April 29, 2015
ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING BACK: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Rory ­Helstrom unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Helstrom contributed two goals and two assists to help PHS defeat WW/P-S 9-4 as it won its second straight game after being mired in a five-game losing streak. The Little Tigers, who fell 6-5 to Rumson Fair Haven on Monday in dropping to 4-7, hosts WW/P-N on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team played at WW/P-S last Saturday, the PHS players periodically chanted “run, Rory, run” from the sidelines.

The squad’s junior star midfielder, Rory Helstrom, responded to his teammates’ pleas, tallying two goals and two assists to help the Little Tigers pull away to a 9-4 victory.

With PHS trailing 2-0 midway through the first quarter, Helstrom used his fast feet and stick skills to draw the Little Tigers level at 2-2, assisting on one goal and scoring another in a 24-second span.

“I think just getting us some motivation really helped get us back on track,” said Helstrom, reflecting on the two-goal spurt.

“We knew coming into this game that they were better than their scores. We knew we couldn’t play down to them.”

The PHS coaches gave the players some extra motivation with their halftime message.

“At halftime, they talked to us and said you guys have to play to your ability and talked about this stuff that we weren’t doing,” recalled Helstrom. “We just sucked it up.”

The Little Tigers did a lot of good things at both ends of the field in the second half as they outscored WW/P-S 5-0.

“We started off slow but we picked it up towards the end,” said Helstrom, who had a goal and an assist in the second half.

With PHS losing some key offensive performers from last year’s squad to graduation, Helstrom knew that he had to pick it up this spring.

“I have got to make more plays myself,” said Helstrom, who is a star running back for the PHS football team. “I think this year it is more me controlling things than last year. I have got to start getting the offense going and making things happen for myself and the other players.”

With PHS having struggled through a five-game losing streak earlier this month as it lost to such powers as Lawrenceville, Summit, and North Hunterdon, Helstrom believes the team is on the right track.

“I think North Hunterdon was the lowest point of our season,” said Helstrom, who was slowed by a groin injury earlier this spring but is back at full speed. “We couldn’t go down since then, we could only go up.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way his players have picked things up as the win over WW/P-S came two days after the Little Tigers had beaten Robbinsville 7-3 to snap the losing streak.

“The thing about learning is that people don’t get it until they have figured it out themselves,” said Stanton.

“You can tell somebody something five times but when they finally get it and it clicks in, it is so satisfying and so rewarding.”

Things were clicking for PHS all over the field against WW/P-S as the team showed good offensive balance.

“I think the fact that we were deeper than them showed,” said Stanton, who got two goals apiece from Nick Halliday and Johnny Lopez-Ona in addition to Helstrom with Chris Diver, Eamonn McDonald, and Stephen Clark chipping in one apiece.

“We had some really key contributions from some guys who don’t necessarily show up in the box score. Justin Marciano made an incredible play at the end of the game. Oliver Hamit was scrapping it out at the face-off X. Nick Halliday has had two games in a row where he has been really good.”

Helstrom was really good as he triggered the PHS offense with his athleticism and determination.

“He is an X factor,” added Stanton. “He is such a good athlete, he can do things on just will.”

Reflecting on the team’s recent skid, Stanton believes that playing such high powered foes as Lawrenceville and Summit will help sharpen his players’ will to compete.

“What those games teach you is grit, they teach you that you can go out and battle your hardest even being overmatched but if you have given your all and you have learned, you can be proud of that,” said Stanton.

“We didn’t do that for four quarters in either of those games but in each of those games we had our moments where it is like here is what we are capable of if we can do these things against some of the best players in the state. Our schedule is a bit more difficult this year and we are younger than usual. It is easy when things aren’t going your way to give up and when things are going really well, everybody wants to work hard. So the fact that we can continue to work hard when things weren’t going well showed by getting these last two wins. It is something we can  be proud of.”

Stanton believes the Little Tigers can get some more big wins over the next few weeks.

“We are happy that we are improving, we never know what anyone’s limits or potential are,” said Stanton, whose team fell 6-5 to Rumson-Fair Haven last Monday to move to 4-7 and hosts WW/P-N on April 30.

“We always push our kids to go beyond what maybe they think they are capable of. So absolutely we are happy that we have a team that is willing to work hard, improve, and has a chance to win.”

Helstrom, for his part, is confident that PHS will keep pushing to improve.

“We started off the season really slow, losing to some in-conference teams,” said Helstrom. “I think in the second half of the season we can really turn it on.”

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

GREAT SCOTT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Scott Altmeyer follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Altmeyer won the third singles crown at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings.

The wind was swirling around Mercer County Park last Thursday as the temperature hovered in the low 40s but the chill didn’t bother Scott Altmeyer.

Competing in the third singles final at the Mercer County Tournament, Princeton Day School boys’ tennis junior star Altmeyer was sizzling.

Playing in his shirtsleeves without any extra layers unlike many bundled up in winter clothes around the tennis complex, Altmeyer rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Tyler Hack of Princeton High for the title.

“I thought I played very well by my standards,” said Altmeyer. “I was hitting a lot of shots that I usually don’t hit and I was getting a lot of balls back that I usually don’t get back. I felt I was playing some of the best tennis I have played this season so far.”

Altmeyer’s big day helped PDS take fourth of 16 schools in the team standings at the event. Freshman Lex Decker finished third in second singles to provide another big highlight for the Panthers.

For Altmeyer, winning the title was a confidence booster. “I am very happy about it,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had lost to Kabir Sarita of WW/P-S in the third singles final at the 2014 MCT.

“I hope I can use this to jumpstart the rest of the season. My game just feels all around better, I am playing a little more outside of school.

In Altmeyer’s view, playing at the MCT also benefits the team, bringing the players closer together.

“It is so much fun, it is the most camaraderie with your teammates, cheering everybody on,” said Altmeyer. “It is one of the tournaments I look forward to.”

After taking a hiatus from the game during middle school, Altmeyer is savoring being on the court with his teammates.

“I got burned out and just took some time off for myself,” said Altmeyer, noting that he had five stress fractures in his left foot.

“I didn’t feel like playing any more. The reason I am back is because I am loving to play the sport again and I am having a lot of fun with it.”

PDS head coach Will Asch loved watching Altmeyer roll to the third singles title.

“This is the best tennis that he has played all year, he was hitting the ball hard and mentally he was very tough,” asserted Asch. “It didn’t seem like anybody could beat him today, it was one of those days.”

Noting that Altmeyer was hampered by illness earlier this spring, Asch believes that his junior star is peaking.

“He was playing great last year,” said Asch. “He came back from India after spring break and he wasn’t feeling well. I feel now that he is not only playing as well as last year but probably even a little bit better. In four weeks, his tennis has come a long way.”

Freshman Lex Decker came a long way at the MCT, rallying to pull out a three-set win over Rohan Yadav of Hightstown in the third-place match at second singles.

“I think it was a character win for Lex, it is tough for a freshman to beat an older kid at the Mercer County,” said Asch of Decker, who prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

“You know it is going to be hard when a freshman has adversity and he has to learn how to overcome it. I think what made the difference is that he won the last three games of the second set. He had a battle with himself in the first set and a half. He had some bad luck in the beginning and he got a little down. Then … he persevered … and started to outplay him in the second set. In the third set, he just believed; he just knew that he could do it. There wasn’t any doubt and he just went out and took care of business.”

Asch is confident that his team can take care of business as it goes for a third straight state Prep B title in mid-May.

“I like our team; I like our chances,” said Asch. “We have won it the last two years. I think our team is probably a little bit stronger this year than last year. We lost Neeraj (Devulapalli) but now we have Lex. Scott is playing a lot better. I think we are incredibly strong in that second and third singles. Anupreeth (Coramutla) is a very good player at first singles; he won last year.”

Altmeyer, for his part, believes that PDS can produce a strong finish. “We have a good group; I have a lot of good friends in there,” said Altmeyer. “I am very confident in what we can do.”

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Morgan Foster, left, goes after the ball in a game earlier this spring. Last Monday, senior star and Hamilton College-bound Foster scored four goals to help first-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals. The Panthers will host the winner of the Stuart Country Day School/Ranney first round contest in the Prep B semis on May 4. In addition, PDS is competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Morgan Foster fired in a shot off a free position play for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team to give it a 6-6 tie against Hopewell Valley last Saturday, it looked like the contest was destined to be a nailbiter.

But HoVal responded with a 5-1 run to take an 11-7 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 19-9 win.

While senior star attacker Foster was disappointed with the result, she was proud of how the Panthers fought to the end.

“We were in it; I think that sometimes we need to realize that a full lacrosse game is 50 minutes,” said Foster, who tallied two goals in the defeat.

“We want to be a two-half team. I think everyone was working their hardest. The chips didn’t fall our way today. We have some things that we need to clean up.”

On Monday, things did go PDS’s way as the first-seeded Panthers topped No. 8 Morristown-Beard 18-9 in the state Prep B quarterfinals with Foster chipping in four goals.

“I think our goal right now is to make sure that we extend our season as long as possible,” said Foster, who is heading to Hamilton College where she will be playing for its women’s lacrosse program. “We definitely have May 11 (the Prep B final) circled on the calendar.”

Foster and classmate, star goalie Kirsten Kuzmicz, the only seniors on the squad, are looking to set a positive tone for their younger teammates.

“At this point, I am playing for Kirsten and I hope that Kirsten is playing for me,” asserted Foster.

“I think that part of getting everybody excited for the game is to make sure that everyone knows that they are playing for each other and that there is somebody out there working harder than you are. You want to work hard for the person next to you. That is a big thing that we try to implement so that everybody is working for somebody else.”

Foster enjoyed a big moment when she scored her 100th career goal in a 14-11 loss to Blair on April 22.

“That was so exciting, that was something I didn’t know was coming up,” said Foster.

“I knew that the game beforehand that I was close but I wasn’t counting on it. It was really nice but unfortunately we lost that game to Blair. There was a bit of a silver lining.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas saw a silver lining in the way the Panthers battled in the loss to HoVal.

“We played some very good lacrosse at times today from the start,” said Thomas.

“We limited the number of unforced turnovers, I still think that we had too many. We didn’t get the ground balls on dropped balls, we made bad decisions with the ball, things like that. It is little stuff, fixable stuff and that is a good team that we played.”

Thomas likes the way that Foster has developed into a very good leader for PDS.

“Morgan has really taken her leadership skills and put them into offensive sets and plays,” said Thomas. “She settles them and makes the extra pass. She has had some really good assists, she is a much more complete player.

Heading into the final weeks of the season, Thomas is looking for the Panthers to play a more complete game collectively.

“We just need to clean up those little things and bring our best to the field every day and take them one at a time,” said Thomas, whose team will host a Prep B semifinal game on May 4 and is also competing in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will play at No. 8 Hightstown in an opening round contest.

Foster, for her part, is determined to bring her best as she wraps up her PDS career.

“I am getting more sad that this year is coming to a close,” said Foster. “I have never won a tournament here at Princeton Day School. I really have my sights set on the Prep Bs right now, that is something I am really looking forward to.”

