second set, I hung in there,” said Lilienthal. “I knew I could win if I really kept the pressure on him. I was able to force him to make errors.”

Building his rally in the semifinals, third-seeded Lilienthal went on to beat second-seeded Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S 6-3, 6-4 in the finals to earn the first single crown.

His heroics helped PHS place a strong second in the team standings as it finished just 1.5 points behind champion WW/P-S, 21.5-20. The first doubles team of Andrew Lin and Andrew Wei won their flight while second doubles team of Eric Lin and Kevin Yang was second and Tyler Hack took second at third singles.

For Lilienthal, winning the final over Sarita came down to clutch play on the big points.

“Kabir is my best buddy, he is almost part of my family,” said Lilienthal. “We play matches almost every Sunday and some I win, some I lose. I come in with the same strategy every time, just to play my best and hope he won’t play as good as I can. When I play Kabir, it is just about a few points.”

With Sarita pushing hard in the second set to even the match, Lilienthal showed his maturity. “I have had a history of losing matches when I have been up,” said Lilienthal, who recently competed in the prestigious Easter Bowl tournament in California. “I have learned from those experiences and now I don’t do that.”

In reflecting on his triumph, Lilienthal said it was a product of a lot of hours on the court.

“It was really exciting,” said Lilienthal. “At first I couldn’t believe it, and that was the same with the last match. It is a win that will give me confidence, but I am the same player I was yesterday and the same player I was the day before that. It just shows that I have been putting in the hard work and hopefully I can continue.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was excited by Lilienthal’s championship performance in his first MCT.

“Noah is great, everyone today got to see his quality of tennis on display, his shotmaking, his feet, his footwork, his movement, all of that,” said Hibbert.

“The presence as a freshman to be able to take out last year’s champion in the semi and then take out another highly experienced, solid player in the finals back to back — he had an amazing day.”

In Hibbert’s view, Lilienthal’s comeback win over Jiang in the semis spoke volumes about his amazing composure.

“Jerry played lights out in the first set, he was just on fire,” said Hibbert. “I told Noah to just wait it out, don’t give up, stay tough, fight through everything and see what happens. He did a great job of coming back, playing a really strong second set and then the third set got really close but he was able to play the big points well. All those tournament matches really helped him.”

Juniors Andrew Wei and Andrew Lin did a great job at first doubles as they outlasted Chiru Kolloth and Kai Zheng of WW/P-S, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to earn the title.

“They worked really hard, they dropped a real close one in the first set,” recalled Hibbert.

“They were up in the second set and then it got really close … and then they closed out a tight one and it got close again. In the third set, it came down to that really long deuce game at 4-all, that was the difference there. I am really proud of them, the way they were able to come back and fight through that last game and close it out.”

The second doubles team of Kevin Yang and Eric Lin showed plenty of fight, advancing to the finals where they fell 7-5,6-2 to Martin Malik and Rahul Ramanathan of WW/P-S.

“Kevin is a freshman, Eric is a sophomore, it is their first time in the county tournament,” said Hibbert. “They had a good showing, hopefully they can improve their partnership.”

Senior Tyler Hack made a good showing in his final MCT as he placed second at third singles, losing 6-0, 6-1 to Scott Altmeyer of Princeton Day School in the championship match.

“Tyler had a great semifinal match, he played quite well,” said Hibbert, referring to Hack’s 6-0, 6-0 win over Dan Goldstein of Robbinsville.

“He ran into a very tough opponent in the finals. Scott played a really strong match.”

Hibbert believes that her team’s strong performance at the MCT will be a plus going forward with the state tournament on the horizon.

“I think it will definitely help us going into states, any time you have good competition, it helps,” said Hibbert.

“There are a lot of strong teams in the county. There are a lot of good players, a lot of strong, young players. It was a good competitive day.”

Lilienthal, for his part, won’t soon forget his big day last Thursday.

“I actually didn’t really know that much about the tournament, I just came in and played,” said Lilienthal. “Looking back at it now, it is a pretty good accomplishment. It is a big deal.”

ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team played at WW/P-S last Saturday, the PHS players periodically chanted “run, Rory, run” from the sidelines.

The squad’s junior star midfielder, Rory Helstrom, responded to his teammates’ pleas, tallying two goals and two assists to help the Little Tigers pull away to a 9-4 victory.

With PHS trailing 2-0 midway through the first quarter, Helstrom used his fast feet and stick skills to draw the Little Tigers level at 2-2, assisting on one goal and scoring another in a 24-second span.

“I think just getting us some motivation really helped get us back on track,” said Helstrom, reflecting on the two-goal spurt.

“We knew coming into this game that they were better than their scores. We knew we couldn’t play down to them.”

The PHS coaches gave the players some extra motivation with their halftime message.

“At halftime, they talked to us and said you guys have to play to your ability and talked about this stuff that we weren’t doing,” recalled Helstrom. “We just sucked it up.”

