February 25, 2015
SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING IT THROUGH: Hun School boys’ hockey senior defenseman Danny Seelagy sends the puck up the ice last Friday as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the second straight county title for the Raiders. Hun wrapped up the season by competing at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to post a final record of 22-3-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Danny Seelagy joined the Hun School boys’ hockey program as a freshman in 2011, there were only enough players to fill out a varsity team.

With coach Ian McNally taking the helm that winter, Seelagy was confident that Hun would augment its numbers.

“I had played with Ian since I was a squirt and he has all of these connections so I had a pretty good feeling that he was going to reel a couple of good guys in,” said Seelagy.

Over the last few years, some really good players have come on board as Hun has developed into a powerhouse. This winter, with a deep roster and a flourishing JV program, the Raiders have enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in program history. Hun won the Purple Puck tournament in Washington, D.C. in late December and achieved its first state Prep championship since 1996 earlier this month when it topped Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game.

Last Friday, the Raiders added another trophy, topping Notre Dame 4-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game to earn its second straight county crown.

Hun’s depth was on display Friday as it overcame a powerful Notre Dame team without sophomore stars Evan Barratt and Jon Bendorf, two of the team’s most potent offensive threats who were away competing in a club hockey competition.

Coming into the contest, Seelagy and his teammates on hand were confident that they could rise to the occasion despite the absence of Barratt and Bendorf.

“We weren’t really worried about that because Evan has been hurt, he broke his knee at the beginning of the season and we have always been playing without him,” said Seelagy.

“That was a setback in the very beginning but I think we did pretty well without him. Missing Bendy had us a little bit nervous at first. I think it was fine overall; I think that we knew that we were going to win.”

The top-seeded Raiders didn’t waste any time seizing momentum against the second-seeded Irish, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nick Ashcroft 54 seconds into the contest.

“That was huge, especially for us, because we are usually a third period kind of team,” said Seelagy. “Getting that first goal really helped us out.”

The defense took over from there, stifling Notre Dame, highlighted by killing off two 5-on-3’s in a vital stretch early in the second period.

“We stuck to our game plan, we weren’t trying to change anything since  everything has been working out for us,” added Seelagy.

The work of Seelagy and classmate Chris Rossi on defense has been a constant for Hun over the last four years.

“Chris Rossi and I are the only two seniors to be here since freshman year so we have always been playing together a while,” said Seelagy, an assistant captain for the Raiders along with Bobby Wurster with Rossi serving as the captain.

“I think we are really good teammates, especially when we play together. because we have known each other so long. He just plays amazing.”

Seelagy has gotten really good over the course of his Hun career.

“I think I have improved every single year,” said Seelagy, who was named the Hun recipient of the MCT’s Scott Bertoli Sportsmanship Award. “My coach came up to me one practice and said I think this is the best year you have ever had so that was huge for me. He loves me because me of my speed.”

Hun head coach McNally, for his part, believed that getting the first goal was huge for the Raiders.

“I know a lot of these guys at Notre Dame; I think if they get up a goal, they get pretty fired up,” said McNally.

“They have guys that have the ability to break the game open so for us to get up first, it was a statement of it doesn’t matter who is here, we are going to keep scoring and get the job done so that was good.”

With Barratt and Bendorf missing, it was critical for the Hun defense to do a very good job.

“We just had to; we pulled Tanner (Preston) and Bobby (Wurster) aside and said you guys have to be the best two players in this game because we won’t have the puck for two-thirds of the game like we usually do,” said McNally.

“They were great as was Chris (Rossi), Danny, and Griffin (Moroney), all five of them that we rolled pretty much. They were good because they had to be, you know that is going to happen when you are missing Jon and Evan, somebody else is going to step up.”

McNally likes the way Seelagy has stepped up in his final campaign for the Raiders.

“Danny stopped playing fall hockey a couple of years ago,” said McNally, noting that Seelagy plays for the Hun football team in the fall.

“I told him earlier I would hate to see what would happen if you played fall hockey; throughout the whole season he gets better. He is awesome; he got the sportsmanship award and he is a captain. He is totally deserving.”

Hun got some awesome play in the MCT from junior goalie Diesel Pelke, who was named the MVP of the tournament.

“They had two or three flurries; sometimes you worry when a goalie makes a save that he may not see what is going on but Diesel tracked the puck every where, up in the air, batting it out with his blocker and all over the place,” said McNally of Pelke, who didn’t give up a goal in the tournament and had 30 saves in the shutout of the Irish.

“He is just so calm; he is in the right spot and makes the save. There is no flair to it, he was awesome. If they score a goal in the first period, that kind of changes the game so that was big.”

In McNally’s view, a key factor in Hun’s success this winter has been the talent throughout the roster.

“The story of us is depth, regardless of who is here we still play the exact same way,” said McNally, whose team competed at the Hill School (Pa.) Mid-Atlantic Hockey Invitational last weekend, topping Princeton Day School 4-2 and Lawrenceville 5-4 before falling 6-4 to the Hoosac School (N.Y.). in the third place game to end the season with a 22-3-4 record.

“Sometimes when you don’t have guys, you have to change the strategy and things like that. Going into every big game, we had to change the lines and whoever it was got it done. Sometimes it was the defense, sometimes it was the big guns and sometimes it was the third line. It is nice to be able to keep the same strategy; it is easy on me.”

Seelagy, for his part, credits an easy going approach off the ice with giving the team a winning chemistry to go with its depth.

“This team is special because we don’t exclude anybody, everyone is happy, everybody is welcome,” said Seelagy.

“Before the games we have dance-offs in the locker room and stuff to keep it loose. In the past few years we were really strict and everybody was quiet in the locker room. We wanted to make it loose and fun.”

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Melinda Tang heads to victory in the 100 butterfly in PHS’s 103-67 win over Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final earlier this month. Last Sunday in the Public B championship meet against Scotch Plains-Fanwood, sophomore Tang posted wins in the 100 fly and 200 freestyle in a losing cause as PHS fell 100-70 to the Raiders. The Little Tigers ended the winter with a 15-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tears weren’t being shed by the members of the Princeton High girls’ swimming team last Sunday afternoon on the deck of The College of New Jersey pool even though they had just lost 100-70 to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the state Public B championship meet.

Reflecting on a magnificent campaign that saw PHS roll to its second straight Mercer County crown and win all 15 of its meets coming into the final, including a 97-73 victory over Ocean City last Wednesday in the state semis, sophomore star Melinda Tang was all smiles.

“This season has been amazing,” said Tang. “Last year we lost to Ocean City in the semis and we knew that meet was going to be really close too and we weren’t sure if we were going to win that. Once we made it over that last obstacle and we were here, it was just about having fun.”

The Little Tiger realized that Scotch Plains-Fanwood posed a formidable obstacle to their quest for a state title.

“We knew that the meet was going to be really close because our frontrunners and their frontrunners were pretty close and we all had a lot of depth,” said Tang.

The PHS frontrunners proved their mettle, winning seven of eight individual events with Tang prevailing in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly while freshman Abbey Berloco won both the 50 and 100 free races, junior Madeleine Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, and junior Brianna Romaine was victorious in the 100 backstroke.

Tang was pleased with her individual wins. “I can never say anything about the 200 free because it is right after the (medley) relay so I just have got to finish swimming this and it is all good,” said Tang. “For the 100 fly, I was really happy because I got a best time (56.36).”

The Little Tigers finished on a high note as the quartet of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine won the 400 free relay, the final event of the day.

“We knew at that point that they were going to win,” recalled Tang. “We had already made it this far so we were going to go down with a fight.”

With a season of high school swimming under her belt, Tang was more emotionally invested in fighting to the end for PHS.

“This year, I have gotten a lot closer with all of my teammates because freshman year was a time of transition,” said Tang.

PHS first-year head coach Carly Misiewicz appreciated how her swimmers kept their heads up as they tasted defeat for the first time this winter.

“Why I love being a part of this team so much is that every person is so classy,” said Misiewicz, whose team posted a record of 15-1.

“They are not going to bad mouth the other team because we lost, no one is a sore loser. Every person on the team knows that we did everything that we could, they swam faster. You can’t swim faster than you are capable of swimming.”

In Misiewicz’s view, the win in the 400 free relay spoke volumes about PHS’s desire to get the most out of its ability.

“Our girls are fighters and they are not going to give up, they are not going to give them a race,” said Misiewicz, a former Rider University swimming star.

“I told them that one of my biggest things in college when I was a swimmer, the other team may win the meet but don’t let them win the last race. They put their hearts and souls into everything and it really showed. I am so happy with what we have done this year.”

Making it to the state final exceeded Misiewicz’s expectations at the beginning of the year.

“Looking and scouting when we were going to come against Manasquan (in the sectional final), it was alright here we go, this is our next hurdle and then Ocean City was our next hurdle,” said Misiewicz.

“I am just so happy and proud of them to make it to this point, so many teams would kill to be in our position. I would have never thought we would have made it this far.”

While PHS’s big four of Tang, Berloco, Deardorff, and Romaine certainly made a point with their dominance on Sunday, Misiewicz credited Scotch Plains-Fanwood for its talent across the board.

“Unfortunately you can win first in everything but not win the meet,” said Misiewicz, noting that Deardorff set a school record in the breaststroke with her time of 1:09.35.

“What it came down to today is that they were just deeper than we were but again you can’t change anybody else. You can’t affect the other team or the other swimmers. You have to worry about yourselves and that is what they all did.”

With most of its frontline swimmers returning, PHS is primed for a lot of big wins down the road.

“We do have quite a few girls coming back, which is phenomenal,” said Misiewicz.

“It just makes me even more excited for next year. I am just really excited to see where we leave off this year and where we are going to head into next year. Making it this far was huge and I couldn’t be any more proud of the girls.”

Tang, for her part, believes that PHS will be better in the future as a result of its experience on Sunday.

“If we had won, it would have been the first time since 1993 so we were all really, really excited for the meet,” said Tang. “I think this will help us because every winner needs to learn how to lose.”

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINDING HIS WAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Tooker Callaway controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore defenseman Callaway scored a goal in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PHS fell 10-2 to second-seeded Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament semis. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 10-9-2 with the defeat, will start action in the state Public B tournament this week where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost twice to Notre Dame in the regular season, getting outscored by a combined 13-1 margin, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team was looking to fine-tune things as the foes met for round three in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Wednesday.

“We felt good about ourselves, we switched up a couple of little things,” said PHS head coach Terence Miller.

For the first 13 minutes of the contest, sixth-seeded PHS battled the top-seeded Irish on even terms, trailing just 1-0.

“We were happy with our start,” said Miller. “We played well. We had a tough turnover to give them their first goal. I thought an early goal for us would have helped, just to settle the group down. We didn’t get it.”

Notre Dame scored a late first period goal to make it 2-0 and then took control of the game in the second, scoring three unanswered goals.

“When they score, they seem to get goals in bunches,” said Miller. “We just couldn’t seem to stop them. They ran that cherry picking, hanging system. It worked because it took our minds off the offensive end. We are worried about getting back and defending that. You should be able to punish them. If they want to hang a guy, they are creating a power play for you. It gets your defensemen back, they start icing and now we are running for our lives.”

PHS cut the deficit to 5-1 early in the third period on a goal by senior Connor McCormick but Notre Dame shifted into a higher gear, scoring five unanswered goals. The Little Tigers did get a tally from sophomore defenseman Tooker Callaway in the waning seconds to make the final 10-2.

“The wheels came off in the third,” said Miller.” You could see that they were ready to pounce on mistakes. We got a little something going but when we made mistakes, they made us pay. That is the sign of a good team. We know they are deep, they had their legs going a little bit, they have speed.”

Miller was proud of how his team stuck to its game even as Notre Dame pulled away.

“We fought to the end but we didn’t get chippy,” said Miller, reflecting on the loss which dropped the Little Tigers to 10-9-2. “That is not our game, that is not what Princeton is about. I was happy that they kept their heads up and played to the end.”

With PHS starting action in the state Public B tournament this week, where they are seeded 25th and slated to play at No. 8 Middletown South on February 24 in an opening round contest, Miller is hoping the team can build on its MCT run.

“We got back to the semifinals, we are happy about that,” said Miller. “We would have liked to have had a better performance tonight. I am proud of my guys. We hung in.”

February 18, 2015
MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The temperatures dipped into the teens last Friday but the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team wasn’t fazed by the prospect of another frigid training session.

“We have been outside every day this week, working hard and improving,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

While the Tigers showed a lot of improvement last year as they went 12-7 overall, winning the Ivy League regular season title and advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, Princeton is not resting on its laurels.

“We are always trying to raise the bar,” said Hall of Fame coach Sailer, who brings a 344-138 record into her 29th season at Princeton and has led the program to three NCAA titles.

“We had a good season last year. We are looking to play as well as we can and make some waves this year.”

Sailer is counting on her core of seniors to make the most of their final college campaign.

“There are some dynamic players and leaders in this year’s senior class and they are setting a great tone,” asserted Sailer, whose team is ranked 14th nationally and opens the season by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.