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KACEY AT THE BAT: Hun School softball player Kacey Abitz takes a big swing in recent action. Last Saturday, junior ­Abitz helped Hun sweep a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) as the Raiders prevailed 11-0 and 8-6. In game two, Abitz went 4-for-4 with a double and was the winning pitcher. The Raiders, who improved to 4-6 with the wins, are scheduled to host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29 and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a lopsided loss at Lawrenceville last Thursday, the Hun School softball team found itself at a crossroad.

The 16-4 defeat to the Big Red was the fifth straight loss for Hun since it had topped Lawrenceville 7-2 on April 11 in the rivals’ first meeting of the season.

“We had a talk after the Lawrenceville game and did a lot of soul searching,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “We talked about looking yourself in the mirror and do you want to be here.”

While the Raiders hadn’t been looking all that bad in the losing streak, Quirk acknowledged that her players weren’t closing the deal.

“It is not that we haven’t been hitting but we were leaving people on base,” said Quirk. “We were not supporting our pitchers.”

Playing a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) last Saturday, Hun cleared the bases repeatedly, prevailing 11-0 and 8-6.

“Julia Revock pitched a two-hitter in the opener, she did well,” said Quirk. “We had a great hitting performance by everybody. Vicki Leach was 2-for-2 and Alexis Goeke was 2-for-3. We got two runs in the first and five in the second. They had a slow pitcher and sometimes that throws us off.”

In the nightcap, it was the Kacey Abitz show as the junior starred at the plate and was the winning pitcher.

“They got three runs in the top of the first and then Abitz came in to pitch,” said Quirk, whose team improved to 4-6 with the sweep.

“Julia Blake hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the first to tie it up and we got three more and didn’t look back. We fell apart a little in the seventh but we were able to hold on. Abitz pitched well and went 4-for-4 with a double.”

Quirk is hoping that the big day at Mercersburg will get her team on the right track as it heads down the homestretch of the season.

“Our goal is to be at .500 after Wednesday then take it from there,” said Quirk, whose team was slated to play at Princeton Day School on April 28, host Hill School (Pa.) on April 29, and play at WW/P-N on May 1 before hosting Blair Academy on May 2 and Immaculata High on May 4.

“I want to see them play with confidence and believe in themselves. We need to do things in games that we do every day in practice. They need to communicate and talk to each other in the field. They have to know what they are going to do if the ball is hit to them.”

There were about 30 seconds left in the game and the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team was trailing Mount St. Mary Academy 18-9 last week.

Even though it was clear that the Tartans were going down to defeat, Stuart junior midfielder Julia Maser was still hustling, scooping up a ground ball, sprinting to the net and firing a shot.

While Maser’s shot missed the mark and the game ended with a final score of 18-9, her effort exemplified the team’s never-say-die mindset.

“It could be 20-1 and we would still be trying to get that last point in,” said Maser. “We always fight for the last goal, no matter how far we are down.”

In reflecting on the defeat which saw Stuart fall behind 12-4 at halftime before narrowing the gap to 14-8 with 7:53 remaining, Maser acknowledged that the team needs to get off to better starts.

“Starting the season we have kind of been a second-half team and I think we need to come out with equal intensity,” said Maser.

“Whenever we seem to get down by halftime, we always come out with fire in the second half. We need that to start the game.”

In Maser’s view, the team is starting to get on the same page as the season unfolds.

“The few of us juniors have grown up playing together so we are a pretty strong group, we try to bring that intensity to our entire team and lend that bond,” said Maser.

“We have grown and started to work together. I think it is just knowing that our teammates have our back.”

As one of the team’s more battle-tested players, Maser is speaking up more on the field this season.

“This year I would have to say I try to be more vocal and keep our team’s heads up,” said Maser.

“If we drop behind, it is not about us hanging our heads, it is about fighting back.”

The Tartans are fighting for a new leader this year as Kelsey O’Gorman has taken the helm of the program.

“That is an adjustment, it is definitely new,” added Maser, who had two goals as Stuart fell 17-7 to Princeton Day School last Thursday to move to 3-5 on the season.

“It is just like new plays, you have got to get used to our new coach’s style. She is all about us learning plays and working on consistency. We are definitely more in a routine and it is going to start looking up for us.”

With Stuart starting action in both the state Prep B tourney and Mercer County Tournament this week, Maser believes the Tartans are up for the challenge of postseason play. Stuart is seeded fourth in the Prep B competition and will host fifth-seeded Ranney School on April 29. In the MCT, the Tartans are seeded 12th and will play at No. 5 Princeton High in a first round contest.

“The focus going forward I would have to say is to have complete team unity from defense to offense,” said Maser.

“We need to work on our transition plays and once we get that down, we will be unstoppable.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashley Hatcher was primed for a big finish as the Princeton University women’s water polo headed into the fourth quarter of the CWPA championship game locked in a 5-5 tie with Indiana last Sunday at DeNunzio Pool.

“We were definitely concerned there but it gives you an extra boost of adrenaline to swim your hardest on the draw, the ejection, and the counter attack, and give your all,” said Hatcher.

Hatcher gave Princeton the margin of victory, scoring two goals in the quarter as the 12th-ranked Tigers pulled out a 7-6 win over the No. 11 Hoosiers and earned a bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

“One of my teammates sent it to center but it was almost a turnover and then it landed in front of me,” said Hatcher, reflecting on the winning goal which came with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter.

“They play high up in the lane so I drove in and the goal was open, it felt very good. When the ball is in front of me I was going to try to light the goalie up. I wanted to put a shot on goal and make her make a save. I didn’t want to make anything easy for her.”

Hatcher and her teammates realized things weren’t going to come easy in the final in Sunday having lost 9-8 and 13-12 to Indiana on two regular season meetings this year in addition to falling to the Hoosiers in the 2014 CWPA final.

“We knew that when we lost to this team before that we did not play our best game so coming out of those games it was heartbreaking but almost a boost of confidence because I knew and the team knew that we didn’t play our best game,” said Hatcher.

“We were excited to get the chance to play them again. We really wanted this team in the championship more than anything else.”

Winning that championship was special for Hatcher and her teammates. “It means a lot because we won the championship my freshman and sophomore year and we lost last year to Indiana,” said Hatcher, who was a first-team All-Tournament selection along with teammates Ashleigh Johnson and Jess Holechek.

“Right now this is our focus and we put everything on this game. Now we can look forward to the NCAAs. Winning three out of four is awesome.”

It was awesome for Hatcher to have older sister, Karina, on hand at DeNunzio to support her on Sunday.

“My sister played here and the last time we hosted Easterns, I was here watching her in 2007 when we lost to Hartwick,” said Hatcher, a native of Miami, Fla.

“Those little things were in the back of my mind watching her cheer for me. Being at home, it was a great finish.”

Hatcher has produced a great senior season, scoring a career-high and team-high 78 goals so far in her final campaign.

“Over the years I have grown in confidence in my ability,” said Hatcher. “I feel like my ballhandling skills have improved so that definitely helps. With Katie Rigler graduating, she was such an offensive presence for us and really inspired me. She would take over and was never afraid to shoot the ball.”

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao has enjoyed seeing Hatcher become a top offensive player for Princeton this season.

“I am so happy for Ashley, she has had an amazing year,” said a drenched Nicolao, who was tossed in the pool and sprayed with champagne as the team celebrated the win.

“She has always had the ability. She has always been a strong player for us but this year she really showed how good she is. She stepped up and has been a leading scorer all year for us. She had the game winner today. She is a hard worker and is really passionate about playing the game well.”

In order to beat Indiana in round three between the teams this season, Princeton had to step up its execution in crunch time.

“We had to be more mentally focused,” said Nicolao. “The first two matchups this year went right down to the wire. We had the lead both times in the fourth quarter and just made some crucial mistakes so we knew this game was going to come down to this, a one-goal game.”

On Sunday, the Tigers made the big plays down the stretch. “We had the two-goal lead with two minutes to go, we couldn’t make it easy and keep the two-goal lead,” said a smiling Nicolao, whose team improved to 29-3 with the win.

“We had to sort it out. Indiana is a great team and it is a great matchup. When you have those tough losses, the hope is eventually one will go your way and today it went our way. I think playing them three times in the last 12 months and really having some tough losses really helped us in that fourth quarter to just buckle down, get the lead and make it very difficult for them to score.”

The presence of junior all-American goalie Johnson makes Princeton hard to score on. The Miami, Fla. had 17 saves in the title game and was named tournament MVP. Now with 1,003 saves, Johnson is the only player in Princeton women’s water polo history to stop at least 1,000 shots.

“You saw Ashleigh Johnson and why she is who she is,” said Nicolao. “She is a special goalie. She made some incredible saves and today she went out there and showed you guys that she is the best player in the water.”

Freshman Emily Smith might not have been the best player in the water but she made a huge contribution with two pivotal goals.

“I sent an e-mail to the girls when Duke basketball won the national championship,” said Nicolao.

“Here is this freshman nobody has ever heard of, Grayson Allen, who went out there and scored 10 points in a row and was a key. Since then, I have been talking to our kids, saying who is going to be that person because they are going to try to shut Ashley and Chelsea (Johnson) down and who is going to be that one person to come out and step up. It is great to see her have a great game.”

It was great for the team’s group of seniors, which includes CeCe Coffey, Taylor Dunstan, and Camille Hooks in addition to Hatcher and Holechek, to pull out the title.

“This senior class, along with the men, have been in 7 CWPA championship games,” said Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger men’s water polo team.

“It is special to get to this game, you got to have some luck to win it. I am really happy for the girls that they got this one today. They have been trying to ease the pain from last year’s loss but it is a game. You are going to win some and lose some and today we were able to come out on top.”

Looking ahead to the NCAAs, Nicolao believes his team has the game to compete with anybody.

“We are going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours and focus on who we are playing next when the bracket comes out,” said Nicolao, whose team will host Wagner (25-8) on May 2 in an NCAA play-in contest with the winner to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.

“I think when you have the defensive ability that we have, if we come out and play with that kind of defensive intensity, anything can happen.”

In Hatcher’s view, the Tigers are poised to make some good things happen on the national stage.

“We lost to Hawaii by one goal (7-6 on March 15) and played pretty awfully in that game so we would love a chance to go back and play those big teams and show them that this isn’t just an east coast win,” said Hatcher.

April 22, 2015
STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Needing a win over Columbia last Saturday to clinch a share of the Ivy League regular season title and the right to host the league tournament, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team hit some turbulence.

After building a 5-1 lead over the Lions at halftime, Princeton found itself deadlocked at 6-6 with 17:25 left in the second half.

The Tigers called a timeout and the players received a wake-up call from the coaches.

“It was just stick to the game plan, execute, but just know that we need to bring more energy,” said Princeton junior defender and tri-captain Bannantine.

“We have to have energy from the offense through the defense and really carry that over and bring each other up when the other side isn’t doing as well.”

The Tigers showed energy at both ends of the field, outscoring Columbia 6-0 the rest of the game to pull away to a 12-6 victory, improving to 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy.

“I think it was raising our energy and finishing our shots,” said Bannantine, who had two ground balls and caused a turnover in the victory.