The Little Tigers did a lot of good things at both ends of the field in the second half as they outscored WW/P-S 5-0.

“We started off slow but we picked it up towards the end,” said Helstrom, who had a goal and an assist in the second half.

With PHS losing some key offensive performers from last year’s squad to graduation, Helstrom knew that he had to pick it up this spring.

“I have got to make more plays myself,” said Helstrom, who is a star running back for the PHS football team. “I think this year it is more me controlling things than last year. I have got to start getting the offense going and making things happen for myself and the other players.”

With PHS having struggled through a five-game losing streak earlier this month as it lost to such powers as Lawrenceville, Summit, and North Hunterdon, Helstrom believes the team is on the right track.

“I think North Hunterdon was the lowest point of our season,” said Helstrom, who was slowed by a groin injury earlier this spring but is back at full speed. “We couldn’t go down since then, we could only go up.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way his players have picked things up as the win over WW/P-S came two days after the Little Tigers had beaten Robbinsville 7-3 to snap the losing streak.

“The thing about learning is that people don’t get it until they have figured it out themselves,” said Stanton.

“You can tell somebody something five times but when they finally get it and it clicks in, it is so satisfying and so rewarding.”

Things were clicking for PHS all over the field against WW/P-S as the team showed good offensive balance.

“I think the fact that we were deeper than them showed,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Nick Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in addition to Helstrom with Chris Diver, Eamonn McDonald, and Stephen Clark chipping in one apiece.

“We had some really key contributions from some guys who don’t necessarily show up in the box score. Justin Marciano made an incredible play at the end of the game. Oliver Hamit was scrapping it out at the face-off X. Nick Halliday has had two games in a row where he has been really good.”

Helstrom was really good as he triggered the PHS offense with his athleticism and determination.

“He is an X factor,” added Stanton. “He is such a good athlete, he can do things on just will.”

Reflecting on the team’s recent skid, Stanton believes that playing such high powered foes as Lawrenceville and Summit will help sharpen his players’ will to compete.

“What those games teach you is grit, they teach you that you can go out and battle your hardest even being overmatched but if you have given your all and you have learned, you can be proud of that,” said Stanton.

“We didn’t do that for four quarters in either of those games but in each of those games we had our moments where it is like here is what we are capable of if we can do these things against some of the best players in the state. Our schedule is a bit more difficult this year and we are younger than usual. It is easy when things aren’t going your way to give up and when things are going really well, everybody wants to work hard. So the fact that we can continue to work hard when things weren’t going well showed by getting these last two wins. It is something we can  be proud of.”

Stanton believes the Little Tigers can get some more big wins over the next few weeks.

“We are happy that we are improving, we never know what anyone’s limits or potential are,” said Stanton, whose team fell 6-5 to Rumson-Fair Haven last Monday to move to 4-7 and hosts WW/P-N on April 30.

“We always push our kids to go beyond what maybe they think they are capable of. So absolutely we are happy that we have a team that is willing to work hard, improve, and has a chance to win.”

Helstrom, for his part, is confident that PHS will keep pushing to improve.

“We started off the season really slow, losing to some in-conference teams,” said Helstrom. “I think in the second half of the season we can really turn it on.”

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

The wind was swirling around Mercer County Park last Thursday as the temperature hovered in the low 40s but the chill didn’t bother Scott Altmeyer.

Competing in the third singles final at the Mercer County Tournament, Princeton Day School boys’ tennis junior star Altmeyer was sizzling.

Playing in his shirtsleeves without any extra layers unlike many bundled up in winter clothes around the tennis complex, Altmeyer rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Tyler Hack of Princeton High for the title.

“I thought I played very well by my standards,” said Altmeyer. “I was hitting a lot of shots that I usually don’t hit and I was getting a lot of balls back that I usually don’t get back. I felt I was playing some of the best tennis I have played this season so far.”

Altmeyer’s big day helped PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings at the event. Freshman Lex Decker finished third in second singles to provide another big highlight for the Panthers.

For Altmeyer, winning the title was a confidence booster. “I am very happy about it,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had lost to Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S in the third singles final at the 2014 MCT.

“I hope I can use this to jumpstart the rest of the season. My game just feels all around better, I am playing a little more outside of school.

In Altmeyer’s view, playing at the MCT also benefits the team, bringing the players closer together.

“It is so much fun, it is the most camaraderie with your teammates, cheering everybody on,” said Altmeyer. “It is one of the tournaments I look forward to.”

After taking a hiatus from the game during middle school, Altmeyer is savoring being on the court with his teammates.

“I got burned out and just took some time off for myself,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had five stress fractures in his left foot.

“I didn’t feel like playing any more. The reason I am back is because I am loving to play the sport again and I am having a lot of fun with it.”

PDS head coach Will Asch loved watching Altmeyer roll to the third singles title.

