December 17, 2014
COMING AROUND: Hun School boys’ basketball player Eric Williams bounces a pass around a foe in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior guard Williams tallied 16 points in a losing cause as Hun fell 73-59 to powerful St. Benedict’s. Over the weekend, Williams averaged 10 points a game as Hun went 1-2 at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, taking fourth place at the annual event. In upcoming action, the Raiders, now 3-4, face Trenton Catholic on December 20 in the Boys Club and Girls Club of Trenton event and then play Linden High in the Tip Off Classic on December 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COMING AROUND: Hun School boys’ basketball player Eric Williams bounces a pass around a foe in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior guard Williams tallied 16 points in a losing cause as Hun fell 73-59 to powerful St. Benedict’s. Over the weekend, Williams averaged 10 points a game as Hun went 1-2 at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, taking fourth place at the annual event. In upcoming action, the Raiders, now 3-4, face Trenton Catholic on December 20 in the Boys Club and Girls Club of Trenton event and then play Linden High in the Tip Off Classic on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Hun School boys’ basketball team trailing St. Benedict’s 7-0 midway through the first quarter last Wednesday, Eric Williams decided to take matters into his hands.

“I knew it was going to be a big game and I knew my team was going to need me to knock down big shots,” said Hun senior guard Williams.

“So when I saw we got down seven in the first quarter then I just said hey I have got to make something happen.”

Williams did just that, draining a long three-pointer from the corner and getting fouled in the process and turning it into a four-point play after making the free throw.

“As soon as I let it go, it felt good, that is when I just knew,” said Williams, recalling the shot.

Catching fire, Williams proceeded to hit four more threes in the first half to tally 16 points and keep the Raiders in the game as they trailed 42-29 at intermission.

“It has got to go in,” said Williams, reflecting on his hot shooting. “I believe it is going to go in, my team believes it is going to go in and I think at some point even the fans believe it is going to go in.”

After the break, Hun out scored the Gray Bees 20-15 in the third quarter to narrow the gap to 57-49 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation. The Raiders closed to within 58-52 early in the fourth but could get no closer as St. Benedict’s pulled away to a 73-59 victory.

“I thought we were going to come back and take the lead and try to sustain it,” said Williams. “I guess at some point, transition defense played a big role so then we didn’t get back on defense and they just outran us. It is not that they played tougher or harder than us, they just outran us.”

Despite the setback, Williams saw progress as Hun battled to the final whistle.

“We started communicating more as a team,” said Williams. “We made sure we got back on defense, the total opposite of what we did in the first half. It is a big turnaround from the past three games we played. This is, by far, one of the toughest teams we have played but there is no doubt in my mind that we can beat them.”

Over the last four years, Williams has worked on turning himself into a more complete player.

“I came in as a freshman and all I wanted to do was shoot,” said the 6’1, 190-pound Williams.

“Then after playing with a few guys like Myles Melville, Fergus Duke, and Hashim Moore, they showed me that it is easy to defend somebody who is just looking to shoot so you have to learn how to move around. I started watching tape on Ray Allen and Reggie Miller and I saw how they were constantly moving. That is what I tried to get into my game and by me moving, it gets other people moving.”

Hun head coach Jon Stone liked the way his team got back in the game against St. Benedict’s after falling behind early.

“I was proud of them, some of the things we talked about improving on from the first half to the second half we did,” said Stone.

“The downside is that we can’t afford to make the mistakes we were making in the second half but we were only down six with about five minutes to go. We also had three or four good shots in that stretch that just didn’t go. A couple of those drop and things are a little different.”

Stone is proud of how Williams has developed over his time at Hun. “He has taken his game to the next level; he is a great kid, a great leader, and a great player,” asserted Stone.

“I just think that in every facet he has stepped up. I think he has really taken his leadership role seriously. He is really growing in terms in his ability to take charge and his ability to compete. He knows that it is his senior year and it is his time.”

Hun had other players step up in the loss to St. Benedict’s as senior Kyle Borden chipped in 14 points with junior Austin Harriott and senior Dominic Robb adding 10 apiece and junior Niall Carpenter contributing seven points off the bench.

“Niall and Robb were really good; they have the ability to really help this team,” said Stone, whose team went 1-2 at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament last weekend, taking fourth place at the annual event.

“When Borden catches fire and gets his feet set, he is really, really good. There is no question that he can get us going. I think Austin Harriott getting in foul trouble in the first half really hurt us; it helped getting him back in and giving us a little push.”

With the Raiders off to a 3-4 start, Stone believes the team is going in the right direction.

“We just have to grow from it, every game that we play,” said Stone, who will be looking for more growth as his squad faces Trenton Catholic on December 20 in the Boys Club and Girls Club of Trenton event and then plays Linden High in the Tip Off Classic on December 21.

“We have to take the good and the bad and move on. It is always a work in progress. I do think that in the first four games we have improved. The goal is you improve after every single game and I think we have. So if we can keep improving, I think we are going to be alright. I think we just need more consistency in a lot of different things at both ends of the floor. There are some mental things on the offensive end and some more physical, more aggressive things on the defensive end.”

Williams, for his part, is hoping to end his Hun career by helping the program do some big things.

“My biggest thing this year is I want to win by any means necessary,” said Williams.

“I am trying to make Hun even more known than it already is. I want to win the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) tournament again. We won it my sophomore year and I want it again going out. I also want to win states.”

December 10, 2014
INSIDE PRESENCE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, center, fights for inside position in a recent game. Last Saturday, junior forward Wheatley scored 17 points and had eight rebounds and three assists to help Princeton top Georgetown 83-54. The Tigers improved to 8-0 with the victory, the best start in the history of Ivy League women‘s basketball. In upcoming action, Princeton was slated to play at Michigan on December 9 before hosting Binghamton on December 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE PRESENCE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, center, fights for inside position in a recent game. Last Saturday, junior forward Wheatley scored 17 points and had eight rebounds and three assists to help Princeton top Georgetown 83-54. The Tigers improved to 8-0 with the victory, the best start in the history of Ivy League women‘s basketball. In upcoming action, Princeton was slated to play at Michigan on December 9 before hosting Binghamton on December 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alex Wheatley and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s basketball squad brought a little extra fire into their game against visiting Georgetown last Saturday.

“I think it was losing to Georgetown last year at the buzzer that fueled it today,” said junior forward Alex Wheatley, referring to Princeton’s 66-64 loss to the Hoyas a year ago.

On Saturday, Wheatley fueled Princeton in the first half, matching her season-high of 15 points by intermission, hitting 7-of-8 shots in the first 20 minutes of the contest.

“I think we came out with a lot of energy,” said Wheatley, a 6’2 native of Upper Holland, Pa. “The guards did a great job of looking into the post so I was able to get some easy finishes at the start of the game which I really think set a good tone.”

Leading by only 40-35 at halftime, the Tigers looked to change the tone defensively over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“The message was defense, we really had to step up our defense,” said Wheatley.

“That was literally all we talked about at halftime and we came out in the second half and our defense was so much better and it made a big difference.”

Outscoring the Hoyas 18-9 over the first eight minutes of the second half, Princeton pulled away to an 83-54 win.

“I think we got more into our rhythm, we set the pace,” said Wheatley, who ended the game with 17 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.

“We wanted to get stops into scores and get back into transition points. I think once we were able to dictate the pace a little bit and get stops, the game came a little easier.”

The Tigers have been in rhythm all season long as they improved to 8-0 with the victory over Georgetown, the best start in the history of Ivy League women‘s basketball.

“I think we took it one game at a time; we weren’t really looking to see where we would be at this point but 8-0 is a good start,” said Wheatley.

“I hear it was the best ever in Ivy so it is a great start. We are looking to keep going one game at a time and try to win.”

In Wheatley’s view, a focus on defense has keyed Princeton’s sizzling start.

“Our defense is vastly improved from last year and that is really what we are hanging our hats on this year,” said Wheatley. “As our opponents get tougher and tougher and as the season goes on, we really need to keep our defensive intensity.”

Coming into her junior campaign, Wheatley set her sights on improving her offensive and leadership skills.

“I have worked on being more confident with the ball in the post and trying to step up my leadership on and off the floor,” said Wheatley, who is averaging 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game this season.

“I think as a class, the juniors, having a little bit more experience and being more comfortable has helped the team dynamic.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked Wheatley’s dynamic play in the early stages of the contest against Georgetown.

“In the first half, she was huge,” said Banghart. “Wheatley is a gentle kid we are asking to be physical. She is a work in progress. As she continues to get more and more physical, we will continue to get better.”

In the wake of last year’s disappointing buzzer-beater defeat to Georgetown, Princeton was determined to give a better effort in the rematch between the foes.

“It is a loss that still hurts to this day because  we just got out-toughed, that doesn’t happen a lot to Princeton teams,” said Banghart. “It was that game where we really shifted to you have to hate losing more than you like winning. You have to play with that edge and we are doing that.”

Senior point guard and co-captain Blake Dietrick played with an edge against the Hoyas, leading the Tigers with 26 points and six assists.

“Blake cares about winning, that’s it,” said Banghart of Dietrick, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Dartmouth’s Fanni Szabo.

“She cares about winning every drill, every practice, every possession, and she is bringing along the team as a result.”

While Banghart is happy with her team’s winning ways in its historic 8-0 start, she is more focused on process than result.

“We don’t schedule to win, we schedule to compete,” said Banghart, whose team was slated to play at Michigan on December 9 before hosting Binghamton on December 13.

“We have gotten better defensively this year. We have played a variety of opponents and have done it well. I look at it like we have won eight times. It is hard to win so I am proud of them.”

In Wheatley’s view, the Tigers have what it takes to produce a lot of wins this winter.

“I think we are finding each other’s talents,” said Wheatley. “If we keep finding that out as the season goes on, we could do something special.”

TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tommy Davis controls the puck in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore defenseman Davis notched the first goal of his college career but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 to No. 9 Harvard. The Tigers, who went on to lose 4-2 to Dartmouth a day later to move to 2-9-1 overall and 1-7 ECAC Hockey, play a two-game set at No. 3 Minnesota State (12-4) on December 12 and 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tommy Davis controls the puck in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore defenseman Davis notched the first goal of his college career but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 to No. 9 Harvard. The Tigers, who went on to lose 4-2 to Dartmouth a day later to move to 2-9-1 overall and 1-7 ECAC Hockey, play a two-game set at No. 3 Minnesota State (12-4) on December 12 and 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Tommy Davis, his freshman season on the Princeton University men’s hockey team last winter turned into a lost year.

Hampered by a concussion, the highly-touted defenseman only played in seven games, tallying two assists.

Back at full speed this winter, Davis is making up for lost time. “It is kind of like my repeat freshman year so I am still getting used to playing all of the teams,” said Davis, a 6’2, 185-pound native of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. “I think now in my 17th game, I am fully adapted. I feel comfortable.”

Last Friday, Davis showed his increased comfort level, notching his first career goal as the Tigers hosted No. 9 Harvard.

“I was playing the right point on the power play and Aaron Ave made a great play where he just froze everybody,” said Davis, recalling his tally.

“It sucked everybody, including the goalie, to his side and it moved over to me and I knew just to put it on the low blocker right away.

While Davis was thrilled to finally find the back of the net, he was disappointed that it didn’t lead to victory as the Tigers fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 only to lose 4-3.

“I think it is special but at the same time, a win is more important, especially as the game went on,” said Davis. “When we tied the game at 2-2, I thought it was ours. It was kind of disappointing to have a slow start in the third like that.”

Davis was not disappointed by the Tigers’ pluck as his goal and freshman Joe Grabowski’s first career tally made it a 2-2 game going into the third period. After Harvard scored two goals in the first 6:39 of the third period, the Tigers battled back with an Aaron Kesselman goal but couldn’t get the equalizer.

“We are a very resilient team,” said Davis.” I think we just need to focus for 60 minutes. It is just little lulls and that can’t happen in college hockey, especially against a team that is as good as Harvard. They are so offensively gifted, you just can’t have those mental lapses.”

In Davis’s view, working harder in practice will help Princeton be stronger mentally in crucial situations.

“We are young and we are going to grind it out,” said Davis, who has two assists this season to go with his goal.

“I think we have just got to work on it in practice. If our practices are 100 percent all the time and focused, I think the games will follow suit. You practice how you play. We had a bad practice on Tuesday but Wednesday and Thursday were great and that was kind of how our game was, a couple of bad shifts but for the most part pretty good. But the margin of error is too slight in the NCAA so we have to shore that up.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty concurs, asserting that the Tigers have to pay more attention to detail.

“That is a very good hockey team and quick so we just have to keep doing the little things well,” said Fogarty.

“We can’t complicate our small lapses or some of the mistakes that compound and result in goals against or penalties. We have to make sure that if we do make a mistake that we minimize.”

Fogarty, though, liked the way his team fought to the final horn. “The resiliency, you are down by two and you come back and tie it up and then down by two again and we had a chance to win,” said Fogarty. “That’s the team. The team dictates that effort to come back after being down by two. I applauded the leadership in the dressing room.”

The play of sophomore goalie Colton Phinney has drawn a lot of applause this winter.

“He is a very good goaltender and regardless of what team he is on, he would be the most valuable player,” said Fogarty of Phinney, who made a career-high 51 saves in the loss to Harvard.