“It was taking that shot when we know it is there and moving the goalie. Hats off to the attack for doing that because they really picked it up. We switched up a couple of things but I think a big part of our defense is playing out and playing aggressive. We came up with some pretty big caused turnovers and some saves that were crucial. It was just coming out hard, playing them and getting on the ground balls.”

Clinching a share of the title and hosting the tourney, which is scheduled for May 1 and 3, is big for the Tigers.

“It means so much to us, it is our goal every year coming in,” said Bannantine.

“We work for it all year, it is what we set our sights on. It is huge for us. I just think it speaks to the experience on our team; we have a lot of senior leadership.

Bannantine has assumed extra leadership responsibility this year as she is quarterbacking the Tiger defense, directing things on the back line.

“I am really happy with how things have worked out this year; I think it is definitely a new role for me in leading the defense,” said Bannantine,  a 5’9 native of Baltimore, Md., who has been a second-team All-Ivy performer in her first two seasons with the Tigers.

“We had a senior captain last year and I had to change around some things. It has taken a while. I have the full support of my teammates and they trust me to lead them.”

With a number of younger players rising to the challenge when called on, the Tigers have developed a special trust level.

“I think we have a lot of kids who can come in and step up,” said Bannantine.

“The younger kids have been huge this year. For them to be able to have that level of maturity, to be able to play through that and pick each other up. I think it is just a really special team this year. It is like nothing I have ever played with before, it is awesome.”

While Princeton head coach Chris Sailer would have liked to see her team play sharper against Columbia, she was thrilled with the end result.

“I am really proud and happy of this team’s second straight Ivy crown; it is a huge accomplishment,” asserted Sailer, whose team won the 2014 Ivy regular season title and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tourney.

“It is something we work for all year. Columbia is a much improved team. To come through and pull out a win like that is important at this time of the year. We are hoping to finish strongly on Saturday against Brown. We are excited to host the Ivy tournament for a second straight year at the Class of ‘52 Stadium.”

In Sailer’s view, Bannantine has become a vitally important cog in the Tiger defense.

“She is such a steady presence for us at the defensive end,” said Sailer. “She has been making big plays for us since she was a freshman but it is her voice on the field this year that is so important. She organizes and directs the defense, it is like having another coach in the field.”

With new faces all over the field, Sailer believes that the championship campaign is a testament to the depth and character in the program.

“We graduated a lot of seniors last year and we had some kids in and out with injuries,” said Sailer.

“We have been able to pull that out and it has been great. We have had so many kids this year get significant playing time for the first time in their careers. There is a lot of parity in this league so to be able to get the title with young kids in the lineup and really just two seniors (Erin Slifer and Erin McMunn) in the starting lineup, I think that says a lot for the team.”

With No. 13 Princeton wrapping up regular season play by hosting Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) this Saturday, Sailer is looking for her team to play even better.

“I think you learn from this, you just constantly have to go out and give your best effort every day,” said Sailer, who got four goals apiece from Slifer and sophomore Olivia Hompe against Columbia “You can’t take a day off from the pursuit of excellence.”

In Bannantine’s view, the Tigers are ready to give their best effort as they head into postseason play. “Every game you have to come out like it is an Ivy championship, which it pretty much is,” said Bannantine.

“We have to come out hard and play our game first but be able to evolve throughout the game as well and change up our looks. I think that was a little disconnect today but we have to approach everyone like it is a Penn or a Maryland and pull out the win.”

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kip Orban beamed as he signed autographs for a group of young fans last Friday evening after the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team defeated Harvard 12-11.

Senior star midfielder Orban was in no hurry to leave Class of 1952 Stadium, relishing every moment of a special night as he and his classmates were honored before the game in the program’s annual Senior Day ceremony.

“I feel like it was just yesterday we were making the tunnel for the seniors when I was a freshmen,” said Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“It just makes you reflect on how fast it goes and how much of a privilege it has been, being here the last four years. I have enjoyed and loved every moment of it. There is no better feeling than coming out in front of a big crowd with your family and your friends all there. It is really emotional.”

Riding that emotional wave, Princeton jumped out to a 6-1 lead midway through the second quarter. “The energy coming out at the beginning was great,” said Orban, who scored two goals during that stretch.

“Our backup goalie Matt O’Connor had an awesome pregame speech, it got us all going. The guys all really understood the severity of this game, winning it was crucial for us to advance and hopefully host the Ivy League tournament, which is what we want to do.”

After building a 12-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers had to hold on for dear life as Harvard scored four straight goals to turn the game into a nail-biter. With sophomore star Zach Currier making some clutch hustle plays in the waning moments, the Tigers pulled out the win, improving to 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy and drawing raucous cheers from the 2,204 on hand at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In Orban’s view, Princeton’s ability to secure the victory was a testament to the team’s fighting spirit.

“I think it speaks volumes about the character of the guys in our locker room, it’s been a long year trying to instill this gritty character in these guys,” said Orban.

“I love every one of my teammates. They have done an awesome job of digging down deep when it is tough and getting that extra ground ball, getting that clear and just working real hard when it matters. We have also been on the losing side so it was great to be on the winning side today.”

Having been mired in a three-game losing streak earlier this month, the victory was the second straight for a Princeton team looking to peak for the postseason.

“We just had to minimize our mistakes, we haven’t played a perfect game yet this year,” said Orban.

“We had fewer turnovers and we are learning from our mistakes. That goes back to the coaching staff doing an awesome job, doing an unbelievable job with the scout on defense, Coach (Dylan) Sheridan is killing it; coach (Matt) Madalon is always coming up with new ways to attack the cage. The leadership from the top down is really helping us progress and learn from our mistakes.”

As sole team captain, Orban has assumed a major leadership role this season for the Tigers.

“It has been an awesome experience, a wonderful experience,” asserted Orban.

“It has been made really easy with the help of my fellow seniors and even juniors, the leadership on this team is just unbelievable, they have made it a dream. It doesn’t feel like I am a sole captain. It is a good brotherhood from the top down. It has been an awesome year to be around the guys and have it unfold the way it has.”

Orban enjoyed an awesome moment in the second half as his third goal of the evening gave him 36 for the season, tying him with legendary Josh Sims ’00 for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season.

“I didn’t know, I was surprised; it was unbelievable,” said Orban, who now has 92 goals in his Princeton career.

“I grew up watching Princeton lacrosse and all those big names, it is a dream come true for me to be able to come here. I am happy to tie a name like that.”

Orban is happy with how his final campaign is playing out. “My teammates have done an awesome job, the systems on the offense have just been great,” said Orban.

“Ultimately we find ourselves in spots to finish. I think it goes back to a line my dad said, just don’t knock. That mentality, don’t wait for permission. I think that mentality has been helpful I just worked really hard in the offseason. All summer I was hitting the wall and just shooting. I think putting in that extra work has paid off and I am happy it is going as well as it has.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was happy to see his seniors rewarded Friday for the work they have put in over the last four years.

“They have come such a long way, I said to them earlier in the week, we have lived a life together,” said Bates, who is in his sixth year guiding the Tigers.

“It goes fast but we have had so many experiences over the course of four years; I am really proud of them, they have held this team together,” said Bates.

“We have had adversity this year and you know what, they haven’t blinked. They haven’t got too high or too low and it has been good, consistent leadership. I think they have really served us well. It is different guys. You have guys who are playing a ton of minutes and you have some guys who are not playing at all that are still  contributing equally as much.”

The Tigers started on a high, reeling off three unanswered goals in the first 11 minutes of the contest.

“We knew we were going to be ready to play, there was no doubt,” said Bates. “Starting Monday morning, you could feel some excitement. We know what is at stake. It is Harvard, it is obviously a rival. We were able to move the ball a little bit. We drew some slides and nobody got selfish. That is when we are good offensively, the ball moves and guys capitalize.”

In Bates’ view, it was defense that saved the day down the stretch of the game.

“I just thought our defense played really well in the half-field,” said Bates. “Coach Sheridan did a really wonderful job with those guys. The opportunities that we gave up were junk ones on the crease and some transition ones. That is a pretty  solid offense and defensively I thought we grew up and took the next step today.”

Freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell took a step forward, making a career-high 15 saves in the win over the Crimson.

“He got the player of the game,” said Bates of Blaisdell, who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“We talked earlier in the week, this is why we played him for a game like this. The team has confidence in him and he rose to the challenge. He settled in, it was a good game.”

The rise of Orban and classmate Mike MacDonald up the statistical ranks in Tiger history was another good aspect of the game. While Orban tied Sims’ single-season goals mark for a midfielder, MacDonald’s two goals and four assists in the win gave him 40 goals and 26 assists on the year as he became the first player in program history to tally at least 40 goals and 20 assists in a season.

“I had tears in my eyes for those two, to be rewarded in a program with this kind of history and to be at the top of the record book,” said Bates.

“Hopefully Kip gets one more. He had broad shoulders and he has just had such a great year as a leader. As a player, to put in that amount, it has been done only one other time. Mikey is doing something that has never been done. That is rare company and that is a credit to him and how hard he has worked to come back and the season he is having. I am really proud of those two.”

The 14th-ranked Tigers wrap up the regular season with a game at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. A loss to Cornell would put the tournament in Ithaca only if Dartmouth beats Brown; otherwise, it would be in Providence, R.I. with wins by Cornell and Brown.

“We are right where we want to be,” said Bates. “It is all on the line. It will be an easy week to be excited. We are playing for an Ivy League championship which has been our goal all year. We do it a day at a time and that has served us well so Saturday can’t come soon enough.”

Earning the home field advantage for the league tourney, slated to take place on May 1 and 3, would be a nice bonus.

“That is gravy certainly, it is always nicer to play at home,” said Bates. “Today was a phenomenal environment, we knew it would be and we talked about it. Our guys earned the reward of having this kind of crowd and this kind of win so it is a great day.”

Orban, for his part, would dearly love to have some more games at Class of 52 Stadium.

“It would be amazing, there is nothing better than being at home with the fans and the crowd we love and who love us,” said Orban.

“We are so privileged to have them come out here. This atmosphere is unbelievable, you felt it today. It was a good buzz in the place. It was palpable, you could feel the energy. It would be great to host here but no matter where we go, we will bring it.”

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick was disappointed to see her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team come to an end with a loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But shortly after that chapter of her hoops life ended, Dietrick learned that her basketball story was far from over.

Within 24 hours after the loss to the Terps, the star guard learned that she might have a shot to play at the professional level with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

“I didn’t realize it was an option until the day after the Maryland game,” said Dietrick, a 5’10 native of Wellesley, Mass. who had a job offer pending from Holborn, a reinsurance brokerage firm.

“The teams had been watching me, I found out later. An article came out projecting that I could be drafted.”

Taking a week off to recharge and focus on finishing her senior thesis on Chaucer, Dietrick returned to the gym to train for her shot at the pros.

“I started doing workouts with my teammates, small group workouts with guards,” said Dietrick, who also took part in the annual State Farm College 3-point Shooting Championships at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. in late March. “I was also working with the coaches and hitting the weight room.”

While Dietrick ended up not being selected in the three-round WNBA draft last Thursday, she learned that evening that the Washington Mystics were interested in her services.