“This is the best tennis that he has played all year, he was hitting the ball hard and mentally he was very tough,” asserted Asch. “It didn’t seem like anybody could beat him today, it was one of those days.”

Noting that Altmeyer was hampered by illness earlier this spring, Asch believes that his junior star is peaking.

“He was playing great last year,” said Asch. “He came back from India after spring break and he wasn’t feeling well. I feel now that he is not only playing as well as last year but probably even a little bit better. In four weeks, his tennis has come a long way.”

Freshman Lex Decker came a long way at the MCT, rallying to pull out a three-set win over Rohan Yadav of Hightstown in the third-place match at second singles.

“I think it was a character win for Lex, it is tough for a freshman to beat an older kid at the Mercer County,” said Asch of Decker, who prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

“You know it is going to be hard when a freshman has adversity and he has to learn how to overcome it. I think what made the difference is that he won the last three games of the second set. He had a battle with himself in the first set and a half. He had some bad luck in the beginning and he got a little down. Then … he persevered … and started to outplay him in the second set. In the third set, he just believed; he just knew that he could do it. There wasn’t any doubt and he just went out and took care of business.”

Asch is confident that his team can take care of business as it goes for a third straight state Prep B title in mid-May.

“I like our team; I like our chances,” said Asch. “We have won it the last two years. I think our team is probably a little bit stronger this year than last year. We lost Neeraj (Devulapalli) but now we have Lex. Scott is playing a lot better. I think we are incredibly strong in that second and third singles. Anupreeth (Coramutla) is a very good player at first singles; he won last year.”

Altmeyer, for his part, believes that PDS can produce a strong finish. “We have a good group; I have a lot of good friends in there,” said Altmeyer. “I am very confident in what we can do.”

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Morgan Foster fired in a shot off a free position play for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team to give it a 6-6 tie against Hopewell Valley last Saturday, it looked like the contest was destined to be a nailbiter.

But HoVal responded with a 5-1 run to take an 11-7 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 19-9 win.

While senior star attacker Foster was disappointed with the result, she was proud of how the Panthers fought to the end.

“We were in it; I think that sometimes we need to realize that a full lacrosse game is 50 minutes,” said Foster, who tallied two goals in the defeat.

“We want to be a two-half team. I think everyone was working their hardest. The chips didn’t fall our way today. We have some things that we need to clean up.”

On Monday, things did go PDS’s way as the first-seeded Panthers topped No. 8 Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals with Foster chipping in four goals.

“I think our goal right now is to make sure that we extend our season as long as possible,” said Foster, who is heading to Hamilton College where she will be playing for its women’s lacrosse program. “We definitely have May 11 (the Prep B final) circled on the calendar.”

Foster and classmate, star goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz, the only seniors on the squad, are looking to set a positive tone for their younger teammates.

“At this point, I am playing for Kirsten and I hope that Kirsten is playing for me,” asserted Foster.

“I think that part of getting everybody excited for the game is to make sure that everyone knows that they are playing for each other and that there is somebody out there working harder than you are. You want to work hard for the person next to you. That is a big thing that we try to implement so that everybody is working for somebody else.”

Foster enjoyed a big moment when she scored her 100th career goal in a 14-11 loss to Blair on April 22.

“That was so exciting, that was something I didn’t know was coming up,” said Foster.

“I knew that the game beforehand that I was close but I wasn’t counting on it. It was really nice but unfortunately we lost that game to Blair. There was a bit of a silver lining.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas saw a silver lining in the way the Panthers battled in the loss to HoVal.

“We played some very good lacrosse at times today from the start,” said Thomas.

“We limited the number of unforced turnovers, I still think that we had too many. We didn’t get the ground balls on dropped balls, we made bad decisions with the ball, things like that. It is little stuff, fixable stuff and that is a good team that we played.”

Thomas likes the way that Foster has developed into a very good leader for PDS.

“Morgan has really taken her leadership skills and put them into offensive sets and plays,” said Thomas. “She settles them and makes the extra pass. She has had some really good assists, she is a much more complete player.

Heading into the final weeks of the season, Thomas is looking for the Panthers to play a more complete game collectively.

“We just need to clean up those little things and bring our best to the field every day and take them one at a time,” said Thomas, whose team will host a Prep B semifinal game on May 4 and is also competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.

Foster, for her part, is determined to bring her best as she wraps up her PDS career.

“I am getting more sad that this year is coming to a close,” said Foster. “I have never won a tournament here at Princeton Day School. I really have my sights set on the Prep Bs right now, that is something I am really looking forward to.”

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a lopsided loss at Lawrenceville last Thursday, the Hun School softball team found itself at a crossroad.

The 16-4 defeat to the Big Red was the fifth straight loss for Hun since it had topped Lawrenceville 7-2 on April 11 in the rivals’ first meeting of the season.

