May 28, 2014
CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Anupreeth Coramutla follows through on a shot in recent action. Last week, freshman Coramutla placed second in first singles to help PDS win the state Prep B tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CORE CONTRIBUTOR: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Anupreeth Coramutla follows through on a shot in recent action. Last week, freshman Coramutla placed second in first singles to help PDS win the state Prep B tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A year ago, the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team jumped into first place the first day of the state Prep B tournament only to come back to the pack to end up in a three-way tie for the title.

Sharing the crown with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley Academy left PDS head coach Will Asch feeling disappointed.

“I think sharing the title in most years is just as nice as winning it alone but it didn’t feel that way last year,” said Asch. “We had a big lead after the first day and we lost some tough matches in the finals.”

Last week, PDS didn’t leave anything to chance in the 2014 Prep B tourney, winning nine of 10 matches on the first day to clinch the title before the finals were even played.

The Panthers saw freshman Anupreeth Coramutla advance to final in first singles with senior Neeraj Devulapalli and sophomore Scott Altmeyer following suit at second and third singles, respectively. The second doubles team of  seniors Hari Rajagopalan and Andy Erickson also made it to the finals.

In reflecting on his team’s performance, Asch acknowledged that he was expecting a much closer fight.

“On paper we looked like the best team; we knew we were better than Pennington, we had beaten them twice pretty easily,” said Asch, who got wins from Devulapalli and Altmeyer in the finals to end up with 11 points with MKA second with six and Gill St. Bernard’s third at four.

“MKA is usually very strong but I was talking to their coach and he said a couple of their seniors had not come out and they were in a down year. We all had strong teams but there wasn’t a dominant team. We had a few close wins on Sunday that could have gone either way.”

Seeing veteran star Devulapalli end his career with a title was a highlight for Asch.

“Neeraj played well; he had a tough second set on Tuesday and I was happy to help him work through it,” said Asch.

“He was down 4-3 and won 6-4. He didn’t have his best stuff but sometimes you have to win when you don’t have your best stuff. He was really dominant in his first and second matches. His forehand was working. His pet shot is a crosscourt forehand and it is a great weapon for him.”

The renaissance of Altmeyer at third singles was heartening. “Scott was one of the top ranked players in the middle states in the 12-and-under but he had some injury problems and got away from the game,” said Asch.

“He has gotten back into it. He loves to compete. He is relentless on the court, he just goes and goes. He plays fast; his matches are over while other guys are still in the first set.”

At first singles, Coramutla displayed his competitive drive. “Anupreeth didn’t play well in his first match on Sunday,” said Asch.

“In his second match, he had to play the No. 2 seed, Pete Daly, who everyone was saying was so good. Anupreeth blew him away. It was one of his days, he was doing everything we had practiced. Progress in tennis at a high level is not quick but he seemed to have incredible improvement. He was serving well and making all of his shots. He just couldn’t beat Jerry in the finals.”

The second doubles team of Rajagopalan and Erickson proved to be the X-factor for the Panthers.

“The second doubles was a real surprise in the Prep B,” said Asch. “They came from behind in the first round to beat Gill. Getting two wins from them really helped us stand out. We ended up winning nine of 10 matches on the first day and clinched the title. If they had lost in the first round, that would have put us at seven and a good team like Gill could have had two more wins.”

In Asch’s view, the team’s success was forged through its spirited training sessions.

“I think we have been having really good practices,” said Asch. “It was great having three singles players who were very competitive and enjoyed playing with each other. We had two very good doubles teams and they were able to practice a lot against each other.”

All in all, it was an enjoyable spring for the Panthers. “It was a great year all around,” said Asch, noting that assistant coach Ed Tseng also played a key role. “They were great kids, we had a lot of success and a lot of fun.”

May 21, 2014
OPEN ARMS: Princeton University women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny, far left, celebrates with the members of her varsity 8 after the Tigers won the final last Sunday at the Ivy League championships on Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J. Princeton clocked a time of 6:15.412 to a set a course record in Ivy and Eastern Sprints competition at the venue. In addition, the Tigers earned the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championship regatta by virtue of the victory. The NCAAs are slated for May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.(Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League)

OPEN ARMS: Princeton University women’s open crew head coach Lori Dauphiny, far left, celebrates with the members of her varsity 8 after the Tigers won the final last Sunday at the Ivy League championships on Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J. Princeton clocked a time of 6:15.412 to a set a course record in Ivy and Eastern Sprints competition at the venue. In addition, the Tigers earned the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championship regatta by virtue of the victory. The NCAAs are slated for May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League)

After the Princeton University women’s open crew varsity 8 lost to Brown and Virginia in the first two weeks of the season, Lori Dauphiny decided to do some tinkering.

“The lineup did shift,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny, whose top boat finished 3.0 seconds behind Brown in the opener on March 29 and the same 3.0 second margin behind Virginia a week later.

“It was the same personnel as in the first race against Brown but the seats shifted. We were clicking better and the individuals within the boat all improved as the season went on. It was important to know that we had to improve. We got to see our weaknesses, as painful as that was.”

The Tigers shifted into top gear over the last month of the regular season, going undefeated and posting victories over Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, Penn, and Clemson.

“We were making progress,” added Dauphiny. “I did get a sense in the last two or three weeks that we were making big strides. We were homing in on race preparation. We were working on all aspects of the race. They had more racing experience. They have more savvy as a boat and had learned to handle different conditions. This boat has shown resilience.”

The Tigers knew that they would have to be resilient as they competed last weekend at the Ivy League championships on Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J.

“The competition was pretty deep; Brown was ranked No. 1 and was the favorite,” said Dauphiny.

“We knew the other boats were gaining speed. Harvard made changes. Dartmouth did well in its heat, it clearly improved. The schools further north tend to gain more speed so the speeds were unknown.”

Apparently, Princeton gained the most speed over the last few weeks as it roared out to an early lead in the final and never looked back, getting open water on its foes, posting a winning time of 6:15.412, more than four seconds better than runner-up Brown at 6:19.722.

The effort set a course record in Ivy and Eastern Sprints competition at the venue and earned the Tigers the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championship regatta which is slated for May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.

“It was our best start ever,” asserted Dauphiny, whose varsity 8 included junior Faith Richardson (bow), senior Angie Gould, senior Susannah Shipton, sophomore Meghan Wheeler, freshman Georgie Howe, sophomore Erin Reelick, senior Margy Bertasi, senior Kelsey Reelick (stroke), and senior Annie Prasad (cox).

“I didn’t know what would happen after that. I didn’t know the charge the other boats would make. I am always nervous. I did feel a little better after the heat. I thought this boat could do something good.”

In reflecting on the record-breaking performance, Dauphiny acknowledged that the top boat exceeded her expectations.

“It was an amazing performance,” said Dauphiny. “I didn’t realize it was a course record for the EARC and Ivy until I was on the awards dock. That is outstanding. I didn’t anticipate that at the beginning of the season. It is a nice surprise and a testament to their hard work.”

The hard work of the rowers throughout the program was on display as the Tigers finished second in the team standings at the regatta to Brown, earning a slew of medals.

“The accomplishments of the top boat are the accomplishments of all the rowers,” said Dauphiny, whose second varsity 8 and varsity 4 each finished third with the third varsity 8 and fourth varsity 8 each placing first and the varsity 4B taking second.

“Each girl who raced on Sunday had a medal around her neck. They push each other and support each other. It is a nice environment. It takes a team.”

The 2V and varsity 4 each produced efforts to build on as they will be joining the varsity 8 at the NCAA regatta.

“The 2V fell short of what they wanted to do but I am pleased that they did their best,” said Dauphiny, noting that assistant coaches Kate Maxim and Steve Coppola have played an integral role in getting the boats up to speed.

“They got a medal. The lineups change and the speeds of the boats are unknown. The varsity 4 went through a lot, they made big strides; they had a lot of lineup changes and handled that well.”

Looking ahead to Indianapolis, Dauphiny is hoping that her rowers can make even more strides.

“We plan to keep working on it,” said Dauphiny, whose program is one of three programs, along with Brown and Washington, that have qualified for every championship regatta since the inaugural event in 1997. “We want to maintain our form.”

HEAVY MEDAL: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 heads down Lake Carnegie in a recent regatta. Last weekend, Princeton earned a bronze medal as it took third in the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. The Tigers will look for another medal when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor from May 30 - June 1.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

HEAVY MEDAL: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 heads down Lake Carnegie in a recent regatta. Last weekend, Princeton earned a bronze medal as it took third in the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. The Tigers will look for another medal when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor from May 30 – June 1. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Seeing his Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew go to Brown in its regular season finale gave Greg Hughes confidence heading into the Eastern Sprints.

“There were a lot of things that we were working on that we executed well in that race,” said Princeton head coach Hughes.

“It was a boost. We built off a lot of things from that race in our preps for Sprints.”

Posting the fastest heat on Sunday morning at the Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. was another boost for the Tigers.

“We saw that we had the speed to compete at the top,” said Hughes. “We also saw that the league is pretty wide open, there was not one crew that stood out. Whoever put up the best race on the day could win.”

While Princeton didn’t win the final as it took third behind champion Harvard and runner-up Brown, it did produce some good racing.

“It was a tight, competitive field and the conditions were really quick,” said Hughes, whose boat clocked a time of 5:32.411 over the 2,000-meter course with Harvard coming in at 5:27.277 and Brown at 5:28.998.

“In a race like that you have got to get into the race. We were in the pack in the first 750-1000 meters. We established ourselves. We had a good battle on our side with Harvard and Northeastern. Brown did a great job on the other side; they had a really good piece.”

Moving up to the medal stand was a great step forward for the Tigers, whose varsity 8 had taken fourth at the Sprints the last two years.

“It was a solid race for our guys, we wanted to do a little better,” said Hughes.

“We know what we need to work on for the IRAs (the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championship regatta). For a lot of the guys, it was their first medal in a varsity race and for others it was their first medal at sprints. To go into a race that competitive and step up and be strong and fast enough to get a medal when you are not at your best is a major stride forward.”

The Tiger second varsity 8 showed its competitive fire, taking second, an eyelash behind winner Northeastern.

“That was arguably the race of the day,” said Hughes, whose 2V clocked a time of 5:38.837 with Northeastern coming in at 5:37.781.

“It was just an awesome race; all of the boats were within five seconds. You could have been second or sixth just as easily and they found a way to be second.”

While the third varsity 8 didn’t medal as it placed fourth, Hughes was proud of its effort.

“That was their best piece of the year,” noted Hughes “In the regular season we were dealing with some sickness and injury and that trickled down through the boats. Guys were moving up. They raced a lot of different lineups and I was happy they built their speed and had a race like that.”

With the IRAs scheduled for May 30 — June 1 at Mercer Lake, Hughes is looking for his rowers to keep building their speed.

“I think it is more of the same; the work we have been doing has helped us technically,” said Hughes.

“We need to develop race skills and race mentality. That was a tight 6-boat racing last weekend, particularly in the final. That was the first time we saw that this season. We will be more capable of doing that for three days straight when we are in the IRAs.”

Hughes believes that competing at the nearby venue should spur a big final effort from the Tigers.

“We are definitely looking forward to it; it is close to home and close to our fans,” said Hughes.

“It is a good venue for racing, the athletes will feel like they are at a national championship. We saw that in Sacramento last year, they created an awesome environment for the athletes and I am sure it will be the same at Mercer Lake. It is some of the most exciting rowing racing in the world. The college crews are evenly matched, there is very little between them. It highlights the sport and what is so great about it.”

