May 22, 2013
THANKS A MILLION: Hun School softball player Carey Million takes a cut last Thursday against the Peddie School in the state Prep A championship game. Senior catcher and Elon University-bound Million ended her stellar career on a down note as the Raiders fell 5-3 to Peddie to finish the spring with an 11-7 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THANKS A MILLION: Hun School softball player Carey Million takes a cut last Thursday against the Peddie School in the state Prep A championship game. Senior catcher and Elon University-bound Million ended her stellar career on a down note as the Raiders fell 5-3 to Peddie to finish the spring with an 11-7 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Hun School softball team has suffered several heartbreaking defeats to Peddie in postseason play over the years, the Raiders were upbeat as the rivals met last Thursday in the state Prep A championship game.

Snapping a four-game losing streak, Hun routed Blair Academy 7-1 in the Prep A semis to earn its trip to the title game and gain a much-needed jolt of confidence.

“I am shocked the way we played against Blair,” said longtime Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.

“We had lost four or five in a row by one run. The atmosphere had been ‘oh do we have to play another game.’ It just seemed to not be where we wanted it to be. They battled back. The Blair game was the game of our life.”

Hun senior star catcher and Elon University-bound Carey Million and her teammates believed they had
the talent to play with the Falcons.

“I think we realized how close we were,” said Million, noting that Hun had dropped two one-run nailbiters to Peddie in regular season play. “I think everyday could be our day.”

Building on its strong game against Blair, Hun scored three runs in the top of the first in the title game to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Million, for her part, realized that wouldn’t be enough.

“We knew we couldn’t settle with three runs,” said Million. “After that inning, we just couldn’t find holes with our bats.”

Peddie, as its custom, chipped away with its bats, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second inning and adding another in the bottom of the fourth to knot the contest at 3-3. The Falcons forged ahead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs to take a 5-3 lead.

Hun, though, didn’t throw in the towel, loading the bases in the top of the seventh before succumbing by the 5-3 margin.

Million was proud of how Hun kept battling in the seventh as Kristen Manochio singled, Alexis Goeke drew a walk and Alexa Fares was hit by a pitch.

“It showed a lot, especially with the bottom of our lineup,” said Million.

“I think Fares fought in that at-bat. Sometimes you can’t do it all and it just happens.”

A disappointed Quirk was frustrated as she reflected on her team’s unfortunate case of déjà vu.

“I don’t know what to say; it is like a monkey on our back and we just can’t seem to get rid of it,” said Quirk, who took out starting pitcher Goeke in the sixth inning and replaced her with Dani Beal in an effort to stop the Falcons.

“We come out strong. We have an inning or two and let them creep back in. I made the pitching change, which I thought I needed to do. Goeke just seemed to be struggling a little bit today and I did what I had to do. I don’t think I would change it. And then you have bases loaded and you don’t get anything. We just couldn’t capitalize on it. I was very proud of them: I thought they played a nice game today.”

Quirk is proud of the contributions made by her trio of seniors, Joey Crivelli together with Million and Beal.

“They are going to be missed; there is no doubt about that,” asserted Quirk, whose team ended the spring with a final record of 11-7. “These three seniors are key players for us.”

With such key returners as freshman Goeke, sophomore Julia Blake, sophomore Caitlin Hoagland, and freshman Sierra Hessinger together with juniors Manochio and Fares, the Raiders have a good foundation in place.

“We are young so there is next year,” said Quirk. “Goeke is only going to get better. You have to keep fighting hard and you can’t ever give up. You have to work hard in the offseason, which is something that my younger kids don’t seem to understand. We’ll work on it.”

For Million, it is hard to say goodbye to Hun softball. “I thought I played pretty well, I am glad we won games where I played well,” said Million, who batted .510 this spring with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 26 RBIs, and 23 runs scored.

“In games where I played well and we didn’t win, I really didn’t care about what I did. You can’t get anywhere by yourself. I am going to miss everyone; it is going to be rough. I think it is hard for everything to come to an end.”

Million’s brilliant play has her heading somewhere special as she will continue her softball career at Division I Elon in North Carolina.

“It is something I have always wanted to do and I got to go to my No. 1 school so it works out,” said Million.

“I am looking forward to it but I wish we could be holding the trophy right now.”

While Million didn’t end her Hun career with a trophy, she produced some great work over the last four years.

BIG APPLE: Hun School baseball player Jason Applegate heads to first in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore star Applegate got the win on the mound and contributed a run-scoring double as top-seeded Hun beat No. 4 Lawrenceville 11-1 in the first round of the state tournament. The Raiders find themselves in a do-or-die situation in the double elimination Prep A tourney as they beat No. 2 Blair Academy 5-3 on Saturday but then fell to the Buccaneers 7-5 last Sunday in the championship round. The rivals were slated to play on Tuesday in a winner-take-all finale.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG APPLE: Hun School baseball player Jason Applegate heads to first in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore star Applegate got the win on the mound and contributed a run-scoring double as top-seeded Hun beat No. 4 Lawrenceville 11-1 in the first round of the state tournament. The Raiders find themselves in a do-or-die situation in the double elimination Prep A tourney as they beat No. 2 Blair Academy 5-3 on Saturday but then fell to the Buccaneers 7-5 last Sunday in the championship round. The rivals were slated to play on Tuesday in a winner-take-all finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jason Applegate displayed his growth as a pitcher when top-seeded Hun School baseball team battled No. 4 Lawrenceville last Wednesday in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament.

Battling through some control issues, the Hun sophomore righty held the Big Red scoreless in four innings of work, giving up no hits, as the Raiders pulled away to an 11-1 triumph.

In assessing his mound effort, Applegate was proud of the way he kept his cool as he worked out of a couple of jams.

“My previous couple of starts, I was rushing to the plate and I was trying to throw the ball harder than I should,” said Applegate.

“Today I took a different approach. I slowed down and I stayed back and tried hitting more spots. I got my curve ball back; that was working. The changeup still needs work but the curve ball is there.” Applegate believes he has matured a lot with one season of high school ball under his belt.

“I know the situations and I know how to get out of them,” said Applegate, who doubled in a run to help his cause.

“I am starting to learn how to pitch and I am trusting myself more. I was 14 years old as a freshman last year, playing on the varsity. I am 15 now. It is still young but I have matured a lot through this organization.”

Hun finds itself in a do-or-die situation in the double elimination Prep A tourney as it beat second-seeded Blair Academy 5-3 on Saturday but then fell to the Buccaneers 7-5 last Sunday in the championship round. The teams were slated to play on Tuesday in a winner-take-all finale.

“Our goal is to win the states,” said Applegate. “After losing in the county tournament, we are just focused on states now. It is going to be tough because there are some really good teams in the state prep.

Hun head coach Bill McQuade liked the mental toughness Applegate displayed on the mound in the win over Lawrenceville.

“He still threw too many pitches but he battled when he had to battle and it is one of his better games in terms of composure,” said McQuade.

“That was all about composure. We have been talking to him from last year to this year, he has to slow the engine down and become the pitcher, the thinker, before he throws the pitch. He’s got the God-given ability, now he’s got to harness the energy behind it and turn into a thinking pitcher because the arm is there.”

Last Sunday, Hun and Blair both showed composure as they played through a steady drizzle at Lawrenceville in the first game of the Prep A championship round.

“Considering the weather, considering the field condition, both teams gave it everything they had,” said McQuade, whose team moved to 15-6 with the loss.

“Remarkably it was a pretty clean ballgame, considering the weather. Once the ball hit the ground, it was soaking wet so actually it wasn’t until the last inning or two when wild pitches started happening but you couldn’t run, the kids had no left-to right mobility because of the mud on their shoes.”

McQuade tipped his hat to the Buccaneers for coming through under such conditions as they battled back from deficits of 1-0 and 3-2 to earn the win and force the final game.

“They came up with a great hit when they had to, they really did,” said McQuade, referring to a decisive bases-clearing double by Blair’s Ed Lehr in the top of the sixth which gave the Buccaneers a 7-3 lead. “In terms of today, they did their job and they deserved it.”

Hun will be looking to do the job when the rivals meet in the rubber match for the title. “It is one game, winner take all, you can’t ask for anything better than that,” said McQuade. “We have got Applegate and then pitching by committee. We have got to hit them.”

Applegate, for his part, believes Hun can emerge as the better team. “We are looking pretty good so far,” asserted Applegate. “I think we are on the slope upward.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse star Cody Triolo heads to goal in PDS’s 7-4 win over WW/P-S in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. Senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 7-6 in overtime to second-seeded and eventual champion Princeton High in the MCT semis last week. The loss left PDS, which also advanced to the state Prep B title game, with a final record of 11-6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse star Cody Triolo heads to goal in PDS’s 7-4 win over WW/P-S in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. Senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal in a losing cause as third-seeded PDS fell 7-6 in overtime to second-seeded and eventual champion Princeton High in the MCT semis last week. The loss left PDS, which also advanced to the state Prep B title game, with a final record of 11-6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There were tears mixed with smiles as the seniors on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team embraced their younger teammates one by one last week after the Panthers lost in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament.

The bonds that sustained the squad were evident in the post-game exchange which took place on the Ewing High track in the wake of the disappointing setback that saw the Panthers battle eventual county champion Princeton High tooth-and-nail before falling 7-6 in overtime.

A subdued PDS head coach Rob Tuckman acknowledged that his team was drained after a 14-day stretch that saw the Panthers go 6-2, advancing to the state Prep B title game as well as the county semis.

“We have just played a lot of lacrosse in two weeks,” said Tuckman, whose team had edged PHS 8-7 in overtime on the MCT semis last year.

“There are tired legs, banged up legs but this is the time of the season when everybody has them. Princeton High is a great rivalry for us. We stole it from them last year and they stole it from us this year. It is good lacrosse.”

The clash between third-seeded PDS and second-seeded PHS proved to be a very good lacrosse game as the Panthers battled back from deficits of 2-0, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5 to force overtime after senior Cody Triolo scored the tying goal with 3:30 left in regulation.

In Tuckman’s view, the tenacity his team displayed against PHS was a microcosm of its play all season long.

“I think we are a team that has just gritted it out and have put it out in the line every game,” said Tuckman, who got three goals from Jacob Shavel and two from Bump Lisk in the defeat which left the Panthers with a final record of 11-6.

“I am not sure there is any one particular thing. It is a game that could have gone either way. I think Pete [PHS head coach Pete Stanton] does an outstanding job with his program and this was just two teams that matched up well and fought hard together.”

Tuckman credited his senior class with setting an outstanding example this spring. “It starts with our senior class and it just goes from there,” said Tuckman, whose Class of 2013 includes Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brenden Shannon, Andrew Phipps, and Tucker Triolo in addition to Lisk and Cody Triolo.

“This senior class has really set a tone and an expectation for what we looked to accomplish for the 10 years that I have been a part of this program.”

Those seniors have left a legacy that will impact the program for years to come.

“I think that this is just a start,” asserted Tuckman, who returns such talented players as juniors Nelson Garrymore, Ben Levine, Connor Bitterman, and Lewis Blackburn together with sophomores Shavel, Chris Azzarello, Christian Vik, and Kevin Towle.

“We have a talented junior group; we have a talented sophomore group. We have a talented freshman group. We have got some talent coming in so it is going to continue to build and continue to push. I think this year nobody took us lightly and nobody should.”

Tuckman, for his part, enjoyed guiding the Panthers this year. “Watching this team go from the beginning of our season where we were just trying to find our way to where we are at the end of the season, which is playing a real team offense, a team defense, I think that’s the highlight,” said Tuckman.

“Watching these kids develop into lacrosse players, that’s what makes this so much fun as a coach.”

And the fun the players had this spring should spark memories that will outlive the disappointment felt last week.