“He is doing a great job. We are asking a lot of him and he is delivering. We have to rely on him a bit too much, he gives us an opportunity to counter. They had had a few more quality scoring chances, more than our previous four games. We have to make sure that we do a better job. They had a lot of team speed and they are a very good hockey team, they are 9th in the country for a reason.”

Fogarty was happy to see Davis capitalize on his scoring chance in the second period. “He’s very offensive minded and he is starting to realize how to pick his spots,” said Fogarty, whose team fell 4-2 to Dartmouth on Saturday to move to 2-9-1 overall and 1-7 ECAC Hockey.

“In the first couple of games, he was a little rambunctious and trying to  force plays. Now he is sitting back and letting those plays occur and not trying to manufacture things that aren’t there. He’s an asset to our team and it is good to see him get his first goal by not trying to be overzealous.”

Although Fogarty is not happy with his team’s record so far in his debut season at the helm of the program, he is confident that good things are around the corner.

“It is a step forward but again you want the results to come quicker than they sometimes occur,” said Fogarty of his squad, which plays a two-game set at No. 3 Minnesota State (12-4) on December 12 and 13.

“As a coach, you have to remain focused and keep doing the better things. Our mission was around Christmas time to see what our team brings to the table and I am already excited about what they are doing ahead of schedule.”

Davis, for his part, is excited to be playing college hockey in his home state.

“I didn’t really realize that I would have an opportunity to play college hockey until about high school and then Princeton was definitely at the top of my list,” said Davis, a star for the powerful Delbarton School program who went on to play junior hockey for Youngstown in the USHL.

“I am fortunate enough to have a train station right in my town, all of my friends and family get to come down here. It is really nice. I usually have around 8-10 people in the stands for every home game. It is pretty awesome. I don’t think a lot of college kids get to do that.”

After producing a dominant campaign in 2013-14 as it won county and sectional titles and fell just a few points short of a state title and an undefeated season, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team will have a new look this winter.

The program lost such stars as Pete Kalibat, Scott MacKenzie, Matt Purdy, Avery Soong, Will Stange, and Colburn Yu to graduation.

In addition, longtime head coach Greg Hand retired and has been succeeded by Carly Misiewicz.

But as it hosted Hopewell Valley last week in its season opener, things looked familiar as PHS rolled to a 107-62 victory over the Bulldogs.

“I think overall the guys performed great,” said Misiewicz. “You are not sure who the other team has at the beginning of the season. Today’s performance all the way through was great swims.”

Two of PHS’s new faces, freshmen Oliver Hunsbedt and Grant Ding, came up big in their debut as Hunsbedt placed first in both the 100 and 200 freestyle while Ding won the 500 free.

“There were a lot of freshmen who I have seen their times and what they have done in practice but they really surprised me today. Oliver Hunsbedt had a 1:55 in the 200 free and and a 52.1 in the 100 free. Grant Ding had a 5:20 in the 500 free.

The team’s veterans also produced some superb performances as sophomore Gabe Bar-Cohen won the 100 breaststroke  and took second in the 200 individual medley while junior Christian Chiang won the 100 butterfly and took second in the 100 breast. Senior Alex Petruso placed second in the both the 200 free and 100 backstroke with sophomore Will Kinney taking second in the 50 free and senior Take Numata finished second in the 100 free.

“There are definitely some big shoes to fill, I am feeling a lot of it especially from the juniors and the seniors,” said Misiewicz, “We know who graduated last year and they know what shoes they need to fill and where they need to step up.”

Misiewicz has big shoes to fill herself in succeeding Hand, who built the PHS swimming program into a perennial power, guiding the boys’ team to seven county crowns, 12 sectional titles, five appearances in the state finals, and a New Jersey Public B championship in 2012.

“He has been great, if I have any questions, he helps me,” said Misiewicz, a former Rider University swimming star who was an assistant coach for PHS last year.

“He has given me practices that he has done before, saying here is a schedule, do what you want to do but here is this as well if you want it. He gave me all of his resources and he is still such a great mentor. I look up to him so much and I can only hope to be the coach that he is someday.”

With her recent experience of competing at the Division I level, Misiewicz has incorporated some new wrinkles into the PHS training regimen.

“We have changed our dryland a little bit, stepping it up a notch,” said Misiewicz, who started swimming at age 4 and was competing year-round by age 8.

“We are doing medicine balls, we are using the combat ropes, the big, thick ropes. We do abs, weighted lunges, weighted squats for just a half-hour or 45 minutes, before or after practice.”

But despite the input from Hand and her background, Misiewicz still had plenty of butterflies for the opener.

“It was the whole first meet jitters, all day it was all I kept thinking about,” said Misiewicz.

“It was OK, is the lineup ready, is this ready, is that ready so when I came here, everything was already done,” said Misiewicz.

“So then it was thinking are they ready, have we done everything in practice to get them ready to this point, the relay starts, the technique, the turns, and the endurance. A lot of kids really haven’t swam since last February or March.”

The kids have helped Misiewicz keep things on track. “They are taking charge, getting everyone positive and in the right mindset,” said Misiewicz, whose team topped Trenton 129-39 last Thursday and will host WW/P-N on December 16.

“I have been talking with a lot of the club swimmers about this season once the school year started. They had a running joke that we are going to set the practice lineup for the end of the season already and I said you guys don’t even know who we have and who is coming out. We just want to see what holes we have to fill and what we can really do. That was just great.”

MAIN THRUST: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form in a race last winter. Junior Romaine got her 2014-15 campaign off to a good start, winning both the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke as PHS rolled to a 125-45 win over Hopewell Valley in the season opener on December 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAIN THRUST: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Brianna Romaine displays her backstroke form in a race last winter. Junior Romaine got her 2014-15 campaign off to a good start, winning both the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke as PHS rolled to a 125-45 win over Hopewell Valley in the season opener on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Carly Misiewicz takes the helm of the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, she knows there are plenty of resources at her disposal.

Starting with a quartet of junior stars Brianna Romaine and Maddie Deardorff together with sophomore Melinda Tang and precocious freshman Abbey Berloco, PHS boasts some high quality performers.

“You can’t beat it, a sprinter (Romaine) and a distance swimmer (Deardorff) and Melinda Tang in the mix; she can do anything,” said Misiewicz, the successor to longtime PHS head coach Greg Hand, who retired last June.

“Abbey Berloco can do anything as well. So those four girls are frontrunners across the board. We lost a couple of girls but we returned almost everybody so we are definitely looking really good.”

Last week in its season opener against Hopewell Valley, PHS looked really, really good, rolling to a 125-45 win over the Bulldogs.

Victors for the Little Tigers in the December 2 meet included Tang in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, Deardorff in the 200 individual medley and 500 free, Berloco in the 50 free, along with Romaine in the 200 free and 100 backstroke.

Berloco lived up to advance notices in a big way. “Abbey set the 50 free record today by .11 (24.58) so that was a great swim,” said Misiewicz, a former standout swimmer at Rider University who joined the PHS program last year as an assistant coach. “I heard all of this talk last year about her and that we have a great swimmer coming up.”

PHS is getting some great leadership from its core of veterans which includes seniors Hannah Ash, Jessica Bai, Lopa Krishnan, and Stephanie Tam along with junior standouts Romaine and Deardorff.

“The juniors and seniors are really stepping it up as well as far as leadership roles and taking charge of the team,” said Misiewicz, whose team hosts WW/P-N on December 16.

“They were getting the freshmen and letting them know what a meet is like, getting in the water and warming up. It’s nice that I can trust them. I can do the things that I need to do before meets and get things ready and they will do what they need to do to get the team in the water and get them ready, pumped, and excited.”

OPENING SALVO: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy ­Herring heads up the ice in action last winter. On Monday, senior forward Herring chipped in a goal and three assists as PHS topped Pingry 5-3 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play at Summit High on December 10, at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 15, and at Morristown-Beard on December 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING SALVO: Princeton High girls’ hockey star Lucy ­Herring heads up the ice in action last winter. On Monday, senior forward Herring chipped in a goal and three assists as PHS topped Pingry 5-3 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers play at Summit High on December 10, at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 15, and at Morristown-Beard on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There is a heightened sense of urgency surrounding the Princeton High girls’ hockey team as it heads into the 2014-15 season.

“These girls are putting pressure on themselves; we have eight seniors and they feel this is the year,” said head coach Christian Herzog, whose team posted a 2-11 record last winter.

“This is their last chance. It is carpe diem, seize the day. There is a general upbeat spirit around the team, they are willing to work harder and push through things. It is a whole different mentality.”

On offense, the combination of the Herring sisters, senior Lucy and sophomore Maggie, together with senior Campbell McDonald, who has returned to the team after a hiatus from hockey, gives PHS an attacking mentality.

“We have a 1-2 punch with the Herrings, I have them on line with Campbell; there is really good chemistry,” said Herzog, whose team posted a 5-3 win over Pingry last Monday in its season opener as Maggie Herring led the charge with three goals and two assists with sister Lucy adding a goal and three assists and McDonald chipping in a goal and two assists.

“McDonald is looking surprisingly good, she is still in shape from field hockey. Her stick skills are there, it is like riding a bicycle. Lucy looks good. Maggie has improved a lot; she has speed, she has a shot.”

The Little Tigers boast depth on offense as Herzog will be able to roll out two other lines to back up his top trio.

“The second line is Ann Daly at right wing with Isabel Sohn at center,” said Herzog. “Izzy can run and gun with the others, I could have her on the first line but I want to spread things out. Sophie Corrodi is on the left wing. The third line is Stephanie Ren, Marian Hancock-Cerutti, and Jordan Cane.”

Along the blue line, PHS features two battle-tested seniors in Julia DiTosto and Britney Coniglione along with talented junior Allie Callaway, who is back from an injury which sidelined her last year, and promising freshman Alexa Zammit.

“Julia is looking good; I have her with Zammit,” said Herzog in assessing his defensive unit. “Allie is ready to go; she is a finisher. It is good to have a defenseman like that who gets involved in the offense. I have her with Coniglione.”

In Herzog’s view, junior goalie Callie Urisko is ready to have a big year. “Urisko has improved, it is like night and day,” said Herzog of Urisko, who made 20 saves in the victory over Pingry. “Her general movement is a lot better.”

All in all, PHS appears primed to show major improvement collectively this winter.

“Last year we went into some games just looking to prevent a blowout,” said Herzog, whose team plays at Summit High on December 10, at the Portledge School (N.Y.) on December 15, and at Morristown-Beard on December 16. “This is a talented group. They feel like they can skate with every team.”

IN PLAY: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Josiah Meekins dribbles the ball in a game last winter. Senior guard Meekins figures to be a key performer for the PDS in his final campaign. The Panthers get their 2014-15 season underway this week as they were slated to host Conwell Egan (Pa.) on December 9, Pennington on December 11 and  Solebury School (Pa.) on December 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN PLAY: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Josiah Meekins dribbles the ball in a game last winter. Senior guard Meekins figures to be a key performer for the PDS in his final campaign. The Panthers get their 2014-15 season underway this week as they were slated to host Conwell Egan (Pa.) on December 9, Pennington on December 11 and Solebury School (Pa.) on December 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With just three players returning from last year’s squad, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team will have a new look this winter by necessity.

“It is a fresh start, it is a good opportunity for young guys, not just in age but in basketball experience, to play at the varsity level,” said PDS head coach Paris McLean, who guided the Panthers to a 9-14 record in 2013-14. “There is optimism, excitement, and some nervousness.”

McLean is excited about his backcourt tandem of sophomore Chase Lewis and senior Josiah Meekins, who do bring plenty of varsity experience to the table.

“Chase has improved a great deal, he is taller and stronger,” said McLean, whose team gets regular season play underway this week as it was slated to host Conwell Egan (Pa.) on December 9, Pennington on December 11, and  Solebury School (Pa.) on December 15.

“He has worked on his game, his outside shot is better. His ballhandling has always been good, he has the ability to get to the rim. He will play multiple positions for us this year. He will bring the ball up the court for us and also be the off guard sometimes. He is our most seasoned player in terms of minutes, which is unusual for a sophomore. We will be looking to Josiah to play a bigger role, we will rely on him to play multiple positions too. He has a strong body and can help us in the post.”

The Panthers have multiple options in the backcourt with a trio of sophomores, Hassan Ladiwala, Mark Washington, and Paul Franzoni.

“We are a guard-heavy team,” said McLean. “Hassan, Washington and Franzoni are all sophomores, that bodes well for the future. They are kids that will come in and eat up minutes. We have talked to them about that. There are a total of 160 minutes available in a game and are you going to be a 10-minute guy, a 15-minute guy, or a 25-minute guy.”

The key guy in the paint for the Panthers will be senior J.P. Radvany, a Villanova-bound baseball star.

“J.P. is looking good, he is a strong, lean guy at 6’4 and 195 pounds,” said McLean.

“He has a great presence inside. We will be relying on him to defend and rebound and put in shots close to the basket. He is a great glue guy; he brings that commitment to work ethic and athletics.”

Helping Radvany inside will be Meekins, junior James Fragale, freshman Nick Darenkov, senior Cody Meagher, senior Zaire Mitchell, and senior Rob Hoffman.