ENDING WITH A BANG: Mike Olentine unloads the ball this spring in his final season with the Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton High standout Olentine ended his college career with a bang, scoring a program record 10 goals as Dartmouth topped Holy Cross 17-13 in its season finale on April 29. Attackman Olentine was Dartmouth’s top scorer this season with 28 points on 21 goals and seven assists and ended up with 58 points in his career as he totaled 43 goals and 15 assists.(Photo by John and Matt Risely/Dartmouth Athletics)

ENDING WITH A BANG: Mike Olentine unloads the ball this spring in his final season with the Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton High standout Olentine ended his college career with a bang, scoring a program record 10 goals as Dartmouth topped Holy Cross 17-13 in its season finale on April 29. Attackman Olentine was Dartmouth’s top scorer this season with 28 points on 21 goals and seven assists and ended up with 58 points in his career as he totaled 43 goals and 15 assists. (Photo by John and Matt Risely/Dartmouth Athletics)

As Mike Olentine took the field for the final game of his career with the Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse program, he was focused on team goals.

“Before the game, the seniors came together as a group,” said Olentine, a former Princeton High football and lax star reflecting on Dartmouth’s finale against Holy Cross on April 29.

“We knew we were going to play most of the game and we really wanted to get a win.”

But within a 1:28 span of the first quarter, Olentine scored three goals and realized that he was in a zone.

“I was moving a lot off the ball and my teammates were finding me,” said the wiry 5’11, 160-pound attackman whose previous single-game high was three goals. “My shooting hasn’t been the greatest this spring but the shots were falling.”

By halftime, Olentine had five goals and he wasn’t about to stop firing away.

“I knew I was scoring a lot of goals,” said Olentine.

“Holy Cross had some good players so I knew I had to keep scoring goals to help us win.”

In the fourth quarter, Olentine realized he had the chance to make some history.

“When I had eight there was a timeout and someone whispered to me that I was one away from the school record,” recalled Olentine. “I kept scoring.”

Olentine ended up adding two more tallies in the last 3:36 of regulation to set a program record of 10 goals and while he was thrilled to hit double figures, the deeper satisfaction came from the fact that Dartmouth prevailed 17-12.

“It was definitely a great end to a career without any regrets; I am ready to move on,” said Olentine.

“The most fun thing about the experience was having happy teammates going out with a win and going out with my classmates that way.”

Coming into his senior year, Olentine knew that he had to use his experience to help the team.

“Going through the fall and heading into the preseason, I realized that I was one of the only players who had a lot of game experience,” said Olentine.

“I was going to play on an attack line with two freshmen and we had a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the midfield. I wanted to be more of a vocal leader and lead on the field. In the past, I was more focused on my game.”

Dartmouth entered the spring with a lot of confidence despite its group of callow players.

“I think even though we had a fairly young team, we had high expectations,” said Olentine.

“We had a lot of hope going into the season. We wanted to qualify for the Ivy League tournament and then win two games.”

Starting the season with an 18-5 loss to North Carolina got Dartmouth headed in the wrong direction.

“I think it was tough going down to North Carolina, they had two games under their belt and they were a strong team,” said Olentine.

“We had some injuries in the preseason which held us back. We didn’t find our groove early on.”

After defeating Sacred Heart 14-10 on March 1, the Big Green lost eight straight, including all six of its Ivy contests.

“Penn State was really strong, they had the third top scorer in the country and one of our defensive guys held him down; we were in that game almost the whole way,” said Olentine, reflecting on the 10-6 defeat to the Nittany Lions on March 18 which started the losing streak.

“We had tough games against Harvard and Cornell; we didn’t play a full 60 minutes.”

Dartmouth did play a full 60 minutes in a 13-10 defeat at Princeton on April 12, pushing the Tigers to the final whistle.

“I was really looking forward to going home; it is fun playing against Princeton,” said Olentine, who scored three goals in the 2013 meeting between the rivals as Dartmouth pulled off a 10-9 upset.

“I watched them a lot when I was a kid. They had a really strong offensive team and our defense had a solid game. We were trading goals with them. I had a goal; that was great.”

The Big Green lost 9-3 to Penn and 12-8 to Brown as they played out the string before the ending the season against Holy Cross.

“Once we were mathematically eliminated from the Ivy League tournament, it was about trying to build going into the next season and sending the seniors out on a high,” said Olentine, who was Dartmouth’s top scorer this season with 28 points on 21 goals and seven assists and ended up with 58 points in his career as he totaled 43 goals and 15 assists.

For Olentine, his Dartmouth experience has helped him be a high achiever on and off the field.

“I have enjoyed every part of my four years, I made best friends that I will have for the rest of my life,” said Olentine, who was named to the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) Senior Scholar Academic All-Region Team and will be working as a trader for the Gelber Group in Chicago after graduation.

“Playing D-1 sports is like taking a couple of extra courses; you have something to do everyday. It helped me develop a work ethic, manage my time, and I met some wonderful people along the way.”

BANNER DAY: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Kevin Halliday heads to goal last week in action in the Mercer County Tournament. Senior midfielder Halliday came through in the clutch to help fourth-seeded PHS edge second-seeded Allentown 11-10 in overtime in the MCT championship game last Thursday. Halliday scored the game-tying goal with 4.1 seconds in regulation and then notched the decisive tally 10 seconds into overtime as PHS earned its second straight MCT title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BANNER DAY: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Kevin Halliday heads to goal last week in action in the Mercer County Tournament. Senior midfielder Halliday came through in the clutch to help fourth-seeded PHS edge second-seeded Allentown 11-10 in overtime in the MCT championship game last Thursday. Halliday scored the game-tying goal with 4.1 seconds in regulation and then notched the decisive tally 10 seconds into overtime as PHS earned its second straight MCT title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday believed the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team was in good shape as it clung to a 9-7 lead over Allentown with three minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday.

“All year long we have been pretty good at holding the ball in our box when the game is on the line and it is winding down,” said PHS senior star midfielder Halliday.

But with the Little Tigers minutes away from clinching a second straight MCT title, things went awry. “We made a couple of mistakes and they made some great plays,” said Halliday.

Indeed, the Redbirds reeled off three straight goals, the last one coming with 14.1 seconds in regulation, prompting celebration on the Allentown sideline as victory seemed imminent with a 10-9 lead and only a few ticks remaining in the clock.

As Halliday lined up for the last face-off of regulation, he had a vision. “When I came over to the wing, I was like oh god if I could get a goal right here, it would be a highlight play,” recalled Halliday.

The ball came to Halliday’s side and he scooped it up and sprinted to the goal and made the highlight play he envisioned, burying the ball in the back of the net with 4.1 seconds left to knot the game at 10-10 and force overtime.

“I wasn’t expecting it to happen; it bounced out and I got the ball,” said a smiling Halliday.

“There was one guy, I saw the time and I thought it is now or never. I went to the goal and luckily I was able to get by the other guy and get it in the net.”

Moments later, Halliday got another good bounce as he gathered in the ball on the overtime faceoff and fired in the game-winning tally 10 seconds into the extra session.

“The coach said ‘Kevin be a ballhawk, find the ball,’” said Halliday, who had four goals and an assist in the contest.

“I wasn’t expecting to find the ball in front of the net with no one on me but I got it and I am a senior captain and I have got to make that shot.”

Making that shot set off a raucous celebration as the Little Tigers basked in the glow of their second straight MCT crown.

“It is huge for this team and it is huge for this program,” said Halliday, reflecting on the title repeat.

“Before last year, we hadn’t had a Mercer County championship under our belt and we felt like we always had the talent and finally we just got it going. It feels really great to be part of this team.”

In Halliday’s view, PHS’s special unity has helped make it a championship team.

“Our coach (PHS head coach Peter Stanton) has been saying all year that this is one of the best teams he has coached,” said Halliday, who also stars at soccer and will be playing that sport for the Tufts University men’s program starting this fall.

“We are so close; in every practice, everyone is working together. It is competitive; defense versus offense but it’s all good.”

PHS head coach Stanton cited his team’s ability to work through adversity as a key to overcoming Allentown.

“We learned it from the South game (a 10-9 overtime win against WW/P-S in the first round of the MCT), keeping an emotional balance so if a bad play happens, have one bad play and then turn around and have an excellent one,” said Stanton.

“So today there were a lot of times where we had a lead and we could have been saying we got this game and then they came back. We stayed present the whole game and that is a credit to our boys being able to listen what I ask them to do and then do it.”

The squad’s combination of offensive balance and rugged defense has helped the Little Tigers stay at the front of the pack in the county.

“Kevin made the heroic plays today but it is our whole team,” said Stanton, who got three goals from senior Matt Purdy in the win over Allentown with freshman Johnny Lopez-Ona chipping in two goals and three assists and senior Matt Corrado contributing two goals and two assists.

“In the Hopewell game (a 7-3 win over Hopewell Valley in the MCT semis), afterwards we talked about who was the star of that game and we said nobody was great. Our team played great in that whole game and there is nothing more exciting than when a team shares a huge victory.”

Stanton pointed the leadership of Halliday and his fellow seniors as playing a great role in establishing the team chemistry.

“We have been praising them all season long,” said Stanton, whose Class of 2014 included Adam Durner, Zeid Hashem, quad-captain Patrick McCormick, Warren Santoro, Dalton Sekelsky along with captains Purdy, Corrado, and Halliday.

“Nobody outworks those guys. They are phenomenal at supporting the younger players; they are phenomenal at supporting each other. We always talk about let’s be the team that people want to be on and they make it a team you want to be on. We have fun. We have dance contests; we sit around and watch videos together.”

The Little Tigers are looking to have some more fun in the state tournament where they have been seeded fourth in the Group III South sectional.

“That’s the thing about this time of the year, you would like a little time to just sit down and say this is great,” said Stanton, whose team topped 13th-seeded Hightstown 9-5 last Saturday in its state opener to improve to 15-3 and was slated to host No. 5 Lacey in a quarterfinal contest on May 20 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 22.

“This is a major goal for them and they will have an opportunity to enjoy it and hopefully quickly set their sights on the next goal.”

Halliday, for his part, is looking forward to going after the goal of a state crown.

“We have some pretty tough competitors in the states,” said Halliday, who helped the PHS boys’ soccer team to a pair of state Group III titles.

“Shawnee (the top-seeded team in the sectional) is a great team. We saw them last year and lost in a close game and we are hoping to see them again on their turf and seeing what we can do. My experience in lacrosse and soccer is that when you do well in the counties, you get a big boost going into the states.”

GOLD STANDARD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Kenan Glasgold makes a save against Hopewell Valley last week in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior Glasgold made nine saves in the May 13 contest as fourth-seeded PHS won 7-3 over the top-seeded Bulldogs. Two days later, Glasgold had five saves as PHS edged second-seeded Allentown 11-10 in overtime to win its second straight MCT title.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOLD STANDARD: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Kenan Glasgold makes a save against Hopewell Valley last week in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior Glasgold made nine saves in the May 13 contest as fourth-seeded PHS won 7-3 over the top-seeded Bulldogs. Two days later, Glasgold had five saves as PHS edged second-seeded Allentown 11-10 in overtime to win its second straight MCT title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Knowing that he had a chance to be the starting goalie this spring for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team Kenan Glasgold put his nose to the grindstone over the offseason.

“I just worked a lot privately with guys, getting guys to shoot on me,” said junior Glasgold.

“I also worked with Brad Conlon, the Princeton goalie coach, over the fall, it was one-on-one training.”

