January 29, 2014
THE BOURKE IDENTITY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Michael Bourke passes the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior guard Bourke scored a game-high 22 points to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 71-39. Hun, which has won three of its last four games to improve to 6-8, hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THE BOURKE IDENTITY: Hun School boys’ basketball player Michael Bourke passes the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior guard Bourke scored a game-high 22 points to help Hun defeat the Princeton Day School 71-39. Hun, which has won three of its last four games to improve to 6-8, hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Michael Bourke and his teammates on the Hun School boys’ basketball team didn’t waste any time asserting their dominance over Princeton Day School last Thursday in the meeting of cross-town rivals.

With senior guard Bourke pouring in 15 points and classmate Eric Williams chipping in nine on three 3-pointers, Hun jumped out to a 29-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“As a team we came out really strong; Eric and I both came out strong,” said Bourke.

“We haven’t played in a while so coming out here and getting a jump on them was really good for us.”

For Bourke, nailing a trio of three-pointers as part of his 15-point outburst felt good.

“I practice a lot so hopefully it pays off and it did tonight,” said Bourke. “I have had a half like that before; the last time we played Trenton Catholic, I had 18 in the first half.”

Hun enjoyed the rest of the night as it pulled away to a 71-39 win over the Panthers.

In assessing the victory, Bourke acknowledged that the Raiders need to play a more complete brand of hoops.

“I think our defense lacked a little bit; that was one thing that coach talked to us about after the game,” said Bourke, who ended the evening with a game-high 22 points. “A key for us is to keep the defensive mentality up the whole game.”

In Bourke’s view, Hun’s recent come-from-behind win over the Hill School (Pa.) could turn out to be a key moment for the squad.

“We started off really slow in that game and to come back to win was a big momentum boost for us,” said Bourke, reflecting on the January 11 game which saw Hun overcome a 17-5 first quarter deficit to pull out a 51-50 thriller. “After that, we knew we could beat anybody.”

With Hun having gone 3-1 in their last four games, Bourke believes the squad is coming on strong.

“I think now that we have Remi back, we are playing really well as a team,” said Bourke, referring to senior forward Remi Janicot who was sidelined due to a concussion. “Everyone is buying into the defensive mindset. We should be really good from here.”

Bourke has worked hard to be really good for the Raiders. “Over the summer, I was playing AAU and working on my ball-handling a lot,” said the 6’2, 155-pound Bourke.

“I am trying to be more of a point guard than a two guard. My size has really helped me a lot. It creates mismatches. I have been labeled as a shooter ever since I was young. It is not a bad thing growing up so I just keep getting shots up in the gym and working on my overall game.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone appreciates Bourke’s overall contribution to the Raiders.

“Michael gives us a lot in his ability to score the ball, his ability to pass the ball as well as his ability to get deflections and steals on the other end,” said Stone. “He is certainly a competitor and he means a lot to this team.”

Sharpshooting guard Williams is starting to mean more and more to Hun. “Eric is just continuing to get better all of the time and the more experience he gets is really helpful and beneficial to him,” said Stone.

“He was 5-of-6 from 3 today so he is really shooting the ball really well. It wasn’t a fluke; he is more than capable. He is a very good player.”

In Stone’s view, the Raiders are developing into a very good team. “We have made a lot of great strides; this team has made a lot of improvements,” said Stone, whose team is now 6-8.

“We still have some work to do but we have improved and that is the goal of any season that you keep improving as you go along. Our defense has come a long way since the beginning of the year. I think we are just jelling a little better; the chemistry is better and sometimes that just takes time. We are in the latter part of the season and that helps because we are more familiar with each other. We know what our strengths are.”

Like Bourke, Stone views the victory over Hill as a major stride forward. “That was a great win for us,” asserted Stone.

“It showed how much these guys can compete. There is no question that was a big win for us, especially being in the league and against a really good team. I definitely think that gave us some momentum.”

With Hun having made a great run last winter to win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament, Stone believes the team can have a big postseason.

“We are not there yet but we are just getting started,” said Stone, whose team hosts Lawrenceville on January 30, Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa) on February 1, and the Solebury School (Pa.) on February 3. “I think we have yet to play our best basketball, that’s for sure.”

Bourke, for his part, is confident that Hun’s best basketball is ahead of it. “As long as we dig in defensively which we have been doing, I think we should be fine and have a great run in the MAPL tournament,” said Bourke. “Hopefully, we can go farther in the state tournament.”

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls basketball player Janelle Mullen dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Mullen scored 10 points to help Hun beat North Brunswick 53-35 as the Raiders posted their third straight win in rebounding from a two-game slide. Hun, which improved to 7-6 with the victory, plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOUNCING BACK: Hun School girls basketball player Janelle Mullen dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Mullen scored 10 points to help Hun beat North Brunswick 53-35 as the Raiders posted their third straight win in rebounding from a two-game slide. Hun, which improved to 7-6 with the victory, plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup and his players on the Hun School girls’ basketball team have gotten a lesson in rolling with the punches this winter.

When senior star and dominant center Johnnah Johnson was sidelined in January, Hun head coach Holup was forced to reshuffle his lineup and his players had to adjust accordingly.

“We are still learning; it is tough without Johnnah who is a going to be a solid D-I player,” said Holup of Johnson, who has committed to play at Robert Morris and is out indefinitely.

“People are playing more minutes than they might have and they are getting thrown into the fire. People are taking different roles and everyone has stepped up.”

After suffering some losses right after Johnson’s injury, the Raiders have been stepping up collectively, having won three straight games over the last week, topping Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 57-22 on January 18, defeating Pingry 46-20 last Thursday, and then topping North Brunswick 53-35 on Saturday.

Holup pointed to the win over Pingry as an example of the team’s fortitude. “It was a good win; we were pretty sluggish because we didn’t have school or practice for two days,” said Holup, noting that Hun was closed last Tuesday and Wednesday due to the snowstorm that hit the area.

“It was a competitive game in the first half and then we came alive in the second half. We were not shooting well so it was good to see our defense do a really good job.”

The Raiders built on that performance with their win over North Brunswick.

“We lost to North Brunswick last year at their place; it was a very physical game,” said Holup who got 15 points from Erica Brown and 10 points from Clare Moloney in the win which lifted Hun to 7-6.

“It was a very physical game on Saturday. We were expecting to be physical and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. They are a Group IV team and they are tough. We were shooting much better than Thursday. Defensively we did a terrific job. We held them to 11 points in the first half. We hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored 22 points.”

Freshman Moloney has been doing a fine job in replacing Johnson at center. “Moloney has been coming into her own,” said Holup.

“She is getting more minutes and is getting more confident. Her teammates are getting more confident in her. She is only a freshman so we don’t want to put too much pressure on her.”

Senior star Brown, for her part, has been putting pressure on Hun’s foes all over the court.

“Brown has been relentless at both ends of the floor,” asserted Holup. “She is exhausted sometimes when we call timeouts because she is playing so hard. We are putting her on the opposing team’s best player. She can defend guards or forwards. She is playing bigger than she is and she has been doing a good job with that.”

Holup has been trying to get his players to look at the big picture. “I have been emphasizing three things with them,” noted Holup.

“I tell them they have to trust each other, they have to have confidence in themselves and their teammates, and they need to leave their egos outside the court. Once they are on the court, they have to play together.”

The Raiders appear to be responding to that message. “The girls have shown growth,” said Holup, whose team plays at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on January 31 before hosting Padua (Del.) on February 1.

“We still have enough talent to be really good. We are not going to be a pushover for anybody.”

January 22, 2014
OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sean Wilkinson is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Growing up in Zimbabwe and establishing himself as one of the top junior squash players in the country, Wilkinson left Africa for the United States as a teenager to attend the St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

After struggling to adjust, Wilkinson enjoyed a fine high school career and headed to Bates College where he starred for the men’s squash team. As a senior, he served as a de facto coach when the program was undergoing a leadership transition.

Deciding to go into coaching upon graduation, he took a job as a teaching pro at a squash club in Milan, Italy, despite not knowing anyone in the country or one word of Italian.

He then returned to the U. S. to serve as an assistant coach at Brown and then headed to Drexel to help that school start an intercollegiate squash program.

Last spring, Wilkinson took on his greatest challenge yet as he was named to succeed legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team.

“I applied at the end of April, I was hoping to get an interview,” said Wilkinson.

“When I got the interview, it went well. I was talking about something I love and have a passion for. I was offered the job five days after my interview. It was an exciting time.”

Wilkinson, 28, is excited to have the support of his predecessor Callahan, a former Princeton squash star who was the head coach at his alma mater for 32 years and guided the Tigers to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles, and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012).

“Bob is a legend, he is such a wonderful person,” said Wilkinson. “There is always going to be pressure in a job with a team that has been so successful over the years. Bob believes in what I am trying to do. This is going to take time, I am rebuilding in my own style.”

When Wilkinson first came to the U.S., he did have a bit of a rough time. “I got the opportunity to come to St Paul’s School and I took the opportunity with both hands,” said Wilkinson.

“I think it was hard for a number of reasons. I was only 14 when I came over. The education system is very different here and I struggled. There was turmoil at home and that didn’t help.”

Eventually, Wilkinson started to feel at home in New England. “I settled down and made some good friends,” said Wilkinson.

“I had a good support network. I didn’t play squash as much. I had to put a lot of time into my education. We did finish fourth or fifth in New England.”

Once at Bates, Wilkinson was able to put more into his squash. “I dove all in again; I was lucky because we had a good team and my best friends were on the team,” said Wilkinson.

“In my senior year, we were No. 6 in the country at one point. We had a strong team. We won our division at nationals; it was the highest finish for Bates. We were athletic and competitive. We were the underdogs but everything came together.”

Wilkinson had a special role in that success as he became a de facto coach of the program.

“My senior year was my third year as captain and the coach that season was in charge of travel, hotels and finances but he wasn’t a squash guy,” said Wilkinson, who was a first-team New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) selection and earned the Bates College Sportsmanship Award.

“I took the lead; I helped coach both teams. I would organize the practice plan on a day-to-day basis. The other players knew me and trusted me; they allowed me to get on with it.”

It didn’t take long for Wilkinson to realize that he found his calling in coaching. “It was a very easy transition,” said Wilkinson.

“I got into it by accident. Everyone knew who I was and they trusted me. I really enjoyed it and I decided I wanted to coach full time.”

Getting to know Peter Nicol, a world No. 1 squash player, helped send Wilkinson off  to an adventure to Europe.

“We met at a squash camp where I was a junior coach,” said Wilkinson, referring to Nicol, a Scot who won one World Open title, two British Open crowns, and four Commonwealth Games Gold Medals and is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding international squash players of his time.

“We got on really well. He asked me my plans and I said coaching. He set me up in a coaching gig in Milan, Italy. It was completely out of left field. I had no desire to leave the States. I had been here seven years but when someone like that gives you that kind of opportunity, you have to take it. I didn’t speak a word of Italian. I hadn’t even spoken to my boss at the club.”

True to character, Wilkinson made the most of the opportunity. “I arrived in August and fell in love with it; I was thrown in the deep end which I needed,” said Wilkinson.

“It was tough coaching someone in a different language. I was mainly giving lessons; usually 50 lessons a week for 30-minute sessions. It was a really good opportunity for me to develop my coaching. I learned what I wanted to do with the players technically.”

After two years in Italy, Wilkinson returned to the U.S. to get his start in college coaching.

“I came to Brown in 2010; Stuart leGassick was wonderful to me,” said Wilkinson.

“I knew I wanted to get back into college coaching. I put myself in enough positions to get a job like I have now. He really understood that. He let me do a lot of stuff and treated me as an equal.”

Getting to do a lot at Brown proved invaluable to Wilkinson for his next stop in the world of college squash.

“I got a call from John White; he as a former No 1 player in the world,” said Wilkinson.

“He asked me if I wanted to be involved in something special. Drexel was starting a squash program and he was the head coach and he wanted me to be his assistant. It was a unique opportunity to develop something new and learn from someone like John.”