One of Princeton’s most dynamic players is senior attacker Erin McMunn, the leading scorer for the Tigers in 2014 with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists.

“McMunn is a presence on the attack end; she came in and made a huge impact right away and she has gotten better and better,” said Sailer of the three-time All-Ivy League performer and two-time All-American.

“She will draw attention; she has learned to play against pressure and rise to the occasion. Her nickname is money because of her name but that is what she is for us on the field. She has incredible hands and has a sweet stick. Her shooting last year was exceptional (a .629 shooting percentage). She is an incredible finisher and she is also a playmaker.”

Another key playmaker for Princeton is sophomore attacker Olivia Hompe, who tallied 46 points last spring on 22 goals and 24 assists.

“Olivia Hompe had a great freshman year,” said Sailer. “She and Erin are a good 1-2 punch. Olivia is a dynamic player with vision. She is also a big assister for us; she understands the game. She is fast and is a good dodger.”

Sailer has some good options at attack besides McMunn and Hompe. “The other two spots are still up for grabs; we have a number of options,” said Sailer, noting that senior Erika Grabbi (3 goals in 2014), junior Anna Menke (4 goals), and junior Stephanie Paloscio (3 goals and 1 assist) along with a trio of freshmen, Haley Giraldi, Abby Finkelston, and Colby Chanenchuk are in the mix.

“The biggest issue in the preseason has been injuries. We have a number of kids out who would be in those spots.”

In the midfield, Princeton features a big weapon in senior Erin Slifer, who had 52 points last season on 28 goals and 24 assists.

“Slifer is a vocal leader on the field, she is a big, strong presence,” said Sailer.

“She runs both ends of the field for us. She is a powerful shooter and is a great playmaker up top, she tied for the team lead in assists last year and that is usually done by someone in the crease. She sees plays developing and has such vision.”

Sophomore Anna Doherty (24 goals, 3 assists) and junior Anya Gersoff (25 goals, 3 assists) give the Tigers additional firepower in the midfield.

“Doherty is the fastest kid in the team,” said Sailer, noting that sophomore Lauren Steidl and freshman Camille Sullivan will also see time at midfield.

“It would be easy for her to coast because she is one step ahead but she works so hard. She has really pushed herself to get to a new level. We have moved Anya to midfield, she works so hard. She is a field hockey goalie and comes into lacrosse in terrific condition. She digs out ground balls and is the example on hustle plays. She is really smart with the ball. I think she is going to be really good in the midfield.”

The Tiger defense boasts a smart and skilled performer in senior Liz Bannantine (1 assist, 25 ground balls).

“LB is our defensive leader,” asserted Sailer. “She is so smart, she sees everything. She communicates everything and she understands our system. She directs our defense. She is also so good on her slides and positioning. She is a playmaker on defense for us.”

Sophomore Maddie Rodriguez emerged as a pleasant surprise last spring in her debut campaign.

“Maddie Rodriguez (14 ground balls) was a walk-on as a freshman and picked up everything so quickly, she is so smart,” said Sailer. “She is not flashy but she gets the job done. She is the second most experienced player on our defense.”

The Tigers boast some other experienced players who should contribute on the back line.

“Maddy Lynch (3 ground balls) is a junior and I think she is going to have a breakout year,” said Sailer.

“She was a supporting player the last two years; she came off the bench late last year and played well in the NCAAs. She has stepped up, she brings a lot of speed. Amanda Leavell (4 ground balls) was used mostly on draws last year; she played a little bit of defense. I think you will see her more consistently on the defensive end this year. Jess Nelson has done a great job. She is so smart and vocal; she will get some time this year.”

At goalie, senior Annie Woehling (8.49 goals against average, .444 save percentage), sophomore Ellie DeGarmo (9.65 goals against average, .500 save percentage), and freshman Mary Kate McDonough are in the mix.

“It is an open competition; we haven’t decided who the starter is going to be,” said Sailer.

“Annie is the returning starter so we feel someone has to knock her off. Annie has done well, she gets tougher in the games. She played consistently last year and was good in the Ivy tournament. The other two goalies are looking to assert themselves. Ellie DeGarmo is playing well. Mary Kate McDonough is different from the other two; she steps out more and cuts off the angles. She has a different style and gives us another look.”

Sailer is looking for her team to value the ball more this year. “We need to control possession on the attack end and make good decisions,” said Sailer.

“The No. 1 thing always is draws and ground balls, the 50/50 balls. We haven’t asserted ourselves as much in the past in those areas so we are really emphasizing that. In our OT losses last year, we never had the ball.”

Princeton will need to be assertive all over the field if it is to beat a strong Loyola team in the season opener.

“It is a very good test, they had a great season last year and they are returning a lot of good players,” said Sailer.

“We have a couple of practices this week and next week. We are still putting things in; we will be ready. We are really excited about the season; it is a good group.”

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hailing from Canada, Zach Currier felt at home as snow fell throughout the second half when the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Manhattan last Saturday.

Noting that Princeton had started its preseason with a practice at midnight on February 1 in 19 degree chill, Currier said the Tigers weren’t fazed by the wintry blast.

“We are used to playing in the snow,” said sophomore midfielder Currier, a native of Petersborough, Ontario. “A couple of days ago we had a blizzard in practice; we have played in worse before.”

Breaking into the starting lineup, Currier played well, scoring two goals as Princeton cruised to a 14-4 win over the Jaspers.

“It is always nice to get one off the bat and then just keep going on from there,” said Currier.

Looking to play a more deliberate offensive style this season, the Tigers got into a nice rhythm.

“We have put in a new offense this year and I feel like we executed it pretty well,” said Currier.

“We are trying to get the ball around a couple of times to get settled and get the defense moving more and set them up where we want them.”

In Currier’s view, Princeton executed well all over the field against the Jaspers.

“I don’t think we had any lapses,” said Currier. “They got a few goals off a few bad bounces but we played really well defensively. We faced off really well. I think we out ground-balled them and obviously we scored a bunch of goals.”

With a season of college lax under his belt, Currier believes he can become a consistent goal scorer for the Tigers.

“Confidence is definitely one of the biggest issues,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Currier, who had 10 points in 2014 on six goals and four assists.

“Coming in as a freshman and playing along (Tom) Schreiber, (Jeff) Froccaro and all those big guys who had already been starting obviously you are going to be a little timid. I eventually settled in with their help. By the end of the year, I just started playing my own game and it carried over into this season. I don’t think I scored a goal outside five yards last year. I am starting to go from 9-10 yards.”

The graduation of four-time All American midfielder Schreiber has led to a shift in the Princeton offensive approach.

“Obviously Tom was a huge part of our offense last year,” said Currier. “I think this year our main focus is more team oriented, getting everyone touches where last year we wanted the ball on his stick a lot because he could do special things.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with how his offense handled things in the win over Manhattan.

“I thought we played within ourselves and executed,” said Bates. “We knew they were going to come and try to slow it down with a zone and control the pace. I thought we played under control. We were patient, we didn’t try to force plays, which I was happy with.”

Bates was particularly happy with the play of his 1-2 punch of junior Ryan Amber and senior Mike MacDonald as Ambler scored four goals while MacDonald chipped in two goals and three assists.

“Those two have such good lacrosse IQs that they see an entire defense,” said Bates.

“You watch them dodge, they are not worried about their man. They are  worried about a defensive rotation and just see through defense so well. They both have such great vision. Those two play so well together, it is fun to watch.”

It has been fun for Bates to watch Currier’s progress. “He picks up ground balls on the wing, he does some things that nobody teaches,” said Bates.

“He is so crafty. We are asking a lot of him, he is playing some defense, he is on the wings. He complements those other guys very well. If you put a shortstick on him in space, he is a very tough matchup. We knew coming in that he had talent and going out at the end of his freshman year, we started to see it more and more. Our guys know he is a playmaker. He can be a big-time guy.”

The Princeton defense made some big plays on Saturday as it held the Jaspers to two goals through the first 57:51 minutes of the contest.

“They didn’t create a whole lot of opportunities, we got the ball off the ground,” said Bates. “It was a good one for those guys to get their feet under them and communicate.”

It was good for Princeton to work through some opening day kinks. “We just got one under our belt,” added Bates. “With a two-week preseason, we knew it was going to be a little sloppy. We wanted to focus on us and play through it the best we can. We did a good job.”

On Friday, Princeton faces a good test as it hosts a perennially tough Hofstra team.

“I think the group knows because of the focus we put on the day to day preparation, we have still got to think about us,” said Bates.

“Hofstra is a well coached team, it is always a big game for them. At the end of the day, it is a good next step for us. We have got to take next steps and execute. I like this group. It is a group that is pretty dialed in, there is a good feeling with their work rate and leadership.”

Currier believes the Tigers are dialed in as they look ahead to the clash against Hofstra.

“We are going to play our game,” said Currier. “Hopefully we will get our shots and execute our game plan.”

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting Ivy League co-leader Yale last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s basketball team knew it needed a win to make it a three-horse race for the league title at the halfway point.

Entering the evening, Princeton stood at 4-2 in Ivy action while Yale and Harvard were tied atop the league at 6-1.

In the first 20 minutes of the contest, however, Princeton looked like an also ran, falling behind 11-0 and trailing 39-28 at halftime.

Addressing his team at intermission, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t looking for anything fancy.

“The message was really quite simple, there is no 11-point play,” said Henderson, whose team trailed 33-17 at one point in the first half.

“Let’s get it to eight at the 16-minute mark. We were trying to make some adjustments defensively. We said, look are they that much faster than us, what’s the deal here.”

Responding like champions, the Tigers started the half on a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead with 10:35 remaining in regulation.

“I am really proud of the way that we came back,” said Henderson. “I thought the start of the second half was great. I thought we were going to have to chip away and then all of a sudden we are tied at the 16 minute mark.”

In the view of Princeton sophomore forward Steven Cook, the rally came down to being tougher.

“We got off to a slow start, some shots didn’t fall and we weren’t playing great defense with them scoring 39 points in the first half,” said Cook.

“We talked about a lot of different things at halftime, we needed to maintain aggressiveness and toughness inside. The 1-3-1 (zone) definitely helped us with staying aggressive on defense. We just attacked on offense.”

But Princeton couldn’t maintain the lead as Yale responded with a 35-19 run over the last 10:20 of the contest to pull out an 81-73 victory.

“I think we are disappointed with that,” said Henderson, reflecting on the setback which left Princeton at 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy.

“College basketball is great because you are either going one way or another. We seem to be on a track where we are on the upswing and then we fall down. We are hurting a little bit but nobody is crying for us. We have three weeks and we have an opportunity to get better every day.”

Yale junior forward Justin Sears, a Plainfield, N.J. product, hurt Princeton all night, tallying 25 points and nine rebounds, including a huge sequence with just under 10 minutes left when he blocked a Hans Brase shot and scooped up the ball and went in for a layup and then hit a free throw after getting fouled on the drive.

“He is a really good player; in our league, he is so different,” said Henderson of Sears.

“He is long but fast; the way he got out on Hans’ shot and blocked it, that was a gigantic play. It was a six-point game and all of a sudden. it is three. He gets the and one.”

Princeton got a gigantic effort from junior forward Henry Caruso as he scored a career-high 25 points in a losing effort.

“I like our fight, I love that,” asserted Henderson who got 13 points from freshman guard Amir Bell with Cook adding 12. ”Henry has brought to our team what I want, which is don’t back down from the best players and guard them and play hard. That’s what he is through and through.”

Caruso, for his part, was frustrated that the team’s fighting spirit didn’t result in a victory.

“We just started with our defense, we started to get stops and really causing pressure on Yale,” said Caruso. “As the game went on we got a little bit flat, that was disappointing. We have to get ready for Dartmouth next Friday.”

In Henderson’s view, Princeton can still be a factor on the Ivy title race.

“Over the course of an 80-minute weekend, I think we are playing a lot of good minutes,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard a day later.

“We can’t have an 11-0 start, we can’t give up a 13-point lead at the end of games. (referring to a 68-60 loss at Cornell on February 7) We can score and we can defend. We show these things in stretches, the pieces are there. We just have to keep our heads up and keep working.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin unloads the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior forward Rankin had an assist as Princeton tied St. Lawrence 1-1. A day earlier, Rankin and the Tigers rallied for a 2-1 win over Clarkson. Princeton, now 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey, hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin unloads the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior forward Rankin had an assist as Princeton tied St. Lawrence 1-1. A day earlier, Rankin and the Tigers rallied for a 2-1 win over Clarkson. Princeton, now 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey, hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton University men’s hockey team started February by losing 2-0 at Colgate and 4-2 at Cornell, Colton Phinney saw the weekend as a step in the right direction.

“Both games could have gone either way; we had a great second and third period against Cornell,” said sophomore goalie Phinney.

“I think since Christmas we have been playing really well. Goals are starting to come. I think we are definitely turning around and starting to play better.”

Hosting Clarkson last Friday, the Tigers dug an early 1-0 hole but came on after that to pull out a 2-1 win.