“The Mystics called during the draft when they were about to make their last pick, Mike Thibault (Washington’s head coach/general manager) called Courtney (Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart) and said they were drafting a guard from Europe to secure her rights but that they wanted me,” said Dietrick. “I was so excited, I didn’t know what to think.”

Dietrick later signed a contract to go to the training camp with Washington and will be reporting to the team in mid-May.

“I didn’t expect to be drafted; I looked at it that way so I wouldn’t be disappointed,” said Dietrick. “Being at a training camp was my goal, I wanted to get to show my basketball ability and see what happens.

In reflecting on her senior year at Princeton, Dietrick is still amazed at what happened this winter as the Tigers captured national attention with their perfect regular season and a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

“I still can’t believe that we went 30-0 in the regular season and how historic and monumental that was,” said Dietrick.

“When I imagined my senior year, I was just thinking about what we wanted to do. It was unbelievable.”

Dietrick produced a remarkable senior year, averaging career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) as she helped the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. She was also named as an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection. She ended her Princeton career ranked 11th on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list (1,233) and fourth in assists (346). Dietrick shot a career-best 48.6 percent from the floor this winter and her 157 assists this year were a program record.

While Dietrick savors the individual accolades that came her way, she notes that her success was the product of a group effort and a lot of training.

“I think being voted unanimous Ivy Player of the Year was special; Niveen (Rasheed) had done it and I idolized her as a player,” said Dietrick, referring to former Tiger star Rasheed, a 2013 Princeton alum.

“It showed respect from the league and we have some very good coaches. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, they carried me when I wasn’t playing well and they supported me when I was having a good game. I think it was just having confidence in my teammates and the coaches having confidence in me doing a lot of things on the court. I worked pretty hard in the offseason and put in extra work and reps on things that I needed to improve.”

True to form, Dietrick will be working hard to make the most of her opportunity to extend her basketball life, hitting the grindstone as the Mystics’ training camp starts on May 17 at the Verizon Center in Washington and runs through May 29 with three preseason games on the schedule.

“I’ll lift three times a week and do up to two workouts a day with my teammates and coaches,” said Dietrick, who has only one exam pending at Princeton and will be able to graduate with her class.

Dietrick is confident she can lift her game to a pro level. “I just want to play hard and make smart decisions with the ball,” said Dietrick.

“I want to push the pace and put the ball in the basket. The coach said to just do what you do, there is no need to reinvent your game.”

ARMED FORCE: Princeton University women’s water polo player Ashley Hatcher shows her focus during a game this season. Senior star Hatcher scored a team-high 70 goals to help No. 13 Princeton post a 26-3 regular season record. This weekend the Tigers will be hosting the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) championships at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26 with the winner earning a bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ARMED FORCE: Princeton University women’s water polo player Ashley Hatcher shows her focus during a game this season. Senior star Hatcher scored a team-high 70 goals to help No. 13 Princeton post a 26-3 regular season record. This weekend the Tigers will be hosting the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) championships at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26 with the winner earning a bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Luis Nicolao was happy to see his Princeton University women’s water polo team pushed last weekend in its final action of the regular season.

Sharpening itself before it hosts the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship this weekend, Princeton defeated Harvard 15-7 last Saturday morning and then came back in the afternoon to post a 9-3 win over Brown.

“We played well, it is the first time we had games the week before the CWPA (formerly the Eastern Championship),” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team is seeded first in the 10-team event which will be held at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26.

“We are getting into postseason mode. The weekend before with Michigan (second seed) and Indiana (third seed) and this weekend were good, every game had an impact on the big picture and affected standings and seedings.”

Senior star Ashley Hatcher has made a major impact in her senior campaign, scoring a team-high 70 goals to help the No. 13 Tigers post a 26-3 regular season record.

“She has had an amazing year, she has an increased sense of confidence,” said Nicolao.

“She has an offensive mind and is putting shots on goal and making the most of her opportunities. Katie Rigler’s graduation has opened things up, she was the top scorer and you defer to her. Ashley has taken over the role as offensive catalyst.”

With Princeton having won 10 of its last 11 games, Nicolao believes his team is rounding into form.

“I feel good about our team, we are getting healthy again,” said Nicolao. “The last six weeks have been a roller-coaster with injuries, walking pneumonia, bronchitis. We have never had a full squad. We only had 11 girls in the water for our final practice before the Indiana game.”

While the Tigers boast plenty of firepower with five players having scored at least 27 goals in addition to Hatcher’s 70, Princeton will need to give a full effort on the defensive end to prevail at the CWPA and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.

“The offensive balance is strong but we are going to have to win this with defense,” said Nicolao, whose scoring leaders include senior Jesse Holechek (46 goals), junior Pippa Temple (31), sophomore Morgan Hallock (29), freshman Haley Wan (29), and freshman Chelsea Johnson (27).

“We have Ashleigh (Johnson) back there in goal, we need to focus on shutting down teams one possession at a time because offense comes and goes.”

Pointing to a recent history of CWPA championship game nail-biters, Nicolao knows that being seeded first and hosting the event guarantees nothing.

“It is great for the home crowd and the parents but once the whistle blows there is not much of a home pool advantage,” said Nicolao, noting that his team squandered a 4-0 lead in the 2014 CWPA title game against Indiana on the way to a 11-10 loss.

“Players can’t hear much. It comes down to who gets breaks or calls and that has nothing to do with being at home. It is one game a day, 32 minutes at a time. It is like the basketball tournament, the best team doesn’t always win. I wouldn’t expect anything other than nail-biter. There are four or five teams that think they have a shot at winning and they are all right. It is who gets the ball in and makes the big plays in the fourth quarter and doesn’t make the critical mistake.”

HANGING WITH HENDERSON: Princeton High baseball player Marcus Henderson chats with a teammate during a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior Henderson pitched superbly in a losing cause, giving up just six hits in a 1-0 loss to powerful Steinert. Building on its effort in that game, PHS went on to defeat WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later. PHS, now 2-4, is scheduled to play at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25 and at New Brunswick on April 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HANGING WITH HENDERSON: Princeton High baseball player Marcus Henderson chats with a teammate during a recent game. Last Wednesday, senior Henderson pitched superbly in a losing cause, giving up just six hits in a 1-0 loss to powerful Steinert. Building on its effort in that game, PHS went on to defeat WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later. PHS, now 2-4, is scheduled to play at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25 and at New Brunswick on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Marcus Henderson had some butterflies bouncing around his stomach as he took the mound for the Princeton High baseball team last Wednesday against perennial power Steinert.

“I am not going to lie, I was nervous to be pitching against Steinert, a very good offensive team,” said senior Henderson, who was a JV player until this spring.

Henderson believed that he could negate Steinert’s offensive prowess by keeping it off balance.

“I know I am not an overpowering pitcher,” said Henderson. “I heard that they aren’t great at hitting off-speed pitches so that was helpful to me. I just had to keep it down and away and throw strikes.”

Overcoming his nerves, Henderson calmly executed his game plan, holding the Spartans to six hits in a tough 1-0 loss. “I had to have my teammates come through, I needed some of the great plays to keep me in this game,” said Henderson.

“I made some mistakes throwing, the ball was up and they made some great plays backing me up out there.”

For Henderson, the mound effort against Steinert was a great confidence builder.

“It really makes me want to go out there and throw again, knowing that I have a solid defense behind me that can make plays when I need them to,” said Henderson.

Moving up to varsity as a senior has been a good way for Henderson to culminate his PHS career.

“It is a great feeling, the whole atmosphere is different, down to the basics and the way the defense plays,” said Henderson.

PHS head coach Dave Roberts lauded Henderson for stepping up against Steinert.

“We have been looking for the pitchers to come out and throw strikes and that is what Marcus did,” said Roberts.

“He kept them off balance. He had a good two-seam fastball today, mixing with a couple of breaking balls. Mostly it was two-seam fastballs and location, it was a great job against a fantastic baseball team. This was his second start, he went the distance and gave up one run against clearly one of the best teams in the county, who could be a state title contender.”

Another big positive for PHS in the defeat was the job it did on defense, playing error-free baseball and cutting down
several Steinert base runners.

“It was the best defensive effort we have put together all year,” asserted Roberts. “John Reid was throwing people out from the outfield and Tim Frawley was throwing out guys from behind the plate. The infield shored it up finally for us.”

While the PHS offense didn’t produce any runs on the day, it generated some rallies, including in the bottom of the seventh when junior star Joaquin Herndandez-Burt led off the frame by belting a long double.

“That was a huge hit by Joaquin, we battled,” said Roberts. “Look, the pitcher (Kyle Muller) we faced today is going to Rutgers. I told the guys he is going to throw strikes so come up looking fastball. Once you get behind, he has a good curve and a bust change, he throws them all. Hayden Reyes had tremendous approaches, he had two hits today.”

PHS’s overall approach against Steinert encouraged Roberts. “I just told them if they play that game today, they are going to walk away with their first win on Friday,” said Roberts. “If we go back to the games we were playing earlier in the season, it is not going to come together for us.”

Roberts proved prescient as PHS topped WW/P-N 6-0 last Friday behind a superb pitching effort for senior Ben Grass and then beat South Hunterdon 4-1 a day later as senior Ben Danis pitched five solid innings and contributed a hit and a run.

“I tell them if we make two or less errors and three or less walks in a game, we are going to be good,” said Roberts, whose team is now 2-4 and plays at Notre Dame on April 22, at WW/P-N on April 24, at Lakewood on April 25, and at New Brunswick on April 27  “It proves true.”

Henderson, for his part, believes that PHS proved something to themselves with the loss to Steinert.

“A lot of guys on the team were nervous coming up against Steinert and then we just came to play today,” said Henderson.

“It is something that I think really helped the team, we will bring that into the next games.”

SWINGING AWAY: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu follows through on a swing. Senior star shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu has starred for the Panthers this spring, helping PDS produce a 5-4 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers are slated to host Lawerenceville on April 22, play at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, host Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, play at Peddie on April 27, and at Steinert on April 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SWINGING AWAY: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu follows through on a swing. Senior star shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu has starred for the Panthers this spring, helping PDS produce a 5-4 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers are slated to host Lawerenceville on April 22, play at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, host Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, play at Peddie on April 27, and at Steinert on April 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked like it was going to be one of the memorable comebacks of the season for the Princeton Day School baseball team.

Trailing Hamilton 4-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, Zach Dudeck and Jake Alu hit back-to-back singles to give PDS life. Dom Gasparro then hit a fly to center to score Dudeck. After a pop-out by JP Radvany, Cole McManimon lined the ball over the left field fence to apparently make it a 4-4 tie.

But the rally turned into one of the most bizarre endings seen in recent years as the umpire ruled that McManimon didn’t touch home plate and he was called out, giving Hamilton a 4-3 win, prompting howls of protest from the PDS players, coaches, and parents.

After expressing his disbelief over the call, senior shortstop Alu rued what might have been. “This game would be over by now, we had the momentum,” said Alu.

Taking a broader perspective, Alu focused on what the rally said about this year’s PDS squad.

