April 23, 2014
CUTTING EDGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Cutting heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defender Cutting and the Tigers edged Dartmouth 12-10 to win the Ivy League regular season title. Princeton, now 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy, plays at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play. A week later, the 19th-ranked Tigers will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CUTTING EDGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Cutting heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defender Cutting and the Tigers edged Dartmouth 12-10 to win the Ivy League regular season title. Princeton, now 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy, plays at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play. A week later, the 19th-ranked Tigers will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The chant could be heard throughout one end of Class of 1952 Stadium last Saturday after Princeton University women’s lacrosse team topped Dartmouth.

The Princeton players repeatedly hollered “Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs” in their team room after posting a 12-10 win over the Big Green which clinched the Ivy regular season crown.

For senior defender Liz Cutting, the emotional outburst was the culmination of a Senior Day to remember.

“I think we realized how much we have to play for, especially this morning when we watched a video made by all of our teammates with special little things said about each senior; it was so nice,” said Cutting, a  5’7 native of Towson, Md.

“We really decided even from September what we wanted and we weren’t
going to stop until we got that Ivy championship. It is
really awesome.”

The victory improved Princeton to 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the Tigers earning the title and the right to host the upcoming Ivy tourney by virtue of its 9-5 win over Penn, (8-4 overall, 4-1 Ivy) last Wednesday.

“To have this come back to Princeton is super important for us because we have worked so hard to change the culture on our team to one of hard work and determination,” said Cutting. “I think having this really shows our efforts and shows the fruits of our labor.”

After getting off to a 1-3 start this season, Princeton changed the course of its season by heading west and beating USC 14-7 and San Diego State 16-9.

“I think our trip to California over spring break really got it going for us,” said Cutting. “We realized how good we could actually be. We decided we couldn’t stop and we couldn’t regress from that point on. It showed in practice and the way that we worked with each other and the way the coaches held us to a higher standard.”

Having won nine of its last 10 games, the one loss in that stretch, an 8-7 defeat to No. 2 Maryland on April 9, may have been Princeton’s most impressive effort of the spring.

“The Maryland game was a huge game for us; just growing up wise because we do have a few young players,” said Cutting.

“I think not only of them growing up but the team chemistry really increased after that game because we realized we can play with top dogs. It is not a game of talent it is also a game of hard work and we put in that hard work.”

The Tiger defense realized that it had to work together better with the team’s attack.

“We came together at one point in the season and decided that we need to be the starting point of our attack,” said Cutting.

“It is not one side of the field versus the other, it is more as a whole team. It begins from keeping people out of the 8-meter arc and doing the little things right. The little things are the big emphasis for us through the last couple weeks of the season so ground balls, balls down on the 8 are super important for us.”

While Princeton was sharp on defense against Dartmouth early, taking a 4-1 halftime lead, things got a little dicey in the second half.

“I think we may have been a little jittery and a little too excited,” said Cutting, who was credited with two draw controls, two caused turnovers, and a ground ball on the afternoon.

“We were sliding a little too hard, not to the right space. We just needed to be a little stronger. We came together multiple times and said we can do this, we can play better to your potential. We really emphasize the draws and while we didn’t have the best draw stats, we had hustle and hard work to get the ball back even when we didn’t win them. It was really impressive and important.”

An important factor in Princeton’s success this spring has been the bond among the team’s eight seniors.

“The eight of us have stuck together and it is not usual that you see a big class of eight seniors in this league,” said Cutting, whose classmates include Sarah Lloyd, Colleen Smith, Caroline Franke, Grace Bowen, Kellie Ragg, Mary-Kate Sivilli, and Erin Williams.

“I think it is definitely commendable, not only to Chris (Princeton head coach Chris Sailer) and the coaches, but the team in general to stay together and really help each other through our ups and downs and through the hard practices, the cold practices. It is really important to us, we are all best friends and there is nothing better.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer credits the team’s Class of 2014 with setting the right tone.

“Our senior class has created a great culture,” said Sailer. “Since they were freshmen, they have had an impact on the team with how close they are, how giving they are, how hard they work. They put a lot into it this year and I am just so happy for them that we could finish it with a title. Every single one of those kids, whether they are starters for us or not, makes a difference for us. It is a special class; each one finds a way to contribute and add her unique qualities to the team and have made it what it is.”

Sailer points to Cutting as making a difference in the defensive unit. “Liz is just such an intense competitor; she is a driving force,” said Sailer.

“She is always ready to compete. She has had huge ground balls for us all season long. She has just been part of a really great defensive unit.”

Although Princeton didn’t play great in the second half against Dartmouth as it was outscored 9-8 by the Big Green, Sailer liked the grit her team showed in pulling out the win.

“It is always hard to close it out, especially against Dartmouth,” said Sailer. “We have a lot of history of knocking them out of what they have wanted to do and them knocking us out of what we have wanted to do. I knew this was going to be a battle no matter what their record is, they are a tough, tough team and they really pushed us to the limit. I think we showed some nerves out there today. There is a lot on the line but you have to give the kids credit for coming through.”

Capturing its first Ivy regular season crown since 2006 made Saturday’s struggle more than worthwhile.

“It is just a great win for the program,” said Sailer, who has guided the Tigers to 10 Ivy crowns and three NCAA titles in her 28 seasons at the helm of the program.

“It is our first regular season title in eight years. That’s huge, just to break through. To follow up the win against Penn with a big win today; those two have been the traditional teams we have been battling for the title with so it is just awesome. The team has really been driven, they have worked really hard. I think they have just really embraced the work. They are confident. They rise to challenges but they do the work every day.”

After playing at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play, 19th-ranked Princeton will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“It is really exciting; it is great for the seniors,” said Sailer, noting that the tourney has been hosted by Penn the previous four years.

“We had a fantastic crowd today; to be able to play in front of them will be great. We definitely draw energy from them playing here at Class of ’52. It will be nice to not have to travel to Penn and keep our normal routine for the Ivy League tournament. We know that we have a lot of battles ahead. It is a great achievement for the team, it is our No. 1 goal. Now we have got to move forward.”

Cutting, for her part, is confident the Tigers will give the home fans something to cheer about.

“It means we have more games at home,” said Cutting. “We really draw from our support from our fans and family. It couldn’t be better that we are having it here. We are super excited. We are going to see these teams again and the Ivies are always a battle. We are making baby steps to the big tournament.”

TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Katie Rigler got an eye-opening experience this fall in preparing for her senior season with the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

The Fullerton, Calif. native took part in the USA Water Polo Futures 50 Classic and had to push herself to keep up with the nation’s elite.

“It was tough, it was a very good reminder of what I needed to work toward,” said Rigler.

“I saw what players from other college teams were doing and how hard they were working.”

Developing some extra toughness from the experience, the high-scoring Rigler has helped Princeton solidify its standing as one of the top college teams in the country as the Tigers have gone 29-1 this spring and are ranked 11th nationally.

This weekend, Princeton heads to Bucknell to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With the Tigers having won the 2013 CWPA crown on the way to going 28-6 and taking a program-best fifth at the NCAA tourney, Rigler had the sense that this year’s team would be a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we are even better than we were last year,” said Rigler. “It is encouraging and a little scary because we know we have a target on our backs. There is a lot of pressure on us as well.”

In Rigler’s view, the squad possesses a potent blend of chemistry and skill. “I think this is the most positive team I have been on,” asserted Rigler, Princeton’s leading scorer this season with 62 goals and 27 assists. “We have a strong, hardworking team, the recruiting classes get better every year so we are getting more talented.”

As a team co-captain along with classmate Molly McBee, Rigler strives to set a positive tone for the Tigers.

“I try to set a good example,” said Rigler, a two-time Southern Division Player of the Year who now has 260 goals and 69 assists in her career. “I try to be very encouraging. I try to keep things relaxed at practice. My teammates know that come game time, I am extremely serious.”

As Rigler has matured, she has gotten more serious about her training.

“I don’t have statistical goals; I have practice goals,” said Rigler. “I want to work hard on sets and different skills. I also want to get into the pool more and more. There is never a year where I haven’t felt in good swimming shape so I work more on water polo drills.”

Princeton’s lone loss this season, a 10-6 defeat to No. 10 San Jose State on March 15, helped the Tigers ratchet up their work ethic down the stretch of the regular season.

“We weren’t working as hard as we should be; we didn’t play well against UC-San Diego and Michigan but we still won,” said Rigler.

“I think the loss to San Jose State was good. It made us re-evaluate what we needed to do and where we wanted to go. We don’t want to just be good on the east coast. It is important to have the confidence that we can compete with the teams out west.”

Gaining more confidence in her teammates has helped Rigler set a career single-season high in assists this spring.

“As the years have gone by, I am getting more attention from the other teams,” said Rigler, whose previous season-high in assists was 15. “As the team has gotten more talented, I can rely on my other teammates to score.”

As the Tigers prepare for the CWPA tourney, they are paying attention to the basics.

“We are working on our play in 6-on-5 situations; that is important and we are focusing in on that,” said Rigler, who came up big as Princeton defeated Brown 11-4 in the Southern Division championship game, tallying five goals and two assists in the April 13 contest.

“It is also working on mental focus, trying to get everybody on the same track and the same page and making sure the girls all know their roles. We try to tell the freshmen what its about, how exciting the games are. It can seem like an out of body experience and you have to stay calm. We have been behind in the semis for the last two years and we have learned that you can’t give up.”

Having been seeded second behind Indiana at the CWPA, Princeton is fired up about its chances to earn a title repeat.

“We are definitely confident,” said Rigler, noting that the Tigers boast seven player with 20 or more goals. “We are using the disrespect angle as motivation with the way the seeds came out. We are hoping we get to play Indiana in the final.”

No matter how Princeton does in the final days of her career, things have turned out better than Rigler could have hoped when she came east four years ago.

“It’s been an unreal experience, meeting all the different girls and getting to know the different personalities,” said Rigler, who is looking to play professional water polo overseas after graduation, potentially in Italy or Greece.

“The experiences I have had with Molly [McBee] are great, we have become really close friends. Playing sports in college builds up your discipline and patience.”

When the Princeton University baseball team won its first four Ivy League games this spring, Alec Keller wasn’t surprised.

“We knew we were going to be good,” said Princeton senior outfielder Keller. “We are talented.”

But then the Tigers dropped a doubleheader at Yale before suffering through a 0-4 weekend at Columbia to sink in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division.

In Keller’s view, some untimely lapses knocked Princeton off track. “The season is so quick that any bad weekend can kill you and that’s what we had,” said Keller.

“I wouldn’t say it is a complete failure; a lot of guys have had really good years. It is just kind of tough that it is so quick and so unforgiving. Give credit to Penn and Columbia, they have taken care of business.”

Princeton showed a business-like attitude last weekend as it split two doubleheaders with Penn, who is tied for the Gehrig Division lead along with Columbia with 13-3 league marks. The Tigers fell 2-0 to Penn in the opener on Saturday before pulling out a 6-4 win in the nightcap. On Easter Sunday, Princeton won the opener 4-2 and then lost the nightcap 6-1.

“It was important, they came in with one loss but we knew we could stack up with them,” said Keller, reflecting on the 2-2 weekend which left the Tigers at 12-22 overall and 7-9 Ivy.

“I think they are not quite as good as their record and we are better than ours. We knew we could get wins. It was disappointing in the first one but we came back and won two hard-fought games.”

The 6’2, 200-pound Keller, a native of Richmond, Va., starred in the wins, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in the second game on Saturday before going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a homer in the opener on Sunday.

“It felt good to calm myself down,” said Keller. “I just stay loose up there, not think too much, and just react.”

Keller’s cool approach at the plate has helped him enjoy a big spring, hitting a league-best .369 in all games and .440 in Ivy action, the second highest average for league contests.

“I am trying to not put too much pressure on myself,” said Keller who has a team-high 45 hits with two homers and 18 RBIs.