“We weren’t playing our best in the first,” said Phinney. “We knew we could play better and we had a great second period and a great third. It is believing in ourselves and knowing that we can improve. In the first period, we were giving them too much time and space. We weren’t really playing them like we were supposed to and how we practiced and we switched in the second and third.”

Phinney experienced a harrowing final minute on Friday as Clarkson went to an extra attacker and pressed hard in a bid to tie the game.

“The time seemed to go really, really slow; I looked and saw 20 seconds left and then looked up again and there was still a second left,” recalled Phinney, who ended up with 28 saves in the win.

“I knew we were going to block some shots and I knew they were going to throw everything they could at the net. I just try to make the saves and believe in our team blocking it, which they did.”

The Princeton defense showed its growing self belief a night later as the Tigers tied St. Lawrence 1-1, moving to 4-17-3 overall and 2-14-2 ECAC Hockey.

“We have definitely gotten better on defense,” asserted Phinney, who made 34 saves against the Saints.

“Cornell was a really good effort too, especially in the second and third periods. We built off of it today in the second and third periods; we didn’t give them much at all.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty liked the effort he got from his players against Clarkson as they picked up their intensity over the last two periods of the contest.

“We were supporting the puck and attacking with speed,” said Fogarty. “We were not looking for the puck over our shoulder, we were attacking with the puck and had some time to get it in deep and get some pressure. We know who we are and the longer the games are 0-0 or 1-0, the more that our guys are fine with it and the other teams aren’t.”

The game winner was the product of an attacking play by junior forward Jonathan Liau as he flew down the ice to cut off a puck that was headed for the red line and then flipped it back to senior Tucker Brockett, who found the back of the net with 12:54 remaining in the third period.

“It was a lot of hustle there from Jon Liau to negate the icing; that was a great play by No. 10.” said Fogarty.

In pulling out the win, the Tigers showed toughness to go with their hustle. “It was a great team win, guys were banged up, there were a lot of ice bags in there,” said Fogarty.

“That is what it takes to win, winning is difficult. If it was easy, everybody would be winning. It takes 28 of our guys to be committed Monday through Thursday and then the guys in the games have to play to their potential every shift.”

Fogarty believes Princeton is starting to play up to its potential. “We tied Brown (2-2 on January 31) and now we beat Clarkson so we are getting points,” said Fogarty, whose team hosts Brown on February 20 and Yale on February 21.

“That is what our goal was, to play our best hockey down the stretch and I thought we played a very good game tonight.”

Phinney for his part, believes that the comeback win over Clarkson is a very good sign for the Tigers.

“I think this is the first one we came from behind so it was definitely good,” said Phinney.

“We are starting to get wins at the end of the season. We are showing that we are relentless and not giving up after they score first. At the beginning of the year, we would probably have given up and lost this game 3-0, or 4-0. We almost built off of giving up a goal and used it as momentum and went from there.”

PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PETER PRINCIPLE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse head coach Peter Stanton surveys the action in a game last spring. Earlier this month, Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Stanton has led PHS to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles in his 19 seasons at the helm. For Stanton, a focus on building team chemistry has been a key ingredient in the program’s success. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Peter Stanton didn’t enjoy much success in his first two years as the head coach of the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

Taking over the program in 1996, he guided the PHS to a 1-14 record. A year later, things weren’t much better as the Little Tigers posted a 2-13 mark.

But Stanton could sense that the program was turning a corner in that second campaign.

“Sometimes I tell people that I feel like I did my best coaching in 1997,” said Stanton.

“For some reason, that was the year with a combination of kids where I started to feel that we are going to get good at this. Everyone bought in. We kept the kids together; they had the feeling that we were going to achieve things.”

Staying the course, Stanton has gone on to achieve great things for PHS, leading the program to 219 wins, two Mercer County Tournament championships, and six Colonial Valley Conference titles. His teams reached the Group 2 semifinals in 2006 and 2007 and the Group 2 state title game in 2010.

Earlier this month, Stanton, 48, earned the ultimate achievement, getting inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

In reflecting on the accolade, Stanton said it is the bonds developed among the players that has been a key ingredient in his program’s success.

“What stands out most to me is the chemistry that we have had and you see guys that are still close eight, nine years out of high school,” said Stanton.

“They are still part of each other’s lives well after college. We have really worked hard to build that chemistry. It is a priority of the coaches. I think it comes down to two things, first is performance. You play better if you get along and hold each other accountable. When you enjoy each other’s company and play for each other, it is a lot more fun.”

Stanton has enjoyed lacrosse since 1982 when he took the sport up as a sophomore at Hunterdon Central High School, having tired of football and baseball.

“I liked the combination of physical contact and the gracefulness of the game,” said Stanton, who played midfield in high school, starting on varsity as a senior.

Continuing his playing career at the college level, Stanton headed to Stevens Tech, where he was a two-time Knickerbocker Conference second-team selection, the team MVP in 1987, and the team captain in 1988.

Stanton’s first taste of coaching came when he guided the PHS junior varsity team from 1992-94. After a year hiatus from coaching, he took the reins of the varsity program.

The Little Tigers experienced a breakthrough campaign in 1998, going 9-4 and making the state tournament. Two years later, PHS had one of the great seasons in program history, going 17-1, falling to eventual champion Delbarton in the state quarterfinals.

PHS earned Mercer County Tournament championships the last two years, displaying a competitive fire that has made Stanton proud.

“When you have a team that overachieves, nothing is better than that,” said Stanton.

“We were not necessarily the most talented team but we played the best at the most important moments and that is very satisfying.”

An important factor in Stanton’s success has been the contributions he has received from his coaching staff over the years.

“I have had great assistant coaches; they have really helped with team building,” said Stanton.

“So many of the best ideas came from Jason Carter. Chip Casto has such a wealth of knowledge. He is learning more and more about the game and finds ways to help us do things more efficiently. He is such a professional. When you have someone like that doing so much work, it makes my life easier. I get the credit but he is a big part of it.”

In accepting his Hall of Fame honor, Stanton was quick to spread the credit.

“What it really means is that I have been part of a really good thing for a long time,” said Stanton.

“I have had great people, great teams, great players. We have had phenomenal parental organizations. I have been fortunate to have been in a great situation.”

With the 2015 season around the corner, Stanton is fired up for another good campaign.

“This is the real reward and the reason I keep doing this,” said Stanton, a math teacher at PHS since 2004.

“Coaching is something that is always going to be very important to me. As a season comes up, you think it is a lot of work and a lot of effort. Part of me wonders if I can still do it but midway through the season, I can’t believe I was thinking that.”

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PERFORMANCE: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Madeleine Deardorff swims the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final at the Neptune Aquatic Center. Junior star Deardorff along with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco helped PHS win the event in a program record time of 1:48.89. The Little Tigers went on to prevail 103-67 in the meet, improving to 14-0 and booking a spot in the Public B semis against Ocean City on February 18 at the Raritan Valley YMCA. The winner will advance to the state championship meet at The College of New Jersey on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Expecting a close battle with second-seeded Manasquan in the Central Jersey Public B sectional final last Friday, Madeleine Deardorff and her teammates on the top-seeded Princeton High girls swimming team relished the challenge.

“We all came in here with a lot of confidence and we knew what we had to do,” said junior star Deardorff. “Everyone was so positive.”

PHS got the meet off to a very positive start in the 200 medley relay as Deardorff combined with classmate Brianna Romaine, sophomore Melinda Tang, and freshman Abbey Berloco to win the event in a program and pool record time of 1:48.89.

“That was amazing; that was very unexpected,” said Deardorff. “We were all very happy. I think just that alone made us super confident for the rest of the meet. I think everybody from there on knew what they were capable of, not only with the relay that won but all of us did an amazing job. I think just getting off to that start really set the tone for the whole meet.”

PHS rolled from there, cruising to a 103-67 victory as it improved to 14-0 on the season.

Individually, Deardorff placed first in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly while Tang won both the 200 freestyle and 100 fly, Romaine prevailed in the 100 free and 100 backstroke and Berloco placed first in the 50 free and second in the 100 free.

For Deardorff, the 200 IM was an amazing swim as she edged Manasquan’s Kathryn Petrone by 0.34 in setting a personal best of 2:08.19.

“I know Kathryn from club swimming, I knew she was a very good swimmer,” said Deardorff.

“We both know what each other are capable of. That was an amazing race, that was crazy. I don’t think either of us knew that we were doing that well. I think just being next to her made me motivated. It could have gone either way. I am definitely happy with what I did, it was my best time.”

In the 100 fly, Deardorff battled with another very good swimmer in teammate Tang.

“It was just amazing; we race each other all of the time,” said Deardorff, noting that she and Tang both compete for the X-Cel club team.

“Our teammates said you were in synch the whole time. To be able to pull out a 1-2 on that was amazing and then we continued to do that. Abbey and Bri went 1-2 in the free after that so that was really awesome.”

PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz saw the 200 medley relay record as a spark for her team as PHS won its fourth sectional title in the last six years.

“I remember looking over at the girls and Maddie Deardorff specifically,” recalled Misiewicz.

“I looked at her and she looked at the clock and she looked at me and her jaw dropped. We said at counties that we want to get under 1:50 so to go 1:48 today is just phenomenal. That just set the tone for the whole entire rest of the meet. From there, the ball just kept rolling.”

In reflecting on the win, Misiewicz said it was a total team effort with good performances from all lanes.

“We knew they had frontrunners, they knew we had frontrunners,” said Misiewicz.

“What was going to matter was the seconds, the thirds, and the fourths, the little points that we picked up. Our depth carried us through without a doubt. Our top swimmers did what they had to do and everything just fell into place. We had good times across the board.”

Misiewicz was thrilled by how Deardorff rose to the occasion in the 200 IM.

“Her IM was her lifetime best time I think she said by two seconds,” said Misiewicz.

“Maddie definitely stepped up in the IM, pulling out that win. That was really close towards the last 12 and a half. She is a competitor and really pulled it out.”

With PHS facing Ocean City in the Public B semifinals on February 18 for a spot in the state finals on February 22, Misiewicz  believes her squad is going to be hard to beat.

“I think it is a team that can go all the way, they feel it, I feel it,” said Misiewicz,

“Meet after meet, we are getting stronger and closer. Everybody has stepped up; it is positive all the time.”

Deardorff, for her part, is confident that PHS will keep stepping up. “I think this year we have a very special team,” said Deardorff. “I don’t think we have seen anything like this in a while. I think that our depth has carried us so far and I am excited to see what happens in the next few meets.”

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Brendon McCormick goes after the puck in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, sophomore star McCormick tallied two goals and an assist to help sixth-seeded PHS edge No. 3 WW/P-S 4-3 in overtime in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. PHS, now 10-8-2, faces second seeded Notre Dame in the MCT semis on February 18 with the winner advancing to the championship game on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Facing third-seeded WW/P-S in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday, it looked like sixth-seeded Princeton High boys’ hockey team might not be around long in the tourney.

Getting off to a sluggish start, PHS trailed 3-1 after the first period as the Pirates seemed to be quicker to the puck.

In between periods, the Little Tigers decided to be more aggressive. “After the first period we came together and convened and talked about our plan,” said sophomore forward Brendon McCormick. “We were going to go out and attack and we just executed.”

McCormick took matters into his own hands, scoring two goals in the period as PHS pulled into a 3-3 tie heading into the final period.

“It was to get the puck deep, get a lot of shots, crash the net, and try to get on the goalie because he was playing well,” said McCormick.

Neither team scored in the third period and the game was deadlocked at 3-3 heading into overtime. With both teams getting power play chances in the extra session, PHS cashed in on a goal by senior John Reid with 3:44 left in OT to earn a 4-3 win and book a spot in the semis against second-seeded Notre Dame on February 18.

“We got lucky going into OT, we started on a power play to get up our momentum,” said McCormick, reflecting on the win which improved PHS to 10-8-2.

“That was a big key because that started the ball rolling. We got a little frustrated. They got a scary one there, hitting the post. We just pulled together. John had a great play.”

With the Little Tigers needing to lift their record to .500 to earn a berth in the upcoming state public tournament, the team has thrived with its back to the wall.

“The past few weeks we have been battling,” said McCormick. “It has been like a playoff atmosphere around our team so we were prepared for this game. Going into OT, we were ready with the great mindset. It is a sense of urgency. Coach has been telling us we have got to win this one, and then the next one. We just go out there and win it because we need to.”

McCormick has shown urgency in the MCT, tallying seven points on five goals and two assists as PHS topped Nottingham 10-0 in an opening round contest the day before his big effort against WW/P-S.

“I feel like I am playing better,” said McCormick. “I had a slower start to the season, now I am playing with John on a line and he is really helping me out. We are helping each other out.”

PHS head coach Terence Miller appreciated the work he got from McCormick in the win over WW/P-S.

“Brendon just never seems to get tired; his heart and his legs never stop,” said Miller. “We really had to lean on him at the end, killing off those penalties and on the power play. He was huge, his engine just never seems to stop.”