“We had a talk after the Lawrenceville game and did a lot of soul searching,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “We talked about looking yourself in the mirror and do you want to be here.”

While the Raiders hadn’t been looking all that bad in the losing streak, Quirk acknowledged that her players weren’t closing the deal.

“It is not that we haven’t been hitting but we were leaving people on base,” said Quirk. “We were not supporting our pitchers.”

Playing a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) last Saturday, Hun cleared the bases repeatedly, prevailing 11-0 and 8-6.

“Julia Revock pitched a two-hitter in the opener, she did well,” said Quirk. “We had a great hitting performance by everybody. Vicki Leach was 2-for-2 and Alexis Goeke was 2-for-3. We got two runs in the first and five in the second. They had a slow pitcher and sometimes that throws us off.”

In the nightcap, it was the Kacey Abitz show as the junior starred at the plate and was the winning pitcher.

“They got three runs in the top of the first and then Abitz came in to pitch,” said Quirk, whose team improved to 4-6 with the sweep.

“Julia Blake hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the first to tie it up and we got three more and didn’t look back. We fell apart a little in the seventh but we were able to hold on. Abitz pitched well and went 4-for-4 with a double.”

Quirk is hoping that the big day at Mercersburg will get her team on the right track as it heads down the homestretch of the season.

“Our goal is to be at .500 after Wednesday then take it from there,” said Quirk, whose team was slated to play at Princeton Day School on April 28, host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29, and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.

“I want to see them play with confidence and believe in themselves. We need to do things in games that we do every day in practice. They need to communicate and talk to each other in the field. They have to know what they are going to do if the ball is hit to them.”

There were about 30 seconds left in the game and the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team was trailing Mount St. Mary Academy 18-9 last week.

Even though it was clear that the Tartans were going down to defeat, Stuart junior midfielder Julia Maser was still hustling, scooping up a ground ball, sprinting to the net and firing a shot.

While Maser’s shot missed the mark and the game ended with a final score of 18-9, her effort exemplified the team’s never-say-die mindset.

“It could be 20-1 and we would still be trying to get that last point in,” said Maser. “We always fight for the last goal, no matter how far we are down.”

In reflecting on the defeat which saw Stuart fall behind 12-4 at halftime before narrowing the gap to 14-8 with 7:53 remaining, Maser acknowledged that the team needs to get off to better starts.

“Starting the season we have kind of been a second-half team and I think we need to come out with equal intensity,” said Maser.

“Whenever we seem to get down by halftime, we always come out with fire in the second half. We need that to start the game.”

In Maser’s view, the team is starting to get on the same page as the season unfolds.

“The few of us juniors have grown up playing together so we are a pretty strong group, we try to bring that intensity to our entire team and lend that bond,” said Maser.

“We have grown and started to work together. I think it is just knowing that our teammates have our back.”

As one of the team’s more battle-tested players, Maser is speaking up more on the field this season.

“This year I would have to say I try to be more vocal and keep our team’s heads up,” said Maser.

“If we drop behind, it is not about us hanging our heads, it is about fighting back.”

The Tartans are fighting for a new leader this year as Kelsey O’Gorman has taken the helm of the program.

“That is an adjustment, it is definitely new,” added Maser, who had two goals as Stuart fell 17-7 to Princeton Day School last Thursday to move to 3-5 on the season.

“It is just like new plays, you have got to get used to our new coach’s style. She is all about us learning plays and working on consistency. We are definitely more in a routine and it is going to start looking up for us.”

With Stuart starting action in both the state Prep B tourney and Mercer County Tournament this week, Maser believes the Tartans are up for the challenge of postseason play. Stuart is seeded fourth in the Prep B competition and will host fifth-seeded Ranney School on April 29. In the MCT, the Tartans are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Princeton High in a first round contest.

“The focus going forward I would have to say is to have complete team unity from defense to offense,” said Maser.

“We need to work on our transition plays and once we get that down, we will be unstoppable.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashley Hatcher was primed for a big finish as the Princeton University women’s water polo headed into the fourth quarter of the CWPA championship game locked in a 5-5 tie with Indiana last Sunday at DeNunzio Pool.

“We were definitely concerned there but it gives you an extra boost of adrenaline to swim your hardest on the draw, the ejection, and the counter attack, and give your all,” said Hatcher.

Hatcher gave Princeton the margin of victory, scoring two goals in the quarter as the 12th-ranked Tigers pulled out a 7-6 win over the No. 11 Hoosiers and earned a bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

“One of my teammates sent it to center but it was almost a turnover and then it landed in front of me,” said Hatcher, reflecting on the winning goal which came with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter.

“They play high up in the lane so I drove in and the goal was open, it felt very good. When the ball is in front of me I was going to try to light the goalie up. I wanted to put a shot on goal and make her make a save. I didn’t want to make anything easy for her.”