While Glasgold’s diligence paid off as he earned the starting role this spring, it took him a while to develop a comfort level in the crease.

“I was really nervous,” said Glasgold. “My teammates were giving me confidence and I was getting better every game. Our first WW/P-S game (a 10-2 win on March 29) was a good game for me.”

Last week, Glasgold showed why he has earned the confidence of his teammates, making nine saves as fourth-seeded PHS stifled top-seeded Hopewell Valley 7-3 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

In avenging a 10-9 regular season defeat to the Bulldogs, Glasgold spearheaded a stingy PHS defense that held HoVal scoreless in the second half, seizing control of the May 13 contest that was deadlocked 3-3 at halftime.

Glasgold credited the work of the Little Tiger defenders in reflecting on the team’s win.

“That is the best defense I have ever seen, I don’t know what we would have done without them,” said Glasgold, citing the play of Colin Buckley, Jackson Andres, and Joe Hawes.

“We gained momentum because they weren’t scoring and then we scored. It was the most beautiful game of lacrosse I have seen us play, better than the win over Christian Brothers (a 14-5 win on April 25).”

The Little Tigers were determined to play better than they had in their first meeting with HoVal.

“We just had to add more depth, and get more people in,” said Glasgold, who came up with some big stops on Thursday as PHS edged second-seeded Allentown 11-10 in overtime to win its second straight MCT crown. “We also had to want it more; it is all about wanting it.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes what Glasgold had added to the team this spring.

“Kenan has been playing this game as a goalie for less than two seasons; he shouldn’t be that good,” said Stanton. “He worked hard with coach Conlon; they studied tapes.”

In the win over HoVal, Glasgold was particularly good on stopping point blank shots.

“That’s what we have worked on a lot, all you can do there is buy time,” explained Stanton.

“We have said to Kenan it is not your responsibility to prevent every goal. We want you to save the ones you should make and if you can buy a little time, it works to your favor and the shooter’s disadvantage. Sometimes the goalie will rush but he has learned how to be patient.”

Glasgold, for his part, has also learned to keep a clear head when he is under the gun.

“I don’t really know, I just go blank,” said Glasgold, in discussing his flair for making dramatic saves. “There is nothing really to think about.”

And with Glasgold emerging as a star goalie, PHS doesn’t have to think twice about its last line of defense.

SEEING RED: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black gets stymied by a Lawrenceville defender last Monday in the state Prep A championship game. Sophomore Black had a goal in a losing cause as Hun fell 11-6 to the Big Red. The Raiders ended the season with a 13-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black gets stymied by a Lawrenceville defender last Monday in the state Prep A championship game. Sophomore Black had a goal in a losing cause as Hun fell 11-6 to the Big Red. The Raiders ended the season with a 13-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the final 36 minutes of the state Prep A boys’ lacrosse title game last Monday, second-seeded Hun School battled the top-seeded and perennial champion Lawrenceville School to a 5-5 stalemate.

Unfortunately for Hun, though, it dug a 6-1 hole in the first quarter which proved insurmountable as host Lawrenceville prevailed 11-6 to win its 13th straight Prep A crown.

Hun head coach M.V. Whitlow acknowledged the his squad was doomed by its rough start.

“I definitely felt like we didn’t play our best lacrosse in the first half but a lot of that you have to attribute to Lawrenceville and how well their players came out and played,” said Whitlow, whose team posted a final record of 13-7.

“It was a tough way for us to end the season. I do think we got some good play from a few guys but collectively, whether it was the magnitude of the game or the youth of our team, we didn’t play our best lacrosse today. I have a lot of respect for the Lawrenceville program and certainly their players.”

In Whitlow’s view, his team is entitled to respect for the way it battled to the final whistle.

“We played better in the second half, I think we settled down,” said Whitlow, who got three goals from Drake Roy in the loss with Cole West, Corey Reynolds, and Owen Black chipping in one goal apiece.

“We started doing the little things and a lot of these guys haven’t been in a game of this magnitude so in a lot of ways, it was a good learning experience for them.”

With Hun having fallen 17-6 to Lawrenceville in the 2013 Prep A title contest, Whitlow believes his program is catching up to the Big Red.

“I think on the scoreboard it is narrowed a little bit,” said Whitlow.

“I think the level at which they graduate and the level at which we graduate indicates that we have closed the gap a little bit. They are a great program with great players and it is going to take a heroic effort by somebody to knock them off and not let them get 14 championships in a row.”

Hun received a heroic effort from its senior class this spring. “I am real proud of my senior class; Cam Dudeck was a real leader and Matt Bruno was an unsung hero for us all season long,” said Whitlow, whose Class of 2014 also included James Jannicelli, Chas Goulburn, Michael McKeon, and Reynolds.

The Raiders boast plenty of class in such returning players as Jon Levine Tucker Stevenson, Alex Semler, Michael McMenamin, Christopher Fake, Brendan Black, and Owen Black along with Roy and West.

“We have a lot of great young kids and they’ll come back stronger from this and they’ll go right back to work and get ready for next year,” said Whitlow.

“They are young men of character from great families and I know that they will bounce back from this. I think they are a little embarrassed right now because I think they know they can play a little bit better.”

In Whitlow’s view, his players need to fine-tune things just a little bit to become champions.

“It is just how hard you have to work and how high a level of composure you  have to have to really compete at the highest level, not just in the offseason, but actually on the field,” said Whitlow.

“They need to learn the level of focus and execution that it takes to create victory in a game of this magnitude.”

IN POSITION: Hun School softball player Vicky Leach gets ready for a play in a game this spring. Junior second baseman Leach helped solidify the Hun infield this season as the Raiders went 9-8 and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN POSITION: Hun School softball player Vicky Leach gets ready for a play in a game this spring. Junior second baseman Leach helped solidify the Hun infield this season as the Raiders went 9-8 and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When her Hun School softball team headed to the Blair Academy last week in the state Prep A semifinals, Kathy Quirk was prepared for a nailbiter.

“I thought we were ready,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk. “I was hoping we were going to win the game but I felt even if we lost, it would be a close game.”

In the early going, Hun followed that script. The Raiders jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. After Blair responded with three runs in the bottom of the first, Hun pushed across a run in the top of the third to make it a 3-2 contest. Blair responded with two runs in the bottom of third but then the Raiders added another run to narrow the gap to 5-3.

In the bottom of sixth, though, Blair broke open the game with six runs and pulled away to a 12-5 victory.

The defeat to the Buccaneers, who went on to beat Peddie to take the Prep A crown, left Hun with a final record of 9-8 and Quirk with mixed emotions.

“From where we were at the beginning of the season with new people here or there and only one returning infielder, we did well,” said Quirk.

“It was just disappointing to end the season the way we did. We fell apart in the sixth inning.”

Quirk liked the way her players handled things over the course of the season.

“It was a great bunch of girls to coach and just a good group of girls,” said Quirk. “They competed hard and stayed together as a team.”

Hun’s quartet of seniors, Alexa Fares, Kristen Manochio, Lauren Moonan, and Kameran McNair, helped hold the team together.

“When I think of Alexis and Kristen, I will remember that they didn’t miss a practice or a game in four years, you don’t see that often,” said Quirk.

“Lauren came to us as a sophomore and it was the same thing with her. Kam always did whatever I asked of her. She was a back-up first basemen and designated hitter and this year she was the starter at first and pitched for us at the end. The other three seniors were regulars most of their careers but Kam really came into her own this season. I am really going to miss her. She is going to Sarah Lawrence and I hope she plays softball there.”

Hun had some younger players who came up big, including freshman catcher Julie Fassl, junior second baseman Vicky Leach, and junior shortstop Julia Blake.

“Fassl really stepped up, she was the only player in our lineup who didn’t have a strikeout this year,” said Quirk. “Leach did a really good job at second. Blake did a great job all year.”

Quirk believes her returning players can do some great things in the future.

“I am excited about the group that we have coming back,” said Quirk. “We have to work hard and learn from our mistakes to put us back on top. We have some new kids coming in and I think we can come on strong next year.”

REACHING OUT: Princeton Day School softball player Kate Fleming reaches for a throw in recent action. Senior first baseman Fleming had a double and an RBI last Wednesday as PDS fell to Trenton 12-3 on the program’s annual Senior Day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REACHING OUT: Princeton Day School softball player Kate Fleming reaches for a throw in recent action. Senior first baseman Fleming had a double and an RBI last Wednesday as PDS fell to Trenton 12-3 on the program’s annual Senior Day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Kate Fleming, playing on the Princeton Day School softball team over the last four years has been a true labor of love.

Fleming and fellow seniors Dina Alter, Jessica Toltzis, and Tess Zahn, didn’t go into each spring with visions of titles.

Instead, they simply tried to keep the program afloat as the team struggled to attract enough players to compete.

“Jess, Tess, Dina, and I all love playing softball; we have all played travel,” said Fleming.

“We always wanted to play and it was great to be able to field teams all the years, even when we thought we weren’t going to have one. Last year, in particular, was really, really tough.”

Last Wednesday, the quartet of classmates got some love as they were honored on Senior Day before the Panthers played Trenton with PDS athletics director Tim Williams and head coach Paul Lano extolling them for sticking things out.

“It was just so nice, we four seniors have had a tough round,” said Fleming. “When we were coming up, we always had to work to get nine players so it was really nice to have a ceremony and have Tim Williams recognize us for it and coach Lano. We loved having him as a coach. It was nice to just hear how he feels about us.”

The seniors’ efforts to promote the program has paid off as this year’s roster totals 14 players.

“This is one of our first years where we have more than one sub,” said Fleming.

“We are so happy because we are able to have extra people on the team. Practices are more fun; we can do more things in practice, which is great. There are so many underclassmen too; it is really great because they will come up in the program and be able to bring the new incoming classes in to our program. I am really excited about that.”

Fleming and her classmates have enjoyed acting as mentors for their younger teammates.

“It has just been a great experience just teaching the younger players because all four of us have had that role,” added Fleming.

“We haven’t been a very advanced team so it’s been fun to really get to know the underclassmen and be able to teach them.”

In the game against Trenton, the Panthers displayed what they have learned as the game was tied at 3-3 going into the sixth inning before the Tornadoes pulled away to a 12-3 win. Fleming crushed a double to the left field fence in the first inning and had an RBI in the fifth to help spark PDS.

“That was probably my biggest hit of the season,” said Fleming, referring to her two-bagger.

“We played awesome today, this is one of the best games we have played. I am just really happy that everyone was on task and everyone’s head was in the game today.”

PDS head coach Lano was thrilled to see Fleming get some big hits against Trenton. “I am happy for her, she is so deserving,” said Lano.

“Tess and Jess were the hit leaders for this team and Kate would fall in right behind them to a degree. Kate was building and building, she was a great defensive player. She would always give quality at-bats. I am just so happy that she got to see what it feels like to hit a couple of bombs.”

Fleming’s heroics were contagious as the Panthers put together a couple of rallies to scratch out their three runs.

“The younger players are all starting to hit and to make contact and that breeds confidence,” said Lano.

“Once you start doing things well that you don’t expect, then you start to become a little more confident and that is what excited me. Everyone was hitting and we had opportunities. In the first couple of innings it was fun to realize it was within reach.”

Lano realizes how much his seniors have given of themselves to help the team’s younger players. “It is the sacrifice that they made that chokes me up, to be honest,” said Lano.

“They have given up a lot of their practice time to provide help and instruction and things for the newcomers and the players who were not as gifted as they were. We knew we had something in the beginning of the year and I think that is why the seniors made that special effort, especially this year. That sacrifice is not common in athletics.”