May 15, 2013
POOL PLAY: Princeton University water polo coach Luis Nicolao goes over strategy with his women’s squad in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, the Tigers went up to Boston for the NCAA Championships and placed fifth, losing to UCLA in the quarterfinals before beating Iona and UC San Diego in the consolation rounds. The Tigers, who were making their second straight trip to the NCAAs, finished the season with a 28-6 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POOL PLAY: Princeton University water polo coach Luis Nicolao goes over strategy with his women’s squad in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, the Tigers went up to Boston for the NCAA Championships and placed fifth, losing to UCLA in the quarterfinals before beating Iona and UC San Diego in the consolation rounds. The Tigers, who were making their second straight trip to the NCAAs, finished the season with a 28-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 1996, the Princeton University men’s basketball team stunned UCLA in the NCAA tournament, an historic upset that helped put the program in the national limelight.

Last Friday, the Princeton women’s water polo team was looking to take a page out of the men’s hoops playbook as the sixth-seeded Tigers faced No. 3 UCLA in the NCAA quarterfinals at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.

“We were definitely excited; we had the feeling that we could hang with UCLA and give them a game,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team was making its second straight trip to the NCAAs.

“The fact that we were not traveling west made it less stressful; we didn’t have to worry about that one long day. We were familiar with the Harvard pool. The attitude was let’s get there and see what we can do.”

Trailing the Bruins 2-1 after the first quarter, Princeton made some miscues in the second period which the Bruins converted into a 3-0 run as they took a 6-2 lead into halftime. After the break, the Tigers got into a rhythm, outscoring the Bruins 4-2 in the second half but it was too little, too late as UCLA held on for an 8-6 win.

“Once we settled down, we got back into the game and had a great defensive effort,” said Nicolao, reflecting on the setback which saw freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson make nine saves and two steals with junior star Katie Rigler scoring three goals and sophomore standout Jessie Holecheck adding two.

“We surprised some people but we felt that we could play with them. We knew they would be looking to play Stanford. We thought we had them at the right time.”

The Tigers looked very sharp the next day as they rolled to a 12-2 win over Iona in a consolation round contest.

“That was a game I was concerned going into it; we had already played them and I was afraid of a letdown after the UCLA game,” said Nicolao, whose team jumped out to a 7-1 lead at halftime and never looked back with senior Saranna Soroka scoring four goals and freshman Pippa Temple adding three.

“It speaks to our depth, we have had a lot of different players step up this year. It was nice to come back with a win like that. We played well.”

In the fifth-place contest on Sunday against UC San Diego, the Tigers didn’t play well in the beginning as they trailed 6-5 heading into the second half. Princeton outscored the fifth-seeded Tritons 5-4 to knot the game at 10-10 at the end of regulation and force overtime. In the extra periods, the Tigers scored two unanswered goals to pull out the win and the highest finish in program history.

“We gave up some shots in the first half that we don’t normally give up; we were playing in a fog,” said Nicolao, who got four goals from Holechek in the victory with senior Brittany Zwirner scoring three and junior Molly McBee chipping in a goal and two assists.

“Once we settled in the second quarter, we didn’t do anything different scheme-wise, we just started playing the scheme. I told them at halftime that it would come down to focus and intensity in the second half. It was one of those fun games to be in, two good teams battling really hard.”

For the Tigers, placing fifth was an important step forward. “It was a good feeling to win; last year we lost the fifth place game and losing the final game is a bitter way to end the season,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the season with a 28-6 record.

“It is good to get a little bit of respect for our team and conference. We came in with a chip on our shoulder. We wanted to show that we were better than we were seeded. It is hard to get there once but to get back and to go 2-1 with the one loss being close to a huge upset was great. It would have been a dream to win the first one but I can’t be any prouder of them.”

Nicolao is proud of what his seniors Rachele Gyorffy, Laura Martinez, Soroka, and Zwirner have accomplished over their careers.

“Every senior group that has come through here has been part of our success,” said Nicolao, who is in his 15th season overseeing both the men’s and women’s water polo programs at Princeton.

“They have helped lay the foundation. You are always building and they were part of that process.”

A key part of Princeton’s foundation going forward is goalie Johnson, who established a new NCAA Championship record for saves with 38 in the tournament.

“Ashleigh had a great weekend, she is a special player,” said Nicolao of the Miami, Fla. native. “She allows us to do other things. The goalie is one position where you can neutralize the game and make it an even playing field.”

Nicolao believes Princeton has the pieces in place to make another run at the NCAA field.

“We are excited about the future but we know the Indianas and the Michigans are going to bring some good girls in and reload,” said Nicolao.

“Every year presents new challenges. We are going to have the target on our backs for a second year. The good part is that this group has now been to the NCAAs two years and they know what it’s about. They want to win that first game and get to the Final 4. We have some great players coming back and we have a nice class coming in. We should be right in the mix. The rising juniors are a talented group and you mix them with Rigler and McBee. We have great balance.”

HAND IN HAND: Princeton University men’s golf star Greg Jarmas, right, and Tiger head coach Will Green enjoy a fist bump after Jarmas completed his final round at the Ivy League Championship in late April on the way to the individual title. Jarmas’ 3-over total of 213 for the three-round event helped Princeton win the team title. The Tigers will be going after another crown this week as they compete in the NCAA regional at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash. from May 16-18.(Photo by Greg Carroccio, Sideline Photos/Ivy League)

HAND IN HAND: Princeton University men’s golf star Greg Jarmas, right, and Tiger head coach Will Green enjoy a fist bump after Jarmas completed his final round at the Ivy League Championship in late April on the way to the individual title. Jarmas’ 3-over total of 213 for the three-round event helped Princeton win the team title. The Tigers will be going after another crown this week as they compete in the NCAA regional at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash. from May 16-18. (Photo by Greg Carroccio, Sideline Photos/Ivy League)

Coming into the Ivy League Championship in late April, Will Green believed that his Princeton University men’s golf team was in the mix for the title.

“It was wide open without a doubt,” said Princeton head coach Green of the three-round event which took place at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings, Md.

“Yale cemented themselves as the favorite, winning two tournaments and coming in second in another. With the depth of the team and the parity in the league, I thought there were six teams that had a chance if they played well. I knew what we had in our players and I knew we would compete. All spring, there had been an unwavering confidence.”

Although Princeton stood in fourth place going into final round, Green had a good feeling about his team’s chances as it got ready to take the course.

“There were five teams within four shots, that is one hole,” said Green. “I was quite emotional; I knew how hard these guys had worked. I was about 20 yards from Quinn [freshman star Quinn Prchal] as he walked to the first tee and I said ‘go get it and he said yes sir.’ I thought he is going to get a good number today; I could see that he had a quiet confidence.”

The Tigers went out and played with a collective confidence, firing a final round total of 288 to post an 883 and win the title, topping runner-up Yale by five strokes. The triumph qualified Princeton for the NCAAs and the Tigers will take part in the regional at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash. from May 16-18.

In reflecting on how things unfolded on the final day of the Ivy tournament, Green said his team followed a winning script.

“It was going to take a solid round from everyone and some some special play and that is what we got,” said Green, who got an even par round of 70 from junior Greg Jarmas, the Ivy individual champion, with Prchal firing a 69, Bernie D’Amato carding a 74, Nicholas Ricci getting a 75, and Matt Gerber posting a 76. “It was a collective effort.”

In the view of his team’s superb effort, Green wasn’t overly focused on the standings.

“Yale still had five guys on the course when we finished,” recalled Green “I was so happy with how the guys played, it didn’t matter whether we won or not. With our season on the line, we played great.”

Jarmas certainly played great as he ended up with a three-over 213 to finish three shots better than Penn’s Max Marisco and P.J. Fielding.

“Greg and I talked during the week, he has been playing well and he knew he could be the variable for us,” recalled Green.

“If he played well, we would have a good chance of winning. I walked all 54 holes with Greg. I wasn’t his caddie but I wanted to keep him calm and focused. We were talking about his shots and what he needed to do.”

Over the final two holes, Jarmas made some huge shots. “He made a 17-foot for par on 17,” said Green.

“On 18, he hit a 320-yard drive, he said to me I am jacked up, I told him to slow things down. We walked really slow and took in the environment around us. It is a beautiful setting. He had 124 yards to the hole and he hit a gap wedge 25-30 feet past the hole but still on the green. He made the 30-foot putt and I knew what we had and where Yale was and that he had a chance to win the individual title.”

Once the team and individual titles were confirmed, Green’s emotions bubbled over.

“The joy I had was for the players who had put in so much effort,” asserted Green.

“I texted an alum from 40 years ago who been so supportive and helped us financially and said this was for you. He texted back that he had tears in his eyes and so did I.”

In Green’s view, the win is important on both the short term and long term for the Tigers.

“We have had an exceptional golf program as long as the sport has been played in the Ivy League,” said Green, who is in his 14th season guiding the Tigers and has now led Princeton to seven Ivy crowns.

“It is our 24th title but we hadn’t won since 2006. It was good to know that we still have it and that we are one of the premier programs in the league and the northeast.
We’ll see what impact it has; hopefully it will help us with recruiting.”

Green is confident the Tigers can make an impact at the NCAA regional.

“Our goal is to advance to the finals,” said Green, whose team will need to finish in the top five to qualify for the NCAA Championship at the Capital City Club in Atlanta from May 28-June 2.

“We are not going out there to be a sacrificial lamb or for ceremonial purposes. We are going to compete.”

IN VAIN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer controls the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, sophomore star Slifer tallied four points on two goals and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 10-9 in overtime to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Annapolis, Md. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 10-7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN VAIN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer controls the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, sophomore star Slifer tallied four points on two goals and two assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 10-9 in overtime to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Annapolis, Md. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 10-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Earlier in the spring, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team appeared overmatched as it fell to such powerful non-conference foes as Georgetown and Maryland.

But catching fire, the Tigers won seven of their last eight regular season games and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament despite an overtime loss to Dartmouth in the Ivy League tournament.

Facing national power Duke in the first round of the NCAAs last Friday evening in Annapolis, Md., the Tigers showed how much they have grown as they jumped out to a 7-5 halftime lead over the Blue Devils.

“It was an incredible 30 minutes of lacrosse at both ends of the field,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, reflecting on her squad’s first half performance.

“We went out and played hard and competed. We dominated the draws all night, that was a huge focus for us all week. We dominated the draws against Dartmouth the first time and then they dominated the draws against us in the Ivy semis.”

Princeton never stopped competing even as Duke forged ahead in the second half.

“They were leading by one with a couple of minutes left and we went into our pressure defense and threw some doubles at them,” said Sailer.

“Caroline Rehfuss made a nice steal and then Erin Slifer made an unbelievable shot to tie it up. It was a great moment.”

Slifer’s tally and a save by junior goalie Caroline Franke in the waning seconds of regulation helped force overtime as the teams were knotted at 9-9 after 60 minutes of action.

“I thought we had momentum going into the sudden victory period,” said Sailer.

“We made a mistake at the end of the first overtime and we were on a yellow card for the first two minutes of the second overtime. They didn’t make a move to goal, I was surprised by that. They held the ball for all three minutes and they weren’t able to get off a good shot. We played some really good defense.”

But Duke solved the Princeton defense and scored to pull out a 10-9 victory and end the Tigers’ season and leave them with a final record of 10-7.

“I am so proud of how they improved and how much they grew,” asserted Sailer, who got two goals and two assists from Slifer in the defeat with Erin McMunn and Charlotte Davis chipping in two goals apiece.

“We made a lot of progress during the season, for the first few games to the end, there was no comparison. We accomplished a lot. We went 6-1 in Ivy League for the first time since 2009. We made it back to the NCAAs and the Ivy tournament.”

Sailer credits veteran leadership with playing a key role in the team’s accomplishments this spring.

“It was a great group of seniors,” said Sailer, whose Class of 2013 included Sam Ellis, Jenna Davis, and Jaci Gassaway in addition to Rehufuss and Charlotte Davis.