“Josiah and James Fragale will see time in the post,” said McLean. “Nick Darenkov is every inch of 6’4. We don’t have a small team; Cody, Zaire, and Robby are all 6’2. We have made great strides in practice and I think we will continue to develop as the season goes on.”

McLean believes the Panthers can develop into a competitive squad by the time postseason play comes around.

“It might be tough for us early on, Conwell, Egan, and Pennington will be two of the toughest teams we play,” said McLean.

“I think we will play our best basketball in February and that is all a coach can ask. There is a lot of room for growth. The attitude in practice has been outstanding. Consistent with other teams we have had, this is a group of great kids who want to learn and get better.”

INSPIRING HOPE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Junior guard Anhut should provide stability in the backcourt for PDS this season. The Panthers, who opened the season by going 0-2 at the Hill School (Pa.) tournament last weekend, will look to get on the winning track as they play at the Pennington School on December 10 and at Stuart Country Day on December 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSPIRING HOPE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hope Anhut looks to pass the ball in a game last winter. Junior guard Anhut should provide stability in the backcourt for PDS this season. The Panthers, who opened the season by going 0-2 at the Hill School (Pa.) tournament last weekend, will look to get on the winning track as they play at the Pennington School on December 10 and at Stuart Country Day on December 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team started the season by absorbing two lopsided losses last weekend at the Hill School (Pa.) tournament, Kamau Bailey saw progress.

“In the first game, I think nerves got the best of them,” said second-year PDS head coach Bailey, whose team fell 51-22 to Springside Chestnut Hill on Friday in the opening round of the tourney and then lost 51-24 to Hill in a consolation game on Saturday.

“We played a lot better in the second game. It gave me an idea of what we need to work on. We need to get back to fundamentals. We made 21 turnovers against Hill so we have to work on protecting the ball and making good decisions. We are still learning to play with each other, it is a new group of girls and we are starting over in terms of chemistry.”

Bailey is relying on sophomore point guard Shayla Stevenson to play well. “Shayla is looking great, she worked hard over the summer to develop her skills,” said Bailey.

“She is shooting better and is going to the basket. There is less pressure on her, there are a few more options this year and she has more trust in her teammates.”

The addition of two key freshman teammates, Bridget Kane, the daughter of longtime Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops coach Ron Kane, and Ryan Robinson, gives PDS two good options in the backcourt.

“Kane is the daughter of the coach and you can see that,” said Bailey. “She takes after her father, she has been around basketball for a long time. She is a great shooter, she is very quick and she is hard-nosed. She just has to develop her court awareness. Robinson brings speed and athleticism. She needs to diversify her ball-handling a little bit. We have a nice foundation of players with basketball experience.”

Freshman Grace Barbara, a star soccer goalie who helped PDS win the state Prep B title this fall, is providing some hard-nosed play and athleticism.

“Grace is the fastest person on the team, she goes end line to end line faster than anybody else,” said Bailey, who will also be using juniors Hope Anhut and Jacquelyn Hart at guard.

“It is about getting her speed under control. Once she does, she will be unstoppable. As a goalie, she tracks that ball. We are taking soccer skills to the basketball court. She gets in passing lanes.”

In the frontcourt, PHS boasts some skilled performers in juniors Isabel Meyercord and Helen Healey along with newcomers Madison Coyne and Kathryn Bennett.

“Isabel is hurt right now but she should be back in a few weeks; she has been to every practice so she is keeping up with what we are doing,” said Bailey.

“She had some great games last year, she had 30 points in one game. Healey has gotten a lot better. She is an amazing kid and I like having her on the team. She has worked hard and has developed an outside shot even though she plays in the post. She said her goal was to make a 3 and she hit one in the first game so she already accomplished her season goal. Coyne and Bennett are good perimeter players who can also play down low.”

Bailey believes the Panthers can accomplish a lot this winter. “One of the keys to success with this particular group is to get them to stay in the game and stay focused,” said Bailey, whose team plays at the Pennington School on December 10 and at Stuart Country Day on December 15.

“We are going to go against some teams that beat us up badly last year and we can’t think about that. It is a new team with a new look and we can get different results. The other teams are going to be expecting the same thing so I said let’s surprise them. The theme of the season is surprise.”

As the most experienced defenseman on the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team, Will Garrymore knows that his knowledge will come in handy this winter.

“I have been learning a lot of things over the last four years; the younger guys haven’t been told as much as I have,” said senior standout Garrymore.

“I think we only have seven upperclassmen; it is going to be a learning year.”

Last week, the young Panthers showed a good learning curve, bouncing back from a 7-4 opening day loss at St. Joseph (Pa.) last Wednesday to tie Bishop Eustace 0-0 a day later.

“Yesterday we were pretty bad in the defensive zone but today we were pretty strong in the defensive zone which led to some good offensive opportunities,” said Garrymore, reflecting on the tie with Bishop Eustace.

“We came out fresh today and it was just see how it goes. We did pretty well against a pretty good team. I think that a lot of the older kids on our team stepped up. We were matching lines so I think we did a really good job of that.”

Garrymore enjoys matching up with junior Chris Helmlinger to form PDS’s top defensive pair.

“I like playing with Chris a lot because we both know a lot of the simple things like getting behind your partner and making the strong forehand plays,” added Garrymore. “I think that was really good today.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli is looking for the pair of Garrymore and Helmlinger to provide good leadership for the team’s younger defensemen.

“Between Will and Chris on the back line, they are out there with three freshmen and a sophomore,” said Bertoli.

“They are going to have to carry the load. They are going to have to be physical, they are going to have to be vocal leaders back there and playing in every situation, whether it is 5-on-5, penalty kill or power play and at times match up against the other team’s top line.”

In the tie with Bishop Eustace, the defense stepped up in a variety of situations, giving cover to junior goalie Mark Anarumo, who made 26 saves in earning the shutout.

“The penalty kill was unbelievable tonight; we tried to use a lot of guys that we have used in years past,” said Bertoli.

“Even the new guys when we plugged out there, they did what we asked them to do. Mark made some big saves but he didn’t have to make a ton of big saves, which is good.”

Although PDS didn’t find the back of the net in the tie, Bertoli saw some good things at the offensive end.

“I knew that was going to be an area of concern yet I thought we had some nice chances,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts its annual Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational this weekend, starting play in the event by playing Rye Country Day (N.Y.) on December 12 with the consolation and championship games being held the next day.

“Their kid made some nice saves at key situations. I thought our power play did a good job. In the third period, we had the right guys get opportunities. I am happy with the fact that we are getting the opportunities. If we were sitting here and we got totally outplayed and didn’t have opportunities, that would be a little more concerning. I thought we had opportunities, they just didn’t go.”

Bertoli was happy with the progress his team made in just 24 hours after its opening day loss.

“The fact that you were able to respond and come out with that kind of concentrated effort and focus into today’s game was good,” said Bertoli, recalling his postgame message.

“I don’t care about the results at this point. It is nice to win games but I care more about the process and the fact that you are improving on a daily basis and I think we can take a lot away from today’s effort.”

Garrymore, for his part, is confident that PDS will produce good results as the season unfolds.

“We are going to have to improve from the beginning of the year,” said Garrymore.

“Last year, we were a really strong team with a lot of really good offensive players. This year we have a lot of strong defensemen. Coach Bertoli is going to have to make some adjustments. He has been really doing a good job of that and I think today showed that.”

MULLING IT OVER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and St. Peter’s University-bound Mullen contributed 22 points, nine rebounds, and five steals as Hun topped St. Andrew’s (Del.) 45-28 to earn its first win this season. The Raiders, who improved to 1-2 with the victory, play at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 11 and at Penn Charter (Pa.) on December 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MULLING IT OVER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and St. Peter’s University-bound Mullen contributed 22 points, nine rebounds, and five steals as Hun topped St. Andrew’s (Del.) 45-28 to earn its first win this season. The Raiders, who improved to 1-2 with the victory, play at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 11 and at Penn Charter (Pa.) on December 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Janelle Mullen felt out of sorts as the Hun School girls’ basketball team hosted Friends Central (Pa.) last Friday.

“I wasn’t ready in the first half, my body just felt really shaky,” said Hun senior star guard Mullen, who had just four free throws as Hun trailed 27-20 at intermission. “During halftime I was shooting around and started feeling OK.”

With Hun trailing 37-33 going into the fourth quarter, Mullen found her shot and helped the Raiders stage a rally. Hitting a key three-pointer, Mullen helped Hun draw even at 43-43 in the waning moments of regulation as she tallied 10 points in the quarter. That was the high water mark for the Raiders, though, as they ran out of gas down the stretch in losing 55-45.

“I thought we had momentum, we just tied the game up,” said Mullen. “We could have won but we just fell short.”

While Hun didn’t close the deal, Mullen saw the effort as progress from the team’s 54-38 defeat to Abington Friends (Pa.) in its opener on December 2.

“In the first game, we didn’t have a lot of overall scoring,” noted Mullen, who ended up with 14 points in the loss to Friends Central. “We scored better as a team and our defense was better in this game than the last game.”

Mullen and classmate Erica Dwyer are dedicated to helping Hun become better this season.

“We are the only two seniors so coming into the season we automatically accepted the leadership roles,” said Mullen, who contributed 22 points, nine rebounds, and five steals on Saturday as Hun topped St. Andrew’s (Del.) 45-28 to earn its first win this season.

“We were like captains before they even mentioned captains. It is directing people, telling them where to go, and cheering them on.”

Having signed a letter of intent to attend St. Peter’s University and play for its women’s basketball program, Mullen has a weight off of her shoulders as she plays her final campaign for Hun.

“I liked the school when I went there and I really liked the coaching staff as well,” said Mullen. “There is no pressure on me this year to try to get a school.”

Hun head coach Bill Holup liked the way his team made strides from its opening day loss.

“We made a lot of progress, we shot much better,” said Holup, who got 20 points from Dwyer in the loss to Friends Central.

“As a team we got tired in the first game. Today the effort was definitely there, not that it wasn’t in the first game. But our legs were better and we were able to drop some shots.”

Holup is looking for Mullen and Dwyer to provide the Raiders with a lot of game this winter.

“Janelle is quiet and lets her actions lead the way; she and Dwyer in the backcourt are a terrific twosome,” asserted Holup, who earned the 275th win of his career with the victory over St. Andrews.

“Their leadership and skill is going to lead us. They are going to progress and they are the two that we are following.”

In Holup’s view, that leadership is already paying dividends. “I think they are starting to trust each other more,” said Holup, whose team plays at the Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on December 11 and at Penn Charter (Pa.) on December 13.

“We have some young kids and some kids who have never played high school basketball before and we have a couple of seniors who are tremendous basketball players. We are trying to jell them all together.”

Mullen, for her part, believes things are going to jell for Hun this winter.

“We just have to put everything together and play really hard and then we can get wins,” said Mullen.

December 3, 2014
PULLING RANK: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward Rankin came up big in a two-game set against visiting Michigan State. On Friday, he had an assist in Princeton’s 3-1 win over the Spartans. A day later, he contributed a goal as the Tigers fought back from a 3-0 deficit before falling 4-2. Princeton, now 2-7-1 overall, hosts Harvard on December 5 and Dartmouth on December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PULLING RANK: Princeton University men’s hockey player Kyle Rankin goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward Rankin came up big in a two-game set against visiting Michigan State. On Friday, he had an assist in Princeton’s 3-1 win over the Spartans. A day later, he contributed a goal as the Tigers fought back from a 3-0 deficit before falling 4-2. Princeton, now 2-7-1 overall, hosts Harvard on December 5 and Dartmouth on December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being sidelined over the previous two weekends, Kyle Rankin returned  to the ice with a bang for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it hosted Michigan State last Friday in the opener of a two-game set.

The junior forward assisted on a second period goal by Jonathan Liau, getting the Tigers rolling as they pulled away to 3-1 win over the Spartans. David Hallisey and Ben Foster also tallied as Princeton snapped a five-game losing streak.

A day later in the finale of the set with the Spartans, Rankin tallied a third period goal as the Tigers fought back from a 3-0 deficit to make it a 3-2 contest before falling 4-2 and dropping to 2-7-1 overall.

With Princeton having been outscored 16-2 in the two previous weekends, including being held without a goal by both St. Lawrence and Clarkson coming into the games against Michigan State, Rankin viewed the performance against the Spartans as major progress.

“Looking at the product we put out this weekend, for at least five periods of hockey, I am really excited,” said Rankin, a 6’1, 200-pound native of Kanata, Ontario.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction. I think we are in a good position going back into ECAC play because we are a completely different team than we were last weekend.”

Finding the back of the net made a huge difference for Princeton. “The big thing is scoring goals, we are working on that and a lot of guys are putting in time at practice, working on finishing off plays,” said Rankin

“We are seeing it coming. We had five goals this weekend and we had two in about eight minutes here in the third. It is starting to come. Once you get one, it starts to roll a little. I think that is big because Colton Phinney between the pipes gives us a chance to win every single night. It is up to us to capitalize on our opportunities and get our power play going when we get chances. That will be big going forward.”

While Rankin was happy with Princeton’s improved play, he acknowledged that the Tigers should not have dug the 3-0 hole against Michigan State.

“We strayed away from the things that we need to do to be successful,” added Rankin.