That sacrifice has laid the foundation for PDS to prosper going forward.

“That is something we all can be proud of but that is their legacy and that is what they are leaving behind,” asserted Lano, whose team fell to Morrisville on Thursday to end the spring at 0-9.

“It is because of their work that they have put in that this program is going to shine. It is going to have even better days that they didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy. That is what it is all about, planting the seeds and they did that, they were part of it.”

Fleming, for her part, believes the program can grow into something special. “I am really happy that we all stuck it out, the four of us,” said Fleming.

“I just appreciate everyone who stuck it out and kept playing with us, even the girls who stepped in last year and this year who have never played before. It is just awesome to see that and hopefully we can continue that in the upcoming years.”

May 14, 2014
FINAL PUSH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd, left, gets pushed by a Cornell player in the recently held Ivy League tournament. Last Sunday, senior midfielder Lloyd contributed a goal and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 13-11 to sixth-seeded Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 12-7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd, left, gets pushed by a Cornell player in the recently held Ivy League tournament. Last Sunday, senior midfielder Lloyd contributed a goal and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 13-11 to sixth-seeded Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tourney. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 12-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, its NCAA assignment last weekend included a cast of familiar characters.

The Tigers faced Penn State in the first round on Friday, just weeks after falling 13-12 to the Nittany Lions in the regular season finale. The winner was set to face host sixth-seeded Virginia, who the Tigers had edged 15-13 on March 15.

“We were really excited about the draw,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

“We had as good a shot as anyone, any one of the three teams could win. We were closely matched.”

The rematch against Penn State was nearly as close as the first meeting with Princeton rallying from a 9-6 second half deficit to pull out a 16-13 victory.

“We executed the things we worked on,” said Sailer, who got four goals and an assist from junior star Erin McMunn with freshman Olivia Hompe tallying six points on two goals and four assists and senior goalie Caroline Franke making 12 saves off the bench.

“We have a habit of being able to score goals when we need them. Our Achilles heel has been starting slowly. We had some troubles early. We put Caroline Franke in at goalie, she is bigger and she had a great day in the cage. She gave us a spark.”

Sailer knew her team faced a big challenge in taking on host Virginia with a two-day turnaround.

“The tournament is set up to to give the top six teams an advantage; they can watch you play and rest,” said Sailer.

“UVa had two weeks off although you never know how that is going to play out. We played a really hard game on Friday but I thought the girls recovered quickly. It was 20 degrees hotter than what we had been used to. We did much better than we did at the Ivy tournament the week before.”

While Princeton is used to coming from behind, spotting an early  four-goal deficit to the Cavaliers proved to be too much as the Tigers lost 13-11.

“We got down 4-0 against UVa, you can’t keep digging holes like that and expect to win every game,” said Sailer.

“After those early minutes, we won by two. When you play a good team like UVa that is patient, they hold on to the ball and you have to come out eventually. That can lead to some easy goals for them.”

The Tigers certainly didn’t make things easy for Virginia, cutting the Cavalier lead to 12-10 with 3:29 remaining in regulation.

“I am really proud of how the players keep fighting,” said Sailer, who got four goals from junior Erin Slifer in the defeat with senior Mary-Kate Sivilli chipping in three goals and senior Sarah Lloyd contributing a goal and two assists.

“Sarah Lloyd and Erin Slifer and the middies worked their butts off. MK had some important goals for us.”

Sailer credited the team’s group of seniors with setting the tone in terms of work ethic as the Tigers finished with a 12-7 record.

“It was really a strong season for Princeton lacrosse,” asserted Sailer, whose group of seniors includes Liz Cutting, Colleen Smith, Grace Bowen, Kellie Ragg, and Erin Williams in addition to Lloyd, Sivilli, and Franke.

“I am very proud of the seniors and what they have done to change the culture of the team. We were unified, hard working, and driven.”

Despite the loss to Virginia, Princeton has a lot to be proud of when it looks back on the 2014 campaign.

“We got a share of the Ivy regular season title which is always the No. 1 goal coming into the season,” said Sailer, a Hall of Fame coach who has now completed 28 seasons at the helm of the program and has guided Princeton to 22 NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, and 2003).

“We have 11 Final 4s and 10 regular season Ivy titles so that shows how tough the league is. I am happy that the team made it to the NCAAs as an at-large team and got a good draw. We advanced in the NCAAs which means we were one of the top 16 teams. We would have liked to be in the elite 8 and we were very close. In a few days, when we look back and get some perspective, we will realize that we took some really positive steps this year.”

With such standouts as McMunn, Hompe, and Slifer coming back along with freshman Madeline Rodriguez, sophomore Liz Bannantine, freshman Anna Doherty, sophomore Anya Gersoff, freshman Amanda Leavell, junior Annie Woehling, and sophomore Alexandra Bruno, the future looks positive for the Tigers.

“Looking at the returnees, we have strength across the board,” said Sailer.

“We have a lot of good players who saw a lot of action this year. There was growth and improvement in each class. Everybody on the team got better this year and that is the direction you want to go in.”

STROBE LIGHT: Princeton University women’s lightweight rower ­Maggie Stroebel pulls hard in a race earlier this spring. Senior co-captain ­Stroebel is looking to end her Princeton career on a high note as the Tigers wrap up the season by competing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor later this month.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

STROBE LIGHT: Princeton University women’s lightweight rower ­Maggie Stroebel pulls hard in a race earlier this spring. Senior co-captain ­Stroebel is looking to end her Princeton career on a high note as the Tigers wrap up the season by competing at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor later this month. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maggie Stroebel demonstrated plenty of athletic versatility as a high schooler.

A native of Saukville, Wisc., Stroebel lettered four times in track and cross country and twice in basketball for Cedarburg.

But a college trip east inspired Stroebel to add another athletic pursuit.

“My older brother (Spencer) went to Princeton in the Class of 2012 and had walked on to the men’s lightweight team,” said Stroebel. “I had visited him and I really loved the school.”

Joining the Milwaukee Rowing Club in the summer after her junior year in high school, Stroebel ended up following her brother’s footsteps, becoming a member of the Princeton women’s lightweight crew program in the fall of 2010.

Later this month, Stroebel will wrap up her Princeton crew career as she leads the lightweight varsity 8 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta on Mercer Lake in West Windsor.

Stroebel has made up for lost time in her rowing career. “I actually started really late for someone who got recruited,” said Stroebel.

“Crew is not a sport like basketball or soccer that requires a skill set developed over the years. You can be recruited with a good ERG (ergometer) score. I picked up the technique quickly. I rowed my entire senior year in high and the summer after. We rowed at the Head of Charles in the fall of my senior year and did well. We went to club nationals in Tennessee that spring.”

In her freshman year at Princeton, Stroebel quickly made her presence felt. “We had a really strong team and a really strong group of seniors,” said Stroebel.

“I raced in the 1V (first varsity 8) in the fall. I was thrown into the fire and that was a good experience. I ended up helping the 2V get a bronze that spring at the Eastern Sprints.”

Over the next two seasons, Stoebel was a fixture in the program’s top boat.

“I was in the 1V in the spring; it was definitely a rebuilding year after losing so many seniors,” said Stroebel.

“That year we had some downs after the highs of the year before. In junior year, we did better; we were on the way to getting back to where we were in 2011.”

This year, Stroebel has led the way for the Tigers, serving as a team captain along with junior Rebecca Kreutter.

“It was such an honor; I have so much respect for the previous captains,” said Stroebel.

“I come down every day looking to be a leader and looking to be positive. Things can drag so I try to keep people motivated and keep us going.”

Princeton has enjoyed a positive spring, taking second in the san Diego Crew Classic, winning the Knecht Cup regatta, and taking third at the Eastern Sprints. “Every year, we want to medal at the sprints and IRAs,” said Stroebel.

“We were excited to win the Knecht Cup. We got a third at the Sprints; we had a good race.”

Learning from the Sprints where Princeton grabbed an early lead before getting passed by champion Harvard-Radcliffe and runner-up Wisconsin, Stroebel believes the top boat can race even better at the national championship regatta.

“We are looking forward to the IRAs; we think we can beat Wisconsin and Harvard-Radcliffe,” said Stroebel, who has been rowing in the No. 2 seat for the Tigers this spring.

“I like that strategy of going out fast. It is hard to sit back and get a medal. We are working on base pace and endurance. We have a young boat, with two freshmen and some sophomores. We have been very focused. Everyone comes down and even though we are in exams, they put that aside and work hard. We have a good group.”

As Stroebel heads down the homestretch of her Princeton career, she is determined to have a good time in the water.

“I am trying to relish it; talking about graduation seems unbelievable,” said Stroebel.

“I am trying to enjoy every day on the water. I hope to row later in life but this is the last time I will be on an eight like this. This is it for me with competitive rowing.”

No matter what happens, Stroebel is glad she followed her brother’s path.

“I think rowing has helped me so much, being on a team is special,” said Stroebel, who will be working in marketing for a New York City firm after graduation.

“I couldn’t imagine going through Princeton any other way; my teammates have really been supportive in so many ways.”

TUCK AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman scoops up a ground ball last Monday as PDS hosted Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B championship game. Sophomore midfielder Tuckman contributed three goals and two assist as Panthers edged the Argonauts 10-8 to win their first Prep B crown since 1996.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TUCK AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Jonah Tuckman scoops up a ground ball last Monday as PDS hosted Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B championship game. Sophomore midfielder Tuckman contributed three goals and two assist as Panthers edged the Argonauts 10-8 to win their first Prep B crown since 1996. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On one hand, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team was bitterly disappointed by its 5-4 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament.

But that defeat sowed the seeds for a memorable effort two days later as PDS edged perennial power Rutgers Prep 10-8 last Monday in the state Prep B championship game.

Senior goalie and tri-captain Culver Duquette said the Panthers were on a mission as they hit the turf at Jan Baker Field last Monday.

“Coming off of Saturday against Notre Dame, the first thing that coach D’Andrea (assistant coach Rich D’Andrea) said was that this game would define this team, not our season, it would show who we are as people,” said Duquette, noting that Rutgers Prep had routed PDS 16-3 in the 2013 Prep B final. “To recuperate and bring it all together for a game like this was just a treat.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman, who was guiding the squad for the final time after announcing his retirement from coaching last fall, saw a special sense of urgency in his players.

“They were hyped up for it, especially coming off of Saturday,” said Tuckman, whose team ended the spring with a 13-3 record. “It made it all about just this game and they were able to really focus on it.”

The Panthers didn’t waste any time showing their focus on Monday, jumping out to a 5-1 lead over Rutgers Prep.

“That was great; throughout the season we haven’t really been a first half team and we really brought it this time,” said sophomore midfielder Jonah Tuckman, the head coach’s son.

Early in the second half, though, Rutgers Prep brought out its firepower, tying the game at 5-5 with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter.

“They have got a lot of talent but we have been preaching all season long that it is game of peaks and valleys,” said the younger Tuckman.

“It was one of our valleys and they took a peak and we just knew that we had to respond in the same way and we did.”

PDS responded with a barrage of goals, producing a decisive 5-1 run to grab a 10-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“I think we knew we could do it so we got out there and just played with confidence and never doubted ourselves at any point,” noted Tuckman. “Our defense was putting up stops and our offense was putting the ball in the net.”

Tuckman put three balls in the back of the net himself and assisted on a fourth goal in the run.

“It was absolutely due to my teammates,” said Tuckman, reflecting on his outburst. “They happened to get me the ball and I finished it. They were just creating opportunities and I was happy to finish them.”