“The worst thing you can do is trying to press and do too many things. I have tried to stay within myself, just know what I can do and play to my strengths.”

With Princeton wrapping up the spring by playing at Rider on April 23, playing a doubleheader at Cornell on April 25, hosting a doubleheader against Cornell on April 27, and then playing at St. John’s on April 29, Keller and his teammates are looking for a strong finish.

“We have to get a lot of young guys that need to finish the season and get some confidence going into next year and that is really important,” said Keller. “And heck it is fun to win, it beats losing. We are playing these games no matter what so we want to win. Hopefully we can get a few more in these next couple of weeks.”

Keller is savoring his final days in a Princeton uniform. “It is bittersweet, I am just trying to have fun everyday,” said Keller.

“I feel you can’t think too much about it, saying it is my last this or that, you just have to live it. I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”

The last few years have been unforgettable for Keller. “It has been great, these guys are a like a family to me,” said Keller, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection who has a career average of .347 (173-for-499).

“It is a great release from school. While school is good in its own right, this is something that is great as a relief. At the same time, it is really fun to focus on something and put your heart into it.”

Keller is hoping to continue his love affair with the game by playing at the professional level after graduation.

“That’s the plan, we’ll see what happens,” said Keller. “Hopefully baseball is not done. I will definitely miss Princeton and playing with these guys for sure.”

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, losing 9-8 at Harvard last Saturday was a punch to the gut.

Falling behind 7-1, Princeton made a valiant rally but came up short in dropping to 7-5 overall and 2-3 Ivy League. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked Princeton out of the four-team Ivy tournament contention, putting a big dent in any hopes the Tigers have of making the NCAA tourney.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Chris Bates didn’t mince words. “It was a devastating loss, we just didn’t do everything we needed to win the game,” said Bates. “We were solid everywhere; we just didn’t solve their goalie.”

A nightmarish first 21 minutes ultimately doomed Princeton as it trailed 7-1 with 9:06 left in the first half. “We got a goal early and then they capitalized on every mistake that we made,” said Bates.

“We had chances but I give their goalie (Jake Gambitsky) a lot of credit, he was lights out and stole a lot of goals. We dug too big a ditch to get out of. We hit a lot of pipes, it was just one of those games. Unfortunately it came at a bad time.”

For the rest of the game, Princeton had the upper hand, outscoring the Crimson 7-2.

“We settled down,” said Bates, who had three goals from Ryan Ambler and two tallies from Kip Orban in the defeat with goalie Eric Sanschagrin making 13 saves. “We played 39 minutes of good defense where we gave up just two goals. On offense we were pretty good. We got plenty of looks, but we hit plenty of pipes.”

Over the course of its Ivy campaign, Princeton has hit a roadblock in tight games, losing three one-goal contests, falling 16-15 to Yale and 11-10 to Brown in addition to last Saturday’s nailbiter.

“In the close losses, we haven’t had the ball a lot,” said Bates. “We haven’t faced off well in those games. The theme is if we have to play a lot of defense with our young guys back there, we make mistakes.”

With No. 20 Princeton ending regular season play by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. this Saturday, Bates believes his squad has plenty to play for, including a potential at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney in view of wins over a trio of nationally ranked teams, No. 11 Hofstra, No. 8 Penn, and 18th-ranked Lehigh.

“It is Cornell and we are not going to lay down for them,” asserted Bates. “We feel like something is still on the line in terms of the NCAAs. It is not a 50/50 chance but nothing stands out about the others and our numbers are not bad. We need Hofstra, Penn, and Lehigh to do well. We still have a puncher’s chance and we are going to keep punching. We know it is a long shot but if we beat Cornell, I will be interested to see our numbers and RPI (Rating Percentage Index).”

FIELD WORK: Princeton High baseball player Jeff Gleason throws to first last Monday as PHS took on WW/P-S. Senior infielder Gleason and the Little Tigers fell 5-3 to the Pirates to drop to 3-6. In upcoming action, PHS plays at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIELD WORK: Princeton High baseball player Jeff Gleason throws to first last Monday as PHS took on WW/P-S. Senior infielder Gleason and the Little Tigers fell 5-3 to the Pirates to drop to 3-6. In upcoming action, PHS plays at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things seemed out of whack last Wednesday at Steinert High’s Rich Giallella Field as the Princeton High baseball team was clad in their home white uniforms and batted last.

There was a reasonable explanation for the apparent curve ball as the game was originally scheduled for PHS’s Valley Road field but with the diamond still under construction, it was moved to Steinert and the Little Tigers were designated as the home team.

For PHS, it marked its sixth road game in its first seven contests with just one home appearance at Smoyer Park.

While PHS head coach Dave Roberts is frustrated by the situation, he credits his players for rolling with the punches. “They handle it well, they are kids, they do a good job with that,” said Roberts.

“Steinert was nice enough to let us be the home team, most teams have been accommodating.”

Once the game started, however, the Spartans weren’t very accommodating, building a 5-0 lead after two innings on the way to a 10-0 victory.

In reflecting on the setback, Roberts acknowledged that his squad struggled at the plate and on the mound.

“That kid (John Mastrangelo) is a very good pitcher; he is definitely the best pitcher we have seen up to this point this year,” said Roberts, referring to the Spartan hurler.

“As a staff we are walking too many guys. It is starting to catch up with us. Our strikeout to walk ratio is about even and that’s not good. I think we walked the leadoff man five times today.”

With PHS off to a 3-6 start, Roberts is seeing some encouraging signs. “I like the things we are doing,” said Roberts, whose team brought a two-game winning streak into the Steinert contest. “I like the way we are playing.”

Roberts likes the work he is getting on the mound from sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt.

“Joaquin has picked it up,” said Roberts, noting that Hernandez recently had a 3-0 shutout win over South Hunterdon. “He is out there and he is beating teams that he should beat. He is a young kid but he has nice stuff. We take him out of the equation and our strikeout to walk ratio is terrible.”

Sophomore infielders Hayden Reyes and Colin Taylor have been giving the Little Tigers some nice play.

“Hayden is going to be a good defensive player,” said Roberts. “From my perspective, he is one of the top three defensive shortstops in the county. Colin has been a welcome addition, he is hitting over .300 and he is playing a pretty solid third base.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior second baseman Jeff Gleason and junior outfielder John Reid, have made a solid contribution this spring.

“Jeff is holding his own as a senior, he really wants to have a good year,” said Roberts.

“He is doing a great job for us. He picked up some of the relief pitching today. His hitting is doing well. Reid is smoking the ball, he has been on fire.”

Roberts is looking for his players to take a more fiery approach to the game as the spring unfolds.

“I think our overall energy needs to be more focused on baseball,” said Roberts, whose team fell 5-3 to WW/P-S on Monday to move to 3-6 and is slated to play at WW/P-N on April 23 before hosting Hightstown on April 25, Lakewood on April 26, and Nottingham on April 28.

“On Monday we were shutting a team out and you would have thought we were down by 10. You couldn’t tell what the heck was going on. It is just trying to be positive for our team.”

TAKING OFF: Hun School softball star Julia Blake runs the bases in a game earlier this spring. Junior shortstop Blake’s sizzling hitting and sharp fielding has helped Hun produce a 3-2 start. Last Thursday, Blake smacked a triple and proceeded to score the lone run in Hun’s 1-0 win over Delaware Valley. The Raiders are slated to host Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING OFF: Hun School softball star Julia Blake runs the bases in a game earlier this spring. Junior shortstop Blake’s sizzling hitting and sharp fielding has helped Hun produce a 3-2 start. Last Thursday, Blake smacked a triple and proceeded to score the lone run in Hun’s 1-0 win over Delaware Valley. The Raiders are slated to host Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Julia Blake, staying in the present has helped her produce some big moments this spring for the Hun School softball team.

Last Thursday, with Hun locked in a 0-0 tie against visiting Delaware Valley in the bottom of the sixth inning, junior shortstop Blake wasn’t worried about the fact that she had struck out and popped up in her two previous at-bats.

“I take it pitch by pitch, it doesn’t matter what happened the pitch before or the at bat before,” said Blake.

“I just see the pitch and hit the ball. I just got up there and visualized myself hitting the ball, especially after two strikes, you can’t get down on yourself in that clutch position. I did my best.”

Blake proceeded to come up big, blasting a triple to the left field fence. “I think I was thinking run,” said Blake. “I think I knew I came through.”

Displaying her base-running skill, Blake came home on a sacrifice bunt by Vicki Leach to score the lone run in a 1-0 victory for Hun as the Raiders improved to 3-2.

“We work on that one with my club team; being smart on the bases and watching what the field players do,” said Blake, who plays for the Finch’s Aces club team. “I just had to watch what she did and I ran my hardest.”

Hun was looking to play smarter last Thursday in the wake of a disappointing 11-10 loss to Hill on April 14.

“Hill was a tough loss for us and we realized that we had to bounce back and I think that is definitely what we did today,” said Blake.

“We had to tighten up the defense, we had a better mindset at the plate, and I think it really paid off, especially on defense.”

Leading the infield at shortstop, Blake made several sparkling plays in the victory.

“I am focused on breaking it down step by step, seeing the ball in my glove,” said Blake, reflecting on her defensive approach.

The Hun players have also focused on adopting an upbeat mentality this spring.

“The one thing we have worked on this season is just staying up and being positive and having each other’s backs because that is what wins games,” added Blake.

Blake has also put a lot of work into her hitting and has produced all spring, coming up with several multi-hit performances.

“I came out really banging my freshman year; last year I struggled in some places offensively,” said Blake.

“I came back this year saying I am a leader and I am going to try my best. I am going to take it pitch by pitch and visualize myself hitting the ball and just believe and that has really helped me. The biggest thing is that I am having fun again.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk is having fun watching Blake blossom this spring.

“Julia is doing a nice job for us with her enthusiasm; her leadership as a junior is outstanding,” said Quirk.

“I told her that even though she is not a captain, she can still be a leader. She is doing a great job with the bat. I think she is a little more confident at the bat. She is a little bit more selective at what she is hitting and she just drives the ball.”

Quirk likes the outstanding work she is getting from junior Vicky Leach at second base.

“I am really pleased with her; she has stepped up,” said Quirk. “She should have been our catcher but we needed her at second base and she did what I asked her to do. She is doing a great job.”

Two other Hun veterans, Kristen Manochio and Kameran McNair, are giving the Raiders what they need.

“Kristen at third base has stepped it up; she has always been an outfielder for us so it has been a new experience for her,” added Quirk. “Kam McNair at first base has come in and done a nice job for us.”

Sophomore pitching ace Alexis Goeke sparkled in the win over Delaware Valley, yielding one hit and striking out four.

“The pitcher (Alexis Goeke) has been struggling and we have been working hard with her,” said Quirk. “She is doing what we are asking her to do and today she did that and it showed.”

With Hun headed into a busy week with home games against Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29, Quirk is hoping her team can build on its performance last Thursday.

“I am very pleased; I am hoping we move on from here,” said Quirk. “We have Peddie next Tuesday (April 22) and I think this is something that has given them the confidence to move on. We had a good practice yesterday and I told them you can play with the best if you want and you have to have the confidence to do it.”

Blake, for her part, is confident that Hun can play with anyone. “Our big thing was defense today and it really stayed tough,” said Blake.

“If we can be that tough against Peddie and our other games next week I think we will be successful.”

MASER BEAM: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Julia Maser goes after the ball in recent action. Last week, sophomore star Maser tallied six goals and two assists in a 13-12 loss to Hun as the Tartans dropped to 3-3. Stuart plays at Nottingham on April 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASER BEAM: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Julia Maser goes after the ball in recent action. Last week, sophomore star Maser tallied six goals and two assists in a 13-12 loss to Hun as the Tartans dropped to 3-3. Stuart plays at Nottingham on April 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team played the Hun School in 2012, it wasn’t much of a contest as the Tartans fell 17-6 to their crosstown rivals.