“They did a great job of laying the foundation for what we did this year. I credit the seniors for setting the right tone. The team went as they went. The chemistry and camaraderie was great and there was an overall good work ethic. I enjoyed the season; it was a fun team to coach.”

The Tigers appear well positioned to have a lot of fun next year as they return such standouts as Sarah Lloyd, Alex Bruno, Mary-Kate Sivilli, Anya Gersoff, and Liz Bannantine along with Franke, Slifer, and McMunn.

“I think we can build on what we did,” said Sailer. “All five seniors were starters and these five will be missed. We have a great group returning and some talented freshmen coming in. I am excited to see what we can do.”

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres controls the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender Andres helped second-seeded PHS stifle No. 7 Northern Burlington 14-5 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. The victory improved the Little Tigers to 12-3 and earned them a date with No. 3 PDS in the semis on May 14 with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ACTION JACKSON: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Jackson Andres controls the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender Andres helped second-seeded PHS stifle No. 7 Northern Burlington 14-5 in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. The victory improved the Little Tigers to 12-3 and earned them a date with No. 3 PDS in the semis on May 14 with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It took a while for Jackson Andres to develop a comfort level last spring in his freshman season on the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

“Last year I was a little shell-shocked going from club straight to high school; it is a lot faster pace,” said Andres.

“Everybody is bigger, everybody is stronger.  Now I feel like it has slowed down and I am catching up with everyone.”

This spring, Andres has emerged as a strong defensive presence for the Little Tigers.

“Getting big Colin Buckley, a transfer from Peddie, has helped,” said Andres.

“The first game we had him was the Notre Dame loss. He had to wait the 30 days. He is great. I had to play the close defense for the beginning and now that he is here I am strictly a longstick midfielder, which I kind of like better.”

Andres liked the way second-seeded PHS started things in the Mercer County Tournament last Thursday by blanking 15th-seeded New Egypt 12-0 in a first round contest.

“All we were thinking about was don’t let in any goals,” said Andres, who helped PHS produce another strong defensive effort as the Little Tigers topped No. 7 Northern Burlington 14-5 in the MCT quarters last Saturday to earn a date with No. 3 PDS in the semis on May 14 with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.

“Against North (WW/P-N), we were going into it the same way and they put one in shorthanded and we were not too happy. That was our biggest goal today, have a shutout. It is a confidence booster.”

In Andres’ view, the Little Tigers are bringing a lot of confidence into the postseason.

“I think we all feel that we can go very far,” said Andres. “These three games going into it I feel are the best things we can have. I feel like we couldn’t be in a better position, getting the two seed.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes having Andres at the longstick position.

“Jackson has the ability to be really disruptive in between the restraining lines,” said Stanton. “He picks up lots of ground balls, he starts transition and that gives us a nice spark.”

In the win over New Egypt, the Little Tigers were sparked by some of the members of the team’s supporting cast.

“It is very satisfying to not just see some of the other kids get their playing time but to see them receiving support from the guys who do get the accolades,” said Stanton.

“We are thrilled for a kid like Dillon Johnston who has put in four years of hard work; to see him get out there and get five or six goals you have to be happy about that.”

Stanton was happy about the defensive effort he got as his team blanked the Warriors.

“Learning has occurred this season as far as our defenders understanding the riding and the clearing, and the transition game,” said Stanton. “You see evidence of that in a game like today.”

The Little Tigers have been giving evidence of how good they can be in recent action.

“You have put in the hard work during those cold March practices,” said Stanton, whose team’s win over Northern Burlington was its fifth straight and improved its record to 12-3. “Now is the time when you really want to have it.”

Andres, for his part, is having fun seeing PHS come together. “This is my favorite team I have ever been on at this school,” said Andres, who also stars for the PHS boys’ hockey team.

“The guys on this team and the atmosphere are amazing. Going to Disney over spring break was probably the most fun I have ever had in a 5-day span. The special thing about this team is that no one player is doing everything. We have four or five extremely strong poles who can cover anybody. We have at least eight short sticks who can put the ball into the net.”

NEW HEIGHTS: Princeton High softball player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas gets ready to hit in recent action. Senior catcher Cahill-Sanidas contributed three RBIs last Monday to help seventh-seeded PHS top No. 10 Hightstown 7-3 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers improved to 11-10 with the triumph as they added to their program record single-season win total. PHS was slated to play second-seeded Steinert on May 14 at Armstrong Park in Ewing in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on May 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEW HEIGHTS: Princeton High softball player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas gets ready to hit in recent action. Senior catcher Cahill-Sanidas contributed three RBIs last Monday to help seventh-seeded PHS top No. 10 Hightstown 7-3 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers improved to 11-10 with the triumph as they added to their program record single-season win total. PHS was slated to play second-seeded Steinert on May 14 at Armstrong Park in Ewing in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on May 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High softball team, 10 was the magic number this spring.

After having tied the program single-season record for victories with nine wins in 2012, PHS had its sights set firmly on breaking into double figures.

Last week, the Little Tigers achieved their goal, topping Lawrence 4-3 in extra innings on May 6, exemplifying the scrappiness that has fueled their improvement.

Although PHS managed seven hits, the team came through in the clutch in pulling out the win that lifted it to 10-8.

“We struck out 19 times, you don’t usually win when that happens,” said PHS head coach Dave Boehm.

“We know we don’t have a heavy hitting team. We have to make some bunts and execute. We used the international rules in extra innings. We had Charlotte Heller at second and bunted her home.”

Getting the breakthrough win was a proud moment for Boehm and his players.

“It was good to get the monkey off of our back,” said Boehm, who will be getting a mohawk haircut and dying his hair blue to honor a promise he made to the team if they hit the 10-win mark.

“The girls were disappointed last year when we didn’t get it. I have to say double digits looks nice; we have had some nice wins this year.”

PHS has been the beneficiary of some nice pitching from sophomore Sarah Eisenach all spring and she came up big against Lawrence with 17 strikeouts.

“Sarah had a good game,” said Boehm, who got another big mound effort from Eisenach on Monday as she struck out four and gave up four hits to help the seventh-seeded Little Tigers top No. 10 Hightstown 7-4 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament and improve to 11-10. “She really came on; she kept the ball down.”

Led by record-breaking hitter and Wisconsin-bound Marisa Gonzalez, the team’s group of seniors has come on strong in their final campaign.

“I think the seniors have really stepped up,” asserted Boehm, who will be looking for his team to step up when it plays second-seeded Steinert on May 14 at Armstrong Park in Ewing in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on May 15.

“Hannah Gutierrez has had a really good season. Heller has hit well. Maddie Cahill-Sanidas has had a monster year, hitting homers and batting well. She is a good athlete; she is one of the few three-sport athletes in the school.”

While PHS’s senior class, which also includes Helen Eisenach and Charlotte Gray, will leave a void, Boehm thinks the program can keep going for records.

“We also have some freshmen who have done well in Stephanie Wu and Kelli Swedish,” added Boehm.

“When I look at them I see the same thing I saw when I looked at the John Witherspoon team a few years ago and saw Marisa, Maddie, and all of them. It is a good group coming up; I hope they stick together like the seniors have.”

WHALE OF AN EFFORT: Princeton High girls’ distance running star Amelia Whaley shows her form in a cross country race last fall. This past Saturday, senior star Whaley took third at the Mercer County Championships in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:58.05. The Little Tigers stood seventh in the team standings of the meet, which was delayed due to rain and was slated to be completed on Tuesday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WHALE OF AN EFFORT: Princeton High girls’ distance running star Amelia Whaley shows her form in a cross country race last fall. This past Saturday, senior star Whaley took third at the Mercer County Championships in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:58.05. The Little Tigers stood seventh in the team standings of the meet, which was delayed due to rain and was slated to be completed on Tuesday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After guiding his Princeton High girls’ track squad to the team title last spring at the Mercer County Championships, Jim Smirk had different goals coming into this year’s meet last Saturday at Steinert.

“It is a young team with the exception of Michelle Bazile and Amelia Whaley,” said PHS head coach Smirk, whose team stood seventh in the standings of the meet, which was delayed due to rain and was slated to be completed on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores and this was a good tune-up for the sectionals. We knew we couldn’t score enough points to win so we cut back on the events so they could really focus.”

Sophomore Paige Metzheiser showed her focus, taking fourth in the 800 with a time of 2:22.69.

“Paige ran track last year and got introduced to the sport,” said Smirk. “She ran cross country this fall and made the varsity. The surprise is the distances she is competing at. We thought she was going to be a pure 400 runner but she has found a niche in the 800.”

Another young performer finding a niche is freshman Maia Hauschild, the fourth place finisher in the long jump in 16’1.5.

“She is a very hard worker,” said Smirk of Hauschild. “She came out for cross country last fall to build her strength. She also runs the 400. We are keeping her to the fundamentals and letting her get strong and fit and see where that takes her. She didn’t worry about the slippery track on Saturday. She was herself and jumped really well.”

Another hard worker for the Tigers is sophomore distance runner Mary Sutton.

“Mary Sutton took seventh in the 2-mile; she ran a 12:03, four weeks ago she was running a 12:51,” said Smirk, noting that freshman Sarah Klebanov placed 13th in the 3,200-meter run.

“She plays basketball and she doesn’t get the winter track work so it takes her a while to get going in the spring.”

Senior star Whaley got going down the stretch in the 3,200 as she took third in 11:58.05.

“Amelia is really carrying the load this year; most of her career she had two very good runners [Elyssa Gensib and Jenna Cody] with her,” said Smirk.

“She has put herself out there each week. She is working on being competitive when it counts the most. We saw that yesterday in the 2-mile. She got to the mile mark and she realized she wasn’t going to get a PR so she set herself up for a good finish. She usually grinds it out at a steady pace and she flipped the script. She showed what kind of a veteran she really is. I told her with a half mile you have to go and she made a great move.”

Bazile, for her part, showed once again that she is one of the great throwers in the area as the junior star won the discus with a heave of 119’2.

“You have to start with her work ethic; she is there every day,” said Smirk.

“She is completely focused at all times. She is always there figuring out how great she can be. She is a strong athlete and brings a different level of intensity. She balances that with having a good time, she has an exciting personality and is a lot of fun to have on the team. She is a junior; she is not as polished as she is going to be and she is working on that.”

Smirk is excited about his team’s potential as he looks ahead to the upcoming sectional meet.

“This crew might not be as impressive out of the gate; we are not going to score points in the big meets like we did last year,” said Smirk.

“But as they develop, they are understanding what it takes to compete at a higher level. We may come up short, but it will be a good chance for the freshmen and sophomores to get experience and compete hard. If we do that, that will be success for us. We have people that had never run track before this year and some of them may score points in the sectional, which is exciting.”

BLACK MAGIC: Hun Boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, freshman star Black scored two goals in a losing cause as second-seeded Hun fell 17-6 to top-seeded Lawrenceville in the state Prep A championship game. The Raiders, who dropped to 10-6 with the defeat, were slated to wrap up their season by playing at Voorhees on May 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLACK MAGIC: Hun Boys’ lacrosse player Owen Black heads to goal in recent action. Last Monday, freshman star Black scored two goals in a losing cause as second-seeded Hun fell 17-6 to top-seeded Lawrenceville in the state Prep A championship game. The Raiders, who dropped to 10-6 with the defeat, were slated to wrap up their season by playing at Voorhees on May 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team trailed Lawrenceville 17-6 last Monday with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter of the state Prep A championship game, Greg Flood was still battling.

The Hun senior star defender and team co-captain bulled his way through a group of Lawrenceville players to snatch a ground ball and give the Raiders one last possession.

While Hun ended up falling by that 17-6 margin, Raider head coach M.V. Whitlow had no qualms about the effort he got from Flood and his teammates.