Duquette and the defense had to hold the fort at the finish, thwarting a furious Rutgers Prep rally.

“This whole year, any time the other team has gotten momentum it is about how we answer,” said Duquette. “Our defense has been key for that, they make my job as easy as possible. I just clean things up.”

As the final whistle blew, the PDS players all threw their gloves and sticks in the air and sprinted to mob Duquette in front of the goal.

In the view of head coach Tuckman, accomplishing the goal of a state title was sweet.

“We have been knocking on the door and this is a big one for us,” said Tuckman, reflecting on the program’s first Prep B title since 1996. “The program has been building and building.”

Building strength at both ends of the field helped the Panthers become a championship squad.

“The defense has really been the foundation of this team and it is fitting that at the end of this game, the defense had to make a hold and they did and that is what they have done all season long,” said Tuckman, who is handing the coaching reins to D’Andrea, a former star goalie at Georgetown.

“We are a six-man team on offense and we have been all season long. They didn’t focus on one, it was a team effort. Every game we had five, six, or seven scorers. I have six kids with double-digit scoring for the season.”

Duquette, for his part, credits the team’s youthful core with maturing quickly.

“We are a young team and the younger kids are stepping up,” said Duquette, reflecting on the day which saw sophomore Tuckman, freshman Will Brossman and junior Jacob Shavel all tally three goals with sophomore Connor Fletcher chipping in a goal and two assists.

“The first thing we said is that the younger kids had to understand that they could step up and have an impact right away in this program. You see that today, all of our goals are scored by juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.”

The PDS seniors made an impact by keeping the team on an even keel.  “After last season and losing some of our best players because it was a great senior class, we said that nothing changes this year and that we can go further,” said Duquette, whose fellow captains are classmates Lewie Blackburn and Ben Levine with Gabe Castagna, Zack Banks, Nelson Garrymore, and Connor Bitterman rounding out the squad’s Class of 2014. “We proved that today.”

The younger Tuckman and the underclassmen were determined to stop at nothing to earn the title.

“We wanted to go out with a bang; these seniors have meant a lot to us and we wanted to give them something to remember,” said Tuckman.

“It is huge, not just for my dad, but the team hasn’t won in forever. It was great to finally get one. Timing is everything.”

For Tuckman’s dad, the win on Monday was something he will never forget.

“It is wonderful,” said Tuckman, with his voice cracking and his clothes soaked after having the water bucket dumped on him by his players in the raucous postgame celebration. “It is a great way to end my career as a head coach.”

FIGHTING SPIRIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races upfield last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Smith chipped in an assist as third-seeded PHS fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, now 14-3, will start play in the state tournament where they are seeded third in the Group III South section and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIGHTING SPIRIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith races upfield last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Smith chipped in an assist as third-seeded PHS fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N. The Little Tigers, now 14-3, will start play in the state tournament where they are seeded third in the Group III South section and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team trailed WW/P-N by four goals with 1:38 remaining in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Saturday, Dana Smith wasn’t about to throw in the towel.

Fighting for the draw after the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 13-9, PHS senior midfielder and Lafayette-bound Smith scooped up the ball and raced through and around two WW/P-N defenders to set up a possession that led to a goal by classmate Emilia Lopez-Ona.

The third-seeded Little Tigers added another tally with 12.7 seconds left but time ran out for them as they fell 13-11 to top-seeded and defending champion WW/P-N.

“We never put our heads down,” said Smith, reflecting on the late rally. “We never quit, that was our goal for this game. No matter what, we were going to fight until the end.”

In Smith’s view, fighting to the end was a reflection of PHS’s growth over the spring.

“I think when we started off the season, we sometimes got very frantic,” said Smith.

“We threw the ball away a lot and caused a lot of turnovers. I was very proud of how the team did today, really controlling those turnovers. We barely lost the ball on attack and that was one of our goals.”

Smith was proud of the brand of lacrosse the Little Tigers displayed against WW/P-N.

“We were playing well as a team; Liz Jacobs and Emilia Lopez-Ona were really connecting,” added Smith, reflecting on the setback which dropped PHS to 14-3.

“Gabby Gibbons was awesome coming around the cage. Mira was great in goal. Our juniors are looking so great. Our sophomores, Taylor Lis and Julia Ryan, have stepped up so much.”

As a senior co-captain and battle-tested veteran, Smith seeks to lead by word and deed.

“I like to play on both sides of the field, I like to be in it on both ends,” said Smith, who had an assist in the title game.

“We have so many younger players that it is nice to be a senior. We have eight seniors so we have really great leadership. It is really awesome to be part of that and be able to guide the underclassmen and to work with coach [Kelsey] O’Gorman to really help raise the level of every single person on this team.”

With PHS getting seeded third in the upcoming state Group III South sectional, Smith believes that competing against the likes of WW/P-N will help raise the level of the Little Tigers’ game.

“We are going to face some really tough competition states and North is a great squad so that is really good practice for how the competition is going to be in Group III South,” said Smith, who will look to get PHS back on the winning track as it hosts 14th-seeded Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the sectional on May 15.

“In games like this, we had to learn how to play under pressure. In those last two minutes, the draws were so tight and we had to learn to come up with those 50/50 balls and fight through every single ground ball and make those clutch shots at the end and that’s really important. Being able to keep our calm even when we are down and the clock is running out.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman was proud of the way her team fought to the final whistle in the loss.

“I think we showed our true character and what we are capable of as a team,” said O’Gorman.

“You really can’t count us out. If you gave us two more minutes on the clock, we would have won this game. I was proud that they were able to translate what we talked about in the timeout on to the field in the last two minutes because I think that really shows the true content of a team. I was proud that they left it all on the field today and you can see everyone is leaving saying we gave it our all.”

O’Gorman credited Smith and her classmates with showing character. “Our senior leadership is phenomenal and they know how to take charge,” said O’Gorman, whose group of seniors includes Liz Jacobs, Emily Young, Krysta Holman, Stephanie Hauer, Kristi DeMilt, and Taylor Chiang in addition to Smith and Lopez-Ona. “They know how to help the younger players step up in these types of games.”

Making a run to the county title game should help the Little Tigers step up in the state tourney.

“We ended at the county semifinal game last year so having this game instead of watching in the stands was a great opportunity,” said O’Gorman.

“It was definitely great competition today. I think it does come down to the little things. North played a tremendous game and they did a lot of those little things right. We had a ball out of bounds, a missed draw, an uncontested ground ball and things like that came down to them being on top. It was a great game, we can clean up those things and bring it into the state tournament for our section.”

Smith, for her part, vows that PHS will compete to the end. “We are never going to give up in the state tournament,” asserted Smith.

“It has been four years, I love this team so much. None of us want the season to end so we are going to take it as long as possible. I would love to be playing at the end of May.”

IRISH DANCE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse senior star Liz Jacobs, center, celebrates with Gabby Gibbons, right, and Allie Callaway after a PHS goal. Last Thursday, the Dartmouth-bound Jacobs exploded for five goals and an assist to help the Little Tigers top Notre Dame 19-9 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, avenging a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IRISH DANCE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse senior star Liz Jacobs, center, celebrates with Gabby Gibbons, right, and Allie Callaway after a PHS goal. Last Thursday, the Dartmouth-bound Jacobs exploded for five goals and an assist to help the Little Tigers top Notre Dame 19-9 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, avenging a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Liz Jacobs was held without a goal as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team fell to Notre Dame 15-10 in early April.

When the rivals met again last Thursday in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament, PHS senior star and Dartmouth-bound Jacobs sensed that things were going to come out differently in the rematch.

“It was early in the season and obviously they are a great team,” said Jacobs. “I think throughout the season, we have been jelling a little bit more. I think we always end up doing well at the end of the season.”

After falling behind 3-2 in the MCT contest, which was played at Hightstown High, third-seeded PHS started doing very well as it reeled off seven unanswered goals against the No. 3 Irish to seize momentum. Jacobs spearheaded the 7-0 run, tallying the first three goals, two of them on assists by junior Gabby Gibbons.

“We just picked up a lot of momentum in the transition; we were all making great connections in the midfield,” said Jacobs.

“Gabby had an awesome game and it seemed like we clicked; that was nice. We were all looking for each other.”

The Little Tigers never looked back, pulling away to a 19-9 win over the Irish.

“We just needed to regain control; brush off the last three minutes of the first half and just stay strong and keep persevering,” said Jacobs, who ended up with five goals and an assist in the victory.

“I think a few goals at the beginning of the half definitely helped get us into our groove. I think once we relaxed a little bit as a team, we started playing our game.”

While PHS didn’t quite find its groove on Saturday as it fell 13-11 to WW/P-N in the MCT title game, Jacobs believes the team can end things with a bang as it competes in the state tournament.

“It has been a long four years and we all want to end this on a good note,” said Jacobs of the Little Tigers, who are seeded third in the Group III south sectionals and will host No. 14 Jackson Liberty on May 15 in a first round contest.

“We seem to be coming together a little bit more than we have in the past. We were just on the same page today which was really nice.”

Although the Princeton High golf team finished in the middle of the pack at the Mercer County Tournament last week, Sheryl Severance liked the way her squad competed.

“They played well,” said longtime PHS head coach Severance, whose team placed ninth of 15 schools at the MCT, which was played on May 6 at Mountain View.

“The girls were a little disappointed that they had to play back, they were hitting long shots all day. The boys were happy; they played their games.”

Building on that effort, PHS finished the week with two encouraging wins, topping Hightstown 217-224 on Wednesday and defeating Lawrence 217-235 a day later.

“We hit our low for the season at 217 two matches in a row,” said Severance, whose team defeated Hamilton 232-291 last Monday to improve to 8-7 in dual match action this season.

Senior standout Laura Burke led the way for the Little Tigers in the victories last week, carding a 39 against Hightstown and a 38 against Lawrence.

“Consistency is her strength,” said Severance of Burke, who will be playing in the state girls’ tournament on May 22.

“Her approach shots are right on so that keeps her putts to a minimum. She drives it right down the middle, she spends matches walking down the fairway.”

PHS is also getting good play from two other female players in senior Diane Karloff and freshman Kelly Qiu.

“Diane is playing well; she had a 40 against Hightstown, that is her lowest round in four years and she was really excited,” said Severance.

“Kelly is a freshman and I am excited about her. She doesn’t hit a long ball but she hits it straight. Her chipping and putting are very accurate. She is going to be like Laura when she is older.”

Severance is excited by the progress made this spring by junior Max Rodewald and sophomore Andrew Huang.

“Max Rodewald is playing well; it is his first year with us,” said Severance. “He had a 42 in the win over Lawrence. Andrew Huang started out a little rough this spring; he was away on an orchestra trip and was a little out of synch. He is playing better. He wasn’t hitting well with his driver and that was getting him in trouble. Now he is hitting better with his driver.”

The trio of senior Paul Murray, junior Max Tarter, and freshman Joseph Phelan have also experienced some highs this season.

“Paul Murray is up and down; he has had some nice scores and some rounds in the 50s,” said Severance, whose team will wrap up the regular season by hosting Notre Dame on May 14.

“Max Tarter has had some rounds in the 40s. Joseph Phelan is a freshman and whenever I need a sixth player, I pick him right away. He is consistently between 45-50.”

With a lineup including three seniors in Burke, Karloff, and Murray, Severance believes the program is heading in the right direction.

“We’ll be fine; we will miss Laura at top of lineup and Paul and Diane have been constants in our top 5,” said Severance. “I told the younger players that they are going to have to step up more next year.”

QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

QUICK REID: Princeton High baseball player John Reid slides into second base in recent action. Junior outfielder Reid’s solid play this spring has helped PHS qualify for the upcoming state tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 7-11 with a 6-2 win over Notre Dame last Monday, are slated to play at Hamilton on May 15 and at Ewing on May 16 before hosting Trenton on May 17 and Hopewell Valley on May 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For John Reid, starring on the ice for the Princeton High boys’ hockey team last winter has helped him on the diamond this spring.

“I think I am constantly ready to compete,” said junior Reid, a forward in hockey and an outfielder for the PHS baseball squad.

“I think my competitive drive has actually increased this last year with the great hockey season that we had. I think it definitely benefits my game.”

Batting in the cleanup spot, Reid has emerged as an offensive threat this spring for the Little Tigers.

“I think last year, I was a year younger and I hadn’t seen any varsity pitching,” said Reid.

“Going forward into this year, I was a little more comfortable in the box. It is still tough but I think I have been seeing some better pitches and I have been a little more patient.”

PHS showed its toughness last week, topping Pennington 10-0 on May 5 and then blanking Lawrence 6-0 a day later to clinch a spot in the upcoming state tournament.

“We knew that we had to win those two games to get into the state tournament for the first time since 2001,” said Reid.

“We really put an emphasis on making sure that we got guys on and we got them in. The pitching was great. We knew that we had to win those two games and we ended up doing that.”

In Reid’s view, making the states is important for the PHS in both the short term and the long term.

“I think with the team we have this year, there are some guys that felt bad not being in states for a while,” said Reid.

“I think it means a lot for the program to do that and hopefully build on it for next year as well.”

Things didn’t go as well for PHS last Friday as it fell 4-0 at Nottingham with Reid contributing two infield hits in a losing cause.

“I think lately I have been swinging earlier in counts and I am seeing some more fastballs,” said Reid, reflecting on his performance in the defeat.

“I think it was a tough day today; they kind of lulled us into a slow game and I think that is what brought us down.”

While PHS head coach Dave Roberts was pleased with how his team came through to earn the state berth, he was disappointed to see his team subsequently fall 5-2 to Pennington in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament on Wednesday and then lose to Notttingham.

“The early week was positive; it is hard to remember that we did have a .500 week,” said Roberts.

“We can’t score 16 runs in the first two games of the week and then score two in the next 14 innings. It doesn’t make for a recipe for success.”

Roberts acknowledges that playing in the states will be a huge positive for the program.

“It is exciting; it looks like we will be matched up against Wall; they are a real good shore conference team,” said Roberts.

“It will be great, the seniors deserve a state game and they got themselves a state game. It will be tons of fun.”

Reid’s progress this spring has been exciting for Roberts. “John scratched out a couple of hits today which was nice to see because he had been struggling mightily before that,” said Roberts of Reid who went 1-for-2 last Monday to help PHS defeat Notre Dame 6-2 and improve to 7-11. “It was nice to see him get a little bit back on track today.”

Sophomore Hayden Reyes has given PHS a nice lift, sparking the offense from the No. 2 spot in the lineup and starring at shortstop and pitcher,

“Hayden has been phenomenal since last year,” said Roberts. “Every time we step out here, I definitely feel like whenever he is playing shortstop, he is in the top three shortstops in the CVC defensively and even offensively. He has pitched all his life. He throws strikes, he doesn’t walk people and most importantly he works quick.”

The PHS pitching rotation has been led by sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt.

“Joaquin has been tremendous all year, he has been dominant on the mound,” said Roberts of the Hernandez-Burt, who yielded three hits and a run in five innings to earn the win in the victory over Notre Dame.

“He’s been our absolute workhorse; every single outing he had would qualify as a quality start. He has two shutouts; he’s been awesome on the mound.”

With a roster featuring a number of sophomores and juniors, Roberts believes the program has a quality foundation going forward.

“Hopefully they are learning every day and from every single experience that we have, especially the county tournament game that we lost on Wednesday and the game we lost today,” said Roberts.

Reid, for his part, believes that the lessons learned this year will benefit PHS in the future.

“Pretty much our whole infield is going to be juniors next year,” said Reid. “You take that experience and the few juniors that we do have on the team this year, we should continue with that success.”

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STANDING TALL: Princeton Day School baseball player James ­Radvany waits for a throw in action earlier this spring. Junior star and quad-captain Radvany has contributed on the mound and at the plate this spring for PDS, standing out as a bright spot in a tough campaign for the Panthers. PDS, now 4-10, is slated to host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

James Radvany came into the spring expecting that his main duties for the Princeton Day School baseball team would center on playing first base and providing punch in the middle of the lineup.

But when mound ace Cole McManimon was injured in the season opener and sidelined for all of April, Radvany’s portfolio changed as he became the team’s workhorse starting pitcher.

Befitting his stature as a team quad-captain, Radvany willingly assumed the additional responsibility.

“It has been tough, I have had to throw a lot of innings this year,” said junior Radvany.

“My arm wasn’t really ready for that but I have done the best I could and I have labored on.”

Last Wednesday, Radvany put in some hard labor on the mound as he started and went four innings in a 9-1 loss to Hamilton in the opening round of the Mercer  County Tournament.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today but they are a good team,” said Radvany, who gave up seven runs in the first two innings but only one after that.

“They grind out at-bats, they are all good baseball players at the front of their lineup. I had some two-strike counts but they had some good swings. I started to get the ball down a little bit, I left it up in the first two innings. I had some good plays behind me in the last two innings so that helped out.”

After struggling at the plate earlier in the spring, Radvany has been swinging the bat better in recent weeks. He had a single and scored the only run in the loss to Hamilton.

“I started to turn it around pretty well; I have had three or four doubles in the last few games,” said Radvany, who has committed to attend Villanova University and play for its baseball program.

“I have had a lot more hits. I am just trying to stay through the middle. I have had to change my approach a little but I think it is starting to turn around at the right time and that was what I was hoping for.”

While things haven’t turned out this spring as PDS had hoped with the Panthers dropping to 4-10 after losing 2-1 to Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday in the opening round of the state Prep B tourney, Radvany and his teammates are staying upbeat.

“Losing Cole in the first game was tough but we have hung in there,” said Radvany.

“We only have one senior but the freshmen have given a lot more than we thought. They have all been great, they have all been better than we expected. It is what you hope for; we have hope for next year.”

May 7, 2014
PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

A 1998 match between pro tennis stars Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf changed the course of Lindsay Graff’s life.

“When I was 5, I was watching TV and Lindsay Davenport was playing against Steffi Graf and I thought my name is a combination so maybe I should try tennis,” said Graff, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I picked up a racket a few weeks later and I have loved it ever since.”

Graff moved up the ladder in tennis, breaking into juniors in middle school and starring at Pine Crest High, where she was a three-time Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel Player of the year and the Florida Class 2A doubles champ in 2009 and singles champ in 2011.

Joining the Princeton University women’s tennis team in 2011, Graff played like a combination of tennis legends Davenport and Graf this spring, getting named Ivy League Player of the Year as the Tigers went 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown.

This week Graff and the Tigers, 18-5 overall, head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.

“It is a good matchup for us,” said Graff, reflecting on Princeton’s first NCAA appearance sine 2010. “We are on a roll and everyone is playing well. We want to win a few matches at the NCAAs and go on a little run.”

It took a while for Graff to get on a roll in her college career. “In college, the biggest challenge is the the physical level, there a lot of bigger and a lot of stronger players,” said Graff, noting that she has packed 20 pounds of muscle on to her 5’5 frame since freshman year. “They hit a heavier ball.”

After earning second-team All-Ivy honors at singles playing at No. 2 and first-team All Ivy at doubles as a freshman, Graff moved to the top spot in singles in 2013, finding a comfort level on and off the court.

“At high school, you are used to being at the top academically and at the top of your activity,” said Graff.

“At Princeton, you are competing with all these kids who were in the same position. I was able to get my priorities in line; it is tough to do everything at a high level. You have to choose the things that are important to you. I love tennis so I have focused on that.”

Last summer, Graff raised the level of her game as she won a regional qualifier for the U.S. Open at singles and mixed doubles.

“That was one of the best experiences for me; I spontaneously decided to play and ended up winning the regional,” said Graff, who ended up falling short of a bid for the U.S. Open as she lost in the national playoffs in New Haven, Conn.

“I was playing a lot and working hard all summer long. It was a great experience to be playing against top players like that. In the second round, I saw a lot of good players and saw where I stood. Coming into the year, I felt a lot more confident.”

Coming into this spring, Graff was confident that Princeton could be an Ivy title contender.

“We had the capability of having a big Ivy season,” said Graff, noting that the arrival of four freshmen this season had upgraded the talent level for the program which posted a 4-3 Ivy mark in 2013.

“We had 10 players and everyone was playing for a spot. I felt that we could be a good team and we would regret it if we didn’t work hard.”

A critical 4-3 win over three-time defending Ivy champion Yale on April 4 showed that Princeton had a very good team.

“We fell behind 3-0 and the girl playing No. 5 (Caroline Joyce) had a big win and our No. 2 (Amanda Muliawan) won and our No. 6 (Katie Goepel) was going into a third set,” recalled Graff.

“I lost the first and was behind in second. It was very much on my shoulders, I knew I had to win the match. I was not going to lose that third set. I was not getting off that court until I won.”

Graff ended up pulling out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Yale’s Madeleine Hamilton to seal the victory for the Tigers.

“I showed mental toughness; my teammates were cheering me on from the sidelines and I wanted to do this for them,” said Graff. “They were so loud and so genuinely supportive. I try to fight for myself but I was really excited to win for them.”

Heading into the regular season finale against Columbia on April 20 with a one-game lead over the Lions in the league standings, the Tigers weren’t about to settle for sharing the title.

“Columbia did beat us a few weeks before the Ivy season but we were 6-0 we were so hyped up and so confident,” said Graff.

“We were a different team. We showed we weren’t intimidated from the first point of the doubles match; they saw how we had come together as a team. I saw we were up 2-0. In my match it was 7-6, 5-4 and our girl at No. 4 (Sivan Krems) was winning. I was focusing on the match point and then I was swarmed by the team. I realized that No. 4 had won just 20 seconds before so I got the point to clinch the match. It was the best feeling.”

In Graff’s view, the team’s feeling of unity has helped spur it to a title. “Our talent level is there but if our work ethic didn’t match our talent, we might be disappointed,” said Graff of the squad which is guided by second-year head coach Laura Granville.

“For the last 1½ to 2 months, all the players have jumped on board. People are putting it all on the court, we are fighting for each other. We realized we can accomplish more together.”

While accomplishing the Ivy Player of the Year award was exciting for Graff, its main importance to her comes in the context of the team’s success this spring.

“It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year,” said Graff, who has an 18-4 record this spring and is riding a nine-match winning streak heading into the NCAAs.

“I realized when I was 12-4 that each time I lost a match, the team had lost. I lost a match in Miami and I said coming off the court that day that was the last match I was going to lose. I want to win every match. Although every point counts the same, it is important to win at No. 1. Every match I have won has helped the team win so that is the important thing.”

Looking ahead, Graff hopes to someday win matches at the pro level. “I am a junior so I am thinking about that,” said Graff, reflecting on her aspirations to keep playing tennis after college.

“I would love to stay in the game. Tennis is my favorite thing to do; there is no other place I would rather be than on the tennis court. It is high priority. It is a long road to the pro tour. I would love to give it a shot.”