“We keep fighting but we don’t give up, even if we are down 9-0,” said Alu.  “We were down against Pennington the other day and I still saw a little bit of fire in the last inning. I see that we battle every inning, not just the important ones. I think we are going to keep dragging that into it each game and when the playoffs come.”

Alu showed that battling spirit in his final at-bat against Hamilton, working the count before lining a single up the middle.

“I knew that I just needed to get on base,” recalled Alu. “Nothing special, just any way I could get on, walk, hit, hit by a pitch, anything you can do to get on base.”

With PDS off to a 5-4 start after having gone 4-12 in 2014, Alu believes that veteran play has made the difference.

“We only had one senior last year and this year we have six seniors,” said Alu, whose classmates on the team include Sean Flahive, Cody Meagher, Davin Bialow in addition to Radvany and McManimon. “I think that we have a lot of experience.”

The team’s so-called Big 3 of Alu, Lehigh-bound McManimon, and Villanova-bound Radvany have experienced a lot over the last four years, starting for PDS from day one and serving as team tri-captains for a second straight season.

“We are always hanging out in school, messing with each other,” said Alu. “It is a bond. We all have the same aspirations and I think that really helps us motivate each other to keep getting better each day.”

Alu is looking to motivate his teammates to get better.

“I want to be a leader out there, when someone makes a bad play, you don’t get on them,” said Alu. “You have got to motivate, step up and make a play the next inning.”

On defense, Alu is making the plays at shortstop, teaming with junior second baseman Sam Guarino to give the Panthers strength up the middle in the infield.

“I think our defense is better than ever, Sam and I have been playing there for three years,” said Alu. “We have a good bond together; we know what each other is going to do.”

Looking ahead to college, Alu is confident he will develop bonds with his future Boston College teammates.

“It was between Maryland, Boston College, and Pitt; I was looking at their schools,” said Alu.

“I really liked BC. I feel like I fit in with the players. I feel like I could go right in there and act like I knew the guys for years.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien hated to see his guys get denied the chance to beat Hamilton.

“We just got to say something on the kids’ behalf,” said O’Brien with his voice rising in anger.

“An umpire that hears something, not from the other side but the crowd; somebody said something. There is a mountain of kids that are twice his size standing in front of him, letting our kid touch home plate. He’s telling us that he saw all through those bodies that our kid didn’t touch home plate. He is looking for something that just wasn’t there. To have an umpire make that call is beyond comprehension to me.”

O’Brien likes the spirit he is seeing from his players. “I love these guys, they battle back,” said O’Brien.

“We hung in this game. Ryan Sparks pitched a great game. The pitching is coming around. I can’t say enough about Sparks, he pitched in the strike zone, he threw a complete game, he kept his pitch count down. We made the plays behind him.”

In O’Brien’s view, the team’s Big 3 have been setting the tone with their playmaking.

“I can’t say enough about how the Big 3 has been playing great,” asserted O’Brien, whose team moved to 5-4 with a 7-2 loss to Blair last Friday and faces a busy week ahead, hosting Lawerenceville on April 22, playing at Gill-St. Bernard’s on April 23, hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25, playing at Peddie on April 27 and at Steinert on April 28.

“The other guys are coming along, just how we hoped. We have a lot of kids doing a lot of good things.”

There could be good things on the horizon for the Panthers if they build on their strong start.

“If everything stays in place, if we keep healthy, keep progressing, and we keep working hard, I think by the end of the season we are going to be a tough out,” said O’Brien.

Alu, for his part, is looking forward to the stretch drive. “I think we can compete with any team,” said Alu.

“Cole has been throwing great, I think whenever he is on the mound, we can beat anybody. James (Radvany), Chase (Fleming) and Ryan (Sparks) have been stepping up each game. I think we are going to have a really good year.”

ATTACKING MENTALITY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Joey Levine heads to goal in a game this spring. Last Thursday, junior attacker Levine tallied three goals and an assist to help PDS defeat Pennington 15-2. The Panthers, now 3-4, play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACKING MENTALITY: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Joey Levine heads to goal in a game this spring. Last Thursday, junior attacker Levine tallied three goals and an assist to help PDS defeat Pennington 15-2. The Panthers, now 3-4, play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into his junior season with the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team, Joey Levine was looking to be more of a playmaker.

“I worked pretty hard this summer to get my spot behind the net and start dodging so I definitely think that is something that has changed up,” said star attacker Levine.

“Last year I was pretty much inside, we had Chris Azzarello and Jacob Shavel behind so this year I am trying to work with Chris behind and trying to create as much as I am being created for.”

Last Thursday, Levine created a lot of offense for PDS as it cruised to a 15-2 win over Pennington, tallying three goals and an assist.

Coming off a disappointing 11-10 loss at Hopewell Valley two days earlier, Levine and his teammates were primed to get back on the winning track.

“That was a tough one against Hopewell, they are always a very good program,” said Levine.

“We were happy to get back at it with a pretty nice win against Pennington. We got some guys in who usually aren’t in there so getting them the chance to play was good.

In Levine’s view, offensive balance has made PDS tougher to defend this spring.

“This year we have got six or seven guys that are able to create on offense and move the ball,” said Levine “We are always doing things together offensively. One thing we definitely try to work on is to keep the ball moving.”

In reflecting on his four-point outburst against Pennington, Levine maintained that the team’s ball movement made that possible.

“I definitely credit that all to my teammates, they made it happen for me,” said Levine.

“I was able to be at the goal at the right time and have space and put a couple in the back of the net.”

PDS head coach Rich D’Andrea wasn’t surprised to see Levine find the back of the net.

“He is rounding into form, Joey has worked really hard on his feet in the offseason, he has worked to develop his stick,” said D’Andrea. “He is a great low finisher for us. He brings a dynamic dodging game.”

Sophomore midfielder Will Brossman is emerging as a dynamic performer, chipping in three goals and two assists in the win over Pennington.

“Last year he scored three goals in that Rutgers Prep championship game and I think he had ten on the year,” said D’Andrea, referring to PDS’s 10-8 win over Rutgers Prep in the 2014 state Prep B title game.

“He has worked really, really hard and his confidence has grown and grown. The kid can dodge, he can shoot, he finishes inside, he plays defense, and he is great on ground balls.”

D’Andrea has a lot of confidence in the PDS defensive unit. “They have gotten stronger and stronger, we had some injuries at the beginning of the year,” said D’Andrea.

“Christian Vik had a torn labrum, a partial tear, and he is back up to speed now. Amir Melvin has been a total beast. Kevin Towles is running the hole right now and Chris Markey is between the pipes. The defense is looking really, really strong.”

Playing a stronger schedule, by design, is hardening the Panthers for the challenges to come in the postseason.

“We knew this was going to be a season of ups and downs,” said D’Andrea, whose team fell 14-8 to Chatham last Monday to drop to 3-4 and will play at Shipley School (Pa.) on April 23 before hosting Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25.

“Part of the challenge in beefing up the schedule like this is that you add another three, four hard games in the course of a season, not only does it spread you thin, more importantly, it just builds character.”

D’Andrea thinks that his players have built some tight bonds, dealing with the challenges they have faced this season.

“I think that lacrosse is not only a great outlet but a great focal point for these boys,” said D’Andrea.

“They have their eye on the end of the season right now and we are trying to build and prepare and get better for those events. We are trying to build character, see what we do well and we don’t do well.”

Levine, for his part, believes that the Panthers are prepared to do well come tournament time.

“These games are giving us a lot better competition; they are improving us and making us a much better team for the postseason,” said Levine.

“On offense we just have to keep moving as a unit. We need to keep doing that one more pass. Defensively, I think our slide packages are getting a lot better. We have James Fragale, Kevin Towle, Amir Melvin, and Christian Vik, who are four great defenders, and Cody Gibson is coming on.”

MASER VISION: Stuart Country Day School girls’ lacrosse player Julia Maser races past a foe in recent action. Last Monday, junior star Maser tallied four goals and an assist to help Stuart defeat Nottingham 22-1. The Tartans, who moved to 3-3 with the win, host Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MASER VISION: Stuart Country Day School girls’ lacrosse player Julia Maser races past a foe in recent action. Last Monday, junior star Maser tallied four goals and an assist to help Stuart defeat Nottingham 22-1. The Tartans, who moved to 3-3 with the win, host Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team to develop a comfort level with new head coach Kelsey O’Gorman.

The Tartans opened the season by posting two double-digit victories, beating Country Day School of the Sacred Heart (Pa.) 17-6 and George School (Pa.) 16-6 and have gotten on the same page with their new leader.

“It really was a good confidence booster, it was  winning home and away,” said O’Gorman, reflecting the 2-0 start.

“We have been doing a lot of team bonding, it has been great building relationships and getting to know the team. It is a great group of girls, I have really been happy to work with them.”

While Stuart hit some bumps in the road, falling 12-11 to WW/P-S on April 9, 14-13 to Pennington on April 10 and 15-11 to Hun on April 13, O’Gorman believes those setbacks will help the squad in the long run.

“We lost two tight games, it was unfortunate,” said O’Gorman. “I think the team matured a lot from that. We know we need to work together and be a two-half team.”

O’Gorman likes the way her players are working together on the offensive end.

“I think the biggest positive is that we are starting to click, just getting to play with each other,” said O’Gorman, whose team rolled to a 22-1 win over Nottingham last Monday with junior Izzy Engel, junior Julia Maser, junior Tori Hannah, and her younger sister, freshman Ali Hannah, each scoring four goals.

“Julia Maser is just exceptional and Tori Hannah has really been stepping up. Izzy Engel and Nneka Onukwugha have been getting goals. Harley Guzman has been a good leader for us.”

Senior goalie Harlyn Bell has led the way on the defensive end. “Harlyn is outstanding in goal,” asserted O’Gorman. “She makes a ton of saves, she has composure, and is a great leader for us.”

In O’Gorman’s view, her team is primed to do some great things down the stretch.

“I think we are ready to bounce back from those losses and get the ball rolling here,” said O’Gorman, whose team improved to 3-3 with the win over Nottingham and hosts Princeton Day School on April 23 before playing at Hamilton on April 25 and at the Solebury School (Pa.) on April 27.

“We need to step up our aggression and be more composed. I am excited for the rest of the season.”

Having lost three straight games, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team found itself at a crossroads as it played at Dartmouth last Saturday.

“If we had lost another one, it would have been a long ride home and a long week,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team had dropped a 16-15 heartbreaker at Lehigh on April 7. “The season wouldn’t have been over but there would have been some doubts.”

Clinging to a 5-3 lead at halftime against the Big Green, Princeton left no doubt as to the outcome of the contests, outscoring Dartmouth 7-1 in the third quarter on the way to a 16-5 victory.

“We took care of business,” said Bates, who got five goals and an assist from senior star Mike MacDonald with senior captain Kip Orban chipping in four goals and sophomores Sean Connors and Gavin McBride scoring two goals apiece.

“We got into a good rhythm and got the ball moving. We are tough to stop when we get into a rhythm and share the ball. We had some assisted goals.”

Princeton also showed some good toughness in pulling away from the Big Green.