Things were a lot different when the local foes met last week at Stuart as the game, played in a downpour, turned into a nailbiter.

Stuart trailed 7-5 at halftime and was down 12-8 midway through the second half and then reeled off four unanswered goals to make it a 12-12 contest. Hun scored to make it 13-12 and then the Tartans had a last-gasp effort, missing a free position with 20 seconds left to fall just short.

“It was a good game,” said Stuart head coach Caitlin Grant, whose team dropped to 3-3 with the one-goal defeat.

“In the first part of the second half, they got up four goals and we really started working hard in the last part of the game. Tori [Hannah] had two goals, Julia [Maser] had two goals. Everyone came together. The defense had a sense of urgency; they realized that we needed the ball and they got it for us. Sometimes, they play off the offense but they were all over them. We stayed right in it, they had to work for that win.”

With the program coming off a 4-9 campaign last spring, Grant believes her team is headed in the right direction. “I am pretty happy with the way we are playing,” said Grant. “The games where we have won, we have looked great.”

The squad’s core of sophomores, Hannah and Maser along with Sam Servis, Harley Guzman, Armani King, Kim Rodas, and Rose Tetnowski have made great progress.

“They have a year under their belts,” said Grant. ”They have really improved and they are really leaders for us.”

Maser, for her part, has emerged as one of the leading scoring threats in the area. “Julia runs all over the field, she is a machine,” said Grant of Maser, who tallied six goals and two assists in the loss to Hun.

“She plays in an outside league. She is a threat this year and she knows it. Last year she would pass it to the older players sometimes.”

The Tartans are also getting some good play from this year’s crop of freshmen.

“They have stepped up,” said Grant. “Mary O’Boyle is one who just picked up the stick this year but you would never know. We needed a low attacker and she stepped into that role. She has taken it upon herself to get extra practice, she is playing a lot of wall ball. Isabelle Engel has been playing at low attack, she is pretty seasoned. She sees the field and understands the game, she knows where to cut.”

Senior star Amy Hallowell brings a lot of game to Stuart. “Amy is always all over the field, from one end to the other,” said Grant.

“I can rely on her to never slack. If there is a ground ball or missed shot, she is there going after it. She is one of the captains and she keeps the momentum of the team going. She will take it upon herself to call out the girls.”

Sophomore goalie Harlyn Bell’s superb play in the crease has given the team momentum.

“Harlyn played awesome against Hun,” said Grant of Bell, who had 16 saves in the loss. “She went to two camps last summer and she has really improved. I am really impressed with the way she is playing.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans are ready to get over the hump in the close games.

“We are going to be the team that gets better and better,” said Grant, whose team plays at Nottingham on April 24.

“We are on the cusp. We have shown we can compete against the seasoned teams. We just need to do the little things and we’ll be winning some of these close games.”

YOUNG GUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Connor Fletcher heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, sophomore midfielder and Cornell-bound Fletcher tallied two goals and two assists as PDS defeated Pennington 14-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 6-1, host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

YOUNG GUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Connor Fletcher heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, sophomore midfielder and Cornell-bound Fletcher tallied two goals and two assists as PDS defeated Pennington 14-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers, now 6-1, host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though he is just a sophomore, Connor Fletcher knew that he had to step up this spring for the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team.

With PDS losing eight seniors to graduation from a 2013 squad that went 11-6 and advanced to the state Prep B championship game and the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, midfielder Fletcher has emerged as a top scoring threat for the Panthers.

“I feel this year we had our work cut out for us with a big senior class leaving,” said Fletcher.

“I feel like the unity with our six guys out there this spring is really developing well. As a freshman, you are a little timid out there but getting more playing time, I am definitely more comfortable. I am getting the chance to hopefully form into a leader out there. I am just trying to help the younger guys learn like I did.”

Last Monday at Pennington, Fletcher took a lead role, tallying two goals and two assists as PDS rolled to a 14-1 win over the Red Raiders.

“Obviously whenever we get a chance to get out here to run the offense and give everyone some touches, it is always a good time,” said Fletcher.

“We don’t get a lot of practice so getting out here is always great for us. I feel like we are putting ourselves in a really great spot right now, getting towards the end of the season, getting towards championship season.”

In Fletcher’s view, PDS took a good step forward with its 10-7 win on April 10 over defending Prep B champions Rutgers Prep.

“That is definitely one we had circled on our calendar; we were ready from the start,” said Fletcher.

“It was great for us to take it to them, it was a real confidence booster. We are  excited to hopefully see them at the end of the season in the championship of Prep B again.”

Fletcher gained confidence from starring this winter for the PDS boys’ hockey team, helping the Panthers to a state Prep championship.

“A big thing for me is staying in shape, bulking up, and physically developing,” said Fletcher. “Playing hockey gives me a better look at offense and defense; it is bringing  me different looks playing on the lacrosse field.”

Having recently committed to play lacrosse at Cornell University, Fletcher is in great shape for the future.”

“My dad went there and I have wanted to go there ever since I was a little kid,” said Fletcher, reflecting on his college decision.

“It has been been my No. 1 spot. They gave me the offer so I took it right away, it is my dream school.”

With the Panther offense starting to click on all cylinders, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman is hoping for a dream finish this spring.

“They play well together; this is a team that is going to be made up of six guys and not one guy,” said Tuckman, referring to his offensive unit that includes Chris Azzarello, Jacob Shavel, Joey Levine, Jonah Tuckman, and Will Brossman in addition to Fletcher.

“We are  getting some productivity. If you look at my stat sheet right now, I have got goals being scored pretty consistently by six or seven guys. We are getting multiple points. We are real pleased and now it is about sustaining it. We are not deep. We are talented but we are thin. As long as we can stay healthy and play the game that we know how to play, I think we are going to have fun in the second half of the season.”

The Panther defensive unit is also having a lot of fun so far this spring. “The defense has been playing with confidence ever since Hilton Head,” said Tuckman.

“We are excited about some of the things that we are doing with our defense and continue to do with our defense. We have four sets that we run defensively and we run them through and it is both a response to and trying to get a hand up on offenses that we face.”

The Panthers face a tough second half of the season as they host Peddie on April 23 and play at Blair Academy on April 26 before starting play in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament.

“It was a good opportunity for us to get ourselves ready for the second half of the season,” said Tuckman, reflecting on the win over Pennington.

“We are gearing up for a pretty strong second half of the season. The prep seeds will come out tomorrow. If everything goes as it should, we will have the second seed and a bye. Morristown-Beard will get the first seed and then it will fall in from there.”

Fletcher, for his part, believes that PDS is primed for a strong finish. “We have Peddie coming up on Wednesday so that will be a big one,” said Fletcher.

“I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We definitely have a great group of guys and we are totally capable of putting up two banners at the end of the season. Everything is coming into full circle right now.”

April 16, 2014
UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost a pair of one-goal games in the last two weeks of March, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was moments away from another excruciating defeat as it hosted Lehigh last week.

Trailing 9-8 with less than 10 seconds left in the April 8 contest, Princeton had a shot turned back and the ball bounced on the turf at the Class of 1952 Stadium.

Then lightning struck as Tiger junior midfielder Kip Orban took a Mike MacDonald feed and rifled it onto the back of the net to tie the game at 9-9 and force overtime.

Princeton came through with the win on a goal in the second overtime by All-American senior midfielder Tom Schreiber to reverse its fortune and finally come out on top in a nailbiter.

For Orban, the tally was unlike any in his career. “I never had a goal like that; I was fortunate to be the recipient of a really hard play by Mikey,” recalled Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“He got that ground ball. He always has the greatest vision. He skips it through all the time. He found me at the top of the box and I was just fortunate to put it past the keeper.”

The Tigers, though, worked hard to make their luck.  “We executed at the end of the game which is what we have to do moving forward,” said Orban, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Penn goalie Brian Feeney.

“I think we are finally starting to grit it out. Coach is instilling a great work ethic and teaching us to work really hard when we are tired and execute.”

Against Dartmouth, Orban was up to his late heroics again, scoring goals in the waning moments of both the first and second quarters to help the Tigers take an 8-4 halftime lead on the way to a 13-10 triumph.

“I think in the first half, we came out pretty well,” said Orban, reflecting on the victory which improved No. 14 Princeton to 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action.

“Dartmouth played well, they showed some zone. We slowed down the pace of our offense a little bit and I think we were able to adapt pretty well and we were able to win it. We put enough on the board and we were fortunate to win it.”

In tallying those two goals, Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders.

“I don’t really think about it, I just go out on the field and it is just being part of the system,” said Orban, reflecting on the streak.

“When I score those I am generally the recipient of great off ball movement. Our two-man system really forces us to play well together and I think our offensive first six guys work well with each other. Tommy [Schreiber] does a great job finding me. Mikey [MacDonald] does a great job finding everyone. Ryan Ambler is stepping up. I think we all work well together. It is just whoever is in the right spot at the right time.”

With two college seasons under his belt, Orban is better able to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that come his way.

“I am a little older; I definitely feel a little more comfortable than freshman year stepping out there and starting,” said Orban, who has 25 points this season on 18 goals and seven assists and is up to 70 points in his career with 53 goals and 17 assists. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking then.”

Orban acknowledged that the Tigers showed some nerves in the second half on Saturday as the Big Green narrowed the Princeton lead to three goals on three occasions over the last 30 minutes of the contest with former Princeton High star Mike Olentine scoring a third quarter goal for Dartmouth.

“I would say we have to come in the second half as we do in the first with the same amount of energy; we can’t come out flat,” said Orban.

“I feel like sometimes we get a little comfortable and I don’t think that should be the case. I feel after a couple of tough ground balls and some face-offs, we broke the seal in the second half. It started to flow and eventually we closed out on top. The team did well today but we definitely can do better moving forward.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates concurred with that analysis. “I thought we showed some grit on Tuesday night to get that W,” said Bates.

“Today was a little bit lackadaisical. We let them know we didn’t practice well that last two days. We thought we would get a crisper effort today. We’ll take the win but we didn’t feel like it was a real disciplined team effort.”

In Bates’ view, his team needs to develop a better killer instinct. “We talked about that during the week, making the next play and being able to put a team out versus getting a little undisciplined,” said Bates.

“Dartmouth believed they could win until the very end of the game. Frankly, we could  have pulled away and ended this thing a little earlier. It is a credit to Dartmouth. They did a nice job and hung with us.”

The Tigers did do a better job on face-offs, winning 17-of-27 on the day, sparked by the return of Justin Murphy from injury.

“Getting Murph back helped, he grits there; he is our go-to guy,” said Bates. “We struggled a little bit without him, We have faced some pretty high caliber competition over the course of the last few weeks. We created some scoring off the transition and the face-off which was nice but we still gave up a few which is a little bit mind numbing. We don’t communicate real well on the wings. Overall, I think it was a pretty decent day.”

Freshman midfielder Zach Currier had a big day, tallying three goals and an assist and scooping up five ground balls.

“Zach was clearly the star of the game; he gave us a ton of energy, he made some highlight reel plays,” said Bates of Currier who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“He had a big assist so it was nice. We have been waiting for him to break out and if there is a bright spot today, it was Zach. He works hard; he is really competitive. He was fired up before the game, you could tell. He has got that edge and it is nice to see that rewarded.”

Princeton will need to play fired up as it heads to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical Ivy contest.

“We’ll see how we react, it is a team that still fights it a little bit,” said Bates, whose club is riding a three-game winning streak.

“You can’t put the jersey on and expect to win. We control our own destiny. I think there is a clear positive with Harvard losing (8-7 at Penn) but we don’t look at that stuff. We just know that if we win, we are in good shape. The focus here immediately was to start thinking about what we need to do to prepare to beat Harvard with the emphasis on the word prepare.”

In Orban’s view, the Tigers are on board with Bates’ approach. “We just have to take care of what we have to take care of and to put ourselves in the position we want to be in at the end of the season,” said Orban.