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5.  On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5. On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary-Kate Sivilli and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team had a special message written on their arms as they hosted Penn last Sunday in the championship game of the Ivy League Tournament.

With senior co-captain Colleen Smith having been sidelined after injuring her knee on the opening draw in Princeton’s 12-5 win over Cornell on Friday in the Ivy semis, the Tigers brought her on the field with them in the final via magic marker.

“It is really hard to make up for Colleen, she is a big presence, she has a lot of spirit,” said senior attacker Sivilli.

“We actually wrote her number on our wrists today. We played for her, keeping a piece of her with us in our heart the whole game. Unfortunately it is not the same but we tried to embody her presence.”

The Penn players also scrawled some inspiration on their arms with the words “Penn Ball,” paying homage to the Duke men’s basketball’s team slogan of “Duke Ball” used as inspiration to go hard after any loose balls.

In the early stages on Sunday, the Quakers did a better job of staying on message, scoring the first six goals of the game on the way to taking a 6-2 lead at halftime.

“I thought they really came out and took the game today,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, whose team was outshot 21-3 in the first half and lost 7-of-9 draw controls.

“I think you just have to give them a lot of credit, they went after it at the start of the game. We were slow starting today. I thought Friday night we played one of the best games, if not the best game, that we have played all season. Today was the other end of the spectrum. I think Penn just came out like a force. They worked really hard offensively and we were trying to just keep up defensively.”

In the second half, the Tigers took a page out of Smith’s book, playing with heart and fire as they cut into the Penn lead.

“I was really proud that the team showed a very different effort and fight in the second half,” said Sailer of the Tigers, who had a 9-3 edge on shots in the second half and won 6-of-7 draw controls.

“If you look at the draw control statistics, they were reversed, that was the name of the game. We were outhustled and outperformed on the draw in the first half and we did the reverse on the second half so we had an opportunity.”

But the early hole proved too big as Princeton ultimately succumbed 9-6 to the Quakers to drop to 11-6. The Tigers will get a chance to fight another day as they earned an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament and will play Penn State on May 9 at the University of Virginia with victor to face host Virginia on May 11 in a second round contest.

Princeton junior attacker Erin McMunn believes that the self-belief that the Tigers displayed in their rally will serve the squad well in the NCAAs.

“I think the first thought you have to have, and I think it is something our team has done a really good job of doing all year, is really buying in and believing in yourselves,” said McMunn, who scored three goals to lead the Tigers with Sarah Lloyd, Olivia Hompe, and Mary-Kate Sivilli chipping in one apiece.

“I think we did that and I think the second half shows you that. It is tough to come back from 6-2 at halftime but it didn’t get to us in terms of believing that we could take this game.”

Sivilli, for her part, sees team’s success coming down to taking care of the ball.

“Draw controls and momentum win games,” said Sivilli, who was named to  the All-Tournament team last weekend along with fellow Tigers McMunn, Liz Bannantine, and Annie Woehling.

“We didn’t have the ball the first half of the game and you can’t win a game without the ball.”

In Sailer’s view, 17th-ranked Princeton, which lost 13-12 to No. 11 Penn State in late April and beat 15th-ranked Virginia 15-13 on March 1, needs a fiery attitude along with ball possession to make an NCAA run.

“It is the mentality piece; we have to go after what we want,” said Sailer, who has guided Princeton to 22 NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, and 2003).

“We have got to be ready from the first draw. Things are going to be hard but that doesn’t mean that we can’t prevail. We just need to have more of that gritty, fighting attitude from the start. I think you saw that in the game Friday night.”

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Even through the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew fell to Columbia last Saturday to suffer its second defeat to the Lions this spring, Marty Crotty is not pushing the panic button.

“During the H-Y-P (Harvard-Yale-Princeton) race (on April 26) one of our rowers was injured and we thought we could plug the hole this week but we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Crotty, whose top boat clocked a time of 5:55.4 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J to trail Columbia by 2.2 seconds but edge third-place Delaware by 0.8 of second.

“We got off to another flat start on Saturday and Columbia is a good enough boat to take advantage of that. We were dealing with a different lineup. We have a lot to do in the next two weeks but we have eight strong rowers and a good cox. It is not like there is a significant time difference. Losing could be a step back but it wasn’t in this case, the race showed us what we need to work on.”

The second varsity 8 took another step forward last Saturday, winning its race to remain undefeated this spring.

“It is amazing to go through unscathed, they have had a different lineup in every race,” said Crotty, noting that injury, illness, and lineup changes come with the territory. “To be able to rotate guys through varsity and still win every week is an accomplishment.”

With the varsity 8 at 7-3, having also lost to Cornell, Crotty believes the boat has plenty of potential.

“It has been an up and down season,” said Crotty, whose boat was ranked second nationally coming into the regatta last Saturday.

“We are trying to get the pieces together. We have shown flashes. Even in the losses, we have matched the speed of the other boats over the last 1,500 meters.”

As Princeton prepares for Eastern Sprints, which are slated for May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., the focus is clear.

“We need to get off the line with the field so we are not working from behind,” said Crotty.

“I am not used to that as a coach. If anything, I have been known for getting boats out too fast. I need to get guys hyped up and aggressive in the first 40 strokes. We just need to be a little cleaner and a little sharper at the start.”

Crotty believes his rowers can clean up at the Sprints. “We are going into the next two weeks thinking that every boat can win at Sprints,” said Crotty.

“We are not using hope as a strategy. We have the talent to win. Cornell and Columbia have gotten the best of us so far. We just need to clean things up at both ends and this is the time of the year that you do that.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ay in the regular season finale for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The star junior attacker managed just one goal on two shots as the Tigers fell 13-12 at Penn State on April 26.

Last Friday, McMunn made plenty of noise, scoring a career-high seven goals as top-seeded Princeton defeated fourth-seeded Cornell 12-5 in the semis of the Ivy League postseason tournament at Class of 52 Stadium.

“I was really lucky, the kids were looking to hit me today and the shots were falling,” said McMunn, reflecting on her outburst.

“I think more than anything it was just that we were really working together well tonight and we were looking for those feeds inside and I happened to get a little lucky that I got seven of them. It was a lot of fun to be out there today.”

Two days later, McMunn had a lot less fun, scoring three goals in a losing cause as Princeton fell 9-6 to second-seeded Penn in the Ivy title game.

The 17th-ranked Tigers, who dropped to 11-6 with the defeat, are still alive in postseason play as they received an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament where they will get a rematch against No. 11 Penn State in a first round contest on May 9 at the University of Virginia. The victor will face host 15th-ranked Virginia in the second round on May 11.

In the view of Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, the lessons McMunn learned from her subpar game against Penn State helped her explode last weekend.

“I don’t think there is a bigger turnaround in six days than Erin McMunn showed on the field,” asserted Sailer after the victory over Cornell.

“Today, I think she learned how to play against a tight mark. She saw what is going to happen when she works hard and when she puts herself in a position to make a difference. She worked hard, she saw the opportunities,  she got separation but then her teammates were ready to hit her and they didn’t hesitate to make the pass.”

In McMunn’s view, the team’s balanced attack opens things up for everybody.

“I think in terms of flow, it is just the fact that any person on our attack could score at any time; we have eight kids with 20-plus points and that is amazing to me,” said McMunn, who leads Princeton with 40 goals and 52 points.

“I think a huge part of it is that everyone is a threat when they have the ball, regardless of who it is.”

McMunn and the Tigers will look to use their performance against Cornell as the blueprint for a run in the NCAA tournament.

“We know that we have put in the prep work, we are excited to play but at the same time we know that we have to keep doing those little things to continue having this kind of performance,” said McMunn, a first-team All Ivy selection on the season and was an All-Tournament honoree last weekend.

“You want to be confident to the point that it really pushes you to play well and puts you in a good mental state but not so much that we become complacent. We are doing a good job right now of finding that balance so I think that is going to be big, not just for the attack, but for the whole team going forward.”

SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton High softball player Kayla Volante fires a pitch in recent action. Freshman Volante has had an immediate impact on PHS this spring, contributing in the circle and at the plate. The Little Tigers, who fell to 3-12 with a 6-2 loss at Lawrence High last Monday, start action in the Mercer County Tournament this week and also have regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9. PHS is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at fifth-seeded WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton High softball team trailing Lawrenceville 8-0 in the fourth inning last Friday, Dave Boehm urged his players to relax.

“It was just come out swinging,” said PHS head coach Boehm, reflecting on his message to his charges.

“We are looking at too many good pitches; we let good pitches go by and we are swinging at bad ones.”

PHS responded with two runs in the fifth as sophomore Natalie Campisi got things rolling with a single and then her older sister, senior tri-captain Jessica Campisi, along with freshman Kayla Volante delivered RBI hits.

“We got a couple of hits but we have to keep going,” said Boehm, whose team went on to lose 9-2 as the Campisi sisters and Volante all had two hits in a losing cause.

Having dropped nine of its last 11 games, PHS is struggling to get in synch.

“It is just mental mistakes,” said Boehm, whose team fell 6-2 at Lawrence High last Monday to lose its fourth straight game and drop to 3-12 on the season.

“I think it is a learning process for these girls. A lot of them didn’t play varsity last year and they are learning now that the speed of this game is a lot faster than they thought. By the time they think of where they have got to throw, it is already too late.”

Volante threw well in relief against Lawrenceville, holding the Big Red to one run over the last three innings.

“She is not the fastest kid throwing but she has nice movement on her pitches, especially her curve,” said Boehm, noting that Volante has also emerged as a batting threat for the Little Tigers. “It drops out a little bit on the bottom so she will hold us into games.”

Two of PHS’s veterans, junior Sarah Eisenach and senior Liana Bloom, have been holding their own in recent action.

“Sarah is also hitting the ball well,” said Boehm of Eisenach, the team’s top pitcher who performed well in the circle against Lawrence on Monday in a losing cause, recording nine strikeouts.

“I would say the last three games, Sarah has hit the ball very well. Liana Bloom is doing a good job at first base, she is filling in for Emily DiLella, who twisted her knee in Ewing. She is playing well in the field.”

Boehm is confident there are good times ahead for the Little Tigers, who have two freshmen, two juniors, and six sophomores seeing a lot of action this spring.

“I think they will come along,” said Boehm. “We have got a good young nucleus, mostly sophomores. There are only a couple of seniors that are really playing.”

In Boehm’s view, the Little Tigers need to stay loose as they head into a busy homestretch, which includes the start of the Mercer County Tournament and regular season games at Nottingham on May 7 and at Notre Dame on May 9.

“Next week, we have six games,” said Boehm, whose club is seeded 12th in the MCT and will play at No. 5 WW/P-S on May 10 in an opening round contest.

“We start the county tournament on Saturday. I told them at the end there that no one expects you to beat them now so just go out there swinging and play the best you can.”

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PICKING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster goes after a ball in 2013 action. Last Monday, junior star Foster scored four goals in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 23-16 at No. 2 Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals. The Panthers, now 5-4, are slated to have a Mercer County Tournament consolation game on May 7 and then play at Peddie on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Morgan Foster and the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, its state Prep B tournament opener last week against Montclair-Kimberley Academy wasn’t just the beginning of the postseason, it represented a vital step in a healing process.

The April 29 contest marked the team’s first action in 12 days as its games the previous week were cancelled after the passing of Nancy Dwyer, the mother of PDS junior goalie Sara Dwyer.

“This game was definitely important for us,” said PDS junior star Foster. “We had a lot riding on it, especially because it is a tournament game and, in light of recent events, you really want to go out there and show that we still have got it.”