The Little Tigers displayed huge resolve in rallying for the win over the Pirates.

“I think we have shown some resiliency here, especially falling down early 3-1,” said Miller.

“We have fallen behind a few times this year and we have battled back so that speaks to the character of the group, especially our senior leaders, John (Reid) and Connor (McCormick). When it got to 3-1, we knew we had to get the next one and not let the game get out of hand. Our guys showed a lot of heart, battling back.”

Miller acknowledged that the heart-stopping overtime jangled his nerves. “Sawyer (Peck) came up with some big saves for us, they had a shorthanded breakaway,” said Miller.

“We were dead even in shots. They are a well coached team, they play hard and this game clearly could have gone either way. By that overtime period it was just hold your breath and hope you can get the next one.”

In Miller’s view, it was fitting that senior co-captain Reid notched the winning tally.

“John Reid was buzzing, he is a guy we bump back to defense when we need him there, he is on the penalty kill, he is on the power play,” said Miller.

“I was happy for him to get that game winner. He has had to carry us all year, through a lot of ups and downs. He was due, I am glad he got it.”

Looking ahead to the MCT semis, Miller is confident his squad can keep up its resilient play.

“Hopefully this can catapult us into the semifinal,” said Miller. “We know we are going to get another tough test there with one more shot to get back into the final. Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the next one.”

McCormick, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are going to be tough to knock out.

“I think we can put a good run together,” said Reid. “We have been working hard. We want to keep going as long as we can go for the seniors and keep their season alive for the last time.”

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING STAR: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Shayla Stevenson heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, sophomore guard Stevenson scored nine points in a losing cause as PDS fell 36-34 to Solebury School (Pa.). The Panthers, who fell to 5-13 with the defeat, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a frustrating first half for Shayla Stevenson and the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team as they hosted the Solebury School (Pa.) last Thursday.

PDS trailed the Spartans 22-13 at halftime and sophomore guard Stevenson was scoreless.

As the Panthers met during the break, the emphasis was on playing harder. “We just had to make open shots,” said Stevenson. “We had to be more intense, we had to attack the basket more. One of their best players had four fouls so we had to attack her. We just had to be confident in our teammates.”

Minutes into the third quarter, Stevenson drained a long three-pointer from the corner that helped get her going.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Stevenson. “Then my teammates having confidence in me and finding me when I was open was great.”

After outscoring Solebury 8-4 in the quarter to cut the deficit to 26-21, the Panthers turned the game into a nail-biter, forging ahead 34-32 with 3:20 left in regulation. PDS, though, never scored after that as it lost 36-34 in moving to 5-13.

“I definitely think we had good momentum,” said Stevenson. “(Bridget) Kane and I were shooting threes and Ryan Robinson was attacking the basket. Even though Ryan and I had three fouls each, we still played hard.”

Despite falling just short, the trio of Stevenson and freshmen Kane and Robinson showed that they have a bright future as Stevenson and Kane each ended up with nine points in the loss with Robinson adding eight.

“We are developing something; we are having a lot of chemistry,” said Stevenson. “That is one thing we are trying to work on in practice and in games, getting better team chemistry with team building and team bonding.”

Stevenson has put in a lot of work to build herself into a better player. “From last year to this year, I have tried to improve on my handle and my shot,” said Stevenson.

“Last year, my shot was a little bit off so coming into this year, I wanted to make a lot more threes and get open for teammates and just be there. Last year was really hard for me, because I had a lot on my shoulders.”

As the Panthers start play in the Mercer County Tournament this week, where they are seeded 14th and will play at No. 3 Ewing in the opening round contest on February 20, Stevenson believes they can build on their hard effort against Solebury.

“Going into MCTs, I think this is a good game to lead off from and we are going to just keep this momentum,” said Stevenson.

“I think the second half in this game is how we have to play the full game.”

BLUE LINE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Briana Blue drives to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, senior star Blue scored seven points to help PHS edge WW/P-S 33-32 and snap a six-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, now 7-13, play at Robbinsville on February 18 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLUE LINE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Briana Blue drives to the basket in recent action. Last Monday, senior star Blue scored seven points to help PHS edge WW/P-S 33-32 and snap a six-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, now 7-13, play at Robbinsville on February 18 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After defeating Hightstown on January 16 to improve to 6-7, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team experienced some hard times.

Playing a murderer’s row of tough foes like Trenton, Notre Dame, and Allentown, PHS dropped six in a row.

During the skid, the Little Tigers struggled offensively and its 50-36 loss to Howell last Thursday was a case in point. Scoring just three points in the second quarter, PHS found itself trailing 27-13 at half.

While his team didn’t throw in the towel, Little Tiger head coach Dan Van Hise acknowledged that inconsistent production has been an issue.

“If we don’t score, we don’t win,” said Van Hise. “We went into a drought in the second quarter. In the second half, we fought. We always fight. We got it to eight or nine but then Howell took the air out of the ball and we are not fast enough to trap them. We put them at the line and they made their free throws.”

PHS showed its fight last Monday as it edged WW/P-S 33-32 to snap the losing streak and improve to 7-13. Junior Julia Ryan scored 11 points in the win with Briana Blue adding seven and Mary Sutton and Zoe Tesone chipping in six apiece.

“We are still taking steps in the right direction, we have doubled last year’s win total,” said Van Hise, noting that the Little Tigers went 3-16 last winter. “We still have some winnable games and I don’t want them to be complacent.”

Van Hise believes that some of his key players have taken steps forward as the season has unfolded.

“Briana and Zoe had 18 points combined against Howell, they have found a niche inside,” said Van Hise.

“Catherine (Curran-Groome) is a solid contributor in every way that she can. Mary and Julia are the x-factors, when they are shooting well, we are tough to beat.”

PHS is shooting to do some good things in the postseason as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week before taking part in the state tournament. The Little Tigers are seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at No. 5 Hopewell Valley in a first round contest on February 20. In the states, they are seeded 15th in the Central Jersey Group 4 tourney and will play at second-seeded Marlboro in the opening round on March 2.

“We have HoVal on Friday in the counties, they are always a solid team who can shoot,” said Van Hise.

“I don’t think they outmatch us athletically like some of the other teams. If we play our best game of the season, we have a chance. I am proud of the team for making states. I know we are a low seed but we feel pretty pumped up about it.”

Van Hise is confident that the six-game losing streak won’t get his players feeling down on themselves.

“We are not a different team than we were earlier even though it feels like it with these losses,” said Van Hise.

“The mood is good. We have talked this year about when things get tough, we have to stick together and not make excuses.”

February 11, 2015
OPENING ACT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban eludes a defender in a game last year. This spring, senior captain and star midfielder Orban figures to again be one of Princeton’s top weapons, having scored a goal in 26 straight games, the longest active streak in Division I. The Tigers open the season by hosting Manhattan on February 14, looking to improve on the 7-6 record it posted in 2014.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING ACT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban eludes a defender in a game last year. This spring, senior captain and star midfielder Orban figures to again be one of Princeton’s top weapons, having scored a goal in 26 straight games, the longest active streak in Division I. The Tigers open the season by hosting Manhattan on February 14, looking to improve on the 7-6 record it posted in 2014. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season last spring with five of those losses coming by a total of seven goals, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team is getting back to basics.

“The focus is more on fundamentals; we have kept it simple and I think that will pay off,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, who brings a record of 42-30 into his sixth year guiding the Tiger program.

“There were some things that we assumed in the past. We have put fundamentals under the microscope. It is important that they understand every nuance. We are giving them a clear explanation for everything we are doing.”

Bates likes the response he is getting from his players to the new approach. “It is a pleasure to be around this team,” said Bates, whose team opens the season by hosting Manhattan on February 14. “There is a sense of purpose in this group. It started this summer with them taking the next steps.”

Senior midfield star, Kip Orban, the team’s lone captain, is setting a good tone for the group.

“It is Kip’s team in a lot of ways, he has broad shoulders and has handled it well,” said Bates of Orban, who tallied 21 goals and eight assists last season and has scored a goal in 26 straight games, the longest active streak in Division I.

“I like the leadership we are getting from top to bottom. The senior class has grown up and evolved in terms of discipline, they have made real progress. The junior class is a class in waiting; there is a lot of talent there. The sophomores and freshmen have fallen in line.”

While the Tigers have a void to fill with the graduation of All-American midfielder Tom Schreiber, the team’s leading scorer each of the last four years, Bates thinks Princeton will be more balanced.

“We miss Tom, both in terms of his competitiveness and talent,” said Bates.

“We have to redefine ourselves. We will be more dispersed, which I think will be good.”

Princeton features a good one-two punch on attack in senior Mike MacDonald (19 goals and 22 assists in 2014) and junior Ryan Ambler (24 goals, 19 assists).

“Mike and Ryan are our two stalwarts, they are two tried and true guys; I know what I am going to get from them,” said Bates.

“Mike had double hip surgery, that speaks to his commitment. It was a long summer and fall of rehab. He committed to doing everything possible to be better. I expect him to score like he did as a sophomore. Ryan has taken the next step. He has matured and really understands our system. We have told him to own this thing and to be a true quarterback. He has added layers to his game.”

Providing depth on attack will be sophomores Adam Hardej, Gavin McBride and Sean Connors along with freshmen Riley Thompson and Greg Merrill.

“The big guy, Adam Hardej (6’6, 225 pounds), is getting the first look at attack,” said Bates.

“It is a new position for him but he has such gifts and athleticism. We have great depth. Gavin McBride and Sean Connors are next in line. We have two freshman bookend smurfs. Riley Thompson is 5’5 140. He is as tough as they come and knows the game. Greg Merrill (5’8, 160) has great burst and is tough as well.”

Junior Jake Froccaro (27 goals, 14 assists) should provide toughness and production in the midfield.

“Jake is being relied on to face-off,” said Bates. “He will be playing a more defensive midfield and be more of a two-way player. He will play half field after timeouts or in critical situations. We are going to spot him.”

Orban along with sophomore Zach Currier (6 goals, 4 assists), seniors Will Rotatori (5 goals, 1 assist) and Will Himler (1 goal) will be counted on for scoring in the midfield.

“Kip will draw the pole, he is athletic and has prepared so well,” said Bates of the 6’2, 200-pound Orban.

“Zach Currier is going to make an impact. He was coming on at the end of last season. He did well in the fall and has been stellar. Rotatori and Himler are two seniors, they have experience playing in the system. We are going to mix and match with midfield and attack.”

As shortstick midfield, junior Austin deButts could emerge as a standout.

“He has been very good, he played behind three seniors last year but did well whenever he got on the field,” said Bates, who will also look at a trio of freshmen: Austin Sims, Sam Bonafede, and J.T. Caputo in that spot.

“He is not the biggest or fastest but has a good lax brain. Sims is a heralded, athletic kid, he will log minutes. Bonafede and Caputo are both athletic and tough.”

In Bates’ view, the addition of new assistant coach Dylan Sheridan, who worked with former Princeton head coach Bill Tierney in Denver, should help the Tiger defense be tougher.

“Dylan is a very good teacher of defense, this is the third defensive coordinator in three years but upperclassmen understand the system,” said Bates.

“It is the tried and true Coach Tierney Princeton defense. The older guys know the basic tenets. The guys have adapted well. It is a more experienced team. Last year we had a first year defensive coordinator with a lot of inexperienced guys and that was tough.”

The Tigers are more battle-tested at the defensive end, as key performers sophomore Will Reynolds, sophomore Sam Gravitte, junior Mark Strabo, and sophomore Bear Goldstein all saw plenty of time last spring.

“Will Reynolds will be at longstick midfielder,” said Bates. “Dylan suggested that; we think he will blossom there with his stickwork and athleticism. He is a prime time athlete. Sam Gravitte will back him up, he played well last year. Mark Strabo is back on close defense, he is a good on-ball defender. He and Bear Goldstein are bookends and both tough cover guys. The third spot is up for grabs.”

At goalie, the Tigers will be going with senior Eric Sanschagrin (10.47 goals against, .533 save percentage in 2014) as the starter at the outset.

“It is Eric’s job and he will get every opportunity to keep it,” asserted Bates.

“We think he is well suited to play 60 minutes. Matt O’Connor (10.91 goals against, .464 save percentage) has experience. The freshman (Tyler Blaisdell) is good and is nipping at their heels. Everyone has settled into their roles. The team is comfortable with Eric back there.”

The Tigers are comfortable coming into the season under the radar, not being ranked in the preseason Top 20.

“The vibe and chemistry feel good,” said Bates. “We have evolved, it is a good group that is definitely hungry. They look around and see the publicity that everybody has gotten and they are OK with that. There is a ton of work to do. At Princeton, we set a compass of Ivy playoffs and beyond.”

In Bates’ view, his team must work smarter at the offensive end of the field to have a big season.

“We need to manage the game offensively, we have shifted how we play,” said Bates. “We need to grind it out more. We have to realize on the offensive end that we are also playing for defense and the whole team. We could pressure you immediately on a possession but that became counterproductive at times.”