“We have got to win out and then all the rest is up to chance. I don’t really focus on that; I don’t think our team does either. We just focus week to week and take care of what is in our hands and that is just Harvard this upcoming Saturday so we have to work hard this week and come out on top then.”

Having guided his Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 to the grand finals in both the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta last spring, Greg Hughes has his rowers going full throttle as they look to get on the medal stand.

“We have changed the way we have practiced, we are doing more work in training,” said Tiger heavyweight head coach Hughes, who is in his fifth year guiding the program and led the Tigers to fourth place in the Sprints and sixth at the IRA regatta in 2013.

“We are doing things I wasn’t able to try before. I am able to take risks. I am getting good feedback and we are working together. We are doing more hard strokes than we would normally do.”

While the frigid winter kept the Tigers off the water until mid-March, Hughes believes that the extra work on the ergometer machines has paid dividends.

“Historically, before global warming, we used to get on the water in mid-March,” said Hughes.

“You get on later and develop speed as you go through the season. Being inside longer allows the rowers to develop a really good base of fitness.”

Based on early returns, that work has paid dividends as Princeton opened its season by defeating Navy on April 5 and then won the Childs Cup last weekend, topping Penn and Columbia.

Hughes credits senior captain Will Gillis with being an ideal role model for his teammates.

“Gillis has done a really good job of leading the team,” asserted Hughes, whose varsity 8 is currently ranked fourth nationally.

“The impressive thing is that while he is obviously a talented athlete, he has rowed for the U-23 team the last two years and got a bronze last summer, he is the full package. He is a top student in his department (politics).When you have a guy who is a top athlete and a top student, it gives such a good message to the younger guys. They see that you don’t have to sacrifice academics for athletics and vice versa.”

Those callow rowers have sent a message of their own. “The younger classes have come in and have pushed up the level of competitive spirit,” said Hughes.

“It has created a positive environment on the squad. They beat each other up everyday in practice and that’s great.”

The Tigers got off to a great start with their win at Navy which saw the varsity 8 speed across the 2,000-meter course on the Severn River in a time of 6:06.2 with the Midshipmen coming in at 6:07.6.

“We were going to Navy and it is a tough place to race,” said Hughes. “They are a good program. We are starting the regular season with three races in a row on the road, it requires attention to detail and focus to be ready to race in different environments. That was a good effort.”

Last Saturday, Princeton produced an even better effort in retaining the venerable Childs Cup, posting a time of 5:33.9 over the 2,000-meter course on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia with Penn next in 5:41.2 and Columbia taking third in 5:42.0.

“That was a step forward,” said Hughes. “Within the varsity boat, we have a couple of returners but we also have a core of new kids. Five are new, a couple are sophomores and one is a freshman. We have to keep learning things and continue to get better each week. We aren’t going to hit top speed in March.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to pick up their speed as they head up to Boston, Mass. to face top-ranked Harvard and MIT with Compton Cup on the line.

“It is a good program,” said Hughes of rival Harvard, the runners-up in the last year’s IRA national championships.

“We are going up there looking to get better. We have had our best piece each week, starting with the scrimmage before Navy.”

Hughes is confident that his rowers can get better and better as the spring unfolds.

“There is a lot of time left,” said Hughes. “There are lot of things that we have to do. I think we are on track. We are in position to have a good May.”

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter.  Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.  (Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter. Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.
(Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

After serving as an assistant coach for the Princeton University men’s basketball team from 2007-10, Scott Greenman left his alma mater and took on another role in the college hoops world, handling basketball operations at Georgetown.

While Greenman had an eye on getting back into coaching, he gained a lot from the operations post.

“I got to see how other people do things, being at the highest level was a good thing,” said Greenman, a former Tiger hoops star who was a first-team All-Ivy selection as a senior in 2005-06.

“I learned a lot from listening into recruiting calls. I was learning from coach Thompson (former Princeton head coach John Thompson III) and good assistants. It was a very productive four years. Even though I was not in coaching, I was seeing things from a different perspective.”

When one of those Georgetown assistants, Mike Brennan, a former Princeton star guard and assistant coach himself, took the head coaching job at American University, Greenman saw an avenue back into coaching.

“When he was interviewing and going through the job process he said if he got the job would I be interested in coming on as assistant and I said I was,” said Greenman.

“All of the offices at Georgetown were close. It was open and there was a lot of interaction. Having played for coach Brennan, this was a different dynamic; I had a level of comfort with him.”

Greenman joined Brennan’s staff as an assistant coach last May and the two former Tigers worked well together over the winter, helping American go 20-13 and win the Patriot League championship.

As Greenman returned to coaching, his main focus was getting his new players used to the Princeton style that Brennan was installing.

“It was getting the players used to a new system and a new everything; working with them to increase their skill sets and doing stuff to educate them on what to expect,” said Greenman.

While American got off to a slow start, going 3-7 in its first 10 games, Greenman could see the players becoming more familiar with the new approach.

“Even when we lost, coach Brennan was seeing signs of improvement, telling the guys you got better at this and that but need to work on that,” recalled Greenman.

“It is about improving so you are good enough to win the games at the end of the year. From day one, there was no push back whatsoever. It was fun for the team, with forwards getting to dribble, shoot and pass and to get as good as they can be.”

The Eagles started looking good in January, going 9-0 in the month. After enduring a bad stretch in February where it went 1-4, American entered the Patriot League tournament with plenty of confidence.

“We won 10 league games and three or four of those could have gone the other way,” said Greenman.

“In the rough patch, things went the other way. We were stagnant for a week but then we started to get better. We had a sharper focus at practice, we focused on a few things and made more adjustments. On the second time around the league, the other teams know you better. Heading into tournament, we thought we had a good shot if we played to the best of our ability.”

After topping Colgate in the Patriot quarterfinals and Holy Cross in the semis, the Eagles produced their best performance of the season in the championship game as they topped host Boston University 55-36 to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney.

“We zoned in on defense, we did a good job of making their shots difficult,” said Greenman, reflecting on the win over the Terriers.

“The guys were unselfish. We had an issue with turnovers and throwing the ball to the other team earlier in the season but they really handled the ball well. I give credit to the guys; they were so open to things and they improved so much. It was great to see them make that transformation.”

It was a special moment for Greenman as the team enjoyed a raucous celebration after the buzzer sounded.

“It is great, you aren’t able as a coach to get too high or too low,” said Greenman.

“Even when you are winning, you are concentrating on the next game and how you can get better. It is an indescribable feeling. Every team in a one-bid league is shooting for that moment.”

For American, its next game proved to be its last as it fell 75-35 to Wisconsin in the NCAA tourney.

“You know going in that there are no good options when going against a No. 2 seed, you are expecting to play a great team,” said Greenman, noting that Wisconsin ended up advancing to the Final 4.

“We knew it was going to be very difficult; they are a well coached team. Everyone can score. They have a 7-foot center (Frank Kaminsky) who can step out to the perimeter and make shots.We started well and made some shots. Once they got on that run, it snowballed.”

Although the defeat stung, Greenman enjoyed making a fifth trip to March Madness.

“It doesn’t lose its luster, I went three times at Georgetown and going as a player was the best feeling,” said Greenman. “Doing it as a coach is awesome.”

Looking back on the winter, Greenman feels he has become a better coach.

“I think in terms of time management, I grew a lot,” said Greenman.

“At Princeton, I had different responsibilities and then I had different responsibilities at Georgetown. Now I have the most responsibility. I want to try to be as organized and as efficient as I can be administratively and with recruiting. I love being in the gym, coaching and teaching and seeing the guys improve.”

RAISING CANE: Davon Reed dribbles upcourt in action this winter during his freshman campaign with the University of Miami men’ s basketball team. The former Princeton Day School standout averaged 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game this winter in his debut season for the Hurricanes.

RAISING CANE: Davon Reed dribbles upcourt in action this winter during his freshman campaign with the University of Miami men’ s basketball team. The former Princeton Day School standout averaged 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game this winter in his debut season for the Hurricanes.

At times, Davon Reed seemed to be a man among boys during his stellar career with the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team.

Starring from day one as a freshman in 2009, Reed led the team in scoring every year and totaled a program-record 2,102 points in leading the Panthers to three state Prep B title games.

Heading south to the University of Miami this winter to continue his basketball career Reed has been forced to man up in order to keep pace in the high-powered ACC.

“I have always played hard but here you have to play that much harder,” said Reed. “The players are more athletic and physical and they are much tougher.”

While going through the bumps in the road that inevitably come with a freshman season, Reed proved tough enough to thrive at the D-I level, starting 10 games for the Hurricanes and averaging 6.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game.

For Reed, getting on the floor in the opener against St. Francis Brooklyn on November 8 was a special moment.

“It was exciting to play my first college game even though we didn’t get a win and I didn’t have the best game,” said Reed, who scored 3 points in 18 minutes of action as the Hurricanes fell 66-62. “It was something I was very grateful about.”

A week later, Reed had a breakthrough moment, scoring 11 points in an 84-69 win over Texas Southern.

“That was one of my first games with a higher scoring day,” said Reed, who shot 4-of-8 from the floor in the game. “As the season went on, I got more confidence even with the ups and downs.”

Playing at point guard rather than his natural shooting guard position ended up being a confidence builder for Reed.

“I just wanted to do what I could to get on the floor,” said Reed, who ended up with 37 assists on the season. “I am not a natural No. 1 but I have handled the ball my whole career. I enjoyed it and it really helped my ball-handling improve.”

Reed acknowledges that he hit a down stretch when Miami got into conference action.

“When ACC play started, I kind of struggled a little bit,” said Reed. “I wouldn’t say it was the intensity level. It was just a new set of teams and bigger games. Once I started playing freely, I had some good games.”

In reflecting on his debut campaign, Reed is proud to have produced some highlight games.

“I remember big scoring nights like against Arizona State (19 points) and Syracuse (16 points),” said Reed.

“I would like to say that one of my special ones was the Florida State game when I came in late and changed the way the game was going for us. That was a big win.”

While Miami didn’t get as many wins as it would have hoped, posting an overall record of 17-15, Reed is optimistic about the program’s future prospects.

“This year was definitely a rebuilding year,” said Reed. “Even though the W-L record didn’t show it, there were a lot of games that could have we could have won but we didn’t get the bounces. We still made a lot of progress.”

Over the course of the winter, Reed made plenty of progress individually. “I think as the season went on I continually became more confident,” said Reed.

“Even if there were some things I couldn’t do, I can work on those in the offseason. Some of my decision-making got better and the 3-ball was good for me.”

Reed is looking forward to putting his nose to the grindstone in the offseason.

“I want to get bigger, stronger, faster and handle the physical aspect,” said the 6’6, 208-pound Reed, who raised his bench press to 250 pounds from 175.

“I want to be more consistent with my jump shot and be a better ball-handler. Defense was one of my strong points and I want to continue that.”

Reed’s experience at PDS gave him a strong foundation for excelling off the court.

“I had a pretty good first semester and I am doing better this semester,” said Reed.

“I have had a good year academically, there has been lots of balancing between the basketball and the books. Going to a school like PDS has helped me with time management.”

All in all, Reed had the time of his life this winter as he achieved his goal playing big-time college basketball.

“I didn’t know what school I was going to go to but I wanted to play in the ACC where you go out every game and compete against the best of the best,” said Reed. “I thank God that I have the chance to play the game that I love at this level.”

NET BENEFIT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack hits a volley in action last spring. Junior Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles this spring and is making a positive impact in his new spot in the lineup. The Little Tigers topped Hightstown 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-0. PHS hosts Steinert on April 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET BENEFIT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack hits a volley in action last spring. Junior Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles this spring and is making a positive impact in his new spot in the lineup. The Little Tigers topped Hightstown 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-0. PHS hosts Steinert on April 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High boys’ tennis team, its match last Wednesday against Robbinsville proved to be a good early season wakeup call.