“We were going outside our system and looking for a couple of Hail Mary passes, that it is not the way we play. We are a puck support team and we work as a unit and I think a couple of times we strayed from that. That being said, we responded really nicely in the third and started playing the hockey that is going to be our identity going forward.”

Rankin got things going in the third as he tallied just over a minute into the period.

“That was my linemates; Jonathan Liau just flew down the wing there and fought off two guys down low and Mike Ambrosia did a great job supporting him,” said Rankin, who now has three points this season on a goal and two assists.

“Mike made an unbelievable pass on the stick to me and I was just in the right place in the right time and I was able to tap it in.”

Playing on the same line with classmate Ambrosia has sparked Rankin.

“I love playing with Mike, we were playing a lot together at preseason and unfortunately he had his injury,” said Rankin.

“It is great to have him back. It has been fun playing with Mike this weekend. We created a lot of offense and, at the same time, it is just the beginning.”

Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty had fun watching the Tigers show some punch over the weekend.

“We are getting a little depth back and we are scoring more,” said Fogarty, who also got a goal from Ryan Siiro in the loss on Saturday.

“We put up five goals in two games. When we stay with the program and move away from bad habits, we are going to give ourselves opportunities to win game in, game out.”

While Princeton didn’t win on Saturday, Fogarty was heartened by the team’s third period rally.

“We wanted to make a story, we just fell a chapter short,” said Fogarty. “We stayed with it in the third period, we stayed with how we can play hockey. We wanted to get one goal by the 10-minute mark so we are ahead of schedule at that point. You want to throw pucks at the net and crash the net and that occurred with both of our goals.”

Fogarty acknowledged that his team can’t afford lapses. “It is very valuable experience but we dug ourselves a hole in the second period for straying from what is going to make us successful,” said Fogarty.

“We said don’t try to create shortcuts, stay strong on our sticks and stay strong with what is getting us better. You start to stray from that and then our whole foundation is going to deteriorate. We stuck with it, especially in the third period. We gave ourselves a chance to tie the game up.”

In Fogarty’s view, Princeton has the chance to do some good things going forward.

“It is not fun losing, I am not happy with it but I thoroughly enjoy coaching these 28 guys,” said Fogarty, who will look for more progress this weekend when Princeton hosts Harvard on December 5 and Dartmouth on December 6.

“I see positive results here into December and throughout the rest of the season.”

Rankin, for his part, believes that the players are buying into Fogarty’s approach and see it as a recipe for success.

“It certainly takes time with a new coaching staff but, that being said, they have been, from a player’s standpoint, everything we could want them to be,” said Rankin.

“They have been very, very successful in conveying their message to us. They are patient with the players. They know we have a lot of freshmen and that we have had some injuries. They haven’t strayed from the process. We are lucky to have them as a staff and I look forward to what we can do under Ron, Dex [Ron Dexter] and Stavs [Stavros Paskaris].”

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton University women’s goalie ­Kimberly Newell guards the crease in a game earlier this season. Last weekend in a two-game set against No. 2 Minnesota at Baker Rink, junior Newell starred in a losing cause, making 42 saves on Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Golden Gophers and then recording 47 stops in a 5-2 defeat the next day. The Tigers, now 6-6-1 overall, play at Harvard on December 5 and at Dartmouth in December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton University women’s goalie ­Kimberly Newell guards the crease in a game earlier this season. Last weekend in a two-game set against No. 2 Minnesota at Baker Rink, junior Newell starred in a losing cause, making 42 saves on Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Golden Gophers and then recording 47 stops in a 5-2 defeat the next day. The Tigers, now 6-6-1 overall, play at Harvard on December 5 and at Dartmouth in December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kimberly Newell takes a business-like approach to playing goalie for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

“My goalie coach [John Zdunkiewicz] calls it going to work,” said Newell. “We talk a lot about what I need to work on and we make sure that the drills we do are tailored specifically to what I need to work on for the next game.”

Last Saturday in the first game of a two- game set against No. 2 Minnesota, Newell had a very good day at the office, making 42 saves in a losing cause as the Tigers fought the powerful Golden Gophers tooth-and-nail before falling 2-1.

Hitting the ice, Newell and her teammates were fired up to face Minnesota.

“I just came into the game thinking I am going to do the best that I can,” said Newell, a 5’9 native of Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I think our team was ready, we practiced hard this week. We came off a couple of losses that were close. We were in the game and I think we are feeling pretty confident.”

Newell displayed plenty of confidence in the first period as she turned away all 19 shots fired by Minnesota.

“All you are thinking about is the next shot, you are not thinking about, oh my gosh, they are getting so many shots,” said Newell.

“You are focused on doing your best, making sure that you are in position, that you are seeing the puck and that you are making the stops that you need to make.”

Newell made 13 saves in the second period as the teams were deadlocked in a scoreless stalemate heading in the third. Minnesota broke through with two goals early in the third period as the Tigers made a costly turnover and Newell was handcuffed when a teammate’s stick got caught in her pads.

Princeton, though, kept fighting and got on the board with a Brianna Leahy goal with 4:42 left in regulation.

“I am proud of the team that they didn’t give up,” said Newell. “Even though we were down two goals, we came back. We put one in and I think we battled hard right to the end.”

Although the Tigers are battling through a tough stretch, Newell believes the team is gaining some valuable experience.

“I think our team has come out hard in each one of them,” said Newell, who made 47 saves on Sunday as Princeton fell 5-2 to Minnesota in dropping to 6-6-1 overall on the season and losing its fifth straight contest.

“The fact we have only been losing by one or two goals is giving our team confidence, knowing that we can play with anyone in the nation, not just our league.”

Newell has worked hard to play better between the pipes. “It is a continuous process to get better, just focusing on off-ice strength, working on doing some juggling, working on some balls and working on tracking the puck,” said Newell, who has also been helped by competing in Team Canada camps.

“I work a lot with my goalie coach, he helps me out a lot. We have a lot of dialog, a lot of one-on-one conversation. We take some video and we call it goalie world.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal credited Newell with making a strong effort against Minnesota.

“She was outstanding, she gave us a chance to win,” said Kampersal of Newell, who currently has a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .920. “That is what we need out of her every single day. When we break down, she needs to be our best player.”

Kampersal acknowledged that some breakdowns doomed the Tigers against Minnesota, negating the team’s good work.

“They competed hard, it was a solid effort but it wasn’t solid enough,” said Kampersal.

“Minnesota is obviously awesome, they are really talented and they come at you with different flurries. But as it was, we gave them both of their goals with a bad pass on the first one and then we had a player dive into our goalie. We have to let our goalies make saves and the players need to defend.”

With Princeton having come up just short throughout the losing streak, Kampersal is looking for his players to show more of a killer instinct.

“I love our kids because they fight until the buzzer blows and the refs tell them they can’t play any more,” said Kampersal.

“I really appreciate that about them and I respect them for that. Sometimes we play not to lose instead of playing to win. At times in the third period, we played to win and that’s how we have to do it.”

Playing top teams tight will benefit the Tigers down the road, according to Kampersal.

“I think it creates a resolve, it is a bummer because of the result,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at Harvard on December 5 and at Dartmouth in December 6. “We have one more weekend and then we have breaks; I wish it could stay continuous.”

Newell, for her part, believes the Tigers have made a continuous effort so far this season.

“I think our team is really coming together this year; I think we have good leadership,” said Newell.

“Our team is really buying into the systems. We are really putting in 100 percent effort. We are just raring to go for each game; knowing that we can come out and take it to the other team every single time.”

SHARP AND QUICK: Hun School senior running back Chris Sharp sprints up the field in a game this fall. The University of Virginia bound Sharp rushed for 1,085 yards and totaled 23 touchdowns, sparking Hun to a 7-1 record and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARP AND QUICK: Hun School senior running back Chris Sharp sprints up the field in a game this fall. The University of Virginia bound Sharp rushed for 1,085 yards and totaled 23 touchdowns, sparking Hun to a 7-1 record and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christina Rosca wasn’t sure if she had enough time to play for the Princeton High girls’ tennis team this fall.

Rising up to the mid-20s in the national 18-and-under rankings, Rosca was spending her weekends playing in tournaments all over the country. In the classroom, she was shouldering a heavy load with five AP courses.

But enjoying a special bond with her PHS teammates, Rosca made time to compete for the Little Tigers.

“They are all really good players and they are all really good people,” said junior star Rosca.

“I really enjoy being with them. It is really enjoyable to be in a team environment compared to playing as an individual all the time.”

Rosca’s teammates enjoyed having her around to head up the lineup. Playing at first singles, Rosca won the individual crown in her flight at the Mercer County tournament for the second straight year, topping Brianna Shvets of Hopewell Valley 6-2, 6-1 in the final as she cruised to the title without losing a set. Her brilliance helped PHS win the county team title for the first time since 1984.

“I was really pleased with the way Chris stepped up and took control early and was able to put the pressure on Brianna,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, reflecting on Rosca’s county triumph. “From there she was able to stay tough and close it out.”

While Rosca was happy to successfully defend her first singles crown, she was thrilled to see the Little Tigers prevail as team champion as they edged runner-up and perennial power WW/P-S with WW/P-N taking third.

“It means a lot,” said Rosca. “We have been really close the last two years and some unfortunate things have happened, some injuries and stuff like that.”

Good things kept happening for PHS as they won the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional crown and then edged Northern Highlands 3-2 in the Group 3 state semifinals before falling to powerful Millburn in the finals.

“This is a really great group of girls, they have won the sectional title four years in a row and made it to the group final the last three so that was really exciting,” said Hibbert.

“To add the county tournament title this year as well was icing on the cake, especially for our three seniors.”

For Rosca, whose only loss for PHS this fall came against Millburn, her court savvy helped her remain a force on the court.

“No matter who I play, I always try to be really aggressive and come into the net as much as possible but off of the right balls, not just any ball,” said Rosca, who was too busy to defend the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship she won in 2013.

In the view of PHS doubles star, Zhenia Dementyeva, Rosca was not just any teammate.

“That one, Chris Rosca, is the most humble person, she is really talented and she is amazing at school at the same time,” said Dementyeva.

“She doesn’t let it get to her head, she is extremely grounded and everybody loves Chris.”

For sticking with the PHS squad and making more history in the process, Rosca is the pick as the Town Topics’ top female performer this fall.

Top Male Performer

When Todd Smith took the reins of the Hun School football team this fall, he knew he had to deploy senior star Chris Sharp by land and air.

“Sharp is our workhorse,” said Smith. “He is playing at wide receiver as much as running back.”

With Hun coming off a 2-6 season in 2013, the University of Virginia-bound Sharp set the tone early, rushing for 149 yards and two touchdowns and catching a 43-yard touchdown pass as Hun routed Wyoming Seminary 56-14 in its season opener.

That was just the beginning for the 6’2, 205-pound Sharp, an unstoppable combination of power and speed.

He ended up rushing for 1,085 yards on 81 attempts for an eye-popping average of 13.4 yards a carry and 19 touchdowns. Sharp made nine receptions for 281 yards and four more touchdowns.

Sharp ended his career on a high note, rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 in its season finale to earn the outright Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall.

Even before the season started, Sharp had the sense that it was going to be a big fall for the Raiders.

“We saw that we had something special in August and we just wanted to finish,” said Sharp.

“We wanted to go undefeated in the MAPL and that’s what we did. With the kids that came in, we knew it was going to be a different feel. It was just like fresh and new things were brewing up with the Hun football team. It is exciting to see the fruition and what grew out of it.”

The humble Sharp spread the credit around as he reflected on hitting the 1,000-yard plateau.

“It was a very special moment to share with my teammates and family, especially on senior day,” said Sharp.

“The first thing I did was to thank all of the linemen, the fullback, and the quarterback. I can’t do it all by myself.”

Even Sharp himself was taken aback by his glittering statistics. “I love running the ball and being able to catch the ball out of the receiver position is a blessing as well,” said Sharp, who also starred at linebacker for the Raiders. “It is just amazing to see the growth that I have gone through.”

Smith, for his part, enjoyed taking part in that growth process. “Chris is just a fantastic kid, it is a shame we only had seven games with him,” said Smith, whose team had one win on a forfeit by Peddie.

“He got 1,000 yards and a boatload of touchdowns to go with it. He has gotten so much better as the year went on. I am just really excited about his future, I think he is going to be a great football player at the next level.”

Sharp’s greatness this fall and the impact it had on Hun’s championship season makes him the pick as the top male performer this fall.

Top Newcomers

It didn’t take long for Grace Barbara to make an impression in her freshman season as goalie on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.

“Grace Barbara is starting in goal, she is a dynamite keeper,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, when assessing his squad prior to the start of the season.

“She is very talented. She can play balls with her feet and gives us a lot of options. She is playing beyond her years, she is yelling out there and is in control.”

Trombetta’s analysis proved to be spot on as Barbara emerged as one of the top keepers in the area, anchoring a stingy PDS defense.

Even in a 2-0 defeat to perennial power and eventual county champion Pennington, Barbara demonstrated her brilliance, making 10 saves as she stymied the Red Raiders for most of the contest.

“They are a skilled team so I can learn a lot, especially from the goals,” said Barbara.