“I was proud of all of our players; we never gave up,” said first-year head coach Whitlow, whose team dropped to 10-6 with the setback.

“It is a tough loss but I just told the players that we have a lot to be proud of. Our goals for the season have been accomplished. We slightly overachieved and we have a strong sense of who we are and we have  a strong self-awareness.”

Whitlow credited the strong leadership from his seniors as a key factor in the team’s achievements this spring.

“The seniors really gave us great leadership,” asserted Whitlow.

“Zach Bicho going down with injury and he still remained as almost a coach. Flood and [Zach] Winterstein were great.”

In the game with Lawrenceville, which has now won 13 straight Prep A titles, Whitlow acknowledged that getting down by 11-3 at half put the Raiders behind the eight-ball.

“When it was 7-3, that’s what you want to do in a game like this against a team this talented, to stay close,” said Whitlow, whose team gave up four goals in the last 2:56 of the half.

“It was the clearing mistakes that undid us. You have to attribute Lawrenceville’s ability to ride. I thought that the riding and clearing game was where the game got away from us.”

In the second half, Hun played the Big Red tighter, as the teams played a 3-3 third quarter before Lawrenceville tallied the last three goals of the contest.

“The message at halftime was stay focused, keep doing the little things, clean up the clearing game a little bit, and keep shooting,” said Whitlow, who got two goals apiece from Owen Black and Winterstein with Alex Semler and Corey Reynolds each adding one.

“We didn’t want to regret the shots that we didn’t take today. We didn’t want to slow it down. When you play against a team as talented as Lawrenceville, you have to clear the ball and you have to possess the ball. Give their defense a lot of credit, they are very athletic and their defense was very well coached.”

Hun has some good athletes in such returning players as Owen and Brendan Black together with Semler and Cam Dudeck.

“Both Brendan and Owen are natural leaders; they set high standards for themselves and are very respected by their teammates,” said Whitlow.

“I thing Alex Semler did a real good job today. Cam Dudeck was a leader back there on defense. He is a junior.”

In Whitlow’s view, the Raiders have the potential to be really good in the future.

“The young foundation is in place and, most importantly, the work ethic is there,” asserted Whitlow.

“These players really want to work hard and the commitment level is there. I think our game IQ has gone up quite a bit. I think our stick skills have improved. We can get older, we can get bigger, we can get stronger. Those are all good things. We have a lot of things to build on.”

While the defeat to Lawrenceville stung, the experience should help Hun in its growth process.

“They can take that they are young, that they have room for growth and they can learn,” said Whitlow. “They just have to stick together.”

ON THE BALL:  Princeton Day School baseball player Ross Colton displays his hitting form in recent action. Sophomore star Colton and the Panthers edged Montclair Kimberley Academy 1-0 last Monday in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, who snapped a six-game losing streak with the win and improved to 9-9, were slated to play at Pennington on May 14 in the Prep B semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16 at Diamond Nation in Flemington.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School baseball player Ross Colton displays his hitting form in recent action. Sophomore star Colton and the Panthers edged Montclair Kimberley Academy 1-0 last Monday in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers, who snapped a six-game losing streak with the win and improved to 9-9, were slated to play at Pennington on May 14 in the Prep B semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16 at Diamond Nation in Flemington. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its state Prep B quarterfinal contest last Monday against visiting Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA), the Princeton Day School baseball team seemed destined for a quick exit.

PDS brought a six-game losing streak into the contest while sizzling MKA had pulled two straight upsets to advance to the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament.

In assessing the match-up, PDS head coach Ray O’Brien acknowledged that his team was struggling.

“Collectively we have been slumping for the last four or five games,” said O’Brien.

“We have run into some good pitchers and when we have hit, we have had a lot of ‘at-them’ shots. We lost some close games and there was one game where we didn’t field. Our depth hurt us, we only dressed 11 for some of those games and you can’t make many moves when you have that few bodies.”

Giving the ball to sophomore pitching ace Cole McManimon on Monday proved to be the right move as PDS pulled out a 1-0 nailbiter over MKA.

“He is only a sophomore; it is just amazing to go out and pitch like that,” asserted O’Brien of McManimon, who pitched a complete-game two hitter in earning his sixth victory of the spring.

“Every time he goes out, we know what we are going to get. He struck out seven and didn’t walk anyone. He has three good pitches, a two-seam and a four-seam fastball and a really good change-up. He is also starting to throw a slider. For someone that tall, he has very good control. He is going to do some very special things.”

While the Panthers got only one hit in the victory, they made it count as Jake Alu drove in McManimon with a fifth inning single.

“We hit a lot of line drives right at people in the MKA game,” said O’Brien, whose team improved to 9-9 with the victory and was slated to play at Pennington on May 14 in the Prep B semis with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16 at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

“Jake hit two shots and then we get two on and he hits a bleeder through the hole. The pitcher put us on his back and carried us and we finally got a hit and scored a run.”

While PDS had hit a dry spell, O’Brien has seen plenty of positives this spring.

“Ross Colton has had a really good season, he has hit well in the leadoff spot and has played a good third base,” said O’Brien.

“Jake has done a great job at shortstop and is starting to hit again. B.J. Dudeck is playing well. The pitching has been pretty good. Cole and Jake have been our top two pitchers and J.P. Radvany and Ben Weiner have also pitched well.”

And the Panthers proved they have good character, coming through under tournament pressure.

“We bounced back and battled,” asserted O’Brien. “MKA just finished off two top 20 teams in northern Jersey and made the final four in the Greater Newark tournament. We played great defense.”

BUMP AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Bump Lisk runs past a WW/P-S defender last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Senior attacker Lisk scored a goal to help third-seeded PDS post a 7-4 win over the No. 6 Pirates. The Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BUMP AND RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Bump Lisk runs past a WW/P-S defender last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Senior attacker Lisk scored a goal to help third-seeded PDS post a 7-4 win over the No. 6 Pirates. The Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Bump Lisk and his teammates on the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse  took the field from the team’s Senior Day game against Blair Academy last Wednesday, they brought a special intensity.

“This is our last regular season game and we wanted to make sure that we were playing this like a playoff game,” said senior attackman Lisk.

“At this point left with six games left, including this one, we cannot let up at all. We can’t have a bad game. We can’t say that this game doesn’t matter and just forget about it.”

The Panthers didn’t let up, jumping out to an 8-0 lead on the way to a 13-3 victory.

“I am very proud of the team,” said Lisk, who scored five goals in the win and passed the 100-point mark in his PDS career. “We played awesome.”

The Panther attack had some awesome moments in the win, producing some superb ball movement and finishing.

“It is probably the tightest offense I have had here in four years,” said Lisk. “We all get along; we all hang out together in school. It is tight. Coach Cliff [Higgins] and coach [Rob] Tuckman have us doing stuff that really helps our game. It is a tight group of guys, we seem to find each other and work well.”

In assessing his recent scoring surge, which saw Lisk tally another goal on Saturday as the third-seeded Panthers topped No. 6. WW/P-S 7-4 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals, he credited classmate Cody Triolo.

“Honestly, the secret to it is that the teams focus on Cody so much,” said Lisk, who was hoping to keep rolling as the Panthers were slated to play second-seeded Princeton High in the MCT semis on May 14 at Ewing High with the winner advancing to the title game on May 16.

“He is going to Lehigh, he is the best player on the field and he is probably the best player in the county. So teams focus on him so much it lets me get that third or fourth defenseman and sometimes I fall through the cracks. I think that helps a lot.”

Lisk, an ice hockey star who chose to play juniors this winter rather than skate with the Panthers, is bringing a special focus to lacrosse as he wears the PDS jersey for one last season.

“It is awesome playing juniors, but when you are doing it about you absolutely miss PDS,” said Lisk.

“You miss the fans and being around the guys. I am just trying to take it one game at a time. I am loving being with these guys; it is a great group of guys.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman believes that Lisk and his classmates have done great things for the PDS program. The team’s senior class includes Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brendan Shannon, Andrew Phipps, and Tucker Triolo in addition to Lisk and Cody Triolo.

“They are ambassadors for this program,” said Tuckman, whose team came up short in state Prep B championship game on Monday as the second-seeded Panthers lost 16-3 at top-seeded Rutgers Prep to move to 11-5.

“I knew as freshmen that they were going to make a huge impact on the program and they have and they continue to and that’s exciting.”

Tuckman is excited by the way Lisk has been playing down the stretch. “Bump is having a good time out there; he is playing well. He is exciting to watch,” said Tuckman.

“He plays with incredible confidence. Having him on that low side really opens things up because he is a force to reckon with.

PDS has proven to be a force collectively as the season headed into May. “We are peaking at the right time,” said Tuckman. “Part of why we are playing so well is that the boys really enjoy playing with each other. This is what it’s all about.”

Lisk, for his part, is enjoying his remaining time on the lacrosse field. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing,” said Lisk, who will be playing junior hockey in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa. next year.

“I am just taking it one game at a time. You can’t overlook any team. There is a sense of urgency but we are just savoring every game here.”

May 8, 2013
KC PRIME: Princeton University football star Mike Catapano, right, battles a Dartmouth lineman in action last November. Catapano, a defensive lineman who was 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season, was chosen last month by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. This week, Catapano makes his pro debut as he participates in the team’s opening mini-camp.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

KC PRIME: Princeton University football star Mike Catapano, right, battles a Dartmouth lineman in action last November. Catapano, a defensive lineman who was 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season, was chosen last month by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. This week, Catapano makes his pro debut as he participates in the team’s opening mini-camp. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

In January, Mike Catapano knew he had to stand out on the practice field as he took part in the 88th annual East-West Shrine all-star college football game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I needed to show I could play against a higher level of competition,” said Catapano, a star defensive lineman for the Princeton University football team who was the 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last fall in his senior season.

“If I were the Player of the Year in the ACC, I would be a first round draft choice but I was coming from the Ivy League. The practices were the biggest part for me. There were a lot of one-on-one drills and a lot of NFL coaches watching the practices.”

The 6’4, 270-pound Catapano caught the attention of the pro coaches and ended up getting selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on April 27.

This week, Catapano will be looking to turn heads as he makes his pro debut by participating in the team’s opening mini-camp.

“I want to make a great first impression and show the coaches that I am going to be their hardest worker,” said Catapano. “I want to show that I have a high motor.”

When Catapano arrived at Princeton in the fall of 2008, it was hard to imagine him as a future NFL draft choice. He was a 215-pound fullback before being switched to defensive line. Gaining 50 pounds between his freshman and sophomore year, the Bayville, N.Y. native grew into a force.

After earning second-team  All-Ivy League honors in 2011, Catapano caught the eye of NFL scouts and he realized that his dream of playing at the next level was viable.

Getting the chance to come back for a fifth season in 2012 due to being sidelined as a freshman, Catapano decided to hone his skills by working with former NFL player Chuck Smith, who has been training defensive linemen and pass-rushing outside linebackers through his company, Defensive Line Inc., since 2000 in Suwanee, Ga.

“I took the spring off from school so I could play that fifth year,” said Catapano.

“I couldn’t play spring ball because I wasn’t in school. I saw an online clip from Osi Umenyiora (former New York Giants star defensive lineman) talking about a six-sack game in the day and how he had been helped by Chuck Smith. I called him and sent some tapes. I stayed there a month and a half; we did pass rush drills everyday. It was mostly technique-oriented. It was developing an arsenal of moves. It paid off last fall.”

As a senior, Catapano led the Ivies with 12 sacks and helped Princeton go 5-5 as it bounced back from two straight 1-9 campaigns. As a result, NFL scouts made daily pilgrimages to Princeton to check out Catapano.

“There was one at every single practice my senior year,” said Catapano. “They don’t talk to me. You see them there. They would talk to the coaches, my defensive line coach and my strength and conditioning coach. They would go up in the office and look at film.”