Getting pushed hard by the Ravens, PHS prevailed 3-2 and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

“It is the only big test we have had so far,” said PHS coach Christian Herzog, who is guiding the team this spring with veteran head coach Sarah Hibbert taking a backset role as she comes back from maternity leave.

“They went into Robbinsville thinking it was going to be easy and it turned out to be a 3-2 win. Their No. 1 and 2 singles guys are good. It was good to see Rishab (first singles player Rishab Tanga) take his guy down. It was the windiest day we have had since tryouts.”

In Herzog’s view, junior standout Tanga will be taking a lot of matches this spring.

“Rishab is looking good; he is calculating on the court,” said Herzog, whose team improved to 5-0 with a 5-0 win over Hightstown last Monday.

“He is calm, collected and knows how to pick apart his opponent. You don’t have to talk to him during matches.”

Junior Tyler Hack has moved up to second singles from doubles and is making his presence felt in his new spot.

“Tyler is a rock, he is a great kid,” asserted Herzog. “It is tough losing him at doubles, it was almost an automatic point. He is a lefty, he has that wicked shot down the line. He has a lot of topspin coming over. He has got an all around game.”

At third singles, junior Adib Zaidi brings some punch to the lineup. “He has a great first serve, he has a lot of power,” said Herzog. “He likes hot weather and he should get better and better as the weather warms up.”

Herzog has been tweaking the doubles lineup, now pairing senior Zach Hojelbane with sophomore Lucas Mitchell at first doubles.

“I am going to put Zach H. with Lucas Mitchell,” said Herzog. “Zach H. has experience and he is aggressive going for points. Lucas has improved his volley so much. He has worked a lot with Glenn Michibata (former head coach of the Princeton University men’s tennis team). He is a lot more consistent and has a lot more confidence.”

At second doubles, Herzog believes that senior Zack Kleiman and sophomore Andrew Wei will prove to be a winning combination.

“Zack K. is very easy going, he can play with anyone,” said Herzog.

“Andrew is coming up for the JV so I think that will be a good match.”

Herzog believes his squad can play with anyone as it heads into the Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at Mercer County Park.

“For the guys, I just want them to be aggressive,” said Herzog, who is looking to see his team better its fourth place in the 2013 MCT.

“Every match counts and I want the guys going for every single point and chasing down every ball. There is a time and place for saving your energy but this is not it.”

CAMP FIRE: Princeton High softball infielder Jessica Campisi fires the ball to first last Friday as PHS hosted Hamilton. Senior tri-captain Campisi contributed 3 RBIs in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 16-11. The Little Tigers, now 2-4, are slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAMP FIRE: Princeton High softball infielder Jessica Campisi fires the ball to first last Friday as PHS hosted Hamilton. Senior tri-captain Campisi contributed 3 RBIs in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 16-11. The Little Tigers, now 2-4, are slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High softball team fell behind Hamilton 6-0 last Friday, Jessica Campisi was confident that PHS could get back into the game.

“Over the course of the next few innings we really got used to the pitcher,” said senior tri-captain and shortstop Campisi.

“We started putting together a rally of hitting, which we always do against this school.”

Sure enough, the Little Tigers scored unanswered six runs to knot the game at 6-6 with Campisi contributing an RBI.

But the Hornets responded with five straight runs to take an 11-6 lead. Once again the Little Tigers clawed back, rallying to tie the game at 11-11 heading into the last inning. Campisi delivered a big blow in the comeback, smacking a two-run double in the fifth inning as PHS cut into the deficit to 11-10 at that point.

“I was getting ready to bat and I was ready to let it go,” recalled Campisi.

“One of my teammates Genna [Garlock] was saying you can’t rely on superstition, you are a good hitter and I went out and hit the double.”

While PHS went on to lose 16-11, Campisi believes the Little Tigers are headed in the right direction.

“I think as we have more games, we are getting better,” said Campisi. “I think we are learning to adjust more to pitchers. Yesterday we had a moderate pitcher, today she was a little faster but we are pulling together.”

Campisi is assuming extra responsibility to bring PHS together as she is the lone senior captain, leading the team along with junior tri-captain Sarah Eisenach and sophomore tri-captain Kelli Swedish.

“I have been on the team the longest but we all sort of have different roles as captain,” said Campisi.

“I definitely feel I have a  strong role as a senior captain. I would hope to be a role model for them.”

Having played some stints in the outfield this season, Campisi was happy to be in the infield for the Hamilton game.

“Moving back to shortstop, I felt a little more comfortable,” said Campisi.

“I feel like I can help more with a leadership position, there is an issue with lack of talking in the infield.”

While PHS head coach Dave Boehm liked the way his team never stopped battling against Hamilton, he was disappointed with its defensive sloppiness in crunch time.

“We fought back but we gave them six outs in the last inning,” said Boehm. “We threw it back over the pitcher’s head, we did that twice. We have moved people around but we just had bad throws.”

Coming into the afternoon, Boehm was anticipating a topsy-turvy contest. “This is one of those games, it is a division game like Hightstown, you never know who is going to come out on top,” said Boehm, whose team fell 9-2 to Steinert on Saturday to drop to 2-4 and is slated to host WW/P-S on April 21. “It is not going to be a pretty game and it lived up to the billing today.”

Campisi, for her part, acknowledges that PHS needs to be sharper in the field.

“We had a team meeting after the Robbinsville game and one of the things I think is huge for us is to have more effective practices,” said Campisi.

“We need to be doing more drills during practice where we need to be cleaner and faster. We need to do more situations rather than hitting balls straight to us.”

GUT CHECK: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Azzarello takes a stick in the stomach last week as PDS hosted the Hun School. Junior attacker Azzarello scored three goals in a losing cause as the Panthers fell 8-7 to Hun in the April 8 contest. Two days later, Azzarello tallied four goals to lead PDS to an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep. The Panthers, now 3-1, play at Phillipsburg on April 16, host Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then play at Pennington on April 21.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GUT CHECK: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Chris Azzarello takes a stick in the stomach last week as PDS hosted the Hun School. Junior attacker Azzarello scored three goals in a losing cause as the Panthers fell 8-7 to Hun in the April 8 contest. Two days later, Azzarello tallied four goals to lead PDS to an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep. The Panthers, now 3-1, play at Phillipsburg on April 16, host Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then play at Pennington on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In recent years, the annual boys’ lacrosse clash between Princeton Day School and the Hun School squads has produced a series of nailbiters.

When the foes met last week for the latest installment of the crosstown rivalry, it looked like Hun may flip the script as it jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one quarter.

But with PDS settling down and taking advantage of some man-up opportunities, the April 8 contest developed into a cliffhanger befitting a matchup of teams who both advanced to state Prep title games (PDS in Prep B and Hun in Prep A) last spring.

With junior Chris Azzarello and sophomore Jonah Tuckman finding the back of the net, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 5-3 at halftime. Another Azzarello tally plus goals from sophomore Connor Fletcher and senior Zack Banks knotted the game at 6-6 late in the third quarter.

Hun forged ahead 8-6 early in the fourth but Azzarello answered to make it 8-7 with 5:05 remaining in regulation. The Panthers did have two possessions with a chance to tie but couldn’t come up with another tally as they fell 8-7.

Afterward, PDS head coach Rob Tuckman tipped his hat to both of the combatants.

“It was a good battle, we started out a little flat but credit to this team, we chipped away and got out of that hole,” said Tuckman.

“You got a Division I goalie in there (Hun’s Jon Levine, a Princeton University recruit) and we hit him every which way. He’s outstanding and he played an outstanding game. They beat us because they were just a little bit better than we were today.”

Tuckman did see some flashes of outstanding play from his offensive unit, with Fletcher scoring two goals and Azzarello ending up with three tallies on the afternoon.

“What Connor does is that he draws attention, he is a strong, fast kid,” said Tuckman, whose team turned heads on Thursday as it posted an 11-6 win over defending Prep B champion Rutgers Prep with Azzarello leading the way with four goals and an assist and Fletcher chipping in a goal and four assists.

“We are a six-man offense this year. Connor played really well but his support staff was there doing some great stuff too. We had some great finishes today. Chris had a great game. Zack Banks had that great finish. Jonah had that one from up top. Jacob Shavel played a strong game. We have to remember that these guys are being defensed up by some solid guys.”

PDS’ last line of defense, senior goalie Culver Duquette, came up big with 14 saves, several of them on point blank shots.

“I think Culver came out and he needed that first save to get his wits about him and then he was able to settle in and he made some outstanding saves,” added Tuckman. “Today was a great defensive and goalie exhibition. There was some good physical play.”

In Tuckman’s view, the game could have gone either way. “I think the positives are that we don’t roll over and die regardless of the score,” said Tuckman

“Lacrosse is a game of runs. We kept in it; we had our chances. We had a couple of mistakes at the end that could have gone differently and had it gone differently, you never know.”

Based on last week’s efforts, it looks like PDS, now 3-1, has a chance to produce a special spring.

“Moving forward we take from it that we are going to make a mark this year,” said Tuckman, whose squad plays at Phillipsburg on April 16, hosts Warren Hills Regional on April 17, and then plays at Pennington on April 21.

“It is a great team. We are young and we are getting better and better every game and that’s what you hope for. We have some work to do and we’ll get that work done and I think we’ll have some fun come May.”

JUSTIN TIME: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella takes a swing last Wednesday as Hun hosted the Hill School (Pa.). With junior first baseman Pontrella contributing three hits in the contest, including a pair of bases-clearing doubles, Hun cruised to a 13-3 win. In upcoming action, Hun, now 4-2, plays at Princeton Day School on April 16 and at Pennington on April 17 before hosting Rutgers Prep on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JUSTIN TIME: Hun School baseball player Justin Pontrella takes a swing last Wednesday as Hun hosted the Hill School (Pa.). With junior first baseman Pontrella contributing three hits in the contest, including a pair of bases-clearing doubles, Hun cruised to a 13-3 win. In upcoming action, Hun, now 4-2, plays at Princeton Day School on April 16 and at Pennington on April 17 before hosting Rutgers Prep on April 22.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing on the Hun School’s junior varsity baseball team in 2013, Justin Pontrella struggled in the early going this spring as he made the move up to the varsity.

With Hun hosting the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, Pontrella decided he needed some extra work.

“Coming into this game, I wasn’t hitting well,” said junior first baseman Pontrella.

“I got down the field real early today and did a lot of easy swings. I got back into the groove and started feeling my hands again.”

In the bottom of the third inning, Pontrella’s work paid dividends as he drilled a liner through the infield.

“I got a base hit single and that was a confidence booster,” said Pontrella. “I started letting it fly.”

Pontrella flew high the rest of the day, belting bases-clearing doubles in the fourth and fifth innings.

While his first double was a hard grounder past the third baseman, the second was a towering shot to the left field fence. “I feel like I got a hold of it and I was on second base as soon as I got out of the batter’s box,” said Pontrella, reflecting on the fifth inning blast.

After getting the spring off to a disappointing start with a 7-6 loss at the Blair Academy in a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) contest, the Raiders have caught fire, winning three of four games, including a 9-5 win over Lawrenceville on April 8 and a 10-0 victory over Peddie last Friday.

“Our first game was against Blair and we lost that; we kind of used that as motivation,” said Pontrella.

“In the next two MAPL games, we were pretty fired up and we got two wins.”

In Pontrella’s view, Hun’s team unity has helped the squad come together quickly.

“It has the best chemistry out of any team I have played on because it has young talent,” said Pontrella.

“We have got a lot of guys who really want to be here. No one feels like they are better than anyone. We are all here to do it together.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade senses a one-for-all, all-for-one spirit on the team.

“The interesting thing that I have seen so far is that they pull for each other; it is not cliquey,” said McQuade.

“We don’t have those kids right now who are going big-time D-I or anything like that. We have good ballplayers. I like to say that we have good high school players that can play at the next level, some of them can play D-III. Those kids win if they put it all together. Teams win; individuals rarely ever win.”

McQuade likes the way Pontrella has put things together in his debut campaign for the varsity.