“I can work on sets and high balls coming from long and the short balls pegged down in the corners. I can definitely work on that in practice. There are some very strong players on some of these opponents. Since I am a freshman it has been a little bit difficult with these very skilled players.”

Barbara kept working hard and her skill helped PDS end the season on a high note as the Panthers edged Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the state Prep B championship game.

“Grace played out of her mind,” said Trombetta of Barbara, who made 12 saves in earning the shutout. “She made some elite saves, three times she leaped and punched balls out over the bar.”

Due to her brilliance and grace under fire, Barbara is the choice as the top female newcomer this fall.

After spending three years as a back-up for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team, Joe Hawes saw that he was destined to be riding the pine this fall for the squad.

Looking for some action, Hawes decided to make the move to football. “I hadn’t tried football; my parents never really wanted me to,” said Hawes.

“This year, they were like you can’t do anything else why don’t you try football. I wasn’t getting playing time in soccer so I was why not.”

Starring at lacrosse helped Hawes pick up his new sport. “The footwork and the physical play of lacrosse was a help,” said Hawes. “Knowing that you have a set play and doing what you have to do.”

Hawes got the sense early that he could make a mark on the football field.

“I think it was the Ewing game, our homecoming,” added Hawes, who made an 80-yard TD reception in the PHS’s opening day win over Hamilton. “I was just super confident. I knew in my mind what I had to do and I got it done.”

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher appreciated the way Hawes got things done this fall.

“Joe is doing well, we would like to call his number more often,” said Gallagher.

“What is great about the squad right now is that we have a lot of playmakers, whether it be Rory Helstrom or Sam Smallzman or Joe Hawes or Colin Buckley or Dave Beamer or the special teams.”

Emerging as the team’s deep threat, Hawes put up some good numbers, making 20 catches for 434 yards and eight touchdowns in regular season action, helping PHS enjoy a remarkable reversal of fortune as it went from 0-10 in 2013 to an 8-2 record this fall.

Reflecting on his move to football, Hawes knew that he made the right choice.

“This has been the best; I think the thing is that we just all want it,” said Hawes, who also starred at defensive back and handled the punting duties. We are making history here, bringing football back into Princeton. We are all working for the same goal and we want it in our hearts.”

For taking up football and proving to be such a key performer in a renaissance season for PHS, Hawes is the top male newcomer of the fall season.

Top Coaches

In the fall of 2013, Joanna Hallac’s tenure as the head coach of the Hun School girls’ soccer team got off to a rough start.

Hampered by injury and with the players getting used to their new leader, Hun lost its first seven games.

But as the fall went on and the team got healthier, it produced a late-season surge which saw Hun advance to the state Prep A championship game where it lost 2-0 to perennial power Pennington.

Coming into this fall, Hallac believed the team’s strong finish could have a carry-over effect.

“The mood is good, even from when the season ended last year knowing that we were losing only two players,” said Hallac, who guided Hun to a 7-12-1 record in 2013. “They were feeling good about the direction of the program.”

The upward direction continued this fall as Hun posted a number of impressive victories, topping Princeton Day School, East Brunswick, Peddie, Robbinsville, and Hill along the way.

But it was the 2-0 win over Pennington on September 30 that signaled how far Hun had come.

“They went out there and played their hearts out,” said Hallac, assessing the triumph.

“I was really proud of the way they performed. It finally convinced them of what they could do. I think they were starting to believe it last year but they walked into that game believing that they could truly play with anyone and they proved it.”

Bouncing back from a disappointing loss to Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals, Hun proved its quality in historic fashion, topping Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A final, thrilling a home throng of around 1,000 and ending Pennington’s 11-year title streak.

In reflecting on the triumph, Hallac said it was a group effort. “It was huge, the girls deserve all of the credit, they show up and they work hard every day,” said Hallac, whose team ended the fall with a 14-4-1 record.

“Even when we have setbacks, they learn from it and we move forward. It means so much to the school. The whole school came out here and the whole day was scheduled around this. I have never seen anything like it, I think it meant a lot to the community and that is what we are about here. I think it is really great for Hun.”

Providing a blend of steadiness and competitiveness to help Hun reach such heights, Hallac is the choice as one of the top coaches of a female team this fall.

With the graduation of stars Jenna Cody and Elyssa Gensib in 2012, the Princeton High girls’ cross country team entered a transition phase that fall.

As a result, PHS head coach Jim Smirk had to groom some new talent and rework his immediate goals.

“When Elyssa and Jenna graduated, we lost two top-end runners and there was a void in the program,” said Smirk.

“We had to re-imagine ourselves. Julie Bond and Mary Sutton were sophomores and Paige Metzheiser was a JV runner. “

Without an infusion of top talent, Smirk adopted a pack mentality approach with his runners.

“I think that has been a hallmark of our team for a long time,” said Smirk. “We talk about the ability to hold each other’s hands across the line, which we know would actually be a disqualification but that is our goal. We want to look like one finishing.”

The team gradually worked itself up the ladder as its sum was greater than its parts. “We were a decent team, we would make states. Every season we got better, not just in cross country.”

This fall, however, the Little Tigers emerged as a team to be reckoned with, placing third of seven teams in the Girls’ Adidas Invitational race at the Shore Coaches Invitational and then taking second at the Mercer County championship meet.

PHS followed that up by placing first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet and taking second in the state Group 3 meet. The team’s second-place finish at the Group meet booked PHS a trip to the Meet of Champions (MOC), the program’s first appearance at the prestigious event since 2010.

In Smirk’s view, making the MOC was the fruition of the program’s pack mentality.

“This is what the program is built on, they had to be ready to do the work to make the MOC,” said Smirk, whose team took 10th at the MOC. “It was not going to happen overnight. The pack raised the level of each runner.”

For raising PHS back to elite status in the state cross country circles, Smirk is the co-coach of the fall among female programs.

On paper, it appeared that the Princeton High football team could be headed for another rough campaign.

Coming off a 0-10 campaign in 2013, the Little Tigers were looking to replace some key seniors and had a roster of just over 30 players.

But second year head coach Charlie Gallagher was optimistic as he looked ahead to the fall.

“We have a good core of guys coming back, there is a sense of urgency,” said Gallagher. “The schedule is different and they see opportunities for wins.”

Opening the season by beating Hamilton 28-7 for the program’s first victory since 2012, the wins started piling up.

Turning heads with a potent offense led by running back Rory Helstrom and quarterback Dave Beamer together with a punishing defense spearheaded by Sam Smallzman and Colin Buckley, PHS produced a 5-0 start, knocking off Ewing, Hightstown, Lawrence, and Steinert.

In the wake of the 28-14 win over Steinert, Gallagher described the special feeling around the team.

“They have jelled from the very beginning,” asserted Gallagher. “It is great team chemistry and we are just happy to be coaching them up.”

After stubbing its toe in a loss at Winslow, PHS resumed its winning ways by routing WW/P-S, Robbinsville and WW/P-N by a combined score of 140-21. The 47-21 victory over North gave PHS an 8-1 regular season record and clinched the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title for the Little Tigers.

While PHS fell 48-12 to Brick Township in its first playoff appearance since 2009, the loss couldn’t dim what they team accomplished in its remarkable turnaround.

“We talked about how proud we were of the team,” said Gallagher, recalling his postgame message after the Brick defeat.

“The seniors had a great run, they put so much into it. Going 8-2 was a remarkable turnaround. Most guys picked us at the bottom of the division in the beginning of the season. We had no number of wins in mind, we just wanted to compete. We competed at a high level and got eight wins, the guys should be very proud.”

For getting the Little Tigers to compete at such a high level that they went from last to first in their division earns Gallagher the nod as one of the top coaches of a male program this fall.

Although the 10-6-2 record it posted in 2013 would be satisfying for a lot of teams, it was a downer for the proud Princeton High boys’ soccer program.

Used to contending for county and state titles, PHS was knocked out of the Mercer County Tournament in the first round and exited in the sectional semis at the state level.

Looking ahead to the 2014 season, longtime PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe had the sense that his team possessed the mentality to again be a postseason force.

“The goal of this group is to achieve something,” said Sutcliffe. “They are aware that if you take it one training session at a time and one game at a time, big things can happen.”

With senior striker Chase Ealy and senior goalie Laurenz Reimitz stepping up along with a battle-tested group of juniors, PHS did some big things as it regained its championship form.

The Little Tigers won penalty kick shootout thrillers over Steinert in the MCT semis and Allentown in the final to earn the county title.

“It has been rare that I have had a team that was as close as this team,” said Sutcliffe, reflecting on the MCT crown.

“There is a great spirit. We have had some great teams. This team, on the field and off the field, is a closer knit group and that has transcended to our quality and our spirit and our vitality. All of which helped us tonight and in the semi. And helped us close out the Colonial Division of the CVC.”

Seemingly improving game to game, PHS rolled through the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, topping Red Bank Regional 4-1 in the title game.

After edging Ocean City 1-0 in the Group 3 semis, PHS advanced to its third state title game in six seasons, having won crowns in 2009 and 2012.

While the Little Tigers came up short in the championship game, falling 4-3 to South Plainfield, Sutcliffe was thrilled with what his squad accomplished.

“They are just fantastic; we are a such a young team,” said Sutcliffe, who guided the Little Tigers to a final record of 18-3-2.

“I am so proud of the senior class that fought through a lot of adversity for four years. Three championships is fantastic. The success of the team was beyond some people’s expectations.”

Sutcliffe’s role in restoring PHS to its championship form makes him the pick as the co-coach of the fall among male programs.

READING THE GAME: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Reid’s all-around game should be a big asset for PHS this winter. The Little Tigers start their 2014-15 campaign this week with games against Montgomery on December 2 and Nottingham on December 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

READING THE GAME: Princeton High boys’ hockey player John Reid heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Reid’s all-around game should be a big asset for PHS this winter. The Little Tigers start their 2014-15 campaign this week with games against Montgomery on December 2 and Nottingham on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With new head coach Terence Miller taking the helm last winter and the roster featuring a number of untested players, there was a sense of the unknown surrounding the Princeton High boys’ hockey team at the beginning of the 2103-14 campaign.

Exceeding expectations, PHS emerged as one of the pleasant surprises of the season, going 14-6-2 as it made the Mercer County Tournament semifinals and advanced to the second round of the Public B state tournament.

Coming into this season, the Little Tigers are buoyed by the experience they gained last winter. “We only lost two key seniors (Patrick McCormick and Spencer Reynolds) so we are coming back with a lot of confidence,” said head coach Miller.

“We have a full senior roster, we have a total of eight and six of those are returners. We had a lot of freshmen log minutes last year and they got lots of experience. By the end of the season, they had really improved. I feel like we might be a little deeper this year.”

That depth is evident at forward where the team welcomes back a quartet of proven scorers in seniors Jackson Andres, John Reid, and Connor McCormick along with Connor’s younger brother, sophomore standout Brendon McCormick.

“Andres found the score sheet a lot last year, he was our leading scorer,” said Miller, whose team starts its 2014-15 campaign this week with games against Montgomery on December 2 and Nottingham on December 4.

“He was a key piece last year and we are expecting him to be again this year. Reid is really establishing himself as a leader this year. He is a great all around player; he has a nice, simple game, he is good in all three zones. Both the McCormicks will be at forward. Connor is another senior who I am expecting to have a big year. Brendan played well last year as a freshman and is quarterbacking our power play.”

The team boasts offensive depth with the return of junior Nathan Drezner, senior Chris Munoz, and junior Matt Cirillo along with the addition of promising freshman Justin Joyce.

“Drezner, Munoz, and Cirillo will see time,” added Miller. “We have a freshman, Justin Joyce, who will add to our depth. He plays travel for Princeton bantams and is a strong player.”

On defense, the pair of sophomores, Tooker Callaway and Eamonn McDonald, will lead the way.

“Tooker Callaway is going to be a real mainstay; he is a big, strong kid with good range,” said Miller. “He is a good shooter and has a good hockey IQ. McDonald was a starter last year and really logged some minutes. He is looking confident. They both have played well in scrimmages.”

Miller is confident that freshman Max Garlock and sophomore Anthony Trainer will also play well on the blue line.

“Garlock is a new addition; he is a good player and a good skater,” said Miller. “He has a good puck-moving game and has good vision. Anthony Trainer didn’t see a lot of time last year but he plays for the Mercer Chiefs and came back a year bigger and a year stronger.”

Sophomore goalie Sawyer Peck has emerged as a strength for the Little Tigers.

“Peck looks really sharp; he logged lots of time last year and got better and better as the season went on,” said Miller, who will be using senior Joe Hawes as his backup goalie.

“He looks more confident. Technically, he looks good. He is a classic butterfly goalie. He just needs to work on being quicker and stronger.”

In Miller’s view, developing team chemistry will be a must in order for PHS to be one of the stronger teams in the area.

“Our leadership is going to be key, Pat McCormick and Spencer Reynolds were not only good players for us last year, they were great leaders,” said Miller.

“This year’s seniors need to step up. We have a good core group. We have a lot of good pieces. We will need to work on putting the pieces together in the best way. It is not going to be easy, we are not going to sneak up on anybody.”