After the season, Catapano’s first stop on the road to the NFL was the East-West Shrine game. He then headed up to northern Jersey to train for nine weeks at the Parisi Speed School to get ready for his pro day at Princeton where he performed running, jumping, and weight lifting drills. Catapano ended up posting some impressive numbers in the March 20 session, putting up 33 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, running the 40-yard dash in 4.75, and doing a vertical leap of 37.5 inches.

Between pro day and the draft, Catapano had contact with several NFL teams. “I was able to do workouts on site for local teams, the Giants and the Jets,” said Catapano.

“I was able to work out for other teams at Princeton or my high school. The Vikings sent their defensive line coach and the Eagles sent a coach. I visited other teams out of the area and I was only able to do physicals and interviews with them. I went to New Orleans, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Cincinnati.”

Once the draft started on April 25, Catapano was based at home in Long Island as he waited to be chosen.

“I watched the draft in Bayville with a small group of family and friends,” said Catapano, who was not picked on April 25 or 26 as the first three rounds were completed.

“I knew who was calling my agent. I was confident and hopeful. I tried to stay positive and not let negative thoughts flood in.”

As Catapano woke up on April 27, he was confident that he would get some good news. When the seventh round approached at around 5 p.m., it became clear that his dream of getting a shot at the NFL was about to come true.

“I heard from my agent that a couple of teams were ready to take me with their next pick,” recalled Catapano.

“Then I got a call from Missouri from the Chiefs’ general manager asking me if I wanted to get aboard the big red train. I was passed to coach [Andy] Reid and then the defensive coach. I was flooded with emotion; I couldn’t think. I can’t remember what I said; I hope it was good. It was so emotional seeing my name flash up on the board.”

The Chiefs have told Catapano that they plan to have him switch positions. “They want me to play outside linebacker,” said Catapano. “

There is a lot of pass rushing and I get to show my athleticism by stepping back in coverage. It is a good mix of the things I have been doing.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, a former assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, is confident that Catapano will do the things necessary to succeed in the NFL.

“I saw that he had the work ethic and professionalism,” said Surace, recalling his first impressions of Catapano after he took the helm of the program for the 2010 season.

“He was a guy who was going to work harder than anyone else; that is a trait that separates good players from great players. It is like Jason Garrett [former Princeton star quarterback and Surace’s college teammate] even though he played a different position. When he wanted to get better on his three-step draw; I had to make 500 snaps a day.”

In Surace’s view, Catapano’s success reflects well on the Princeton program.

“It is great; first and foremost, you want the 25 seniors to all get jobs in the fields they have chosen,” said Surace.

“It is great to see that happen for Mike, you know how much this means to him and how hard he has worked for this.”

Drawing on his NFL experience, Surace has given Catapano some advice on making himself invaluable to the Chiefs.

“I told him to find out who is the special teams coach and live in his office,” said Surace.

“Mike is a tough, hard-working, no-nonsense guy but there are a limited number of players who can dress for games. The late-round and middle-round picks need to be able to play special teams. I think he can be a good special teams player, he is explosive. He has a motor that doesn’t stop, that is what the pro guys all say after they watch him.”

Catapano, for his part, believes he is already on the same page with coach Reid, who in his first year with the Chiefs after 13 seasons guiding the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I look at what he wants as he starts a new era for Kansas City,” said Catapano. “He drafted tough-minded guys, that was the commonality. I like that he appreciates my college career and what I bring to the table.”

After exceeding expectations in his college career, Catapano has some big goals as he enters the NFL.

“I am not satisfied,” said Catapano. “I want to earn a spot and show the league that I can be a starter. I want to be in the Pro Bowl. I have been used to setting the bar high.”

While choosing to play Ivy football made Catapano a longshot to end up in the NFL, he wouldn’t trade his Princeton years for anything.

“In the end, it was a blessing,” asserted Catapano. “It was not the normal path but it was so fulfilling. It was such a long road, there was so much emotion. There were so many up and downs and some really low moments. It was a great experience.”

FINAL SALVO: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore midfielder Orban scored the winning goal in overtime as Princeton topped Cornell 14-13 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Two days later in the Ivy title game against Yale, Orban scored a goal but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 12-8 to the Bulldogs. The loss left Princeton with a final record of 9-6 as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL SALVO: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore midfielder Orban scored the winning goal in overtime as Princeton topped Cornell 14-13 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Two days later in the Ivy title game against Yale, Orban scored a goal but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 12-8 to the Bulldogs. The loss left Princeton with a final record of 9-6 as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team ended regular season play by falling 17-11 to Cornell on April 27, Chris Bates sensed things would be different when the teams met in the Ivy League tournament semifinals last Friday evening in Ithaca, N.Y.

But even head coach Bates could not have foreseen the spectacle that ensued as the Princeton outlasted Cornell 14-13 in overtime on the Big Red’s home field, with each team scoring six goals in the fourth quarter before the Tigers got the final salvo of the evening on a Kip Orban tally.

“We knew that it was going to be that kind of game and a dogfight,” said Bates.

“It was a matter of who was going to have the ball last. The game really exploded in the fourth quarter. From a fan’s standpoint, it was a great game, going back and forth. It was one for the ages in terms of the number of goals scored in the fourth quarter and overtime.”

Tiger sophomore Mike MacDonald produced a performance for the ages, scoring nine points on seven goals and two assists.

“MacDonald was lights out, that was a game that will go down in history,” said Bates. “He had seven goals on eight shots. They were really tough shots, we witnessed something really special.

Things ended on a tough note, though, for the Tigers as they didn’t turn the tables on Yale, falling to the Bulldogs for a second straight year in the Ivy championship game, dropping a 12-8 decision.

While Princeton picked up where it left off on Friday, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Orban and Tom Schreiber, it ran out of steam.

We started off quickly, Tom rips a shot that literally rips the net and caused a delay,” recalled Bates, whose team had beaten Yale 10-9 on March 22 but lost 20-of-24 face-offs on Sunday and was outscored 6-2 over the last 23:08 of the title contest.

“We seemed to lose some momentum after that. I give Yale credit, they were hungry. I think Friday night caught up with us in the second half and we were hurt by our lack of depth. It is tough to get and keep momentum against a kid [Dylan Levings] that is facing off like that. They got the ball and played a good possession game. I think our defense got a little tired and Eric [goalie Eric Sanschagrin] wasn’t his sharpest.”

While the loss to Yale kept Princeton from getting the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament, the Tigers were hoping that they could get an at-large bid as they did in 2012. But Princeton received another setback later in the evening when the NCAA bracket was released and Cornell turned out to be the only other Ivy team to get a berth in the national tourney.

“We held out hope and when we got off the bus we said we’ll see how everything goes and regroup,” said Bates, whose team ended the season at 9-6 and ranked 14th in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll of the regular season.

“I think we had the sense that we were going to be on the outside looking in. It was hard to see them taking three teams from the Ivy League, the numbers didn’t add up for us.”

Bates was left with a sense of what might have been as Princeton battled several of the teams in the NCAA field on even terms, losing by one goal to top-seeded Syracuse and fifth-seeded North Carolina and posting victories over Cornell and Yale.

“We beat one of the top teams in the tournament and we had one-goal games with some of the other teams in the field,” said Bates. “It is emotional for the seniors to have it end after being so close.”

While the emotions were raw on Sunday, Bates believes that the program can draw plenty of positives from a 2103 campaign that saw it top Hofstra, Johns Hopkins, and Villanova in non-conference play in addition to other league victories over Harvard and Brown.

“It is Princeton and expectations are high regardless of any circumstance,” said Bates.

“We had a good year, I am pleased by the big wins. I am disappointed that we didn’t beat Yale and get the chance to show ourselves in the NCAAs. We showed that we can play with and beat anybody in the country.”

In the wake of the disappointing end to the campaign, Bates will engage in some tough analysis.

“It is a blank slate,” said Bates. “I don’t reinvent the wheel but I look critically at everything.”

Things are looking up for Princeton, according to Bates. “We have a really solid foundation; there is cause for optimism,” asserted Bates, whose team returns five of its top six scorers in MacDonald, Schreiber, Orban, Ryan Ambler, and Ivy Rookie of the Year Jake Froccaro.

“We have reinforcements on the way. We have a spectacular class of high school seniors coming in. We have players coming back from season-ending injuries (Tucker Shanley, Forest Sonnenfeldt, Rob Castelo) and that will help. We will have more depth and on day one next year we will be a better team than we were at the end of this season.”

Bates didn’t waste any time setting the tone for next season. “We texted the high school seniors on Sunday night and said the process to play on championship weekend begins tonight so they know what our DNA is and what the expectations are,” said Bates. “I am anxious to take the next step and get back to competing.”

LIGHTING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8 shows its form in a race earlier this season. Last Sunday, the Tigers took second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif.     	              (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LIGHTING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s lightweight varsity 8 shows its form in a race earlier this season. Last Sunday, the Tigers took second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Paul Rassam knew that his Princeton University women’s lightweight crew was going to hit some choppy water last spring.

“I think some coaches are afraid to use the word rebuilding but that is where we were at last year,” said Princeton head coach Rassam. “We had a great season in 2011 and then we took our lumps last year.”

It became clear early this spring that Rassam’s rowers had been steeled by last year’s struggles. “Things started really promisingly,” said Rassam.

“We handled Wisconsin easily, I think part of that was because they hadn’t been on the water as much as we had. What was even more promising is when we went out to San Diego and had two hard-fought races with Stanford [defending national champion]. That gave us confidence that the rebuilding had paid off and we had arrived back to where we want to be.”

Last Sunday, Princeton built some more confidence as its varsity 8 placed second in the Eastern Sprints on Cooper River in Camden, posting a time of 7:26.0 with top-ranked Radcliffe winning the title in 7:17.8.

“It was a step in the right direction from the race in Boston,” said Rassam, referring to Invitational Lightweight Cup held on the Charles River on April 21 which saw it place third in 7:17.5 with Radcliffe first in 7:05.7 and Stanford second  at 7:11.1.

“We were in lane four and there was a strong crosswind. To weather that and to stick with Radcliffe much longer than in Boston was great. We think we can get even closer.”

Rassam credits his group of seniors with playing a major role in getting the program back up to speed.

“We have a senior class of five that has been amazing for us,” maintained Rassam of the class which includes Christy Kaelin, Alex Morss, Olivia Panaccio Tresham, Alexa Powers, and Madigan Stanley. “They are different, some are quite vocal and others are quiet and steady.”

Senior co-captain and U.S. U-23 rower Morss sets the tone around the boathouse.

“It would be a mistake to think that she is just a phenomenal athlete and that is why she is successful,” said Rassam of Morss.

“That is only a piece of it. She is a very hard worker; she loves to train. She enjoys pushing herself. We have a lot of underclassmen. They are talented but they are still underclassmen. They need to see the next level of commitment.”

With Princeton next in action when it competes in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships on June 1 in Sacramento, Calif., Rassam is looking for a high level of commitment over the next few weeks.

“The Sprints are earlier than usual and we have a whole month to prepare for the IRAs,” said Rassam.

“We usually just have two weeks between Sprints and IRAs. We have time to make changes. We want to improve everything and keep the upward trajectory. We need to be faster out of the blocks and get in an early rhythm. We need to be settling harder in the first 30 or 40 strokes.”

In Rassam’s view, his rowers are poised to keep up their progress. “In other years, we were going well early and we had to hold on to that,” said Rassam.

“In 2011, we had such an experienced crew, it was holding your breath that they would maintain their speed. Each week this season, we are getting better and better. Our best is coming in a month, everything points in that direction.”

In early April, Sheryl Severance was concerned that her Princeton High boys’ golf team might be in for a long spring.

“Initially, it started off rough,” said longtime PHS head coach Severance. “It was freezing cold and a little windy. We were a little nervous and had some bad scores.”