“We played really hard, we out ground-balled them,” asserted Bates, whose team had a 30-29 edge in ground balls on the afternoon as it improved to 7-4 overall and 3-1 Ivy League.

“We made the hustle plays, we showed some heart. We played at maximum speed. Bobby Weaver, Austin deButts, and Austin Sims hustled all over the field at shortstick middie.”

Freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell was up to speed as he made his second straight start in taking over the spot from senior Eric Sanschagrin, recording eight saves on the day.

“Eric is steady, we know what we are going to get from him, we have seen him at his best and at his worst and we have big sample size,” said Bates in reflecting on the in-season switch to Blaisdell.

“We wanted to get a sense of what Tyler was going to be able to do with a full run. We are thinking longer term about what is going to help us.”

In Bates’ view, being able to turn the Dartmouth game into a rout could help his team’s confidence over the long term.

“If we had squeaked out an 11-9 win, it wouldn’t have been the same feeling,” said Bates.

“Everyone got in and some guys got their first goals. We were able to pull away. We got loose and gained some confidence. It was a good bus ride home.”

The 20th-ranked Tigers are hoping to end the spring on a good ride, starting with an April 17 game against visiting Harvard (6-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) which is being broadcast nationally on ESPNU. Princeton is currently tied with No. 9 Cornell (9-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) atop the Ivy standings and faces the Big Red on April 25 in a game that could decide who is going to host the 4-team Ivy men’s lacrosse tournament in early May.

“It is important to feel good about yourself at this time of the year,” said Bates.

“If we win on Friday, we will be in a position to host the Ivy tournament. The guys are dreaming a little bigger. Harvard is an easy game to get everyone motivated for; we are setting sights on going 4-1.”

Bates knows it is not going to be easy to get past a skilled Crimson team that edged Cornell 10-9 earlier this month.

“They are loaded with talent,” said Bates of Harvard which boasts plenty of firepower in Devin Dwyer (19 goals, 27 assists), Ian Ardrey (22 goals, 7 assists), Deke Burns (25 goals, 2 assists), and Joe Lang (20 goals, 7 assists).

“They have had a roller-coaster season, they have had injuries on defense. Any team that can beat Cornell, can play. They have a deep and talented offense and getting steady play in goal.”

The Tigers will need to play a steady game in all phases to beat Harvard. “We need to make stops and make saves,” said Bates. “We need to be efficient on the offensive end; when we are efficient we are tough to stop. We got some confidence on defense on Saturday.”

Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open crew faced a challenging season well before the start of preseason.

Losing some key seniors, including five stars from her 2014 varsity 8, veteran Princeton head coach Dauphiny knew that she had to work some new faces into her lineup.

But when a deep freeze hit the area, her task was made even more difficult.

“Last year was bad but this winter was worse,” said Dauphiny, who is in her 19th season as the head coach of Princeton’s open crew program.

“There was more ice on the lake; we took a trip to Rutgers for two days in March. They were kind enough to open their boathouse to us so that helped.”

The winter didn’t help Dauphiny’s effort to develop the newcomers to her program.

“One of the hardest challenges is that the freshman class is more of a project in terms of technique and efficiency in the water so not being on the lake hurt us,” said Dauphiny. “They have potential and are doing a good job.”

The team’s more experienced rowers have stepped up and are realizing their potential.

“The upperclassmen have been doing a good job, some of the kids in the 2V last year are now in the 1V,” said Dauphiny. “Everybody is working hard. This year’s senior class is driven and positive.”

Senior co-captain Faith Richardson has provided a lot of drive for the program.

“Faith is very hard working,” said Dauphiny, whose other senior co-captain is Nicki Byl. “She has a work ethic that very few have and is an example of what it takes.”

The Tiger varsity 8 took a defeat in its opener on March 28 as it fell to Brown by 7.9 seconds, coming in at 7:22.3 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie with Brown clocking a winning time of 7:14.4.

“Brown is great, they are really solid, really fast,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat did defeat Michigan by 6.6 seconds in the season opener.

“They will be a national title contender, no doubt. I tried to approach that with perspective. We lost by almost eight seconds but it is one of the best boats in the country. We have a ways to go. With Michigan, it was impressive to run with them and get a win. They were struggling with some of the same preseason issues that we had.”

A week later, Princeton posted a solid win over Columbia, posting a time of 7:12.4 to beat the Lions by 13.5 seconds.

“Columbia was a step forward, it was a good race for us,” said Dauphiny. “It was very challenging conditions and the kids handled that better.”

Last weekend, the eighth-ranked Tigers handled themselves well in a regatta against No. 4 Virginia, Harvard-Radcliffe, and Cornell. The varsity 8 placed second to Virginia, earning the Class of 1975 Cup by virtue of beating Harvard and Cornell.

“That was another step forward, it was a very gusty day and we were closer to the leaders,” said Dauphiny, whose boat posted a time of 6:56.8 with Virginia coming in at 6:54.5. Harvard-Radcliffe was at 6:57.5 in third with Cornell clocking 7:06.4 in fourth.

“We did a good job of contesting them, especially in the first half of the race. Harvard is great, we knew they were going to be tough. They were down and pulled to nearly level. Our response was good, we were able to pull away. It was good to be in a race like that, the close races are important in seeing how a crew responds to pressure.”

The Tigers will be under pressure when they head up to No. 9 Yale this weekend in the race for the Eisenberg Cup.

“This is our first away race on another team’s body of water, leaving the safety of our boat house,” said Dauphiny. “It will be interesting to see how they handle it. Yale is very tough, the races will be tough across the board.”

Dauphiny is confident that her rowers will get tougher and tougher as the season goes on.

“We want to put together a whole race, we have only been putting together pieces,” said Dauphiny.

“Everybody is a work in progress at this point; we are still mixing and matching. We are still looking to see where people fit. It takes a while to figure it out, people develop at different rates.”

Looking to get back into the Gehrig Division, the Princeton University baseball team started its four-game set against Columbia last weekend with a bang.

Rallying from a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning in game one on Saturday, Princeton pulled out a 4-3 victory with the winning run coming on clutch single by senior Mat DeNunzio.

“It was a great win, we are at the point where we are going to celebrate every chance we have to get a win,” said Princeton head coach Scott Bradley.

“For Mat DeNunzio, who is one of the best kids that I think we have ever had in the program, to get a game winning hit at home, you couldn’t be more happy for somebody like that.”

There was not much for Princeton to celebrate the rest of the weekend, though, as they fell 10-4 in the nightcap on Saturday and then got swept 4-0 and 9-1 on Sunday to drop to 6-24 overall and 3-9 Ivy League.

In reflecting on Sunday’s losses, Bradley pointed out that injuries have hurt his squad.

“It has been a strange year, we have never had a year where we have been just so banged up,” lamented Bradley.

“Danny Hoy couldn’t play today. Danny Baer hasn’t played the last six games with injuries. We have just had so many people banged up. When you take your starting center fielder and your starting second baseman your two/three hole
hitter, it is tough. I think the other guys have put some pressure on themselves. In the Ivy League, it is hard with lineups. If you take key guys out of the lineup, it is not like we are Texas A & M or one of those powers where you are nine players deep in the lineup. You just have to try your best.”

Bradley acknowledged that the Tigers haven’t showed enough power at the plate.

“It has just been all year long with our guys,” said Bradley, whose squad managed a run and 12 hits in 16 innings of action on Sunday and now has a team batting average of .256.

“It is a couple of years in a row where our pitching has been good enough but we have really struggled generating any type of offense from top to bottom. We look really good in batting practice, guys that need to be able to take their practice swings out onto the field with them and we just haven’t been able to.”

With Princeton effectively eliminated from the Gehrig race as Penn and Columbia both stand at 10-2 in league play and still have four games against each other, Bradley is looking for his Class of 2015 to make the most of the last few weeks of their college careers.

“We have some seniors who have been around for a while, they have a couple of weeks left to wear a baseball uniform,” said Bradley, whose club plays at St. John’s on April 15 before heading to Philadelphia this weekend for doubleheaders at Penn on April 18 and 19.

“We are going to come out and we are going to run, we are going to have fun. We are going to celebrate every win that we get. We are going to go down to Penn and try to throw a monkey wrench into what’s going on.”

Bradley is hoping that some of his younger players will make an impression over the homestretch.

“And for the young guys, they are playing for future opportunities,” said Bradley.

“We are very thin this year, we have a small roster. We have what we think is a good and a larger recruiting class. Those  guys were told that there is going to be a lot more competition. We have got a lot of guys who know that they are going to play every day, they know that they are going to be out there on a regular basis. We  are bringing in a lot of bodies and some athletes, I think, so there is  going to be competition; hopefully that is going to raise everybody’s game.”

“I am more confident than I have been in the past,” said midfielder Lis.

“I think last year I might have gone in to draw the defense and pulled and look for someone else to take the final shot. This year I feel like I can do that on my own and go the goal hard, which is something I have been working on throughout the summer and over the year. I think as an upperclassman and a leader on the team, I need to be the one to go in to take the shot.”

Lis has gained additional confidence from starring on the soccer field for PHS in the fall.

“Soccer keeps me in great shape up until lacrosse season,” said Lis. “In lacrosse, we work different kinds of muscles. But for overall body fitness, I love playing two sports. I love how they do totally different things. In lacrosse, you are all with your hands. In soccer, you are all with your feet.”

Last Saturday, Lis demonstrated her fitness early in the game, racing past the Clearview defense to score PHS’s first tally of the contest and knot the game at 1-1.

“I saw my opportunity and I thought I will test out this goalie early,” said Lis.

“I saw my lane and I took it. I wanted to test out how their defense was in terms of crashing and sliding. Whenever you have an opportunity like that, you have to go for it, especially in a tight game like this.”

The contest, a rematch of a 2014 sectional semifinal matchup won by PHS, remained tight throughout. The Little Tigers led 4-3 at halftime and the teams were tied at 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7 in the second half
before Clearview edged ahead 9-7. The Little Tigers got a goal with 1:12 remaining in regulation but neither team scored after that as the Pioneers hung on for a 9-8 win.

“I think we had periods where we were up and we were in control of the ball and then we had periods where they were in control and we were frantically going after it,” said Lis, who ended up with two goals and five ground balls on the afternoon.

“The ending play was so close, it was so disappointing that we came up with the loss there.”

While the setback was disappointing, Lis believes that PHS will be a better team for the experience.

“We were definitely happy with the effort, we identified things that we have to work on but overall a lot of people stepped up today that we don’t usually have,” said Lis.

“Two of our sophomores who are usually starters, Georgia McLean and Jordyn Cane were out, that was a tough adjustment with only realizing this morning that we wouldn’t have either of them. So the first half was a test for all of those new girls coming in, they definitely did well and lived up to our expectations for them today.”

PHS head coach David Schlesinger was happy with how his team battled to the final whistle.

“I thought we showed the most heart that we have shown all season,” asserted Schlesinger.

“I am very proud of my girls. We are missing three starters today so we had girls step up and play different positions as well. It was a disappointing result but a great effort.”

As usual, PHS got a great effort from Michigan-bound senior goalie Mira Shane, who made 12 saves on the day.