STICK SKILL: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player ­Connor Fletcher takes the puck up the ice in a game last season. Junior forward Fletcher figures to be a top offensive weapon for the Panthers this winter. PDS gets regular season action underway by playing at St. Joseph Prep on December 3, hosting Bishop Eustace on December 4, and then playing at St. Augustine on December 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICK SKILL: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player ­Connor Fletcher takes the puck up the ice in a game last season. Junior forward Fletcher figures to be a top offensive weapon for the Panthers this winter. PDS gets regular season action underway by playing at St. Joseph Prep on December 3, hosting Bishop Eustace on December 4, and then playing at St. Augustine on December 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two winters, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team turned to stellar groups of seniors for production and leadership as it enjoyed big campaigns.

This winter, though, PDS will need a bunch of younger players to grow up in a hurry in order to match the achievements of last year which saw the Panthers win the state Prep title or the season before when it posted a record of 21-3-1 and shared the Prep title with Morristown-Beard.

“It has been some time, maybe four or five years since we have had to fill so many spots,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, who guided the Panthers to a 14-7-2 record last winter.

“There is sense of apprehensiveness among the younger players. The biggest challenge is are they big enough to compete physically against some of the teams we will be playing against. Our schedule is challenging and difficult.”

In order to compete at a high level, the Panthers will need to get on the same page tactically.

“The biggest thing is to figure out what kind of team we are going to be and what is going to be our identity and what is the make up,” said Bertoli, whose team gets regular season action underway by playing at St. Joseph Prep on December 3, hosting Bishop Eustace on December 4 and then playing at St. Augustine on December 9.

“I think it will be similar to last year. We have to work hard and be very good and responsible defensively. It will be a lot of low scoring games, we are not going to score a ton of goals.”

Bertoli is depending on juniors Kyle Weller and Connor Fletcher along with senior Will Wright, to carry the scoring load.

“Fletcher, Weller and Wright are the only three returning forwards who I would slot in as a first or second line player,” said Bertoli.

“They look good. We are going to struggle to score goals, we will be challenged to score on 5-on-5. We will put some things in to be effective on the power play. We lost our top five wingers from last year, that is a tremendous void.”

Other options at forward include junior Keith Asplundh, senior Harrison Latham, and freshman Tyler Coffey.

“The guys offer different skill sets,” added Bertoli. “Keith Asplundh played on the third line last year. He has improved, he is a year older and looks more comfortable. Tyler Coffey is a freshman, he is a highly skilled forward. He will be on the first line with Weller and Wright.”

The one-two punch of junior Chris Helmlinger and senior Will Garrymore along with sophomore Gianluca Travia will spearhead things on the blue line.

“Defense looks to be a strength, Chris and Will are big kids who have played a ton of minutes for us,” said Bertoli. “Gianluca played more at the end last year and gave us solid minutes.”

A trio of freshman, Nick Petruolo, Eric Sherman, and Eugene Yoon, should solidify the Panther defensive unit.

“Nick Petruolo is a high-end, two-way defenseman,” said Bertoli. “He is big, strong, and poised; he likes to get involved offensively. Eric Sherman is very skilled, he is a tremendous skater. He is a little undersized but plays hard and really competes. Eugene Yoon is a wide body, physical, high energy player. I think the three freshmen will be seeing a lot of time right from the start.”

At goalie, sophomore Logan Kramsky and junior Mark Anarumo give PDS depth between the pipes.

“I am looking at them as a strong tandem; both guys have a level of experience,” said Bertoli.

“Logan was unbelievable as a freshman in big games for us last year. When Mark got his opportunities, he played well. I think we will go back and forth with them.”

In Bertoli’s view, the Panthers have the opportunity to produce another big season.

“The kids will get stronger and mature,” said Bertoli. “I know they will work hard, they take this seriously. I expect us to go out and play hard, improve and win games. I expect us to have some growing pains early on. We should improve as we go on. We have some good smart players who have played at a good level. We will need to develop them. It will be a lot of coaching and putting them in a position to be successful.”

SPECIAL K: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Kristi ­Serafin heads up ice in a game last season. PDS will be relying on skilled sophomore defenseman Serafin to be a force on the blue line this winter. The Panthers get regular season action underway this week by hosting Summit on December 2 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 3 and hosting Pingry on December 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey star Kristi ­Serafin heads up ice in a game last season. PDS will be relying on skilled sophomore defenseman Serafin to be a force on the blue line this winter. The Panthers get regular season action underway this week by hosting Summit on December 2 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 3 and hosting Pingry on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team doesn’t boast strength in numbers with just 13 players on the roster, it does feature some high-quality talent.

Many of the Panthers play club hockey outside school and their love of the game is contagious.

“We have a lot of younger players that bring a lot to the table,” said PDS head coach Lorna Cook, who guided the Panthers to an 11-8-1 record last winter.

“I am also impressed with the older players and how much they have improved. We have more travel players than we have had in the past. They all seem to have a good time and get along with each other. The high school team is their time to have fun with it.”

Cook is having fun watching sophomore defenseman Kristi Serafin progress into a force.

“Kristi looks great, I love the intensity she brings,” said Cook, whose team gets regular season action underway this week by hosting Summit on December 2 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on December 3, and hosting Pingry on December 5.

“She is very skilled, she has a lot of upside. She sees the ice better this year and she is more comfortable with the puck on her stick. In our system, the d-men take more of a role in the offense. We have been looking to move the puck more.”

Two newcomers, freshman Malia Leveson and sophomore transfer Kiely French, have been looking good on the blue line.

“Malia is a center playing defense; she is really good with the puck and she is a really good skater,” said Cook.

“Kiely is a really great girl to coach. She wants to learn and wants to get better. She will help us, she is very aggressive.”

PDS will be looking for some aggressive play from sophomores Ashley Cavuto and Daphne Stanton in the middle of the offense.

“Ashley and Daphne are the two centers,” said Cook. “We need to have that strength in the middle. They will be good for us, they will make the wingers better.”

On the wing, the Panthers have a number of good options in junior Emma Stillwaggon, senior Anna Williams, senior assistant captain Sophie Jensen, freshman Emma Latham, and senior assistant captain Sophie Ward.

“Emma Stillwaggon is always a grinder for us; she doesn’t have a lot of size but she is a tough kid,” said Cook.

“Anna sets a great example with how hard she goes at plays. She draws penalties and aggravates the other teams. She has shown improvement in her stick skills. Sophie Jensen has impressed us with her positional play. She is putting herself in position to be a good option. Emma Latham has a lot of potential. She has good instincts. Once she gets the puck, she knows what to do. Sophie Ward is still coming back from being out, she is really good at being positionally sound.”

The tandem of sophomore standouts Annika Asplundh and senior captain Katie Alden gives PDS some depth at goalie.

“Annika is looking really good, she has been playing girls’ travel hockey for the first time after just playing with the boys and that has helped her adjust to the speed,” said Cook.

“You see a wide range of shooters in high school hockey. She is getting better in the one-on-one situations. Katie seems to get better and more confident every year. It really helps us to have two goalies at practice.”

In order to have a big season, the Panthers will need to thrive in scoring situations.

“I think it comes down to capitalizing on opportunities, the power play has to step up,” said Cook.

“They need to be aggressive and be in shape. In order to capitalize on opportunities, they have to go at 100 percent and fight for all of the pucks.”

WILLING AND ABLE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Eric Williams dribbles upcourt in a game last season. The Raiders will be looking to senior Williams to have a big year as they look to improve on the 8-13 record posted last winter. Hun tips off its 2014-15 campaign by hosting the Phelps School (Pa.) on December 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WILLING AND ABLE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Eric Williams dribbles upcourt in a game last season. The Raiders will be looking to senior Williams to have a big year as they look to improve on the 8-13 record posted last winter. Hun tips off its 2014-15 campaign by hosting the Phelps School (Pa.) on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a frustrating 8-13 campaign in 2013-14, the Hun School boys’ basketball team is primed for a fresh start this winter.

“The mood is good; the chemistry is good,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone, reflecting on how preseason practice is going. “The energy is good, the talent is good.”

While Hun may not be as tall as it has been in past years, the team boasts some good talent in the frontcourt in newcomers Dominic Robb and Ben Seipt along with senior returner Kyle Borden.

“Dom has a 7’1 wingspan, he is a great presence inside offensively and defensively,” said Stone, whose team tips off its 2014-15 campaign by hosting the Phelps School (Pa.) on December 4.

“Ben is very versatile; he is about 6’5 and is really put together. He shoots, he passes, he posts up, he can do a little of everything. Kyle keeps getting better every year. He is a tremendous athlete and he has the ability to make plays.”

In the backcourt, Hun features ability and character in senior star Eric Williams, post-graduate Austin Harriott, senior Tucker Stevenson, and senior Chris Sharp, a football star headed to the University of Virginia.

“Eric has been with us four years and had a good season last year,” said Stone.

“He is a great shooter and a great floor guy. He understands the game; he is a kid who gets it. Austin is very good, he is a D-1 kid for sure. He has good sense and feel for the game; he is a really good passer. Tucker is a great glue guy; he plays hard all the time. Chris hasn’t played in two years but he is a glue guy. He has those same intangibles as Tucker, he is a great kid.”

Stone believes his squad could grow into something really good. “With so many new faces and so many guys who have little Hun varsity experience, this group could be like the Jon Lee, R.J. Griffin group (Mid-Atlantic Prep League champs in 2009), getting better as the year goes on,” said Stone.

“The chemistry is key, both on and off the court. They are developing it off the court and now they need to show it on court in games. It is a process. The flip side is that we have a lot of good pieces; we have kids with different skill sets. I am excited for the season, it is a great group.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School boys’ hockey star Blake Brown controls the puck in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Brown figures to be a key performer for the Raiders in 2014-15 after helping the team win both the Mercer County Tournament and the Independence Hockey League titles last winter. Hun is slated to get the season underway this week with home games against Red Bank Catholic on December 2, Malvern Prep (Pa.) on December 3, and Academy of New Church (Pa.) on December 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School boys’ hockey star Blake Brown controls the puck in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Brown figures to be a key performer for the Raiders in 2014-15 after helping the team win both the Mercer County Tournament and the Independence Hockey League titles last winter. Hun is slated to get the season underway this week with home games against Red Bank Catholic on December 2, Malvern Prep (Pa.) on December 3, and Academy of New Church (Pa.) on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After winning both the Mercer County Tournament and the Independence Hockey League (IHL) titles last winter, the Hun School boys’ hockey program is seeing itself in a new light.

“The energy is there, the program is here,” said Hun head coach Ian McNally. “They feel we have arrived and the guys are into it.”

That energy has been apparent as the Raiders have gone through their preseason preparation.

“The mood is fantastic, they were excited through the fall to get going,” said McNally, who guided the Raiders to a 20-7 record last winter. “The practices have been high tempo, the guys are itching to go. We have had three scrimmages and they went well.”

The Raiders boast a high quality trio of sophomores at forward in Evan Barratt, Blake Brown, and Jon Bendorf. That trio provided much of the firepower for Hun last winter as each player tallied 60 points or more with Barratt accumulating 23 goals and 38 assists, Brown chipping in 28 goals and 32 assist, and Bendorf tallying 36 goals and 30 assists.

“We certainly scored a lot last year and the guys are just as impressive this year, they are a year bigger and a year stronger,” said McNally, noting that Barratt is currently sidelined with an injury.

There is additional depth up front with the addition of  post-graduate Brayden Stasow and junior Kyle Pettoni along with the return of junior Justin Grossman, junior Kevin Guns, and junior Patrick Brake.

“Stasow is a smart, dependable player, he can contribute in all facets, taking face-offs, killing penalties; he is an all-around player,” asserted McNally.

“Pettoni is a similar type of player. He is smart, takes face-offs, and is responsible defensively. We can roll out our offense line after line which we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

On defense, the Raiders will be relying on three battle-tested returners in seniors Bobby Wurster and Chris Rossi along with talented sophomore Tanner Preston (3 goals and 28 assists last season).

“Bobby Wurster is going to be really good, it his first full season with us,” said McNally, who will also be using junior Reed Doerler, junior Griffin Moroney, and senior Dan Seelagy along the blue line.

“He transferred in as a sophomore and last year, he had a lot of club commitments and played only half the games. He is a big, strong, tall player and will be the leader on the back. Chris is also a leader for us. He is very proud of Hun hockey, he has played a lot of hockey. Tanner was awesome last year. The three freshmen forwards got more attention but he was just as good. When Bobby wasn’t there, he was our top defensemen. We have six good defensemen and that unit is going to be a strength for us.”

With the graduation of four-year starting goalie Devin Cheifetz, Hun will be looking to junior Travis “Diesel” Pelke and sophomore Thomas Brake to fill the void between the pipes.

“I coached Diesel in youth hockey and have watched him play travel this fall and in our scrimmages,” said McNally.

“He is incredibly calm and consistent, you know he is going to make the first save and he will make a lot of saves on the second shot. He is consistent with mental stability and the guys feed off of that. No matter what happens, he acts the same way. Thomas has definitely made a push. He played all fall with Princeton youth hockey, he is a very good goalie and he will see time.”

Having left the IHL, Hun is upgrading its schedule as it looks to burnish its standing among the prep powers in the state.

“We are playing an independent schedule, we are playing strong teams in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and some from New York,” said McNally, whose team is slated to get the 2014-15 season underway this week with home games against Red Bank Catholic on December 2, Malvern Prep (Pa.) on December 3, and Academy of New Church (Pa.) on December 5.