Foster didn’t waste any time showing that her finishing skills were as sharp as ever, scoring two goals in the first 6:01 of the game as the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“It got the ball rolling, it got the momentum up,” recalled Foster, who ended up with three goals and an assist on the day as the Panthers prevailed 13-12. “It was going our way for a while. I was really happy that I was able to get the opportunity to score.”

As the team helped Dwyer deal with her loss, it has used that situation as an opportunity to become even closer.

“We really made sure that we were there holding each other’s hands the whole time,” said Foster. “We made sure that every single person was on the same page. We are only as strong as our weakest link.”

Foster acknowledged that PDS had to fight through some weak moments as Montclair Kimberley narrowed an 11-6 PDS lead to 11-10 to turn the game into a nailbiter.

“Towards the end, we were put in situations that we were not exactly happy to put ourselves in,” said Foster.

“But we think it is important that we were able to practice them on such a big stage and get a little bit more experience under our belts for that one.”

The battle-tested Foster, a starter since the beginning of her freshman season, is utilizing her experience.

“As a junior, I am stepping into the role of becoming a senior and having a bigger voice on the team and having the girls look up to me for advice,” said Foster.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas credited Foster with being a catalyst for her teammates in the win over MKA.

“Morgan just got us going, she set the tone,” said Thomas. “She always brings her best to the field. She did a great job of going to goal and finding out what worked against this goalie and then everybody followed suit so that was really good.”

Sophomore Hope Anhut was really good in the win, scoring five goals to lead the PDS attack.

“Hope has taken it to another level; she is more confident,” said Thomas. “We have used our plays to work to her a little bit. They are working well. You have your top dogs out there and they are all together.”

Showing a high level of commitment and courage, junior Kirsten Kuzmicz, normally a midfielder, stepped into goal for Dwyer and made 10 saves.

“What can you say, not bad for three days,” said Thomas, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s performance in the cage.

“She stepped in there and she was tough the whole time. It takes a special person to step in and do what she did today and do it well.”

Thomas was proud of how her players stepped up collectively under tough circumstances.

“It was good to get back; we are just all there for everybody,” said Thomas, whose team fell 17-11 to WW/P-S last Thursday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament before losing 23-16 to Morristown-Beard last Monday in the Prep B semis. “They have been there for each other the whole week and that has been good.”

Foster, for her part, is determined to be there for her teammates. “I definitely feel like I am out here to score and I am out here to assist and make other people look good,” said Foster. “I would like to think of my play as a balancing act.”

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAINT IT BLACK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Black heads upfield last Monday as second-seeded Hun hosted No. 3 Peddie in the state Prep A semifinal. Junior attacker and Villanova-bound Black tallied two goals and seven assists in the contest as the Raiders prevailed 13-5, improving to 10-4 and earning a date with perennial state champion and top-seeded Lawrenceville in the Prep A title game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though Brendan Black scored two goals as the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team topped visiting Peddie 13-5 last Monday in the state Prep A semis, the junior star prefers seeing others take care of the finishing duties.

“I just try to quarterback the offense as much as I can and get the other guys good looks because they can stick them in, that’s for sure,” said attacker Black, who had seven assists in the victory, which improved the Raiders to 10-4 and earned them a date with perennial state champion Lawrenceville in the Prep A final. “I just roll with whatever comes.”

One of Black’s favorite targets is his younger brother, sophomore midfielder Owen Black, who tallied two goals for second-seeded Hun in the victory over No. 3 Peddie.

“We do have a connection on the field, I love playing that wing with him,” said Black, who is committed to join the Villanova University men’s lacrosse program along with his brother.

“I know where he is going to be and he knows where I am going to be. We have been playing together forever. We are going to keep playing together for years to come.”

Having defeated Peddie 10-5 in a regular season contest on April 25, Black knew that the Falcons presented a challenge in the tournament rematch.

“They are a great team and we knew they were a threat; they have a really good face-off guy, a good goalie, and good attackmen so they have the formula to win,” said Black.

“We knew that they were going to be a threat. We were nervous but I think we handled them well. We knew if we jumped on them early we would be able to have them. We had great face-off play from Alex Semler so that really helped us get it going offensively.”

Things have been going very well for the Raiders as they have won seven straight games and 10 of their last 11.

“We knew from the start of the year that we were going to have some rough games off the bat but that is always what we want,” said Black.

“Our motto is that it is not about winning at the beginning of the season, it is about May. I feel like now we are really starting to click as a team and it is May 5 and we are getting going now.”

Black credits Hun’s defensive unit with playing a critical role in getting the team going.

“Our defense led by Jim Jannicelli, Cam Dudeck, Chase Goulburn, and Chris Fake is a sound defense,” said Black.

“Our longstick midfielder Tucker Stevenson and our defensive middies, Mike McMenamin and Matt Bruno, don’t get a lot of credit, but they are really a sound group of guys. They protect Jon and Jon makes great saves. The defense is the backbone of our team and they always have been. Without our defense, we wouldn’t be getting the ball on offense.”

In the view of Hun head coach MV Whitlow, the Black brothers also give the team some backbone.

“Brendan is a team captain and is the older brother,” said Whitlow. “Owen brings an on the field leadership with his poise and his lacrosse IQ.”

Sophomore Semler gave the Raiders some intelligent play in the middle of the field.

“I think the biggest difference in the game was Alex Semler at the face-off X because Nick Donahue is one great player and a great face-off guy. We had a face-off-enhanced possession disadvantage in the last game and Alex did a good job at the X so we weren’t at such a possession deficit.”

Once Hun got the ball, juniors Cole West and Drake Roy capitalized with West tallying two goals and four assists and Roy contributing a game-high four goals.

“Cole is a very dynamic player,” said Whitlow. “He is very quick and he has great vision, that’s a good combination. He feeds off other people; he likes to get the ball distributed. He finishes his own looks but he does like to look for his teammates so that brings everybody together. Drake is a great finisher and he is showing great leadership in his shooting touch.”

In Whitlow’s view, veteran leadership has played a key role in Hun’s hot streak.

“We just promoted four guys to assistant captain, who are all seniors in Matt Bruno, Mike McKeon, Chase Goulburn, and Corey Reynolds,” said Whitlow.

“We are getting good leadership from our senior class and as your seniors go is how your team is going to go. It is a good group of guys, it is a tight group of guys.”

Whitlow likes the way Hun has tightened up things at both ends of the field. “It has always been our goal to play our best lacrosse in May,” asserted Whitlow.

“We have been working real hard on a lot of different fundamentals and those things have come to fruition now and we are starting to play our best lacrosse right now.”

Hun will need to play its best lacrosse in order to topple top-seeded Lawrenceville, which has won 13 straight Prep A titles.

“We were always going to define success on our own terms and we are thankful to be able to play in a championship game,” said Whitlow, noting that a date for the title contest is to be determined after both teams wrap up play in the upcoming Inter Ac tourney.

“We have a lot of respect for the Lawrenceville program and the Lawrenceville players. It sets up to be a nice championship game.”

Black, for his part, believes that the Raiders have the game to hang with the Big Red.

“We are really looking forward to it, they are a great, great team with great history,” said Black.

“We know it is going to be a great game and we want to get after it. We feel we are really clicking at the right time. Hopefully, we will keep going until the end.”

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CATCHING ON: Hun School baseball player Gideon Friedberg, left, confers with pitcher Patrick Donahue in a game earlier this spring. Junior Friedberg, a transfer from Princeton High, has become a key contributor for the Raiders, playing at third base in addition to catcher. The Raiders, now 7-8, start action in the Mercer County tournament this week where they are seeded 10th and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Gideon Friedberg displayed his development as a hitter last Saturday as the Hun School baseball team hosted the Blair Academy.

After looking overmatched against the Blair pitcher with two swings and misses in the second inning, Hun junior Friedberg connected for a solid single to right field. He then stole second base and went on to score on an error as Hun jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

“I was behind the first two so I figured that he wasn’t going to give me anything off-speed because I didn’t come close to the other two,” said Friedberg. “My approach is to go to right field and I got it and hit it on the line.”

Friedberg’s run, though didn’t hold up as Hun gave up four runs in the top of the sixth and another in the seventh to fall 5-1.

With Hun having dropped four straight heading into the Blair game, Friedberg acknowledged that the team has had trouble closing out games.

“We started out pretty strong there but obviously we weren’t able to string the hits together like we needed,” said Friedberg.

“He pitched a heck of a good game and we just sort of let up, that is the problem we have been having. In the last game we had five strong innings and one bad one and that is what undoes us.”

Despite the recent slump, the Hun players are not hanging their heads. “We are approaching it the same way,” said Friedberg. “We have really good team chemistry and everybody is pulling for each other. It is tough.”

Friedberg, who went to Princeton High for two years before transferring to Hun, is having a good experience with the Raider squad.

“I always knew coach (Bill McQuade) through camps as a young kid and I really liked the culture here and the program and the school is a good fit,” said Friedberg. “I am very happy to be here.”

Getting the chance to play third base this spring in addition to his natural position of catcher, Friedberg believes he is making good progress.

“I grew a little bit and I was in the weight room over the winter getting stronger,” said Friedberg.

“It is a transition over to third but I have a lot more confidence swinging the bat. It is just having another year, getting more confident. I am one of the older guys now.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade likes the growth he has seen in Friedberg.

“Gideon has a great arm, he has great, soft hands,” said McQuade.

“Like so many of these kids, they have just got to believe in themselves a little more. He can look like he is out of sync and then all of a sudden, he will lash one out to left center or right center. I see that he is playing the game with more intensity and staying more focused. He is a big kid; he is not the little guy that transferred here.”

In reflecting on the loss to Blair, McQuade acknowledged that his team lost focus as the Buccaneers took the lead with a two-run homer in the sixth and then tacked on two more runs in that frame to seize momentum.

“George Revock was on a roll; he had them confused up there and we scratched out the one run,” said McQuade, referring to his sophomore starting pitcher.

“With a couple of hits we could have gotten more. We haven’t been getting key hits in big situations so that hurt us again. The homer changed things but there was a missed cutoff in the outfield and there was a bad pickoff play here. I think that rattled George a little bit and then he threw one over the middle of the plate and the guy yanked it out of the ballpark and that was the difference in the game. One play can turn everything around.”

Dealing with a lot of roster turnover, McQuade sensed that his team was going to be in for a rocky road this spring.

“We knew that coming in; we had young kids or inexperienced older kids so either way you looked at it, we were inexperienced,” said McQuade, whose team came through with a 5-0 win over Peddie last Monday to improve to 7-8.

“We weren’t as physical as we were before. But it makes some of the young kids step up. Now, what is happening is that they are finding out what it is like playing at the varsity level against good competition. But when we revisit the games as coaches, we feel we could have won a number of these games.”

As Hun heads into the postseason, starting action in the Mercer County Tournament this week with the state Prep A tourney around the corner, McQuade believes his team can raise the level of its play.

“They are keeping their heads up, they are still fighting because they know they have to get better and that is what we keep preaching, get better,” said McQuade, whose team is seeded 10th in the MCT and will play at No.7 Ewing on May 7 in a first round contest.

“It is not going to happen overnight. You are never going to get better if you put your head down. So our mantra all along with these kids is to hang in there.”

Friedberg, for his part, is confident that the Raiders can turn some heads come tournament time.

“We just need to have timely hitting,” said Friedberg. “We work together, we have a solid team. We are still coming with the same good attitude.”