“He hit the ball well on the JVs; he has power which he shows,” said McQuade.

“He takes as much extra batting practice as anyone. He bats on the weekends, he comes down here on the weekends and steals my baseballs out of the cage and hits all weekend. He loves the game. He has got some of the softest hands at first base of any first baseman I have ever had. He has saved our infield of I don’t how many errors already and we have only played three or four games.”

In the win over Hill, senior pitcher Patrick Donahue gave the Raiders some good work.

“Donahue hung in there,” said McQuade of the senior hurler who gave up three runs in five innings of work to earn the win.

“He tends to throw a lot of pitches. I think he got frustrated with a couple of calls and then he overthrew. I told him we need you to go 6 and 7 innings, not 5 innings which means that you can’t turn around and throw the ball as hard as you want to, you have to locate it. He’s tough inside, he has a great attitude.”

Hun could end up with a tough pitching rotation, based on how junior ace Jason Applegate and a pair of sophomores, George Revock and James Werosta, have performed so far.

“If App rounds into form, it will be good,” said McQuade. “He walked two in the first inning against Lawrenceville and didn’t walk anyone the rest of the game, that is huge for us. George Revock throws strikes. Jimmy Werosta in only a sophomore but he just comes in and throws strikes. He did a great job against Episcopal his first time out, doing the same thing. He shows no emotion.”

The Raiders did a great job of running itself into rallies against Hill, utilizing stolen bases to get players into scoring position all day long.

“We don’t have last year’s speed but we have a couple of kids who are good base runners so they get decent jumps,” said McQuade.

“If we think we have a good matchup with their pitcher’s time release and the catcher’s time release, we will run all day and that’s what it was here. That entered into the game and the final score because that put them on the defense. Virtually every time we got to first, we were on second.”

McQuade is having a good time this spring , noting that his young squad has been making solid progress.

“We had that Blair game, it was 6-4 in our favor going into the last inning and we had made six errors already up to there and they made one or two,” said McQuade.

“To come back the way we did right after that, we played Episcopal

and won (5-2), we played Lawrenceville and won and now we have played another good team and we won that.”

Pontrella, for his part, isn’t surprised by the resilience Hun has displayed so far. “As far as talent, we are not the best team,” said Pontrella. “But the way we play together, come together and work hard, we battle better than anyone.”

STICKING TOGETHER: Members of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team celebrate after scoring a goal last week against Princeton Day School. Hun edged crosstown rival PDS 8-7 in the April 8 contest. The Raiders, now 4-4,  host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING TOGETHER: Members of the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team celebrate after scoring a goal last week against Princeton Day School. Hun edged crosstown rival PDS 8-7 in the April 8 contest. The Raiders, now 4-4, host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a longstick midfielder, Tucker Stevenson knows that playing strong defense is his primary responsibility for the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team.

But the versatile junior star likes to employ his athleticism to get involved in the Hun attack.

“It is not always my position to be a two-way player but I just like to get up and down the field,” said Stevenson.

“Playing soccer and dabbling in basketball, I have decent stamina so I can get up and down a little bit. It just gives us another dimension. Sometimes when another team has to sub I just stay out on and get up there so it works out well.”

Last week, Stevenson provided that added dimension for the Raiders as they played at Princeton Day School. Stevenson scored a first quarter goal and then assisted on a fourth quarter tally by Corey Reynolds that proved to be the game-winner in an 8-7 victory for Hun.

Stevenson’s goal resulted from his athleticism. “It was a nice reward,” said Stevenson. “They were just locking off and I had a little speed on the kid.”

The assist on the game-winner was the product of a joint effort.

“It was a great face-off by Liam Fitzgerald and they were putting a lot of pressure on my back but I was able turn out of it,” recalled Stevenson.

“Corey was open and I gave it to him, he did all the work. People were moving, giving him space. It was good play all around.”

Showing his all around game, Stevenson assumed responsibility for locking down PDS star midfield Connor Fletcher, holding him without a goal in the fourth quarter.

“He was torturing us, they ran some good sets for him,” said Stevenson. “At the end of the game we decided to  shut him off and make it easier. He is good kid, he is going to be good for a long time.”

The win was a good step forward for Hun as it began the spring by dropping two-one goal contests on the way to a 0-3 start.

“We have been on the other end of a couple on one-goal losses already,” said Stevenson.

“We were able to stick together as a team. No one really stood out, it was a team win at the end.”

Hun head coach MV Whitlow was relieved to see his team pull out the victory.

“We expected a one-goal game and that is what we got,” said Whitlow. “We started off our season with a pretty tough schedule and we had some hiccups with some one-goal losses. With the weather and those one-goal losses,  I think we are not quite where we want to be offensively. Today our offense did step up for us and our defense wasn’t quite what is has been the last couple of weeks but that is what a team victory is all about so we were happy about that.”

Whitlow has been happy with the play he has been getting from Stevenson.

“Tucker has been a real bright spot all season,” asserted Whitlow. “We knew coming into the season that he was going to be a spark for us. He is a playmaker, he is an energy guy, he is a skill guy. He has a great feel for the game and that was a big game for him today to create the offense that he did in the midfield but then to clamp Connor down in the fourth quarter.”

Goalie Jon Levin showed his skill and resolve in closing the door on the Panthers down the stretch.

“Jon Levin is a Princeton commit; he is a high caliber young man and he is a great ball stopper,” said Whitlow.

“He has a day like today where he let a couple in but he is not going to let it faze him, he is going to work through it and make the next save.”

The Raiders got some good work on the offensive end from Julian Williams and Reynolds.

“Julian’s skills are coming along; I have said to Julian all year that I am really looking forward to seeing him play in May,” said Whitlow of Williams who tallied two goals in the contest.

“He just picked up the stick again, his teammates love him. He is a great  teammate and he is obviously a great athlete. I thought Corey Reynolds had a good game, he made some good decisions.”

For Hun, beating PDS was a critical triumph as the team is running a gauntlet of tough foes this spring.

“We wanted to increase the level of our schedule and I think we did that,” said Whitlow, whose squad defeated defending state Prep B champion Rutgers Prep 11-7 last Saturday to improve to 4-4 and will host Blair Academy on April 16 and Voorhees on April 22.

“Any time you lose two one-goal games in 24 hours, it rattles you a little bit. We have a young team, we got a little rattled but we worked through it. Winning  three in a row is big.”

Stevenson, for his part, believes that Hun has the ability to earn a lot of big wins this spring.

“We have a lot of good individual talent but we haven’t been able to put it together; we are starting to to do that,” said Stevenson. “We have to get tougher and play as a team.”

While the Hun School boys’ tennis dropped all three of its matches last week, Todd Loffredo wasn’t discouraged.

“We have had a busy week; we had illnesses and absences so we had to use different lineups,” said Hun head coach Loffredo, whose team fell 3-2 to Pennington on April 8, 4-1 to Princeton Day School last wednesday, and 3-2 to Rutgers Prep on Friday. “We definitely had some improvement; each player got to feel good.”

Loffredo is feeling good about the play he is getting from junior Foster Broad at first singles.

“I can’t tell you how much he has improved from last year,” said Loffredo, noting that Broad picked up a solid straight-set win in the Rutgers Prep match

“He plays tennis two or three times a week now. He is a total athlete; he can play any sport. He is doing well not just because he is an athlete but because he is a tennis player.”

At second singles, sophomore Adam Doynow has made a big jump this spring in terms of tennis savvy.

“Adam’s maturity is the biggest difference,” said Loffredo. “He has always been a strong tennis player. I see a difference on the court, he is much more cool, calm, and collected.”

Senior Rohit Malhotra is making a difference for the Raiders at third singles.

“Rohit had a good win against Pennington,” added Loffredo.

“If he can stay healthy, he is going to be good. He has a tennis elbow thing. He is a senior and he is doing a good job leading the team.”

The pair of juniors James Mogilever and Max Kislyansky is giving Hun good work at first doubles.

“Max is Russian and James’ parents are Russians so they speak Russian to each other,” said Loffredo.

“I think it gives them a connection. They complement each other on the court. They are always talking to each positively and they always have their heads in the game.”

Senior Maxime Vounatsos has been the constant at second doubles so far, playing with some different partners.

“Maxime was on the JV last year and as a senior he has brought us leadership and reliability,” asserted Loffredo. “He is always fighting to win, he always has a smile on his face.

Loffredo wants his players to show some fight when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament next week.

“We are looking to improve on last year; we had our worst finish at the county tournament since I have been here,” said Loffredo, whose squad tied for 12th in the 2013 MCT team standings

“If our guys are playing well, they can beat most people. I want them to believe in themselves. I know the odds are against us. It is fun to be there around all the other teams and I want them to enjoy that.”

April 9, 2014
HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100.  Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a  home game against Dartmouth on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber is known for his laser-like focus on the field so it was out of character to see him wave to the crowd last Saturday as the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team hosted Rutgers.

But with Princeton senior All-American midfielder having just scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, the fans on hand at Class of 52 Stadium serenaded him with cheers and he took a moment to acknowledge the response.

“I have had a lot of support here, my family has made it to just about every game,” said Schreiber, a 6’0, 190-pound native of East Meadow, N.Y..

“The Princeton community has treated me really well. It was a pretty cool experience hearing them roaring and I just wanted to give them a token of my gratitude.”

Schreiber had the crowd roaring all night as he matched his single game career high with seven points on four goals and three assists as the Tigers pulled away to a 15-11 win over the Scarlet Knights and improved to 5-4.

By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. With 101, he is two behind Josh Sims’ record for a Princeton midfielder. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and the first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists.

With Princeton having dropped consecutive one-goal decisions to Brown and Yale coming into Saturday, Schreiber and his teammates showed a heightened sense of urgency.

“We have started every game slow so far and that is something we have been trying to address in practice,” said Schreiber.

“It was just a little shift in our attitude, to be a little more confident and a little more aggressive and I think it paid off for us.”

Trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, the Tigers shifted the tide of the contest, ending the half with a 5-0 run.

“We played smart offensively, we didn’t push it,” said Schreiber, who chipped in three assists in the run.

“I think our defense did a great job throughout the game, especially in that span. I think it was just a full team effort in that part of the game. It helped us build some confidence going into the half. It’s the beauty of our team, we have all been playing together for the most part for two years now and we have been able to build that chemistry. I don’t think it is just one or two guys, it’s all six of us working together.”

Princeton took care of business in the second half, extending its lead to 13-8 late in the third quarter and cruising from there.

“We just continued the momentum from that 5-0 run in the second quarter,” said Schreiber, who now has a team-high 44 points this season on 25 goals and 19 assists.

“I thought our bench kept us up, I thought our D did a good job. Once again, it was the entire team. The attitude of the team from the top to the bottom was great.”

There was a family twist to the win for Schreiber. “My sister actually goes to  Rutgers so I root for them in every game except this one,” said a smiling Schreiber, whose younger sister, Chrissy, is a sophomore midfielder for the Scarlet Knights women’s lax team.

“I follow them and I have been rooting for them and obviously I root for my sister and her team. It was nice to get this one.”

In Schreiber’s view, it was critical for Princeton to get the win over Rutgers and break its two-game losing streak.

“It was huge; I have said it all year, there is no quit in this team,” said Schreiber.

“Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves after our loss to Brown. It was just more about regaining our momentum and regaining some confidence and I think that was a perfect game to do it and we got it done.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates liked the way his team got things done in the victory over the Scarlet Knights as it retained the Harland Meistrell Cup, which goes to the winner of the annual meeting in the local rivalry.

“I thought we focused on playing the body; we focused on getting low and picking up ground balls with two hands,” said Bates.

“I thought we challenged them this week and they responded. I don’t think we are all the way there yet but this was good to get a gritty win and against a good team. We are pleased.”

Bates was pleased to see Schreiber receive the cheers from the crowd after the 100th goal.