Starting at square one with the Drexel program helped Wilkinson further hone his coaching skills.

“I started with the women’s team; on the first day of practice we had five people show up,” said Wilkinson.

“We were recruiting people to play off the street if we saw someone who looked athletic. I had to teach them the basics, how to hold the racket, the rules, and the shots. We were 1-14 in first year. After a year of recruiting, we were much better. The school really supported us; they knew the program could bring the school attention. The women’s team is up to the top 16 and the men’s team is also in the top 16.”

Now that Wilkinson has turned his attention to Princeton, he believes his approach can make the Tigers better.

“Bob and Neil [longtime assistant coach Neil Pomphrey] have a winning formula, the results show that,” said Wilkinson.

“My coaching style is different, I am more hands on with the guys. I get on the court with them. We have intense practices on specific things that I think are important. The big structure remains, like the time of practice and the amount of practice. I am changing little things.”

Wilkinson likes the response he has gotten from his new charges. “So far, so good; they are excited to have me here,” said Wilkinson.

“They have bought into what Neil and I are trying to get them to do. This is the toughest year in the league; anyone from 1 to 9,10, or 11 has a shot to win if they play well. We are going to be the underdogs.”

While Princeton opened the season with a tough 7-2 loss at Franklin and Marshall, the Tigers appear to be on the right track with wins in three of their next five matches before the exam hiatus.

“I think they have progressed from an overall standpoint,” asserted Wilkinson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Penn on January 27.

“The guys are improving, they are fitter and more agile. They struggled against F&M. We need to improve from a competitive standpoint, we can’t be afraid of the task at hand.”

With his history of taking chances, Wilkinson is not afraid of the challenge he faces at Princeton.

“It is incredible; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be 28 years old and sitting where I am,” said Wilkinson.

“I am very fortunate and lucky. I have a lot of energy. I am ready to work hard to get us where we want to be.”

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH: Lior Levy in action this winter for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team. Former Princeton High star Levy has made five appearances off the bench so far this season for the Diplomats as he learns the ropes of college hoops.(Photo Courtesy of F & M’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH: Lior Levy in action this winter for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team. Former Princeton High star Levy has made five appearances off the bench so far this season for the Diplomats as he learns the ropes of college hoops. (Photo Courtesy of F & M’s Office of Athletic Communications)

It was a night to remember for the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team as it hosted Dickinson last February in the regular season finale.

F&M ended up routing up the Red Devils 64-34 to earn the first seed in the Centennial Conference tournament, much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd of 3,127 on hand at the Mayser Center.

For one of the fans in the gym that night, Lior Levy, the experience changed the course of his life.

“I went to see the last regular season game last year when they won the league,” recalled Levy, a former star for the Princeton High boys’ hoops team. “There was a huge crowd and that turned me on to the program.”

Having considered taking a post-graduate year and looking at some other Division III programs, Levy decided to come to F&M and play for the Diplomats.

This past November, the 6’7, 205-pound Levy made his debut at the Mayser Center as he got on the court for the waning moments of an F&M win over Johns Hopkins.

“It was pretty cool,” said Levy, reflecting on his debut. “I have been dreaming of playing college basketball all of my life.”

While things haven’t been dreamlike this winter for Levy as he has been paying his dues as a reserve, he understands the process.

“Everything is a lot more intense, the coaches expect more of you,” said Levy, whose father, Howard, starred at Princeton and is the head coach for the Mercer County Community College men’s hoops program.

“It is a lot tougher physically. Instead of a 6’2 person guarding me, I have 6’8 kids guarding me. Last year, I was one of the main players so coming off of that is a little tough.”

Levy is enjoying soaking in the wisdom of legendary F&M coach Glenn Robinson, the most victorious coach in NCAA Division III history with 863 wins.

“Coach Robinson has been around so long, he has got a system and he is a perfectionist,” said Levy. “He is a tough coach but when he is happy you know it.”

The team’s more experienced players have been helping Levy pick up Robinson’s system.

“We have a bunch of post players and they are good kids and they have taken me under their wing,” said Levy, who was exposed to some good players last summer when he helped the U.S. Junior Boys (ages 17-18) squad win the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

“The most dominant players on the team are in the post so I have been watching them carefully and picking things up from them.”

As the winter has gone on, Levy has been developing a comfort level. “I know what I need to work on to get better,” said Levy, who has made five appearances so far this season for the Diplomats and has a rebound and an assist in eight minutes of action.

“The coaches are excited about me, they have been giving me good feedback. Over the past few weeks, I have been feeling a lot more comfortable. During the winter break practices, I was playing well. I am getting more confident in my game.”

With the Diplomats having won eight of their last nine games to improve to 10-5 overall, Levy and his teammates are looking forward to some big games down the stretch.

“Everyone is confident,” said Levy. “We are still working hard because we don’t want to get overconfident.”

Levy, for his part, is dedicated to putting in the work to make himself a bigger contributor for F&M.

“The biggest thing for me is fighting for position in the post,” said Levy. “I need to move my feet better on defense. I need to get up and down the court quicker and guard better. I need to continue to lift and get stronger and faster. I have the basketball skills that are good enough to play.”

DOUBLE DUTY: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Matt Purdy powers to a win in the 200 freestyle last week as PHS topped Hightstown 105-65 on January 14. Senior star Purdy, who doubles as a star attackman for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team in the spring, also won the 100 breaststroke in the meet as the Little Tigers improved to 8-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it swims at Nottingham on January 23 and then takes part in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 - February 1.                                                      (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOUBLE DUTY: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Matt Purdy powers to a win in the 200 freestyle last week as PHS topped Hightstown 105-65 on January 14. Senior star Purdy, who doubles as a star attackman for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team in the spring, also won the 100 breaststroke in the meet as the Little Tigers improved to 8-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it swims at Nottingham on January 23 and then takes part in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 – February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt Purdy specializes in sprint events but he was happy to branch out as the  Princeton High boys’ swimming team hosted Hightstown last week.

Earning wins in the 200 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke, senior star Purdy helped PHS post a 105-65 win over the Rams.

“I am a sprinter, swimming more in the 50 and the 100 freestyle,” said Purdy, whose heroics helped PHS improve to 8-0.

“I think that one thing coach [Greg Hand] has emphasized is to focus on all different lengths of races to build overall endurance. The initial game plan was to build through the first 100 and then the biggest thing was to maintain in the third 50 and then give whatever you have left in the fourth 50. For the breaststroke race here, it was really just keeping the elbows high and maintaining a good solid stroke, even after doing the 50 free on the 200 relay.”

Purdy’s versatility, fitness, and knack for mastering technique has allowed him to accomplish a rare athletic double as he also stars for the PHS boys’ lacrosse team.

“I bet that there are very few swimmers and lacrosse players,” said Purdy, a high-scoring attackman for the Little Tigers in the spring who keeps up his stick skills during swimming season by playing in a winter lax league and teaching at a youth clinic.

“I would say going into lacrosse season every year, I have much better endurance than most people. Even though it is not running-based, the overall swimming  anaerobic and aerobic exercise really helps me build my lungs and control my heart rate. With lacrosse, specifically in the fall where we do our captains practices, which I run, because of our cross of cardio and lifting, I build  a good sense of strength and and endurance going into the swimming season.”

Since Purdy is not a full-time swimmer, he has gravitated to the shorter events in the pool.

“True swimmers who swim all year long have much better endurance but for me with my overall athleticism and also strength with going to the weightroom, what works best for me is the sprinting,” said Purdy. “I have learned and trained my body to really give that hard emphasis of energy for that short 50 or 100 in a race.”

Purdy will be expending plenty of energy this fall as he heads off to Tufts University where he is hoping to compete in both swimming and lacrosse.

“I am technically recruited for swimming, for sprinting and freestyle,” said Purdy. “I have talked to the lacrosse coaches and they have guided me to use swimming. They know I want to be both a swimmer and a lacrosse player. I am going have to walk on for a spot on the lacrosse team because it is much more competitive. It is my dream to play both.”

Purdy liked the competitive fire that PHS showed when it beat previously undefeated Notre Dame 112-58 on January 10.

“We seldom have the chance to put a lineup together that can really show our talents so Notre Dame was a great meet just to show everyone how a meet is going to have to be run going forward,” said Purdy, who took second on both the 50 and 100 free in the win over the Irish.

“I would say that is a great foundation for what we have to do in sectionals, counties, and states. I think that meet, in particular, really set the tone for the overall atmosphere that we have to maintain for the rest of the year.”

Purdy and his fellow seniors have set the tone for the Little Tigers, as they have helped PHS win three straight county titles and advance to the state Public B final four each season, having won the state title in 2012.

“The great thing is that we have been very, very fortunate through our four years to really experience a winning team,” said Purdy, whose classmates include Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Scott MacKenzie, Matthew Tam, Eric Zhang, and Avery Soong.

“I think ever since freshman year, we have learned to maintain a positive attitude and demeanor, even in races and meets that may not be the highest of emphasis. Just from our experiences we really do know what it takes and I think with last year’s meet against Summit [an 87-83 loss in the state Public B semifinals] we know and have a bitter taste of what has to be done. It really does show that every millisecond does matter.”

PHS head coach Hand knows that Purdy will give whatever it takes to help PHS win.

“Matt is such an honest athlete, you always get best effort from him,” said Hand.

“He is constructively self critical; he doesn’t get on his own case. He works on his technique from video of himself and substantial video study this year of other great freestylers. When we swim a set that is asking him to give everything he has got, he always gives it.”

Hand certainly liked the effort he got from his squad in the win over Notre Dame.

“Our objectives were to get a high power point total for state seeding and to see what kind of energy we could create on the deck,” said Hand noting that PHS got good efforts in the win from such up and coming performers as junior Matt Shanahan, sophomore Steven Kratzer,  sophomore Alex Bank, sophomore Christian Chiang,  sophomore Dave Cohen, and a trio of freshmen,  Gabriel Bar-Cohen, Will Kinney, and Alex Petruso.

Sure we wanted to compete with Notre Dame; I want us to have this  sense that wherever we go, regardless of the opponent, we understand the importance of  creating the right atmosphere for competing. We succeeded on both of those. The meet was fast, so we have done whatever we could to be top seed in our section and who knows what will be coming out of the other sections.”

The Little Tigers will be looking to do their best at the upcoming county meet as the boys’ program goes for a fourth straight title.

“We pretty much know what our lineup is at this point,” said Hand. “We always want to make sure that the kids who have swum with us the longest and spend the most time in the water and who are most committed to training get to look at it and comment on it and talk about it and get comfortable with it. We want them to feel like it was their lineup and it is their job to do their best when counties come. Over the next couple of days we will nail that down and hopefully get everybody focused.”

Purdy, for his part, is confident that PHS will show plenty of focus when it counts the most.

“With the veteran sense we have now it is like how the great athletes have learned from being in playoff situations all the time,” said Purdy.

“They have learned what it takes to be champions and not just to say I made it to this level. All of our seniors, and every other grade, seldom do any talking. What does our talking is our swimming.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Taylor Chiang heads to victory in the 200 individual medley last week in a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14. Senior star Chiang also won the 100 breaststroke as PHS improved to 8-0. The Little Tigers are slated to swim at Nottingham on January 23 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 - February 1.                                (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Taylor Chiang heads to victory in the 200 individual medley last week in a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14. Senior star Chiang also won the 100 breaststroke as PHS improved to 8-0. The Little Tigers are slated to swim at Nottingham on January 23 before competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 30 – February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Greg Hand has been doing some mixing and matching this winter with his Princeton High girls’ swim squad.

“It is a team where we have done a lot of experimenting,” said longtime PHS head coach Hand.

“We are well aware that we never compete in a single gender format in our league so we are not used to what state meets are going to bring to us. We want to prepare for the challenges of that format but we also want to make sure that we have fought through the spacing because what we can do now we may not be able to do very effectively when there isn’t an intervening boys’ meet.”