“Mira has been great all season, I thought our defense did a good job, they forced shots from the
outside and Mira is very, very strong on those shots,” said Schlesinger. “We only gave up nine goals to Clearview, which I think is pretty good.”

In Schlesinger’s view, Lis was very good for PHS. “Taylor has been playing great, she is doing more and more for us,” said  Schlesinger of Lis, who had three goals and three assists as PHS defeated Robbinsville 18-78 last Monday in improving to 5-4.

“She has always been great defensively, running the midfield but now she has become our top draw control specialist. She is becoming critical to our offense.”

“Playing teams like this and playing against Agnes Irwin, that defeat hurt (a 17-2 loss last Thursday), really makes us better,” added Schlesinger.

“It makes us realize how much further we have to go. I find when you schedule easy games, the girls start to rest on their laurels and that intensity in practice drops a little bit. We schedule these games intentionally, these are really good games and they are going to battle-test us for our league games and our county tournament.”

In assessing his team’s play, Schlesinger believes it has to battle more when it has the ball.

“The biggest thing we have to work on is how to deal with pressure and how to take advantage when the other team is pressuring us,” said Schlesinger, whose squad plays at Hunterdon Central on April 18 before hosting Notre Dame on April 20. “That is where we are falling short.”

Lis, for her part, is confident that the hard work the Little Tigers put in against Clearview will pay dividends.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game coming out, we came out strong and played 100 percent all the way through, which is definitely one of our goals,” said Lis.

“One of the biggest things we took away from that is that we have a unit of girls who can really step up when they need to.”

Nancy Gray is just a sophomore but she has already proven to be a jack of all trades for the Princeton High softball team.

After starting at catcher in her freshman season, she moved to third base this spring.

Last Thursday, Gray showed another facet of her game, handling the pitching duties against the Princeton Day School.

The righty looked like a veteran in the circle, striking out seven and giving up just one hit as PHS cruised to a 16-1 victory over the Panthers in three innings.

“I was excited to pitch, it is my first time pitching this season,” said Gray. “It was a good first trial at my pitching for my high school career. I would say my curve and fastball were working.”

Having been around the game since grade school, Gray is happy to work anywhere on the field.

“I played catcher last year; I was going to play shortstop but I like third,” said Gray.

“I have been playing softball my whole life, since I was 6. I am OK with any position, really.”

Gray is also contributing at the bat, hitting a homer and scoring two runs in the PDS game.

“Last year I wasn’t really making contact but this year over the winter, I did some training,” said Gray. “I think my bat has woken up and I have gotten better.”

In Gray’s view, the win over PDS should help the Little Tigers feel better about themselves.

“It is a morale booster, we can come off this with a little confidence,” said Gray.

PHS head coach Dave Boehm liked how Gray came through against the Panthers.

“She did well,” said Boehm. “She caught all the time for us last year so I didn’t see her pitch at all. She is 100 percent better at her hitting.”

Boehm is hoping that his team can find a rhythm after spending most of the preseason training indoors due to the wintry spring.

“We are playing better, not having any scrimmages really hurt us; the first two games were kind of like our first two scrimmages,” said Boehm, referring to his team’s 10-0 loss to Robbinsville on April 1 and 5-2 defeat to Hamilton on April 7.

“We have a catcher that is now a third baseman (Gray), the third baseman (junior Stephanie Wu) is playing shortstop, we have a new center fielder (freshman Bianca Guidi). It is four
different positions that kids have never played. They are getting it narrowed down, they are getting used to it. Once they get squared away, we’ll be OK.”

In Beohm’s view, PHS is headed in the right direction. “I am happy with all of them, even in the Hamilton West game, I was happy with the way we played,” said Boehm, whose team lost 12-0 to Notre Dame last Monday to move to 1-3 and is slated to host Steinert on April 15, WW/P-N on April 17, and Nottingham on April 20.

“We made a couple of errors but that is bound to happen when you are not going to be on a field. We are finally getting on the field and we are doing OK.”

Gray, for her part, is confident that that things will go OK this spring.

“We have to work on the small things,” said Gray. “We are just going game by game, looking at what we should do.”

Despite having 12 freshmen on its roster, the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team came roaring out of the gate this season.

The youthful Panthers rolled to wins in its first three games, topping Sewickley Academy (Pa.) 15-6, WW/P-S 14-2, and Shipley School (Pa.) 18-7.

But last week, PDS hit some roadblocks, gaining some hard-earned learning experiences.

Against visiting Hill School (Pa.) on Wednesday, the Panthers fell behind 10-3 by halftime in a driving rainstorm. Showing some grit, PDS outscored Hill 8-3 in the second half but the rally came up short in a 13-11 loss.

Two days later, the Panthers built on that strong finish against Hill, taking a 5-0 lead against visiting Hun and taking a 7-4 advantage into halftime. PDS extended its cushion to 9-5 but then faltered as Hun rallied to take a 12-10 lead.

The Panthers rebounded to score the last two goals in regulation to force overtime and then took a 13-12 lead only to surrender two goals in the last 37.9 seconds of OT to lose 14-13.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas acknowledged that her squad wasn’t sharp enough with the ball in the loss to Hun.

“We just had too many turnovers,” said Thomas. “We played hard but it comes down to who has got it at the end. Kudos to Hun, they came to play.”

The Panthers also showed their youth in squandering the lead against the Raiders.

“We are young and we are going to have growing pains,” said Thomas, who got three goals and one assist from freshman Madison Mundenar in the loss to Hun with sophomore Morgan Mills chipping in five goals and sophomore Hannah Bunce adding three. “Hopefully we learn from it and grow up a little bit and go from here.”

Thomas, for her part, believes the squad can grow into something special this spring.

“We just need to keep getting better,” said Thomas, whose team hosts Lawrenceville on April 17 before playing at Pennington on April 20. “I am always optimistic. We’ll be alright.”

Will Asch believes that tennis is on the upswing in the Mercer County area.

“There are a lot of good youth programs around like Nassau and PTC with some really good coaches,” said Asch, the head coach of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team. “There is a lot of interest in this area in tennis.”

In Asch’s view, his PDS squad should draw plenty of interest this spring.

“We all know we have a very good team, the boys are very confident in themselves,” said Asch, whose program has won two straight state Prep B titles.

“We have a very deep team, it is impressive for a school our size. It is one of the most talented teams I have seen here. We also know that there are a lot of other good teams in the area.”

PDS boasts an impressive player at first singles in sophomore Anupreeth Coramutla.

“He is very good, he is quite a bit better than last year,” said Asch of Coramutla. “He is stronger this year. He is a better athlete and he hits the ball harder.”

The Panthers should be strong throughout their singles lineup with freshman Alex Decker in the second spot and junior Scott Altmeyer returning at third singles.

“Alex Decker is at second singles; he is a very crafty player,” said Asch, whose team topped Pennington 4-1 last Monday to improve to 2-0.

“He is very intelligent. He is a good competitor and has excellent groundstrokes. He can do a lot of things on the court. Scott is back at third singles; he is very good.”

The first doubles team of battle-tested Josiah Meekins and newcomer Vivek Sharma figures to be very good.

“Josiah is a very strong player and he has a lot of experience which is important in doubles,” said Asch.

“Vivek Sharma, another freshman, is playing with him. He is very talented and has a nice serve. Josiah is an excellent net player; he has a good overhand. He is a great athlete and he covers the court well. He is very strong, he hits the ball hard.”

Experience is the strong suit of the second doubles pair, seniors Andy Erickson and Hariharan Rajagopolan.

“They were able to hold off the freshmen,” said Asch. “They have experience and know each other very well. They played at second doubles for us last year and they had some big wins.”

Asch is confident his team can come up with some big wins in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament, scheduled for April 20 and 22 at Mercer County Park.

“I hear WW/P-S and PHS have very good teams; it is always tough for us to compete against schools that size,” said Asch, whose squad placed third in the team standings at the 2014 MCT.

“I think we should be in the mix. We are a long shot but we can compete with anybody.”

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the clash last Saturday between the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team and local rival Lawrenceville.

Many in the lax community had the date circled on their calendar as the rematch of last year’s state Prep A championship game that featured an undefeated Hun squad looking for a breakthrough win against perennial champion Lawrenceville, who had defeated the Raiders 11-6 last spring in the title contest.

But Hun junior goalie Jon Levine wasn’t about to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding the game, which drew a large crowd to the Natale Field.

“We approach every game with the same mentality, every game is a big game for us,” said Levine.

“Lawrenceville is a great team, we have a lot of respect for them. We came out here and approached it like every other game.”

Hun didn’t waste any time showing its intent, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. “It was a big start, we came out strong,” said Levine. “Alex Semler did a great job on the face-offs, getting us possession. We were very happy with that. We came out and played our game.”

Hun was on its game all day long, cruising to an 18-9 victory over the Big Red and its first win over Lawrenceville in more than a decade.

The Raider defense was stifling all day long, repeatedly thwarting Lawrenceville’s high-powered attack.

“We have a lot of new defenders this year and we have come together well with coach (MV) Whitlow’s guidance,” said Levine.

“We are a strong group, a really close group. We are clicking right now, we are doing well. There are still areas we want to improve on as well.”

Levine was clicking himself, recording 17 saves in shutting the door on the Big Red.

“I felt good today,” said Levine, who has made a commitment to the admissions process to play Division I men’s lacrosse at Princeton University.

“I am only as good as my defense that plays in front of me. They had a great game today so I owe them.”

Hun never let Lawrenceville feel good, building a 10-4 halftime lead to a 17-7 advantage with 4:35 remaining in regulation.

“I think we just kept that mentality, coming out strong and relentless,” said Levine, reflecting on the teams’ second half performance. “I am really proud of the way our boys performed today.”

Levine and his teammates were proud to achieve the breakthrough win over their perennial nemesis, which has won 13 straight Prep A titles.

“Every win means something to us but this one is special,” said Levine. “Lawrenceville is a great team. It is the first time that Hun has beaten Lawrenceville lacrosse in a long, long time.”

For Hun head coach MV Whitlow, the triumph over the Big Red was a long time coming.

“It has been too long since we beat them,” said Whitlow. “They are a great program. They are right down the street and we would like to have a healthy, respectful rivalry with them. Our kids all know each other. My players have a lot of respect for the Lawrenceville players. I know that some of those Lawrenceville players have
respect for my guys too.”

Jumping out to the early lead on Saturday helped Hun to earn the respect of their rival.

“I do think it was important to start fast, we trust the kids to make good decisions,” said Whitlow, whose team featured a balanced attack with Chris Donovan scoring five goals, Cole West adding four tallies and Chris Aslanian contributing a goal and five assists. “It is team effort. We had 10 different guys who scored, that is huge.”

Whitlow credited Levine and the Hun defense with producing a huge effort. “Jon likes to see those 12-15 yarders out in the elbow,” said Whitlow. “When we slide the way we are supposed to slide and work together, systematically we are going to have those kind of saves. We did take care of business.”

The Raiders showed that they meant business long before the season started.

“I think we have more depth and they worked a lot harder in the offseason,” said Whitlow.

“Some of the 7-year Hun students have really come along. It is how you build a real program from the bottom up.”