“The key for us is to string three good games together in a week. In the past, we would have one big game a week to focus on. This year we will have to play consistently on back-to-back nights without the preparation time.”

FLOOR LEADER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Dwyer races up the floor in a game last season. The Raiders are counting on senior guard Dwyer to provide leadership and production this winter. Hun has a busy opening week of the season as it is  scheduled to host Abington Friends School (Pa.) on December 2 and Friends Central on December 5 before playing at the St. Andrew’s School (Del.) on December 6 and then hosting Lawrenceville on December 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FLOOR LEADER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erica Dwyer races up the floor in a game last season. The Raiders are counting on senior guard Dwyer to provide leadership and production this winter. Hun has a busy opening week of the season as it is scheduled to host Abington Friends School (Pa.) on December 2 and Friends Central on December 5 before playing at the St. Andrew’s School (Del.) on December 6 and then hosting Lawrenceville on December 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With a roster evenly distributed between six returners and six newcomers, a major focus early on for the Hun School girls’ basketball team is to get everybody on the same page.

“We need to jell between the veterans and the younger players,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 10-11 record last winter. “We always play a tough schedule so we will be thrown into the fire early.”

Holup is looking for senior guards Janelle Mullen and Erica Dwyer to take a lead role in that bonding process.

“We are relying on Mullen and Dwyer to bring everything together,” said Holup.

“Janelle is a three-year player, she transferred in as a sophomore. Erica is a 4-year player. They both have accepted the leadership role in the first couple of scrimmages. Janelle is a little quieter. Erica has really stepped up into that role, pushing the team to be better. Janelle is a D-1 player, she recently signed a letter of intent to St Peter’s. Both are terrific ballhandlers and outside shooters who are able to penetrate and dish.”

Battle-tested junior guards Jess Johnson and Amber Bourke will need to step up.

“Jess is a three-year player and is coming off a great soccer season and has a lot of experience,” said Holup.

“Amber is extremely talented, she is one of the fastest players out there. She just needs to improve her confidence.”

Holup is confident that newcomers, sophomore Julie Fassl, sophomore Mia Cura, freshman Kendall Dandridge, and post-graduate Maiya Rawlinson, can make an impact.

“Julie’s overall effort has been phenomenal, she is getting up the court,” said Holup of Fassl, who played JV ball last winter.

“She asks questions, she wants to understand things. Mia is up from JV; her sister, Bella, played four years for us and graduated last year. She is always wanting to learn, her attitude has been tremendous. Kendall is coming off an extremely successful soccer season. I hope that momentum carries into basketball, she is a great athlete, she is physically stronger than most freshmen. She has good court sense. She is not just running around out there, she knows what she is doing on the court. Maiya is a terrific player from South Jersey. She has athleticism. She gets outside on the wing, she has a pull up jumper. She is long and is able to play good defense. She had knee surgery last spring so we are hoping to have her in January.”

On the inside, sophomore Clare Maloney is developing into a force.

“Clare got a lot of action last year when Johnnah [Johnson] got hurt; I think she started 15 games,” said Holup, whose team has a busy opening week of the season as it was scheduled to host Abington Friends School (Pa.) on December 2 and Friends Central on December 5 before playing at the St. Andrew’s School (Del.) on December 6 and then hosting Lawrenceville on December 9..

“She got thrown into the fire pretty quickly and developed a lot. We are happy to have her back. She gives us great size inside, helps with defense and rebounding. She needs to be ready to catch the ball because Erica and Janelle will be dishing it to her.”

A pair of juniors, Lindsay Ruddy and Alexis Goeke, provide the Raiders with additional height down low.

“Ruddy and Goeke both give us good size,” added Holup. “Ruddy has experience from the JV, she just needs to be a little more aggressive. Alexis is learning the game, she is an extremely good athlete.”

If the pieces come together, it could be a very good winter for Hun. “When we are at 100 percent, we have a lot of talent,” said Holup.

“There is a very positive vibe around the team that I am getting this year. Even if we come up short in some games, I know the effort is going to be there. We are not going to go out and be intimidated by anyone.”

OPENING DRIVE: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harley Guzman dribbles upcourt in a game last year. Stuart will be looking for junior guard Guzman to trigger the offense again this winter. The Tartans start regular season play with a game at Barrack Hebrew Academy (Pa.) on December 3 and then compete in the George School (Pa.) Invitational from December 5-6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING DRIVE: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Harley Guzman dribbles upcourt in a game last year. Stuart will be looking for junior guard Guzman to trigger the offense again this winter. The Tartans start regular season play with a game at Barrack Hebrew Academy (Pa.) on December 3 and then compete in the George School (Pa.) Invitational from December 5-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Justin Leith has a lot on his plate in his first year as the athletics director at Stuart Country Day School.

But with a resume that includes starring for the Merrimack College basketball team before playing pro ball in Europe, Asia, Central and South America, and having coached the boys’ hoops team at the Asheville School in North Carolina the last three years, Leith couldn’t resist the chance to take the helm of Stuart’s basketball program this winter.

“I didn’t walk into this thinking I was going to coach; I hit the ground running in July and I was working on a lot of hires,” said Leith, noting that previous coach Dana Leary had left the program this spring after guiding the Tartans to an 8-8 record last season.

“It was kind of organic, it just happened. It was not a new thing for me to have this work load. I thought the girls would be getting a unique experience. I run a college/pro level practice with my background. They are being held to a higher standard in terms of work load.”

Leith has been enjoying the experience so far. “I have never coached a full girls team before,” said Leith, noting that he has done skills training with smaller groups of girl players.

“I was a little apprehensive. I was reserved for about 30 seconds and then I saw something I didn’t like and I was myself. The girls have responded well. I can’t say that there haven’t been bumps in the road in the first two weeks but they are working hard.”

Under Leith’s tutelage, the Stuart players will have to work hard at both ends of the court.

“It will be an in-your-face defense; we will do a little bit of everything, man, zone, full court,” said Leith, whose team starts regular season play with a game at Barrack Hebrew Academy (Pa.) on December 3 and then competes in the George School (Pa.) Invitational from December 5-6.

“They need to be able to switch in and out of things. We will not do anything stagnant, anything we do will be in your face. It may take time, but I love teaching kids how to play basketball. We will run motion and there will be autonomy within the offense. When kids are used to being told to go here, go there, they learn just a spot or a position, they don’t learn the game. As an example, I told them they should be able to go and play pickup with the Miami Heat and not get in the way. They don’t have that ability but they should know the game and where to be.”

The Tartans do have an inside game with Kate Walsh and Nneka Onukwugha, who both stand about 6 feet tall.

“We do have some height,” said Leith. “We can do some high-low stuff with Kate and Nneka. They are both getting better everyday. They are pushing through things they have never been asked to do. They are good adapters so far.”

On the perimeter, Stuart will be featuring senior Harlyn Bell and junior Harley Guzman.

“Harlyn is a mix, she will play both guard and forward,” said Leith, who will also be using junior Rose Tetnowski, sophomores Ally McGowen, Julia Kahn, and Vanessa Williams along with freshman Allison Walsh at guard.

“She has been great as a leader. Harley has been working hard, we are asking her to do a lot. In our scrimmages, her energy was transformative.”

If the Tartans can show a collective energy on a daily basis, they figure to make a lot of progress this winter.

“I think we can do some special things,” said Leith. “I am not guaranteeing wins but I think they can have a special experience. If they can get better at each practice and can be much better in the last practice than they were in the first, that will be success.”

SERVIS-ORIENTED: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Sam Servis goes after a ball in action this season. Junior star Servis, an All-Prep B performer along with classmate Tori Hannah, helped the Tartans post a 6-14-1 record this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SERVIS-ORIENTED: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Sam Servis goes after a ball in action this season. Junior star Servis, an All-Prep B performer along with classmate Tori Hannah, helped the Tartans post a 6-14-1 record this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team, its season-ending 6-0 victory over the Solebury School (Pa.) marked the culmination of an encouraging stretch drive.

While Stuart fell 2-1 to Pennington in the state Prep B quarterfinals and dropped a 1-0 nail-biter to Notre Dame in the days before the Solebury win, Tartan head coach Missy Bruvik saw plenty of progress in the final week of the campaign.

“We had a great Senior Day game against Solebury,” said Bruvik, who got two goals apiece from junior stars Tori Hannah and Sam Servis in the victory with Cate Donahue and Nneka Onukwugha also scoring.

“We got the opportunity to play Notre Dame and we lost 1-0; we didn’t give up a goal until the second half, we played so well, things clicked. We played a good game against Pennington. We gave up an early goal and that hurt us.”

Although the Tartans ended the fall at 6-14-1, Bruvik liked the way her players competed.

“The kids never gave up, they always played hard,” said Bruvik. “We had a lot of games that could have gone either way.”

While Stuart had only three seniors, Harlyn Bell, Fayette Plambeck and Onukwugha, they gave the team a lot this fall. “Harlyn Bell did a terrific job in goal,” said Bruvik.

“Fayette started every game in the back and was our only four-year player. Nneka had a great Senior Day game.”

The Tartans boasted a great group of juniors with a pair of All-Prep B performers in Hannah and Servis along with Donahue, Julia Maser, Elena Bernewitz, Rose Tetnowski, and Kate Walsh.

“I can’t wait for them to come back for next year, they are really the core of the team,” said Bruvik.

“They lead with how hard they work and their dedication. They have a lot of experience. Tori and Sam have great stickwork. Since freshman year they have put in that extra time outside of school and it really shows. Cate was one of our leading scorers.”

Bruvik saw dedication from top to bottom. “I love how hard our JV players worked; we were taking our numbers and getting the most out of them,” said Bruvik.

“Every kid got to play and improve. They understand what it takes to have a good program. It is a great group of kids. They don’t take themselves too seriously but they know when to work hard. They gave everything they had and I appreciate their efforts.”

November 26, 2014
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Princeton University women’s basketball players, Annie Tarakchian (No. 15) and Taylor Williams (No. 22) turn up the defensive pressure on a Drexel player last Wednesday at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers topped Drexel 59-43 in their home opener. Last Sunday, junior forward Tarakchian came up big for the Tigers, posting the team’s first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 63-56 win at American University. Princeton, now 4-0, will head to Mexico this week to compete in the 2014 Cancun Challenge.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Princeton University women’s basketball players, Annie Tarakchian (No. 15) and Taylor Williams (No. 22) turn up the defensive pressure on a Drexel player last Wednesday at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers topped Drexel 59-43 in their home opener. Last Sunday, junior forward Tarakchian came up big for the Tigers, posting the team’s first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 63-56 win at American University. Princeton, now 4-0, will head to Mexico this week to compete in the 2014 Cancun Challenge. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Looking at the Princeton University women’s basketball schedule, its game at American University last Sunday didn’t appear to be anything special.

While American, a member of the Patriot League, went 22-10 last winter on the way to the WNIT, the matchup didn’t generate the buzz of taking on a Top-25 foe.

Yet, courtesy of Tiger freshman forward Leslie Robinson, the niece of first lady and Princeton alumna Michelle Obama (nee Robinson) ’85, the trip to Washington D.C. turned into a weekend to remember.

With Robinson’s special family ties, the Tigers got red carpet treatment. “We headed down on Saturday; we had a private tour of the White House,” said Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart. “We got to go on the White House court and played a pick up game.”

Mrs. Obama and daughters, Malia and Sasha, were on hand Sunday evening as the Tigers took on the Eagles.

“It was a great college environment, around 2,000 were there with the presence of the Obamas,” said Banghart.

With Princeton up 36-26 at halftime, the Tigers got a special message at intermission.

“Michelle came in at halftime, telling us how much she was enjoying the team and how she and her daughters were having a good time,” said Banghart, whose team posed for photos with the Obamas in the locker room.

Banghart enjoyed seeing her team come out in the second half and pull out a 63-56 win over American. “They were attentive to the game plan,” said Banghart, who got 19 points from senior guard Blake Dietrick with Michelle Miller chipping in 15.

“When a team is down by 10 in the second half like American, they play with reckless abandon and take chances. You can’t prepare for that. We weathered that OK. We didn’t make all the free throws but we got some big offensive rebounds.”

The Tigers are off to a big start this season as the victory improved their record to 4-0.

“I am happy that they are committed to the right things defensively, talk is just talk but they are showing it in their play,” said Banghart, whose team was at its stifling best when it topped Drexel 59-43 last Wednesday in its home opener and is only giving up 51.0 points a game and holding foes to a .345 field goal percentage.

“We haven’t hit our stride offensively. We have played teams from four different conferences with three of the games on the road.”

Star point guard Dietrick has hit her stride in the early going, averaging 13.3 points and 5.0 assists per game.

“Blake has started off the year strongly; she is the lead guard and has done a good job of handling the ball and getting everyone involved,” said Banghart of Dietrick, who was named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich. “She knows how important her role is and that she also needs to make shots.”

Two juniors, Annie Tarakchian and Amanda Berntsen, have been making important contributions this season. Tarakchian posted the team’s first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the win over American while Berntsen had a career-high five steals in the win over Drexel.

“Annie is a great rebounder and is committed to that part of the game; she is a work in progress on defense and the offensive end, she is improving in those areas,” said Banghart.