So far, Hand has found the right formula as PHS has gotten off to an 8-0 start.

“We have balance across the middle lane but we also have substantial amount of support from the ‘B’ lane and often the ‘C’ lane in a number of events,” said Hand.

“We are getting good second relays this year. The sense of purpose is evident, the focus on the postseason and what we are trying to do is growing.”

In a 123-47 win over Hightstown on January 14, the Little Tigers showed good focus as their supporting cast got to shine.

“Tonight’s meet was really fun because we got to see all the kids who are normally training here and having them handle the meet themselves,” said Hand.

“We wanted our club kids, those kids who would have an opportunity to be training tonight because there are so many dual meets that training gets fouled up.”

It has been fun for Hand to see how some of his experienced swimmers have progressed.

“We have seen a lot of great stuff recently from all of the kids who are veteran PHS swimmers, kids like Crystal An, Hannah Ash, Jessica Bai,” said Hand.

“Taylor Chiang is swimming club and she is swimming a lot of high school this year as well. She has done a great job and has made a steady contribution here on deck. Lindsey Lim is having a terrific year, shedding time and really has a racing  mentality this year. Cara Persico had a personal record at Notre Dame and had good swims tonight. Charlotte Singer is coming on really well in the breaststroke and she swam the 500 today.”

The team’s big four of sophomore Madeleine Deardorff, sophomore Brianna Romaine, freshman Jamie Liu and senior Belinda Liu, have all been having terrific seasons.

“Among the four kids who are the fastest group on our team, which is Madeleine, Brianna, Jamie and Belinda, it is an interesting challenge to think about what is best for them and for the team,” said Hand.

“One of the fun exercises is to look at the eight individual events in the county and the dual meet events and just look at the different ways to divide the kids.”

For Hand, dealing with the challenge of dividing up his swimmers makes him realize his good fortune in having so much talent at his disposal.

“We are just lucky that we are that the kids are so heavily into all of this,” added Hand.

“We are very fortunate to have had, for as many years as we have, the quality of swimmers we have had.”

PHS will be striving to produce even higher quality swims as it competes in the county championships from January 30 – February 1, looking for a second straight team title.

“It has been a terrific phase, the girls have power pointed a little

bit higher than last year already,” said Hand, whose team also has a regular season meet at Nottingham on January 23.

“We are building and having some new kids and having to search for the ways to make up for the really fine swimmers who graduated.  The girls are doing well, they are up a notch from where they have been.”

FOUR SCORE: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action last season. Last Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored all four goals as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-1 to earn its first win of the season. The Little Tigers, now 1-7, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22 before hosting a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FOUR SCORE: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action last season. Last Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored all four goals as PHS topped Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-1 to earn its first win of the season. The Little Tigers, now 1-7, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22 before hosting a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christian Herzog had the sense that his Princeton High girls’ hockey team was ready to take care of business as it played at Academy of New Church (Pa.) last Wednesday.

“I heard some chatter on the back of the bus with some of the players saying ‘girls we need to be serious with this,’” said Herzog, whose team entered the game with a 0-6 record.

“We had a close game with them last year, we pulled the goalie and they got a late goal.”

ANC, though, got an early goal to take a 1-0 lead on Wednesday, leaving Herzog with a bad feeling.

“When we fell behind, I was a little concerned,” said Herzog. “I was thinking are we going to let another one slip away.”

Instead, the sister act of Lucy and Maggie Herring triggered the offense as PHS seized the momentum and pulled away to a 4-1 victory. Junior star Lucy scored all four Little Tiger goals while freshman standout Maggie assisted on three of the tallies.

“The Herrings are really good about looking for each other,” said Herzog. “Lucy played incredibly; she has the skill set. I have been telling her to break more towards the center of the ice and she did that against ANC.”

The Herrings helped execute Herzog’s offensive strategy. “We were keeping it deep in their zone,” said Herzog, who got two assists from junior forward Isabelle Sohn in the victory with junior defenseman Julia DiTosto adding another helper as PHS outshot ANC 48-8.

“Once the Herrings realized one could go behind the net and they could play keep away, we really clicked.”

Herzog noted that sophomore forward Sophia Corrodi has been helping the PHS offense click.

“Corrodi is a figure skater and she is playing for Nassau,” said Herzog “She is getting the game, all credit to her. She is playing every other shift. While other girls are sucking wind, she is ready to go.”

Sophomore goalie Callie Urisko was ready for the challenge last Wednesday.

“Urisko played well, she has been coming out and playing the puck more,” said Herzog.

With PHS having not won a game against a varsity foe since December, 2011, the Little Tigers let loose with an outpouring of emotion when it was all over.

“After the game, the girls celebrated like they won the Stanley Cup,” said Herzog. “The gloves and sticks were flying.”

While PHS fell 9-1 to Summit on Friday, Herzog feels the breakthrough win will be a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.

“That’s the hope,” said Herzog. “The girls were so excited. We had a little bit of a letdown against Summit.”

Herzog believes his team will be up for another big effort when the Little Tigers host a rematch with ANC on January 24 at Baker Rink on the campus of Princeton University.

“We have senior night on Friday,” said Herzog, whose team also has a road game at the Hill School (Pa.) on January 22. “The girls are hoping for our biggest crowd in years.”

TOUGH GOING: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Callahan O’Meara looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior co-captain O’Meara scored a team-high 12 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 62-47 at WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 2-7 with the defeat, play at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH GOING: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Callahan O’Meara looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior co-captain O’Meara scored a team-high 12 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 62-47 at WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 2-7 with the defeat, play at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked all too familiar for Princeton High boys’ basketball head coach Mark Shelley as the clock ticked toward zero last Friday night at WW/P-N.

Playing its sixth game in nine days, his squad kept it close for the first 20 minutes but wilted down the stretch in a 62-47 loss to the Knights.

Once again, it was the mental errors and lack of execution that kept the Little Tigers from earning a victory, according to Shelley.

“We didn’t follow our scouting report well enough,” said Shelley, now in his second year at the helm of the program.

“Their kid who scored 24 points (Juwan Harrison), we talked about how he always goes right and we weren’t funneling him to his left so you know those little things that we call mental errors, we’re not good enough to beat people if we make too many mistakes like that.”

Harrison penetrated into the teeth of the Little Tigers defense all evening, converting on nine field goals with every bucket coming in the paint.

“One person not being in the right defensive alignment breaks down everything and we’re not talented enough to do that so we must have a cohesive five player effort,” added Shelley, whose team dropped to 2-7 with the loss.

With starting point guard Paul Murray nursing a separated shoulder and backup Max Tarter still fighting sickness, junior point guard J.C. Silva was inserted into the starting lineup for a second straight game and continued to play well in an expanded role. Silva gave the Little Tigers an early boost, knocking down two three-pointers in the opening quarter and bringing defensive pressure as PHS battled to a two-point halftime deficit, trailing 25-23 at the break.

“He’s grown up a lot,” said Shelley of Silva who scored a season-high 11 points in a 69-55 win at Leap Academy last Wednesday. “He’s scoring better; we had not been getting many points from the point guard position so that was good, we need that.”

Harrison’s breakaway dunk midway through the third quarter had the WW/P-N student crowd in an uproar but the Little Tigers stayed under control and a Peter Mahotiere layup cut North’s lead to 33-31. But the Little Tigers seemed to run out of gas late in the period, particularly on the defensive end, as the Knights closed the quarter on a 10-2 run to extend their lead to 43-33 heading into the final stanza.

WW-PN carried the momentum into the fourth quarter and pulled away for the victory.

“We cooled off (offensively). I don’t think we ball-faked real well,” Shelley said. “We were trying to go short corner, mid-post and overload a side but a lot of times we weren’t patient enough and rushed a shot before we let the cutters come through. When we did reverse the ball, we got good looks.”

Senior forward Callahan O’Meara led PHS in scoring for the second straight contest, notching 12 points and hitting the defensive glass for the Little Tigers. Two days earlier, he led five PHS players in double figures with 17 points in the victory at Leap Academy, which snapped a six-game losing skid for the Little Tigers.

“I feel like we get in certain funks and stretches during the game where we’re not playing well and the other team is taking advantage of it,” said co-captain O’Meara. “It’s a lot of little things we aren’t doing right which all adds up in the end.”

O’Meara can often be seen vigorously communicating with his teammates on the court and his intensity was on display in the loss to the Knights.

“I took it upon myself to be someone who’s not afraid to lay into other kids on the team,” said O’Meara, who scored five points as PHS opened the week with a hard fought 54-47 home loss to WW/P-S on January 14. “I’m just trying to get everyone to work their hardest and give 100 percent every second they’re on the floor.”

Despite the 2-7 record, O’Meara believes PHS can still turn it around if it comes together and plays as a team at all times.

“We need to work on chemistry as a team on offense,” asserted O’Meara. “Most of the games have turned into one-on-one stuff and there’s no moving off the ball and there’s no setting screens off the ball so I think that’s what we need to emphasize the most on. I think we can make a push and definitely make a run; hopefully we’ll be able to qualify for the state playoffs.”

The Little Tigers must turn it around quickly with seven more games on the horizon over the next two weeks.

“My biggest job as a coach right now is one, fundamentals, correcting what we can correct, improving both individually and collectively, and the second issue is the mental approach,” said Shelley, whose team plays at Nottingham on January 23 and at Notre Dame on January 25 before hosting Hopewell Valley on January 28.

“After a while you lose a couple close games, games you feel like  you should have won and then their heads get down so our job is to work on the attitude and momentum, keeping their heads up.”

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RED LETTER DAY: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Sean Timmons moves the puck in recent action. Last Wednesday, Timmons chipped in a goal and two assists as PDS defeated Lawrenceville 6-3. It was the Panthers’ first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sean Timmons is the top sniper for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team but he has been misfiring since the calendar turned to January.

“It has been a while since I have scored,” said senior forward and team captain Timmons.

“Bert [PDS head coach Scott Bertoli] puts a lot of pressure on our top six forwards to put the puck into the net.”

With PDS mired in a two-game losing streak and hosting Lawrenceville last Wednesday, the Panthers knew that they had to put a lot of pucks in the net if they were going to get their first win over the Big Red since the 2000-01 season.

Timmons helped PDS put the pressure on Lawrenceville as he assisted on a Gabe Castagna goal that gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead and got the packed house at McGraw Rink roaring.

Early in the second period, Timmons helped set up a Kyle Weller goal as PDS extended its lead to 3-1. Minutes later, Timmons took matters into his own hands, flying down the ice and blasting a one-timer into the top corner of the net.

“I couldn’t have asked for better timing and a better chance,” said Timmons reflecting on his tally.

“I had the whole top of the net. My teammates have been giving me grief the past three weeks, saying I can’t hit the net. If I had missed the net, I would have skated off the ice.”

Instead, Timmons skated over to the jammed PDS student section and pounded the glass in celebration.

“We don’t play for ourselves, we play for the crest on our jersey,” said Timmons.

“They are our biggest supporters so we have to make it fun for them because we are playing for our school.”

Timmons’ tally turned out to be the game-winner as PDS pulled away to a sweet 6-3 triumph over the Big Red, improving to 7-3-1 on the season.

For Timmons and his teammates, it was critical to get that early lead over the Big Red.

“Before the game, Bert said that in the past two years, they had scored in the first five minutes of the game so we took that to heart and we knew that the first goal definitely had to be ours,” said Timmons, noting that PDS had tied Lawrenceville two seasons ago before losing by one goal last year on a tally in the waning seconds of the contest. “Once that first one went in for us, we weren’t letting up.”

Timmons acknowledged that last year’s loss to the Big Red provided further motivation for the Panthers.

“We are a totally different team from last year and we have got to play 100 percent different from what we did last year,” said Timmons.

“Everyone who was in the locker room that was on the team last year still had that in them. All the new guys were at the game or they saw it on YouTube. Everyone knew what had to be done and we had to play 100 percent to beat them.”