Hatcher and her teammates realized things weren’t going to come easy in the final in Sunday having lost 9-8 and 13-12 to Indiana on two regular season meetings this year in addition to falling to the Hoosiers in the 2014 CWPA final.

“We knew that when we lost to this team before that we did not play our best game so coming out of those games it was heartbreaking but almost a boost of confidence because I knew and the team knew that we didn’t play our best game,” said Hatcher.

“We were excited to get the chance to play them again. We really wanted this team in the championship more than anything else.”

Winning that championship was special for Hatcher and her teammates. “It means a lot because we won the championship my freshman and sophomore year and we lost last year to Indiana,” said Hatcher, who was a first-team All-Tournament selection along with teammates Ashleigh Johnson and Jess Holechek.

“Right now this is our focus and we put everything on this game. Now we can look forward to the NCAAs. Winning three out of four is awesome.”

It was awesome for Hatcher to have older sister, Karina, on hand at DeNunzio to support her on Sunday.

“My sister played here and the last time we hosted Easterns, I was here watching her in 2007 when we lost to Hartwick,” said Hatcher, a native of Miami, Fla.

“Those little things were in the back of my mind watching her cheer for me. Being at home, it was a great finish.”

Hatcher has produced a great senior season, scoring a career-high and team-high 78 goals so far in her final campaign.

“Over the years I have grown in confidence in my ability,” said Hatcher. “I feel like my ballhandling skills have improved so that definitely helps. With Katie Rigler graduating, she was such an offensive presence for us and really inspired me. She would take over and was never afraid to shoot the ball.”

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao has enjoyed seeing Hatcher become a top offensive player for Princeton this season.

“I am so happy for Ashley, she has had an amazing year,” said a drenched Nicolao, who was tossed in the pool and sprayed with champagne as the team celebrated the win.

“She has always had the ability. She has always been a strong player for us but this year she really showed how good she is. She stepped up and has been a leading scorer all year for us. She had the game winner today. She is a hard worker and is really passionate about playing the game well.”

In order to beat Indiana in round three between the teams this season, Princeton had to step up its execution in crunch time.

“We had to be more mentally focused,” said Nicolao. “The first two matchups this year went right down to the wire. We had the lead both times in the fourth quarter and just made some crucial mistakes so we knew this game was going to come down to this, a one-goal game.”

On Sunday, the Tigers made the big plays down the stretch. “We had the two-goal lead with two minutes to go, we couldn’t make it easy and keep the two-goal lead,” said a smiling Nicolao, whose team improved to 29-3 with the win.

“We had to sort it out. Indiana is a great team and it is a great matchup. When you have those tough losses, the hope is eventually one will go your way and today it went our way. I think playing them three times in the last 12 months and really having some tough losses really helped us in that fourth quarter to just buckle down, get the lead and make it very difficult for them to score.”

The presence of junior all-American goalie Johnson makes Princeton hard to score on. The Miami, Fla. had 17 saves in the title game and was named tournament MVP. Now with 1,003 saves, Johnson is the only player in Princeton women’s water polo history to stop at least 1,000 shots.

“You saw Ashleigh Johnson and why she is who she is,” said Nicolao. “She is a special goalie. She made some incredible saves and today she went out there and showed you guys that she is the best player in the water.”

Freshman Emily Smith might not have been the best player in the water but she made a huge contribution with two pivotal goals.

“I sent an e-mail to the girls when Duke basketball won the national championship,” said Nicolao.

“Here is this freshman nobody has ever heard of, Grayson Allen, who went out there and scored 10 points in a row and was a key. Since then, I have been talking to our kids, saying who is going to be that person because they are going to try to shut Ashley and Chelsea (Johnson) down and who is going to be that one person to come out and step up. It is great to see her have a great game.”

It was great for the team’s group of seniors, which includes CeCe Coffey, Taylor Dunstan, and Camille Hooks in addition to Hatcher and Holechek, to pull out the title.

“This senior class, along with the men, have been in 7 CWPA championship games,” said Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger men’s water polo team.

“It is special to get to this game, you got to have some luck to win it. I am really happy for the girls that they got this one today. They have been trying to ease the pain from last year’s loss but it is a game. You are going to win some and lose some and today we were able to come out on top.”

Looking ahead to the NCAAs, Nicolao believes his team has the game to compete with anybody.

“We are going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours and focus on who we are playing next when the bracket comes out,” said Nicolao, whose team will host Wagner (25-8) on May 2 in an NCAA play-in contest with the winner to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.

“I think when you have the defensive ability that we have, if we come out and play with that kind of defensive intensity, anything can happen.”

In Hatcher’s view, the Tigers are poised to make some good things happen on the national stage.

“We lost to Hawaii by one goal (7-6 on March 15) and played pretty awfully in that game so we would love a chance to go back and play those big teams and show them that this isn’t just an east coast win,” said Hatcher.