But as the weather warmed up, the scores have gone down for PHS. “We had a 205 in a win over Hightstown on April 19 and that really helped,” said Severance, whose team was 6-8 coming into this week and has been under 220 in most of its recent matches. “They saw they could play with anyone.”

Junior Laura Burke has proved that she can play with anyone this spring, emerging as PHS’s top performer.

“Last year she was in our top five or six; usually in mid-to-high 40s,” said Severance of Burke, who recently finished second in the girls’ Mercer County Tournament and has qualified for the state girls’ tourney to be held on May 23 at Cherry Valley.

“She is a different player this year. She is very confident; the major difference is that she is not afraid to go against anybody. Her drives are long, right down the middle. Her approaches are accurate and her short game and putting are strong. She has the best average on the team at 40.8.”

Another junior girl, Diane Karloff, has developed into a strong player for the Little Tigers.

“Diane picked up the sport as a freshman; it was golf or tennis and she liked golf,” said Severance.

“She works very hard. She gets lessons constantly and it is practice, practice with her. Sometimes she will ask to go to the driving range during practice. She is very dedicated, she has some great scores recently and she is getting better.”

Freshman Andrew Huang has been getting better and better as the season has unfolded.

“Andrew has fit right in; he is a good kid,” said Severance, whose team was slated to play in the MCT on May 7 before playing at Hightstown on May 8 and hosting Lawrence on May 9.

“I would say that he is pretty straight with his drives and long irons. He needs some tweaking around the green but that comes with experience.”

PHS has drawn strength from the experience that senior Robert Morelli brings to the table.

“Robert is our only senior in the top six; he provides a lot of leadership,” said Severance, who is getting some good contributions from a pair of veterans, juniors John Blair and Paul Murray.

“The kids go to him when they have questions or concerns. He doesn’t say much; he is a quiet leader. He is into it. He knows the scores of the other teams and the other players; he gives us information. He is a little more serious about it. Last year, it was just for fun.”

STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Smith contributed a goal as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Lawrence 19-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The win lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING FORWARD: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Dana Smith heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Smith contributed a goal as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Lawrence 19-2 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The win lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Dana Smith’s excellence at both ends of the field helped the Princeton High girls’ soccer team win the Central Jersey Group III sectional title.

This spring, junior Smith is assuming a similar role for the PHS girls’ lacrosse team, sparking the Little Tigers with savvy defense and some gritty play in the crease.

As third-seeded PHS hosted No. 14 Lawrence last Saturday in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament, Smith’s two-way prowess was on display. The speedy Smith raced up the field to score the first goal on the contest, picked up several ground balls, and helped PHS stymie the Cardinals on the way to a 19-2 win.

Afterward, Smith said she is relishing the chance to play a bigger role for the Little Tigers.

“This year I have been able to get on attack a lot more; I have always been on the defensive side,” said Smith.

“So now I get to move both ways, which has given me the opportunity to get to call plays, to lead plays, and to run through things. I am helping to organize everything; it is a really great position. I really enjoy working with our team since we have so many really talented underclassmen.”

Smith and her teammates enjoyed their MCT victory over the Cardinals. “Lawrence was actually our first game; it feels like our season has come full circle, seeing them again in the counties,” said Smith, reflecting on the win which lifted PHS to 12-2 as it advanced to host an MCT quarterfinal matchup against No. 6 Princeton Day School slated for May 7 with the winner advancing to the semis on May 9.

“So we knew the team and we were ready to perform against them. We have grown so much since that first game. We have learned new plays, new motions.”

PHS’s growth was demonstrated in the Lawrence game by its balanced attack as Gabrielle Gibbons, Oona Ryle, Liz Jacobs, and Emilia Lopez-Ona each scored three goals with Julia Ryan and Taylor Lis chipping in two apiece.

“We have really been working on getting every single player on the field to have their stick skills really sharp and really solid,” said Smith.

“We can trust everyone single player on our attack now. It is really great. It has helped us a lot with our recent success; we have been on a roll recently.”

For Smith, the time she has spent playing defense in soccer has helped her be more effective on attack in lacrosse.

“I play a very similar position in soccer actually,” said Smith. “I think with my experience as a defender I have seen a lot on attack. I watch a lot of attack so now I get to use what I have seen and observed. I get to step back and see where the ball should move next, see the cuts, see the field.”

Smith’s next stop in lacrosse will be Lafayette as she has already committed to play for the Leopards.

“I was looking to play lacrosse in college; I was looking at some great schools,” said Smith.

“Lafayette was the perfect fit for me, close to home, great athletics, and great academics. I really liked the team, the location is perfect. I am so excited to go there after finishing up this season and next season.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman was excited to see her team go full throttle in the victory over Lawrence.

“Today was good because we kept our intensity the entire game,” said O’Gorman.

“In the past, when were up against Allentown and against North (WW/P-N), we let that drop and we let them come back and get the win. Coming out today and keeping that intensity up all over the field for the entire 50 minutes is what is going to make us one of the stronger teams.”

The Little Tigers showed its strong depth on Saturday. “We got to try some new plays and some new concepts and strategies,” noted O’Gorman.

“We were able to just seal the deal and make everyone feel confident, comfortable, and involved. We did have quite a few players involved; everyone stepped up today.”

Involving more players has helped team chemistry. “The biggest thing is team bonding,” asserted O’Gorman.

“We hold the rope for each other. We make up for each other’s errors. As a whole, everyone leaves with a smile on their face. That’s what we want. We learned from our two losses. I think that sometimes losing in the beginning of the season is what you need. You bounce back from it.”

Talking about Smith’s impact puts a smile on O’Gorman’s face. “She is a really a strong asset for the team,” said O’Gorman.

“We have her on attack, we have her on defense, running both sides of the field. She is quick, she hustles to every ball. She is feisty. She is respectful, composed, and very reliable. She will definitely pull a player aside and she knows how to verbalize in a direct manner that isn’t offensive.”

With PHS looking at the possibility of seeing No. 3 WW/P-N in the county semis and top-seeded Allentown in the finals, O’Gorman believes her players will be ready to attack if they get that chance.

“I know those losses are something that is going to fuel us,” said O’Gorman, whose team fell 11-10 to WW/P-N on April 8 and 13-11 to Allentown on April 16.

“You can see that. We just want to see them again. These girls always want to be in competition with those teams. We just know that it is going to be exciting if and when we get to those games.”

Smith, for her part, is confident that the Little Tigers can compete with anybody if they stick to their game.

“We really have to focus on staying strong on our basics, catching, throwing, and running with the ball,” said Smith.

“We need to work on being really solid and keeping our heads; not getting too frazzled or confused because that is when we have problems holding on to the ball. We just need to keep each other up and stick together as a team. We want to be patient, we want to move the ball, we want to spread the field and that goes back to us being able to trust every single player on the field.”

ADVANCE SKILLS: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo races past a foe in action last year. Last Monday, senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13. The Panthers, now 8-4, are also playing in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded third and will host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ADVANCE SKILLS: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Cody Triolo races past a foe in action last year. Last Monday, senior midfielder and Lehigh-bound Triolo scored a goal as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13. The Panthers, now 8-4, are also playing in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded third and will host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cody Triolo fell to his knees on the sideline to catch his breath early in the fourth quarter as the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team found itself in a tight battle with the Hill School.

But as PDS got the ball into its offensive zone, Triolo sprang to his feet and raced into the game.

Moments later, the senior star and Lehigh-bound midfielder buggy-whipped the ball into the net to give the Panthers an 11-9 lead.

That tally proved critical as PDS went on to a 12-11 win over Hill, culminating a gritty rally that saw the Panthers overcome an 8-5 deficit early in the third quarter.

In Triolo’s view, the win was a product of PDS’s team unity. “We actually played pretty sloppy as a team in the first half; what was really great about it was that we stuck together,” said Triolo.

“We came in at halftime and said this isn’t us. They score two goals in the beginning of the second half. After they pump those in, we could have folded. It just shows where our team is at in terms of bonds and brotherhood to come together and get those goals back and get back in that game.”

While Triolo contributed an assist and a goal to help narrow the gap to 8-7 and ended the afternoon with three goals and two assists, he doesn’t see himself as a catalyst for PDS.

“I think we all just play together and make our runs together,” said Triolo, who scored a goal on Monday as second-seeded PDS edged third-seeded Morristown-Beard 10-9 in overtime in the state Prep B semis to advance to a title game showdown at No. 1 Rutgers Prep on May 13.

“Everybody takes turns making their dodges. We have a great system with cuts and pops and everything. Honestly our team chemistry on offense right now is unreal. It is spreading the wealth.”

In addition to developing chemistry, the Panthers are showing character. “One of the big things our coaches really challenge us with is being real and dealing with gut check time,” said Triolo.

“You are going to face adversity, not only in lacrosse but it translates into life. That’s one of the things they have been pushing. I was really happy to see the team face adversity and come through with a big win. That was definitely tough.”

It is tough for Triolo to be wrapping up his PDS career. “It is kind of scary; it is flying by,” said Triolo, who also starred for the PDS boys’ hockey team and helped it earn a share of the state Prep title this past winter.

“It seems like the preseason trip to Hilton Head was last week. We are really remembering this and taking it all in. It is awesome. At the same time, you want to leave everything you have on the line. These are some of the last high school games we will ever play.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was proud of how his team played hard and came through on a day when it wasn’t at its sharpest.

“I think we play our best when we just settle down; we went through a period of about four minutes where we got frazzled and started making mistakes,” said Tuckman.

“I think all day we struggled technically but the kids gutted it out and that’s the most important thing.”

The PDS defense showed some guts as it held the fort down the stretch. “When a mistake was made with 43 seconds left and caused the ball to go down to the defensive side of the field, the defense knew that they had to step up and play a role and I think they did that,” said Tuckman.

“Nelson had some really great saves. I think our defense has been solid throughout and that’s been a nice thing for us.”

Another nice thing for Tuckman is the balance he has been getting on the offensive end.

“I thought Taran Auslander had a great game today,” said Tuckman of the senior star who scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Mo-Beard as the Panthers improved to 8-4.

“Jacob Shavel had three goals and two assists, that’s five points for him. We had good balance and that is what has really been the mark of this team.”

While PDS benefits from spreading the wealth, Tuckman credits Triolo with being the team’s catalyst.

“Cody sets the tone, he really does,” said Tuckman, whose team was seeded third in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to host No. 14 Steinert in the first round on May 9 with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals on May 11.

“He is a leader, both in his style of play and in his intensity. While I think it is complete and total team effort, Cody sets the one for everybody to play to and I think they do. They play up to it.”

Triolo, for his part, believes the Panthers are up for a big postseason run. “I think we have definitely got the drive and we want to play for each other and the school,” said Triolo.

“I am excited to play in the tournaments. Lacrosse is a game of runs and you have to keep your cool when they are on a run and you have to keep pushing when you are on your run.”

 

BRIGHT SCHADE: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Maddie Schade heads to goal last Friday in Mercer County Tournament action as ninth-seeded Hun played at No. 8 Robbinsville. Senior star Schade scored a goal in a losing cause as the Raiders lost 26-15. On Monday, Schade had an assist as Hun fell 16-4 to Oak Knoll in the state Prep A semis. The Raiders, now 5-8, will look to get back on the winning track when they host Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then play at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BRIGHT SCHADE: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Maddie Schade heads to goal last Friday in Mercer County Tournament action as ninth-seeded Hun played at No. 8 Robbinsville. Senior star Schade scored a goal in a losing cause as the Raiders lost 26-15. On Monday, Schade had an assist as Hun fell 16-4 to Oak Knoll in the state Prep A semis. The Raiders, now 5-8, will look to get back on the winning track when they host Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then play at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things started out well for the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team last week.

Playing in the opening round of the state Prep A tournament on April 29,  fourth-seeded Hun edged No. 5 Blair 19-18 as senior star and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks scored 10 goals.