“Amanda gives us a ton of energy, extreme focus, and is a relentless competitor. Her role is usually to shut down the other team’s best player.”

Banghart is looking to see other players step up. “We need to continue to build depth; we have a solid eight,” added Banghart, whose squad is averaging 65.0 points a game with seven players averaging 5.0 or more points led by Miller at 14.0 points per contest.

“Robinson has been a positive addition, bringing energy at both ends of the court. Vanessa Smith is attacking better than she did last year.”

The Tigers will be hoping to enjoy another positive experience on the road as they head to Mexico this week to take part in the 2014 Cancun Challenge. Princeton is slated to play Wake Forest on Thursday, Montana on Friday, and UNC-Charlotte on Saturday.

“Wake is tough, I think I would rather play them at their own gym than in this situation,” said Banghart.

“Charlotte and Montana are two very solid teams. They will be three tough games in a row. It will be more adversity. We are finding solutions in discomfort. Our goal is to make them uncomfortable in the preseason.”

GREEN WAVE: Princeton University running back Joe Rhattigan fends off a tackler in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Rhattigan scored a touchdown but it wasn’t nearly enough as Princeton fell 41-10 to Dartmouth in the season finale. The Big Green has now won five straight games in the rivalry. The defeat left Princeton with a final record of 5-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy League.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GREEN WAVE: Princeton University running back Joe Rhattigan fends off a tackler in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Rhattigan scored a touchdown but it wasn’t nearly enough as Princeton fell 41-10 to Dartmouth in the season finale. The Big Green has now won five straight games in the rivalry. The defeat left Princeton with a final record of 5-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy League. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its season finale last Saturday against visiting Dartmouth, the Princeton University football team was looking to play the spoiler role.

Entering the final weekend, Dartmouth was in second place in the Ivy League standings behind undefeated Harvard and needed to beat Princeton and have Yale upend the Crimson to get a share of the league title.

Instead, Dartmouth spoiled Princeton’s Senior Day, rolling to a 41-10 win over the Tigers before a crowd of 6,663 at Princeton Stadium.

Dartmouth, though, didn’t get a piece of the title as Harvard pulled out a 31-24 win over Yale to cap a perfect campaign.

In the view of Princeton head coach Bob Surace, Dartmouth did produce a championship-caliber performance.

“The bottom line is that we lost at the line of scrimmage today, that is very disappointing and disheartening,” lamented Surace, whose team finished the year at 5-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy while Dartmouth ended up at 8-2 overall, 6-1 Ivy. “I knew they were really good coming in to it and thought they were the equal of Harvard.”

The loss stung as the Class of 2015 went out on a down note, one year after they had helped Princeton earn a share of the Ivy crown with Harvard.

“It is emotional because of guys like Mike Zeuli, Quinn Epperly, Connor Michelsen, Connor Kelley, Will Powers, you can go on and on,” said Surace, whose Class of 2015 included 27 players and posted wins over every Ivy foe except Dartmouth in their careers.

“They have just given their all to the program, the disappointment mostly is for them. I just didn’t do a good enough job of getting the rest of the guys to be as exact as we needed to be. I thought we played two teams that were super this year in Dartmouth and Harvard and another really, really good team in Yale.”

Princeton faced a super player Saturday in Dartmouth junior quarterback Dalyn Williams, who hit 30-of-35 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers.

“He is such a good athlete; when we first played him a couple of years ago, he had that improvisational skill,” said Surace.

“I told Buddy (Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens) before the game that he has done a really good job with him, learning to pick his moments and spots. It is one of those darned if you do, darned if you don’t things; you want to stop him from running and he has become such an accurate passer, he beats you that way.”

Williams struck early on Saturday, hitting Bo Patterson for a 58-yard touchdown pass on the fourth play from scrimmage as the Big Green jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers answered back with an 11-play, 44-yard march that culminated with a Nolan Bieck field goal as they narrowed the gap to 7-3.

“We kicked a field goal and the score was relatively within reach for a long time in the first half,” said Surace. “I didn’t think we were winning the line of scrimmage which was disappointing; that’s a hard thing to flip.”

Dartmouth’s strength in the trenches started to take a toll as it marched 80 yards midway through the second quarter and went ahead 14-3 on a 4-yard TD pass from Williams to Ryan McManus. The Big Green tacked on a field goal with six seconds left in the quarter to take a 17-3 halftime lead.

In the second half, Dartmouth dominated, reeling off 24 unanswered points before the Tigers scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Joe Rhattigan with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter to make it 41-10 and end the scoring for the day.

Sophomore Rhattigan acknowledged that the Tigers were stifled all day by the Big Green.

“The Dartmouth defense played well; you can see it in the stats, you could see it on the field,” said Rhattigan, reflecting on a day that saw Princeton get outgained 518 yards to 228.

“There are things on our side of the ball that we could definitely have improved on. I think they played well. From what I saw, they were very gap conscious. They were filling gaps, they were shedding blocks well. They were just giving us a hard time up front.”

The Tigers hit the field Saturday looking to play well and break a four-game losing streak in the series with Dartmouth.

“Every game is the same, you play the game to win,” said Rhattigan. “Ivy League title or not, you want to win the game so we definitely had a lot to play for. There was 20-something seniors playing their last game. We owed it to them to give it our best.”

Surace, though, conceded that Princeton’s best wasn’t good enough this season.

“Last week, when we were eliminated, I was reminded of a story,” said Surace.

“We had a mediocre year when I was a player here and Pete Carril (Hall of Fame Princeton men’s basketball coach) said to us first place or no place, there is nothing in between and that’s the bottom line. One team celebrates and the other seven of us didn’t get done what we needed to accomplish. We are a 5-5 team and that’s what we are. We are a fourth place team in a really good league and we  have to improve on a number of things.”

Rhattigan, for his part, believes the returning players can take some lessons from the departing seniors in the quest to return to the top of the Ivies.

“They teach you the way of Princeton football and how you have to be to win,” said Rhattigan.

“They were part of that championship team last year. They were part of this team this year. You learn from them, they obviously have the experience.”

NET VALUE: Princeton University men’s water polo goalie Vojislav Mitrovic guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Mitrovic made 15 saves in a losing cause as Princeton fell 7-6 to Brown in the CWPA championship game. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 23-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET VALUE: Princeton University men’s water polo goalie Vojislav Mitrovic guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Mitrovic made 15 saves in a losing cause as Princeton fell 7-6 to Brown in the CWPA championship game. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 23-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering an 11-9 loss to St. Francis in the 2013 CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) championship game, the Princeton University men’s water polo team seemed poised to take the next step this fall.

Coming into this year’s CWPA tourney last weekend at Navy, Princeton was 21-3, ranked No. 8 in the country, and riding a ten-game winning streak.

“I thought we had momentum,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao. “It was the first weekend all year where we were all healthy and had a full squad. We were confident but we knew it was going to be tough.”

Princeton played with confidence and showed toughness as it topped Johns Hopkins 18-5 in the quarterfinals.

“It was a great start, we played well in all facets of the game,” said Nicolao, who got four goals from junior Thomas Nelson in the win with freshman Jordan Colina adding three. “We got the attack going and we had a great defensive effort. We showed we were ready and prepared.”

The Tigers produced another great effort as they edged host Navy 6-3 in the semis.

“It was the typical Princeton-Navy game; it was really intense and very physical,” said Nicolao, a Navy water polo star in his college days.

“We got up early and we were able to hold on with some good defense. It was a great game, it was a great environment.”

In the championship game against Brown, the Tigers fell down early and couldn’t get over the hump as they dropped a 7-6 nailbiter to fall just short of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“We knew they were really good; they had a great game plan and they played really well,” said Nicolao.

“We didn’t play well, we didn’t execute. We made mistakes and fell behind 3-0. We had to grind it the whole game. We got it to 5-5 but we never got the lead. We just weren’t able to capitalize on opportunities. Things didn’t click, balls weren’t falling for us. We still had a chance to win but we didn’t find the back of the net. Brown played a great game, I was impressed by them.”

While the season-ending loss stung, Nicolao was impressed by what his players achieved this fall as they went 23-4.

“We really had a great year; we lost only four games and we were ranked in the top 10 most of the year,” said Nicolao.

“In our sport, it comes down to one game and we didn’t win. It is hard to think about it right now but in time, the players will realize we had a great season.”

The team’s group of seniors made a great impact on the program. “They are going to be missed,” said Nicolao, whose Class of 2015 includes Drew Hoffenberg, Sam Butler, Kayj Shannon, and Kevin Zhang.

“We went to three CWPA championship games in their four years. I will take that from every class. They fought hard, they gave us their all, and they made us relevant.”

In Nicolao’s view, the Tigers will continue to be relevant on the national scene.

“We have a great returning group, we have a lot of good pieces,” said Nicolao, who will welcome back such stars as junior Jamie Kuprenas, sophomore Jovan Jeremic, freshman Connor McGoldrick, freshman Vojislav Mitrovic, in addition to Nelson and Colina.

“I hope we have a chip on our shoulder. We are the first Princeton team to lose two CWPA championship games back-to-back. I hope that gives them a little extra motivation. It is a matter of us doing what we have to do, working hard in the offseason and coming back in great shape. The goal is always to get to the CWPA finals and see what happens. It takes some luck and we didn’t have that yesterday.”

PRESSURE COOKER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Steven Cook fights through two University of Incarnate Word defenders last Saturday at Jadwin Gym. Sophomore Cook scored 14 points in 33 minutes off the bench but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 79-68 to the Cardinals. The Tigers, now 1-3, head to California this week where they will compete in the Wooden Legacy, an eight-team event Thursday through Sunday in Fullerton and Anaheim. Princeton starts play in the competition by facing UTEP on November 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRESSURE COOKER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Steven Cook fights through two University of Incarnate Word defenders last Saturday at Jadwin Gym. Sophomore Cook scored 14 points in 33 minutes off the bench but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 79-68 to the Cardinals. The Tigers, now 1-3, head to California this week where they will compete in the Wooden Legacy, an eight-team event Thursday through Sunday in Fullerton and Anaheim. Princeton starts play in the competition by facing UTEP on November 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s basketball team hosting the little-known University of Incarnate Word last Saturday morning at 11 a.m., things were a little quiet at Jadwin Gym.

With the crowd of 1,554 on hand growing listless, Princeton sleepwalked through the first 12 minutes of the contest, finding themselves down 29-12 to the school from San Antonio, Texas, which is in its second year of Division I play.

Waking up a little bit, the Tigers went on a 15-2 run to narrow the gap to 31-27 at halftime.

Princeton forged ahead 43-40 in the early stages of the second half before the Cardinals responded with a 16-8 run of their own.

Then Princeton sophomore forward Steven Cook put a charge into the crowd, flying in for a thunderous dunk from the baseline. Adding a free throw on the play to make the UIW lead to 56-54, it seemed like the Tigers had seized the momentum.

Instead, Princeton squandered that advantage as the Cardinals fought back and regained control of the contest.

“I really thought the play that stood out was when Steve had a nice baseline drive with the and one finish and they come right back and come down with 6 minutes left and get their own and one, which was a huge swing play,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson. “Then we come down the floor and miss a layup; we are just not understanding what it is going to take.

The Tigers never got closer than three the rest of the game as they went on to lose 79-68 and drop to 1-3.

Afterward, Henderson didn’t mince words in assessing the setback. “It was a disappointing loss for us,” said Henderson, who got a career-high 22 points from sophomore Spencer Weisz in the defeat.

“I don’t want to make light of us at all because I think we have got a long way to go but we seem to manage to allow teams to do what they do really well. We are a work in progress with more work than I would like us to be needing, especially going into a really difficult weekend ahead.”

Cook, for his part, shared Henderson’s frustration. “I thought a lot of improvements could be made across the board as a team,” said Cook, who scored 14 points and had seven rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes of work off the bench in the loss.

“Defensively I don’t think we did a great job. Individually, I think about improvements I could be making. We are always about work. It is a long season and we are just four games in.”

Henderson is seeing improved play from Cook. “He is terrific, I don’t think he is going to come off the bench any more,” said Henderson. “We have got to get him in there because he has been very good. I think Steve has done what we have asked him to do. He is aggressive going to the rim.”

Cook acknowledged that he has benefitted from having a year of college ball under his belt.

“I am personally feeling more comfortable,” said Cook, a 6’5, 185-pound native of Winnetka, Ill.

“We are a young team in general but that is no excuse. We need to step up, we have a lot of experience, even among the young guys, and we need to play that way. We need to play with poise.”

In Henderson’s view, the Tigers also need to do some soul searching. “I hope they learn that it has got to sting and it has got to hurt,” said Henderson, whose team heads to California this week where it will compete in the Wooden Legacy, an eight-team event Thursday through Sunday in Fullerton and Anaheim.

“They have to look themselves in the mirror a little bit and say OK what are you afraid of here? Are you afraid to be great, are you afraid to work really hard in practice, are you giving it everything you have got at all times?”

Cook, for his part, believes the Tigers are ready to give their all. “We don’t let ourselves be disappointed for too long; this program has always been about work,” asserted Cook.

“We have to stay focused on what we need to do, individually and as a team. We are going to have a big practice on Monday and we are going to work from there.”