PDS helped ensure a different outcome as they blitzed Lawrenceville in the second period, outscoring the Big Red 4-1.

“We came out great but there was a little doubt, there were jitters going everywhere,” said Timmons.

“Going into the second period up 2-1, we said in the locker room that we know how to beat this team. We have to just keep going and everyone rallied for each other.”

For Timmons and his fellow veterans, there was the sense that PDS’s winless streak against Lawrenceville was finally going to end.

“We were talking yesterday and I said to Bert, the guys that have been here have played them twice already and we have tied them and lost to them so we better win this time,” said Timmons.

“It is destiny, you just knew it had to happen and Bert said ‘exactly right, it is your time.’ When the schedule comes out, everyone circles this game on the calendar. It is the biggest game of the year and it means so much to both schools. We are so honored to finally have the ‘W’ on our side.”

In the the view of PDS head coach Bertoli, the big win came down to his players staying in the moment.

“I think our approach was a little different this year,” said Bertoli. “We talked about not worrying about the result at the end of the game and not getting so caught up in the environment and the atmosphere. We are not supposed to win this game. The pressure isn’t on us, we are a small little day school that happens to have a pretty good hockey program. We were the better team last year and we didn’t win the game and I think it was because we got out of synch and we kept watching the scoreboard and we were down. I think it was huge for us to get the first goal and play in front.”

While the Panthers’ opportunistic finishing drew the applause on Wednesday, Bertoli credited some tough defensive work with paving the way to victory.

“Their top line is very, very good, the best line we are going to play against all year,” said Bertoli.

“I am proud of the way that Connor Fletcher, John Egner,  Lewie Blackburn, C.J. Young,  and Andrew Clayton played. Those five guys were given the tall order of shutting those guys down and they were great in the 5-on-5.”

Bertoli enjoyed his team’s great second period effort, which ended with the PDS students gleefully chanting “domination, domination.”

“I think part of that is having them getting frustrated,” said Bertoli, who got goals from Egner, Blackburn, and Fletcher in addition to the tallies by Timmons, Castagna and Weller with Clayton chipping in four assists.

“We made it hard on them and not everyone is willing to battle through and fight through adversity and we made it a point to make it hard on their top line. They unraveled a little bit and took penalties and our power play cashed in.”

Over the last 18 minutes of the contest, the Panthers weathered a storm in holding off a desperate Big Red squad.

“Third periods have kind of been our achilles heels of late,” said Bertoli, who got 30 saves from freshman goalie Logan Kramsky. “We knew they were going to come out and score a goal and make a push and we responded. I thought we did a good job of matching that.”

After surviving the third period, the Panthers players mobbed each other on the ice as the student fans roared their approval.

“You can tell how excited those guys are, it was fun,” said Bertoli. “For these guys, it was about enjoying the moment and playing the game the right way and being responsible defensively and we did that.”

In Bertoli’s view, the breakthrough against Lawrenceville should give the Panthers some extra momentum as they head down the home stretch of their schedule.

“We are a good hockey team when we have everyone in the lineup,” asserted Bertoli, whose team hosts LaSalle Prep (Pa.) on January 22 and Chatham High on January 24 before playing at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 27.

“We have been  missing some key pieces for a while now. It is the first time we have had everyone back for six weeks. If we play like this, we are going to have a successful year.”

Timmons, for his part, echoed Bertoli’s analysis. “Going forward, Bert said this is the best team we are going to play,” said Timmons. “If we play like that every game, the sky is the limit honestly.”

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KILLER BEES: Hun School boys’ hockey player Evan Barratt controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, freshman forward Barratt contributed three assists as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.). Barratt’s linemates and fellow freshmen, Jon Bendorf and Blake Brown, each scored two goals in the win with Brown getting the game-winner in the last minute of the contest. Hun, now 11-5, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshmen Jon Bendorf and Evan Barratt to feel at home as they joined the Hun School boys’ hockey team this winter.

“They welcomed us right away,” said Bendorf, referring to the squad’s veteran players.

“I knew a couple of kids before coming in and they introduced me and Evan to everyone else on the team and we just bonded right away.”

On the ice, Bendorf, Barratt, and fellow freshman Blake Brown have bonded as they were put together on the same line in the preseason.

“It has been a lot of fun going to the Hun School and playing with Jon and Blake,” said Barratt,

“We were clicking right away; it was awesome. We have definitely brought the scoring.”

Last Friday, the trio of freshmen certainly brought the scoring as Hun pulled out a 4-3 win over St. Joe’s (Pa.).

Brown scored Hun’s first goal as the Raiders tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period. In the waning moments of the period, Bendorf tallied two shorthanded goals, the second assisted by Barratt, as Hun took a 3-1 lead into the final period.

In the third, St. Joe’s rallied to knot the game at 3-3 but with less than a minute left in regulation, Bendorf found Brown in the crease and the latter banged home the feed with 50 seconds left to give the Raiders a dramatic victory.

In Barratt’s view, Brown’s second period tally changed the tone of the contest.

“That was a huge goal for us, we weren’t getting very much in the first period,” said Barratt. “He puts it in and all the momentum goes toward us.”

Bendorf helped Hun build on that momentum as he turned a late penalty kill into his personal showcase. He scored with 2:34 left in the period when he stole the puck from the St. Joe’s goalie and calmly maneuvered his way into the crease and dumped the puck into the empty net.

“I was trying to cut off the angle for the goalie to pass the puck and he ended up putting it right on my tape and I got it in the net,” recalled Bendorf.

On the second shorthanded goal 30 seconds later, Bendorf deftly buried a feed from Barratt.

“I just saw Jon going hard to the net and I was trying to make the d-men make a move first and just slide it over and he put it in,” said Barratt.

On the game-winning goal, Bendorf became the playmaker, setting up Brown in the crease.

“It was a great pass by Evan to find me over there and then I just saw Blake coming around the net,” said Bendorf.

“I tried to get it over there and I knew he was going to finish right when I got it over to him.”

In Bendorf’s view, the dramatic finish could be a turning point for the Raiders.

“We have had some tough times with the tougher opponents that we have played against so that was a big win,” said Bendorf. “Hopefully it sparks something and we can roll a couple of wins here.”

Hun head coach Ian McNally knew his team was in for a tough test against St. Joe’s as the squads had met over the holiday season in the semifinals of the Purple Puck tournament in Washington D.C. with the Raiders prevailing in a shootout.

“We are pretty evenly matched I think, both games were very physical and a little mean-spirited,” said McNally, whose team improved to 11-5 with the victory in the rematch.

“Both teams were referencing the last game throughout this game so there was a carryover. We expected that. We were missing a couple of kids at the Purple Puck and I think they were too so this was a better, faster hockey game.”

The Raiders produced one of their better stretches of the season when Bendorf scored the two shorthanded goals within a 30-second span.

“We were kind of frustrated because that was our third penalty in a row and just to have a momentum blitz like that was great,” said McNally. “That penalty kill obviously changed the whole game.”

Adding the trio of Bendorf, Barratt, and Brown has changed things for the Raiders.

“In week two we put those three together and we have tinkered here or there with other ones but those three are here for good,” said McNally.

“They just move the puck very well and they knew each other and have played together before. They all just went to an all-star game together for their bantam league.”

While the freshmen may have been the offensive stars of the win, McNally tipped his hat to senior goalie Devin Cheifetz and senior defenseman Brad Stern.

“I think Devin played really well today; I think his best two games so far have been these guys in the tournament and then here today,” asserted McNally.

“It was good for him to show up in a big way. We have all of this dynamic offensive talent; it is going to come in spurts so what we need is for him to be able to hold the fort for 10 minutes. When he does that people feed off of it and we get going a little bit. I thought Brad Stern played really solid back there. He was a little more physical than he usually is. He helped save a couple of goals in the d-zone so that was good.”

In McNally’s view, the victory was a good preview for next month when the Raiders will be competing in three tournaments, the Independence Hockey League playoffs, the Mercer County Tournament, and the state Prep tourney.

“We talked about the difference today between learning how to lose and learning how to win,” said McNally, whose team plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22 and at St. Augustine Prep on January 24 before facing Pennington on January 27.

“Any time we have been challenged, we have lost by a goal and that starts to become your mentality after a while so today was exactly what we were talking about. If we get in that situation and inevitably we did and we were able to actually learn how to win. Any time we are in a situation like this, we are practicing for February. We were in trouble and we were able to go through adversity.”

Bendorf, for his part, believes the Raiders could cause their foes a lot of trouble come tourney time.

“It is definitely going to be challenging,” said Bendorf. “I feel like we are getting better and by the time we get to the playoffs, we are going to be a really tough team to beat.”

January 15, 2014
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For senior star Kristen Helmstetter, there was high emotion as she hit the floor last Saturday for the Princeton University women’s basketball team when it played at Penn in the Ivy League opener.

“It is exciting; it is the last time around and it means a little bit more,” said Helemstetter, reflecting on starting her final Ivy campaign.

“You can appreciate what it meant to seniors before that. I am just happy that we have the team that we have that will fight for me and Hung [fellow senior Nicole Hung] and fight every game one at a time.”

Facing a sizzling Penn team that brought an eight-game winning streak into the contest, Princeton knew it was in for a battle.

Delivering a knockout blow to the Quakers with a 16-0 run midway through the first half, Princeton cruised to an 84-53 rout of Penn and began its drive for a fifth straight Ivy crown in style.

Tiger junior guard Blake Dietrick saw Princeton’s grit as the key to the victory.

“I thought we played great, I thought we came out really strong,” said Dietrick, who scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds, earning her first double-double in an Ivy game and later getting named as the league’s Player of the Week.

“We knew coming in that Penn was a team that doesn’t give up and we were ready to fight for 40 minutes. I think we really wore them down with our toughness and that’s what we have been focusing on the entire year.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart sensed that her team was focused on the task at hand.

“We have been waiting almost a calendar year for our Ivy opener,” said Banghart, whose team improved to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in Ivy play with the victory.

“We prepared all year long for the chance to go to the NCAA tournament and this is the first test of the 14-game tournament. Our kids are getting ready for exams. They are obviously pretty inexperienced with only two of their most experienced players playing. We just don’t make excuses. It is an opportunity to play. It is an opportunity to compete. I thought it was a convincing win from start to finish. I thought we played with great toughness.”

Princeton certainly displayed its competitive fire as it reeled off 16 unanswered points to wipe out an early 7-5 deficit and crush Penn’s spirit.

When asked what sparked the 16-0 run Banghart said “I thought it was the ways in which our kids defended.”

“We asked them to defend early, disciplined, and active. Penn is a tough team to guard. They are big, they are versatile and they cut hard. It is a tough team to guard and our kids bought into the defensive end tremendously and that led to easier offensive looks. Our kids made plays on the offensive end but we played tough on the defensive end and I think that was the key.”

In Banghart’s view, getting her team battle-tested through a tough non-conference schedule was another key to the performance on Saturday.

“This was not the biggest game on our schedule and I think that is really important for the Ivy League season,” asserted Banghart.

“Our kids have been in a lot of challenging environments, we have been on the other side of those runs. We have learned how to start runs, we have learned how to stop runs. This is a game that was won because of how we practice and how we played in the non-conference. It wasn’t just won today.”

The contest was also won through a balanced attack that saw 11 players score with Helmstetter chipping in 17 points and Alex Wheatley adding 11 to lead the way along with Dietrick and her 16-point effort.

“You look at Blake and Kristen, their lines are ridiculous and the way that they practice is even more ridiculous but we got contributions from the group today,” said Banghart.

“We got key minutes from key people, including the other senior, Nicole Hung (six points, three rebounds, a steal, and an assist in 10 minutes). You can look at the stat sheet and say it wasn’t like these guys’ game but it is what we needed. This felt like a win where we were going to need everybody and it bodes well if these freshmen are getting better and these sophomores are getting better. It was a Princeton team win for sure, which I am proud of.”

With the team going on exam break, Banghart is going to let her players catch their breath before they resume action by hosting Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.