Three days later, the Raiders topped Pennington 19-15 with Weeks scoring eight goals and classmate Maddie Schade chipping in six.

But the week ended on a down note last Friday as ninth-seeded Hun fell 26-15 to No. 8 Robbinsville in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

While Hun head coach Haley Sanborn had hoped for a different result, she had no qualms with the effort she got from her players in defeat.

“It wasn’t one of our best games,” said Sanborn. “We played them in our first scrimmage. We are a different team now and they are too. I am not disappointed; I think we played well. We knew coming in that the Mercer County Tournament was going to be tough to begin with but I am proud of them. They all worked hard.”

The Raiders worked hard to the final whistle, outscoring Robbinsville 4-2 over the last six minutes of the contest.

“Kate Weeks did keep pressing forward,” said Sanborn, who got eight goals from Weeks in the loss with Brianna Barratt adding three.

“Schade and Barratt played well. Lauren Apuzzi was great on defense. Amanda Barbour is always a consistent defender for us. Fresca [Francesca Bello] has been having good games for us. Katie Consoli played excellent.”

On Monday, the Raiders played well but came up short again as they fell 16-4 at top-seeded Oak Knoll in the Prep A semis.

In Sanborn’s view, the losses have taught Hun some important lessons. “They have got to use each other; they can’t just rely on running up the field on their own,” said Sanborn, whose team moved to 5-8 with the loss to Oak Knoll and will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Hamilton on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and then plays at the Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) on May 10.

“The defense needs to be a little tighter. We need to mark better man-to-man. We just need to be on the same page.”

Sanborn and her players have developed a tight bond this spring. “They are awesome kids; I can’t say enough good things about them,” said Sanborn.

“They encourage each other, they support each other. They are just genuinely good kids. It is a dream for me. Obviously we want to win but I think the camaraderie is great. As a coach, I learn from them as well. It is a wonderful situation so regardless of what happens, the season has been successful.”

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High baseball player Zach Tesone rounds third base in recent action. Last Saturday, junior first baseman Tesone had two hits in a losing cause as 16th-seeded PHS fell 11-2 to No. 1 Notre Dame in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers have won four of their last six games after a 1-10 start. PHS will look to keep on the right track as it plays at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE MOVE: Princeton High baseball player Zach Tesone rounds third base in recent action. Last Saturday, junior first baseman Tesone had two hits in a losing cause as 16th-seeded PHS fell 11-2 to No. 1 Notre Dame in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers have won four of their last six games after a 1-10 start. PHS will look to keep on the right track as it plays at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Continuing its recent surge, the Princeton High School baseball team opened the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on a high note.

Hosting Trenton last Wednesday in an MCT play-in game, the 16th-seeded Little Tigers topped the No. 17 Tornadoes 9-3. Andrew Frain led the way, going 2-of-4 with two runs and four RBIs while Ben Gross went 2-for-3 with three runs and Hayden Reyes had two hits with a run and an RBI. Rohit Chawla got the win on the mound.

After edging Princeton Day School 3-2 on Thursday in a regular season game for its fourth win in five games, PHS faced a stern test in the opening round of the MCT as it played at top-seeded Notre Dame.

Digging a 4-0 hole in the first inning, the Little Tigers fell short in its upset bid as the Fighting Irish went on to an 11-2 win. Senior third baseman Ellis Bloom and Chawla had RBIs in a losing cause as PHS moved to 5-12 on the season.

The Little Tigers will look to keep on the right track as they play at WW/P-N on May 8 in an MCT consolation game and at Hamilton on May 9 before hosting Nottingham on May 10.

After losing to PHS on Thursday, PDS couldn’t get its bats going as the third-seeded Panthers hosted No. 11 WW/P-S on Saturday in its MCT opener. The Panthers managed only three hits as they fell 5-0. Sophomore pitcher Cole McManimon took the loss as he moved to 5-2.

On Monday, the Panthers had a rematch with WW/P-S in a regular season contest and did hit better as Jake Alu and J.P  Radvany delivered RBIs but it wasn’t enough as the Pirates prevailed 7-4.

PDS, who is 8-7 and will play at Steinert on May 8 in an MCT consolation contest, are still in the hunt for the state Prep B title. The Panthers are slated to host Montclair-Kimberley in the Prep B quarterfinals on May 9 with the winner advancing to the semifinal game on May 14.

Eddie Paparella had three RBIs for third-seeded Hun as it hosted No. 14 Nottingham last Saturday its MCT opener but that wasn’t nearly enough as the Northstars rolled to a 16-4 win. The Raiders made five errors on the day as they trailed 7-1 after two innings and 12-3 after four.

Hun did bounce back from the defeat with a 14-1 win over Peddie last Monday. Post-graduate star Brett Ender led the way, pitching a no-hitter and going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs as the Raiders improved to 12-5.

Like PDS, Hun has another title to shoot for as it starts play in the state Prep A tournament on May 15 in a quarterfinal contest. The Prep A semis are slated for May 18 with the championship round scheduled to take place at Lawrenceville on May 19. In addition, the Raiders have a regular season game at Robbinsville on May 9.

HITTING A RUT: Hun School softball player Julia Blake takes a cut in recent action. After a 9-1 start, the Raiders have lost four of their last five games. Hun will look to resume its winning ways when it plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 and then hosts Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HITTING A RUT: Hun School softball player Julia Blake takes a cut in recent action. After a 9-1 start, the Raiders have lost four of their last five games. Hun will look to resume its winning ways when it plays at the Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 and then hosts Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was an unfortunate case of deja vu for the Hun School softball team as they played Gill St. Bernard’s last Friday.

The Raiders jumped out to a 4-1 lead only to lose 5-4 as they dropped to 10-5. It marked the fourth loss in five games for Hun, with three of the defeats coming by one run.

“We get a lead and we say we are OK, there is not the urgency to play the whole game,” lamented Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.

“We are struggling right now. I don’t know. There seems to be a lack of focus. It is not that we are an extremely young team. We do have a freshman on the mound but we aren’t a freshman-oriented team.”

Even though Hun has struggled recently, Quirk is happy with the effort she has been getting from star freshman hurler Alexis Goeke.

“Lexi is working hard; her youth is showing,” said Quirk. “She has only been pitching for three years and there are still a lot of things she needs to work on for the next three years. She hasn’t always gotten the best support from her fielders and that is frustrating. She is doing her best out there.”

Hun’s best player has been senior star catcher and Elon University-bound Carey Million. “Carey Million is going a great job offensively and defensively,” asserted Quirk. “She has five home runs and is hitting around .500.

Quirk is looking for Million and fellow seniors Dani Beal and Joey Crivelli to help Hun do a better job as it heads into the homestretch of the season.

“We need to stay focused to win,” said Quirk. “We are getting hits but we are not stringing them together. I am hoping that the seniors can lead the way and instill the desire and need to win.”

In order to give her team the best chance to win the state Prep A tournament, Quirk is foregoing the county tourney.

“I decided not to enter the Mercer County Tournament; it goes Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and that is tough with the preps going on at the same time,” said Quirk whose team plays at Hill School (Pa.) on May 8 before hosting Blair in the state Prep A semis on May 14.

“I think we need to focus on one tournament and not be on two tracks. I think we have a better chance in the preps.”

May 1, 2013
SAVING GRACE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Johnson made 15 saves to help Princeton edge Michigan 7-5 in the Eastern Championship title game and earn its second straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The sixth-seeded Tigers (26-5) will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10 at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson guards the net in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, freshman star Johnson made 15 saves to help Princeton edge Michigan 7-5 in the Eastern Championship title game and earn its second straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The sixth-seeded Tigers (26-5) will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10 at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Its quest to repeat as Eastern champions looked to be in serious jeopardy as the Princeton University women’s water polo team found itself trailing Hartwick College 7-3 at halftime in the semis last Saturday.

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao wasn’t surprised that his team found itself locked in a battle with the Hawks.

“It was a struggle, we knew that going in,” said Nicolao, whose team edged Hartwick 7-6 in a regular season contest on February 17.

“Hartwick is very good, they are big and physical. We didn’t play well in the first half. I wanted to get the girls to relax and play our game. All year we have been saying we can control how the other teams play by how we play. We were doing things uncharacteristic of us. We were making mistakes offensively and defensively and we weren’t communicating.”

The Tigers, though, took control in the second half, outscoring Hartwick 7-3 to force overtime. After a scoreless first overtime period, the Tigers got goals from Katie Rigler and Jessie Holechek in the second extra period to pull out a 12-11 victory.

“We played well in the fourth quarter and the overtime,” said Nicolao, who got four goals and an assist from Rigler in the victory with Diana Murphy and Holechek each adding two goals and freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson making 10 saves.

“Rigler had a great game, no doubt, but so many girls did. Players like Holechek, [Saranna] Soroka, and [Kelly] Gross got key goals. We would not have been there at the end without those goals. We are very balanced.”

Princeton ended up earning its second straight Eastern crown as it edged host Michigan 7-5 in the championship game on Sunday.

“We looked at it as an opportunity,” said Nicolao, reflecting on taking on the Wolverines in their home pool.

“The atmosphere was great, the place was loud. I have a lot of respect for Michigan. It was a fun game to be in, win or lose.”

In the early going, Princeton wasn’t having much fun as it fell behind 2-0.

“It was critical to stop the bleeding,” said Nicolao, whose team went on a 3-1 run to make it a 3-3 contest after the first period and then outscored Michigan 3-0 over the next two periods to seize momentum.

“They got a couple of quick goals and the crowd was into it. We needed to settle down. The game plan was to play a zone defense and keep one or two shot blockers in front of their shooters with Ashleigh in the front of the net. We didn’t want to let their 2-meter players (centers) beat us. We wanted to make them beat us from the outside. Defense wins championships. We got a great defensive effort and we got the crowd out of it after the first quarter. They were quiet with no goals being scored.”

Star netminder Johnson gave Princeton another outstanding effort in her superb debut campaign, making 15 saves in the championship game as the Tigers improved to 26-5.

“She is wonderful, she is great,” asserted Nicolao of Miami, Fla. native Johnson, who was named the Rookie of the Tournament and was earlier selected as the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year.

“She gives your team confidence. Even if you are not playing well, she can make the saves to keep you in the game. She is extremely athletic and extremely smart. She is a pure athlete. She is so explosive and has great leg strength in the water.”

In Nicolao’s view, winning back-to-back Eastern titles is a great accomplishment for his players.

“We have never done it before,” said Nicolao, who is in his 15th season overseeing both the men’s and women’s water polo programs at Princeton.

“It is hard to do it once. When you win, everyone is looking at you, you are a target. You have to play with a different mindset. I am so proud of the girls, they are the first group to do this for us.”

The Tigers have a special group with talent throughout the lineup as 10 players have at least 20 goals, led by Rigler, the Southern Division Player of the Year and Eastern tournament MVP, at 61, followed by Ashley Hatcher (36), Soroka (33), Diana Murphy (31), Pippa Temple (31), Holechek (29), Molly McBee (29), Brittany Zwirner (25), Gross (21), and Camille Hooks (20)

“Over the last two or three years, we have had the same nucleus of girls,” said Nicolao.

“The pieces we have added have fit in well. We have a great chemistry; they all like each other. It is like one big family.”

After going 1-2 and placing six at the NCAA championships last year in its first trip to the competition, Nicolao is hoping his team can take a big step forward in this year’s national tourney, which is being held at Harvard’s Blodgett Pool.

“We can’t be satisfied to just be there,” said Nicolao, whose team is seeded sixth in the NCAAs and will face No. 3 UCLA (26-6) in the quarterfinals on May 10.

“The other teams will be traveling so we need to come out ready to play. If we do, we can pull some surprises. The excitement of going is over, three-fourths of the team has already been there. They want to have a better showing.”