“It is a testament to who he is, you see a genuine appreciation, respect and love for his accomplishments because he has earned it,” said Bates.

“He is just such a wonderful young man, people are happy for him. The air is rare; he is putting up some historic numbers. At the end of the day, he is proud of it, we are proud of it. He would probably be the first to tell you that a win is the most important thing and he wants to get this team to where it can get it, whatever that may be. It is something for our program that is nice to celebrate.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber must assume an even greater role if Princeton is to make history this spring.

“This is the time for him to take the next step and help lead this team,” said Bates.

“He can carry a team on his back and, in essence, we are asking him to do that in some ways. He has got the full command of this team and the full respect. His voice goes a long way so we are challenging him to push his teammates around him to finish this thing the way we want to.”

Schreiber’s teammates did some good finishing during the pivotal 5-0 run in the second quarter.

“Ryan Ambler is playing with a lot of confidence and we are challenging him to evolve and be more assertive,” said Bates, who got a career-high five goals from Ambler with Jake Froccaro adding two, and Mike MacDonald, Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt contributing one apiece.

“Last year, he was at times comfortable playing second fiddle and now he is not. I thought Mikey did some good things. We shortened the bench a little bit with our first group but it seemed to work pretty well. Then we got Will Rotatori and Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt in with that second group and to spell those guys which helped us so it was a good 60 minutes.”

Bates will be looking for some more good efforts from the Tigers as they were slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12.

“I think we have all learned that you can’t just put the jersey on; you have to be more accountable,” said Bates, whose team is tied for fifth in the Ivy standings with a 1-2 league mark.

“You have to be better teammates day in, day out and that is not always easy. I think it was a wakeup call and that’s been a good reminder. It is easier to move forward with a win. Everything is ahead of us; we know that. We have got one more non-conference game and then we have three league games. We’ll take it day by day.”

Schreiber, for his part, is confident that some great days are ahead for the Tigers.

“We have been trying to peak at the right time and the first part of our year didn’t go exactly the way we wanted it to,” said Schreiber. “Hopefully we can build on this and peak as time goes on.”

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colleen Smith is not afraid to make some noise on the field for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

“We emphasize the voice a lot,” said senior star defender and co-captain Smith.

“I want to bring a good voice to the defense always, just getting everyone pumped for the game.”

Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Smith and her teammates were pumped up to put the clamps on the Bulldogs.

“Our assistant coach Jen Cook always scouts the other teams and she does a great job,” said Smith. “She probably spends more than five hours on each team, scouting, watching films. We just had a really good game plan in place. She told us basically everything that was going to happen. It is just like studying for a test.”

The Tigers passed last Saturday’s test with flying colors, jumping out to a 9-1 lead at halftime on the way to a 15-8 victory.

“We knew that they were a feeding team so shutting off those feeds was a key,” said Smith, a 5’7 native of Wilmette, Ill. who scooped up three ground balls in the win over Yale and now has 10 on the season.

“We have been working on getting better angles all season. Something that we wanted to emphasize this week was that we know everything that we need to know and now we need to start implementing it. I think we did a great job today, especially on defense, with that. I think it was just one of those days where it came from the start.”

Smith has forged a great bond with co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “We never really get into arguments; we are always on the same page,” said Smith.

“She is definitely a leader by example and shows it every single day. I think we balance each other out a lot which is really nice. We never butt heads and we are great friends off the field which I think is really important as well.”

With Princeton riding a six-game winning streak as it has improved to 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, Smith believes the Tigers could do some really nice things this spring.

“I hope that we can keep ascending,” said Smith. “If we can keep rising, I think this has the potential to be a really special season.”

The Tigers will get a good opportunity to show how special they can be as they host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9.

“I am really, really excited for Maryland,” added Smith. “It is a good chance for us to show the team that we are. It is always great to play a big team. It is a really good opportunity so hopefully we can keep rising through that game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled with her team’s great first half against Yale.

“The first half was just phenomenal; it is one of the best halves of lacrosse that we played in a while,” asserted Sailer.

“Our defense did a phenomenal job. We really knew what they were looking for and we were able to shut it down. The attack had some beautiful scoring plays. I thought our ride was tremendous, we forced them into so many turnovers which was great.”

Sailer credits Smith with sparking the Tiger defense. “Colleen has just been fantastic, you see the level at which she performs,” asserted Sailer.

“She was playing their top kid and she was on every single move. Her angles are great, her understanding is great. She is such a voice kid, she is just such a passionate kid. She puts her heart and soul into everything; she is a physical player and a smart player.”

Princeton’s attack played smartly as well against Yale, displaying its trademark balance with Erin McMunn scoring four goals and the trio of Erin Slifer, Mary-Kate Sivilli, and Anna Doherty chipping in two apiece.

“That is something we have had all year; we have seven players with 20-22 points or something like that,” said Sailer.

“Everybody is capable of scoring and there is not one person who leads the charge. Every game, we have really balanced scoring and that makes us tough to stop.”

Like Smith, Sailer is looking forward to seeing Princeton test itself against powerful Maryland.

“I think absolutely it is a good challenge for us,” said Sailer, whose team plays at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.

“We have got to be ready for the pace of play, they are very athletic, very explosive, and they have great sticks. I think we have been building up the entire season and I think it is a good point for us to take on a team like that and see what we can do and try to give them some great competition that they have to play against.”

Smith, for her part, is determined to give a great effort to the end. “We have two themes this year, the first one is treasure the present where you treasure the gift of playing at Princeton because not many people get to play at Princeton,” said Smith.

“We also treasure the moment which plays into the power of now. Through the homestretch it is just bringing everything to every practice and every game even if we are tired.”

In order to get on the water this spring, the Princeton University women’s open crew had to resort to some self-help.

“The winter was a long one for us, we had to manually break up the ice on the lake,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny.

“We started later than usual, I am mindful that competition like Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell are in the same position.

As the harsh winter gripped the East Coast, Dauphiny knew that her program was in for a bumpy ride.

“This team has challenges this year and I was well aware of that before the spring,” said Dauphiny, who guided the Tigers to a third place in the team standings at the 2013 NCAA championship regatta. “We lost a powerful senior class that provided good leadership.”

The program’s current group of seniors is stepping up to the challenges. “This senior class is doing its job but it doesn’t have as much strength as last year’s,” said Dauphiny.

“The two captains (Kathryn Irwin and Susannah Shipton) are doing an outstanding job dealing with this team in terms of it having more inconsistency in results than in the past. They know what to prioritize and they are not getting hung up on the unimportant things.”

In opening the season on March 29 with a split result, as the varsity 8 fell to Brown but topped Michigan State, the Tigers showed some of that inconsistency.

“I was nervous and rightly so,” said Dauphiny. “Brown did a fantastic job, they looked strong and they raced well, they looked more seasoned than we are. I thought as a program we did well, the varsity program had things they needed to work on, they were not as race ready as Brown.”

Last weekend, Princeton’s top boat narrowly lost to Virginia while topping Columbia.

“I thought it was a step forward,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat came in at 6:44.9, three seconds behind Virginia but nearly 25 ahead of Columbia. “We have a ways to go, some aspects of the race were better for the varsity. The 2V’s win was the highlight.”

In Dauphiny’s view, the Tigers are getting better. “I think we are heading in the right direction; we are farther behind at this point than we usually are,” said Dauphiny.

“I don’t know if it is from the weather or the amount of youth. For many, this is the first racing they have done in college. We have a bit further to go than in the past.”

Princeton is facing some top flight racing in the weeks ahead. “We have a very competitive schedule,” added Dauphiny, whose rowers head to Boston this weekend where they will row for the Class of 1975 Cup against Harvard and Cornell. “We race a top crew every week, there is no weekend where we can take a breath. It does provide valuable experience.”

Over the long haul, the Tigers should grow from that experience. “I believe this group does like to work, they are up for the challenge,” said Dauphiny.

“I do anticipate line-up shifting. I don’t know the freshman class well, they haven’t been on the water. People improve at different rates. I like the attitude of the rowers, they are not rolling over. They are striving. They are standing up and seeing what they can do.”

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University softball team, its doubleheaders at Yale and Brown last weekend represented the chance to reinforce its self-image.

“The team believes that it is going to be contenders,” said Princeton second-year head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose club started its Ivy League campaign by getting swept by Dartmouth in a doubleheader on March 31.

“They had to prove it to themselves to see that we are who we say we are. It was an important confidence builder. We wanted to see more offensive production and we did.”

In the twinbill against Yale, the Tigers displayed some offense in the opener, exploding for a five-run rally in the seventh inning to pull out a 5-2 win. The Princeton bats, though, went silent in the nightcap as Yale rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn a 2-1 victory and a split.

“We left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney. “We left it to the seventh inning in both games, one turned out in our favor and the other one didn’t. It taught us that we need to have a sense of urgency, we need to make things happen before the seventh inning.”

A day later, Princeton swept Brown 7-6 and 8-3, sparked by the heroics of freshman second baseman Haley Hineman, who delivered a game-winning two-run single in the opener and went 6-for-8 on the day with a homer, two runs scored, and five RBIs as the Tigers improved to 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy.

“It was wild, we left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney, reflecting on the opener.

“We had to use three pitchers in the first game and they each did their job. Brown had momentum at various points and each came in and stopped it. Then a freshman, Hineman, stepped up. She had 12 pitches at-bat before she got that hit. You could see her confidence growing and she carried it over to the second game. It was a cool thing to see.”

Sweeney has a lot of confidence in Hineman’s all-around play. “Hineman is so solid defensively; she is getting a lot of balls because our pitching staff forces a lot of grounders,” said Sweeney.

“When the ball is hit to her you can look the other way because you know she is going to make the play. She is so solid and gritty. It was good to see her come through offensively.”

Princeton has been getting good contributions from two key veterans, junior shortstop Alyssa Schmidt and sophomore pitcher Shanna Christian.

“Alyssa is taking on a bigger leadership role this year; she has struggled with some self doubt offensively,” said Sweeney of Schmidt who went 4-for-9 with a run and four RBIs in the sweep of Brown.

“She wasn’t overthinking last weekend and was the athlete we know she can be. The team follows her when she gets clutch hits. Shanna is a good presence on the mound, the team plays well behind her. She always keeps us in games.”

With Princeton slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as it begins Ivy South action, Sweeney is looking for some more clutch play from her team.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Sweeney. “Things haven’t come together but we are showing inklings in places of some really good things. You always want to be playing for something. There can be huge shifts in the Ivy in a weekend. It is so finicky. You never know what is going to happen; you want to control your destiny. We need to draw on the confidence we gained this week.”

FINISHING STRONG: Gabby Vukasin looks for the puck during a game this winter in her senior season for the Williams College women’s hockey team. Former Princeton High standout Vukasin served as the team’s co-captain and helped Williams win its first NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) title. Vukasin, who joined the program as a walk-on, tallied nine goals and nine assists this winter and 61 points in her career of 34 goals and 27 assists.(Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information Department)

FINISHING STRONG: Gabby Vukasin looks for the puck during a game this winter in her senior season for the Williams College women’s hockey team. Former Princeton High standout Vukasin served as the team’s co-captain and helped Williams win its first NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) title. Vukasin, who joined the program as a walk-on, tallied nine goals and nine assists this winter and 61 points in her career of 34 goals and 27 assists. (Photo Courtesy of Williams College Sports Information Department)

Gabby Vukasin could see the end of her college hockey career approaching like a freight train and she wasn’t about to go out quietly.

With her Williams College women’s hockey team trailing Trinity 1-0 heading into the third period of the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) quarterfinals in early March, the senior forward and former Princeton High star spoke up.

“We just weren’t playing our game,” said Vukasin, one of the squad’s co-captains. “Between the second and third period, I pulled the girls aside and said we had a chance to keep playing or end the season and it was up to us.”

Vukasin took matters into her hands assisting on the game-tying goal early in the third period, igniting a Williams’ rally which saw the Ephs pull out a 3-2 win. Williams went on to beat Connecticut College 2-0 in the semis and then top Bowdoin 4-1 in the championship game.