“We are on tomorrow and then off for the next few days and then they get through exams and then we’ll get to working on getting better,” said Banghart.

“We are not going to make them think about everybody else. We are going to let them think about their exams and enjoy this win.”

Dietrick, for her part, believes the Tigers can get even better during the break.

“We have three weeks off and then Harvard,” said Dietrick. “It is great because the amount we have gotten better as a team in practice is exponential. By the time those three weeks are over we are going to be so much better than we are today and that’s our goal, just to get better everyday in practice.”

Helmstetter is confident that Princeton won’t waver in pursuit of its championship goal.

“I think one of things we were talking about the most is that every game up until now is just the journey and now it is just one game at a time for the Ivy League title,” said Helmstetter.

“We take it one game at a time and we came out tonight ready to play Penn and not thinking about anything else and we did what we intended to do.”

In the wake of the dominating performance on Saturday, the Tigers have made their intentions clear.

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In its last trip to the state of Pennsylvania, the Princeton University men’s basketball team pulled off one of the great comebacks in program history.

Trailing by 20 points at Penn State with 8:29 remaining in regulation on December 14, the Tigers rode the sizzling shooting of senior Will Barrett, who drained five three-pointers to come away with an 81-79 overtime victory.

Last Saturday, Princeton was back in the Keystone State and found themselves in a similar predicament as they played at Penn in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

With 16 minutes left in the second half, Princeton trailed by 51-40, sending a crowd of 6,322 at the storied Palestra into an uproar.

Once again, Barrett caught fire, scoring eight points as Princeton forged ahead 61-60 with 7:43 remaining in regulation.

But this time, the Tigers couldn’t close the deal. Trailing by two in the waning seconds, a T.J. Bray pass to Barrett was knocked away and the Quakers tacked on a free throw to earn a 77-74 victory.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Penn for coming through in the 229th meeting between the archrivals.

“They took it right to us; all the credit goes to Penn,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy with the defeat.

“We obviously had some opportunities to win the game but I thought they were the better team tonight. It is a credit to the way they prepared themselves tonight.”

In Henderson’s view, Penn’s play in the paint was a critical factor in the contest.

“The ability to come up with good stuff around the basket,” said Henderson, when asked what made the difference for Penn down the stretch.

“I think we put ourselves in a nice hole and they had something to do with that. The 25 points between [Darien] Nelson-Henry and [Fran] Dougherty in the first half, that was a killer.”

The Quakers’ dominance inside was reflected by the rebounding margin that saw Penn build a 42-25 edge on the boards.

“We have been very good on the boards this year so that crushed us,” said Henderson.

“I think they were more aggressive. This is a game where the more aggressive team generally wins and I thought they were a little more aggressive.”

While Princeton executed well offensively, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and committing only eight turnovers, the Tigers need to be more aggressive at the other end of the court.

“We have got to defend, we got to be able to stop guys because I think we are scoring enough points to be successful,” said Henderson, who got 19 points from Bray with Barrett adding 15, Hans Brase scoring 14, and Denton Koon and Spencer Weisz chipping in 10 apiece.

Bray, for his part, acknowledged that Penn took the initiative from the opening tip-off. “We have got to come out ready to go every night,” said Bray. “We didn’t really do that tonight and Penn punched us in the mouth early in the game and early in the second half. We were kind of playing from behind all night and that is just something that can’t happen.”

The Tigers thought they could make something good happen on the last play to Barrett.

“We had run a few times in practice and had gotten it but the guy made a great play, he got his hand in there just enough,” said Bray.

Although losing the Ivy opener puts Princeton behind the eight-ball in the so-called 14-game tournament for the league’s NCAA tournament bid, the Tigers still hold their title chances in their hands.

“There is very little margin for error but I don’t think we can focus on that,” said Henderson.

“We just have to concentrate on us. We have a good team. We just have to zero in on what we are doing. We really have a lot of work to do.”

With Princeton going on an exam hiatus, the Tigers will have to take care of classwork before they can turn to the stretch drive.

“It is like two different seasons,” said Henderson, whose team will host Division III foe Kean University on January 26 before heading to New England where the Tigers will play at Ivy frontrunner Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.

“Coming up, we have two weeks worth of exams and papers. These guys know what to do, they can get to the gym and get some work in and get ready to go to Cambridge in three weeks.”

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Since it last played at home on November 22, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has been on quite an odyssey.

The Tigers traveled to Connecticut where they played Quinnipiac before heading to the midwest where they faced Michigan State, then to New York where they took on Rensselaer and Union, then to Florida for a two-game holiday tournament, and finally to western Canada for a showcase in British Columbia.

Thus it was no wonder that Tiger sophomore forward Mike Ambrosia and his teammates were thrilled to be back home in the friendly confines of Baker Rink last Friday to host Rensselaer.

“We have been on some long road trips,” said Ambrosia. “We didn’t come out with the greatest results on the road trips but we learned a lot. We took the process seriously and every step was important.”

Applying those lessons, Princeton took a big step forward on Friday, rallying from an early 1-0 deficit to pull out a 2-1 victory over the Engineers before a crowd of 2,069.

“It was a big team effort,” said Ambrosia, reflecting on the triumph. “Every single guy contributed.”

New Jersey native Ambrosia made a major contribution in the homecoming, notching the game-winning goal early in the third period.

“It was a great play by Ryan [Siiro]; he is a big, strong kid,” recalled the 5’10, 180-pound Ambrosia, who hails from Chatham.

“I think he threw two guys off him and was able to make a really nice pass so fortunately it went in.”

The line of Ambrosia, Siiro, and senior star Andrew Calof was clicking on Friday.

“I love playing with these guys,” said Ambrosia, who now has six points this season on three goals and three assists.

“I think we all bring a little different element to the game and we just try to create a lot of offense every single game. That is our job but we have to play well defensively because that is where it starts. We want to create as many offensive chances as we can.”

Ambrosia, who has missed seven games this season due to injury, is happy to be back on the ice.

“There are a ton of guys coming back from injury and we all want to help,” said Ambrosia of the Tigers’ injury list which has included Calof, Ben Foster, Tyler Maugeri, Alec Rush, and Tommy Davis.

“We all want to help and contribute to the wins. It is a process but we are definitely happy to have some guys healthy and we just want to keep going.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier was happy with the effort he got from his team on Friday.

“There were some ebbs and flows but in the 5-on-5 in general I thought we won the majority of the battles and we were the more physical team,” said Prier.

“We got rewarded for that. We threw a lot of body punches early and Ambro went in the third and that was the knockout punch. You knew it was going to be a game that was going to be tough to score.”

Prier likes the way the Ambrosia line is giving Princeton scoring punch. “They are playing great; they just seem to find that open man,” said Prier.

“You look at a kid like Calof, I think he may have had one shot on net tonight but you think a player that elite should have four or five. He made the right plays when he was supposed to make those plays. He is someone that can make them. It is contagious, guys like Ambrosia and Calof start making those plays and then other guys can feed off of that and they start making some too.”

The Tigers made some big plays at the defensive end, with defensemen throwing their bodies at pucks all night and freshman netminder Colton Phinney making 33 saves in earning the victory.

“Down the stretch here, it is playoff mindset and guys are really tough in front of their own net,” said Prier, whose team showed toughness a night later, battling hard in falling 3-0 to No. 4 Union, leaving the Tigers at 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play.

“I thought we did a real good job of eliminating the second and third chances with our d-corps in front and also with Colton hanging onto pucks. They were applying pressure late there. They were getting a lot through. They had good movement and he did a really good job of either putting the rebounds in the corner or holding onto them. It deadened the momentum which was great.”

In Prier’s view, the way Princeton took care of business in the win over Rensselaer could help the Tigers build some momentum as they head into the stretch drive.

“If we play the way we did tonight, we’ll have a good chance of winning against anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team is currently on hiatus for exams and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. “That’s the way the league is.”

Ambrosia, for his part, believes that Princeton can be a factor in league play as it looks to move up the ECACH standings.

“It is always nice to win, especially in a team effort like that,” said Ambrosia.

“It wasn’t like we snuck a game out or stole two points. I think we really deserved that one. It was a total team effort, starting with Colton Phinney in net. From him out, from the defense up we had a good, tight game. Winning a 2-1 game just breeds a lot of confidence in the guys.”

PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING LANE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Mary ­Sutton looks to pass the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 58-23 loss to visiting Ewing. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, host WW/P-N on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High girls’ basketball team suffered a lopsided defeat to Ewing last Saturday to remain winless on the season, Dan Van Hise believes his squad is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think the girls realize how far they have come in the last few weeks,” said first-year PHS head coach Van Hise, whose team lost 41-35 to Hamilton on January 7 and fell 49-32 to Steinert on Thursday before its 58-23 defeat to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

“We haven’t taken the hardest step. The chemistry is great and the effort is great. They are really buying in but they have to do the little things.”

In Van Hise’s view, PHS has to step up things on the boards and on the defensive end.

“We need to rebound better; we could have beaten Hamilton but they killed us on the boards,” said Van Hise, whose team fell to 0-6 with its loss to Ewing.

“We can practice boxing out all the time but it is a want thing. We need to have better defensive communication. When we go back on defense we need to know who is guarding who. It is deflating when you get it down to six or eight and the other team comes down and scores because you didn’t know who you were guarding.”

A bright spot for the Little Tigers has been the play of the squad’s starting guards, sophomore Julia Ryan and junior Mary Sutton.

“Julia was feeling a lot of pressure in the first few games; she knows she has to be one of two or three main players and that is hard as a sophomore,” said Van Hise.

“She had a good game against Robbinsville, scoring 12 points and that led into the Hamilton game where she had 16. She and Mary feel most comfortable staying outside on the perimeter. We are getting zones thrown at us so they have to start going to the basket. We are pushing them to do that. The guards are the strength of our team.”

Van Hise is looking for stronger play from his frontcourt, starting with senior Liz Jacobs and junior Bryanna Blue.

“Liz is coming on a little bit; she is starting to be calm in the post and is learning the game,” said Van Hise of Jacobs, who had a team-high seven points in the loss to Ewing.

“We need her to rebound better. She is aggressive on the offensive end when she has the ball but she doesn’t look to do that when she doesn’t have the ball or she is on the defensive end. Bryanna Blue is one of the other girls off the bench. We are going to start playing her and Liz more together. We are going to try some high post/low post stuff. Bryanna has a world of potential. She has a nice soft touch, she just needs to catch the ball better.”

In Van Hise’s view, getting a victory will help PHS get more out of its potential.

“They are starting to play good enough basketball to win against most of the teams that we play,” said Van Hise, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N
on January 17 before playing at Lawrence on January 21.

“They are holding their heads up. They don’t know how to win or how it feels. It will happen and I think it will make a big difference.”

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRESSURE POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Ford Schneider, right, puts on the defensive pressure. Last Friday, senior star Schneider scored 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 49-45 to Timothy Christian. The Panthers, now 1-7, play at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ford Schneider is looking to bring more to the table this winter in his senior season with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

“I worked a lot in the off season on just getting stronger and finishing at the rim,” said 6’3 senior forward Schneider.

“My shot has always been a strength of mine so I knew that was going to be there. It was just about rounding out my game as a whole. It is our last year and for some of us it is our last year playing ball so it seems like it is the time for me to step up and show what I can do.”

With PDS trailing Timothy Christian 45-36 early in the fourth quarter last Friday, Schneider stepped up, hitting a three-pointer to start a rally that saw the Panthers whittle the lead down to 46-45 with 37.5 seconds remaining in regulation. PDS, though, didn’t score again falling 49-45 as it dropped to 1-7.

Schneider acknowledged that it took awhile for the Panthers to find their rhythm in the contest.

“I think we came out almost a little too hyped,” said Schneider, reflecting on a night which saw PDS fall behind 20-14 by the end of the first quarter. “We were all excited to get out there and play and we were just out of sorts on both sides of the floor.”