April 22, 2015
STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Needing a win over Columbia last Saturday to clinch a share of the Ivy League regular season title and the right to host the league tournament, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team hit some turbulence.

After building a 5-1 lead over the Lions at halftime, Princeton found itself deadlocked at 6-6 with 17:25 left in the second half.

The Tigers called a timeout and the players received a wake-up call from the coaches.

“It was just stick to the game plan, execute, but just know that we need to bring more energy,” said Princeton junior defender and tri-captain Bannantine.

“We have to have energy from the offense through the defense and really carry that over and bring each other up when the other side isn’t doing as well.”

The Tigers showed energy at both ends of the field, outscoring Columbia 6-0 the rest of the game to pull away to a 12-6 victory, improving to 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy.

“I think it was raising our energy and finishing our shots,” said Bannantine, who had two ground balls and caused a turnover in the victory.

“It was taking that shot when we know it is there and moving the goalie. Hats off to the attack for doing that because they really picked it up. We switched up a couple of things but I think a big part of our defense is playing out and playing aggressive. We came up with some pretty big caused turnovers and some saves that were crucial. It was just coming out hard, playing them and getting on the ground balls.”

Clinching a share of the title and hosting the tourney, which is scheduled for May 1 and 3, is big for the Tigers.

“It means so much to us, it is our goal every year coming in,” said Bannantine.

“We work for it all year, it is what we set our sights on. It is huge for us. I just think it speaks to the experience on our team; we have a lot of senior leadership.

Bannantine has assumed extra leadership responsibility this year as she is quarterbacking the Tiger defense, directing things on the back line.

“I am really happy with how things have worked out this year; I think it is definitely a new role for me in leading the defense,” said Bannantine,  a 5’9 native of Baltimore, Md., who has been a second-team All-Ivy performer in her first two seasons with the Tigers.

“We had a senior captain last year and I had to change around some things. It has taken a while. I have the full support of my teammates and they trust me to lead them.”

With a number of younger players rising to the challenge when called on, the Tigers have developed a special trust level.

“I think we have a lot of kids who can come in and step up,” said Bannantine.

“The younger kids have been huge this year. For them to be able to have that level of maturity, to be able to play through that and pick each other up. I think it is just a really special team this year. It is like nothing I have ever played with before, it is awesome.”

While Princeton head coach Chris Sailer would have liked to see her team play sharper against Columbia, she was thrilled with the end result.

“I am really proud and happy of this team’s second straight Ivy crown; it is a huge accomplishment,” asserted Sailer, whose team won the 2014 Ivy regular season title and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tourney.

“It is something we work for all year. Columbia is a much improved team. To come through and pull out a win like that is important at this time of the year. We are hoping to finish strongly on Saturday against Brown. We are excited to host the Ivy tournament for a second straight year at the Class of ‘52 Stadium.”

In Sailer’s view, Bannantine has become a vitally important cog in the Tiger defense.

“She is such a steady presence for us at the defensive end,” said Sailer. “She has been making big plays for us since she was a freshman but it is her voice on the field this year that is so important. She organizes and directs the defense, it is like having another coach in the field.”

With new faces all over the field, Sailer believes that the championship campaign is a testament to the depth and character in the program.

“We graduated a lot of seniors last year and we had some kids in and out with injuries,” said Sailer.

“We have been able to pull that out and it has been great. We have had so many kids this year get significant playing time for the first time in their careers. There is a lot of parity in this league so to be able to get the title with young kids in the lineup and really just two seniors (Erin Slifer and Erin McMunn) in the starting lineup, I think that says a lot for the team.”

With No. 13 Princeton wrapping up regular season play by hosting Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) this Saturday, Sailer is looking for her team to play even better.

“I think you learn from this, you just constantly have to go out and give your best effort every day,” said Sailer, who got four goals apiece from Slifer and sophomore Olivia Hompe against Columbia “You can’t take a day off from the pursuit of excellence.”

In Bannantine’s view, the Tigers are ready to give their best effort as they head into postseason play. “Every game you have to come out like it is an Ivy championship, which it pretty much is,” said Bannantine.

“We have to come out hard and play our game first but be able to evolve throughout the game as well and change up our looks. I think that was a little disconnect today but we have to approach everyone like it is a Penn or a Maryland and pull out the win.”

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kip Orban beamed as he signed autographs for a group of young fans last Friday evening after the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team defeated Harvard 12-11.

Senior star midfielder Orban was in no hurry to leave Class of 1952 Stadium, relishing every moment of a special night as he and his classmates were honored before the game in the program’s annual Senior Day ceremony.

“I feel like it was just yesterday we were making the tunnel for the seniors when I was a freshmen,” said Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“It just makes you reflect on how fast it goes and how much of a privilege it has been, being here the last four years. I have enjoyed and loved every moment of it. There is no better feeling than coming out in front of a big crowd with your family and your friends all there. It is really emotional.”