In order to have a better showing, the Tigers need to be stingy. “It is all about defense,” said Nicolao, who will need a big tournament out of Johnson, who has a 0.669 saves percentage with 328 saves, 41 steals, and 20 assists in 31 starts.

“The other teams are hard to score on and we can’t afford to make mistakes and give up easy goals.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sam Ellis heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Ellis enjoyed a big day in her final game at Class of 1952 Stadium, scoring a career-high six points on four goals and two assists as No. 12 Princeton defeated No. 6 Penn State 14-9. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall, face Dartmouth on May 3 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia with winner advancing to the title game on May 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sam Ellis heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Ellis enjoyed a big day in her final game at Class of 1952 Stadium, scoring a career-high six points on four goals and two assists as No. 12 Princeton defeated No. 6 Penn State 14-9. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall, face Dartmouth on May 3 in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Franklin Field in Philadelphia with winner advancing to the title game on May 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sam Ellis, being honored along with her classmates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team last Saturday for the program’s Senior Day triggered some deep emotions.

“It is a very special moment to go through this program for four years and just have my class’s day,” said senior attacker Ellis, reflecting on the pregame ceremony that preceded No. 12 Princeton’s clash against visiting No. 6 Penn State at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I love playing with this team. I love playing with these girls all four years and especially this team. Just going on the field like this is an incredible feeling. I had a lot of adrenaline pumping.”

Ellis channeled that adrenaline into some offensive heroics as she scored two goals in the first five minutes of the game, helping the Tigers jump out to a 6-1 lead over the Nittany Lions.

“We worked in some new offenses,” said Ellis, a 5’5 native of Bryn Mawr, Pa. “There are no regrets now, senior year, push it to the limits, do what you can and do it for the team.”

Ellis kept doing it all afternoon, ending the day with a career-best six points on four goals and two assists as Princeton pulled away to a 14-9 victory and improved to 10-5 overall.

“It is special to do it on Senior Day,” said Ellis, reflecting on her scoring outburst, which gave her 20 points on the season with 16 goals and four assists.

“It is special that I got to do it in such an important win for us. I really owe it all to my teammates. If it weren’t for them pushing me everyday in practice, I would not have gotten here.”

In Ellis’ view, the team’s work in practice in preparation for the Penn State game helped spark the superb performance.

“We just had incredible practices this week,” said Ellis, who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for her performance.

“We were all dedicated, watching film, working extra on the field. We were really prepping each other and pushing each other hard in practice. It just really helped that the offense and the defense was playing so well. We were really able to go off of each other’s momentum and carry that on for the entire game.”

Being pushed by her teammates over the last four years helped Ellis make the Israeli women’s lacrosse national team, which will be competing in the upcoming world championships.

“This is the first year the women were making a team; the tryouts were conveniently in New Jersey,” said Ellis.

“I went and I made it. It is a pretty cool thing. I have become an Israeli citizen. I get to train in Israel, spread the lacrosse image, and get it national. I would be nowhere as good as I am if it weren’t for this team, this school, this coach; and just everything that has gone into this past four years has made me grow into the person I am.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer believed her squad showed offensive growth in the win over Penn State.

“We had a great offensive practice yesterday; we were moving the ball well,” said Sailer.

“We have been trying to attack the corners more. So much this year, we have been attacking up and down. We just put in a little different look so we could attack the corners.”

The Tigers brought an intensity to go along with their tactical wrinkles.

“I could tell when I walked into the team room before the game that they were ready to play,” said Sailer.

“I think they showed that from the very opening whistle. There was just great energy; they fought really hard.”

The team’s seniors fought particularly hard in their final home appearance.

“All of them have contributed since the time they got on campus,” said Sailer, reflecting on the program’s Class of 2013 which includes Caroline Rehfuss, Jaci Gassaway, Charlotte Davis, and Jenna Davis in addition to Ellis.

“This year, they have really come together as a senior class. They have been incredible leaders. They have really set a great culture of being compelled and doing the extra. They have really unified this whole team and I think today was their showcase.”

Sailer pointed to Ellis as exemplifying the seniors’ big day. “Sam really got us started with some great moves early,” said Sailer, who got three goals apiece from Erin McMunn and Erin Slifer in the victory over Penn State with Sarah Lloyd chipping in two.

“Sam was just fantastic today. She really attacked hard. She finished her shots well. I thought all of the seniors played well and it was great to see.”

With Princeton having won seven of its last nine games, Sailer believes her team has a great chance of winning the Ivy League tournament this weekend in Philadelphia.

“We are not always ready at the first or second game of the season,” said Sailer, whose team is seeded second in the Ivy tourney and will play No. 3 Dartmouth in one semi on Friday with top-seeded and host Penn facing No. 4 Cornell in the other and the victors to meet in the title game on Sunday.

“To see them get better and better as the season progresses, that is exactly what you want. The goal is to be peaking come tournament time.”

Princeton is ready for its rematch with Dartmouth at Franklin Field. “We just played them so we will have that tape on them,” said Sailer, whose club edged the Big Green 15-13 on April 20.

“That was a very competitive game. I think if we can keep our intensity level up and really study that film and continue to work, we will have a great game. Right now we are all about winning that tournament. We have got to get by Dartmouth.”

Ellis, for her part, believes that Princeton is primed to keep winning. “We already know that we are going to see Dartmouth in the first round,” said Ellis.

“We already beat them but you take every game like it is a new game. Coming off this win, we are definitely going to feed off that energy. I feel like whenever we get to the end of the spring season, this is when we hit our momentum. We don’t have as much prep time as other schools so it is really nice to see what we have grown into.”

Facing No. 6 Cornell last Saturday in the Big City Classic at MetLife Stadium, the 12th-ranked Princeton University men’s lacrosse team outscored the Big Red 10-9 over the last 38:46 of the contest.

Unfortunately for Princeton, it dug an 8-1 hole in the first 21 minutes of the Ivy League showdown on the way to a 17-11 defeat.

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior All-American midfielder Schreiber scored two goals and had an assist in a 17-11 loss to Cornell. Schreiber now has 25 goals and 26 assists for the season. Princeton has had a player have at least 25 goals and 25 assists six times in program history, and two of those 25/25 seasons belong to Schreiber, who had 32 goals and 28 assists last year. The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 3-3 Ivy League, will get another shot at the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, junior All-American midfielder Schreiber scored two goals and had an assist in a 17-11 loss to Cornell. Schreiber now has 25 goals and 26 assists for the season. Princeton has had a player have at least 25 goals and 25 assists six times in program history, and two of those 25/25 seasons belong to Schreiber, who had 32 goals and 28 assists last year. The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 3-3 Ivy League, will get another shot at the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Princeton head coach Chris Bates acknowledged that his squad was out of synch in the early going as it fell to 8-5 overall and 3-3 in Ivy play.

“I think offensively we didn’t capitalize on opportunities,” lamented Bates “We moved the ball and had shots but we weren’t attentive to the scouting report on shooting. They ground-balled us all day. They had two long poles on face-offs and that unit did a good job. Pannell [Cornell All-American Rob Pannell] got two early goals and that set a tone for them; they were feeling good about themselves.”

Bates felt good about how his team refused to throw in the towel after finding themselves facing the large early deficit.

“At halftime, we challenged them a little bit; we talked about things we weren’t doing well and adjustments we needed to make,” recalled Bates, who got four goals and an assist from Mike MacDonald in the loss with Tom Schreiber chipping in two goals and an assist.

“Each time we would get it to four, they would make a big play and get it back to five. I think if we had got it to three, we would have felt differently but we never had a puncher’s chance. This team keeps scrapping and fighting,”

The Tigers face a huge challenge as they play the Big Red (12-2 overall, 6-0 Ivy) again this Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.

“As a competitor, that excites me,” said Bates, reflecting on the rematch which will see the winner advance to the Ivy championship game on Sunday against the victor of the Yale-Penn semifinal.

“It is a chance to exact revenge. We are disappointed; we are much better than the way we played on Saturday. All of us are a bit embarrassed by that game. It is a chance to not only show ourselves but to show Cornell that we are better.”

Bates is hoping that his team will take some lessons from Saturday and bring some extra hunger into the rematch.

“We need to make some adjustments; we tried to make some at half but they didn’t stick,” said Bates.

“We need to put in a couple of different wrinkles and looks to slow down Pannell. We need to do better on ground balls and be more physical; they beat us up a little bit. They were dancing around and celebrating after the game; they don’t think they have much to worry about.”

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack, foreground, and Zach ­Kleiman play a point last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Thrown together days before the MCT, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title. Their win helped PHS finish fourth of 17 schools in the team standings.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Tyler Hack and Zack Kleiman to develop into a formidable doubles pair.

Thrown together just before last week’s Mercer County Tournament, the duo stunned the competition at the counties, going from unseeded to the second doubles title.

The triumph helped PHS place fourth in the team standings as WW/P-S won the title for the third season in a row and the ninth time in the last 10 years.

Sophomore Hack had a feeling that he and junior Kleiman could do some special things together.

“We played one match together as a team before this tournament,” said Hack.

“We won that match and we have known each other for a few years. We have been good friends for a couple of years now and I thought we had good chemistry.”

The pair utilized that chemistry as they endured a tough three-set match in the final, topping Pratyush Trivedi and Felix Su of WW/P-N, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.

“It certainly had a lot of twists and turns,” said Hack, reflecting on the championship match.

“I was really worried in the second set. I knew that if we played the way we did during our first three matches here, I knew we could come out on top in the third.”

Kleiman, for his part, believed that the pair needed to bear down to prevail in the third.

“I think we lost focus in the second and we tried to have the mentality in the third that the first two sets never existed,” said Kleiman. “We tried to stay in each point and I think that showed in the last set.”

In assessing the third set, Hack attributed playing conservative tennis with making the difference.

“In the third, it was just stay consistent and play safe doubles, get our serves in and make our returns and not let them beat us down,” said Hack.

The PHS duo jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set and cruised from there.

“I think my hold in the third game was really crucial,” said Kleiman. “We just couldn’t let them back in. It was crucial to keep the consistency, the mentality, and focus.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believed that the pairing of Hack and Kleiman had a chance to be something special.

“I was really proud of the way second doubles played this whole tournament,” said Hibbert.

“They played their first match on the Friday before the tournament. I definitely knew they had potential. Tyler has the groundstrokes and he plays well at the net. Zach volleys well. I thought they could have a good shot. Obviously any time you win a flight, you are really pleased, especially when the team hasn’t played together.”

Noting that she has been forced to juggle her lineup all spring due to injury, Hibbert was pleased to see the Little Tigers take fourth at the highly competitive MCT. The first doubles pair of Zach Hojelbane and Eddy Zheng took fourth while Rishab Tanga placed third at third singles.

“To have three flights go into the second day was good,” said Hibbert. “The first doubles ended up getting fourth. There were a few things here or there we are still trying to settle. Rishab did a great job as well. He had a tough match this morning against Neeraj [Devulapalli of PDS]. Neeraj played first singles last year so that is definitely a tough match. I think Rishab did a great job of coming back in his third place match. He fought hard through that match.”

In Hibbert’s view, PHS can make things tough on its foes with its balance.

“Our strength is depth; we don’t necessarily have a nationally ranked player,” said Hibbert.

“We have seven solid guys that we rely on different days to come through for us and I think with our depth, we have to make sure that our doubles teams are solid.”

Hibbert believes her players will draw strength from their play at the MCT.

“Any time you get good competition, it can only help you for what we have coming up with North (WW/P-N), South (WW/P-S), and the states,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to host WW/P-N on May 1 before playing at Hightstown on May 3 and Nottingham on May 6.

Kleiman, for his part, feels that his pairing with Hack can help the team be better.

“The lefty/righty combination is always helpful when you have the forehand on either wing,” said Kleiman, who is a righty while Hack plays lefthanded. “We want to stay together.”