Looking ahead to the opener this Saturday against Manhattan (0-1), Bates is anxious to see how the shift in focus plays out.

“It is a week early for us, we just started preseason on February 1 so there are only two weeks to prepare,” said Bates. “The focus is on us and playing our own game. We have to figure ourselves out. We have questions about our rotation and we have to figure out who we are.”

Reserve forward Taylor Williams looks to shake things up when she enters the game for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

“I am a fighter, I am scrappy,” said Williams, a 6’3 junior from Warren, Ohio. “So when I come in, a lot of my role, even in practice, is to bring energy, to fight, to get everyone motivated, and keep everyone going.”

Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Williams provided energy and a lot more in 21 minutes of action off the bench as the Tigers cruised to a 75-47 win over the Big Red before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 1,399. Producing a dominant effort in the paint, Williams contributed 10 points, four rebounds, four blocked shots, and two assists, helping Princeton improve to 21-0 overall and 5-0 Ivy League.

“I think as a team, we were revved up,” said Williams. “We knew this was a big game. It was kind of like the butterflies in the stomach, the energy thing. It was a lot of fun to come out and play.”

Williams had fun on defense against the Big Red, picking up a steal to go with her blocked shots and helping to hold Cornell stars Mia Marshall and Nicholle Aston to 14 and 12 points, respectively, as they both shot 6-of-16.

“I don’t try to block shots but something I personally strive for is defense,” said Williams.

“Defense to me is fun so when I can stop girls from having successful games, especially when it is Nia Marshall or Nicholle Aston, who have both been having very successful seasons. For me, it is a personal challenge as well as a team challenge.”

Although Princeton misfired early, scoring only two points in the first four minutes of the contest, Williams and her teammates kept pressing on.

“Sometimes you start off hot and sometimes you don’t,” said Williams. “You just have to come out and play. Some games you win ugly, some you win pretty. You just have to fight through as a team through each one of them.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart thought her team was ready to fight as it faced a Cornell team that came into the evening at 13-6 overall and 4-1 Ivy.

“This is what we live for, the opportunity to play against another really good team, who has shown in the course of the season that they play well together,” said Banghart.

“We knew it was going to be a battle, they are feisty, they have a good inside game, and playmaking guards. It was obviously a fun game and a great crowd tonight.”

Banghart had fun watching Williams displaying her inside game. “Taylor might have been a scratch this weekend, she has had some soreness,” said Banghart.

“She looked me in the eye on Friday and said please let me play coach and we did. She gave us a lot all weekend. We have this mentality on our team that it is next man up. To be as good as we need to be, we need a little bit from everybody. We are getting that.”

Princeton also showed its tough defensive mentality, stifling the Big Red from the opening tip.

“I said this is what we have been waiting for, a good team to come into Jadwin and really defend them well,” said Banghart, whose team held Cornell to 34.9 percent shooting (22-of-63) on the evening.

“This team has been solid defensively all year long and we saw that tonight when offense wasn’t as easy early on as it usually is. Over the course of a 40-minute game we always find our legs. I thought it was a defensive battle with a really talented offensive team. It was a great win.”

With the wins piling up for Princeton, now the only undefeated team in Division I women’s hoops, Banghart is confident her players won’t lose the focus that has gotten them to this point.

“If you had told me a while back that we would be undefeated, I would not have believed you first of all and second of all, I would have assumed that it would been distracting,” said Banghart, whose squad plays at Brown on February 13 and at Yale on February 14.

“This group is so purpose-driven. We focus Monday on ourselves and I just talked to them in the locker room after the game and said these are the areas we focused on and you got better in those areas. I really don’t think it is a team that is focused on the record. They are focused on the Ivy League right now and getting an NCAA tournament bid, which is really a coach’s dream. This could be a distraction and it is really not.”

Williams, for her part, believes that the hoopla surrounding the undefeated record won’t distract the team from its goals.

“It is not extra pressure, after every game, we write what our record is,” said Williams. “That is a motivational thing but now we no longer write 21-0, we write 5-0. We still have to face them a second time. It is one step towards our goal but we know how much more we have to accomplish.”

SENIOR MANAGEMENT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Brianne Mahoney controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior defenseman Mahoney came up big in the final two regular season home games of her Princeton career. On Friday, she contributed two assists as Princeton defeated Colgate 4-1. A day later, she helped key a strong defensive effort as the Tigers edged No. 9 Cornell 3-2. Princeton, now 13-10-2 overall and 11-6-1 ECAC Hockey, plays at Clarkson on February 13 and at St. Lawrence on February 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MANAGEMENT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Brianne Mahoney controls the puck in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior defenseman Mahoney came up big in the final two regular season home games of her Princeton career. On Friday, she contributed two assists as Princeton defeated Colgate 4-1. A day later, she helped key a strong defensive effort as the Tigers edged No. 9 Cornell 3-2. Princeton, now 13-10-2 overall and 11-6-1 ECAC Hockey, plays at Clarkson on February 13 and at St. Lawrence on February 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Brianne Mahoney, playing last weekend in the final regular season home games of her career with the Princeton University women’s hockey team sparked a desire for a return engagement.

“It is kind of exciting and also sad,” said senior defenseman Mahoney. “I think it is a motivation in order to get home ice for the playoffs so we can play here again.”

Mahoney has felt at home with classmates Ashley Holt, Brianna Leahy, and Ali Pankowski over the last four years.

“We are a small class so we are pretty close,” said Mahoney. “I am lucky to have all of them as teammates. It is really fun playing this weekend with them.”

Having been paired on defense with Pankowski since freshman year has been a fun experience for Mahoney.

“We have been d-partners since day one,” said Mahoney. “We always know what each other is thinking. It is pretty easy to play off of each other, we have a similar style.”

The Tiger seniors went out in style in their final Baker Rink regular season weekend as Princeton topped Colgate 4-1 on Friday and then edged No. 9 Cornell 3-2 a day later.

Against Colgate, Mahoney helped Princeton get started on the right foot, assisting on a Molly Contini goal midway through the first period as the Tigers took a 1-0 lead.

“I took a shot from the point,” recalled Mahoney. “I definitely don’t have an Ali Pankowski shot but whenever you see Molly Contini in front of the net, you just shoot towards her and hope that she can get some part of her body or stick on the puck and it usually goes in. I had my head up and once I saw Molly, I hit her.”

After taking a 2-0 lead early in the second period, Princeton hit a lull as Colgate fought back to make it a 2-1 game heading into the third period. Tiger head coach Jeff Kampersal had a stern message for his players at the second intermission.

“Jeff wasn’t too happy, he said don’t think that you are better than you are,” recalled Mahoney. “Play like you did against Harvard (a 1-0 win on on January 31) and play your game. That’s what we did, we play well when we do that.”

Mahoney got her offensive game going in the third period, getting another assist as she helped to set up a goal by sophomore Morgan Sly with 14:34 remaining in regulation.

“The goalie was giving up rebounds,” said Mahoney. “It popped out so I thought I might as well slap shot this one again and it worked.”

Princeton added an empty net goal by Jaimie McDonell to make the final margin 4-1.

While it wasn’t Princeton’s sharpest performance, the bottom line was getting the win.

“Any two points is a good two points, even if they are a little scrappy,” said Mahoney.

“Colgate is scrappy so you have to be scrappy to play against them. The games are winding down so each one is more important than the next.”

With the season winding down, Mahoney is savoring her Princeton hockey experience.

“Everyone says it but it has been really fast,” said Mahoney a 5’7 native of Clarendon Hills, Ill., who now has eight assists this season and 19 points in her career on three goals and 16 assists.

“I have been lucky to have the program I am with, the coaches and the teammates. I am very fortunate, it has been a blessing.”

Princeton head coach Kampersal feels fortunate to have has Mahoney and her classmates in the program.

“They have all stepped up this year in different roles,” said Kampersal.

“Ashley Holt doesn’t get to play as much but she is a good behind the scenes person, sort of like a team mom, taking care of issues and anything that pops up. The two defensemen (Mahoney and Pankowski) play a lot and they play under duress a lot. They do a good job breaking the puck out. Leahy has been a solid performer all year with her goals so we hope that she has a couple left in the tank as we head into the last couple of games here.”

Acknowledging that he was upset by his team’s lull in the second period, he liked the way the Tigers closed the deal.

“I ripped the kids after the second period because I thought we were playing for the scoresheet and not playing a good team game,” said Kampersal.

“In the third period, we just played a good team game so that was way better.”

A day later, Princeton played another good game, rallying from a 2-1 deficit early in the third period to pull out a 3-2 win over Cornell as sophomore Hilary Lloyd scored the game-winning goal with 1:19 left in regulation.

The win improved Princeton to 13-10-2 overall and 11-6-1 ECAC Hockey, leaving it sixth in the league standing, three points away from fourth place and home ice in the playoffs. It also put the Tigers in the thick of the race for the Ivy League title as they are 6-1-1 in Ivy games while Harvard is 7-2.

“If we can pull it off we are in a really good position to win the Ivy League,” said Kampersal, looking ahead to the Cornell game.

“There is a lot riding on it and that includes the home ice. I definitely would like to play here rather than travel.”

In Mahoney’s view, Princeton is poised for a good ride to the finish.

“The Ivy League is on our minds, the ECAC is on our minds as well,” said Mahoney.

“The Ivy League is tops right now. We have never been in this position since I have been here. We have always had to have another team lose. We have it in our hands so if we win, we are in a very good spot. We have been rolling since we got done with finals.”

Blake Brown was especially happy to see Evan Barratt return to action for the top-seeded Hun School boys’ hockey team as it hosted fourth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy last week in the state Prep semis.

Last winter sophomore Brown combined with classmates Jon Bendorf and Barratt to form a high-powered line that helped Hun win the Independent Hockey League and Mercer County Tournament titles.

With Barratt sidelined with a knee injury all season until the semi contest on February 3, it was like old times when the trio reunited.

“It helped that Evan was back, that was huge for us,” said Brown. “It adds a huge offensive element for us, it is a big part of our game.”

Brown benefitted right away in the contest against Montclair Kimberley, scoring two first period goals as the Raiders jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

“We were able to score a couple of goals quick,” said Brown. “Right from the start, we were back to where we were. We felt like the beginning of the season again.”

Reflecting on his two early goals, Brown didn’t take too much credit for the tallies.

“Those were some shots I could not have missed, they put the pucks perfectly to me,” said Brown. “If I had missed those, I shouldn’t be playing hockey.”

Hun head coach McNally credited Brown with working hard to get into perfect scoring position.

“Blake can move the puck with Jon and Evan but he can also wait until they find their shot and bang in the rebound,” said McNally.

“He is the workhorse. He is the dog that goes into the corner to get it and then goes to the front of the net and it eventually comes back to him.”

When MKA made a comeback to narrow the Hun lead to 5-3 late in the third period, Brown tallied with 1:41 left in the period and then added another 38 seconds left to seal the deal for the Raiders.

“It was everything,” asserted Brown of his insurance goal. “It secured the win for us and we are going to the championship.”

The win also marked another achievement for a Hun program on the rise. “Each year we have been progressing,” said Brown. “Last year we won Mercer counties and this year we are in state final.”

Brown helped Hun continue that progression, scoring two goals to help Hun beat second-seeded Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the title game last Thursday.

McNally, for his part, was not surprised that Brown was the top goal scorer for Hun in its Prep title run.

“Blake had six goals in two games and they were all within two feet,” said McNally, noting that Brown’s final tally against Mo-Beard marked the 100th point of his Hun career. “He was in the right spot.”

In Brown’s view, Hun’s team camaraderie has put it in a very good spot. “Everyone loves each other; it is a big family for us,” said Brown. “Everyone hangs together at school, it is like a brotherhood.”

The Hun hockey band of brothers is looking to keep the titles coming.

“This brings the school together; we don’t get a lot of championships at Hun,” said Brown, who will be shooting to help Hun gain another championship as it goes after its second straight Mercer County Tournament crown next week.   “Hopefully we will bring a new chapter to Hun and start winning a lot of championships.”

SQUEEZE PLAY: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt squeezes between two defenders to control the puck against Montclair Kimberley in the state Prep semis. Last Thursday, sophomore Barratt, playing in his second game this season after being sidelined by a leg injury, chipped in three assists as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the state Prep title game. It marked the program’s first Prep title since 1996. The Raiders, now 14-2-4, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded first and have a quarterfinal game slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SQUEEZE PLAY: Hun School boys’ hockey star Evan Barratt squeezes between two defenders to control the puck against Montclair Kimberley in the state Prep semis. Last Thursday, sophomore Barratt, playing in his second game this season after being sidelined by a leg injury, chipped in three assists as top-seeded Hun defeated No. 2 Morristown-Beard 5-3 in the state Prep title game. It marked the program’s first Prep title since 1996. The Raiders, now 14-2-4, are next in action when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament, where they are seeded first and have a quarterfinal game slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Facing second-seeded Morristown-Beard last Thursday in the state Prep championship game, the top-seeded Hun School boys’ hockey team was serenaded by derisive chants of “overrated, overrated” by the fans at the Twin Oaks Rink.