Riding that emotional wave, Princeton jumped out to a 6-1 lead midway through the second quarter. “The energy coming out at the beginning was great,” said Orban, who scored two goals during that stretch.

“Our backup goalie Matt O’Connor had an awesome pregame speech, it got us all going. The guys all really understood the severity of this game, winning it was crucial for us to advance and hopefully host the Ivy League tournament, which is what we want to do.”

After building a 12-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers had to hold on for dear life as Harvard scored four straight goals to turn the game into a nail-biter. With sophomore star Zach Currier making some clutch hustle plays in the waning moments, the Tigers pulled out the win, improving to 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy and drawing raucous cheers from the 2,204 on hand at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In Orban’s view, Princeton’s ability to secure the victory was a testament to the team’s fighting spirit.

“I think it speaks volumes about the character of the guys in our locker room, it’s been a long year trying to instill this gritty character in these guys,” said Orban.

“I love every one of my teammates. They have done an awesome job of digging down deep when it is tough and getting that extra ground ball, getting that clear and just working real hard when it matters. We have also been on the losing side so it was great to be on the winning side today.”

Having been mired in a three-game losing streak earlier this month, the victory was the second straight for a Princeton team looking to peak for the postseason.

“We just had to minimize our mistakes, we haven’t played a perfect game yet this year,” said Orban.

“We had fewer turnovers and we are learning from our mistakes. That goes back to the coaching staff doing an awesome job, doing an unbelievable job with the scout on defense, Coach (Dylan) Sheridan is killing it; coach (Matt) Madalon is always coming up with new ways to attack the cage. The leadership from the top down is really helping us progress and learn from our mistakes.”

As sole team captain, Orban has assumed a major leadership role this season for the Tigers.

“It has been an awesome experience, a wonderful experience,” asserted Orban.

“It has been made really easy with the help of my fellow seniors and even juniors, the leadership on this team is just unbelievable, they have made it a dream. It doesn’t feel like I am a sole captain. It is a good brotherhood from the top down. It has been an awesome year to be around the guys and have it unfold the way it has.”

Orban enjoyed an awesome moment in the second half as his third goal of the evening gave him 36 for the season, tying him with legendary Josh Sims ’00 for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season.

“I didn’t know, I was surprised; it was unbelievable,” said Orban, who now has 92 goals in his Princeton career.

“I grew up watching Princeton lacrosse and all those big names, it is a dream come true for me to be able to come here. I am happy to tie a name like that.”

Orban is happy with how his final campaign is playing out. “My teammates have done an awesome job, the systems on the offense have just been great,” said Orban.

“Ultimately we find ourselves in spots to finish. I think it goes back to a line my dad said, just don’t knock. That mentality, don’t wait for permission. I think that mentality has been helpful I just worked really hard in the offseason. All summer I was hitting the wall and just shooting. I think putting in that extra work has paid off and I am happy it is going as well as it has.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was happy to see his seniors rewarded Friday for the work they have put in over the last four years.

“They have come such a long way, I said to them earlier in the week, we have lived a life together,” said Bates, who is in his sixth year guiding the Tigers.

“It goes fast but we have had so many experiences over the course of four years; I am really proud of them, they have held this team together,” said Bates.

“We have had adversity this year and you know what, they haven’t blinked. They haven’t got too high or too low and it has been good, consistent leadership. I think they have really served us well. It is different guys. You have guys who are playing a ton of minutes and you have some guys who are not playing at all that are still  contributing equally as much.”

The Tigers started on a high, reeling off three unanswered goals in the first 11 minutes of the contest.

“We knew we were going to be ready to play, there was no doubt,” said Bates. “Starting Monday morning, you could feel some excitement. We know what is at stake. It is Harvard, it is obviously a rival. We were able to move the ball a little bit. We drew some slides and nobody got selfish. That is when we are good offensively, the ball moves and guys capitalize.”

In Bates’ view, it was defense that saved the day down the stretch of the game.

“I just thought our defense played really well in the half-field,” said Bates. “Coach Sheridan did a really wonderful job with those guys. The opportunities that we gave up were junk ones on the crease and some transition ones. That is a pretty  solid offense and defensively I thought we grew up and took the next step today.”

Freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell took a step forward, making a career-high 15 saves in the win over the Crimson.

“He got the player of the game,” said Bates of Blaisdell, who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“We talked earlier in the week, this is why we played him for a game like this. The team has confidence in him and he rose to the challenge. He settled in, it was a good game.”

The rise of Orban and classmate Mike MacDonald up the statistical ranks in Tiger history was another good aspect of the game. While Orban tied Sims’ single-season goals mark for a midfielder, MacDonald’s two goals and four assists in the win gave him 40 goals and 26 assists on the year as he became the first player in program history to tally at least 40 goals and 20 assists in a season.

“I had tears in my eyes for those two, to be rewarded in a program with this kind of history and to be at the top of the record book,” said Bates.