After the title game, Vukasin savored the moment as her career was extended into the NCAA Division III tourney by virtue of the win.

“We didn’t leave the ice for 45 minutes; we were taking pictures,” recalled Vukasin.

“We were more focused on being champions, because we had never done that before, than going to the NCAAs. Random people were coming up to me and saying great game.”

Days later, Vukasin did play her final college game as Williams fell 4-1 to Plattsburgh State in the opening round of the NCAAs. Vukasin scored a goal in the first minute of the contest but the Ephs couldn’t build on that.

“To be honest, I don’t remember that goal,” said Vukasin. “There was so much going on, it was a scramble in the crease and I don’t even remember hitting the puck.”

The finality of the loss left Vukasin with a sad memory. “That was pretty horrible,” said Vukasin. “I felt like we had such a great season and the chemistry was so great and I was never going to have that chance again.”

Earning a spot on the Ephs as a walk-on as a freshman, Vukasin made the most out of her chance to play college hockey. After getting four points in her debut campaign, the 5’6 Vukasin tallied 57 points on 32 goals and 25 assists over her last three years.

She rose through the ranks as a leader, being named one of the team’s co-captains this winter along with classmate Cristina Bravi.

“I wasn’t sure if I would be named captain; it felt good knowing that my teammates had confidence in my leadership abilities,” said Vukasin.

“I had a leadership role on the team as a junior being one of the older players. I had to learn to be a bad guy, holding them accountable.”

Coming off a disappointing 9-15-1 season in 2012-13, the Ephs were confident that they could be a force this winter.

“We definitely wanted to do much better than we had in the past,” said Vukasin. “We were definitely a little closer as a team than we had been in the past years, everyone was willing to work hard.”

Bringing a pedestrian 3-5 record into January, Williams got rolling with a sweep of Trinity to begin the 2014 portion of their schedule.

“We knew they were going to come out hard because they thought they were going to beat us,” said Vukasin.

“We knew we had the skills to beat them. I think some of the freshmen and sophomores really came into their own; having one year really helped them. Overall we had a lot of skill, we had three really strong lines and a lot of depth.”

Vukasin, for her part, showed her skill set, tallying 9 goals and 9 assists this winter and starring on the power play.

“I guess it was a function of my line; I was going in the corners more rather than playing in front of the net,” said Vukasin.

“I have been in the same power play position for three years and I was just using that experience.”

Playing the NESCAC final four at home and getting the title was an experience that Vukasin won’t soon forget.

“It was a lot of fun with friends and family there over the weekend,” said Vukasin.

“We had a rivalry with Bowdoin. In the past few years we had lost two or three close games to them that we thought we should have won. This year we swept them and some thought we were going to be a little cocky. It was pretty emotional for me; it was pretty awesome.”

With Williams having gone from 4-17 in 2010-11 to 15-10-3 this winter, Vukasin gives a lot of credit to head coach Megan Gillis, who took the helm three years ago.

“With Gillis, each year she is getting better and adding to her coaching repertoire,” added Vukasin. “The coaches are there all the time for us, players would go in for extra training.”

Gillis, for her part, appreciated Vukasin’s improvement over her career.

“We are updating school records this summer and I would be shocked if she is not in the top five in power play goals,” said Gillis.

“She was very good on special teams. She worked very hard on that. She was so tough in front of the net, she set a standard.”

In Gillis’ view, Vukasin also set a standard off the ice. “She is an extremely bright person, so intellectual,” said Gillis of Vukasin, an astrophysics and math major who has been accepted to graduate engineering programs.

“To excel in the classroom at a place like Williams speaks volumes and it gained the respect of her teammates.”

Having earned that respect gave Vukasin the latitude to call out her teammates when necessary.

“She showed up every day and worked hard,” said Gillis. “When you have a captain who leads by her actions like that, she can also hold others accountable by saying I am working this hard and you should too.”

Gillis believes that Vukasin is leaving a special legacy. “I am definitely going to miss Gabby and her leadership,” added Gillis.

“She and her co-captain showed up every day and worked and helped change the culture of the program. As a coach, you need players like that, they were the heart and soul of the team. To go from walk-on to a captain on a championship team, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

In the final analysis, Vukasin came to believe that she was competing for something bigger than herself as her college career unfolded.

“I played with more heart,” said Vukasin, who was named to the 2014 NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship team, which recognizes student-athletes from each varsity sport who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to sportsmanship.

“I was not playing for myself, I was playing for my teammates. I feel this season showed how much hard work and heart could make a difference.”

ATTACK FORCE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Matt Corrado heads upfield in recent action. Senior star Corrado moved to attack from midfield this year and has caught fire recently with three goals and an assist in a 9-6 win over Allentown last week and three assists in a 10-6 victory over Rancocas Valley last Monday. PHS, now 5-0, plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACK FORCE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Matt Corrado heads upfield in recent action. Senior star Corrado moved to attack from midfield this year and has caught fire recently with three goals and an assist in a 9-6 win over Allentown last week and three assists in a 10-6 victory over Rancocas Valley last Monday. PHS, now 5-0, plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After emerging as a star midfielder for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team over the last three years, Matt Corrado has moved up to attack for his senior campaign.

Despite his on-field experience and offensive skills, Corrado initially struggled to find a comfort level in his new spot.

“So far it has been a little difficult but I think I have my head on my shoulders now,” said Corrado.

“I am used to dodging against guys with shortsticks so the long poles kind of scare me.”

Last week, Corrado showed that he will be someone to fear on attack, tallying three goals and an assist as PHS topped Allentown 9-6.

In reflecting on his performance, Corrado said it was a product of the team’s offensive balance.

“We have been playing together for a long time and we haven been working on the offense against some really good teams in spring break,” said Corrado.

“I think we are really prepared for this season. We have guys that can go either way, left or right and just the chemistry that has been there for the past couple of years has kept growing.”

Having topped Allentown last May in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, the Little Tigers knew they were in for a battle last week.

“We were a little nervous coming into this game since beating them in the county title game last year,” said Corrado.

“I think the nerves were there and we knew they were gunning for us. We worked a lot in practice trying to make sure that we got all those jitters out and just played our game.”

PHS has also benefited from working on team unity this spring. “Going to Florida this year was definitely beneficial; it is clearly seen on the field,” asserted Corrado.

“Honestly everyone has just been very supportive of each other so far. We had a lot of team bonding with going to and from Florida and hanging out in the airport with each other can build a lot.”

As one of the team’s four captains, along with classmates Matt Purdy, Kevin Halliday, and Patrick McCormick, Corrado has assumed more responsibility on the field.

“I think just vocal communication,” said Corrado. “The four of us have been on the field a long time so we know each other. Everybody knows how to play off of us. It has definitely been difficult how to learn how to be vocal, these first games have been very telling for me just in how difficult it can be.”

Little Tiger head coach Peter Stanton thought Corrado’s performance in the win over Allentown was telling. “We are so thrilled for Matt today,” asserted Stanton.

“Matt is a guy who is extremely dedicated in the offseason. He attended so many workouts; he worked so hard to get his stick skills. He hasn’t played as well as he is capable of playing. Today when we were struggling and we had some good opportunities, he was the guy that stepped up and buried them. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Stanton was happy with the way his team controlled the tempo offensively.

“We know that they are a team that is very good in transition and we wanted to shorten the game a little bit,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Kevin Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in the win over Allentown with Matt Purdy and Chris Diver chipping in one each.

“If we could hold the ball and attack the goal wisely that gives them less opportunities to get running. We got a lot of guys involved. Guys being involved isn’t necessarily guys scoring goals or getting assists but having all six guys active and part of the offense and spreading the field.”

Freshman Lopez-Ona hasn’t wasted any time getting involved in the PHS attack.

“He is a crafty little guy,” said Stanton of the wiry Lopez-Ona. “We put him in situations where we are not going to ask him to do too much. We keep it simple and basic with him and he is effective. Physically he is playing above his pay grade right now because he is playing against bigger, stronger, faster kids. His experience and skill make him effective for us and we are patching him around guys that can play.”

Stanton saw the contest with Allentown as a big early test for his guys. “We had two battles with this squad last year and we felt like we won the more important one,” said Stanton.

“We know that they are a program that has championship aspirations and expectations and we know they are going to try to play at that level so we were excited for the challenge.”

With the Little Tigers having produced a hot start, Stanton is excited about his team’s ability to be in the mix for championships.

“We feel like we have got a lot left in the tank and that is early and there is room for growth,” said Stanton, whose team topped Rancocas Valley 10-6 on Monday to improve to 5-0 and will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Northern Burlington on April 9 and at perennial prep power Lawrenceville on April 14.

“Our boys want to work hard; they are not settling for the easy accomplishment.”

Corrado, for his part, believes the Little Tigers can accomplish a lot this spring.

“We have a couple of tough games coming up; we are really looking forward to Lawrenceville and this year we have the pleasure of playing Summit so that is a big one,” said Corrado.

“That will definitely prepare us for the county championship but a lot of these guys have been there before. I think it is just working out the jitters and trying to find the guys who didn’t get as much playing time last year and getting them acclimated to our system and then just hammering it home when the county tournament comes.”

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane guards the crease in a recent game. Last Monday, junior standout Shane made 11 saves to help PHS top Princeton Day School 15-6. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers, now 3-2, host South Hunterdon on April 10 and Eastern High on April 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Mira Shane guards the crease in a recent game. Last Monday, junior standout Shane made 11 saves to help PHS top Princeton Day School 15-6. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers, now 3-2, host South Hunterdon on April 10 and Eastern High on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

An overcast afternoon turned into a chilly downpour as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team played at Princeton Day School last Monday.

But while players on the sidelines shivered and huddled under umbrellas, PHS goalie Mira Shane felt a warmth on the field as the Little Tigers looked to get on the right track after recent defeats to WW/P-N and Notre Dame.

“Those two losses for us, North and Notre Dame, were rough; I wanted a different energy to differentiate from those previous games,” said Shane.

“Our defense was looking to change things. I told my defense at halftime, hey guys I am feeling the electricity today.”

A charged up PHS squad built a 7-2 lead by half and never looked back on the way to a 15-6 triumph as it improved its record to 3-2.

Shane stood tall in the cage, making several good saves as PHS put the clamps on a Panther squad that was averaging 12.5 goals a game coming into Monday.

“In the first half, it felt better,” said Shane, who totaled 11 saves on the afternoon. “I owed it to the defense; when there aren’t point blank shots in front of you, it is much easier to make a save.”

Having started for PHS since day one as a freshman, Shane looks to verbally direct the defense.

“I would say I am more mentally tough now as an upperclassmen,” said Shane.

“I am a little bit more confident to talk to my defense. Before I had to lay back, now I have to take a bigger role to tell them what I need out of them. I think that is one of the big differences and you can see it in our defense. Now we are really getting those connections.”

Shane’s diligence has made a difference in her skill level. “I have a private coach, I started with him when I was a freshman and then with recruiting and stuff I want to propel and take it to the next level,” said Shane, who plays for the Ultimate New Jersey club team and is looking at D-I and D-III college programs.

“I am actually working with a tennis ball machine now with constant repetition, 100 stops high corner, 100 stops low corner.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman believes that Shane has taken her game to the next level.

“Mira is just phenomenal,” asserted O’Gorman. “You saw the power she has on her clears. She is really leading the whole defense. She is loud and in charge. You can hear her from one end of the field to the other and even in the rain, she does not stop and everyone feeds off of her.”

Shane, for her part, is hoping that PHS can feed off the win over PDS to get on a roll.

“I am hoping this will definitely pick up some momentum for us to take into the later season,” said Shane, who will look to keep PHS on the winning track as it hosts South Hunterdon on April 10 and Eastern High on April 14. “We have a harder schedule this year so I am hoping we will really carry that positive energy over.”