Noting that his players laughed off that greeting from the Mo-Beard partisans, Hun head coach Ian McNally sensed that his team was ready to silence its doubters.

“They were in a very good place,” recalled McNally. “There was a lot of excitement in the room, you sensed that when you saw how they were preparing.”

Hun showed why it had been rated so highly coming into the tourney, jumping out to a 4-1 lead through two periods and holding off a late Mo-Beard charge to prevail 5-3 and earn the program’s first Prep crown since 1996.

Led by its Killer B’s line of sophomores Blake Brown, Jon Bendorf, and Evan Barratt, the Raiders were buzzing from the opening face-off.

“You could tell right from the start, Evan, Jon, and Blake spent 40 seconds in the offensive zone on the first shift and had three good chances,” said McNally, whose team scored late in the period to go ahead 1-0.

“The first period was good, the guys were excited. We felt the goal was coming but if it never does, you do get frustrated and worried. The goal was beautiful. It was Evan to Jon to Blake like tic tac toe so we were able to get on the board.”

When Mo-Beard scored the first two goals of the third period to make it a 4-3 contest, Hun wasn’t fazed.

“We were still in control of the game; it didn’t feel like they were coming,” said McNally.

“The first of the two goals was a shot that bounced off Chris Rossi’s skate. On the next goal, the guy came in and had a nice shot. When it is 4-3, you are worried that one mistake could tie the game. They took two penalties in the last five minutes. Blake scored and things slowed down. We were able to get a breath.”

Having the trio of Barratt, Bendorf, and Brown to trigger the offense helps McNally breathe easier. Brown and Bendorf each scored two goals in the championship contest with Barratt chipping in three assists as Hun improved to 14-2-4.

“It is huge, you put those guys out and you know you are going to have the puck in your offensive zone,” said McNally, noting that Barratt just returned to action after being sidelined since the fall due to a knee injury.

“They work so hard and they are so competitive. Jon and Blake were getting it done without Evan but having him back does change things. He is a dynamic kid in every way. He has energy, skill, and he doesn’t stop talking on the ice. You can’t help but notice him. When he gets the puck the other teams are thinking I want to stop that guy and they pay attention to him and one of the other two gets open. They find each other.”

In McNally’s view, senior stalwarts Danny Seelagy and captain Chris Rossi are deserving of special notice.

“They were freshmen and it was my first year; it is neat to have gotten to this point,” said McNally.

“We have added something every year. We won the Independent Hockey League when they were sophomores, then the league and county last year and now preps. It was not like it was imminent for them when they came in. They had to work through it. They are in our top four defensemen. Danny set up the second goal against Mo-Beard and Chris had some big physical plays in the d-zone.”

In becoming a top team, Hun has shown that it possesses the intangibles to go with its talent.

“We have the skill but we also have chemistry and work ethic and you don’t always get that with the skill,” said McNally. “If you have those three things, you can do well in any league.”

Hun is now looking to do well in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament as it goes after a second straight county crown.

“The most fun we had in a long time was that Notre Dame game in the final last year,” said McNally, whose team is seeded first in the MCT and has a quarterfinal contest slated for February 11 at Mercer County Park.

“The guys are definitely excited for the counties, they have siblings and friends who have played in it. It is great that we have the preps and then the counties so it is not just a two-day tournament. It feels like a real postseason.”

BORDENTOWN Hun School boys’ basketball player Kyle Borden puts up a shot in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior Borden scored 10 points off the bench to help Hun defeat Metuchen High 40-24 and win its ninth straight game. The Raiders, now 14-7, will be competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BORDENTOWN Hun School boys’ basketball player Kyle Borden puts up a shot in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior Borden scored 10 points off the bench to help Hun defeat Metuchen High 40-24 and win its ninth straight game. The Raiders, now 14-7, will be competing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kyle Borden wasn’t in the starting lineup for the Hun School boys’ basketball team when it hosted Metuchen High last Wednesday but he was confident he would impact the game.

“I don’t mind it, I enjoy it,” said senior forward Borden, reflecting on coming off the bench for Hun.

“I bring energy, that is something I love to do. My coach (Jon Stone) told me he is going to bring me off the bench to bring a spark to the game. I take pride in doing that.”

Borden entered the contest in the first quarter and made a key contribution, scoring seven points in the first half as Hun jumped out to a 25-5 halftime lead.

“Something I have learned this season and the whole team has learned, is to take the best shot,” said Borden. “Today I was in rhythm; I stepped up and made them.”

The whole Hun team showed a commitment to defense against Metuchen as it took a 34-7 lead into the third quarter on the way to a 40-24 win.

“We came with defensive intensity, that is something our team prides itself on,” said Borden.

“You definitely have to learn how to have fun but you have to play defense first, that is what wins games. That’s what we did, we made a statement.”

Borden has had fun developing over his Hun career. “It is growing a lot and learning how to be a leader on and off the court,” said Borden, who ended up with 10 points in the win over Metuchen. “I worked on developing my game over the summer because I knew I had to step up this season.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone liked the way his team stepped up in the early stages as it jumped out to an 18-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. “I think our defense was very, very good,” said Stone, whose team improved to 14-7 as it won its ninth straight game.

“We were able to get some good looks, both in our halfcourt and our transition. Unfortunately it only lasted for a quarter. Fortunately our defense lasted a little longer. Our defense was very good for at least two and a half quarters.”

In Stone’s view, Borden has given Hun some very good play off the bench. “He’s been doing that all year long,” asserted Stone. “He plays with a lot of energy and he has been giving us a spark off the bench.”

Senior center Dominic Robb gave Hun a big spark in the win over Metuchen, scoring a game-high 15 points and making a number of blocked shots.

“Dominic effects the game in so many ways, he has the ability to finish,” said Stone. “You saw his blocked shots out there today, two in one possession. He really adds a great dimension to the rest of the team.”

With his team riding a late surge, Stone is hoping its best basketball is to come.

“Your hope is always that you peak at the right time,” said Stone. “I think we have just been competing well. We have shown some mental toughness and the ability to play well together and to just get more and more comfortable with each other.”

Stone knows his team faces a tough challenge this weekend as it competes in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament at the Blair Academy from February 13-15.

“It looks like we are going to be the two seed, it is anybody’s tournament to win because anybody can beat anybody on a given night,” said Stone.

“You just hope you are playing good basketball and you know you are going to play some really good games and they are probably going to come down to the wire so it should be a lot of fun and a great weekend. I think we have been climbing and making moves in the right direction, the time is now. We are ready to test ourselves and see how good we are.”

Borden, for his part, believes the Raiders are headed in the right direction.

“When we first started playing, it was rocky,” said Borden “We had to learn all of our different personalities, where we wanted to be on the court, and the chemistry and now it is there. We have bought into the system and we have become a family. We were a team of individuals in the first couple of games and now we play for each other. Our goal is the MAPL championship and that is what we are going for.”

HOT HAND: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Kevin Kane heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Kane scored a game-high 26 points to help PHS top Trenton 68-58 and improve to 7-10. PHS hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOT HAND: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Kevin Kane heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior guard Kane scored a game-high 26 points to help PHS top Trenton 68-58 and improve to 7-10. PHS hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, pulling out a win over a strong Allentown team last Wednesday gave it a lift as it hosted Trenton two days later.

“The Allentown game was really good, it was the first game this season where we really held the lead in the fourth,” said PHS senior guard Kevin Kane. “We got confidence, we knew we could play with Trenton.”

But when PHS struggled in the early stages against Trenton, Kane’s confidence in his offensive skills helped keep the Little Tigers in the contest.

“I was just trying to attack the basket in the first half,” said Kane, who scored 15 points in the half as PHS trailed 33-28 going into intermission. “Matt Hart got into early foul trouble so I knew I had to put up more shots.”

PHS kept attacking in the second half, outscoring Trenton 40-25 over the last two quarters in rolling to a 68-58 victory and improving to 7-10.

In Kane’s view, the Little Tigers seized momentum in the third quarter when it erased the Trenton lead with a 19-13 run.

“We were passing the ball well,” said Kane. “Zahrion [Blue] played well keeping us in it, going to the basket. We handled the pressure well and we guarded Derek Dix well.”

The fourth quarter turned into the Kevin Kane show as he scored 11 points, draining a trio of three-pointers in the process.

“That was awesome,” said Kane, who ended the evening with a game-high 26 points.

“My role is to keep the team’s heads up and when I am open shoot the ball. My teammates, J.C. [Silva], Zahrion, and Chris [Diver] do a good job, dribbling through the lane and getting me the ball. There is more balance and we have good team chemistry.”

Having narrowly lost 60-55 to Trenton a week earlier, PHS was looking to play better team defense in the rematch.

“We just wanted to trap more,” said Kane. “Today with our traps in the second half, coach Karim (assistant coach Shahid Abdul-Karim) was saying that we have to stand there and don’t jump. We got four turnovers because of that. We had to box out, which we did, and hold them under 60, which we also did.”

In the view of PHS head coach Mark Shelley, the formula for success in the rematch was simple.

“We wanted to play more fundamental and harder,” said Shelley, noting that the tape of the first Trenton game showed PHS standing around on defense at times.

It took a while, however, for PHS to get into a groove against the Tornadoes.

“I thought they came out with a little more energy than us in the first half, we struggled with that a little bit,” said Shelley, who got 17 points from sophomore Blue in the win with junior Hart chipping in 12.

“We need Kevin’s scoring, obviously. He really played well overall tonight. He got some key rebounds. He played well defensively, he is so much better in that area. His scoring really kept us in it. We got down by seven, four or five times in the first half but we managed to get it to five at the half.”

Like Kane, Shelley believed that PHS applied the lessons it gained from the Allentown win.

“It was sort of like the Allentown game,” said Shelley. “We were the more fundamental, patient, harder working team in the second half. In the third quarter tonight, we were methodical. As good as we were in the fourth quarter, to me the key was winning the third. We went from down five to up one. That was the key for me because then we just built on that. We hit a flurry of 3s, which we can do. Kevin’s threes were key, it is hard to guard us when one of our guys are stroking it.”

Starting the week with a 60-58 win over WW/P-N in double overtime on February 3 that snapped a six-game losing streak and got things headed in the right direction for the Little Tigers.

“I told them for several weeks, I thought if we could just get one, we would be fine,” said Shelley, whose team hosts WW/P-S on February 16 and Robbinsville on February 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 10th and will play at No. 7 Trenton in a first round contest.

“We beat North and Steinert and then we lost to Nottingham with just a terrible fourth quarter. Then we had that slide where Hopewell was close, Notre Dame was close and Hightstown was overtime. We just couldn’t get over the hump and we were a little dispirited and coach Karim gave a pretty excited talk at halftime of the North game. It got us going. Matt Hart had a great shot to win it. He literally hit a 17-foot fadeaway step back swish with three seconds left. It was a tough shot.”

Kane, for his part, believes PHS will be tough to beat down the stretch. “This is a great win; it just shows how our character has built through the season,” asserted Kane. “We have lost a lot of games late. Tonight we got the lead and kept it, which was really good.”

DRIVE THROUGH: Stuart Country Day basketball player Harlyn Bell puts up a shot over a foe in recent action. Last Friday, senior Bell scored six points in a losing cause as Stuart fell 37-27 to the George School (Pa.). The Tartans, now 10-9, are starting action in the state Prep B tournament this week where they are seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Pennington in a quarterfinal contest on February 11. Stuart is also slated to host Steinert on February 12 and to play at the Academy of New Church (Pa.) on February 13. The Tartans will also be taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, where they have been seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Steinert in the first round.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DRIVE THROUGH: Stuart Country Day basketball player Harlyn Bell puts up a shot over a foe in recent action. Last Friday, senior Bell scored six points in a losing cause as Stuart fell 37-27 to the George School (Pa.). The Tartans, now 10-9, are starting action in the state Prep B tournament this week where they are seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Pennington in a quarterfinal contest on February 11. Stuart is also slated to host Steinert on February 12 and to play at the Academy of New Church (Pa.) on February 13. The Tartans will also be taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, where they have been seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Steinert in the first round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Harlyn Bell liked how things were going as the Stuart Country Day School basketball team battled the George School (Pa.) to a 12-12 stalemate through two quarters last Friday.

“I definitely thought we were in good shape,” said Stuart senior standout Bell. “Our defense was really great, we have been working on it all season.”

After Stuart fell behind 22-16 early in the fourth quarter, Bell had some good moments, hitting two jump shots as Stuart narrowed the gap to 26-22 with about three minutes remaining in regulation. The Tartans, though, never got any closer as they fell 37-27.

“Coach Leith always says you can never lose the game in the last two minutes so that kind of mentality really pushed me to score a little,” said Bell, reflecting on her fourth quarter heroics.

In reflecting on the loss, Bell acknowledged that Stuart has to be sharper with the ball.