In the second quarter, PDS got in a groove as it outscored Timothy Christian 15-7 to take a 29-27 lead into halftime. Schneider scored seven points in the quarter, including a three-pointer in the waning seconds which put the Panthers up going into intermission.

“That’s just about getting into the flow of the game and we just settled down a little bit,” said Schneider, who ended up with 12 points on the night.

“Our shots started to fall and we started to get some steals. I missed a few in the first quarter. My teammates and my coaches always tell me to keep shooting; it started to fall for me.”

In Schneider’s view, PDS lost the game on the offensive end. “We had one of the worst shooting nights,” said Schneider.

“Our defense really wasn’t that bad. Obviously we have to finish at the rim a lot better. If we hit our layups we win tonight by 15 or 20 points because we missed at least 10.”

Despite misfiring, the Panthers battled to the final whistle. “We are not a team that ever gives up, we have been in bigger holes than that and we keep battling,” said Schneider. “The one thing I know about our team is that we are always going to battle.”

The team will need to utilize that spirit as it looks to get on the winning track.

“Frustration always sets in if you are 1-7; I think that we are all fed up with losing,” said Schneider. “I think that is more motivation.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean was frustrated to see his team come up short as it looked to build on its 62-25 win over Moorestown Friends earlier in the week.

“It has got to come down to consistency and balance, we just talked about that,” said McLean.

They scored 20 points on us in the first and the next three quarters, it was 7,13,7. We played great defensively for three quarters. We didn’t shoot well tonight. We got to the basket a lot but just missed layups. We made some silly fouls down the stretch. We didn’t show composure under pressure.”

PDS, though, hasn’t shied away from the pressure despite having such key players as senior guards Langston Glaude and Deante Cole sidelined at various points of the season due to injury.

“This team has battled night in, night out, every single game,” asserted McLean.

“If you don’t think we are coming to play and coming to battle, you are wrong. We just keep fighting and scrapping. It is just tough to string together some victories right now.”

In McLean’s view, the team has what it takes to start coming up with some victories.

“We won the game Monday, there were a lot of bright spots today,” said McLean.

“Individual defense looked good, team defense looked good. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. We had some individual highlights. I thought Chris [Okorodudu] played well tonight. Ford has consistently been playing well. There has been plenty of individual highlights.”

Despite the disappointing record, the Panthers haven’t been hanging their heads.

“Spirits are high, guys are working hard,” said McLean, whose team plays at Rutgers Prep on January 16 before hosting Steinert on January 18.

“Guys are showing up to practice and that’s what you get from having nine or 10 seniors. They have been around so there is that commitment from them and all the guys on the team.”

Schneider, for his part, believes the Panthers have shown a deeper commitment as the season has gone on.

“I think the biggest thing that I see is the energy,” said Schneider. “We are playing with a renewed sense of determination.”

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TALL ORDER: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player ­Isabel Meyercord dribbles upcourt last Friday against Stuart Country Day. Sophomore center Meyercord chipped in seven points as PDS lost 33-28 to the Tartans. The Panthers, now 0-5, play at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In mid-December, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team opened its season by losing 48-21 at Stuart Country Day School.

Last Friday, the local rivals met in a rematch and round two turned out to be much different as PDS showed how much it has improved in a matter of a few weeks.

Trailing by just 19-15 at halftime, the Panthers narrowed the margin to one point twice in the waning moments of the contest before succumbing 33-28.

Although his team remained winless with the setback, first-year PDS head coach Kamau Bailey grinned broadly as assessed his players’ performance.

“I am just really impressed and really proud of my girls today,” said Bailey. “Every game we are getting better. We have been playing a lot in practice and doing player development stuff. All the girls are getting better and I think today was a testament to the work they have been putting in.”

In narrowing the gap with the Tartans, Bailey had his players speed things up.

“I wanted to push the tempo,” said Bailey. “The last time we played, we let them control the tempo. This time out, I wanted to control the tempo and I think we did that. They weren’t allowed to set up and get into their stuff very well.”

PDS utilized pressure defense to disrupt Stuart. “I implemented this press that I used to run in high school and it caused them problems,” explained Bailey.

“In the first game that we played we tried to run the press but everyone was in the wrong place and everyone was trying to figure out where to be so it wasn’t effective. We did it everyday in practice and it’s starting to work now. We are going to continue to use that and get better at it.”

As a result, PDS nearly pulled out the game, drawing to within 27-26 and 29-28 in the last four minutes of regulation.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump, we missed some easy baskets that we probably should have made,” said Bailey, reflecting on his team’s play down the stretch.

“I think they were a little fatigued at the end and that is probably why we missed some of those buckets. They fight hard, we had a shot to win it.”

Sophomore center Isabel Meyercord fought hard in the paint for the Panthers.

“She is tall, she gets in everyone’s face and puts up her hands a lot,” said Bailey of the 6’1 Meyercord, who had seven points and was a disruptive force inside.

“She is really athletic and agile. She can get up and down the court pretty fast which is helpful to us and she causes a lot of problems for big girls.”

Meyercord’s classmate, guard/forward Hope Anhut caused problems for Stuart with her scrappy play, chipping in six points.

“Hope is someone who didn’t play a lot in the first game because she was just coming off an injury,” said Bailey, whose tam fell 56-18 to Pennington last Monday to drop to 0-5.

“She has stepped up a lot in the last week. She made some clutch plays, a lot of steals, she was aggressive on the ball.”

Freshman guard Shayla Stevenson has been stepping up for the Panthers.

“She is getting over some nerves,” said Bailey of Stevenson, who tallied seven points in the loss to the Tartans. “I had to tell her that the weight of the team was not on her shoulders. She is a freshman and I just want to bring her along the right way.”

In Bailey’s view, time is on the side of his youthful squad. “The thing is we are not as good as I want us to be but we are young,” said Bailey, whose team is at Villa Victoria Academy on January 17.

“The girls are all freshmen and sophomores by next year and the next couple years coming, I like our chances. I am happy, this is good stuff that is happening here at this school.”

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD MOVEMENT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Mimi Matthews controls the puck in a game last winter. Senior star Matthews has been a key contributor for the Panthers this winter as she has moved back to forward after playing at defenseman as a junior. PDS, now 7-3-1, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on January 15 and Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on January 17 before playing at Upland Country Day (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Mimi Matthews made the best of the situation as she was moved to defense from her natural forward position in her junior season with the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“I think when I was on defense it was definitely a learning experience and it was really good for me,” said Matthews.

“I know how to skate backwards really well and I think that is one of my stronger suits because I used to figure skate and that is where that came from.”

This year, Matthews has come back to forward as a senior and is feeling at home.

“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing where I am and just in general playing the game,” said Matthews.

Last Wednesday against visiting Morristown-Beard, Matthews showed her comfort level at forward, tallying a third period goal on a top-shelf blast to bring PDS within 2-1.

“I have really been working hard in practice on just seeing the net and not so much shooting at the goalie because that is something that I have struggled with,” said Matthews.

“As a freshman and a sophomore, I would give the puck away and pass it to someone for a shot. Now I am learning that I can take the shot. I can probably score because I do have a pretty good shot.”

While PDS couldn’t close the deal against the Crimson as it fell 3-1, Matthews saw the game as a step in the right direction for the Panthers.

“Our team was really fired up; obviously we didn’t come out as strong as we could have in the first period,” said Matthews.

“I think by the middle of the second period, we definitely got something going. It’s always a hard game against Mo-Beard. This is the closest we have been so I am really proud of them.”

In Matthews’ view, the PDS players have developed a closeness that is a major asset for the team.

“Everybody at the beginning of the year was so fired up to work with each other,” said Matthews.

“Right after the first few practices, everyone was really psyched up to just be on the team and be with each other. I am really, really excited to be playing with every one of these girls.”

PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook is excited by the effort she is getting from Matthews and linemates Abby Sharer and Emma Stillwaggon.

“Mimi’s whole line battles really hard,” said Cook. “I think it starts with the wingers, Emma and Abby, who are smaller players but are really aggressive. Mimi just feeds off of that and she is the one who is going to have more of a knack of taking it to the net and putting pucks in the net. It is funny, I talked to her at practice yesterday because she has been doing really well all week putting pucks in corners and I told her I am expecting one out of you tomorrow and there you go, she is one that scored.”

Freshman goalie Annika Asplundh did really well to keep PDS in the Mo-Beard game as the Panther were outshot 48-6 on the evening.

“She was always in position for their shots,” said Cook. “Some of their shots weren’t great but she was still right there and to control those rebounds was another huge thing. It is putting them in the corners and making sure that they don’t get extra chances. She certainly kept us in the game, no question. We knew going in that she would have to do that a little bit for us. I was hoping it was not going to be so much.”

In Cook’s view, the defeat to Mo-Beard showed that PDS has to generate more scoring chances.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t win but I think I am more disappointed that we only got six shots,” said Cook.

“It is one of those where we are still moving forward. It is a stepping stone for sure. We are going to look at it as a chance to get better.”

Over the weekend, PDS did play better, going 1-1-1 in three games at the Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Panthers had a 3-3 tie and a 4-0 loss in games with the hosts on Saturday before winning 6-3 on Sunday against Holton Arms (Md.) to move to 7-3-1.

Matthews, for her part, is looking forward to the rest of the season. “I just want to enjoy it while I can; I am definitely going to be sad when I am not at PDS next year,” said Matthews, who is heading to Middlebury College in the fall.

“I am just trying to make the most out of this year and this season because we have a good chance at a lot of different big games. I think this team can go places. It has just really been fun, hockey practice is the highlight of my day, just being on the ice.”

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASTER CLASS: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Brown, left, looks to get around a foe in a recent game. Last Thursday, senior guard Brown scored 12 points to help Hun top Mastery Charter (Pa.) 56-39. The Raiders, now 4-5, host Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Erica Brown and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ basketball team, their lopsided loss to Lawrenceville last Wednesday prompted some soul-searching as they prepared to host Mastery Charter (Pa.) a day later.

“We had a tough loss last night,” said senior forward Brown reflecting on the 54-29 defeat to the Big Red.

“Even in school, off the court, we were in ourselves. We just wanted to go out there and play hard and play the best that we can. Our main goal was to go out there and play hard and be ourselves. We weren’t hitting many shots yesterday. We really wanted to put the ball in the basket today.”

With Brown setting the tone with her aggressive play, Hun put up a lot of baskets against Mastery, jumping out to a 31-17 halftime lead on the way to a 56-39 victory.

“We were moving the ball well today,” said Brown, who scored 12 points to lead Hun along with freshman center Clare Maloney.

“Yesterday we weren’t hitting shots so we couldn’t rely on one person. Today we all went out there and we all had to play hard and do it for the team. We couldn’t play for ourselves.”

Hun has been forced to come together even more as a team in the wake of a knee injury to star center Johnnah Johnson, who is sidelined indefinitely.

“Once Johnnah got hurt, we really had to buckle down and our inside game had to be strong,” said Brown.

“Clare really had to be strong and she is doing well, filling some big shoes. She has to play hard and be strong inside.”

Brown, for her part, is looking to buckle down at both ends of the floor. “I really have to help get the rebounds on defense and make sure that we can push the ball,” said Brown.

“We have to play hard on the defensive end. Offensively we have to see the court. I like pushing the ball; the fast break is one of my strong suits, I like getting the ball up the court but I can settle down and run a play if we need to. Usually I just tell the girls to run and I will get the ball out to you. I grab the rebound and I will push it; that is our transition game.”

In Brown’s view, closing the deal against Mastery bodes well for the Raiders.

“We had some really close losses and our main thing was we have been up a lot at halftime and we want to make sure that we didn’t lose that lead,” said Brown.

“Sometimes we get a little lackadaisical when we are up by a lot and today at halftime, it was we are up and we need to stay up. There is nothing guaranteeing our win.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup sees the win over Mastery as a step forward for his squad.

“It is definitely important and with Johnnah out we don’t have overall depth so the other girls have to step up,” said Holup.