“Hopefully Kip gets one more. He had broad shoulders and he has just had such a great year as a leader. As a player, to put in that amount, it has been done only one other time. Mikey is doing something that has never been done. That is rare company and that is a credit to him and how hard he has worked to come back and the season he is having. I am really proud of those two.”

The 14th-ranked Tigers wrap up the regular season with a game at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. A loss to Cornell would put the tournament in Ithaca only if Dartmouth beats Brown; otherwise, it would be in Providence, R.I. with wins by Cornell and Brown.

“We are right where we want to be,” said Bates. “It is all on the line. It will be an easy week to be excited. We are playing for an Ivy League championship which has been our goal all year. We do it a day at a time and that has served us well so Saturday can’t come soon enough.”

Earning the home field advantage for the league tourney, slated to take place on May 1 and 3, would be a nice bonus.

“That is gravy certainly, it is always nicer to play at home,” said Bates. “Today was a phenomenal environment, we knew it would be and we talked about it. Our guys earned the reward of having this kind of crowd and this kind of win so it is a great day.”

Orban, for his part, would dearly love to have some more games at Class of 52 Stadium.

“It would be amazing, there is nothing better than being at home with the fans and the crowd we love and who love us,” said Orban.

“We are so privileged to have them come out here. This atmosphere is unbelievable, you felt it today. It was a good buzz in the place. It was palpable, you could feel the energy. It would be great to host here but no matter where we go, we will bring it.”

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick was disappointed to see her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team come to an end with a loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But shortly after that chapter of her hoops life ended, Dietrick learned that her basketball story was far from over.

Within 24 hours after the loss to the Terps, the star guard learned that she might have a shot to play at the professional level with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

“I didn’t realize it was an option until the day after the Maryland game,” said Dietrick, a 5’10 native of Wellesley, Mass. who had a job offer pending from Holborn, a reinsurance brokerage firm.

“The teams had been watching me, I found out later. An article came out projecting that I could be drafted.”

Taking a week off to recharge and focus on finishing her senior thesis on Chaucer, Dietrick returned to the gym to train for her shot at the pros.

“I started doing workouts with my teammates, small group workouts with guards,” said Dietrick, who also took part in the annual State Farm College 3-point Shooting Championships at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. in late March. “I was also working with the coaches and hitting the weight room.”

While Dietrick ended up not being selected in the three-round WNBA draft last Thursday, she learned that evening that the Washington Mystics were interested in her services.

“The Mystics called during the draft when they were about to make their last pick, Mike Thibault (Washington’s head coach/general manager) called Courtney (Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart) and said they were drafting a guard from Europe to secure her rights but that they wanted me,” said Dietrick. “I was so excited, I didn’t know what to think.”

Dietrick later signed a contract to go to the training camp with Washington and will be reporting to the team in mid-May.

“I didn’t expect to be drafted; I looked at it that way so I wouldn’t be disappointed,” said Dietrick. “Being at a training camp was my goal, I wanted to get to show my basketball ability and see what happens.

In reflecting on her senior year at Princeton, Dietrick is still amazed at what happened this winter as the Tigers captured national attention with their perfect regular season and a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

“I still can’t believe that we went 30-0 in the regular season and how historic and monumental that was,” said Dietrick.

“When I imagined my senior year, I was just thinking about what we wanted to do. It was unbelievable.”

Dietrick produced a remarkable senior year, averaging career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) as she helped the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. She was also named as an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection. She ended her Princeton career ranked 11th on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list (1,233) and fourth in assists (346). Dietrick shot a career-best 48.6 percent from the floor this winter and her 157 assists this year were a program record.

While Dietrick savors the individual accolades that came her way, she notes that her success was the product of a group effort and a lot of training.

“I think being voted unanimous Ivy Player of the Year was special; Niveen (Rasheed) had done it and I idolized her as a player,” said Dietrick, referring to former Tiger star Rasheed, a 2013 Princeton alum.

“It showed respect from the league and we have some very good coaches. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, they carried me when I wasn’t playing well and they supported me when I was having a good game. I think it was just having confidence in my teammates and the coaches having confidence in me doing a lot of things on the court. I worked pretty hard in the offseason and put in extra work and reps on things that I needed to improve.”

True to form, Dietrick will be working hard to make the most of her opportunity to extend her basketball life, hitting the grindstone as the Mystics’ training camp starts on May 17 at the Verizon Center in Washington and runs through May 29 with three preseason games on the schedule.

“I’ll lift three times a week and do up to two workouts a day with my teammates and coaches,” said Dietrick, who has only one exam pending at Princeton and will be able to graduate with her class.

Dietrick is confident she can lift her game to a pro level. “I just want to play hard and make smart decisions with the ball,” said Dietrick.

“I want to push the pace and put the ball in the basket. The coach said to just do what you do, there is no need to reinvent your game.”