“Unfortunately we had a few breakdowns,” said Bell. “We can learn better offensive execution with crisper passes, faster transition, and less dribbling.”

Working hard over her career, Bell has transitioned into a solid defensive player for the Tartans.

“I have improved defensively, when I was a freshman, I would foul out,” said Bell.

“I really picked up moving my feet, especially this year with coach [Justin] Leith. He has been amazing ingraining that in us.”

Bell has also picked up her offensive game, gaining confidence in her shot.

“That is something we work on in practice a lot,” said Bell “Coach is trying to get all of us to be confident in putting up shots. This year I have seen improvement in myself.”

In Bell’s view, first-year head coach Leith has helped each of the Stuart players improve.

“He is definitely different than all of our other coaches,” said Bell. “He is very tough but he can see potential in all of us. He really forces us to step up so that is good.”

Coach Leith, for his part, was disappointed with how his team failed to step up in the fourth quarter against George.

“One of the goals is to speed the tempo and play our game in the second half but we didn’t execute,” said Leith.

While Leith was heartened to see Bell’s second fourth quarter jumper draw Stuart to within four, he felt like his squad never found an offensive rhythm.

“There were very small flashes of how we can play and that was one of them,” said Leith. “That didn’t give me any more encouragement because we never put those things together. The game felt like one big lull.”

In order to put things together, Stuart needs to transfer what it does in practice to the games.

“It really is about growing as individuals and growing as a team,” said Leith, whose team moved to 10-9 with a 55-27 loss to Country Day School of the Sacred Heart last Saturday.

“They are understanding how to work hard but they are not understanding how to apply it. That is obvious from this game.”

Leith is seeing growth from junior Harley Guzman and Bell. “Harley did a great job of staying out of foul trouble, she shot the ball pretty well,” said Leith.

“She didn’t make the best decisions but she is still a junior. She is getting there, she has definitely improved over the season. Harlyn wasn’t hitting shots that she hits in practice, she had some really good looks. Against Villa Victoria, she had the same open looks and she hit six or seven in a row. She just wasn’t hitting today but she played great defense.”

As fifth-seeded Stuart plays at No. 4 Pennington on February 11 in the state Prep B quarterfinals, Leith is looking for a great effort.

“It was really about getting a win in the first round of the preps,” said Leith, noting that Stuart fell 59-31 to Pennington in regular season play.

“If we play our game, there is a possibility to beat them but we have to play our best game. If we are firing on all cylinders on Wednesday, it should be a good game.”

Bell, for her part, is looking to end her Stuart career by firing away. “I haven’t had a 20-point game ever so I would like to get that, I have had 18,” said Bell, who also stars as a goalie in both field hockey and lacrosse and is headed to Wake Forest. “That is a goal I want to get by the end of the season. But you know what, I just want to enjoy the last few games.”

IN THE ZONE: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Paul Franzoni heads upcourt in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore guard Franzoni scored 14 points in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PDS fell 77-52 to third-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, who dropped to 5-15 with the defeat, will host New Egypt on February 11 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 13th and will play at No. 4 Trenton Catholic in the first round.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE ZONE: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Paul Franzoni heads upcourt in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore guard Franzoni scored 14 points in a losing cause as sixth-seeded PDS fell 77-52 to third-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, who dropped to 5-15 with the defeat, will host New Egypt on February 11 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded 13th and will play at No. 4 Trenton Catholic in the first round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at third-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the state Prep B quarterfinals last Sunday, the sixth-seeded Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team enjoyed a solid offensive performance.

Featuring three players in doubles figures with Chase Lewis at 18 points, Paul Franzoni chipping in 14, and Mark Washington adding 11, PDS exceeded its usual output this winter as it tallied 52 points.

But that wasn’t nearly enough as MKA pulled away to a 77-52 win.

PDS head coach Paris McLean acknowledged that his team fell short on the defensive end.

“We mustered up more points than we normally do but we couldn’t stop them,” said McLean, whose team dropped to 5-15 with the  setback. “If you look at our wins, we kept those games in the 40s.”

Tipping his hat to an underrated MKA squad, McLean said the Cougars posed some match-up problems for his team. “We battled but we struggled at times to match their intensity, they were 8-8 coming in but that is not indicative of how good a team they were,” said McLean. “They had a good big man in Josh Chery and they had some good outside shooters.”

McLean liked the intense efforts he got against the Cougars from sophomores Franzoni, Lewis, and Washington.

“Paul really battled, he really scrapped,” said McLean. “We needed others to match his intensity. You know what you are going to get from Chase, 15-20 points and a good floor game. Mark has had two solid games in a row, he also had 11 against Hightstown in our last game. The good thing is that all three of them are coming back.”

While the early tourney exit stung, McLean is looking for his players to keep battling over the last few weeks of the season.

“We had an honest conversation with them in the locker room; when you lose this early in the Prep tournament, you can feel like the season is over,” said McLean.

“We told them that there is a lot to play for. We have New Egypt on February 11, that is our senior night, and then we have the Mercer County Tournament. We will be playing a really good team in the first round of the counties but we could possibly play a spoiler role. We will have a consolation game no matter what happens so we are guaranteed at least four more games. If we can win four more, that would give us nine wins and one more than last year.”

Despite taking plenty of lumps this winter, PDS hasn’t lost its upbeat approach.

“They have kept their heads up,” asserted McLean, whose team is seeded 13th in the MCT and will play at No. 4 Trenton Catholic in the first round.

“For many of them it is the first full season of varsity basketball and they are realizing what a grind it is and how hard it is to keep up a high level of play. The practices have been good, they are giving a good effort in the games and if you look at our bench during games, they are all cheering for each other.”

February 4, 2015
GOOD MOVE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore star Koelzer chipped in an assist to help Princeton edge No. 4 Harvard 1-0. Having been moved to defense this year, Koelzer has emerged as a star for the Tigers and is currently tied with Molly Contini for the team lead in points at 24. The Tigers, now 11-10-1 overall and 9-6-1 ECAC Hockey, host Colgate (7-19-1 overall, 4-10-1 ECACH) on February 6 and Cornell (12-7-3 overall, 10-3-2 ECACH) on February 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD MOVE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore star Koelzer chipped in an assist to help Princeton edge No. 4 Harvard 1-0. Having been moved to defense this year, Koelzer has emerged as a star for the Tigers and is currently tied with Molly Contini for the team lead in points at 24. The Tigers, now 11-10-1 overall and 9-6-1 ECAC Hockey, host Colgate (7-19-1 overall, 4-10-1 ECACH) on February 6 and Cornell (12-7-3 overall, 10-3-2 ECACH) on February 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kelsey Koelzer established herself as a solid offensive player last winter for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

The 5’9 native of Horsham, Pa, scored 10 points in six goals and four assists in her debut campaign, highlighted by 3-point performances in wins over UConn and Brown.

But with Princeton a little thin along the blue line coming into this season, Koelzer was moved to defenseman.

“Wherever they feel I am going to help the team, that is where I am going to go,” said Koelzer, noting that she previously played defenseman through the age of 12 or 13. “If that is what it takes, I am going to go with it.”

It has taken a little extra effort for Koelzer to get used to her new spot on the ice.

“One of the main challenges for me is the one-on-one battles,” said Koelzer. “Cara (PU assistant coach Cara Morey) has really taken me under her wing and helped me work on that. The transitions and the things like that that are slightly  different. They have really helped me and worked on it with me. I think now I am confident to go in there and make plays all the time.”

Last Saturday against visiting Harvard, Koelzer made big plays at both ends of the ice, assisting on a Princeton first period goal and then helping to spearhead a stifling defensive effort as the Tigers edged the No. 4 Crimson 1-0.

Coming off a 2-2 tie with Dartmouth on Friday which saw Princeton rally from an early 2-0 deficit, Koelzer and her teammates were ready to battle nemesis Harvard.

“It was physical, it was fast, we came out hard,” said Koelzer. “Last night was a very fast game so we were expecting just as fast of a game today. We battled and we stuck with them. We capitalized on our opportunities. We limited their opportunities and that was huge.”

Koelzer had a huge role in the lone goal of the contest, setting up sophomore star Molly Contini for the tally.

“Molly Contini started the play, she chipped the puck to the middle to Hilary (Lloyd),” said Koelzer.

“Hilary battled her way to the middle and took three players with her and then, lucky enough, I recognized we could have the opportunity if I stepped up. She dropped the puck and I had people in front of me so I didn’t just want to take a shot. I just dished it off to the side and luckily Molly was there and ready to shoot and she ripped it.”

Koelzer’s offensive background has helped her recognize scoring opportunities when she comes up from the blue line.

“I think that using my previous knowledge at forward helps a little bit in making the right decision to jump into the play,” explained Koelzer. “Making the right decision once you are up there is key.”

Currently tied with Contini for the team lead in points at 24, Koelzer is clearly making a lot of good decisions in the offensive zone.

“I am surprised although this is something I expect from myself all the time,” said Koelzer, who now has seven goals and 17 assists this season.

“As long as you are making the right plays and keeping strong on your defense, that’s first and foremost for me. You have to play good defense and then if you are working hard and making smart decisions, the points are going to come.”

It was good defense that made the difference in the win over Harvard. “It was huge, ultimately we have to give it to Kimberly,” said Koelzer, referring to junior goalie Kimberly Newell, who made 32 saves in earning the shutout.

“There were saves that I could never imagine making that she made that were extremely timely and kept us in it emotionally, morally, and physically. We were battling in the corners. We were trying to make our pins. We were trying to move the puck up as soon as possible. It was just our hard work to get it over the red and get it deep when we needed to. It was great.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal credited his players with giving great work across the board against Harvard.

“Everybody had a good solid effort and did the little things to help us win,” said Kampersal. “The Hilary Lloyd block late in the game was humongous, that just pumps up the bench and gets us going. Those are the little things that help you win.”

The Tigers did a lot of good things defensively in stifling a Crimson team that came into the day averaging 3.7 goals a game. “The defense was great, they kept Harvard to the outside for the most part,” said Kampersal.

“The team defense did a great job, the defensemen did a great job, Kimberly was awesome.”

Koelzer has proven to be an awesome addition to the Tiger defensive corps.

“She moved back to defense this year and she has been an absolute stud from day one,” asserted Kampersal. “She pretty much averages a point a game.”

As Princeton heads into the homestretch of regular season play, Kampersal wants his players to keep showing the fire they brought to Saturday’s game.

“Our last six regular season games will all be tough and I just hope our approach is the same,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Colgate (7-19-1 overall, 4-10-1 ECACH) on February 6 and Cornell (12-7-3 overall, 10-3-2 ECACH) on February 7.

“I know they are going to get up for Harvard but they better get up for the other teams. It is weird, we had a 3-2 loss to Clarkson, 2-1 to Minnesota, close losses to Boston College, and Quinnipiac. They played solid of most of it and we let down for 10 minutes. There was no letdown today, they played great.”

Koelzer, for her part, believes the Tigers can build on their great effort against Harvard.

“This was absolutely huge, the last five games for us have been pretty big,” said Koelzer, noting that Princeton swept Yale and Brown before going on exam break in early January and then returned with a big effort in a 4-2 loss to top-ranked Boston College on January 26.

“For us to come in here and play two really good teams this weekend, especially Ivy League teams, and battle and get as many points as we could, that was huge.”

CLASS ACT: Bob Callahan, far right, celebrates with his Princeton University men’s squad in February 2012 after it beat Trinity to win the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national championship and snap the Bantams’ 13-year title streak. Last week, long-time Princeton head coach Callahan passed away at age 59, leaving a legacy of success, class, and dignity.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

CLASS ACT: Bob Callahan, far right, celebrates with his Princeton University men’s squad in February 2012 after it beat Trinity to win the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national championship and snap the Bantams’ 13-year title streak. Last week, long-time Princeton head coach Callahan passed away at age 59, leaving a legacy of success, class, and dignity. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

The squash complex on the ‘C’ level of Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym has a subterranean feel, located two floors below Carril Court.

But for 32 years, a special light emanated from the underground warren of courts, offices, and the fencing room with the genial Bob Callahan holding court as the Princeton men’s squash head coach.

Last week, a darkness and sadness descended on that area and well beyond as Callahan passed away at age 59 after a courageous three-year battle with glioblastoma, a highly malignant, rapidly growing tumor that arises from glial cells in the brain.

Callahan leaves an indelible legacy on Tiger squash in terms of success and length of service. A 1977 Princeton alum, he was a two-time squash All-American and played on three national championship squads, including his senior year when he captained the Tigers to an undefeated season.

After a four-year stint at IBM, he became the head coach of the Princeton squash team in 1982, being offered the position while serving on the search committee for the coaching vacancy. Over the next 32 years, he guided the Tigers to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles, and national championships in 1982, 1993, and 2012. He also coached the individual national champion 10 times. He was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame in 2012.

Those achievements, as impressive and legendary as they are, only tell a part of the Callahan story.

For squash standout Todd Harrity, a 2013 Princeton alum and the last player to win an individual national title under Callahan, the lessons learned from his coach went well beyond the fine points of the game.