“Like today, for example,  Maura Kelly did a terrific job, she grabbed some rebounds and was active defensively. Everybody is going to be called upon at some point and they have to always be ready and focused.”

Holup liked the focus that Brown displayed in the win over Mastery Charter.

“Erica has ability,” said Holup. “She is a physical player, she can rebound, and she can also handle the ball. Yesterday, in our halftime talk she may have taken that to heart. She really stepped up her game from halftime yesterday throughout this entire game.”

Junior guard Erica Dwyer also stepped up, chipping in five points and calmly running the Hun offense.

“I think Erica Dwyer did the same thing; yesterday she didn’t play all that well and she knew it,” said Holup.

“Today she played much better and was more patient and let the game come to her instead of forcing it. Ultimately as a team, that was what we did today.”

The Raiders also got good games from junior Janelle Mullen and senior Anajha Burnett.

“Mullen has been a little bit off with her shot in the last couple of games,” said Holup, whose team topped Hill 57-30 on Saturday before falling 61-38 to Marianapolis Prep (Conn.) in the New Year’s Resolution Showcase at Peterson to move to 4-5.

“I think that has been bothering her a little bit, it can be psychological at times, you are thinking too much. She came alive today late in the game but we will need her right from the start. Anajha had a nice game, she asserted herself instead of just settling for outside shots.

Even without Johnson, Holup believes his club can produce a nice season.

“There is enough talent on this team that we should be able to compete with most of the teams on our schedule,” said Holup, whose team hosts Blair Academy on January 15 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on January 18 and at Life Center Academy on January 21. “We just have to be ready to play every time.”

Brown, for her part, is ready to go out with a bang. “We need to make sure that we are a family on and off the court so that is our main thing,” said Brown, who is planning to play at the college level.

“In senior year, you want to leave it on the court. I am trying to enjoy the rest of the season and see where it takes me.”

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING THE CORNER: Stuart Country Day School basketball star Harley Guzman dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore guard Guzman scored eight points to help Stuart edge Princeton Day School 33-28. The Tartans, who improved to 5-2 with the win, host Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In starting the season with a 4-2 record, the Stuart Country Day School basketball team cruised in each of its wins, posting an average margin of victory of 26.2 points in those four triumphs.

When Stuart played at Princeton Day School last Friday, the Tartans found themselves in a tight contest despite having beaten PDS 48-21 in December.

Stuart led 19-15 at halftime and took a 25-21 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Second-year Tartan head coach Dana Leary, for her part, wasn’t surprised that the rematch had a different feel than the initial meeting between the local foes.

“I expected a different game from the first time and the girls knew that as well,” said Leary.

“We were going to their place and they were going to be a much improved team.”

One factor that made the second encounter closer was Stuart’s failure to calmly handle PDS’s defensive pressure.

“We were panicking the entire game; the press was hurting us,” said Leary. “As much as we have been working on it, it was like they were seeing it for the first time. I kept stressing that you have to work hard defensively and on the offensive end you have to get it out. When you catch it, you have to be poised.”

The Tartans, though, showed poise down the stretch, outscoring the Panthers 4-0 in the last minute to pull out a 33-28 win.

“They pulled it together when it counted,” said Leary. “They calmed down by the end; it took the whole game. I am very proud of them for working hard and playing right to the end. That is all you can ask for.”

Some fine work inside by sophomore Kate Walsh and Nneka Onukwugha helped Stuart prevail as Walsh scored a game-high nine points while Onukwugha added eight.

“Kate has been having a great year so far; tonight she came through for us at the end with two big putbacks,” said Leary.

“Nneka has been showing up every single game, going and doing exactly what is expected of her. Tonight I saw she was hungry for it. She was going after the ball. She was out there to work; she didn’t want to get outworked tonight. You could definitely see that in her game.”

In Leary’s view, winning a game like last Friday’s contest should help the Tartans down the road.

“They haven’t been in a close one yet so now they have that experience and they can be confident in themselves at the end of the game,” said Leary, whose team hosts Bound Brook on January 17 before playing at Solebury School (Pa.) on January 21.

“They know they are capable of having the lead, holding onto it, and then coming out with the win.”

January 8, 2014
SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Kelsey Koelzer, figuring out the best way to utilize her talent has been a major challenge as she goes through her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

“I would have to say learning new systems and learning my role because it changes when you go from playing in your leagues back home to playing in Division I hockey,” said Koelzer, reflecting on adjusting to college hockey.

“Learning where I fit in, what I have to do every game, and what I have to bring to the team.”

Last Thursday, forward Koelzer brought a lot to the table for the Tigers, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1.

For Koelzer, who had had a goal and an assist in her 15 appearances during the 2013 portion of this season’s schedule, the breakthrough performance was heartening.

“It was definitely a confidence builder,” said Koelzer, a 5’9 native of Horsham, Pa. who played club hockey for the New Jersey Rockets.

“It was good getting my legs back under me and just proving to myself that this is what you have got to do every game. I want to pick it up even more and just continue with the momentum.”

Koelzer helped Princeton seize momentum against UConn as her blast from the point set up a Sally Butler goal that tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period.

“They were definitely leaving the lanes open in terms of the point shots,” said Koelzer.

“It was important that we were moving it up top between me and Gabie [Figueroa]. I saw a small lane so my main goal was to get it low because I know Sally is going to be in front to tip it.”

Midway through the third period, Koelzer put the Tigers ahead as another one-timer found the back of the net.

“It felt good,” said Koelzer, recalling the tally. “They didn’t come out to challenge me so I took the opportunity.”

The Tigers cashed in on their opportunities as they scored a total of three goals in a 3:34 span of the third period with Koelzer adding Princeton’s fourth and final goal of the game.

“We work really hard in practice, we are a good bunch,” said Koelzer, who put in some more good work on Friday, helping Princeton pull out a 1-0 overtime win over UConn to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall.

“That’s where it is coming down into the third periods and especially the second game of weekends.”

With Princeton having won four straight, Koelzer believes the team is coming on strong.

“Really, we are clicking on every aspect,” said Koelzer. “We are a great conditioned team, we have got a lot of speed. We definitely have some good momentum going.”

The addition of Koelzer and classmates Molly Strabley, Cassidy Tucker, Audrey Potts, Morgan Sly, Hilary Lloyd, and Fiona McKenna, has helped build that positive momentum.

“It is great team chemistry,” said Koelzer. “The upperclassmen are great to us. From day one, we really felt like this was home. It definitely helped us getting into games. It has made it a lot easier for us to learn our roles on the team.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal has been looking to get Koelzer into a scoring role for the Tigers.

“Kelsey has a really good shot and we are trying to find the best ways to utilize it,” said Kampersal.

“So we finally got her in a position where she can have a couple of open looks.”

Kampersal liked how his team looked collectively on Thursday as it rebounded from a 1-0 deficit after the first period and skated to victory in its first action since a 4-1 win over Union on December 7.

“It wasn’t our best effort in the first period, that is to be expected,” said Kampersal.

“Falling behind and getting a little slap in the face, I think that’s what we needed. We have been a third period team all year; that was nice to see. We had three power play goals tonight and that was really nice to see.”

With the Tigers missing such key players Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, and Jaimie McDonnell on Friday due to injury, Princeton showed resilience in overcoming the Huskies.

“I thought people stepping up in different roles was big,” said Kampersal, whose team’s lone goal in the overtime win on Friday came from junior forward Brianna Leahy.

“At game time we had to make decisions where kids were seeing the doctor so other kids had to play wing or center, doing different things like that. We had different kids on the penalty kill who didn’t necessarily practice that all week.”

Kampersal is hoping his club can keep coming up big as the Tigers play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11 before going on a 17-day hiatus for exams.

“They have a lot of heart, they have a lot of soul,” said Kampersal. “They are committed to it. They know that when it’s going bad, what they need to do to fix it. It is a good group to coach.”

Local product Koelzer, for her part, is thrilled to be part of the group. “I have been coming to see Princeton games for about four years now,” said Koelzer.

“Last season, I was probably at every single home game just because I was out with an ACL injury. This has definitely been a dream come true.”

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s basketball team squandered a 15-point lead against Kent State last week and found itself trailing 66-65 with less than a minute left, Will Barrett wasn’t rattled.

“At the end of the game when we were down by one, I just felt like a sense of calmness,” said Princeton senior forward Barrett.

“In a couple of close games that we have had, we have just been calm under pressure. I don’t know if that comes from all of the experience that we have had. We have got five guys that have played a lot together and we have senior leadership.”

Barrett exuded coolness as he scored 11 points in the second half, hitting two clutch three-pointers down the stretch to help Princeton pull out a 73-68 win in the December 31 contest before 2,440 at Jadwin Gym.

While Barrett was happy with his offensive contribution in the win over the Golden Flashes, hitting on 6-of-12 shots as he totaled a game-high 19 points, he acknowledged that he needs to produce a more well-rounded game.

“My shot is feeling good right now; it is definitely part of my game that I take pride in,” said Barrett, a 6’11 197-pound native of Hartsville, Pa.

“There are so many other areas that I have to and need to improve on if our team is going to continue to succeed. My defense is a huge part of that. If I can clean that up, then I am in the game a lot more, and that helps our team even more so I have got to just keep improving on that.”

In Barrett’s view, the Tigers were hungry to show their pride against Kent State in the wake of a disappointing 93-79 loss to Portland in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas before Christmas.

“In Vegas there were a bunch of our former teammates, Dan Mavraides, Kareem Maddox, they were all there and I was really angry after the game and they said this might be a blessing in disguise,” recalled Barrett.

“We don’t like to lose games here. It was good for us for that to sink in over break. I think it has a little bit and it just teaches us that in any game you can come out and lose to anybody in college basketball so we have to keep that in mind.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was heartened to see his squad prevail on a day when it didn’t play its sharpest.

“It wasn’t pretty on our end; it is the second game in a row where we haven’t played on offense and on defense for a long stretch of time the way we would like to play,” said Henderson.

“I was in the Big 10 for a long time so it felt like a Big 10 game. It is one punch and the next punch and everybody is delivering these big blows. I was really proud of our guys for making free throws down the stretch. I think that is a really good Kent State team, a really good program. They have had 14 or 15 straight 20-win seasons, which is just unbelievable to me so I am just really proud of our guys.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers came up big down the stretch at Liberty University, overcoming a late 67-66 deficit to earn an 80-74 win in improving to 11-2.

“I attribute it to a few different things,” said Henderson in reflecting on his team’s penchant for coming through in tight contests this winter.

“We have T.J. Bray, who our guys have confidence in down the stretch. We made free throws. We have made some really big shots. I think it is just making shots. I have to attribute that to T.J., his ability to get to the basket and make these guys better. I think it just makes us tough.”

Henderson likes the way Barrett is making big shots although he believes the forward has the ability to make more of an impact at both ends of the court.

“I thought he was just terrific; I was saying to Will in the locker room that I had to take him out of the game a couple of times because I thought defensively he could have made a couple of adjustments that would have helped us,” said Henderson, who got 8 points and two assists from Barrett in the win over Liberty with the backcourt duo of Bray and Ben Hazel leading the way, tallying 24 and 18 points, respectively.

“I think he could be a lock-down defender as well as what he did offensively but his line is fantastic, 4-for-8 from 3, 19 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes, that is good.”

With Princeton opening Ivy League action by playing at Penn (2-10) on January 11, Henderson believes his team is in good shape to make a title run.

“I like where we are because I am sort of a glass half full kind of guy,” said Henderson.

“Man we have so much we can work on. I just think the room for improvement is enormous but they really like each other.”

Barrett, for his part, likes the Tigers’ chances. “I feel good, I think we all feel good,” said Barrett, who is averaging 11.3 points a game and leads the Tigers in three-pointers with 30.

“We are pretty much by ourselves on campus right now so we have a ton of time to be down in the gym and then take care of work that we have to do.”

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Courtney Banghart, the point of the non-conference schedule is more about exposing her Princeton University women’s basketball team to a wide range of competitive situations than piling up wins.