While Whitlow was thrilled with the win, he thinks it is just a start for his talented team.

“It shows we can come through against a quality opponent, it is going to make us grow and that is what we talked about at the end of the game,” said Whitlow, whose squad topped WW/P-N 21-4 last Monday to improve to 7-0 and will host St. Augustine Prep on April 16. “We haven’t played our best lacrosse of the year. We have to stay sharp.”

Levine, for his part, believes Hun’s best lacrosse is to come. “It shows a lot about our development and how we have come together as a very close group and how we are a bunch of hardworking, good kids,” said Levine, reflecting on the win over Lawrenceville. “We are excited to see where we can take this.”

As a four-year starter for the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team, Erica Dwyer looks to be a steadying influence on the field for the squad.

“I calm everything down,” said star midfielder Dwyer. “Once I get the ball down low, I can settle things. Some of the younger players just want to get the ball and go, that is not my style. You need to settle it down and catch them off their guard.”

Last Friday, Dwyer’s experience and coolness under fire paid dividends as Hun rallied from a 9-5 second half deficit at Princeton Day School to pull out a thrilling 14-13 overtime victory.

Inspired by the fact that new coach Liz Cook was a longtime assistant at PDS, Dwyer and her teammates weren’t daunted by the second half deficit.

“We always have hope and faith in each other that we can pull it out and win the game,” said Dwyer. “I know that coach was here before, we were playing for her.”

Dwyer scored two goals in the rally, taking off from behind the net and using the athleticism that helped her star for the Hun girls’ basketball program.

“That little move, that crease roll behind the goal is my move, I am very comfortable with it,” said Dwyer, who also competed in soccer and cross country at Hun and is headed to Bryn Mawr College where she plans to play basketball and lacrosse.

“Actually a coach two years ago, Tim Pitts, who used to help us out, taught me that move. Definitely my basketball moves help.”

While Dwyer enjoyed finding the back of the net, she is more focused on getting her teammates involved in the scoring.

“I try to set up the plays,” said Dwyer, who ended the day with two goals and three assists.

“I am usually the feeder on all of our plays, getting the other people the goals. It is not really in my nature to just want goals, assists definitely make my game stronger.”

In reflecting on Hun’s dramatic comeback, Dwyer pointed to the team’s strong character and sense of urgency.

“We definitely have heart,” asserted Dwyer. “Our team motto is today, not tomorrow and we definitely focused on that. We wanted to win it today before we could move on to our next game.”

The Hun team showed a lot of heart under new head coach Cook. “She gives a lot of energy to the team,” said Dwyer. “She motivates us to play at our highest level. She makes it a family, really.”

Cook, for her part, liked the way her squad raised the level of its play after digging the 9-5 hole.

“I think we called a timeout and the kids had this fire in their eyes; they wanted it and I kept saying do you want it; they wanted it, they professed it to us. I think Lindsay Ruddy’s goal made them realize they could score and I think it just opened them up. They were ready to explode, they are such a talented group and they have the ability.”

Sophomore Kate Davis showed her ability in tallying the winning goal with 20 seconds remaining in overtime.

“She is probably the quickest kid on my team; she has excellent ability with the ball,” said Cook of Davis. “I just knew once she had it on her stick, she would run it down there. She can beat everybody on this field. When it was on her stick at the end, I knew we were going to win.”

Hun would not have won the game without the play of sophomore Maddie McNulty, who made 18 saves.

“She can make those saves under pressure, she is the ultimate goalie in that way,” said Cook. “She doesn’t feel it. I ask her what she is feeling when you are down there and she says I don’t feel nervous. She works hard.”

Cook feels good when Dwyer is triggering the Hun offense. “I feel really confident when the ball is on her stick,” said Cook of Dwyer, who chipped in two goals and two assists to help Hun defeat Stuart Country Day 15-11 last Monday and improve to 3-3.

“She will look to me to see if she can roll. She is just a really coachable kid. I knew when she could roll and when she couldn’t. She looked to me and she just went, I know she is very powerful on the roll, that worked for her many times today.”

In the win over PDS, freshman Nicole Apuzzi went on a roll, scoring a game-high five goals.

“She is an all around athlete, she is tough, she is competitive,” added Cook of Apuzzi, who helped the Hun girls’ soccer team win the state Prep A title last fall. “She has a great stick, she is quick and she also has the endurance from being a soccer player. She can run the whole field all day long.”

In Cook’s view, great togetherness is a key to her team’s promising 3-3 start. “We have such heart, I was just telling them they are the ultimate team,” said Cook, whose team defeated Stuart Country Day 15-11 last Monday to improve to 3-3 and will look to keep on the winning track when they play at Peddie on April 16 and then host
Hopewell Valley on April 17.

“They believe in each other and stand by each other, they have a gift in that way. There isn’t any drama on our team and they take care of each other. They knew when we were down, we could come back and they believed. They kept saying we believe and that was our motto, believe. Before we went to bed we had a group chat last night, we were saying goodnight, we believe, we believe.”

After a 15-year tenure coaching at PDS, Cook had mixed emotions after Friday’s game.

“I love those kids, it is really
hard for me,” said Cook, referring to her former PDS charges.

“This was a really tough day. It was hard for me to see the disappointment in their eyes but fun for me to see the competition out there and to see that my kids can compete with a top team in the area.”

Dwyer, for her part, is confident that Hun will keep competing hard.

“I think it is definitely going to give us momentum,” said Dwyer, reflecting on the win over PDS. “We really brought it today and I think we will continue to bring it.”

Julie Fassl and her teammates on the Hun School softball team weren’t about to give up even though they fell behind perennial nemesis Peddie 5-0 in the second inning last week.

“You have to think you are still in it and I think that we thought we were still in it,” said Hun sophomore catcher Fassl. “We tried our best.”

In the third inning of the April 7 contest with a runner on second, Fassl lashed a liner to center which was misplayed, resulting in a run for the Raiders.

“My first at bat was kind of lousy so I came in, it is OK, it is just one game, there are many,” said Fassl. “I just came in to swing the bat and hit it.”

Although Hun was trailing 9-1 coming into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the Raiders kept swinging hard. Fassl produced a run-scoring single to key a two-run rally as Hun fell 9-3.

“You have to just keep going for it; I was more relaxed in that at bat,” recalled Fassl. “I had a better mindset, it was no triples or doubles, just singles.”

With a season of high school softball under her belt, Fassl has a calmer mindset on the field this spring.

“Last year, it was all nerves, being a freshman coming out here,” said Fassl. “Now I am more relaxed. I think of myself as more controlled this year.”

Fassl, who also stars in field hockey and basketball for Hun, brings an
athleticism to the diamond.

“It makes you more of an athlete, it makes you stronger all around,” said Fassl.

“Most of my family has played baseball. My dad played baseball, my brothers played baseball so it is in my blood. You learn to love it.”

With Hun rotating freshman Julia Revock and junior Kacey Abitz on the mound, Fassl has to stay on her toes behind the plate.

“I have caught many pitchers in travel, coming in and out, it is not a big deal,” said Fassl.

“You have to trust your pitchers and they have to trust me, that is what I have to show them. If they trust me, they can throw better.”

As a freshman, Fassl gained the trust of her teammates by not striking out once at the plate.

“I usually always make contact, you are going to strike out eventually,” said Fassl, an All-MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and All-Prep selection in 2014. “I got lucky last year.”

With Hun off to a 3-1 start after posting a 7-2 win over Lawrenceville last Saturday, Fassl believes the Raiders are poised for a big year.

“It is a way different team than we were last year, it is like a whole new squad,” said Fassl.

“I think we click more, we play as a team, not as individuals. I think that is big for us. I felt like last year, we were more about stats. This year we are team stats, it is all about us.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk likes what Fassl brings to the team. “Julie is very consistent,” said Quirk. “I can count on her behind the plate and with her bat also.”

While Hun played inconsistently in the loss to Peddie, Quirk was proud of how her players battled to the final out.

“I think we are a team, we play for each other,” said Quirk. “There is no person out there that is going to win that game and everybody knows that. We all have to contribute. We were down 9-1 and we scored two runs in the bottom of the 7th, that shows that we were still in it.”

Quirk is confident that her team can win a lot of games as the spring unfolds. “It is early in the season, there are adjustments that we need to do,” said Quirk. “We’ll make the adjustments and we’ll move on from here.”

In Fassl’s view, the Raiders are determined to do whatever is needed to get on the right track.

“We just have to work from it, we learn from our mistakes,” said Fassl. “We’ll come back at practice tomorrow and start all over if we have to.”

For Joan Nuse, taking over the Hun School boys’ tennis program after coaching the girls’ team at the school for 26 years has proven to be a good fit.

“It has been interesting,” said Nuse, who was inducted into the Hun Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014 for her success with the girls’ program.

“The thing that has helped make it an easy transition is that I know a lot of them from having taught them, coaching them in middle school or in swimming this winter. They seem happy to have me.”

Nuse is happy with the way the team has played as it got off to a 2-2 start. “I think they have played pretty well,” said Nuse, whose team edged Hill 4-3 last Monday. “They were disappointed that they didn’t beat Pennington (a 3-2 loss on April 7) but they were happy with the win over Gill (a 4-1 victory on April 2). That was a really tough match, there were three 3-setters. The kids were really resilient, that was good to see in the second match.”

Junior Adam Doynow has shown toughness at the first singles spot in the Hun lineup.

“He is working on becoming quite a powerful player,” said Nuse of Doynow. “He has good strokes, he has a good game plan. We are helping him stay focused in matches.”

At second singles, senior Foster Broad is focused on doing his best for the squad.

“Foster has been with team forever,” said Nuse. “It is his fourth year on varsity and I coached him in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. He has such a great attitude. In the past few years he has been dealing with injuries and I love the way he never gives up and does whatever he can.”

A newcomer, freshman Greg Baker, has shown he can do some good things on the court at third singles.

“Greg has a good repertoire of shots, he is adjusting to the varsity level,” said Nuse.

At first doubles, another freshman, Evan Goldsmith, has partnered with senior James Mogilever, to give the Raiders a promising pair in that spot.

“Evan has been a good pleasant surprise, he played lacrosse in middle school but he came out for tennis this year and has a nice game,” said Nuse.

“It is to nice to put a freshman with a senior. James has the experience and Evan brings that youthful enthusiasm. They get along really well on the court.”

Nuse is enthusiastic about the twosome of senior Charlie Ill and junior Ajay Vasisht at second doubles.

“Both are new to varsity, they played a lot of JV last year,” said Nuse. “They have stepped up to varsity this year, they have a good attitude. They are super coachable, they give their all on the court.”

Junior Ben Musoke-Lubega has given Hun some versatility. “Ben has played in our MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) matches,” added Nuse. “He can fill in wherever we need him, singles or doubles. He was at the top of the JV team last year; he is a hard worker.”

With the Mercer County Tournament slated for April 20 and 22 at Mercer County Park, Nuse is looking for her players to produce some good matches.

“We are hoping to go in and have a good experience and learn from it,” said Nuse, who guided the girls’ program to a number of county crowns.

“We have a couple of freshmen and a couple of players new to varsity so it can be a little scary for them.”