“I came to Princeton partly because of him; he had this aura,” said Harrity, a Philadelphia native who graduated from Episcopal Academy, Callahan’s high school alma mater.

“I liked his coaching style and how he treated his players. The team was so strong, I knew I would be pushed outside of my limits and would discover how good I could be. He really helped my game but the most important thing was how he kept things in proper perspective. He was always competitive, he wanted to win but at the same time he put as much emphasis on how you carried yourself and your demeanor on the court. If someone even dropped their racquet on the court during the match, you knew he would be having a talk with them.”

Callahan set the standard in terms of how to carry oneself in competition. “I never saw him lose his temper,” said Harrity, now a pro squash player ranked in the top 70 in the world. “I played on the team for four years, there were a lot of good wins but there were also some bad losses and he was always even-keeled. I was very impressed by that.”

Harrity is equally impressed by the universal affection felt for Callahan across the generations of the Princeton players that he coached.

“It is incredible how long he was here and seeing that everyone feels the same way about him, no matter when they were at Princeton,” said Harrity “There is so much respect for Bob.”

Princeton Director of Athletics Emeritus Gary Walters ’67 believes that Callahan leaves an incredible legacy on several levels.

“Bob’s life obviously ended too quickly but my goodness did he live such a fulfilling life,” asserted Walters, who guided PU’s athletics department from 1994 to 2014.

“Not only as it relates to the quality of the squash program that he created both in terms of performance and culture but in the very best fulfillments of our department’s overriding philosophy, which is education through athletics. Bob’s performance, both in terms of his experience as an undergraduate at Princeton and his ability to pass it forward to the Princeton student-athletes who played squash, was remarkable.”

In Walter’s view, Callahan’s was an even more remarkable parent than squash coach.

“For me, there are two exclamation points in his life, most obviously professionally is 2012 shortly before he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, when he and the team won the national title ending the Trinity era,” said Walters, referring to the famous 5-4 win over the Bantams that snapped their 13-year national title streak.

“The second exclamation point, even more robust than Bob’s role as a coach, was the role that he and his wife, Kristen, played as parents of the five Callahan sons. (Greg, Scott, Tim, Peter, and Matt, who all attended Princeton and played squash for their father.) They are all such fine young men, to all have the ability to attend Princeton and contribute in every conceivable way, athletically, in the classroom, and even musically. It was like the Cleaver family.”

For Walters, Callahan’s family spirit wasn’t just felt by his wife and sons.

“Bob was a family man in every sense, both to his nuclear family and his Princeton squash family,” added Walters.

“That is why there is such a genuine, universal expression of appreciation for all that he did. There is a real love and affection. His parenting, coaching, and teaching represents his immortality. We have to carry on but we are fortunate to have the foundation that he has already established.”

Harrity, for his part, was fortunate to keep in contact with Callahan after graduation and to the very end of his coach’s life.

“He would call me to get the scoop on how I was playing; he followed my results and when I had a good win, he would send me an e-mail,” said Harrity.

“I came up to visit him on January 12. He had called me because I got a wild card to the Tournament of Champions and I was playing the No 1 player in the world. I was really glad I got to see him. He shook my hand. Kristen lifted his hand into mine and he told me my hands were cold. I just talked about everything I had been doing and mentioned names in the squash world that I knew he would know. The most striking thing to me was even when he was sick and dying, how much he cared about squash, the team, the players, and Princeton. It was his passion.”

This reporter was lucky enough to see Callahan on many occasions when the Princeton men’s basketball team used the conference room across from his office as its media center. Having gotten to know Callahan through covering his teams and his sons during their playing days for the Princeton High boys’ soccer program, I made it a point to swing by before heading upstairs to the basketball games.

Sitting at the desk with a view of a squash court over his shoulder, he would greet me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, always asking first how I was doing before we would chat about a gamut of subjects, whether it be the game that night, the fortunes of PHS soccer, or how his team and sons were doing. One of his players would invariably drift in the office with the perpetually open door and that would prompt an extended introduction and some good-natured ribbing.

The last time I sat down with him in the office was in the fall of 2012 to interview him for a feature on his induction into the squash Hall of Fame.

His parting words to me that day serve as a fitting epitaph. “My life is definitely not going to be as long as it was which is OK,” said Callahan.

“I am going to do my best to beat the thing but a very small percentage of people make it five years. Everyone is going to die at some point. It is not how old you are, it is what you do while you are here.”

There can be no question that Callahan did a multitude of very good things in his 59 years.

MAKING AN IMPACT: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron Porter controls the ball in a game this past fall. Senior forward Porter, who earned a slew of awards last season when he helped Princeton tie for the Ivy League title, was recently chosen by the Montreal in the third round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft. The 6’1, 175-pound Porter, a native of Centerville, Ohio who tied for first in the NCAA in 2014 for total goals with 15, is currently trying to make the Impact’s roster.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING AN IMPACT: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron Porter controls the ball in a game this past fall. Senior forward Porter, who earned a slew of awards last season when he helped Princeton tie for the Ivy League title, was recently chosen by the Montreal in the third round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft. The 6’1, 175-pound Porter, a native of Centerville, Ohio who tied for first in the NCAA in 2014 for total goals with 15, is currently trying to make the Impact’s roster. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cameron Porter has proven he can excel at both soccer and his studies.

Joining the Princeton University men’s soccer team in 2011, Porter has enjoyed success on the pitch and in the classroom.

Last fall, he culminated his soccer career by leading the NCAA in points with 2.00 points per game and .88 goals per game, while tying for first in total goals with 15 and second in total points with 34 as Princeton shared the Ivy crown with Dartmouth.

The 6’1, 175-pound native of Centerville, Ohio ranks fourth all-time in points at Princeton with 75 in 67 games, is fourth in goals with 31, and is 12th in assists with 13. He was named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Year, the ECAC Player of the Year and earned All-Region honors.

Porter’s prowess in the classroom earned him Academic All-Ivy honors in 2013 and 2014. After this fall, the Computer Science major was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar All-America and earned second team Academic All-America honors.

In reflecting on all of his honors, Porter acknowledged that he was proudest of being recognized for his excellence in the classroom.

“All the awards meant a lot but I think the Scholar All-American award meant the most,” said Porter. “I have always taken pride in balancing academics with athletics.”

In Porter’s view, the lessons he learned on the soccer field over the last four years have a special meaning.

“The biggest thing is the coaches, mentors, and players I have been around, it could not have been better,” said Porter. “I have learned so much from them and I know I will apply that as I go on.”

Now Porter will get the chance to apply that knowledge at the pro level, getting selected by the Montreal Impact as the 45th overall pick in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Super Draft in late January.

“I want to see what my potential is if I solely focus on soccer,” said Porter, who is currently training with the Impact.

“All my life I have been balancing academics and soccer. Now it is all soccer. I think the biggest thing is to keep working hard and learn as much as I can from the older players and figure out where I can fit in and best help the team.”

Looking back on his final season at Princeton, Porter was determined to do everything possible to help the Tigers succeed.

“I think the biggest thing about the senior year is to make an impact and do the best you can for the team,” said Porter. “I internalized that and I think I did that.”

With Porter making a major impact, Princeton enjoyed a superb campaign, going 11-3-3 overall and 5-1-1 Ivy to share the league title with Dartmouth(11-4-2 overall, 5-1-1 Ivy).

“It meant a lot to the seniors,” said Porter, who helped the Tigers end the year with an 8-0-1 undefeated streak. “The year before we came in, the program went 7-0. Ten seniors graduated and we went 1-5-1 as freshmen. It was great to help the program turn things around, it was awesome to recapture that.”

In Porter’s view, his class has left the program in good shape to continue its winning ways.

“We helped establish a culture that will carry on,” said Porter. “It was being a cohesive team on and off the field, being a team in all aspects.”

As the fall unfolded, Porter discussed the possibility of taking a shot at pro soccer with Tiger assistant coach Jessie Marsch, a former MLS standout who was recently named as the head coach of the New York Red Bulls.

“After the end of the season, I kept running and going to the gym,” said Porter. “It was hard to find people to kick with.”

In early January, Porter’s work paid off as he took part in the MLS Player Combine held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“The combine went well, the MLS collects the seniors and younger international players that they want to see play again,” said Porter. “It is five days, three of the days are full games, the players are divided into four teams. Before the first game, we had vertical jump and agility tests and a 30-yard sprint. We also had interviews with the teams. I felt like I was playing well; the teams kept the info to themselves.”

While Porter wasn’t chosen in the first day of the MLS draft, he was snapped up early on round three.

“Of course I hoped to be picked in the first two rounds but I wasn’t disappointed,” said Porter.

“I was very excited to be chosen. I found out like everybody else — on the web. The team called me later. I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening.”

As Porter looks to make it with the Impact, he will draw on the foundation of his college experience.

“I really appreciate the support of the Princeton soccer community,” said Porter.

“The coaches, Jim (Barlow), Steve (Totten), and Jesse, have all helped me grow as a player. I learned to be a part of a team. I had an individualistic style of play when I came to Princeton, I hadn’t been on the strongest teams. They molded me to fit in with the team.”

RESERVE STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben Hazel brings the ball up the floor in recent action. Last weekend, senior guard Hazel provided Princeton with a spark off the bench, scoring 15 points in 30 minutes on Friday in a 75-72 loss to Harvard and then chipping in 14 points in a reserve role as the Tigers topped Dartmouth 64-53 on Saturday. Princeton, now 9-10 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, plays at Columbia (10-8 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 6 and at Cornell (10-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RESERVE STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben Hazel brings the ball up the floor in recent action. Last weekend, senior guard Hazel provided Princeton with a spark off the bench, scoring 15 points in 30 minutes on Friday in a 75-72 loss to Harvard and then chipping in 14 points in a reserve role as the Tigers topped Dartmouth 64-53 on Saturday. Princeton, now 9-10 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, plays at Columbia (10-8 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 6 and at Cornell (10-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ben Hazel knows he can’t waste any time when he comes off the bench for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

“Coach (Mitch Henderson) just preaches being aggressive from the jump, right when you come on the court,” said the senior guard, a 6’5, 191-pound native of Bowie, Md.

Last Saturday against visiting Harvard, Hazel followed Henderson’s instructions, scoring 15 points in 30 minutes of action.

“I was just kind of getting into the flow and trying to take advantage of what the defense was giving us,” said Hazel, reflecting on his performance.

“Coming off the bench you are able to see what is open and what we need to do and pick up when you come into the game. It is just trying to execute within our offense and taking what the defense gives you.”

Hazel’s spark off the bench helped keep the Tigers in the game with Harvard but it wasn’t enough as a late Princeton rally fell short and the Crimson prevailed 75-72.

“One thing I will say about the guys in that locker room is that there is no quit in that team,” said Hazel.

“We just weren’t able to string enough plays together. You have got to string a few positive plays together to get you back and get the ball rolling towards your side. We weren’t able to put it all together for a long enough period of time to get over that hump.”

While Princeton head coach Henderson credited Harvard for the win, he lamented his team’s failure to come up with some big plays down the stretch.

“First off, hats off to Harvard, they were the better team tonight,” said Henderson.

“Sometimes shots don’t fall and that has been a big thing for us. I thought the turnovers hurt us and (Corbin) Miller really hurt us. It was a big focus of ours throughout the week; it is a little disappointing for our group because we put a lot of time into that.”

The Princeton group strengthened by the return of sophomore Steven Cook, who had been sidelined due to illness.

“I thought Steve was not afraid, he played very aggressively and made some huge plays,” said Henderson of Cook, who scored a game-high 21 points and had four assists and three steals against Harvard. “We have missed him, just not having him around in practice even. He is capable of doing so many things for us.”

In Henderson’s view, his team is capable of doing some good things this winter.

“I like the group a lot; I feel like we can win games,” said Henderson. “We have yet to play a game this season where all of the pieces look good, we just haven’t. These guys have to keep figuring out a way.”

In the wake of the loss to the Crimson, Henderson was happy to have a game the next day against Dartmouth.

“I just told the guys it is over, we got one more, a real big one tomorrow,” said Henderson.

“You take them one at a time. I do think it is a really strong league, all of them are good. There is not an easy game on the schedule and I think Harvard with their loss to Dartmouth had an edge. We need to have an edge.”

A night later, Princeton played with an edge, topping Dartmouth 64-53 as Spencer Weisz led the way with 16 points and Hazel had another strong game off the bench, tallying 14 points in 30 minutes.

For Hazel, the game against Dartmouth was a chance for Princeton to display some intensity and urgency.

“That is the beauty of the league, you can’t really worry abut these things,” said Hazel, who hit 4-of-8 three-pointers in the victory over the Big Green and will look to help Princeton put together some more wins as it plays at Columbia (10-8 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 6 and at Cornell (10-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) a day later.

“You worry about the small things that can help big things positioning-wise. For the most part the scouting report will be a little different but the motto is the same — be aggressive from the jump. Now with the loss on our record, these games become that much more important.”