But as Princeton girds for its Ivy League opener on January 11 at Penn, the Tigers have gained both victories and experience as they bring a 9-5 record into their clash with the Quakers and start their drive for a fifth straight league crown.

“This team is making its own mark,” said Princeton head coach Banghart. “The difference between rebuilding and reloading depends on the approach of the players and I like the way this team is responding.”

Playing in the Cavalier Classic in late December, Princeton certainly made an impression as it topped Alabama 79-59 to earn its first-ever win over a Southeastern Conference foe and then battled valiantly before falling to 69-57 to host Virginia in the title game.

“Alabama played man-to-man so we had to be more physical,” said Banghart.

“That was a good experience for a young team. We knew that UVa would zone us. The zone required us to move the ball and make shots. It was good for us, it showed us what we need to work on.”

Last Saturday at Drexel in its final tune-up before Ivy play, the Tigers worked on dealing with a zone. Trailing 25-23 at half to the reigning WNIT champs, Princeton outscored the Dragons 43-34 over the final 20 minutes to earn a 66-59 victory.

“We worked on a new zone continuity last week,” said Banghart. “We knew it wasn’t going to work right away. We got it figured out and scored 43 points in the second half.”

A lot of that offense came from Michelle Miller, who poured in a career-high 23 points and was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for the second time this year, sharing the honor with Penn’s Katy Allen.

“She is a sophomore but it doesn’t matter how old you are, it comes down to can you contribute,” said Banghart of Miller, who went 5-of-7 from three-point range in the win.

“She didn’t shoot like she can at Virginia. Against Drexel, she was shot ready and played really well.”

Junior guard Blake Dietrick has been playing really well lately, scoring 18 points last Saturday and having recently been named the Ann Meyers Drysdale Women’s National Player of the Week by the USBWA (U.S. Basketball Writers Association), becoming the first Tiger to ever collect the national accolade.

“Blake is settled,” said Banghart of Dietrick, who is averaging a team-high 15.4 points a game.

“She is so competitive, that can get in the way sometimes. She doesn’t like being bad at anything. She has settled in; she is a good lead guard and she is trusting her teammates.”

Banghart knows her team faces a competitive challenge in Penn, who is currently 7-2, having won seven straight games, including a victory over Miami, the program’s first-ever win against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.

“They have the most experienced returning team in the league,” said Banghart of the Quakers.

“They are playing at home and our kids have inherited the target on their backs. The other teams are going to throw everything at us, they know that beating us can make a season even if they don’t win the title.”

The Quakers boast the talent to make things difficult for Princeton in senior guard and two-time Ivy scoring champion Alyssa Baron, freshman center Sydney Stipanovich, senior guard Meghan McCullough, and sophomore guard Keira Ray.

“Baron is one of the best players in the league and she has been since day one,” said Banghart.

“She has more pieces around her now so she doesn’t have to do everything. Stipanovich has a lot of size, she is 6’3 and long. They have a very experienced point guard Meghan McCullough, who is back from an injury. Keiera Ray is a good player. They have played together forever.”

The Tigers will be working overtime to get ready for the Quakers. “We have the rest of the week to prepare for them,” said Banghart.

“The Ivy season requires consistency, either the consistency of a few top players or the group. We are more of a team. It is a league for seniors so we need Kristen [Helmstetter] and Nicole [Hung] to make contributions. We are going to see a variety of things, zone, man and junk. We have to get enough from our pieces and be able to adjust.”

In Banghart’s view, her young squad has the mindset to roll with the punches it will receive in Ivy play.

“This team has a great personality,” asserted Banghart. “They are humble and there are no expectations. They just expect to battle everyday. Their job is to play hard and listen and our job is to coach them.”

RECORD KEEPER: Lauren Ullmann takes a breather during her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team. This past fall, star goalkeeper Ullmann enjoyed a superb freshman season with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team. She allowed just six goals in 21 appearances, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD KEEPER: Lauren Ullmann takes a breather during her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team. This past fall, star goalkeeper Ullmann enjoyed a superb freshman season with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team. She allowed just six goals in 21 appearances, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Ullmann gave up a score in the first 21 minutes of her career with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology women’s soccer team but the former Princeton High standout goalkeeper wasn’t fazed.

“We were playing Brandeis, they were ranked 8th in preseason,” said Ullmann.

“It was very exciting. That was a fantastic goal. I had made a couple of good saves right before and I made a couple right after so I didn’t have time to dwell on it. It was a very intense game, they put a lot of pressure on us.”

As MIT’s season unfolded, Ullmann thrived under the pressure that comes with starting as a freshman. She allowed just six goals in 21 starts, tying an MIT record for fewest goals allowed in a season. Ullmann’s goals against average ended up at 0.38 and she posted a .933 save percentage. She currently stands first in the MIT record book in save percentage and second in goals against.

Upon arriving at MIT for preseason training last August, Ullmann had to battle to earn the starting job, a process that helped pave the way for her outstanding campaign.

“That definitely pushed me to be at my best; I would not have had the season I ended up having if I hadn’t been pushed like that,” said Ullmann.

“I felt like I was at the right level. One of the things that drew me to MIT was that I had a good chance to get playing time right away.”

In taking advantage of the chance to play, Ullmann faced challenges both internally and externally.

“The two captains were two of the four defenders,” said Ullmann.

“I am very vocal on the field. It was hard to be commanding with such experienced players and not being established but I realized it was part of playing the game. I was going against players who could all hit the ball very well and make some very tough shots.”

Ullmann displayed her toughness when she didn’t let an injury to her right wrist keep her from starring in postseason play. She hurt her wrist in the final regular season game and originally thought it was sprained only to have x-rays later reveal a fracture.

“We taped it up and I rested it early in the week,” said Ullmann, who helped the Engineers blank Babson and Springfield in 0-0 games decided on penalty kicks to win the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament.

“I wanted to be out there for the tournament games. Being in the games, the adrenaline took over. It is instinct on saves. I am going to react the same way. I wasn’t able to throw the ball and I wasn’t able to roll the ball. I had to kick it at times, it was a little unusual.”

While MIT’s season ended with a 0-0 loss on penalty kicks to the Rochester Institute of Technology in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, Ullmann is excited about what the squad achieved in its 13-2-6 campaign.

“We fought hard the whole way, I was proud of how we played good soccer, it speaks well for the future,” said Ullmann.

“I think we did better than expected because of the number  of seniors from 2013 that we lost. We made it back to the NCAA tournament for a third time and we hosted the conference tournament. We beat Tufts, it was the first win for an MIT women’s team against a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) team.”

Ullmann’s play exceeded her expectations. “Every step of the way helped me realize that I could accomplish the kind of things that I did in high school,” said Ullmann.

“I was very happy by how the season went. It was exciting to give up so few goals as a freshman. It makes me want to push myself to do even better over the next three years.”

Not resting on her laurels, Ullmann plans to keep showing the kind of work ethic that has helped her excel at every step of her career.

“I want to keep working hard; I want to keep putting in the effort to get better individually and to help the team go further and further,” said Ullmann.

“I am working on building my body strength. I want to have better decision-making and improve the way I read the game.”

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Andres picked up an assist on the game-tying goal as PHS rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie Wall High 5-5. The Little Tigers, now 6-1-2, play Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Jackson Andres controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Andres picked up an assist on the game-tying goal as PHS rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie Wall High 5-5. The Little Tigers, now 6-1-2, play Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Terence Miller was disappointed on several levels when the Princeton High boys’ hockey team had to postpone its game against Steinert last Friday due to the snowstorm that hit the area.

First, the Little Tigers missed the chance to play at historic Baker Rink on the Princeton University campus, a treat for PHS and its guests alike.

More importantly, PHS head coach Miller wanted to see his team make a fresh start in the new year after ending the 2013 portion of its schedule with a lackluster 4-2 win over Pennington on December 19 and a 4-1 defeat to Cranford a day later.

“I am really eager to get going again,” said Miller, noting that his team had only two practices over the holiday break.

“We didn’t have our foot on the throttle against Pennington but we still managed to get the win. It was the same thing the next night and we laid an egg; it left a bad taste in our mouths before the holiday.

Miller tipped his hat to Cranford for taking advantage of its opportunities. “It was our first loss, we outshot them but they played a good road game,” said Miller.

“They scored on an early power play and then we had a bad turnover in the back and they scored again. We dug ourselves a hole and then we did get it back to to 2-1. Going into the third period, we were down 3-1. I feel that the guys were tired in the third; their goalie made some big saves.”

In reflecting on his squad’s overall play so far this season, Miller believes the pluses outweigh the minuses.

“I am happy with the effort,” said Miller, whose team put in quite an effort at Wall High last Sunday evening, rallying from a 5-1 third period deficit to pull out a 5-5 tie and move to 6-1-2.

“I like how our goalies are playing. We have a senior (Robert Quinn) and freshman (Sawyer Peck) and they are rotating well. We can’t dwell on ourselves and get ahead of ourselves. Things are going to get tougher in January.

Miller is looking for his team to be tougher mentally and physically as it gets into a more challenging part of its schedule.

“We need more consistency of effort from top to bottom,” said Miller, whose team plays Paul VI at the Skate Zone at Voorhees on January 10 before facing powerful Notre Dame on January 13 at Mercer County Park.

“The biggest thing is to stay consistent. They can’t take their foot off the throttle. So far, so good. I am happy but not satisfied.”

MARKING PERIOD: Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley makes a point in a game last season. Last Saturday, Shelley was frustrated as PHS fell 67-41 at Robbinsville to drop to 1-2. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they host Steinert on January 9, play at Ewing on January 11, and then host WW/P-S on January 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MARKING PERIOD: Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley makes a point in a game last season. Last Saturday, Shelley was frustrated as PHS fell 67-41 at Robbinsville to drop to 1-2. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they host Steinert on January 9, play at Ewing on January 11, and then host WW/P-S on January 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley experienced an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu as his Princeton High boys’ basketball team played at Robbinsville last Saturday.

After ending 2013 with a 65-41 defeat at Morristown, PHS started the New Year by losing 67-41 to the Ravens.

“I thought the Morristown game would be a wakeup call defensively,” said second-year PHS head coach Shelley.

“Every game we play is winnable but it is also losable. This is an example of not playing our best and another team plays well and we get it handed to us.”

The Little Tigers started slowly, trailing 18-8 after the first quarter and finding themselves down 37-21 at halftime.

“It was frustrating,” said Shelley. “I thought they executed well, they shot the ball extremely well. We had a lot of shots we normally make that didn’t go in. We were just sluggish, that is the word we talked about.”

At halftime, Shelley focused on getting his players to pick up intensity. “The message was that we were going to come out and try to pressure,” said Shelley.

“We talked about when you are down that much, all you can think about is winning the third quarter and that was the goal. We played a lot of people, trying to find a defensive spark.”

In the second half, PHS showed some spark as it outscored the Ravens 7-6 in one stretch.

“I thought we found a group late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter and we had a nice little run,” said Shelley, who got 13 points from junior guard Kevin Kane in the loss with senior forward Peter Mahiotiere chipping 12 points and nine rebounds. “We were trapping and rotating.”

Going forward, the Little Tigers are going to work on running a better defense.

“I think the biggest thing we talked a lot about at halftime and after the game was trusting your teammates,” said Shelley, whose team dropped to 1-2 with the setback.

“If I am not willing to go out and guard the ball with a lot of pressure that means I am not trusting that my teammates behind me are going to help. A lot of Monday’s focus is going to be on basic defensive principles, like ball pressure and helping. It was an execution and intensity thing on the defensive end today.”

With a busy stretch of the season coming up, Shelley believes his team will sharpen its execution.

“We have got four three-game weeks in a row so there are a lot of opportunities to put together some good performances but at the same time, our practice time is going to be limited,” said Shelley, whose team hosts Steinert on January 9, plays at Ewing on January 11, and then hosts WW/P-S on January 14. “We just couldn’t generate any energy today; we’ll tighten up some stuff.”